Wireless keyboard: traveling writer’s lightweight tool

“Wow, that is so cool!”

I’m not an adopter of bleeding-edge technology, so I was startled by the reactions of other conference attendees to my smartphone accessory. The accessory wasn’t particularly high tech. It was a wireless keyboard that I use to take notes with my smartphone when I attend conferences.

If you need to take notes when you’re away from your office, you can benefit from my experience to refine your checklist for what to seek in a wireless keyboard that will improve your ability to take notes on the move.

Typed notes beat handwritten notes

I prefer taking notes electronically to writing longhand. That’s because I can read typed notes more easily. I can even copy-paste them into the drafts of articles that I write about conference sessions.

However, I don’t enjoy the bulk and size of my laptop, to say nothing of the hassle of getting it through airport security. My iPad is lighter and smaller, but it’s so old that it’s more of a paperweight than a functioning device. That’s why I leaped at my husband’s suggestion to buy a wireless keyboard for my smartphone. My phone is even lighter and smaller than a tablet, plus I already carry it with me everywhere.

I’m currently on my third wireless keyboard. I used my first exclusively with my iPad until the keyboard died, and discovered a serious drawback in my second wireless keyboard, which I used with my phone. Along the way, I developed some opinions about what I need in a wireless keyboard.

Desirable wireless keyboard characteristics

Something to hold your phone upright—I’m not an accurate touch typist, so I need to see the words appear on my phone’s screen to ensure that I’m accurate. My current keyboard’s “cradle” is an indentation that holds my phone upright. Many wireless keyboards lack this feature, which I consider essential. The cradle is much more flexible, in terms of the devices that it’ll hold in place, than the four clips on my previous keyboard that were meant to hold only tablets of a certain size.

A name-brand manufacturer (or a track record)—A bad experience with my previous keyboard convinced me to favor a name-brand manufacturer. That keyboard had excellent Amazon review, but it was from a no-name manufacturer. This keyboard functioned normally about 75% of the time. The rest of the time the cursor often jumped from where I was typing to another line of my document, often causing me to lose some of what I’d typed. When contacted, the vendor said something along the lines of “Yes, we know that happens. It’s OK.”

The right kind of battery—You have a choice of rechargeable or non-rechargeable batteries. With regular batteries, my current keyboard has functioned for more than six months. Of course, it doesn’t get much use when I’m not at conferences.

A case, if that’s important to you—Some wireless keyboards, like my previous one, come built into cases that will also protect your mobile device. Someone I know bought a keyboard that folds in half to protect itself and to take less space. I use my keyboard infrequently enough that I jam it in a Fedex envelope inside my tote bag to protect it.

Other wireless keyboard characteristics to consider

  • Noise—My current keyboard sounds loud to me. I always feel as if I should apologize to the people sitting around me when I type at conferences.
  • Size—The keyboard’s size makes a difference for how well it suits your hands and fits in your bag (or whatever you use to carry it).

My wireless keyboard model

If you want to copy me, I have a Logitech Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480. The first of my three wireless keyboards was also a Logitech, so I’m a Logitech fan. However, check to see if there’s a newer or better model to meet your needs.

Want more ideas for specific models? Check out “Best Bluetooth keyboards you can currently buy” and ask your friends what they’re using.

Happy keyboarding!

 

Disclosure:  If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I link only to products in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

 

Image courtesy of Daddazio at Wikimedia Commons

 

Managing magazine articles

As you may know, I edit a monthly magazine for financial advisors. I’m typically juggling tasks for several issues of the magazine at one time. In case you’re struggling with a similar project—for example, managing a multi-contributor blog—I’m sharing my checklist for each issue of the magazine.

I create a checklist that lists all of the articles in the left-hand column, and all of the steps that an article can go through across the top.

Here’s an image of the top of my checklist. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Monthly Checklist

Here’s what each column means.

  • Word count” is in the second column because length affects how many articles I can squeeze into one issue.
  • The “author” column tracks whether I’ve sent an article to the writer for clarification. You’ll notice there are two columns labeled “author.” I sometimes contact authors before sending an article to my assistant editor to review. I typically send articles to the authors after my assistant editor has reviewed them in addition to me. Unless our changes are minimal, I give authors a chance to check that our edits haven’t introduced inaccuracies into the articles.
  • The “assistant editor” column tracks if I’ve put the article in my email outbox to wait until I’ve collected enough to send them to my assistant editor for review.
  • I don’t always have time to “read aloud,” as mentioned in the sixth column, but it’s a great way to find mistakes that our eyes often gloss over. It’s a technique that I discuss in “Why I love Adobe Acrobat Pro for proofreading” (note that I now use the text-to-speech feature in Microsoft Word instead of converting to Acrobat).
  • Spell check” refers not only to the spell-checking feature of Microsoft Word, but also to the tools I mention in “My three main software tools for proofreading.”
  • The “NOTES” column I make notes for the person who oversees the magazine’s production.

 

I hope you find this table helpful in managing an important process in your work life.

Buckle down to writing with a virtual stranger!

It’s not easy to focus on writing when you’re a busy financial professional with many other demands on your time. That’s why I’ve suggested techniques such as finding a writing buddy, using a 15-minute timer, or following a structured writing process broken into small steps (see my financial blogging book for details) to jump-start your writing.

But what if you know you’d benefit from a buddy and you’re too embarrassed to tell a friend or colleague about your need for co-working support? Or if you have a hard time scheduling work sessions in advance? You may be a good fit for Focusmate, which I learned about in “Success under the eye of a stranger,” a Boston Globe article.

Virtual co-working

Focusmate is a form of virtual co-working—working alongside someone else via video. You decide when you want to work, book a 50-minute session, and start your session. After you introduce yourself and start your goal, there’s no more interaction. A video on the service’s home page touts that “There’s no chitchat and no collaboration.” That means there’s nothing to distract you from your work.

Writer Katie Johnson says of Focusmate in her Boston Globe article, “It’s a little bit Big Brother, a little bit Chatroulette (the website that matches up random strangers for webcam conversations that tends to attract exhibitionists). And it’s definitely a whole lot odd.”

By the way, the service is free, although Focusmate plans to introduce a premium service.

The science behind co-working

On its website, Focusmate shares some of the science behind its approach to ending procrastination.

It relies on five behavioral triggers: pre-commitment, implementation intentions, social pressure, accountability, and specificity in task definition.

Can you create your own version of Focusmate?

If the thought of video co-working with a stranger makes you uncomfortable, you could try creating something similar with people you know. Just pick a time and a goal, and update your co-working buddy.

One of my colleagues in a marketing group came up with the idea of scheduling virtual “marketing sprints” without any video, but with online check-ins. We picked an hour that was convenient to many people in the group, then started an online thread in which participants posted their intentions—for example, “I’m going to write email follow-ups to editors whom I’ve contacted during the last month.” Then, one hour later, each participant posts results. It surprised me how this virtually co-working could focus my attention.

In another variation on this, I’ve done a monthly writing challenge, in which participants set goals for the average weekly word count of their writing. Each of us posted about our progress. I found it helped me keep up on my blog. If you’d like me to run a new, public monthly writing challenge, please tell me.

Your experience?

If you’ve tried Focusmate or something similar, please report on how it has worked for you. It’s probably not for everyone. That’s why I post different solutions for folks who struggle to make time to write.

More substitutions for economical writers

You seemed to like the word substitutions I suggested in “Word and phrase substitutions for economical writers.” This post suggests more changes to make your writing more economical and reader-friendly.

In most cases, making your writing more concise makes it easier for readers to absorb your message.

Adjectives

Existing research shows → Research shows
—After all, it should be clear from the context that you’re not discussing imaginary or future research.

Adverbs

In large part → Largely

Nouns

Are disruptive to → Disrupt

 

Client types → Clients

 

Makes you distinct from → Distinguishes you from

 

Verbs

Are presented with → Face

 

Are growing their use of → Increasingly use

 

Be reflective of → Reflect

 

Be responsive to → Respond to

 

Have a negative impact on → Hurt

 

Is in a position to → Is positioned to

 

Make a choice → Choose

 

Miscellaneous

There appear to be some signs → There are signs

Must you be inspired to write?

Inspiration may make a difference in your writing. In The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and The Creative Brain, Alice W. Flaherty says:

             Although most psychologists and writing teachers distrust the Romantic notion of an inspiration that is separate from skill or hard work, and doubt the claim that one can write at one’s best only when “in the mood,” so many professional writers take these notions seriously that perhaps we should too. After all, psychologists, as opposed to professional writers, are not known for writing well.

I don’t know that I’m ever truly inspired. After all, I write about mundane topics on my blog, and for my client work, it’s mainly a matter of organizing material logically. However, it’s easier for me to blog when an idea strikes. For example, the Flaherty quote that I share above made me think, “This could be a blog post!” I promptly grabbed the legal pad that’s often at my side when I read. I immediately started scribbling.

Experiences like this are why I agree with Flaherty’s advice that:

Perhaps the most practical implication is not to keep yourself from writing when not inspired, but to be ruthless about writing whenever inspiration hits. This approach requires always having paper or a palmtop computer with you, and above all to avoid answering the door or e-mail when you are in the middle of something good.

As I’ve written in “No batteries required: My favorite blogging technique,” I always have a pen and a pad of paper with me. I’m drafting this post as I work through Flaherty’s book. It’s in the magazine rack by my side, as I write on a yellow legal pad.

Poll: Do YOU Need inspiration to write?

Please vote in my poll. I’m curious to learn about YOUR experience. I’ll report on your answers in my newsletter.

 

Disclosure:  If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I link only to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

Professional writers vs. amateur writers

What distinguishes professional writers from amateur writers? Why should you care?

There are many characteristics that differentiate professional writers.

In The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain, Alice Flaherty identifies an important one. She says that pros

…more successfully engage their audience. It is partly a question of skill, but more often a matter of goals. Amateur writers tend to write primarily for self-expression, whereas writers able to become professional can hide or transform their own agendas enough so that they are of interest to others.

That’s an interesting interpretation that makes me think of the difference between successful and unsuccessful financial bloggers. Someone who blogs solely for self-expression is unlikely to attract many followers. The same goes for someone who only blogs self-promotional content. Successful financial bloggers move beyond these approaches.

To engage readers, you must mix your own “agenda” with your target readers’ needs and interests.

 

Disclosure:  If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I link only to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

Change your writing for the better

“Nothing changes if nothing changes,” said my spinning instructor in a class. This spurred some thoughts that may help your writing.

In my instructor’s case, she decided to quit drinking coffee as one small step toward healthier eating. That was less intimidating than revamping all of her eating habits at once. Once she quit drinking coffee, it was easy to make a second change to juicing celery every morning. Who knows what additional changes she’ll make?

Could a similar approach help you to improve your writing?

Your first step

Pick one small thing to improve your writing. Here are some ideas for you.

  • Set a weekly writing goal. Measure your goal in terms of word count, time spent writing, or pieces produced. A daily writing goal also works, but a weekly goal may feel less daunting.
  • Create a checklist of your most common writing mistakes. The more you have to think about what to look for when checking your work, the more likely you are to forget something. Decrease the load on your brain by creating a checklist of the most important items for you to check. Not sure how to structure a checklist? There’s one in Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients that you can use as a starting point.
  • Get help from someone else. Ask a colleague or friend with a good editorial eye to mark up a sample of your work. Find a blogging buddy. Sign up for a writing class. Hire an outside proofreader, copyeditor, or writing coach. Help can come in many forms.

YOUR choice?

What’s one thing you will do to boost your writing? For my part, I read books about writing, hoping to find new techniques and inspiration.

Top posts from 2019’s first quarter

Check out my top posts from the first quarter! If you’re trying to figure out how to improve your quarterly commentary process, check out #7!

They’re a mix of practical tips on writing (#1, #4, #9, #10), grammar (#2), punctuation (#3), blogging (#5, #6, #8), and investment commentary (#7).

I’m only listing one Mistake Monday post, although more were among the most viewed, because one Mistake Monday post is much like the others. Check out my Mistake Monday posts if you’d like to improve your proofreading skills!

My posts that attracted the most views during 2019’s first quarter

  1. Word and phrase substitutions for economical writers—I could tell from the social media response that this post resonated with readers.
  2. Don’t fix your grammar
  3. Mistake Monday for February 4: Can YOU spot what’s wrong?
  4. Make your bullet-pointed lists more powerful
  5. Manage comments on your financial blog
  6. Shakespeare lesson for bloggers
  7. Can “find and replace” prevent quarterly commentary errors?
  8. Feeling blah about your blog?
  9. Cracking eggs for your writing
  10. Boost your writing productivity with Theo Pauline Nestor

Stay the same or evolve?

My spinning instructor inspired this post about writing. If you’ve taken many spinning classes, you’ve probably encountered an instructor who strives to inspire you. The teacher of my 7:30 a.m. spinning class recently said, “You can stay the same or you can evolve.” She was praising us for turning up early on Saturdays to improve our fitness on the gym’s stationary bicycles.

However, I think the need to evolve also applies to writing. Your writing may be good enough. However, you probably have room for improvement. I know I do. My husband reminds me of that almost every time he proofreads my monthly e-newsletter. How can we evolve as writers? I have some ideas.

Enroll in a class

Consider enrolling in a writing class. I used classes to turn myself from a writer of stilted prose in my Ph.D. dissertation to a reasonably competent writer. As I’ve said elsewhere, just about any good writing class will help. As I draft this post, I’m about to take a class about using my phone to produce videos. It’s not exactly writing, but it may help me to think differently about writing. If you’d like a writing class focused on financial content, consider my on-demand online classes about writing blog posts or investment commentary.

Ask for feedback

Enrolling in an interactive class is a great way to get feedback. But, it’s not the only way. Consider asking colleagues, friends, or clients for feedback. Or, join a writing group or hire a writing coach or editor to review your work. Another option is to use automated tools for feedback on your work. I discussed the Hemingway tool in “Free help for wordy writers!” One reader told me that changed his writing enormously.

Read

Reading good writing and books about writing can help. As I write this, I’m enjoying Writing Is My Drink by Theo Pauline Nestor. It’s oriented to memoir and fiction writers, but I’m still benefiting from it.

How will YOU evolve?

If you have ideas about how to evolve as a writer, please share them. I always enjoy learning from you. By the way, if you’re a fan of spinning, you may enjoy “Financial blogging lessons from my spinning class.”

 

Disclosure:  If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I link only to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

Boost your writing productivity with Theo Pauline Nestor

If you’re like me, you sometimes start writing something, but get distracted partway through it. I’m trying an exercise in Theo Pauline Nestor’s Writing Is My Drink to break that habit. Well, maybe I can’t break that habit. However, I believe that I can improve my writing productivity with the help of her exercise.

Writing productivity assessment exercise

Here’s the exercise:

Start noticing the times when you stop working. Is it when you get stuck on something? When the writing starts to feel “too hard”? Is it when you get thrown off your routine because something unexpected comes up? Is it when you’re on the verge of taking your story to a deeper level? Keep track of your sticking points. You might even want to take a few notes about these stopping points.

I like the idea of doing research like this to help solve the problem. I tested this exercise by doing it myself. I discovered some patterns of when I stop writing. Here are some examples.

PROBLEM 1: I discover something that I want to research. For example, perhaps I have a usage question about whether I should use “each” or “both,” so I leave the page to research it. When I open my browser, I see tabs I’ve left open earlier in the day. I figure it’ll only take a minute to check Twitter or LinkedIn, but then I see something I want to share or reply to. I get distracted.

PROBLEM 2: Something that I write reminds me of something I need to do for a purpose other than the piece I’m writing. I figure it’ll only take me a minute or two, so I abandon my writing.

PROBLEM 3: A Microsoft Outlook reminder makes a noise. I go to check it out.

Writing productivity solutions

I am trying to manage my productivity challenges better by:

  • Reminding myself to stay focused
  • Keeping my “to do” list handy so I can jot down tasks to perform later, instead of abandoning my work to perform them
  • Clicking to delay reminders until after I’ve completed my writing work
  • Promising myself a reward, like a half-hour with a mystery novel that I’m enjoying

What writing productivity solutions help you? I know some people use apps like RescueTime to track their productivity and even block distracting websites. Nestor is a fan of using a timer, a technique that I discuss in “15 minutes to busting your writer’s block.” Nestor also recommends reading Virginia Valian’s essay “Learning to Work,” which you can download on Nestor’s blog. It’s a long—almost 15 pages—essay, so I downloaded it, but didn’t read it while I was drafting this blog post. I knew it was more important for me to finish this draft than to read the essay.

I discuss more productivity techniques in “‘Deep Work’ rules to help you write more.”

Disclosure:  If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I link only to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.