• Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
    Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
    by David Allen
  • Preparing Instructional Objectives: A Critical Tool in the Development of Effective Instruction
    Preparing Instructional Objectives: A Critical Tool in the Development of Effective Instruction
    by Robert F. Mager
  • The Perfect Puppy: How to Choose Your Dog by Its Behavior
    The Perfect Puppy: How to Choose Your Dog by Its Behavior
    by Benjamin L. Hart, Lynette A. Hart

    This book includes super helpful graphs describing 56 common dog breeds in terms of 13 traits, including playfulness.

  • Mother Knows Best: The Natural Way to Train Your Dog
    Mother Knows Best: The Natural Way to Train Your Dog
    by Carol Lea Benjamin

    My favorite book on dog training.

Thoughts on instructional design, my dog, and life


Queen Isabella

Queen Isabella CoverI have to admire my daughter’s history teacher: she has a delightful prepared environment (a Montessori concept) where she makes sure her private library includes at least two quality primary sources for any of the research topics she assigns. My daughter has been working on a report on Queen Isabella. One thing led to another and I ended up listening to Queen Isabella: treachery, adultery, and murder in medieval England, by Alison Weir. Gripping. Plus, it turns out this is one of Ms. Olsen’s primary sources. I’ve never been a fan of history, or biography, so what a coup that Ms. Weir kept my interest through 22 hours (487 pages)! Do you know how Ms. Olsen keeps her library intact? Students must leave a shoe in exchange for the book they want to take out of the classroom.

I am blessed to be exposed to three great ladies.


Goals to Next Actions

OmniFocus Screen ShotOnce you have these nice goals, what do you do with them? How do you convert them into tasks? I follow two strategies, one Wishcraft-y, and one GTD-y.

On the Wishcraft side, I create a treasure map. A collage of images and words that resonate with my goals. I post this map on my office door, where I can gaze at it frequently. 

On the GTD side, I use OmniFocus for the organization step of David Allen’s workflow. I create a new, top-level, project for each goal, and add a next action for each. Each week, when I sit down to draft what I want to accomplish, I review my stack of goals and pick three to focus on. I create three mini-goals. Then I make sure I have a next action in OmniFocus for each mini-goal. (Why three, when I have eight goals? Well, because I’ve noticed I can’t get much more than about three accomplished, what with the rest of Life on my calendar.)


Writing Effective New Year’s Goals

Sample Goal CardWe are now a number of weeks in to the new year. How are you doing with your New Year’s Resolutions?

Every New Year’s Day, I write my goals for the year. True, David Allen recommends that rather than writing resolutions, you muck out. If you’re not yet proficient with GTD, or if you’ve had bad experiences with New Year’s resolutions, try mucking out. If you want to give goals a try, keep reading.

Before we get down to wordsmithing goals, how do you choose what to focus on? In our time and place, we each likely have 100s of projects pulling at us. Some are short-range, Quadrant I, activities. Some are long-range, Quadrant II, activities. One way I’ve found to reduce the buzzing and keep a life balance, is to start with my roles1.

For each role, I ask myself what goal I want to focus on this year. For example, I have eight roles: Business Owner/Instructional Designer, Saw, Mother/Wife, Creative Writer, Pack Leader (I have dogs), Extended Family Member, Giving Back, and Homemaker2. Remember that it may not be appropriate or feasible to write a goal for every one of your roles every year3.

With your list of roles before you, draft your goals. By now, you’ve probably heard from many sources to make your goals specific. A lot of work environments like SMART goals. This is a format that works for me:


  • What: 
  • When: 
  • How: 
  • Proof: 


For example, my 2014 goal in my role as Creative Writer is to honor my creative writing muse. That’s the “what”. For this particular goal, my deadline is 31 December 2014. For the “how”, I brainstorm some actions and write down what comes to me right then. I’ve found it’s not useful to attempt an exhaustive list here. For the “proof”, I wrote “blog posts.”

Now, pull out that box of old business cards, the cards with your old job title, and write each goal on the back of a separate card.

Fan out your newly minted deck of goals. Imagine yourself, around December, being able to tick off each of these goals. Does that picture excite you? Good! If not, go back and rework the goals that leave you tepid. This is not the time to be mousy.

The key for me in writing the year’s goals is what I put down for proof.


1 First Things First, Stephen R. Covey, p. 118

2 Yes, I know this list isn’t grammatically parallel. Give yourself permission to use what works.

3 First Things First, p. 126


Charley Passes the Peggy Test

Bath Before ClippingWe’ve been going to Peggy to groom our dogs for probably 20 years. She does a fabulous job of making them look beautiful, keeping their coat, ears, and nails healthy, and giving me a piece of her mind when I need it. Peggy even helped me grow and maintain a show coat on Cientos.

Today I took Charley in for his first grooming appointment. I’d already told Peggy the whole story of Cientos developing cancer and leaving our lives much, much earlier than we anticipated, and how less than a week later I got a call from my breeder about adopting Charley. I told Peggy all I knew about Charley, his age, pedigree, and previous living situation. 

And then I brought him in. 

I was quite nervous to hear the verdict.

Charley Newly GroomedWhen I picked Charley up he looked gorgeous, face nicely shaved, coat soft and standing up. He seemed happy after his spa day.

And, he had passed muster! Peggy told me about how she enticed him up on the table by doing Lina first. Smart and competitive, she said.

I am so pleased and relieved. I don’t know what I would do if Peggy didn’t approve of my dog.


Picking Charley’s Toy

Charley and His Special ToyI’m amazed at how dogs can have such a strong preference for one toy or another.

Today I took Charley to our favorite pet store, Pet Pals, to pick out a toy. Of course, like most dog homes, we have a bazillion dog toys already and probably don’t need another one, but we have a tradition of getting a huge stuffed animal for each new pup.

The tradition started with Osa. She was a white girl we went up to Canada to get. When we put her in her Vari Kennel, she looked so bitty compared to the space. We found a huge stuffed rabbit for her to cuddle with on the flight home.

That was the beginning. Since then we’ve gotten each of our new pups the biggest stuffed toy we can find. No other dog can play with one dog’s special toy, and no roughhousing with it. This came about naturally. Osa was gentle with her rabbit from the beginning, never tearing or inviting the other pooches to play with it. She’d sleep with one of the rabbit’s paws held gently in her mouth.

With Charley, I thought I’d add a refinement to our tradition: letting him pick his own big toy. I thought of this because at one of the dog shows I competed in with Cientos, I learned about dogs being picky about toys.

We must’ve been at a specialty, because every participant got to pick a toy from this huge Roughneck tub. I thought it would be fun and cute to let Cientos nose around and “pick” his own toy. I thought I would have to really observe to distinguish a preference. Not. Cientos took long minutes, used his truffle-smelling muzzle, routed thoroughly, and finally decided on a latex purple dinosaur squeaky. A toy I never would’ve picked. Cientos's ToyI was amazed. (The feeling is very much like going clothes shopping with my teenage daughter. Her taste is delightful, cute, definite, and very different than mine.) Still, I tamped down my shock, shook my head, and let Cientos keep his chosen toy.

At Pet Pals, I scoured the store for the largest toys I could find, and presented them to Charley to pick from. He barely even sniffed them. So patently not interested. Now what? Pet Pals has a huge assortment of toys, how do I narrow the choice? I squeaked, jiggled, touched, and offered Charley a medley of sounds, textures, and sizes. Finally, he showed a definite interest in a purple and white half monkey half worm. Not a toy I would’ve picked. Still, the fabric is sort of cool, the toy is sturdy, and the squeaker works by jerking the tail (in addition to by squeezing). Charley has picked his toy.Charley's Toy