Category Archives: Beginnings

Getting (and staying) on track!

2013 schedule  so far:

Week 1

  • At-home second grader who wishes to share all the adventures that Christmas break holds.
  • Setting up all the logistics for PreventionGeek Consulting (which is a real thing now) including equipment, travel arrangements, supplies, etc.
  • Continue work on my and LaDonna‘s CADCA National Leadership Forum workshops, pushing myself to abandon old habits when it comes to PowerPoint and trainings.

Week 2

  • Assist husband during a week of convalescent leave due to having PRK (laser eye) surgery.
  • File every paper, electronic file, and scrap Post-it note to try to create order in the home office.
  • Continue work on CADCA workshop, still attempting to abandon old habits.

One of the challenges I have faced is maintaining that work/home balance, both timing and tasks. In the first two weeks, I found myself doing housework during the day and work-work in the evenings and on into the night. By nature, I feel more creative and productive after the sun goes down.

Original image source: Chris Paul Photography--Creative Commons; adapted using PicMonkey because I like creating my own memes

Original image source: Chris Paul PhotographyCreative Commons; adapted using PicMonkey because memes make me smile

However, as much as I like working in the evenings, the fact is I have a family that happens to be off-the-clock during those hours, so I need to adjust to their schedules.

Because I felt like I needed a little help organizing my day, I set out to look for tools that would make me more productive in the 8-5 hours. Some of my favorites so far are:

Tom’s Planner–This handy website allows one to map out long-term projects. So say you’re a coalition working on writing a new strategic plan, this tool could help you organize the timing of each step in the process and ultimately meet deadlines, which have a tendency to sneak up on a person. While the free version allows a single user a wide range of features, for only $9 a month (quarterly subscription), a coalition could collaborate on, personalize, print, and export these schedules. Right now, the free membership is enough for me and my smaller projects, though.

Evernote iconEvernote–I’m a list person, so this app makes me a very happy girl. You can use it to make notes to yourself  that can include check-able To-Do lists (my favorite!), pictures, audio messages, and other attachments that you may need. Then you can organize everything into notebooks for easier access and record-keeping. I think back to when I was working with 4 different coalitions and how this would have been helpful in keeping track of all the details for each group. I also think about how easy it is for me to get “squirrelled,” and this app definitely helps keep me on track.

Google Calendar–If it were up to me, I would stick with the pencil-and-paper calendar because I’m a visual/kinesthetic learner. Unfortunately, a paper calendar on my desktop doesn’t allow for much interaction and collaboration. Google Calendar allows me to create events and invite others, much like any standard calendar (like Outlook). You can also create and share entire calendars with others, which could come in handy to any group working collectively on a project. Most importantly, it allows me to integrate my home and work schedules. For example, because my husband makes quarterly trips to Alaska, I have to consider his schedule, making sure I don’t plan any travel for myself during those dates. When I worked in an office that used a networked Outlook system, I had a tendency to neglect adding personal events to my calendars since I viewed it as a “work,” tool. This led to a few scheduling mishaps, which hopefully will now be avoided.

A Post-It Flip Chart and Markers–Like I said, I’m a visual learner, so it helps me to have goals, deadlines, wish lists, etc. within eyesight. The good, old-fashioned flip-chart-sized Post-It allows me to do this. It also provides me with the satisfaction of posting a big red check mark when a task is completed. Everyone knows there’s nothing better than making a big red check mark!

Granted, most of these tools are pretty basic, and anyone who owns a smartphone has probably used them. However, my purpose in writing this blog (for now) is to chronicle the beginnings of learning to integrate technology into prevention. I’m sure as I get further along down the road, I’ll find more advanced tools to streamline life. But for now, as long as I can get a little help when it comes to balancing work/family time when I’m not punching a clock, then I’m one happy geek.

Going where several have gone before… (But hey, it’s new to me!)

As evident from my prolonged absence from the blog, I am still hard at work fighting the good fight in the great state of Washington. Over the course of the past week, I attended the Washington State Prevention Summit, and then the voters of the state voted to legalize marijuana for those over the age of 21. Needless to say, it’s been a busy week for prevention here in The Great Northwest. Both of those events have inspired me to jot down notes for blog entries, but those will all come later. Today, I wanted to sit down and write about the new adventure that is on the horizon for 2013–creating my own consulting business.

Almost weekly, I browse my “Inspiration” board on Pinterest, allowing the quotes I’ve pinned to continue to motivate me to do something that equally terrifies and exhilarates me. My go-to quote is “Do something today that your future self will thank you for.” One day not long ago, and I honestly can’t even pinpoint the exact day, I decided to to do just that. I’m a preventionist, but more important than my profession, I am a mother and a wife–a military wife. My husband’s MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) requires us to move approximately every 2 years. My career in prevention spans 8 years but includes 3 employers and a 4 year gap, when I was more of an “independent preventionist.” Every time we move, I find myself starting over and telling every potential employer in every job interview that I won’t be around long, but if they’ll give me a chance, I’ll work as hard as I can for them while I’m there. So far, this has worked out well for me. In the short amounts of time I’ve been in various jobs, I’ve managed to obtain CPS certification, acquire training and technology skills that can carry over into any profession, participate in advocacy initiatives that changed our state, and come to the realization that my heart is in trying to make the world a better place, regardless of the pay. And amidst it all, I was also named “Preventionist of the Year” in the state of Oklahoma (my proudest professional moment to date and probably forever!). On the other hand, it’s tough starting over every time our zip code changes. Community work is often dependent on building trust over time and enduring both hardships and celebrations along the way. Because our family chose to make my husband’s service to the country the number-one priority in our lives, one of the sacrifices has been losing the stability that so often goes hand-in-hand with coalition work.

Moving Day, 2011

However, through a series of very fortunate events, I have the opportunity to venture out on my own and give this whole consulting thing a go. If it works, then my career will no longer be so reliant on where I live but instead on how hard I’ve worked. Like I said–both terrifying and exhilarating! I’m finding that one of the most difficult parts is just getting started. How will I handle my finances? How will I find clients? How will I market my services? What if my business cards aren’t cool enough and the business name I choose is awful? Okay, maybe the last one is silly, but this is my pot of worry stew!

I happened upon a quick yet informative blog entry “Starting a Consulting Business? 15 Things to Do Right Now.” First of all, I love lists, so it naturally caught my attention. Most of all, it contains a checklist of really simple tasks that not only give me direction, but these are the tasks that will get the ball rolling and make it all seem real. Part of the how-to covers those financial considerations such as separate checking accounts and credit cards for the business (advice that my brother, the CPA, had already talked to me about). The article also points out logistical considerations like office space, phone lines, and mailing addresses, which is even more important to someone like myself whose phone number area code, home address, and permanent address don’t match! The resources the author provides cover topics ranging from in-person networking to marketing to social media presence. Oh yes, and she also mentions business cards.

Today, I’m taking a shot at #11: Tell everyone you know that you are starting a consulting practice, and that you are looking for projects. I’m sure that a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend blog isn’t necessarily the best time to put myself out there, but I have the day off, so here I am! Beginning in January of 2013, I plan to dive into the pool of self-employment with PreventionGeek Consulting. My focus will be on providing technology and training services to nonprofit agencies, most likely those focused on the concept of Wellness (including substance abuse prevention, mental health promotion, community coalition development, etc.). I also hold a couple of secret ambitions that center around app development and writing projects.

I have a long way to go. After all, this is a beginning. When I started this blog, my intent was to connect with those just starting out in the world of prevention or those attempting to learn how to merge prevention and technology. As always with my blog, you’ll see not so much a how-to resource manual but more like a diary that will hopefully allow for linking with others through shared experiences and for providing some ideas about how to integrate technology in our work. It would be impossible to explain my gratitude for those who have inspired me to take on this challenge (namely LaDonna Coy and my ever-supportive circle of best friends). Your belief in my abilities will keep me going even more than a Pinterest board could. Full speed ahead!

#PrevChat: My maiden voyage

LaDonna Coy, my professional idol and social media guru, is the member of a team that conducts a bi-monthly Twitter “conversation” called PrevChat. Because of my work schedule and my west coast timezone, I had never been able to participate in a PrevChat session until this week. My foray into this event coincided with a slight change in their format, which made the adventure that much more interesting. Traditionally, the discussion begins with a topic and then several questions related to that topic. The participant responds via tweet by specifying to which question their answer corresponds and using the hashtag #PrevChat. Don’t be afraid if you’re a Twitter novice. It’s easier than I’ve made it sound.

This week, to shake things up a bit, they featured Bruce Waltuck (aka @complexified), to talk about evidence based practices and what exactly that meant. The tweet that drew me in was:

Complex or complicated? What’s up with prevention, wellness (behavioral health)?

Perhaps it’s due to my “simple” roots, but multiple times a day, I wonder why we in prevention attempt to make a lot of things more complicated than they are. That’s not to say that the problems we face are not complex, but we don’t make it any easier with all our acronyms and five-dollar words. I was interested in seeing what other people had to say about this subject.

To participate in PrevChat, one almost has to use a specialized app/tool like TweetDeck in order to keep up. I could see myself getting lost trying to use the standard Twitter timeline. When using Tweetdeck, your desktop will look something like this:

TweetDeck during PrevChat. You may also notice I was simultaneously tracking OK primary election results.

It looks like one would have to multitask to keep up with the conversation, but in reality, it’s quite easy to follow. In the third/right column was the bulk of the conversation. In the middle column, I kept up with those who had mentioned/replied to me directly. And in the first/left column scrolled my regular timeline, where I might have caught a tweet or two in which someone had forgotten to use the hashtag (you must be a follower of the people in the conversation in order to see those, though). All this may seem pretty obvious to those who are Twitter pros, but part of my goal of this blog is to help explain the most basic elements of these “experiments” of mine so others might do a little experimenting of their own.

The most interesting part of this format was seeing not only the answers to the questions that PrevChat provided, but seeing the off-shoot of conversations that would take place down the road from those initial questions. Today at work, I found myself referencing phrases like “culture eats strategy,” which had been discussed in-depth during the course of the chat. I found myself feeling a little giddy when my own words were retweeted by others or when the featured speaker responded to one of my ideas. The hour flew by in a flash, and the nervousness I’d felt about saying something “elementary” had melted away by the time we were prompted to wrap up our thoughts.

In all, my first experience with PrevChat was entirely positive. Like most of the new (and sometimes intimidating) concepts I’ve been exploring related to combining technology and prevention, I found myself wanting to show this system to my colleagues and try to coax them into participating in such an amazing project. There is so much more that prevention has to offer that we sometimes don’t see while pounding away at our keyboards inside our neutral-colored, canvas cubicles. But the fact is, until we begin to make social media an integral part of our jobs, we are missing out on opportunities for our work to take on a life of its own.

Look, Ma! No keyboard!

This blog will be about how I’m writing this blog. One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered in the past with keeping up with a blog is finding time to write. In the evenings, my best ideas are but distant memories, or at most, a scribbled phrase on a notepad I keep in my purse. I can’t use my work computer for personal use (with good reason), so even if I could blog during my lunch hour, I have no means… Or do I? Enter the WordPress app! I’m currently typing this entry with my thumbs via an iPhone 3GS, because I’m old school like that (i.e. “cheap”). Autocorrect seems to be taking care of many spelling and typo issues, and it even aids in typing some words faster. Granted, not as fast as my fingers work, but not bad! What this really means is there’s really no excuse for me to not be writing in my free time. So long, excuses–Hello, technology!

And as an added bonus, I’ve even uploaded a test picture from my weekend getaway stop in Roslyn, WA. Enjoy, Northern Exposure fans!

20120529-122621.jpg

What is a Prevention Geek?

What’s a Prevention Geek, you ask?

Well, it’s not me. Not yet anyway…

Currently, I work for the Washington Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery as a member of the prevention training team. The goal of our project is to record a series of trainings (both in-person and webinar-based) for prevention professionals so that they can be added to the state’s professional development website, The Athena Forum. Though I love my work and give it my all, many days I feel greatly under-qualified for my job. I have approximately three years in the field as a prevention specialist, but the training and technology side of things is entirely new to me.  The Oklahoma girl in me would compare the experience to being a barrel racer who suddenly finds herself on the back of a bull trying to hold on for 8 seconds.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to participate in four full-day trainings with CADCA trainer (and self-proclaimed Coalition Dork), Rhonda Ramsey Molina. Our technology consultant, LaDonna Coy, traveled to Washington to assist with the recording, uploading, editing, and ultimately the publishing of these trainings. LaDonna is the latest in my series of professional mentors (though said mentors may not realize their role in my mind!), and an all-around shining star in the field of prevention. She’s the kind of person I could sit and talk to for hours if we ever had the time and the means. Some of it is probably due to our shared sooner state roots, but so much of it is about my fascination with her view on not just the history, but the FUTURE of prevention.

At the end of our final day of training while discussing the various means of technology that we had used over the course of the week, Rhonda casually said to LaDonna, “You’ve been a prevention geek as long as I’ve known you–even before anyone else used computers.” Prevention Geek. I liked that. Later on, I tweeted to LaDonna: “This week I learned the difference between coalition dork & prevention geek. I’m aiming 4geek because they have cooler gadgets.” And there, the seed for this blog was planted.

I once heard Dr. Paul Evensen say that coalitions need to be able to tell their stories to secure funding. In turn, I think that preventionists need to be able to tell their stories not only so we can see the evolution of our profession, but also so we can mindfully plan its future. This is the prologue to my story–a wannabe prevention geek who has no idea where I’m headed or how I’ll get there. Let’s see where this story goes!

::Disclaimer::

Opinions expressed on this blog are not a reflection of my employer. These are my own ramblings from my own brain on my own time. 🙂