Tag: manual diagram

Three Character Traits of Successful Leaders

Pixabay  https://pixabay.com/en/chess-strategy-chess-board-316658/If you’re looking for a leader within your team, look no further than these three character traits:

  1. Goes Above and Beyond
  2. Has a Great Attitude
  3. Plays Well with Others

Goes Above and Beyond

A successful leader goes above and beyond the call of duty to benefit his or her company. Why? Because they have an instinctive urge to do more than simply fulfill the basic requirements of a job. Regardless of the industry or organization, their passion is to evolve and improve themselves and their surrounding circumstances (reference: Lifehack.org).

Going above and beyond doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering. It could be as simple as picking up a piece of trash that is on company property, or as significant as proposing an improvement to the sales process that will increase revenue by tenfold. Leaders will do these things without being asked, and without expecting a reward.

As a manager of a team of employees, remember to keep your eye out for the “above and beyond” moments. A few examples of these are:

  • Proposing improvements for the company’s benefit, without being asked.
  • Proposing bonding activities to strengthen their team.
  • Helping others by mentoring or training them to become better at their jobs.

If you’re actively watching out for these things, you’ll find your leaders emerging naturally, and quickly.

Has a Great Attitude

Attitude is a choice. In a workplace, there are those who choose positivity and optimism, and there are those who choose the opposite- negativity and pessimism. Leaders arise out of the first group.  According to PayScale:

When an employee has an overall negative view of work, very often his or her attitude manifests as poor performance, [leading to doing] the bare minimum to fly under the radar of management.”

The same concept is true for an employee with a positive view of work- they manifest higher productivity, which leads to more responsibilities, and eventually results in raises and promotions. Even when a positive person experiences a negative situation, they are more likely to perceive it as a challenge and work harder (Reference: Martin Seligman).

When searching for leaders from your team, look for the optimistic workers who not only perceive work as positive, but also rise to a seemingly negative occasion with the desire to succeed.

Leaders_Attitudes_of_the_WorkplacePlays Well with Others

The point of any team is to work together toward a common goal. Sports teams want to beat their opponent, couples want to have a healthy and thriving relationship, and businesses want to gain valued clients and increase revenue. While some team members have a hard time communicating, collaborating, and ultimately, getting along, leaders do not. Leaders have a natural ability to “play well with others” while remaining focused on the task at hand, whatever it may be.

Observing your team in their natural work environment is a great way to determine who plays well with others. If this isn’t viable for your situation, as your presence might influence their true behavior, consider trying one of the following:

  • Sending around a quiz similar to this one, which measures the ability to get along with others. Although the opportunity for false answers may be present in this case as well, you can get a good idea of where your team stands.
  • Another method is to ask your team to plan something outside of work, say, a happy hour or something that could be perceived as fun, and non-work related. Request that they have a team meeting that you are part of, then watch quietly as they interact. This situation carries the potential for the natural leader to show his or her skills of respect, communication, and collaboration, while still focusing on the goal.
  • Quite possibly the best way to filter out a leader that plays well with others is to create a situation that is seemingly stressful or limiting. In marketing, for example, when forced to think of a call-to-action that is 35 characters long, the writer’s creativity must become heightened, because of this limitation. In the same way, when faced with a stressful situation, your team leaders will be pressured to get along with others in the face of adversity.

Of course, all of this takes time. If you are working with brand new employees, or new team members, keep in mind that they may still be trying to make a good impression, so their actions may not reflect their true characteristics. Over time, you’ll come to find your leaders through the above and beyond moments, the great attitudes, and the ones who play well together. Happy hunting!

3 Secrets of Successful Content Marketers

Purchased ImageOnce only a tactic for startups with cash to burn and the largest of enterprises, content marketing has percolated down to all sizes and kinds of businesses. With PPC costs rising and Google’s growth slowing, content marketing has become the hottest form of marketing.  But, it’s also arguably the most difficult kind of marketing to get right. It’s all too easy to waste many marketing dollars on campaigns that go nowhere.

The 3 Secrets of Successful Content Marketers

  1. Know your Audience
  2. Absorb the Trends
  3. Think like a Child

1. Know Your Audience

In order to provide relevant content for your marketing strategy you first need to fully understand your current and prospective customers. Through research, surveys, and in-person interviews, you’ll need to formulate a multidimensional view of your customer. This customer representation is your buyer persona.

Buyer Persona

If you dig into the description of the buyer persona, you’ll find multiple definitions.

Ardath Albee, a B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO of Marketing Interactions describes the buyer persona as:

A composite sketch of a segment of your target market [that is] focused on role, needs, priorities, and objectives [of your buyer].

HubSpot, the inbound marketing software platform, defines the buyer persona as:

. . . fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers.

Taking these two ideas into consideration, you’ll see that the buyer persona is not simply a one-dimensional view of your prospective customer, but rather, it is combining all of the things that make your buyer tick.

Now for the hard part- putting it all together. In order to be certain that you aren’t just guessing about who your buyers are, there are three things that you will want to do, as per Ardath Albee.

  1. Internal Interviews: Salespeople, marketers, product development.
  2. External Interviews: Customers and prospects who didn’t purchase from you.
  3. Research: Analyst reports, industry-specific reports, LinkedIn profiles and Groups, social channels, industry portals, job descriptions, Payscale.com, and more.

For a more detailed description of putting your buyer persona together, check out this piece by Hubspot.  The end result will look something like this:

Buyer Persona

Now that your buyer persona is complete, your content creation should be much more focused and relevant to your prospective customer. You’ll find that other things such as product development and writing web copy will also become easier because you know your audience like the back of your hand.

2. Absorb the Trends

Next on the list of things to do to as a successful content creator is to absorb the trends. Read, watch, listen and observe the happenings of your industry and overall trends that your audience would want to know about. One of the greatest things about content marketing is being able to produce pieces that are actually beneficial for your reader, so this is something to have some fun with.

Most likely, you’ll find a few industry-specific sources from which you can curate or create content. For some of the more neutral sources, may we recommend the following: MSNFoxYahoo, and CNN.  Having a good grasp on industry and worldwide trends will undoubtedly help in the creation of your content to be relevant and valuable, leading to a successful content marketing campaign. 

3. Think Like a Child

Reverting back to childish ways when it comes to content marketing is completely acceptable. Thinking like a child means two things: using your imagination and thinking simply.

Using Your Imagination

How do we tap into our imagination on a regular basis? Larry Kim, Founder and CTO at Wordstream tells us to do a few things, including to role play, get moving, and doodle- all things that we can learn from kids.

  • Role Play: put yourself in the place of your audience and pretend to understand their pain points, needs, and attitudes. Refer back to your buyer persona to help you with role play.
  • Get Moving: like kids who go outside and play, get up, out of your seat, and get the blood flowing back to the brain where great ideas are created.
  • Doodle: fire up your neurons with distracted scribbling. Sunni Brown, author of The Doodling Revolution, says that doodling can produce creative insight.

Thinking Simply

Kids don’t have overly-complicated thoughts. Why? Because they don’t know enough about the world yet- they are still learning. Adults pick things up quickly because we already know a lot about the world, and have experienced the things that children still haven’t. If we want to really experience a breakthrough in our content production, we must try to think in simple terms, like a child.

The podcast by Freakonomics, called “Think Like a Child,” sheds light on how kids think, from the views of the authors, a Magician, and a Professor of Psychology and Philosophy. Amongst many other observations about kids, two of them stuck out to me in terms of simple thinking: asking obvious questions and thinking small.  

Asking Obvious Questions

Children ask questions that seem obvious. This is because they are learning and they quite simply do not know the answer. Adults do know the answer, and can provide a response to a child. To have a successful content marketing campaign, we must ask the obvious questions when strategizing. Put yourself in the shoes of a PR firm: what would they ask you about your company and your strategy, if they were to meet you the very first time?

  • What does your company do?
  • Who is your product or service for?
  • Who actually buys your product or service?
  • Do people already know about you?
  • How, and what do they know?

 Go back to the basics and get answers to the seemingly obvious questions. This will refocus your ideas and bring you to the truth of what your strategy should look like moving forward.

Thinking Small

Kids don’t have the capacity to think large, because frankly, they only know what they have already learned which isn’t much in terms of a lifetime. This ability to think small is counterintuitive to what we have been taught, so this is a difficult concept to wrap our heads around. In this podcast, the authors talk about thinking small like this:

There’s a temptation to try to be something special and to take on a big problem. But it’s actually getting into the realm of thinking about a tiny little question that maybe once you learn the answer would actually tell you about a lot of other things you might be interested in.”

Don’t try to take your content marketing strategy on all at once- start small and learn from what you just did. Take the entire experience into consideration when starting to think larger.  When you start thinking imaginatively and simply like a child, not only will you feel more creative and less stressed, but you will reap the benefits of a successful content marketing campaign.

Bringing It All Together    

Stop wasting money on marketing tactics that don’t work or are actively being ignored. Create relevant, valuable content for your company by knowing your audience, absorbing the trends, and thinking like a child.

Helping Food Technology Experts with Global Efforts


I recently had the unique opportunity to meet up with Brian Smith, food technologist and founding partner of the consultancy firm, Booth Smith Food Technology.  Based out of the UK, Brian along with his team of food technology experts, provide advisory services to companies across the globe.  As you can imagine, there are a number complex food safety regulations that Booth Smith Food Technology must uphold.  From the standards of ISO9000 to the guidelines established by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Brian must ensure that their work is in alignment with the established requirements.

As a SmartDraw user for over 12 years, Brian has been and continues to meet the needs of his clients using SmartDraw for process documentation, food factory layouts and designs, to patent applications.  In this week’s post, I’ll share with you a few of Brian’s diagrams along with some advice for our new users who have recently joined our SmartDraw user community.

Applying for a Patent

Booth Smith Food Technology is highly active in developing countries throughout the world.  They help emerging production industries in an effort to increase efficiency as well as satisfy demand, both domestic and for export.  In doing so, there is a high demand for specialized equipment and machinery to be built.  As result, they often apply for patents.

There are a number of requirements that must be completed in order to apply for a patent.  An integral piece of the submission process it to include specifications of the invention a well as supporting documentation and diagrams.  Here is the diagram from an actual patent submission to remove the stones from dates.


SmartDraw Tip:  To create this diagram, navigate to the Popular Category found in the Left Panel.  In the Template Preview area, select Manual Diagram in the Popular Templates section.  As you create elements of the diagram, you may choose to group objects together.  First, select or highlight the object you wish to group.  Navigate to the Design Ribbon.  In the Group drop-down menu select Group Object or use the keyboard shortcut of Ctrl + G.

 https://pixabay.com/en/dates-medjool-fruit-dried-fruit-1603127/ Originally grown in the Middle East and North Africa, the Medjool date is a tree fruit that can be grown in a number of desert-like regions around the world.   Medjools are considered the diamond of dates.  They are prized for their large size, extraordinary sweetness and chewy texture even when dried. They can be enjoyed on their own as a healthy snack or as an ingredient.

Assisting the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Tanzania

Booth Smith Food Technology is often tasked with presenting concepts as well as diagrammatic layouts to build new food factories.  As experts in the field of food technology, Brian and his colleagues are to ensure that the food products are produced safely, legally, and are of the quality claimed.

In 2009, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization hired Booth Smith Food Technology to assess, develop, and design a Halva, or Halawah, factory for a UN project in Tanzania.  Using the Tahini and Halawah Manufacturing Plant diagram as well as a live demonstration, Brian successfully taught a group of sesame seed farmers the Halawah manufacturing process.

I use these for scale drawings too so I can hand over to CAD drawing experts a schematic which has all the basics worked out.

HalawahFactory_UN Project

SmartDraw Tip: This diagram was achieved by using the Manual Template.  In addition, the Process Unit table was first created in Word, then inserted into the diagram.  It can also be achieved entirely within SmartDraw.   To create this diagram, navigate to the Popular Category found in the Left Panel.  Navigate to Floor Plans – Commercial.  Select from any of the sub-categories or select Custom Floor Plan.  Click and drag the appropriate symbols from the Symbol Library into the Work Area.  To create a table, navigate to the Table Ribbon.  Enter the appropriate values in the Rows and Columns fields.  Click the Table control.  Click and drag the table to the appropriate location in the Work Area.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Halva, you may know it by another name: halawa, alva, haleweh, halava, helava, helva, halwa, halua, aluva, or chalva.  The term halva means “dessert”  or “sweet.”  This particular dessert is typically made one of two ways: flour-based or nut-butter-based. It is served throughout the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Balkans, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Malta, and the Jewish world.


Advice for New SmartDraw Users

I was curious to find out what a seasoned SmartDraw user, such as Brian, would advise new SmartDraw users.  So, when I posed the questions he responded without hesitation.

The power of it is to be able to create and then export.  I incorporate it into other documents. Think of it as a tool to enhance your reports or the work that you do.  So that you get the most benefit.  Others will appreciate what you’re doing.

He continued to explain how SmartDraw is not only to be used to print hard copies of diagrams but rather to explain concepts efficiently and effectively.  Any SmartDraw user can share any diagram with anyone.  Diagrams can easily be exported into a pdf, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.  Using the Quick Access Controls, located at the top left corner of the screen, you can convert your sdr into each of these formats with just one-click.

Quick Access Control Bar: Send Email Control


SmartDraw Tip: In addition, you can email a diagram directly from SmartDraw.  Navigate to the Quick Access Control bar, select the envelope.  A new email will appear.  The diagram file name will automatically appear in the subject line, the source file will be attached, and the diagram will appear in the body of the email.  

Do You Have a Story You’d Like to Share?

How do you use SmartDraw?  I’d love to hear your story. I’m always intrigued to find out how other members of the SmartDraw community are using it.  Send me an email at rjbitner@smartdraw.com.

A Business Card Design That Leaves a Lasting Impression

https://pixabay.com/en/business-suit-business-man-690048/Your business card is your first opportunity to make a strong, positive, lasting impression.  If you go online, you’ll see that there is no shortage of inexpensive DIY online business card printing companies.  With a few exceptions, it’s quite easy to spot an inexpensively produced card.  If you choose to “go cheap,” what message does that send to those with whom you wish to do business? Are you really doing yourself any favors by missing out on the opportunity to start building a positive brand image right from the start? I recently came across a business card that made such an impression, that I asked to meet the individual who created it.  It was a pleasant surprise to discover that the designer happened to be a member of our SmartDraw community.  This week we’ll take a look at an interview with Greg Solis.  Greg is a third-year PhD candidate in the Biology program at The Scripps Research Institute located in San Diego, California.


What is it that you do?

I am a graduate research assistant at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the President of the Scripps Consulting Club (SCC).  The TSRI is a non-profit American medical research facility focused on education and research in the biomedical sciences.  The institute is among the largest private, non-profit biomedical research organization in the world.  As President of the SSC, I am responsible for exploring sponsorship partners and funding opportunities.

What inspired you to create your business card in SmartDraw?

I went online but none of the business card websites had what I was looking for.  I wanted something that would be both a professional and scientific in appearance.  SmartDraw is very versatile and provides me with the freedom to easily create things in my own way, rather than using the limited options or more difficult designing you might get with other programs.  It also allows me to show my creativity.



How did you get started?

I used the Manual Diagram under the Popular Category.


What features and functionality did you find yourself using the most?


I used a combination of features.  I used the Line tool, the Shape tool, and the Effects in the Home Ribbon.  I found the hexagonal shape in the Library. It was easy from that point. I just dragged shapes from the Library to create the design.


SmartDraw Tip: Use the Design Ribbon to automatically align and event space shapes.  To align one or more shapes, first select the appropriate shapes to be aligned.  Then, navigate to the Design Ribbon’s Align control.  Select the appropriate alignment option.  To evenly space two or more shapes, first select the shapes to be evenly spaced.  Then, navigate to the Design Ribbon’s Space Evenly control.  Select from the following options: Space Evenly Vertically, Space Evenly Horizontally, or Both.

design toolbar

I also used the Design Ribbon’s Rotate and Grouping tools.  If you look closely, the black 6 phase hexagonal is actually one of the hexagonal shape rotated 90 degrees.  To indicate the type of information on the card, I used the Insert Ribbon and Picture button to import images that I found online.


After entering my contact information, I used a series of grey boxes to cover portions of my design so I could see the final design.



Describe your experience in designing your own symbols.

SmartDraw was easy to learn and there were plenty of symbols to choose from.   However, the Symbol Library didn’t have the symbols I wanted for the design I wanted to create for the back of the business card.  So, I created them.  I liked the fact that each symbol could be manipulated, so I could customize it and make it my own.


 SmartDraw Tip:  Through the use of color, lines, and shapes (items in the black arrows) he was able to create the design.


SmartDraw Tip: With the freedom of designing his own business card, Greg was able to successfully incorporate his initials “GMS” for Greg M. Solis.

What are you working on next?

Right now, I’m in the process of making a new design for new business cards.

Do you have any advice for new SmartDraw users?

Be creative and think outside the box.  You can use SmartDraw to fit your needs. There’s more than one way to do something.


How do you use SmartDraw?  I’d love to hear your story. I’m always intrigued to find out how other members of the SmartDraw community are using it.  Send me an email at rjbitner@smartdraw.com.

Take a Look at the Innovative Mind of a Modern Day Inventor

The urge to create or build is natural, we’re all born with it.  Due to societal norms, our upbringing, and circumstances, the notion of being an inventor or entrepreneur is restricted to a privileged few. They are an elite minority to whom we attribute exceptional powers, of creativity, of “genius”, even. The truth is invention is possible for everyone: as a hobby, as a way to make a living, as a way to live life.  With SmartDraw your innovative ideas can come to life.Purchased Image iStock_000007320959Small

This week we have the unique opportunity to explore the innovative thinking of a member of our SmartDraw community, Gregory Robinson, founder of PanJammi Innovations.  We’ll explore how his latest invention, the PanJammi Mini Meat Smoker, came to be.


What inspired you to create the PanJammi Mini Meat Smoker?

I wanted to create the PanJammi Mini Meat Smoker because a vegetable smoker just wasn’t going to do the trick.  I am a huge meat lover.  I knew that I wanted to create something portable and convenient.  It’s perfect for tailgating before the big game, camping trips, cookouts, or an afternoon at the beach.  And if you live in a home with limited storage space,  it’s easy to store.



Why did you choose SmartDraw as your design tool?

To be honest, SmartDraw was actually the last drawing tool I tested and it turned out to be the best.  But after all the drawing programs that I have demoed nothing was intuitive as SmartDraw.  I was able to design and build my first meat smoker. I won’t use any other program.

What was your experience using SmartDraw?

I opened the Engineering Diagram template and just started drawing.  It was intuitive.  It just spoke to me.

engineering category

Drawing was a piece of cake.  It had all the elements I was used to using from my desktop publishing software.  That’s what made me fall in love with using SmartDraw.  I’ve got no complaints.

Box End View 2015 Finished 4in x 18in Pipe Mini-Smoker Hot1 Top View 2015 Finished 4in x 18in Pipe Mini-Smoker (2) Left Side View 2015 Finished 4in x 18in Pipe Mini-Smoker


What features and functionality did you use the most?

I drew everything manually.  I didn’t see it as a hardship.  It was so easy to use. I found everything I needed at the top of the screen.  I just clicked and dragged shapes I needed.  Then I’d use the fill, gradient, and effects features. That’s how I made my drawings appear 3-D.  The lock objects button came in handy.



Why now? Why not create it when you first had the idea?

When I had the idea a few years ago, I didn’t have the time and I couldn’t find a reliable welder to work with.  Now, I have a fabricator I can trust to transform my SmartDraw diagrams into a product I can be proud of.  As we speak, our final prototype is being made in White City, Oregon at J.W. Hurd Fabrication.  This will be “the one.”  In fact, the current one being built will be the base model.  I need to get this out ASAP so I can have revenue to develop the next version, our premium model.

Compilation 2015 Finished 4 inch Pipe Mini Smoker v2 02

Where can we find it?

The PanJammi Mini Meat Smoker is not available for sale yet.  We are using this time to improve our design and to test for high heat issues.  We should have this resolved by the early part of Spring 2015.

What’s next for you and PanJammi Innovations?

I have some big plans for the premium unit from collapsible or modified legs to digital or analog temperature gauge or even an optional electric coil in hot box to ignite the wood chips.  Ultimately,  I’d like to be able to build it myself.  That’s why I need to go back to college and take some welding classes.  Now, that I am entering college again, I will need this [SmartDraw] for planning out my wood and metal projects. Sweet!


How do you use SmartDraw?  I’d love to hear your story. I’m always intrigued to find out how other members of the SmartDraw community are using it.  Send me an email at rjbitner@smartdraw.com.

How to Throw a Company Holiday Party on a Budget

The Company Holiday Party is Back!

Back in December 2008, companies across the board were scaling back on holiday events.   Due to economic constraints companies chose to cancel them all together, deeming the celebrations needless or highly inappropriate in the wake of layoffs.  Now that the company holiday party is back it doesn’t mean your company needs to break the bank.  Here are some ideas for throwing a company holiday party on a budget.


SmartDraw Tip: To create an infographic you can start by navigating to the Infographic Category and leveraging the templates, data charts, or examples.  When I created this particular infographic I wasn’t able to find a Santa Clause like symbol within the library.  Instead, I used the Home Ribbon’s Shape control.  After combining two hearts, one rectangle, and circle I was able to create a Santa hat to add on top of my figure.  Click here to learn more about Infographics.

 7_santa hat

Have a Party Planning Committee

Of course it would be great to outsource all the planning and logistics to professional event planners – but that can get expensive.  Why not have a party planning committee?  Having a group of employees to organize and plan the company provides a sense of ownership, increases involvement, and keeps costs down.  Here’s a company holiday party planning check list to get you started.

6_Office Holiday Party Tasks

SmartDraw Tip: You can easily save this party planning check list as a template in SmartDraw.  Learn how in my previous post titled “How to Increase Productivity Using Custom Templates.”  In addition, if you find that there are certain individuals who are responsible for certain tasks each year you can save their names and those tasks that are assigned to them.  Simply enter their names into the Mind Map before saving it as a Custom Template.

Make Your Own Invitations

Sending an Outlook Meeting invitation to “all employees” is an inexpensive and cost efficient method yet it tends to be cold and impersonal.  It doesn’t convey the special nature of the event or occasion as well as a personalized, printed paper invitation.    Yet, there’s no need to go online and pay for professional printing and shipping.   Just add a pack of white card stock paper and envelopes to the next office supply order.  Then design your invitation and program in SmartDraw.  It’s that simple.


SmartDraw Tip:  Invitations set the theme for the event.   And when you create your invitations in SmartDraw, you can also create a whole suite of stationary including programs, place cards, gift tags, and signs.    The possibilities are endless.   When I created the invitation (above) I wanted it to be fun and festive.  The challenge was to find a fun and festive font.  Initially, none of the fonts were working.    Yet, when I decided to italicize the font it was exactly what I was looking for.

Consult Your Venue’s Event Coordinator

Many companies are now hosting smaller events within their respective departments or divisions opposed to company wide.   For example, here we have a private dining room reserved for a team awards dinner.  The agenda and the diagram (below) can be sent to the venue’s event coordinator.  You’re assigned event coordinator is a great resource.  They are often willing to work within any budget and can offer you some options.  In this case, hosting the event on a Wednesday or Thursday was less expensive than Friday.     Based on the diagram, the event coordinator is able to select the option that is best for the event and size of group.  All the decisions were made via email, opposed to an in-person meeting thus saving time for all involved.

7_restaurant floor plan options2

SmartDraw Tip:  Before selecting a venue it’s best to sample the food and visit the site.  Once the venue was selected, I quickly drafted a few floor plan designs.  With the robust symbol library, I simply clicked and dragged symbols into the work area.  Minutes later I emailed the diagram (above) to the venue’s event coordinator.  Click here to learn more about the Floor Plan Template.

Arrange Assigned Seating

Events such as a company holiday party is a perfect opportunity to break down barriers and encourage colleagues to mingle with one another.  Assigned seating eliminates the awkwardness as your guests prepare to sit for dinner and can make conversation flow smoothly during the holiday party.  If you’re unsure of the existing dynamics among certain individuals, you may choose to consult their respective managers.

place cards

SmartDraw Tip:  To ensure that each name can be easily read, I added a white transparent background.  To make a shape transparent, simply select the shape then navigate to the Fill menu found in the Home Ribbon.  Located below the Standard Colors section of the menu, you’ll find the Transparency options.  Select one of the options.  To learn more about Fill options, refer to the SmartDraw User Guide: Fundamentals for New Users.

Add Some Fun Into the Mix

It’s not uncommon for companies to host a Secret Santa or White Elephant gift exchange. For larger organizations, perhaps this is best left to a departmental level rather than a company wide event.  If you do choose to incorporate an activity, like a gift exchange, it’s important that everyone understands the rules.  Since we’ve chosen to modify the traditional rules of the game at our Holiday Party, I’ve included a flowchart diagram titled “How a Gift Becomes Frozen” with the instructions.


Here are the rules for our company’s Holiday Gift Exchange that was emailed to everyone in addition to printed invitations.  For a copy of the Gift Exchange Rules click here.

7_gift exchange rules

SmartDraw Tip:  I wasn’t able to find clip art of presents in the SmartDraw Library.  So, I created the presents using squares and triangles.  Once I created one, I simply added it to my SmartDraw Library as a Custom Symbol just like I would a Custom Template.  That made creating the next one a matter of clicking and dragging the symbols from the Library into the Work Area.  

7_present symbol

Host a Holiday Luncheon, Then Call it a Day

Typically, companies select evenings and weekends to host their holiday parties to allow for spouses or significant others to join in on the festivities.   A new approach to a holiday celebration is to host a holiday luncheon.   This keeps the cost down since lunch menus are less expensive and you get your choice of high demand venues.   In addition, you may choose to allow your employees to have the afternoon off.  Sometimes that’s the only gift they really want.  It’s a win-win.  You have a lower cost holiday party, a festive celebration, and an afternoon away from work to spend with family or finish up some holiday shopping.

Click here for your FREE SmartDraw Holiday Party Planning Kit

Simply download the kit, open the file, and the “Holiday Party Planning Kit” will automatically appear in your Custom Categories folder in SmartDraw.  You’ll have all the source files of the diagrams in this blog.  Edit the diagrams and you’ve got your party planning started for you.

6 Easy Steps to Maximize Your Next Doctor Visit

Purchased Image

With overflowing waiting rooms, we have even less time to spend with our doctors to discuss our health issues.  As a result, we have less time to complete a thorough exam, report our symptoms, ask questions, and discuss treatment options.   It’s in our best interest, as patients, to properly prepare so that we can maximize the limited time we have during a doctor visit.

In January, I was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus or simply diabetes.  Although I have a family history of type 2 diabetes, the news still came as a surprise.   I had hoped I would have it later in life.  Fortunately, within in the first 90 days of my diagnosis I was able to successfully bring my A1C level down from 10.5 to 6.3.  I can attribute much of my success to learning how to maximize my doctor’s appointments.  An easy way to remember how to maximize a doctor visit is that it’s all about your H.E.A.L.T.H:  History Education Arrive Listen Track Homework.


It’s important to ensure that your physician has all the information they need in order to make and educated decision regarding a diagnosis.  Providing information such as your family medical history, timeline of your symptoms, and a complete list of the vitamins and herbal supplements that you take are all relevant.  Before your next appointment, take a moment to create a Mind Map that you can provide at the start of your next doctor visit.


SmartDraw Tip: Mind Maps are perfect for organizing ideas and thoughts.  If you’re in the process of remembering the progression of your symptoms, it’s the perfect tool to get your thoughts in order before your next doctor’s visit.  Click here to learn how to create Mind Maps with SmartDraw.

Demystify the Situation Through EDUCATION

As part of my treatment, my physician recommended that I take a series of   diabetes self-management clinics hosted by UC San Diego Health System.  I found the courses along with online information to be helpful in making the appropriate changes to my diet and exercise.   In addition, gaining an understanding of the known risk factors (diet, medication, exercise, and stress reduction) played an integral role in maintaining healthy glucose levels.


SmartDraw Tip: To create the diagram explaining what is diabetes, I started with the Manual template.  Then with the use of various symbols from the Symbol Library, fonts, text sizes and the use of color I was able to demonstrate the differences between the two. In addition, SmartDraw has an extensive   Healthcare Category that includes over 1,500 healthcare graphics as well as information sheets, medical forms and much more.  If, for example, you entered “diabetes” into the search field you would discover a   wealth of information on diabetes.   The information available in SmartDraw is perfect not only for my own knowledge but to share with family and friends.  


Arriving early to your doctor’s appointment is placing a priority on your health.  Take advantage of the time in the waiting room to complete the necessary paperwork as well as give yourself time to focus on you and your health.  Write down any last minute questions or recent symptoms that are not already included in the Mind Map you created earlier.

LISTEN and Take Notes

Stay focused during your appointment and listen carefully to what your doctor is saying. If you don’t understand something, politely ask your doctor to explain it in simpler terms.  If it will help you to remember, take notes.  Many healthcare providers now have online resources that allow you to communicate with your physician after your appointment.  If you are unclear about the prescribed treatment, be sure to contact your physician directly or through the online portal.

TRACK Your Progress

As you begin the prescribed treatment, it’s important to note your body’s reaction and progress.  In some cases, your may require a higher dose or a different type of treatment.  As for my treatment, my primary care physician and my physician specializing in diabetes treatment asked that I test my glucose levels on a daily basis.  Knowing my glucose level before each meal helped me control my diet and exercise.

Information Included in the Tracking Chart:

  • Steps (My goal was to complete 10,000 steps per day)
  • Meal time and glucose level
  • Exercise and duration
  • Medication and doses

SmartDraw Tip: I’m a visual person so documenting my glucose levels wasn’t enough.   I converted the data into a diagram by plotting the information using the Table feature.  I used a series of symbols and colors to add emphasis to my results.  You can learn how color and effects were used in the diagram in the SmartDraw User Guide: Fundamentals for New Users.

5_Glucose Tracking Log w Insulin


I wanted to provide my physicians with proof of that I not only tracked my progress but that I understood the data.  I added a section called “Self Analysis” where I noted variances in my glucose levels.   Noting my highs and lows (dots appearing in the blue bars), increased my understanding of how my body reacts to certain foods, portions, and meal times.

SmartDraw Tip:  In a previous SmartDraw Spotlight post on How to Increase Productivity Using Custom Templates, we covered how you could customize SmartDraw to your personal needs. Since I would be tracking my glucose on a regular basis, I added the “My Daily Glucose Log” as a Custom Template.  Now, I can simply click and drag the custom template into the work area and enter the data.

CLICK HERE for a pdf of a blank My Blood Glucose Daily Log Form

5_Glucose Tracking page 1

To gain a further understanding of my glucose levels by time of day, I created the chart below.   It not only indicated whether my levels were within target range, it also noted when I was beyond target (bold red text).   When I shared the chart (below) with my physicians, they were thrilled with my progress.  They were also impressed with the speed in which I was able to lower by A1C.

SmartDraw Tip: Just like my previous post on Maximizing Time and Minimizing Effort with Custom Categories,  I decided to create a Custom Category of all the templates and diagrams I use to track and analyze my glucose levels.  All the information I’ve documented is now centrally located and easy to access.  Tracking your progress is simple when you have SmartDraw.

5_By Meal Bedtime

Through this experience, I have realized that all the power you need to manage your health comes from within you.  I am truly grateful for the support I have received from my family, friends, and doctors.  It truly has been a partnership working with my physicians, with SmartDraw as the key support tool in managing my progress.  Today, I only test my blood 2’x a day instead of 4’x and I continue to do what I can do to live healthy life.

World Diabetes Day – November 14

The World Diabetes Day campaign is led by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and it’s member associations in more than 160 countries and territories.  They are supported by all Member States of the United Nations, as well as by other associations and organizations, companies, healthcare professionals and people living with diabetes and their families.  The WDD campaign draws attention to issues of importance to the diabetes world and keeps diabetes firmly in the public spotlight.

SmartDraw Tip:  Based on the information provided by the International Diabetes Federation, I was able to reproduce a map of the global projections of the millions of people who will have diabetes in 2035.  You can view a video on Making Infographics in SmartDraw to learn how the diagram (below) was created.



Strategic Planning is Just Like Baseball, Only Different

https://pixabay.com/en/baseball-ball-glove-582887/“Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.”* Just like strategic planning, sort of.

I first used SmartDraw to create diagrams for the Little League Baseball team I managed in the 1990’s.  Having never played organized baseball, and possessing little to no natural athletic talent, my approach to coaching was to buy books about the subject and study them.  I discovered that the key to a successful Little League outcome as a coach involved finding unique methods to hold the attention of young players during a game. (In the interest of full disclosure, I also found that recruiting an assistant coach who knows what he’s doing is quite helpful, too.)Baseball Play

In baseball, each player has a responsibility to cover either a specific base or the ball itself. This depends upon what position they are playing and in what direction the batted ball travels.  I found it far more effective to teach nine-year-old boys base- and ball-coverage assignments with diagrams rather than coaching with words alone.  I could show kids, rather simply, the five or so primary directions a hit ball might travel using a visual, and why they might want to take their fingers out of their noses and move somewhere else on the field when that happened.

This was my hands-on introduction to the power of visual communication and how it could apply to many aspects of my personal and business life, such as strategic planning.

According to psychologist Jerome Bruner of New York University, as cited in “Syntactic Theory of Visual Communication,” studies show that people only remember 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they read, but about 80% of what they see and do.  My experience with our Little League team was consistent with that account.

VSP_whitepaperA few years ago I applied my experiences and wrote a white paper outlining the principals of using visual communication in business for the strategic planning process.

The principals of visual communication are timeless, whether you are writing a business plan, or trying to win a baseball tournament with a group of nine-year-olds.

By the way, we won our Little League championship that year!

*We think this quote is attributable to Yogi Berra. Although according to Yogi, “I never said most of the things I said.”