Tag: Mind Map

The Paperless Meeting

night-office-shirt-mailWe’ve all read about “The Paperless Office” first coined in 1964 by IBM to sell their video display terminals. Over time this term has become understood as the replacement of paper documents with electronic ones, using scanners and document storage software. We still have a long way to go before we reach this goal, but the tide has definitely turned. There is less paper used in business today than 10 years ago. Why the decline? Perhaps the biggest influence is the increasing ease with which electronic documents can be shared. Just generating a document with a PC doesn’t reduce the amount of paper you use if the only way to share it is to print it!

Sharing Documents

At SmartDraw we began sharing documents many years ago by attaching them to emails. This works but it’s quite difficult to manage the resultant multiple versions of the same document. About 10 years ago we installed a central document storage system (Microsoft’s SharePoint) and we began emailing links to one copy of a document in SharePoint instead of emailing the actual file.

These days we increasingly use cloud-based software to create documents. This makes sharing even easier, since the person with whom we are sharing doesn’t need to own and install the app that created the document.

While this solved our problems sharing documents while working alone at a desk, it didn’t make it easier to present and capture information in our meetings.

The Meeting Problem

In a meeting you typically print copies of minutes, plans, reports and other documents that present the information needed, and distribute a copy to everyone there.  Decisions and new action items are recorded in notes taken at the meeting. Perhaps someone assembles the notes and distributes them to the attendees later.

This is the same process we’ve used for the past 50 years or longer, and it was the process we used until about ten years ago. Now our meetings involve no paper at all: No printed minutes, no reports. No handwritten notes. I began this change by using the paperless method with one regular meeting, and it quickly spread throughout the company, because it worked so well.

Meeting Without Paper

Our product, SmartDraw, is software that people use to create diagrams. In 2007 we added automatic formatting to a number of diagram types, including mind maps. For the first time it became possible to create and edit a mind map as quickly as you can type. So instead of showing up to our weekly management meeting with a printed list of action items from last week, I decided to make a mind map of tasks assigned to each member of the team and display it using the projector we had in the conference room.Operating_Committee_MindMap

In real time, I deleted tasks that were completed and added new ones that we decided on. Everyone could see what they, and the rest of the team, were tasked with and how much progress had been made since last week. Communication was 100%. Capturing information and assigning new tasks happened instantly.

The SmartDraw file we used was stored in SharePoint and everyone had access to it, so they each had a copy of the action plan for the week. Next week we would open this file and update it at meeting.

Today we follow the same process but we use SmartDraw Cloud to create mind maps and share them. It’s just more convenient and we can more easily access the file from anywhere, even our phones.

Why a Mind Map?

So why not just project a Word document showing tasks in outline format? Like this:

Text Outline_Operating_Committee

We could have done this, but text outline is much more difficult to work with and view. Trying to drag items around from one person to another is tricky. A mind map is a more visual representation of an outline that is easier to edit and view than a text-based version.

We also display other document types in meetings: Excel tables and graphs, other SmartDraw diagrams like flowcharts and Gantt charts, but rarely Word documents.

What you need to make the paperless meeting work

  1. A high quality display in every conference room

You need either a large high resolution TV monitor or a good projector in your conference room so everyone can see the detail on the screen. You need a display resolution of at least 1600 x 1200.

  1. A permanent computer in every conference room.

Each conference room should have a good quality PC permanently installed and hooked up to the display. You don’t want to futz with someone’s laptop at the beginning of the meeting. Just log in and get started. It should also have a fast connection to the Internet.

  1. A wireless keyboard and mouse

Attach a wireless keyboard and mouse to the computer in the room. Have a set of each in each room. Change the batteries every month. Don’t wait until they are dead.

  1. Central storage for documents

Any document shown at the meeting should be accessible and shareable from the conference room PC. Store these documents in the cloud or in a behind-the-firewall common location like SharePoint.

  1. Mind Map software than can edit in real time

There are now other programs beside SmartDraw that can do this. Use the one that best fits your needs.

  1. A designated driver

We have found that this format works best when one of the meeting attendees operates the keyboard and edits the mind map. Sometimes this is the same person for the whole meeting and sometimes it works best to pass control among the participants if they will have the floor for a while. If someone else wants to say, add an item, they ask the driver to do it. “Let’s add an item for the PR campaign…” for example.

Paperless Mtg Floor Plan

The physical requirements, 1-3 are key. When we want to use this format for a meeting at a customer’s facility we are often amazed that many conference rooms don’t have an adequate computer setup.

The Benefits of a Paperless Meeting

While paperless meetings save paper and trees, the greatest benefit is in communication. Every participant can see exactly what is expected of the whole team, what has been accomplished and what decisions have been made in real time, and has a permanent record to review later. It’s made a significant contribution to the agility and success of our company and can do the same for yours.

Customer Service: 10 Tips for Technical Support Representatives

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Technical support representatives may be the first and only point of contact your customers have.  Therefore they are often seen as the face of the company.  Each positive interaction a customer has with a company can lead that individual to become not only a loyal customer but an evangelist.

Here are 10 tips that technical support representatives should always be aware of in order to maintain customer service excellence.


Listen before providing a solution.  Technical support representatives usually want to jump in and come up with a solution right away.  Insufficient data may lead to misinterpretation.  Be respectful by actively listening to the customer’s needs.  Allow the customer ample time to report their situation and take notes.   Too many times we believe we are listening, when in fact we are really thinking about what we are going to say next.


Build trust with the customer by demonstrating your understanding of what was said.  Repeat or paraphrase what you just heard.   As a result, the end user or customer knows that you comprehend what was said and they can trust that you’re truly listening.  As a best practice, always confirm with the customer that what you’ve paraphrased is correct.


It’s important that technical support representatives take a genuine interest in the customer’s questions or concerns.  This will make the interaction more enjoyable for both the representative and the caller.  Addressing technical support calls can be monotonous.  Yet, the representatives should keep the call fresh and upbeat by expressing their genuine interest in each customer’s unique situation.


Sometimes it can get frustrating for both the end user and representative, especially if the technical issue is a tricky one.  The situation may get heated or even escalate to the point where the end user feel like giving up. One approach to keep the customer motivated is to make them feel as though they, along with the representative, are in this together.  Use phrases like “we can” or “let’s try” gives the impression that it is a team effort.

Tip #5. BE CLEAR

Effective communication is key to ensure that the end user comprehends the information or solution provided by the representative.  Learn more read Tips for Effective Communication in the Work Place.

Tip #6. BE CALM

When practicing patience, staying calm is essential. If, for example, the end user is hysteric, the representative can de-escalate the situation by maintaining a calm a collective demeanor.  This can be achieved by maintaining an even tone and allowing the caller time to vent or share their frustration.  There is a balance that must be met between staying calm and also having a sense of urgency.  One objective is to ensure that the customer feels that the representative cares about the situation and is there to help.


Be mindful that not everyone is tech savvy.  If there is a direct solution, take your time to walk through it with the end user.  Let the customer know that you will send an email that contains the steps in detail.   This will put their mind at ease.


It’s important for the representative to think outside the box and understand that sometimes a solution is not always black and white.  A workaround may be necessary in order to get the desired result or something similar.  Of course, this comes along with product knowledge which is developed over time.


Should this be escalated to a higher tier of support? If the representative has tried to troubleshoot the issue with no success, it’s probably time to escalate to a higher tier of support.  This new person may have more product knowledge or can catch something the representative might have missed.


A situation may arise where the representative may not be able to resolve the customer’s situation due to the fact that the feature or functionality does not currently exist in the product.  Assure that the customer that their feedback or request has been heard by taking action and communicating the feature request internally.  That information is invaluable to the development team as they work on enhancing the product for future release.

Since the technical support representative may not be privy to the plans of the product, they should refrain from using absolutes, such as “always” or “never,” when engaging with a customer.   Who knows . . . the functionality that the customer is looking for just might be available in the next release of the product?

Your Quick Reference Guide

Click here to download a pdf of the Customer Service: 10 Tips for Technical Support Representatives Quick Reference Guide. Print it and keep it next to your phone.

10 Tips for Technical Support RepresentativesAbout the Author

Vee Macalino’s attention to detail, phone etiquette, and commitment to excellence have proven invaluable in resolving customer technical issues within the assigned average handle time (AHT).  As a result of her dedication to delivering quality customer service, she has become a mentor within the SmartDraw Product Specialist Team.  By day she’s a Senior Product Specialist, by night a Belly Dancer.  She also enjoys traveling, camping, wine-tasting, and exploring new restaurants in lovely San Diego, CA. 

Creative Gift Ideas for the Operations Professional

https://www.pexels.com/photo/gift-present-macro-bokeh-76931/Top Operations professionals do a bit of everything. They wear multiple hats and are expected to be generalists rather than specialists. They are individuals who see the big picture, are highly analytical, detail oriented, able to work with a variety of people, and do things right the first time. In some cases, they are even expected to provide 24/7 operation for the services and products delivered by a company.  So what could a person with so many responsibilities and challenges need for Christmas, besides more time in the day?

Creative Gift Ideas & Solutions for That Dear Operations Professional in Your Life

For the IT-centric Operations individual . . .

who utilizes systems management tools to provide monitoring and management of all technological infrastructure, a metric-monitoring application is a critical component to the daily function of a company’s technical systems. Check out the following application performance management (APM) tools, which provide monitoring, analysis, and real-time reporting services for software systems of all types.

For those who encourage ideas and innovation . . .

from all staff, quickly identifying promising ideas and incorporating them into the strategic vision, may I recommend an internal feedback system which serves a dual purpose- to innovate and engage employees.  According to a Gallop article, data shows that managers who focus on the strengths of their employees create the strongest levels of engagement, which means a win-win for the organization: managers gain ideas while employees feel valued and engaged.  Out of the many feedback applications available, these two customizable survey and analytics applications stuck out to me:

For those working with product management  . . .

on cost modeling for new services and expansion of existing services, why not try a SmartDraw trick- A/B testing. In A/B testing, you compare two things (e.g. call to action) for a set amount of time (e.g. two weeks) to determine which performs better amongst your audience. After conducting a few A/B tests and analyzing the findings, you will have narrowed down a preferred option that works for your product or service. 


For those who design . . .

departmental operational skill-based curriculum for both internal members and customer groups, a resource and learning tool will come in handy. Chances are, your company’s members may not all be under one roof, and likely, your customers are spread over multiple regions, so the tools used for resources and learning should be somewhat mobile. Here are a few to consider:

  • Blissbook or WISP: Cloud applications used for creating an employee handbook and other HR-related documents
  • Lessonly: A cloud on-boarding, training, and learning software
  • Help Scout or Zendesk: Cloud applications that provide customer service tools such as hosted knowledge bases for your clients

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d8/Segway_PT_(2006)-02.jpg/322px-Segway_PT_(2006)-02.jpgFor the Operations Professional who visits . . .

the departments under his/her leadership on a daily basis to ensure smooth operations absolutely needs a Segway. This high quality piece of machinery is built for speed and comfort, allowing for prompt arrivals to and from various destinations. Okay, so perhaps a Segway isn’t necessary for visiting departments. Surely, a more common form of transportation could be utilized, such as walking or driving. But how fun is that, really?

There is no limit to how many responsibilities must be carried out by the Operations professional to ensure a healthy, thriving organization. While I list only 6 duties above, the reality is that there are many more. Fortunately, the tools and solutions available are just as numerous, and are wildly effective in business operations.

Source: The job responsibilities listed in italicized text were based on various Operations-related job roles posted on Monster, CareerBuilder, and Indeed.

4 Steps to Improving Processes By Reducing Waste

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In the process improvement world, waste is the enemy. If you remove it, odds are you will improve the results of your process. That could mean something goes faster, consumption is reduced, errors are prevented, and so forth. At a high level, anyone can get started improving processes just by reducing waste. I’ll break it down into four easy to follow steps and relate it to my own experience reducing water consumption to help California deal with our drought:

  1. Maintaining Awareness
  2. Documenting Current State
  3. Developing a Future State
  4. Analyzing the Results


The first step is to identify what is waste and be aware of it so you can spot it. In California, we are dealing with a record setting drought. State mandates have come down asking every household to reduce water consumption by 36%. I wanted to do my part and see how much water I could save, using 36% as my goal. For me, excessive water use is the waste. Obviously, I need water to live and my house needs water to maintain weekly routines like landscaping, laundry, and dishes. The challenge would be to analyze where I use water and come up with a plan to reduce how much I consume.


The first step in reducing waste is to understand the current situation or process. In process improvement, this is usually referred to as the current state. Most people assume a flowchart is the easiest way to document your current state, and while that may be true, there are other ways you can do this. As Scott Masich explains in a recent post, Capital Cost Avoidance: Thinking Creatively Before You Spend, a floor plan can also be used to document your current state. For me, I used a mind map. My objective was to brainstorm the possible ways I consume water at home. A mind map made it easy for me to visualize my thoughts in real time. It will also serve as the base for my future state map down the road.



Now that I have my current state mapped, it’s time to develop a plan to attack it. I used the same mind map used earlier, and expanded on it by adding steps I could take to help reduce water waste.


Once completed, it was time to put the plan in action and follow my future state plan. This is when awareness really comes into play. I realized I had developed years of bad habits and as they say, old habits die hard. The first few weeks, I caught myself leaving the water on when I was washing hands or brushing my teeth, but since I was making an effort to be aware of my water usage, I caught myself and eventually self-corrected over the next few weeks. I have to admit, I was excited to get my next water bill to see if my plan paid off.


I moved into my house in August of 2014. I implemented my process improvement plan in June of 2015. Immediately my usage dropped from 10 Hundred Cubic Feet (HCF, 1 HCF = 748 gallons) to 5 HCF. I have been able to maintain an average of 6 HCF over the past 4 months compared to 10.5 HCF over the same time a year earlier. By continuing to be aware of my water consumption and following the guidelines in my future state plan, I exceeded my goal of 36% and lowered my water consumption by 42.8%.

Water_Consumption_ChartThe chart above makes it easy to see how I am saving water this year and also compared to the prior year. Reducing waste can be as easy as this if you follow these four simple steps!

About the Author As Director of Sales Operations at SmartDraw, Steve Peterson helps our customers use SmartDraw to communicate more effectively with visuals. At home, he spends most of his free time entertaining his 4 year old daughter. A Minnesota native, he is an avid sports fan, rooting for his Alma mater, the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Tips for Effective Communication in the Workplace


Communication is hugely important, we are constantly communicating, whether we realize it or not. It can also be one of the trickiest things to maneuver. Communication is said to be 30% verbal (words & tone) and 70% body language. This makes it even harder to navigate in today’s world of email, text and phone calls. So what can we do, specifically in the workplace, to be as effective as possible with our communication? The mind map below shows some key factors:


Understanding & Minimizing Barriers

There are many communication barriers that we each face on a daily basis, they can vary from things like language to location. We are not always so fortunate to be in communication with someone who speaks our same language, so what do we do? Taking advantage of email and the internet, we can use one of many translation tools at our disposal.

  • Google Translate: Free & convenient. This tool not only gives you the option to choose from over 80 languages, it also gives you the option to “detect language” in case you are not 100% sure which language you are dealing with!
  • BabelFish: Free service, 15 languages. BabelFish also gives you a list of “Most Popular” translations.
  • FreeTranslation.com:  As stated in the name, another free tool providing you with 35 languages for translation. This services gives you the ability to upload a document, such as a Word Doc or PDF for easy translation.

If you are working close with international clients or colleagues it is absolutely necessary to know what day/time it is where they are located so you don’t call their cell phone at 3am on a Saturday! Of course you can always google “current time in (X-location)” but if you are dealing with multiple people in multiple locations & time zones that becomes hard to organize. Timeanddate.com is a wonderful resource to organize meeting or call times.  Their “International Meeting Planner” in their “Time Zones” section allows you to enter your time zone and up to 11 other locations a date and it will generate a table showing you every hour of the day, making it easy to find a time that suits everyone.

Be Clear & Concise

This not only saves you time, but saves the recipient times as well.  There is nothing worse than getting an email that is 3 pages long. Unless each sentence of that 3 pages is filled with vitally important information, it is a safe bet that nobody is going to read it and furthermore, they will be less likely to take you future email seriously. Show people that you respect their time and cut to the chase.  Which ties me into my next point, use visuals whenever possible! This not only ensures that you are only conveying essential information, it also make that information easier to digest. Sending out sales data in text form is boring and makes the information difficult to retain.  Visually representing the data makes the reader more engaged and takes less to interpret.

text numbers

Monthly Sales ChartThe visual representation is not only more interesting to look at, easier to understand but extremely simple to create.

Leave Emotions Out of It

Especially when it comes to email, text or any type of nonverbal communication. It is so easy for an email to be misunderstood, its always best to attempt to give your email a positive tone so that there is no confusion. Negative emotions like: anger, disappointment, resentment etc. can quickly spread like a disease through the work place. When your negative emotions show through your communications, this can not only bring down people around you, it can make you look bad and even isolate you.

Try some of these simple tips to avoid a workplace meltdown:

  • Do not yell, or TYPE IN ALL CAPS! – being aggressive will only escalate the situation, which is exactly what you want to avoid. It is a better idea to speak as calmly as possible, which will not just calm you down but also start to diffuse the situation.
  • Confirm your understanding– sometimes we get so inside our own heads and what we thought we heard is not what was said at all, or… maybe it is. Either way, confirming that you are fully understanding what is being said is a good place to start, if you do not agree give a possible new path forward and hopefully you can find some common ground.
  • Be Positive-  bottom line is “it takes two to tango” if you don’t feed in and you stay positive, there will be no argument.

When you feel those emotions coming, take a deep breath and smile on, you can vent after work!

The Big Data Disruption is Important for You

https://pixabay.com/en/virtual-reality-big-data-internet-1802469/Those of us that run in tech circles can agree on one common truth: we love to talk about disruption. Today, one of the most talked about, yet misunderstood disruptions is big data. Big data is poised to be as disruptive as the internet itself.

The Three V’S

The term big data first appeared in the early aughts when Doug Laney, an industry analyst, coined the now mainstream definition of big data. He distilled it down into the three V’s: Volume, Velocity, and Variety. When you breakdown each V it becomes clear why big data is such a hot topic, and why it is so important.


With the rise of smartphones and social networks, consumers easily produce images, texts, check-ins, etc. Organizations collect data from a variety of sources, including purchase transactions, prospect tracking, interactions, and information from sensor or machine-to-machine data. Everyday more and more inputs are created, (I bet you could list 3 right now) and the rate at which this data is created is only increasing.


Data comes in all types of formats – from structured, numeric data in traditional databases to unstructured text documents, email, video, audio, stock ticker data and financial transactions. Amazing new ways of linking data-sets have played a large role in generating new insights. But it is at the cost of so much variety, making sense of it all is a challenge.


As amazing as the volume of data is, it’s perhaps surpassed by velocity. Data is streaming at an unprecedented speed. Real-time is rapidly becoming the only time for larger organizations. Customers expect information to always be available. RFID tags, health sensors and smart metering devices with network connections further foster the immediacy of information.


I would like to add an R to the 3 V’s. Big data, perhaps not in the purest sense, is relative. Of course massive organizations like Facebook, Oracle, and the CDC are investing in big data. But even the corner bakery hell bent on making the finest artisan bread now has access to orders of magnitude more data than they did even 5 years ago. The same 3 V’s are at play.


Fortune 500 Exec or corner bakery owner, we are all dealing with historic volumes of data, in real-time, and often with head-spinning variety. But why is it important?

The importance of big data doesn’t revolve around how much data you have (remember, it’s relative), but what you do with it. We have more computing power in our pocket than NASA had to land on the moon. You can take data from any source and visualize it to find answers to questions you’ve been asking.

big data mind map1I love the corner bakery example. One corner bakery can now connect with other corner bakers. They can visualize where they are, share it in a “small bakers forum” and form a collective to battle the big multi-national producers. They can pull reports on grains from farming collectives, and leverage social media to understand their customer demographic.

Just like the internet, big data, even at small scale, can be disruptive.

4 Steps to Find Relief From Shoulder & Neck Pain

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Shoulder and neck pain can be caused by a variety things, such as poor posture when seated or standing, sleeping in an awkward position, or turning your head suddenly.  These types of occurrences can happen to any of us on any given day.  Yet, it isn’t until the it’s too painful that we stop and take notice.

The other day, when I was backing my car out of a parking space I felt a piercing pain in my upper-right shoulder and neck area.  I wasn’t able to look over my right shoulder.  In order to turn, I had to rotate from my waist.   The pain was almost unbearable.  In this week’s post, I’ll share how I was able to find relief from the shoulder and neck pain using a number of diagrams I shared with my physician and physical therapist.


After my failed attempt of addressing the pain, I realized it was time to contact my doctor.  To streamline the appointment process, I thought it would best to first call the nurse practitioner.  The nurse recommended that I come in to see a doctor immediately and made the appointment for the same morning.  Within minutes, I put together a calendar (see below) documenting the series of events leading up to my doctor’s appointment.

Benefits of the Calendar

  • The act of creating the calendar enables the patient to review the past and decrease the chances of leaving out details
  • The physician can view the types of activities the patient completed as possible causes
  • Enable the physician to see the combination of symptoms and attempted treatments
  • Documents the duration and levels of shoulder and neck pain

To learn more about ways to prepare for a doctor’s appointment, read 6 Easy Steps to Maximize Your Next Doctor Visit.


SmartDraw Tip: In the Left Panel, select the Schedules & Calendars Category.  Navigate to the Monthly Calendars Sub-Category.  Enter the appropriate information.  The SmartPanel and Symbol Library that appears to the left of the Work Area is dependent upon the Template.  Simply click and drag symbols into the calendar as visual indicators of various types of appointments.  


In addition to prescribed medications, my physician recommended that I start physical therapy.  With each appointment, I received print-outs of instructions detailing each exercise.  It was difficult to stay on track since the exercises varied significantly when it came to times of days, how many reps to complete, and how long to hold the position.  Rather than having to refer to several pages of instructions, I decided to condense the information into a single page for quick reference.  For your own copy of the physical therapy exercises, click here (pdf).

PT Exercise Chart1

SmartDraw Tip: The Org Chart Template was used to create the above diagram.  Navigate to the Popular Category, select the Org Chart Template in the Preview.  Navigate to the SmartPanel, select the shape with photo option. 


After each physical therapy appointment, the therapist would add a new exercise or modify the existing exercises.  Here is a mind map of how I kept track of each of the sessions.  Although the mind map is easy to understand, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was easy to follow throughout the day.  I found myself struggling with completing the exercises as often as I should – especially during the work day.

PT Exercises1

SmartDraw Tip: Navigate to the Popular Category, select the Mind Map Template in the Preview. To create multiple shapes in the same tier or level, click the Enter key.   To navigate from one shape to the next click the Tab key.  


Having worked with personal trainers in the past, I learned that living healthy is a life style.  I was most successful when I incorporated my workouts into my daily routine.  I figured I would apply a similar approach if I wanted to relieve myself of the shoulder and neck pain.  Relying solely on my weekly physical therapy appointments isn’t a viable solution. So, I created this schedule to keep myself accountable.

Benefits of the Schedule:

  • Designated times were set aside for the exercises
  • Allow the patient to note symptoms and other items such as levels of pain by day
  • Check boxes give the patient the satisfaction of noting that an exercise has been completed
  • Enables the physical therapist to further understand the patient’s experience, thus allow them to better treat the patient’s needs

PT Exercise Schedule1

SmartDraw Tip:  The basis of the diagram above was an existing sample diagram.  In the Left Pane, navigate to the Calendars & Schedules Category.  In the Scheduling Calendars Sub-Category, select the Daily Scheduler – 2.  To add a column, navigate to the Ribbon.  Select the Table Tab, click the Insert Right control.

You may want choose to the schedule to the next level.  Enter the times into your smartphone, thus receiving an alert when you should complete your exercises.

SmartDraw Tip:  Navigate to the Popular Category, select the Manual Diagram Template in the Preview.  To insert an image into the Work Area, navigate to the Ribbon and click Insert Tab.  In the Insert Tab, select the Picture control.  Locate the appropriate image file, then click Open.  Click and drag the image to the appropriate location.

Diabetes Control: Lower Your A1C in 90 Days


Receiving a type 2 diabetes diagnosis was overwhelming.  I have always considered myself a healthy person.  I eat right and workout.  So, how could this be happening to me?  If this sounds familiar, take deep breath and know you’re not alone.  With the support of my loving husband, guidance of my physicians, diabetes self-management clinics hosted by UC San Diego Health Systems, and SmartDraw, I was able to successfully bring my A1C levels from 10.5 to 6.3 in just 90 days.

My ability to take control of my diabetes in such a short amount of time impressed not only my physicians but the medical team at UC San Diego Health Systems.  As a result, I was invited as a guest lecturer to teach a class at the University of California San Diego on patient self-management and the use of technology.  If you’re interested in reading more about my guest lecture read 5 Steps to Make Your Next Presentation or Sales Pitch Perfect.

a1c results2

It’s been a little over a year and based on my most recent A1C test results, I have been able to maintain normal levels.  In this week’s post I’ll share with you the 5 tips to help you or your loved one take control of their diabetes.  An easy way to remember the 5 tips is S.P.A.R.K.  To be honest, finding out that I have type 2 diabetes was the spark that I needed to live an even healthier life.

  • Stay Active

  • Plan Your Meals

  • Avoid Risk Factors

  • Recognize the Signs

  • Keep Track


Tip #1: Stay Active

Being active doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to run the next marathon.  It’s about having an active lifestyle.  There are a number of benefits to being physically active.  You’ll increase your energy levels as well as longevity.  At the same time you’ll decrease your glucose levels, blood pressure, cholesterol and stress levels.

They recommend 3 types of physical activities: aerobic, resistance, and flexibility & stretching.  So, I decided to change my 30 minute morning cardio to 45 minutes and added pilates reformer classes 2x/week.

Use Your Smart Phone to Stay on Track

I have alarms for both my morning cardio workouts and my pilates reformer classes.  My physicians gave me the option to take insulin as part of my treatment.  I was determined to take control of my diabetes, so I took them up on their offer.  As you can see in the diagram below, I set a reminder for when and where to inject my insulin each day.

Phone Alarms2

SmartDraw Tip: You can insert photos or clip art into any diagram.  Navigate to the Insert Tab, select Picture.  Navigate to the appropriate file, click Open.  The image will appear in the Work Area.   

Take 10,000 Steps Every Day

My daily goal is to take 10,000 steps (approximately 5 miles) per day.  I wear a Fitbit One to track my steps throughout the day.  I won’t go anywhere without my Fitbit.

How to Add Steps to Your Work Day

  • Rather than IM, email, or phone, walk to a co-worker’s office to talk to them
  • When making a phone call, stand up and pace around as you talk
  • Don’s stand, pace – when waiting for the plane, bus, or metro
  • Take the stairs, instead of the elevator
  • Take a short walk after lunch

How to Add Steps to Your Day

  • When running errands, park further away and walk to your destination
  • Return the shopping cart all the way to the store, not to the cart port
  • Never use the drive through – get out, park, walk into the bank
  • During commercials, get up and walk around the house


Tip #2: Plan Your Meals

I’m often asked, “What’s a Diabetic Diet?”  My response, “A diabetic’s diet is a healthy diet.”

The Plate Method

One way to plan your meal, whether dining out or eating in, is to use a diabetic friendly version of The Plate Method during lunch and dinner.  When I do dine out, it’s not unusual for me to request a take-out box when the wait staff takes my order.  That way when my meal arrives, I simply set aside the portion of my plate that goes beyond the recommended amount.

plate method

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Basic Carb Counting Formula: One Carb Serving = 15 Grams of Carbohydrates

In my diabetes sell-management course, I learned that men can set a goal of 4-5 carb servings per meal, whereas women can aim for 3-4 carbs servings.  My typical day includes 3 meals (3-4 carb servings each) and 2-3 snacks (1 carb serving each).  I find it helpful to have a morning, afternoon, and evening snack to maintain my energy and proper blood sugar levels.

Portion Control

The portion you plan to consume my not be the same as the service size on the label.  Remember, if the label serving size is one cup and you eat two cups, you’re consuming twice the amount of calories, fat, and carbohydrates listed on the food label.

I usually prepare my meals using a food scale when I cook at home.  If you don’t have a scale handy, here’s a quick trick to measuring serving sizes.


Remember that a cup is about the size of your fist, the size of your palm is about the size of three ounces of cooked meat or fish, and an ounce of nuts is about a handful.

Tip #3: Avoid Risk Factors

If you have type 2 diabetes, your body is unable to use the insulin it makes.  Type 2 usually affects adult but it can begin at any time in your life.  Researchers do not fully understand why some people develop pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes while others don’t.  However, according to the Mayo Clinic, it is clear that certain factors increase the risk of having diabetes.

diabetes risk factors

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Tip #4: Recognize the Signs

As part of my treatment I was prescribed to take metformin 2x/day, insulin 2x/day (9am and 9pm), and to test my glucose levels 4x/day (before meals and bedtime).  By testing my blood sugar before each meal I began to understand my body’s response to certain foods at various times of the day.  I kept detailed records of every test as well as the time of day.  With so much data, I decided to chart my results (see chart below).

5_By Meal Bedtime

SmartDraw Tip: You have the option to display or hide the data driving a particular chart.  In the diagram above, I have displayed the data to show that it is identical to the next chart.  Proving that this is a visual representation of the data I collected each day of my treatment.

Understanding the Diagram (above)

The goal is to remain consistent and within the target zone for that time of day.  During the day, I’m in the office and I usually pack a lunch that I planned the night before.  As you can see my fasting levels (blue) and lunch time (green) were the best.  The levels varied but only slightly, if at all.  As the day continues, you’ll see peaks and valleys develop (orange) with the most dramatic spikes appearing at bedtime (purple).  I have dinner with my husband as well as friends.   It was clear from the graph that when I’m dining with others, I need to be more mindful.

I always brought my SmartDraw charts and graphs to my doctor’s appointments. It allowed me to examine my strengths as well as my weaknesses.  My two physicians could also see it if was time to make a change in my treatment.

Tip #5: Keep Track

Keeping track of activities, meal times, and glucose levels was important to understanding my body.  At the end of each day, I would enter the values and then graph whether my glucose levels were in the target zone.  If I successfully met the goal of 81-110, I gave myself a star just like in grade school.

As noted previously, the information gathered in the chart below is the source of the data that created the previous layered graph.

5_Glucose Tracking Log w Insulin

Before I would share my records with my physicians, I wanted the opportunity to break down my results.  In other words, I wanted to explain the spikes whether extremely high or low.  In the chart below, I added an additional row called “Self Analysis.”

5_Glucose Tracking page 1

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Start Keeping Track Today!

If you’d like to start keeping track today you can download a pdf version of the form below – just click here!

5_Daily Log Form