I was speechless when I read Bernard Marr’s article, dated May 21, 2018, “How Much Data Do We Create Every Day? The Mind-Blowing Stats Everyone Should Read,” that an astounding 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every, single day.  In other words, 90 percent of all the information ever created in the world was created in the last two years! I can’t even imagine. And, it keeps growing faster and faster.

With new processes, ideas, fads, and each of us adding our two cents in social media, things are constantly being created and made just as quickly obsolete as new ones take their place. Blink, and your computer is obsolete.  Blink again and so is your iPod, your cell phone, your job. Even language is affected.  New words must be created for us to even talk about these new concepts and technologies.

The faster the change, the faster people race to keep up.  The dilemma is most of us can’t.  Everything is changing so quickly, it’s humanly impossible to keep up.

Don’t Race like a Hare, Walk like a Turtle

Yet some very successful people seem to thrive in this environment – adjusting to change seemingly effortlessly.  How do they manage when many of us feel we are always struggling to stay current?  Their secret:  rather than racing ahead, they actually slow down!

Do you feel overworked and burdened by tight deadlines?  Whenever I am tempted to fire first, then take aim, to get “stuff” done, I remember watching a turtle. Notice how it keeps its eye on where it is going, walking deliberately and steadily at a consistent pace; but a hare will race in a zigzag manner, seemingly in a major hurry, without a clear destination; only that it has to get somewhere fast.

Does that remind you of today’s business environment?  People are racing like the hare to get things done as fast as possible.  The irony is, running faster doesn’t mean being more productive.  Instead, when you are running, you can miss important information that may be critical to achieving your desired results. You can make mistakes or wrong assumptions.

Successful people realize that rather than react like the Hare, they respond like the Turtle. They s-l-o-w down and focus entirely on the task at hand, in order to be productive. When in doubt, they are deliberate and do three things:  1) ask questions, so they 2) understand, and then 3) they get going!

Ask Questions, Understand, Get Going.

People who thrive take the time to understand the context of what is expected (even fire drills) and how this expectation or request fits into the bigger picture.  That means asking questions to clarify what they need to do.

Ask questions like:

What is the end result I am expected to achieve?

How does this relate to my overall objectives and a bigger picture? (Fire drills can be an exception!)

Who do I communicate with, how often, and by what means (telephone, face to face, email)

How will I address or escalate issues and/or questions?

Do I have all the information I need to complete this task?

What resources and/or support will I need?

How do I know?  (What evidence do I have that I have made a good decision?)

Understanding:

Fast Company Magazine conducted a survey a few years back and results indicated that 50% of employees did not understand what they were asked to do at any given time.  In which group do you want to be: the 50% who understand or the 50% that miss the mark?

To understand, ask questions, questions, and ask more questions, especially if tasks are complicated, to clarify the parameters around successful completion.

Get Going:

Now that the up-front work is done, get going!  Remember to walk like a turtle, so you can take notice of new information or changes and make course directions when necessary.

Not sure?  Ask!

 

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When I drive to someplace new, I put the destination into my GPS. I am able to measure my progress at every step because it tells me where to turn, what to look out for, and when I will arrive. The best thing about it, I won’t get lost!

We can use that concept when creating a goal, by developing distinct checkpoints where we can see if we are on track, off track, or need to adjust our course.

As with GPS, we first need to determine our destination. Be as clear and specific as possible.  For instance, if your goal is to get a new job. Create your vision by listing the things you want in the new job, such as

  • salary range,
  • benefits,
  • company is structured or not,
  • face to face or working from home,
  • development opportunities,
  • etc.

Secondly, develop a list of measurements to check against, to determine where you are in achieving your goal, such as

  • LinkedIn update
  • resume update
  • industries to target
  • companies to target
  • skills required
  • amount of time to spend each week
  • determine Job Search Strategies,
  • number of people contacted
  • etc.

Set goals each week to accomplish specific goals; and, using your list of measurements, review what you have accomplished.  Are you on track? If not, what could you do better?  Do you need to adjust your plan?  Are you 10%, 50%, 80% complete toward achieving your goal?  Say you feel you are 50% complete, what will it take to get you to 60% or 70%?

Document everything!

If you are having trouble in finding that job, hiring a career coach can provide you with a consistent process to assist you in defining your job criteria, help you with job search strategies and interview prep, to support you in getting the job you want.

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Our time is a valuable, limited resource; and we need to use it wisely.

The following ten tips will create an effective and productive meeting that stays focused and on point, with an engaged and motivated team.

Ten Tips for an Effective Meeting

(1) Request items from participants that they want to add prior to publishing an agenda, which should be sent out at least two days before the meeting with clearly stated objectives, asking yourself:

a.  What information do you want others to leave the meeting with?

b.   What do you want to make sure is covered?

c.    How much time will you allot to the meeting?

(2) What do you want from participants?

a.   What support do you need?

b.   What agreements do you want?

c.   What commitments are needed?

d.   What additional resources, if any, are required?

(3) Make sure all materials needed by the participants are included with the agenda to give everyone adequate time to prepare.

(4) A consistent agenda with time frames for each item creates a productive and on-track environment to quickly reach decisions. An example would be: review objective(s) (5 minutes), action item review (30 minutes), discussion item (30 minutes), round table (15 minutes).

(5) Post norms—meeting etiquette—at each meeting, which participants have agreed to follow, such as one person speaks at a time, meeting times are honored, etc., which will be needed to refer to when, in the heat of the moment, people might forget the rules of engagement. It is the facilitator’s responsibility to keep the meetings on track by reminding them of the norms so that feelings aren’t hurt, emotions are kept in check, and the meeting can move forward.  Healthy conflict strengthens a team. Rude behavior weakens it.

(6) Especially if participants are located in diverse places and face to face interaction is not an option, allot time for getting to know each other. This allows team members to connect with each other and build relationships, which will lead to working together more effectively. One way is for everyone to share a picture, a brief description of their role, and an interesting fact about themselves. (I had—and still miss—two aquatic frogs named Eleanor and Franklin who lived in our bathroom, as an example).

(7) Document actions in a simple table—succinctly describe the action, who is responsible, time-frame for completion, and updates. Each succeeding meeting, you can add comments in the update box. Everything is contained in one place. If agreed to, have a rotating scribe at each meeting that updates the minutes.

(8) Because everyone is very busy, what agreements that were reached can quickly be forgotten. Productive meeting minutes document decisions, actions, and points for further discussion. It documents everyone’s commitments and agreements. It is NOT a transcript of the meeting. Minutes should be succinct, to the point, and specific.

(9) If the allotted time for an agenda item is not enough, ask for agreement to continue discussing this item and bumping another item to the next meeting, having a separate meeting, or table the item for discussion for the next meeting.

(10) Honor time commitments. Running over can impact everyone’s day.  Staying on time keeps everyone focused and energized.

Effective meetings require up-front planning!

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Be Prepared!

Change is continuous; it will never stop. Preparing for the challenges change offers—whether an unexpected work force reduction or a role change—is responding to events rather than reacting to them.  By managing your career, you have a much greater chance of taking advantage of opportunities as they come along (being let go is an opportunity if you have a plan), while focusing on creating value as you move forward in your chosen direction.  Reacting, on the other hand, is letting the ‘cards fall where they may’, putting ‘all your eggs in one basket’ and could place you in a position where you just don’t want to find yourself.

Front-Pocket Plan

A Front-Pocket Plan is a dynamic and energizing road map for how you want to move forward or grow in or out of your present organization.  It is about thriving in your career, being fully engaged, discovering ways to add value, and strengthening your personal brand.

The following questions will help you create your Front-Pocket Plan:

  • Where do I see myself fit in my corporation’s “bigger picture”?
  • How can I use my strengths more effectively to impact that “bigger picture”?
  • What skills do I need to develop or further master to support the corporation?
  • What habits of thinking or behaving do I want to create that makes me more productive?
  • What habits of thinking or behaving do I want to eliminate that hold me back?
  • Where do I see my skills, knowledge, and experience being applied in ways I will enjoy?
  • Who can I talk to—mentor, coach, advisor, subject matter expert—to help me determine my course(s) of action?
  • What other resources do I need to thrive?
  • What would I write as my value proposition?

Sometimes those blindsiding moments come up, and you need a:

Back-Pocket Plan

A Back-Pocket Plan outlines what you will do if your worst-case scenario happens. For example, being part of a Work Force Reduction, accepting a job because it pays the bills but you hate. Perhaps, you find yourself in a job that doesn’t have the growth potential you were looking for, or working for boss you dislike.  There are as many reasons for a backup plan as there are people, and not having a plan could find you in a tough situation.

A Back-Pocket Plan includes everything you can think of to prepare yourself if that worst-case happened, so you can hit the ground running.  Pants have more than one back-pocket, and you should have more than one alternative.  If Plan A does not work, then go to Plan B.  If you do your homework, you should have a very workable plan that will keep you thriving regardless of your situation.  By having this plan written out, it helps to reduce the feeling of uncertainty and increases your feeling of control.

Below are some questions to help you create your Back-Pocket Plan:

  • What is my financial situation currently?
  • What steps do I need to take to accumulate at least six months of savings to cover monthly bills and emergencies?
  • What can I eliminate to stretch my savings—cable, summer camp…, etc.
  • What aspects of my Front-Pocket Plan can I leverage with my Back-Pocket Plan?
  • What would I love doing that will use my strengths and give value?
  • What industries do I want to research?
  • What updates does my resume require to reflect my experience and wisdom?
  • What resources do I need to contact—mentor, coach, financial advisor, subject matter expert—to help me determine my course(s) of action?

Now, you are ready for action!

 

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Peter Drucker said “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

When you accomplish a lot of tasks, you may feel productive and efficient; but are you truly effective? Today’s business culture stresses “Do more, faster, with less!”  With deadlines looming, it is easier to just try to do it all, instead of taking the time to sift through everything to find the few key items that are most important to getting the job done.

If you implement the 5 Steps to Being More Effective at Work below, you can simplify your work, accomplish more (really!), reduce your stress (wouldn’t that be nice), and feel more confident in achieving your goals.

Step One:  What’s My Destination? (My Vision)

Determine what you want from your career and what your desired outcomes would be.  The clearer you are on your “big picture,” the more tangible and the easier it will be to achieve.

Step Two:  What Should I Consider? (My Strategy)

As your Vision becomes clearer, strategize on how you will obtain those tangible outcomes.

Step Three: How Will I Get There? (My Plan)

The secret to achieving your Vision is taking the time to plan what works best for you—what you want to do, what you want to change, and what you want to leave behind.

Step Four:  What’s on My Plate? (Making Room for My Plan)

For your Plan to work, you must decide where to focus your attention. Take charge of your environment (physical and mental), clear away clutter, unnecessary appointments, or tasks that detract from your Plan.  Make a list of everything, and prioritize each item from most important to least important.  Items at the bottom will never get down.  They just suck energy, so delete them.

Step Five:  Where’s My Focus? (Staying on Track)

It is critical to keep your focus on what will move you forward toward your Vision.  Create measurements you can use to check if you are on or off track against those prioritized items on your list from Step Four.

 

Although, this exercise will take some time to think about and act upon, as my clients have learned, it is well worth the effort.

Let your motto be:  Do the Right Things, Not Everything!

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End of Year Debrief

This year has really flown by! Because we can get mired down in all the details of emails, deadlines, and projects, going into the New Year is a great time to think about what you have accomplished in 2018 and what you want to focus on in 2019.

Perhaps you think there is no time to reflect on what was done; only think about what needs to be done now. The strength of reflection is to learn what you did well and be proud of that, and identify what you could have done better and how you might do things differently.

So, I am asking you to take some time and answer the questions below.

  1. What are 10 things I am most proud of accomplishing this year?
  2. What motivates me?
  3. What learning’s can I apply to make work easier?
  4. What would I do differently?
  5. What problems or issues am I tired of having?
  6. What actions do I need to do to fix them?
  7. How can I do more of the things I enjoy doing and less of what I do not enjoy?

Charting a course for 2019, please take some time to think about:

  1. When I look back on 2019 next December, what would I want to have accomplished and experienced?
  2. What do I want to focus on in the first quarter of 2019?
  3. How will I remain on course for 2019?
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The Bully Factor

Bullying is extremely destructive, so much so, that, in extreme cases, youngsters have committed suicide.  They get bullied in the school yard and on social media—on their cell phones, on Twitter, Instagram, etc.  It can be overwhelming and devastating.  Singled out, they feel alone, small, and hated so they end themselves.  We are horrified and call it horrible, judgmental, and unloving.

We say there is no room for bullying.  That it is unacceptable; yet, every day we persist in bully behavior!  How? We bully ourselves with negative self-talk, such as, I am not good enough.  I am stupid. I am ugly.  I am a failure.  I am sure you can think of a few good examples, because we all do it at one time or another.

If we consider school-yard bullying unacceptable, why be one to ourselves?  Isn’t it about time to let go of this self-sabotaging thinking? It keeps us from achieving our dreams.

It feeds on our fears.  Two biggies are fear of failure and fear of success, although there are many others. Let’s look at those two here.

If you feared failure?  What is the worst thing that could happen if you failed?  Many highly successful people have claimed they would not have been nearly as successful if they hadn’t failed along the way because they learned what didn’t work.

If you discovered you feared success, what does success mean to you? What would change if you were successful?

Positive self-talk can replace negative, bully talk through actively replacing pessimistic thoughts.  When you say I can’t, replace with how can I do it, until you say automatically, “I can!”

Successful people do not give up hope, they banish bully talk and practice positive self-talk, and they don’t give up.

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What’s on my plate?

So many details competing for attention—meetings, emails, projects…and so little time. It is discouraging, overwhelming, and disheartening.  No matter how hard we try, we can never, ever get it all done.  We just keep getting more.

I tried and it almost killed me. I learned that no matter how many hours I put in, I couldn’t do it all, and was determined to work smarter—what were the right things to get my objectives done, rather than work on everything that came along.

To decide what is really important and what is just getting in the way, step back to get a clearer view of what is on your plate. David Allen writes in his book, “Getting Things Done,” list everything work-related, personal, or community focused to sort out what requires your attention now, what can be dealt with later, delegated to someone else, or unceremoniously dumped. This takes a while but is well worth it.  It gets it out of your head, off of those sticky notes that get lost, and on to one list that can be dealt with more easily.

Now that you have your list, I suggest using these questions as a guideline for further action.

  • How does each item impact the successful completion of my commitments and goals?
  • What can I eliminate because it keeps sinking to the bottom of my list and has just become an annoyance when I see it, or it just does not have any impact?
  • What requests can I say no to?

As you begin to focus on the right things, not only will you feel in control and more confident and less stressed, others will notice too.  Worked for me. It can work for you too.

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Stress doesn’t create sickness and it doesn’t kill.  How you react to it does. It’s the amount of pressure you put on yourself…what should be done, has to be done, or must be done, rather than what you can realistically do or want to do.

If you are feeling exhausted, anxious, and stretched beyond your capacity, your body is giving you a wake-up call you cannot afford to ignore. Over time, without ways to cope with everything on your plate, you could find yourself seriously ill. Not to mention, miserable in the present.

Even though successful people have a strong sense of what they want to achieve, they know that in order to thrive, they must incorporate at least one or two coping strategies—quick fixes that reduce stress and anxiety in the moment that promotes health, clear thinking, and peak performance.  Let’s look at one very important coping mechanism.

The Simplest Coping Strategy Ever—Breathing!

We have to breathe, right? How are you breathing right now? Taking in full, deep breaths or shallow, small breaths? When you are stressed, you breathe shallowly from the chest. This automatically tenses muscles and reduces oxygen, causing exhaustion, general anxiety, sleeplessness, and headaches. Breathing from the diaphragm relaxes muscles automatically and sends lots of oxygen to the brain to function at top performance.

There are many Yoga breathing exercises, but I have found the following works extremely well. It has lowered blood pressure in a frightened cancer patient and reduced road rage in another.

  • Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4 which expands your lungs, inhaling that much-needed oxygen to the brain.
  • Hold your breath for 7 counts, which stops the adrenaline rush.
  • Exhale for 8 counts, which rids your lungs of toxins.
  • Repeat until you feel relaxed—usually a minimum of two or three times or as many times as needed.

At first you may find your lungs do not want to inflate much. Your lungs will expand a little more each time you do this technique.  As with exercise, start out easy so you don’t hyper-ventilate.

Feel the difference!

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