Measuring for Career Success

Measuring for Career Success

Lord Kelvin, a mathematical physicist, once said: “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind.” He died in 1907, and what he said then is still true today.

When determining a goal, a project, a simple outcome, measurements provide the evidence you are getting what you want.  For instance, what do cheesecake, railroads, and running shoes have in common?  All three require meaningful measurements to make sure the results are successful.  Creating measures is usually the least attractive step in achieving goals; instead, we’d rather be acting than analyzing.  Yet, to have the best chance for success, one needs to prepare; good preparation means you create specific measurements for each step along the way. These ensure you end up where you plan to end up.

If you want a tasty cheesecake, you need specific amounts of particular ingredients baked at a certain temperature.  Railroad tracks, when switching, need to be precisely aligned or the cars derail.  When training for a race, a runner needs a plan with checkpoints to build up stamina slowly and safely to run the race. These measurements not only lead us to the desired result or completion, but they also enable us to celebrate our success along the way.

Step One – Define the Outcome

The first step is to visualize and define what your outcome will be. A simple example would be determining what would be different if you lost 20 pounds.  Perhaps you would expect to be more energetic, wear smaller size clothes, lowered blood pressure, eating healthier balanced meals, and increased stamina.

What are at least five things that you would expect to see when you reach your desired goal?

Step Two – Determine Facts Needed

Now that you know what you expect to see, the second step is deciding what information you need to tell you if you are progressing toward your goal.  Not all measurements are created equal. In other words, what would be useful, energizing, and specific to you and your success?

For this example, it would be useful to know the number of pounds lost each week, the number of inches reduced, and the caloric intakes each day for determining progress against your weight goal.

However, some measurements are better than others.  Comparing your results against another’s weight loss rate would not be useful because everyone’s body type and metabolism are different. Compete against yourself, not others.

Ask yourself, what information do I need to show me I’m on the right track?

Third Step – On Track or Course Correction Needed

The third step is to create some specific measurements (they don’t have to be lengthy or complicated—keep them simple), giving you the information you need to check for movement either forward or backward and fine-tuning where necessary.  Based on the outcome you want, you should first decide what you would consider evidence that you’re moving towards your intended results.

With the above example, to know the number of pounds lost, you would weigh yourself the same time on the same day of the week weekly.  You would use a tape measure to record the inches for several areas of your body.  Finally, you would have a food journal with the number of calories consumed to compare against the total number of calories you allow yourself each day.

Other goals may not be quite so straight forward.  So here’s another example.

If you want to become a better listener, you might keep track of the times.

  • you listen to someone else and are present and focused on the conversation
  • your mind wanders when having a conversation
  • when that little voice in your head is talking in anticipation of what the other person will say next, which is drowning out what the other person is currently saying
  • you interrupt another during a conversation
  • you were ‘waiting to talk.’

Those measurements would give you the information you need to chart your progress in changing your old habit of listening.

What measurements would you consider for the goals you set?

Measurements – Evidence of Your Progress

At first glance, measurements can seem rather dull, but when it gives you clear evidence on the changes happening, man, that can be energizing!  They will answer essential questions:  Are you getting the results you want? What’s working? What’s not working?

Measurements remind you of what you are or aren’t doing so you can keep on your path to wildly successful outcomes. They allow you to feel good about what you’re doing now rather than waiting for the final results.

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Too Much Information; Too Little Time; Too Many Decisions to Make

In today’s volatile business environment, we receive considerable amounts of data and information to sift and think through to make crucial decisions that impact our organizational goals and results. Developing our critical thinking skills is essential as leaders at all levels, as project managers, and in managing our careers to recognize the impact of our choices and be flexible to course correct when necessary.

The Brain In Survival Mode

Our brain is the ultimate survival machine. When we lived in caves and could be an animal’s next meal, our mind learned to act fast, think later!  Now, we have to retrain it to think first, then act!

Our success depends on how good we are at ferreting out the facts, listening to all sides, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating options and strategies to get results.

As Leaders

All leaders are involved in these critical thinking areas:

  • Strategic Thinking because developing decisions to achieve results that are in alignment with the company’s vision and mandate is essential
  • Change management because organizations are continually looking to perform better.
  • Creating a vision that illustrates their team’s impact on the organization’s goal and the business overall
  • Finally, communicating that vision that inspires, motivates, and grows their team.

Catherine J. Rezak wrote an excellent article, “Developing Your Critical Thinking Leadership Skills.” You can read it at https://bit.ly/3iqx8gQ. As she states so succinctly, “If ever there was a time for clear, discerning, solution-centric thinking, this is it.”

As Project Managers

One day I was asked to attend an emergency meeting. One of our largest systems had crashed, and our team had to fix it as quickly as possible. Many attendees offered solutions. After hearing several people, I asked, “How can we determine a solution when we haven’t defined the problem?”  Because we were in “panic mode,” we were making assumptions when we needed to evaluate and analyze the facts. That is our brain in old survival mode!

My advice was to stop, gather the facts, and think through where the problem occurred, the context around the system crash, listen to our customers, and determine viable solutions.

We need to use the same critical thinking skills in managing a project as we do as leaders of our teams.

As Career Managers

We must manage our careers as if we were owners of our own company.  Periodically, review your Personal Brand: What do you want people to know about you and the value you bring? Do you need to update your Brand? How can you apply what you have learned since your last review that adds value? Where is your company or industry heading, and how can you provide value in those areas?  If not, what do you want to learn to keep abreast of these changes? What career goals have you achieved, and what plans do you want to add?

My website, www.ExecutivePotentialPlus.com, can give you ideas on career management.

What Affects Decision Making?

Through life experiences, we have developed beliefs, some of which are affected by bias. Bias carries a negative connotation, but uncovering at least a few can help create a different perspective and understanding of issues, we find in the workplace.

Bias can distort the facts. I can’t begin to express my surprise when I realized early in my career; I had a False Consensus Bias, where I believed everyone thought as I did! That affected my decision-making ability as an aspiring project manager because I didn’t look for an opposite perspective. I didn’t realize there was one! Luckily, that was many years ago. I have gained much wisdom since then (I hope!).

There is a long list of Biases. Wikipedia (https://bit.ly/2FYxNIu) lists Belief, Behavioral and Decision-Making Biases, among others. An example would be Confirmation Bias, interpreting new information as confirming your existing beliefs.

We have heard a lot about social bias, such as gender bias. A friend and former colleague, Denise Reed Lamoreaux, the Global Chief Officer of Diversity at Altos, has given several insightful sessions on this subject. You can view those at  https://bit.ly/3gFnQx3.  Since these biases are so deeply entrenched that we are not aware of them, Harvard has a test you can take at https://bit.ly/3a7iF6J to uncover your specific preferences in this area.

Perhaps you will uncover a bias or two you were unaware of, and it is a learning experience that is well worth discovering. Life can become much more comfortable and less stressful.

Tying It Together

Developing Critical Thinking skills are essential to success as leaders, as individual performers, and CEOs of your own company, I, Inc.

Listen to different perspectives, gather facts, ask lots of questions. Then, synthesize that information and develop strategies and action plans for getting done what is critical to you and your organization’s success!

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Have you noticed your “To Do” list getting longer because of daily fire drills, new projects, unanswered emails, phone calls, and texts, not to mention all the things needing your attention at home? By day’s end, you find yourself surrounded by more “stuff” you don’t want to deal with; don’t know what to do with, or you will get to when and if you have time.  Sound familiar?

Stuff happens, and your mind becomes cluttered with tons of details. It’s disorienting. Just thinking about this stuff is exhausting.  The energy drain of the clutter keeps your attention away from what you want to do and puts it on what you don’t want to do.  Procrastination sets in, stress increases, and the mind clutter keeps growing like weeds.

The consequence of putting it off

Unfortunately, the cost of not dealing with this clutter is much higher than actually dealing with it.  The price is the amount of energy you burn, not doing it.  The more you delay, the bigger the pile gets until it becomes overwhelming.

As Orin Miller said, “If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.”

My friend learned this lesson the hard way. A few years ago, she was a Medical Records Administrator working in a small plastic surgery hospital. Every week, as patient files were updated, she would meet with doctors to sign off on notes, etc. There were a few problematic cases that she would put to the side to deal with later. As these files grew more substantial, she continued to sideline them. The longer she put it off, the higher her anxiety grew, and she couldn’t bring herself to meet with the doctors because they were getting so old.  She was afraid as time went on; they might fire her for not doing her job. She procrastinated for over nine months.  She finally bit the bullet and met with everyone. She said it was extremely hard for her to do it. However, it was anti-climactic because they said there was no harm done.  All that worrying for nothing!

Gain back control

People who thrive know that the consequence of letting things go is detrimental to accomplishing what is important to them.  It obscures what needs to get done to be successful.  It’s like treading water; you use a lot of energy and don’t get anywhere.  Would you prefer to tread water or thrive?

Nine Steps To Being Proactive

Napoleon Hill said, “Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done before yesterday.”

All the details that have not been completed obscure what is essential and what can be deferred or ignored.  Everything begins to feel important; plus, the more you put off, the greater the time needed to get back on track.

Action steps to get back on course

  1. Create a list of what is getting in your way from sewing a button on your pants, to updating your front pocket plan (career plan), to strategic planning for your projects or organization. Include anything that is keeping you from thriving in your environment or keeping you awake at night. This list can become really long.
  2. Rank each from the most significant drain or pain to least.
  3. Take the top-ranking drain, and schedule a time in your calendar to take care of it.
  4. Complete it, delegate it to someone else, or create a new habit or process so it won’t be a problem again.
  5. If you’re unsure of what to do, get a mentor, hire a coach, or talk to others you respect for alternative actions.
  6. When done, cross it off your list, and tackle the next item by going through these steps again.
  7. Look at those items that always seem to stay at the bottom. You will most likely never do them.  Do they require your attention?  I say, strike them off the list and be done with it!
  8. Remember to schedule time in your calendar to complete these tasks. Scheduling creates structure. Respect that time as you would meetings with others.
  9. Commit to continuing with these steps to stay on course to keep your commitments.

Life is always chaotic and dynamic.  You can remain calm within the storm by breathing deeply to ground yourself and then use these strategies to keep on track one small step at a time!

Be aware of how great it feels to get those things off your back and back on track!

It drains your mental, physical, and emotional energy tanks. It lurks in the back of your mind like floating yellow stickies fighting for your attention.  You are so focused on what you haven’t done; you can’t focus on what you want to get done.

Bottom line: Procrastination will never get you where you want to be—not in your projects, your vision, or your relationships.

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Time To Reconnect With Our Inner Joy

This year is almost half over, and it feels like a lifetime has passed! These last few months have been grim, frightening, and uncertain. Luckily, States are steadily reopening, and companies are slowly rehiring employees. Yet, people are still extremely stressed out and irritated.  Too much happening too fast.

Time to Find Our Inner Joy!

Self-isolation has affected us all. For a while now, I have read disturbing articles about customers yelling and spitting at shop owners and employees from not being allowed into the store without a mask to not having the product the customer wanted.  One woman punched the shop owner in the face when told the last above-ground pool had been sold.

With emotions running high, it is immensely vital we reconnect with our positive emotions and let the negative feelings go. It affects the decisions we make and the actions we take in our personal lives and business. It affects our relationships with others and with ourselves. A fundamental emotion, Joy, is the foundation for our positive emotions. Waking up and happy to be part of the living feeling.

Besides, when I stopped at a light, the car in front of me had a vanity plate, ‘IGOTJOY.” I can’t argue with synchronicity! I knew I had to write about Joy.

Reconnecting with Joy

How do we reawaken the feeling of Joy?  You can’t earn or work for it, and you can’t attain it through goals. Happiness is a state of being. The following ideas can bring Joy back into your life and work.

Where To Find Joy

Joy lives in the present when you are entirely focused on a task, not thinking of anything else.

When we are thinking about old hurts or fear we didn’t do well enough, we are living in the past. When worrying about what we have to do to get “stuff” done on time or what we need to do next, we are living in the future.

Often in our hectic lives, we get lost in the minutiae of living, and we feel overwhelmed, out of balance, and can become despondent at the most and frustrated at the least.  When you bring yourself back to the present, you can find peace and Joy.  It allows you to aspire to a higher quality of life.  What you do today creates your tomorrow!

When you are thinking about what could happen or what did happen, it distracts you from what you are doing now and affects what you will experience in the future as a result of your actions.

Joy Is Not Self-Critical

Most of the time, we are concerned with what other people are thinking, which can inhibit what we genuinely enjoy doing.  The irony is they are feeling the same way!  People are so entangled in their dramas that there is no room to think about us. Don’t be the victim of needless worrying about what others think of you. Focus on what you feel is the right action to take in the present moment.

Joy Is Deflecting Self-Judgment.

By trusting in ourselves to do the best we can, we can enjoy what we are doing. We can make better, deliberate decisions instead of reacting to the situation.

Part of our worry comes from our fear we are never good enough.  When we can accept our uniqueness, cherishing both our strengths and weaknesses, we acknowledge our special-ness.  We build on our strengths, and we learn from our shortcomings.  After all, if everyone was perfect, how challenging and exciting would life be – not very.

As Don Miguel Ruiz wrote in “The Four Agreements,” “simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.”

Joy Is Accepting Our Weaknesses As Well As Our Strengths.

To avoid self-judgment, accepting what we like and dislike about ourselves reduces the feeling of inadequacy and helps us focus on what we do well and determine where we could do better.  When we are not judging ourselves, it is easier not to take things personally. Each day we do the best we can. Accepting that we are doing our best each day, even though our best can change from moment to moment.

Two books worth reading are:

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” by Dale Carnegie

The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz”

 

After all we have been through this year, it is time to get our Joy back!

 

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When Setting Goals, Sustain the Momentum by Creating a Picture of the End Result!

 If you want results, you must keep your focus on your end game. With all the requests, agreements, commitments, and tasks associated with everyday living and working, the requirement to set goals, whether work-related or personal, can feel like a burden. It is easy to become distracted or lower your commitment.

How you frame your goal can go a long way toward helping you plan and achieve it.  For instance, “I will lose 15 pounds by December” can lose momentum early.  It’s daunting. Remember those New Year Eve resolutions? However, “I will fit into my skinny jeans by the end of the year,” creates a visual of how I will look when I achieve this result. That is more exciting and provides visual impact.

The same is true of work goals.  How will the assigned work goal fit into your larger career picture?  “Through this project, I am gaining project management skills and experience I need to qualify for the jobs I want to advance to the next level.” This project was assigned, but you have made it your own.

As you develop your plans, you are creating a picture or story.  It’s like taking a trip twice, first in your mind, and then physically doing so.  Checking on details, overcoming obstacles, and determining what you need can add to the anticipation rather than feeling burdensome.

When setting goals, we not only need a goal we can get excited about; we also need a way to sustain momentum; especially if it takes longer than you first anticipated.

So, What’s My Motivation?

Successful people look at goals as a means to create the life they want one step or one goal at a time.  Successful people ask themselves two clarifying questions:

  • What are the benefits of achieving this goal?

Consider a goal to run the Boston Marathon.  Training for a marathon can be grueling – requiring discipline, determination, and commitment.  Be clear on how this goal will benefit you.  (I.E., it will give you the confidence to try other things you were afraid to do, become healthier, help a charity, etc.) Listing the benefits will remind you of the reasons to continue when stopping feels easier.

Awareness of the benefits keeps your eyes on the prize and your feet on the path.

  • How will I know I have accomplished my goal?

What will change when you’ve succeeded? You must recognize what will be different.  I ask my coaching clients to write down at least five things that will be different from completing their goal.

For example, in accomplishing a career goal to lead a project, you might expect (1) to develop specific new skills (what are they?), (2) to gain experience as a project manager, (3) to become known as an expert, (4) be ready to take the next step in my “front pocket” plan (see my blog post “Your Front and Back Pocket Plans,” 2/18/19, and (5) get an increase in pay.

If you can’t think of five at first, try for three.  If you can’t think of any, ask yourself: why am I doing this?

Work the goal!

When you have answered the above two questions, and you’re enthusiastic about your goal, ask yourself these questions as you work your goal:

  • What am I learning as I take these steps?
  • Where else can I apply what I’m learning?
  • Is this goal still relevant?
  • Do the benefits I’ll receive still excite me? If not, what needs to change?
  • When I’ve completed this goal, what’s next?

Don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop!

Sometimes we need to set small, easily achievable goals to clear the way for the big ones.  Besides, easy wins make us feel more confident in working on more challenging, riskier goals.

When you stretch yourself, taking significant steps, and stretching outside your comfort zone, it can be discouraging when you don’t see results right away.  Remember, it is an investment in your life.  Remind yourself, you got this far with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, and you’re a lot farther than when you started! Dust yourself off and decide what to do next.  Get yourself a coach or mentor to help figure it out if you are stuck.

Please don’t cheat yourself by becoming too comfortable with small, easily achievable goals.   You must continue to stretch yourself in ways that could change your life; if not, you’ll get left behind. We all have untapped potential to mine.  What a beautiful life is in store for you if you choose!

 

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Developing a New Normal Moving Forward

Coronavirus has pushed a Country-wide reset button and has created the opportunity for the creation of a “new” more satisfying normal, despite its negative impact. We now have an excellent opportunity to look within ourselves, discover our innate inner wisdom on how we would prefer to live and make changes for a more compelling life.

The following are five suggestions to consider implementing and continuing after the Virus crisis is behind us.

(1) Practice Mindfulness to Create Wellness, Positive Energy, and Increased Productivity.

Before, when our busy lives created high stress, there was little time to pause, breathe, and reflect on what was important in the Now. When we are so busy doing “stuff,” living loses meaning. A friend once shared with me that he wanted to watch the sunset with his small son, but he had emails to read. Emails will always be demanding our attention. Our children do not stay small for long.  Which of the two are more meaningful?

Now, things are quiet. Mindfulness reduces stress, anxiety, and fear, allowing the body to relax and energizes the mind by being focused on what is happening this moment, not thinking about the past or concerned about the future. Our immune system responds by becoming more robust, and our bodies healthier.

One Mindfulness tool to increase productivity and reduce distractions is Chunk!  Chunking is setting aside time to complete one task.  For example, schedule 30 minutes on your calendar to check emails once at 9 am and a second time at 5 pm daily.  During those times, you would concentrate solely on emails.  Chunking works for anything you want to do, from exercising to executing a program. Chunk time can vary based on how long you believe a task will take or the time you wish to devote to it.

(2)  We Can’t Control Everything.

Yes, the Virus is scary, but we cannot personally eradicate it from the Country. We can, however, do things we can control.  WHO suggests we limit checking the news to once or twice a day. Practice social distancing, etc. Being mindful (there’s that word again!) of what is essential at the moment.

When back to Normal as possible lives, instead of worrying over things, we have no control over, focus on what you can influence.

Practicing Mindfulness can take many forms.   Since there are many books and articles on this topic, and I am always looking for new ideas, I just ordered “Zen as F*ck: A Journal for Practicing the Mindful Art of Not Giving a Sh*t” by Monica Sweeney. I chose this one because there were over 3,000 ratings. I figured a lot of folks liked it, and I would check it out.

(3)  What Have You Put Off That You Can Do Now To Improve Your Experience?

There are many paths of thinking to answer that question. Today, I am focusing on learning new skills, acquiring wisdom, and immersing yourself in things that bring you joy.

Research indicates that adult cell phone users spent 3.5 hours each day on the mobile Internet in 2019 (1,277.5 hours). They estimate it will be over 4 hours in 2021 (1,450+ hours).  On the other hand, ten thousand hours spent on developing a skill will make you an expert.

Would it make sense to reduce those hours spent on the phone and redirect it to learning a subject that interests you or reading a book or taking a walk or (you decide)?

Another path would be to take a digital detox from social media. I have done that in the past, and it is rejuvenating. Recently, I have begun to stand outside at night and hear silence—such an incredible sound.

What would bring you peace, joy, or satisfaction?

(4)  Take Time To Remember Who You Are And What Makes You Happy.

During this time, we have a fantastic opportunity to take the time to know ourselves again.

When we are overwhelmed with work, commitments, and social media, we forget who we are. We can feel lost and dissatisfied.  With the economy at a momentary standstill, we can take this time to reacquaint ourselves with who we are, make changes to be happier, and create a “New Normal” going forward.

There are many paths to understanding why you do what you do. Insights lead to strategies to change habits or live and work differently.  Meditation, self-reflection, and journaling are some ways to become more self-aware.  Another way is taking on-line assessments proven through the years as to their efficacy and validity.

One assessment is the Keirsey Assessment I recommend, which helps people to gain insights about their personality and how they interact with others. A link to this assessment is

https://www.16personalities.com/

My clients have had significant insights using this tool on why they react in situations and which have led to making changes, some very small, that carry a remarkable impact on their interaction with others.

Lastly,

(5)  We Always Have A Choice.

In every moment, we have a choice to be fearful or joyful, anxious or peaceful.  Instead of reacting in situations, chose to respond. Pause, breathe deeply, and then consider, would you rather be at peace, or would you rather be anxious or fearful?

When we are anxious, angry, or stressed, our minds focus on the problem, limiting us to see only one or two solutions, neither the best answer. When calm, you will come up with more solutions you wouldn’t have when stressed.

 

Coronavirus has affected us as a Nation. We can still take charge of our lives and make choices on how we want to live our lives now and after we have moved beyond it.

Create your New Normal!

Be safe, and stay healthy.

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Sticking To The Basics

Keeping It Basic

Jim Rohn, author of “What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence,” once said, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.”

All the commitments, information to absorb, and things to complete can be all-consuming, stressful, and overwhelming. I’ve noticed, however, when reading how successful people thrive. I was amazed by how easy they made it. There is nothing mysterious; they stick to the basics.

You can simplify your work life by sticking to these four basic rules.

Rule # 1 – Keep the end result in mind.

Rule # 2 – Some results are more important than others.

Rule # 3 – If something keeps falling to the bottom of the list, let it go!

Rule # 4 – If you can’t figure out what to do next, remember Rule # 1!

A coaching client reduced his workweek from 80 to 50 hours while increasing his productivity by putting these four rules into practice.

Rule # 1 – Keep the end result in mind.

As a child, I couldn’t wait to look at maps my parents brought home as we were preparing to take a trip.  I would trace the route with my finger imagining all the different adventures we would have as we traveled to our destination.  It was fun to dream and more fun to experience.

Today, with a heavy schedule, it’s essential to have that map firmly pictured in your mind – your internal map of where you are now and where you want to be. (Read my April 2019 blog “Use GPS to Map Out Your Goals)  Each day as you face many choices and paths by referring back to your map, you can ask yourself: What do I want to achieve today, this week, this month that will move me toward my destination?

Most likely, you’ll take side trips or perhaps change directions completely.  Knowing that you are working toward being a premiere program manager, CPA, or coach goddess, will aid you in clearing away the confusing clutter in making choices that support you in achieving your goals.  Sometimes the trip is lots of fun, and sometimes the stretch can be quite stressful. One thing is for sure—it’s an adventure!

Rule # 2 – Some results are more important than others.

A few years ago, a friend was assigned a big project.  He was very excited.  It was a stretch for him, exactly what he needed to move forward to attaining his ultimate career objective.  About a month after beginning work on this project, he told me he was discouraged because he hadn’t gotten very far.  He admitted that even though he had completed his previous project, he found himself still cleaning up his documentation.  Doing this felt safe and comfortable while diving into the new project felt very uncomfortable. I asked him, “In the big picture view of reaching your career goal, which of the two is more important—neat and tidy documentation or doing a good job on the new key project?”

Where do you spend your time—on the results that will make you thrive or on what feels safe?  Ask yourself, “How important is what I’m doing right now (on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being least and ten extremely important) to achieving my goal?”  “How do I know this is more important than the other things on my plate?” By answering these questions, you can prioritize your tasks more effectively.

Rule # 3 – If something keeps falling to the bottom of the list, let it go!

 When working with an overwhelmed coaching client, we made a list of everything she had on her plate to determine her focus.  There were at least 30 items she insisted must be completed no matter what.  I asked her to prioritize all the tasks. She then committed to achieving the tasks in order of priority (most critical/important to least).  Every week we reviewed her list and added any new items, prioritized by importance.

After a few weeks, she noticed some things kept falling to the bottom.  She also saw that those things that were at the bottom might be “nice to do” but were not necessary to her success.  Not only did she have a shift in focusing on what was important, but she also totally deleted ten items! A weight lifted off her shoulders, and she felt more energized and engaged in her work.

What can you let go of to focus on what is most important to you?

Rule # 4 – If you can’t figure out what to do next, remember Rule # 1!

No matter how disciplined you are, it’s easy to become over-committed at work, especially if you enjoy your work.  It’s like going into your favorite candy store and wanting to try every new flavor! The downside is when you are over-stretched, meeting your commitments can become complicated, standards lowered, and life gets out of balance. Then you may feel like you’re merely surviving rather than experiencing the ideal state of thriving.

Just stick to the basics, and you can thrive!

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Loretta Staples, a Strategy Consultant, now Therapist, once stated, “If you are clear about what you want, the world responds with clarity.” Whether you’re taking a vacation, building a dream home, or managing a large project, periodically identifying where you are now to where you want to be, helps you focus firmly on the results you want to achieve.  Call them milestones or checkpoints; they serve an essential purpose—time to reflect on how far you have come, what you still need to do, and if you’re currently on track.

History can teach us many lessons, not the least of which is with determination, commitment, and oversight you CAN do the impossible. Let’s look at Stonehenge, England, for example.  Built approximately 5,000 years ago, its Neolithic builders somehow floated, hauled, and dragged 30 16-foot high stones, the largest weighing 50 tons, from Wales to Stonehenge – a staggering 250 miles!

There are no written records to show how it was built (scientists are still trying to figure that out) or why.  One thing is for sure; the builders had to carefully plan how to transport these gigantic stones and erect them. To make sure they were on target, they also had to check and re-check their progress against their envisioned results along the way; or as my grandma would say, “take stock.”  To do otherwise was to ensure failure.

In today’s world, to achieve results, successful people must take stock along the way.

Taking stock is a 3-step process!

Those creative builders had a clear picture of what they wanted to create. To turn it into reality, as we need to do today, they took stock periodically as they moved their plan forward—a 3-step process— (1) where am I now, (2) what do I need now to continue moving forward and (3) am I still on target?

Sometimes this process is painful, especially when discovering you took a wrong turn or two.  Isn’t it much more economical, money and time-wise, to have periodic checkpoints and make small corrections along the way rather than wait until the end and find you need a massive redo?

Taking stock can mean the difference between success and failure.

Step One:  Where am I now?

Taking a periodic checkpoint to see what you’ve accomplished and how far you’ve come gives you a sense of what needs to happen next to close the gap between now and where you want to be.  Just like those ancient builders, ask yourself, thought-provoking questions:

  • What did I do well?
  • What changes do I need to make?
  • How far have I come?
  • Am I where I expected to be, am I ahead of schedule, or am I behind schedule?

Step Two:  What do I need now to continue? 

Ancient builders had to be resourceful and creative.  They didn’t have Home Depot to find the right tools.  They determined what jobs they needed to do, looked at what was available, and often repurposed their tools to fit the situations at hand.  And if they didn’t have what they needed, they invented it!   Neolithic laborers used pieces of antlers to dig through the chalky ground and create massive earthworks at Stonehenge.  Can you imagine?  Amazing stuff!

What do you need to continue toward your goals, such as determining the resources required and where to find them? Perhaps, as the ancients did, you can use your skills and tools in ways you did not think of before.  Be creative.  You can always get a coach or mentor to help you think outside the box or ask colleagues to brainstorm with you.

Step Three:  Am I still on target?

 Keep your eyes on the prize.  With what you have done so far, are you still aimed in the right direction?  To be successful and thrive, you need to stretch and reach outside of your comfort zone to achieve the desired results.  People sabotage themselves by becoming distracted or focused on doing merely quick and easy things.

If you’re behind where you first wanted to be at this checkpoint, could you be sabotaging yourself?  If so, determine what it will take to get back on course.  Again, having a coach or mentor may help or asking colleagues to be your supporters will make it less daunting. Either of these could also be an accountability partner to help keep you on track.

Yet, as we discover more about what we can do and what we like, the target may change, or, at least, bend a bit to the left or right.  If this is the case, what do you need to do to set a new course?

Stop whining and get moving!

Being a recovering procrastinator, from time to time, I need to remind myself to stop whining and get moving!  Life is hectic, fast-moving, and loaded with things to do—all excuses for not doing what will make me and you succeed.  Successful people focus on those things that will make them thrive rather than those things that make them busy.  Which do you choose?

Be a thriver, not a survivor!  OK, I made up a new word, but it works for me.  Let it work for you!

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End of Year Debrief

Each year I update my End of Year Debrief as a reminder to savor your accomplishments during this year and prepare for next year.

This year has been a blur! 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 2019 and what you want to focus on in 2020. Answering the ten questions below, you can begin 2020 with a BANG!

Perhaps you think there is no time to reflect on what you had done; only think about what you have to finish 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 the ten things I am most proud of accomplishing this year?
  2. What motivates me?
  3. What learnings can I apply to make work simpler?
  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 dislike?

Charting a course for 2020, please take some time to think about:

  1. When I look back on 2020 next December, what would I want to have accomplished and experienced?
  2. What do I want to focus on in the first quarter of 2020?
  • How will I remain on course for 2020?
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We receive more information on our cell phones in a week than previous generations did in their lifetime. What do we do with all that information from the Internet, meetings, social media, email? It feeds chaos and creates overwhelm.

What can you do to take back control of your day? Implementing just one of the following ten tips can help you change an unproductive day into a productive one.

Ten Tips to Tame Unruly Chaos

  1. Understand the distinction between being efficient and being effective. Efficient means completing many tasks mostly right (multi-tasking can cause more rework than you might think.  A blog for another day.) Effective requires doing the right things right. What are the right tasks to accomplish your objectives?
  2. List everything on your plate, personal and work-related. Ask yourself, “what evidence do I have that this task is necessary?” Not everything is essential or necessary. Eliminate the busywork.
  3. Take control of your calendar. Over-booking doesn’t serve anyone. Schedule time for planned work activities, allowing time for unexpected tasks or activities.
  4. List three things you want to accomplish today and schedule time to complete them.
  5. Honor the appointments you schedule with yourself as you honor meetings with others.
  6. Turn off any technology that distracts you from completing work requiring your full attention. Protect this critical “think” time.
  7. Over-committing can lead to mediocre results. Your value is determined by how well you achieve your commitments, not by how many things you say yes to.
  8. Look at how you do your work. What isn’t working for you? Determine what routines need to change to become more effective in completing your right tasks. Small changes can lead to significant results.
  9. Always document agreed-upon actions whether in a group meeting, one on one via telephone, or face to face. It is natural for people to forget or reinterpret agreements if they are not written down.
  10. Under-promise and over-deliver. If you meet your commitments, you are successful. If you produce faster than expected, you are a hero!

Take charge of your success. The more tips you utilize, the more control you will have.

Good luck with taming the Chaos Beast!

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