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.

Please follow and like us:

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.

Please follow and like us:

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!

Please follow and like us:

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!

Please follow and like us:

The trouble with “no” is we keep saying “yes” to everything. We reply yes to phone calls, text messages, emails as they arrive. We say yes to volunteering for new projects, tasks, whatever comes up!  We are hesitant, if not afraid of what would happen, by saying no to a request.

Dictionaries define “no” as a negative answer or decision, and most people act as if it is a four-letter-word! Every day that belief is reinforced from early childhood into adulthood because saying no to a parent or teacher is seen as rebellion. “No” in the workplace is perceived as not being a team player or not carrying your allotted workload.

Unfortunately, by saying yes, we can compromise our ability to honor our commitments, which reflects on our work performance and our business relationships. Continually saying yes also causes more stress, more deadlines, and higher expectations. While “no,” strategically used, will have far-reaching benefits for you and your organization.  It is all in the way you use the power of “no.”

Ways of Using the Power of “No”

Don’t volunteer for additional projects if your bandwidth is already tight.  Your credibility is crucial to your reputation. If you do volunteer, choose wisely.  Does it help you grow additional skills you need to further your career, as well as add value to your organization? How does it support your career plan?  Of course, there are times you must volunteer for additional work because it increases the overall effectiveness of your team.

Organize and prioritize your work and be aware of your time commitments. When your boss asks you to do an additional task, and it will impact your deadline, negotiate either to have it delegated to another or to reprioritize its target date.  Be sure to have substantial evidence for your request, and not that you don’t like the work entailed.

If you are the “go-to” person for answers in your group; and, you are researching the solutions, instead tell them where they can find the answers. Not only does that give you more time to work on your designated tasks, but it helps them become more skilled in their role. One of my clients found he was adding an extra two hours to his day by discovering and relaying back the solutions. Each disruption causes at least a 20-minute delay in getting back to where you left off.

Say no to checking your emails as they come in.  They can be so distracting and take you away from your work. Instead, check them twice a day. Let people know through an automatic response when you will be reviewing and responding to emails.  The same goes for texts and telephone calls.

“No” Supports Your Boundaries

The advantage of using “no” strategically creates boundaries based on your commitments.  It gives you more control over getting your work done.  It also decreases the feeling of being overwhelmed to just feeling whelmed.

Please follow and like us:

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!

 

Please follow and like us:

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!

Please follow and like us:

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!

Please follow and like us:

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.

Please follow and like us: