How to Sharpen Your Personal Reading (and Learning) Plan

5 Steps to Staying Up with Professional and Personal Development

CA-young execAs a talented professional, you know you should be investing in your professional development regularly. But the demands of daily life get in the way. How can you take in the information that you know is valuable (and in some careers, expected) while doing today’s important tasks? Try the LEARN method.

L – Lessen your time on social media and other distractions. I am guilty of frittering away lots of time–especially in the evenings when I’m less sharp–scrolling through social media. The short updates have contributed to a diminishing attention span, so I’m thinking that I should require myself to get through my page count for the day before I allow myself to scroll through social media. You could set a time limit or an alarm as well.

E – establish a routine. In my case, I’m determined to finish one book a month–it doesn’t always have to be a professional book. Note I said “FINISH” not “start and finish.” Some books are read over time (i.e. 365 day devotionals, large reference type books, etc. so their “finish” date may be months from now.) But since 2012 I have held myself to this routine and so far, so good.  Also, since I belong to Platform University, I have a weekly time (while riding my stationary bike) during which I take in the content and videos. This helps me make good use of the membership fee. If you don’t use materials, stop subscribing (and in some cases, paying out money) for access.

A- aggregate material you don’t want to miss. I use Feedly to subscribe to blogs I don’t want to miss, and Unroll.me to consolidate blog posts and enewsletters that I want to at least glance at.

R – read only what you are really going to digest. In the Feedly service I mentioned above, I used to subscribe to a number of blogs. I have recently gotten ruthless about editing my list. If the topic doesn’t interest me enough to click on it to read the post, there’s a good shot that the subscription is going to be eliminated. My goal is to get Feedly to become a newspaper of posts that I would want to read read nearly “cover to cover.” This means eliminating even some good–or really good–stuff. (I recently unsubscribed from the blog of a well known and quite popular author because I just wasn’t reading his stuff.)

N-note important thoughts using a service such as Evernote. Evernote is a great place to keep thoughts, ideas, and clippings of web pages for future reference without cluttering up other areas of your computer. Even so, mine has become a depository for so much that it could probably use some cleaning. This blog post though, came about because of question I got from someone in 2010 that I saved in my “blog post ideas” notebook.  Amazing how it triggered the creativity to write this post today!

Making time for personal and professional development is not always easy, but it is essential to stay up with an ever-changing world.

10 Negative Habits to Get Over at Work

An assessment of where you may be overdoing things

CA-hurdle 1Ah, the stress we sometimes create for ourselves at work. Maybe it’s time to get over some things. Which of the following would be of most help to you to get over?

Overthinking/Over-analyzing: this is more of a challenge for analytical personalities, but we all can fall into a trap of overthinking or over-analyzing  a situation to the point of mental paralysis. Consider these thoughts that invade our minds:

  • What did she mean by that?
  • I wonder if my mistake on that task is going to cost me my job?
  • He seems subdued. Did I offend him?
  • I need more information just to be sure I’m doing the right thing.

Oversharing: there’s nothing wrong with sharing who you are and being reasonably transparent. But there’s a balance that is hard to achieve. For example, like it or not, what you share on social media will help form your digital personality and can affect your professional life. Also, being too willing to share your opinion can alienate colleagues, if you don’t share graciously.  Being verbose in your emails and voice mails can cause people to not want to read, or listen to, them at all.

Overdoing: we love to feel indispensable, sometimes to the point of overextending ourselves and making too many commitments. Are you serving on too many committees? Are you volunteering to cover for a coworker a little too much? Are you staying too late and working weekends so people think you are dedicated?

Overcompensating: if you make a mistake, do you go overboard by repeatedly apologizing and going far beyond reasonable steps to repair the issue?  Or conversely, do you try too hard to find excuses instead of just fixing it and moving on?  An over-compensater will try so hard to make up for a mistake or shortcoming that they end up drawing more attention to it.

Overconfidence: confidence is valuable, but overconfidence is a detriment. Do you come across as arrogant? (For more on having a balance between confidence and humility, see this great post: Humility Matters.)

Being Overcautious: this is for the person who is too nervous to step out and try a new way of doing things and prefers to stay very set in their ways. Their fear keeps them from learning a new skill or working with new folks in another department. Are you missing out because of caution?

Being Overbearing: do people wish you weren’t on that work team because you insist on your own way?

Overachieving: do you try extremely hard to impress your boss or others, or live up to some unrealistic expectation carried over from your growing up years? Who are you trying to impress the most?

Overreacting: when something doesn’t go your way, do you sulk, yell, or show other forms of extreme reaction?

Overbooking: is your calendar so full that there is no cushion between appointments? Do you run late on a regular basis? Maybe it’s time to pull back on how much you put on that thing!

I can find myself in some of these “overs.” How about you?

If you need some coaching on ways to overcome some of these stressful habits, contact me!

3 Times to Gift Yourself with Time Management Grace

Be patient with yourself--and others

CA-business womanEarlier this year, a friend of mine enjoyed a wonderful trip to celebrate a milestone anniversary. When she returned she hit the ground running. Really. On the way back from the airport after a late cross-country flight, her husband dropped her off at her workplace where she worked several hours before going home for the first time in 10 days!

We’re different that way. She can jump into the flow of life pretty quickly. I’m more of a “need time to transition” person. I think most of us have times when we won’t be at our best and we should give ourselves grace. Here are three:

Returning from a business trip or vacation: travel is great, but it is draining. It’s wise to plan at least a half day, if not 24 hour, cushion for “re-entry.” This can provide a cushion if a delay comes up, or give you time to catch up on mundane things like unpacking and laundry. It also gives the space to reconnect with family and friends that weren’t with you on the trip, get back on your own time zone, and calibrate your emotions and thinking to the regular routine again.

Morning or evening, depending on your makeup: everyone has their own high energy times. While writing this, I’m sitting at one of my favorite coffee shops. I try to get there on a regular basis, and due to my current schedule, I arrive around 6:30 or 7am after a 35 minute drive. Some people would feel like there was no way they could have the creative energy that early in the morning, but that’s my wiring. I know, however, not to plan any energy-requiring activities after 8pm or on weekends, whereas some of my friends may just be getting going then! I have to give myself grace if I don’t get things done in the evening. I know I’ll tackle them the next morning or even, another day.

Mid-day: When you first arrive at the office? Right after lunch? Expect those low energy times and try not to plan anything too taxing at those times. Get a spurt of energy the last hour of the day? Use it to clean up all the loose ends. I’ve learned that I do not like to have a meeting at the end of the day, because I like to have time to clean up the last of email and my task list. If a meeting goes over the allotted time, that leaves those things undone or my evening off to a later start.

While you are giving yourself time management grace, remember to extend it to others around you who are not wired the same way as you are.

How to Improve the Culture at Work

7 thoughts, tips, and ideas for a happier workplace

Team


There’s a lot of talk about culture in workplaces, culture referring to the atmosphere created by the people who spend time there and the norms that everyone in that particular environment adapts to. Cultures vary widely. You’ll find a different culture at Google than you will on Wall Street. Part of that relates to the type of industry, the need (or not) for formality, etc.

There are several tangible elements to consider as you develop a sense of culture and teamwork unique to your organization.  Consider the following as you seek to improve your unique culture:

Purpose. Do your employees have a real purpose for working for you other than getting a paycheck? Do you get them excited about the mission of your organization?

Meetings. The type of meetings you have, when you have them, who attends…all those things contribute to a sense of teamwork, or lack thereof. I remember years ago when a new pastor came on board for the church I worked for. I was office manager and had not been included in staff meetings. He changed that and allowed me to start attending. That type of decision can bridge gaps between departments.  (At the same time, if you are making employees attend meetings for which they play no useful role, they may be grateful for you to release them from that obligation.)

Fun. Some workplaces have more fun than others. Within reason, can you allow for a bit of play time? Use bright visual aids? Bring in lunch occasionally or a special breakfast treat?

Gifts. At one workplace, within the first eight weeks I had already found a great tote bag on my desk one day and a Starbucks card on another. These items came from other business opportunities the bosses had been to and they decided to pass the treat along to me. At another, several branded items were waiting at my desk for my first day. It was great to feel appreciated with these little gestures. Are there product samples you can randomly give out? Treats you can stick in mailboxes?

Compensation. While a sense of purpose is important, most employees work to earn a living too. Review guidelines for average pay in your area for certain types of jobs and make sure you are not being a cheapskate. Consider additional compensation such as profit sharing or benefit perks that help the bottom line be bigger for that employee. This is especially nice when it comes as a surprise. For example, if you have a profit sharing or bonus plan, it can be great fun for employees to see what “extra” will be in their check this week. Talk about motivating!

Personal Workstation. Whether it’s an office with a window, a cubicle, or a desk in an open area, employees like to feel comfortable and have some sense of ownership in their work space. After all, they spend several hours a week there. Allow employees to decorate their space within reason and show their creativity. Try to provide privacy for those having to share a larger room, either through staggered schedules or room dividers. Make sure their workstation is ergonomically correct. Give them a reasonable budget to get supplies or equipment they need in order to do their job more comfortably and efficiently.

Common workspace. Take pride in the common areas in the workplace. Keep the break room and bathrooms clean. Provide beverages and snacks. Have meeting spaces that are uncluttered. If possible, have some view of the outside, keeping windows clean. Have some agreed upon standards for how the overall office/workplace is kept (i.e. reasonable standards of neatness.) Sometimes, you can assign an employee to maintain a particular common area. One place I worked gave this job to the receptionist and daily, she was sure to keep the workroom straightened up. In another, the staff rotated kitchen duty.

Make some effort to improve the culture and you’ll see productivity and loyalty improve, too! (For a handbook of lots of ideas, check out my book, Boost Your Workplace Morale: A Practical Guide for Employees (and their Managers.)

Helping Overwhelmed Professionals Excel: A Quote Quilt & a Quick Poll

Images you can share and enjoy and ONE question to answer

One question poll: I’d like to find out the best day of the week to share my newest blog post–based on when YOU would be most inclined to read and/or share it.  Please click here to select your favorite day. Thanks for participating!

 

In lieu of a standard post this week, I’ve put together this “Quote Quilt” of thoughts to encourage overwhelmed professionals! Please share it. (If you receive this by email and the image doesn’t come through, be sure to visit the blog!)