Monday, June 9, 2014

6 Questions To Help Guide Your Day

There was recently a great article by Kevin Daum on called "6 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Everyday".  As Daum lays out in the opening paragraph, it is so easy to lose sight of what is important everyday (both what are priorities are but also to recognize this great life we get to love everyday).  So whether it is during times of stress, times of disappointment or frustration or times of abundance and joy, we should all take a few minutes in each day to do an exercise that grounds us.  Some people like meditation, some people like prayer, others just need a sanity check.  As always, I like to share a bunch of tools and you choose what works best for you!  Here are some of the ways I think about the six questions.

1. Why Am I Here?
My goal in life is to have a positive impact on people every day.  To help them feel happy and successful and fulfilled.  Whether that is the person behind the register at the grocery store, my inner circle of loved ones or the people I interact with through work.  It's important to remember this so no matter what comes my way, I can stay focused on why I do what I do, how to weigh any decision that is put in front of me, how to prioritize my day.  Even if I have to have a difficult conversation with someone, I feel like if I approach it with this mentality, I can make it the least painful conversation as possible.  And hopefully they will look back on it a good turning point or a helpful moment in their life, not the sad/frustrating/angry/disappointed moment they might have felt.   Hopefully, anyway!

2. What More Should I Do?
Ironically for me, the way I do more is to remember I can't do it all, especially not every day.  So each day I determine the one thing can "do better".  But that's it, just one :). And I make sure each day I pick something that enhances a different part of my life (going back to the whole self!).  It can't always be about my career, which is my default.  It needs to enhance my soul, my relationships, my wealth...or my career.  That can be finding time to write this blog, or finding a 20 minute exercise routine, or taking my dog on a nice long walk, or suggesting a impromptu date night with my husband, or reaching out to a friend, or sending a proposal to someone for a workshop, or reading a good book.  Or letting myself sleep in one morning...if my body actually lets me!

3. What Can I Let Go?
One day last week, the thing I needed to let go was trying to control a couple of upcoming events and just let them happen organically.  A birthday present for our goddaughter might not arrive right on time.  I can take a few days to figure out the timing of a couple of things for my birthday, and that's ok.  Waiting to see where my family ends up in the city at whatever time we want to get dinner - and not trying to force something ahead of time.  This may shock you, but not everything has to be scheduled to a T!  I know, this goes against every fiber of my Type A personality, and I truly have to focus on letting go of something every single day.  the other day, I was getting really frustrated that I wasn't completing a piece of a project by my internal deadline.  No tragedy was going to happen if I kept working on it the next day.  I wasn't going to miss an important deadline with others.  This was just something I wanted to check off on my list.  But it just wasn't happening.  For whatever reason, my brain was just not in that space that day.  So after a few hours of fighting it, I finally just put it to the side and started working on something else.  The next day, my brain felt like cooperating and I got the task done in an hour.  If I had not gotten to that point where I let it go - I would have wasted time and energy forcing it that day.  Instead, I got something else done and was able to successfully complete both tasks in the exact same time frame, just a different order.  And that's OK!

4. How Can I Be More Efficient?
My most recent example of this is a super simple thing I started doing but has made a huge impact.  I don't have an internet browser open on my laptop unless I need it that moment.  Let me explain.  I used to always have my Gmail open in the background at work.  Why?  Who knows!  I really don't get that many emails during the day.  But what if?! What I realized was that it was extremely distracting!  And it would lead me down a rabbit hole of other websites every time is clicked over to Gmail.  It was only 1-2 minutes down the rabbit hole.  But still. Anyone who has done studies on "multitasking" will tell you that it takes way more time to shift gears each time you switch to a different task then if you focused and completed one task and then moved on to the other.  You waste more time multitasking than you realize.  It is actually more efficient to just focus, and really focus, on the one task in front of you.  So my keeping the browser shut and only opening it when I need it (literally when I need it or as a planned mental break) has really helped me stay energized and driven throughout the day...aka more efficient!

5. Whom Should I Thank?
This is an extra important one for me.  I am good about doing the obvious thanks throughout the day (thank you for that information, thank you for doing that thing, thank you for that extra effort).  But I forget to thank the person that makes my current life possible.  The person that does all the things that you can't see, but you feel their impact.  This person is my husband.  He has always had my back.  He is my biggest fan but my most honest critic.  He keeps our life moving forward even when mine looks like a tornado.   And I absolutely do not thank him enough!  So let me just do it now - maybe I can gain some extra points :)  Thank you Bray!  Thank you for always supporting me and my endeavors.  Thank you for standing by me in tougher times.  Thank you for being my partner and my best friend.  Just thank you!!!

6. How Should I Start Tomorrow?
For some people this will be a "to do" - what is the top priority tomorrow that I should tackle first?  For some people, it will be organizing their day (and determining what that top priority is).  For me, it's  making sure I start the day with a deep breath.  I am such a planner, that I know (as much as possible) what I need to do tomorrow from a task perspective.  But what I need to think about is how I'm going to start each day on a relaxed, positive foot.  If I am unexpectedly stressed at the beginning of the day - my day is shot.  So to avoid as much stress as possible in the morning, I have created a routine that allows me to get up earlier each morning and take advantage of that extra time.  I take my time walking the dog and enjoy the quiet around the neighborhood of the early morning hour.  Of course it's easy now when it's warm and light out - talk to me in December when it's still dark and only 5 degrees and see how I'm doing now!  I also found a 10 minute yoga routine to do in my living room to help center myself and stretch out the bones & joints that are starting to creak more and more!  Then, I take my time getting ready, not running around like a wild person. And if the subway is a little late, which living in my neighborhood of NYC is a high probability, it's ok.  My new schedule gets me in to the office over an hour earlier than most others.  Finally, when I do get to work, I close my door and take 90 seconds to close my eyes and breathe.  True preparation for whatever the day is going to throw at me.

So that was my six questions!  How would you answer them?  Which one really gave you a wake up call or a clearing of the mind?  What is the hardest one for you to answer?  Let me know if you ever need help thinking through any of these or need help coming up with a plan to address/put into action anything you learned by answering these questions!  It only helps if it changes your approach or behavior in life!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Creating an Open Concept for Your Development

I love HGTV and DIY networks.  Specifically, I'm a HUGE fan of the Property Brothers.  Sure, they are cute and that helps.  But they are just charismatic and can really teach a lot about how to think rationally about your home.

Why am I talking about home renovations on a development blog?  Because I recently realized I needed to live my life more in the open concept design they always do on those shows.  Huh?  Wait, stay with me and it will all make sense.

I am currently in the process of writing two books (because why should a first time writer just write one).  One was coming along really well, but I'm not as passionate about it.  I think it has a lot of really valuable information and will be really impactful for my target audience, but it's not the topic that energizes me to sit down and write.  The second is more my passion. It's about helping people find happiness in their lives, whatever that looks like.  Nice, right?!  Who doesn't want to help people be happy?!  Problem is that I wasn't finding my angle.  It didn't have the through line. Just random, albeit helpful (in my humble opinion tips and tools. 

So I was constantly having this battle in my head over the last month or so - forcing myself to sit and write book #1 as much as book #2.  Then last week I started reading a new book, "Getting Real About Having it All" by Megan Dalla-Camina.  And I'll be damned, it's basically the book I was trying to write!  Very similar to my casual style.  The same balance of life and career focus.  Everything.  At first I was mad.  Did I wait to long to write a book?  Do I not have any original ideas?  Why did she get to be awesome first?

Then I took a deep breath, and realized, I did not need to keep this wall up (see, I told you I would bring it back to home design).  I can knock down this wall I have discovered and create an open concept to other rooms in the house.  For example, as you may recall, my theme for 2014 is "The Whole Self" and just last weekend I was watching another reality show called "The Profit" on CNBC (think Kitchen Nightmares meets Shark Tank).  The gazillionaire investor was working with a small gym and talking to them about making it more of an all encompassing wellness center (juice bar, nutritionist, life coach, classes, machines, yoga, message, etc).  This idea resonated with me and I started thinking about a "Whole Self" blog where we would have different sections for different areas of wellness: mind and soul, nutrition, physical, etc.  I could ask guest writers who are experts in their fields contribute (while reaching a broader audience).  Then when I realized I had found a wall in my development space, I immediately imagined myself knocking it down and creating an entry way to this new idea. I can take some of the concepts from my life coaching book and turn it into something bigger, more well-rounded, and potentially something that is not currently in the market.  Like all renovations, it will take some time to build out properly.  But I am really excited about the concept!

The point of all this is not to share my reality show DVR list (though clearly it is influencing my life!) but to give you another way to think about your goals and the way you live your life.  Instead of getting frustrated or discouraged because you ran into a wall...take a sledge hammer and knock it down.   Find the right flow for the life you want to be living or the work you want to be doing.  Be creative, think outside the box!  It's not a stop sign, it's a detour or a new route all together.  And those can be just as exciting as the original path you thought you were following.  Look at how you can connect the dots to other areas of your life.  Often you will find greater success when there is a link to another "room".  And at the end of the day, unless it is a load bearing wall, you can knock down anything.  And even then, Jonathan has taught me that you can get creative and create a funky beam :)  Happy renovating!!!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Focusing Your Development and Goals to Avoid Speeding & Crashing

Pop quiz hot shot:  Do you have a notebook next to your bed, in your bag, at your desk, etc where you
write down random goals and ideas 24/7?  Or in today's world, an e-list on your mobile device?

If the answer is yes, you need help bringing that all in to focus and get control of the bus without continuing to speed or crash!

If you are like me (a curse or a blessing depending on the day!) you are always thinking...obsessing... about your development.   But I often find myself drowning in ideas with no focused plan, I start something but don't finish it because I get distracted by a new idea.  Or I build out a plan that is way too aggressive and then get down on myself because I miss a deadline.  Or I work on the thing that most excites me at the moment without mapping any dependencies (the old phrase don't put the horse in front of the cart).  Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of research that shows that people are more likely to accomplish a goal with a time frame/due date.  But I think sometimes people get too bogged down in the details of those goals.  Or they don't build in flexibility for new ideas.  This is your development, it should be what is right for you at that moment.  It's allowed to bend and change as needed.

One way to help you focus your development goals while staying excited, engaged and still open to future ideas is to create an "Idea Board", or binder, or google doc, etc.   Stay with me.  This is not "The Secret" (no offense, I know that book really empowered a lot of people) or some in-depth, perfect craft creation Leslie Knope would make on "Parks & Rec" (though I am proud to recognize myself in that character many times!)  This is meant to be a place where you can post notes, images, articles, business cards, print outs, etc.  Each month (or week depending on your time commitment) look at the board and pick one thing to do. Keep adding to the board as you come up with new ideas. As I mentioned, this can be anything, it doesn't have to be some big bulletin board in your home or office.  Whatever will work best for you.  This idea is just to inspire you :)

Hint #1: Put a little orange dot on anything that has a dependency; this way you can decide if you want to tackle something that has a couple of phases.

Hint #3: Find a way to capture your ideas on the go (so you can then add them to your idea board).  I use the notes app on my iPhone.  But again, find the thing that works for you.

Hint #3: If there are specific areas you are trying to focus on (enhance knowledge, build network, etc) divide the board into sections.  This way you can pull an idea from a specific development area.  It will also help you to see where you are low on ideas.  If you are low because you keep pulling from that section, it will show you were your real passion lies.  If you are low in a section because you don't come up with a lot of ideas, ask yourself why that is a development area/focus. You want to be successful so maybe it's not the right focus for you right now...but don't be afraid to push yourself outside of your comfort zone too!

Hint #4: This isn't just about development.  You can use the same principles if you are trying to launch a new endeavor.  It's multi-purpose!!

Hopefully an Idea Board (or something like it) will help you continue to be excited about your development and goals while keeping you focused so you feel like you are making progress on your path forward!

If anyone wants to share any pics or ideas they have, please share in the comments section or send me pics and I will post!  Good luck :)

Footnote - Ironically, as I was working on this post, this article from ASTD was sent to me about how companies, talent managers, everyone, need to focus their offerings.  It ties in very nicely to what I wrote about above and shows that you are not alone if you need to be more disciplined in focusing your development!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

If You Like It Then You Should Put a Pin In It

Disclaimer: I promise that, as of today, I am in no way associated with Pinterest, other than as one of the millions of subscribers :)

But just for fun (because this is what I do for fun!) I looked on their site to see if they have any team building activities on their board...and they do!!!  Maybe it's just me and I'm still getting accustomed to all these social media platforms, but I was shocked.  What a great way to show that team building doesn't have to be cheesey or stuffy or boring!  It can be cool and fun and simple (see my recent post...).  And more importantly, great ideas can be shared!

So I wanted to share with my readers this alternative resource.  Go check it out and have some fun!  

PS.  I make no apologies that you will now have Queen Bey's song in your head the rest of the day.  You are welcome :)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Team Building That Is Fun, Easy & Cheap...No Really, It's True

So often people think a "team building" exercise either has to be cheesey (I know everyone has done a trust fall at some team outing).  Or they think it has to take a lot of time outside of daily work (cooking classes are fun but timely and expensive).  Or they have to include food & drinks (if I get invited to one more happy hour I'm going to scream).

Well I'm here to tell you...none of that is true!  If you are constrained by budget, time, unconvinced employees or any of the other roadblocks every manager hits, here are some fun ideas you can easily incorporate into your daily schedules. People will get to know their co-workers better and create some fun memories and stories.  By the way, these are also great team builders for part time employees or volunteers who have an even harder time attending outside team building events.

  • Ask everyone to submit some facts about themselves (suggest general things like favorite color, favorite food, favorite place to visit, favorite kind of book to read, etc).  Once you get the lists back, create Bingo cards with boxes that represent the different answers.  Hand them out to your team and have them try to get bingo by talking to their team members about the topics on their bingo card. When they find someone that matches, have them write the name of that person in the box.  When they get Bingo, have them post them on a bulletin board in a shared space.  This way people can learn not just about the people who helped them get Bingo, but see who shares similar fun facts.
  • A slight twist to the Bingo game.  Ask everyone to submit a random fact about themselves (something that most people don't know).  Hand out a fact to each person on the team.  Throughout a week, have people try to figure out who the fun fact belongs to.  Again, as people get their answers, have them post it to a board in a shared space so people can learn about each other, not just the person whose fun fact they had.
  • Remember in elementary school, the teacher always had a bulletin board with a theme for the month where each student had some sort of mailbox where parents picked up important notices, etc?  Well take that idea and re-purpose it for the work environment, but with a twist.  Each month pick a theme (if you need ideas, you can Google ideas on either awareness months or find out if there is a fun "national day of..." within the month).  Pick a theme that everyone can relate to.  Then ask people to submit something about themselves that relates to the theme.  For example, March is Reading Awareness Month.  Ask each person to write on the board (again in the shared space!) their favorite book and why!  You get to know a lot about people based on the books they read, and it's fun to see if there are any overlaps.
  • Finally, create a scavenger hunt around the office.  This is especially fun if you have a team of relatively new employees.  Create a list of 10-15 fun facts about the company or office.  Include some things that they can find on their own (take a selfie in-front of the closet where they hide the extra snacks) and some things that will help introduce them to other people (ask the CEO  how a company tradition got started or find the only conference room that isn't labeled and ask a manager in that dept how it got it's name).  Have the game last for a couple of weeks so people have time to complete, without affecting productivity.  You can either have the winners be the top people who completed it first or you can use a points based system and whoever gets the most points wins.
These are just a couple of examples to get your creative juices flowing.  But as you can see, there are fun, easy and inexpensive ways to build morale and relationships on your team!  I told you it was true!
Have fun :)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Whole Self

Just like everyone, as 2013 came to an end, I started to think about what I wanted to accomplish in 2014.  But then I realized, it’s not just about what I want to accomplish…it’s what I want to feel and be proud of this time next year. 

This was all sparked by an article I read on CNN  in late December about "Making a New Kind of Resolution".  The final point of the article is to create a theme for the new year, not just goals.  That really resonated with how I was thinking about the new year.  So I started jotting down words and used a thesaurus to try to find the right phrase.  But then as I was looking back through my journal, and I found a drawing I did a few years back when I was very lost. 

It is a drawing based on my version of the different approaches to a balanced well-being.  These are the areas I personally felt I needed to have in balance in order to be happy and at peace (one note, for me spirituality is about inner peace and feeling connected to the world, not a specific religion).  Without realizing it, the kinds of things I was starting to write down as goals for the year represented each of these areas.  Areas I need to balance in order to be a happy as my "whole self".  And since one way I will achieve the goals I have set is to share them, I will share them now.  As I coach, if I want people to trust me, I figured I would start by trusting you, my readers, with some of my goals :)   So here we go…

Each month, I will share a blog post about my progress on one of these areas of the whole self.  Hopefully the posts and this concept will inspire you to find your theme for the new year that will make you feel happy, successful, fulfilled this time next year.  Here’s to a glorious…and amplified 2014!!!!!