My sister has been drawing up resolutions like this for a while now. At the end of every year she always sends me a picture of them written down. We'll usually laugh together about them - she fully admits that they are often silly and don't amount to much.
But my sister has it on everyone. Really, she does.
I can honestly say that I've never met anyone else who sticks to their resolutions better than my sister. She keeps her piece of paper handy all year long. And she'll update me with how she's doing with each item. Sometimes she does really well with one but hasn't been paying much attention to another. So she adjusts and works on it. And by time December rolls around again she usually makes great progress and feels really good about her accomplishments.
Call them silly, but here's why my sister absolutely kicks ass at resolution-making.
1. She keeps goals small and manageable.
How many people do you know make goals like "I will lose 50 pounds?" So they pay for a gym membership in full on January 1st and try doing crazy workouts every day at 5am. I know there's no shortage of these people because of how packed the gym is during the first 2 weeks in January. Then what happens? Gym traffic dies down by mid January. So much for losing 50 pounds.
My sister's resolutions are the exact opposite. They are manageable. She can picture herself completing them on a daily basis.
2. Her resolutions are action focused.
Call my sister's resolutions meaningless, but I'd disagree. Whether she knows she's doing it or not, she's creating small, actionable ways to alter or create habits. She's taking baby steps instead of trying to lose 50 pounds. Why lose 50 when you can lose 5 first?
These small action items that can actually be accomplished on a daily basis add up to something much more meaningful than they may seem. These small things create and encourage discipline and focus, the building blocks for success and truly doing amazing things.
3. She writes her resolutions down.
Not only does this create some accountability but it helps her remember her goals. She makes sure to keep that sheet of paper handy. Notice she's not making a fancy diagram or using some overpriced app to input these resolutions. Just old fashioned pen-to-paper. And it works.
4. She shares her resolutions.
I may not be calling her every week reminding her of her resolutions, but by sharing them with me each year she's making herself more accountable. She doesn't like when winter rolls around and she has to tell me that she hasn't emptied her dishwasher on time once. So she works harder.
So here's a challenge for you. Try creating a few resolutions like the above. You might surprise yourself with what you can accomplish in a year.
Ok, I’ve lured you in.
So what’ the #1 thing that can be done at work to get ahead you ask?
Is it focus on one thing at a time and don’t multi-task?
Important, yes. But no.
Is it to not allow yourself to peruse Facebook at your desk?
Is it to check email 3-4 times per day instead of 37?
Don’t get me started on this, but that’s not it.
Listen. That’s the thing. Listen first, speak second.
I honestly believe that listening is the most important thing you can do at work in order to be successful.
It sounds simple. You might think you are a good listener. And maybe you are.
But there is always room for improvement when it comes to listening.
Because listening isn’t just the act of listening. It’s also the act of not speaking! This can be very challenging.
I always find that I want to speak immediately if I know an answer, or I have input on something due to past experience. Yet time and time again I am always in a better position when I listen first before speaking my mind. This helps me fully understand what someone is telling me, fully understand how much they know and how much they don’t, and be able to read the situation well enough to know if I even have the right to speak up!
In listening – and waiting to speak – I am actually more respected and viewed as a better thought leader when I do speak. Here’s why:
Now of course, when you do speak, make it smart sounding. Know what you’re talking about. Formulate a response based on what you heard. And if you don’t have a smart response, just ask a few questions and listen some more!
Successful sales people understand how important it is to be a good listener. I think more business people outside of the world of sales can work on this trait in order to be a successful, well-rounded and well-respected professional in the workplace.
I encounter people on a weekly basis who say the following:
“I don’t have time.”
“I’m so stressed out.”
“I have a million things to do.”
“If only there were more than 24 hours in a day.”
You get the idea. I'm sure you hear the same thing as well, and likely are also saying it on a weekly basis.
These things may be true, but my approach is to not make this a day to day mantra. Instead, create a trusted system that helps you take action on the million things in your head.
I think people can learn a lot from David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. A lot of people aren't jumping to read the book as it does go into a lot of depth and encourages a pretty big life transformation in order to truly master the art of getting things done.
I love the book, and I think there are a some important ideas that can help people feel like they are getting more things done and feel less stressed. Skip the book if you're not into reading it and take note of these tips:
Has anyone read Getting Things Done? Do you implement this system into your work/personal life?
Something I'm noticing in offices is that people spend their entire day reacting instead of acting in a thought out manner throughout the day.
An email comes through, causes some sort if emotion and it just has to be responded to right away. So the worker rushes through a reply that barely makes sense and hits send. Why? It can't wait 10 minutes?
Or instead of listing three priority items for the day and ensuring they get done, the day is spent (and wasted) constantly reacting to emails, calls and what others shout to them over the cubicle.
Can this be avoided in an office setting? Well, it is very difficult, but it can be done.
I'm guilty myself of playing the react game during the work day. It's a constant struggle to take a step back and actually think about what is going on and what is truly important that day.
I even find most managers and supervisors don't do much to help their workers be properly active throughout the day. This has been my experience and it is pretty astonishing.
Managers should be the guiding light of how the day should be approached. Instead of throwing out a bunch of random tasks to workers, why not organize them into a project plan? Then there's no need to do spur of the moment delegating.
Does anyone else face similar situations in the work place? Please share!
Email is a great work tool. But when did email become Instant Messenger? I thought email was a way to communicate and exchange documents and ideas, with the intent that the recipient can view and respond when they are able to check their inbox.
Email is the electronic form of mail. You have a mailbox, and mail is put in the box for a receiver. Once the receiver checks their mailbox, they can decide when/how to answer and/or discard the mail.
So why in an office setting are people sending emails, most of the time without full complete sentences or a subject line that explains what the email is about, then almost instantaneously asking that person (verbally) if they got their email?
Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of email?
Would you mail a letter to someone and call them up an hour later and ask if they got it and why they haven’t read it yet?
No, you wouldn’t.
I have read many articles about email organization and productivity, many advising to set aside specific times to check email during the day, and making a decision after each email. This means taking a specific action at the time the email is read, whether it be deleting it, responding to it, or moving it to a “later” task list and marked with a specific follow up date/action, etc.
Of course in a customer service type of setting, email is treated a bit differently, but generally doing the above helps to add more time to the workday to do productive things with complete focus.
Most people are less productive when they are constantly checking their inbox. Email alerts and notifications act as a constant distraction throughout the day. How can the brain focus on completing one task when it is constantly being forced to multitask and give attention to a completely different thing?
Eventually time gets diluted and nothing actually gets done.
In an office setting, if something needs direct attention, I urge people to walk over to the recipient’s desk and discuss it face to face. Don’t set up a meeting (meetings usually are a waste of time), just handle it face to face. Then a real discussion about priorities for the recipient can happen, a timeline can be made if necessary and both parties can agree on when the item should be tended to.
Now, if you approach it this way, I think you’ll find that most things people think are urgent and worth bothering and interrupting the receiver aren’t actually so when they think about taking a few seconds to physically get up from their desk and talk about it face to face.
So let email be email. And take some actual time to make emails make some sense. This means being precise but clear in the body of the email regarding its intent and any action items. It also means writing a proper subject line so the recipient has a good idea if they need to make that email a priority.
My belief is that no one should be writing an initial email communication (in a work setting) in less than 30 seconds. I guarantee that if this is done, something will be left out, and in the end more time is wasted communicating back and forth like Instant Messenger. Save the prolonged effort and put time in up front.
Oh, and get some sort of messaging system for the office. Then people can actually message when they need to and use email the way it should be used.
Do you agree? Disagree? Please comment!
You know how people are just annoying?
Of course they are, because we exist in a world that circles around ourselves. Not you, me. So when I don't get my way, or people don't act the way I want them to act or do things how I want them to do things at that precise moment of time, I'm annoyed.
Sounds familiar, right? No worries, it's all good. There's no shame in admitting this. It's the natural way of life. To hear an excellent speech surrounding this idea, check out David Foster Wallace's This is Water.
To continue in this vain of general people aggravation, a few weeks back I was waiting in the 10 items or less line at Market Basket (I try desperately to stick to 10 items or less because this place is always a madhouse).
There was a man in front of me ranting to the woman behind the checkout counter. He sounded Russian. It seemed as though there was confusion about his EBT card he was using, and he was getting flustered and angry.
I watched as the woman behind the counter rolled her eyes and give a half sarcastic smile as if to say "ok dude, just pay and get out of my hair, it's only 9am I have 6 more hours in this hell hole".
The last thing I heard the man mutter was, "see, this is why your country is going down the tubes."
Well that just pissed me right off. I could feel myself get immediately defensive for my country. A country where I have many freedoms and live a great life. Really Mr. Russia?
I kept my mouth shut but started thinking of the list of items I wanted to share with this ignorant man using our federal entitlement system and bitching about our country, which would include all the reasons why his country sucks more than mine does.
But I didn't of course. I paid for my 10 items and quietly headed to the ATM vestibule next door to deposit some money into my personal account as well as a check into my business account.
I used my card to enter the vestibule and as I started to put my debit card in the machine I heard the door click open again behind me.
I glanced behind me and guess who it was? Mr. I hate America.
Great. I reviewed my mental list again in my head, and reminded myself how old this guy was. If he decided to put up a fight, I could take him no problem.
I finished my personal deposit and he stood quietly waiting for me. I couldn't believe I had to stand in an ATM vestibule with this man, yet as I took my receipt, I turned around and told him I had one more transaction to make, but he could go ahead of me so he wouldn't have to wait. (Don't you hate those people that feel entitled to make 8 different transactions with 5 different cards in succession with a giant line behind them? It's plain rude!)
He politely waved his hand and said, “go right ahead, finish what you have to, I don't mind.”
I smiled and thanked him, reapproaching the machine. I smiled again engagingly and told him I had to now deposit money into my business account. Maybe this would give him a glimmer of hope about our country going down the tubes - a normal young looking woman like myself, owning her own business.
He replied with a chuckle, “not a terrible thing, huh?!”
“Nope!” I smiled enthusiastically.
“So, you own a business? What kind of business?”
“I co-own a cleaning company here in Salem, I said.”
“Oh, wow, that's great.”
The old man continued to ask a few follow up questions about the business, seemingly very interested. I finished my final transaction, told him to have a nice day and we parted ways.
I share this story as it provides a few lessons:
1. Be mindful of your judgements.
So I heard this guy say something in the supermarket that I thought was inaccurate, especially based on the context in which he was talking. Due to that, I felt hatred. Yet we ended up having a pleasant conversation later on, one which made me feel respected and proud to be a business owner. Those feelings occurred in me as a result of his interest, tone and seemingly positive perception of me. Listen, I've heard my grandma mutter that gay people ruin everything. But I don't hate her for it. She's old and outdated with such topics like gay marriage and homosexuality. Yet it was easy for me to hate the man who was frustrated for whatever reason with a transaction and muttered a vague judgement about this country. I still don't agree with the statements made by the old man at the checkout counter or my grandma. But do I have to let it be the reason for scorn and hatred to enter my thoughts? Really, if you haven't listened to David Foster Wallace's speech, you really should.
2. Never let a stranger ruin your day.
The only person or thing you should allow to ruin your day is you. If you can't handle that, at least let it be someone you know really well. Otherwise, move through life happily and don't get caught up in the other bullshit, because even if you think you know what's going on, you have no context.
So next time you're annoyed at the checkout counter, think about what's really bothering you. Get some perspective and move on and focus on what matters most to you.
Holidays. They’re crazy. And whether you like it or not, they are fast approaching. So in honor of upcoming December, here's my secret to happiness during the busy holiday season.
During the holiday season, people leave work early and take long lunches to go to the mall and scour for gifts. Everyone seems to be in a rush. It gets darker earlier, and everyone is tired out but running around to Holiday parties and stores all while trying to be in the “Holiday Spirit”.
For me, the worst part of all this is driving my car in December. For some reason, this is when my road rage is at an all time high. Five minutes into my ride home from work and I find myself cursing the poor old woman in front of me.
But I found my savior. I have discovered the secret to stop road rage dead in its tracks. And I’m going to share it with you. This discovery has changed my life.
That’s right. Good old Italian Opera. My favorite is Andrea Bocelli. I’m telling you, I put Bocelli’s Christmas CD in my car and I am a new person. I’m letting people go in front of me, driving a reasonable distance behind others, and not trying to rush the end of a yellow light. (See my last post about where I learned my driving manners).
I challenge you to try this. It might seem weird at first, but I guarantee you that if you pop that baby in on your commute home from work every day for a week, by the end of the week you will be happier.
Life filled with happiness is all about balance, taking a step back when needed, relaxing the mind and remembering the important things in life. And for $8.77 on Amazon Prime, you just might get one step closer to the Holiday Spirit.
It was a typical day in the car with my brother, sister and mom in the driver seat. Who knew where we were going, we were constantly in the car driving somewhere. That's what happens when three kids are within 2.5 years of each other. There's always somewhere to go, and we had to travel together.
I remember being in the back seat, my eyes on the road. My mom approached a stop sign. Thinking back to this moment now, I can correctly categorize her stop as a "rolling stop." No one was around. To stop completely at this stop sign at the four way intersection in rural Connecticut was pretty much a courtesy.
"Mom," I said, "you didn't stop at the stop sign."
My mom and my older brother, who was in the front seat, started giggling.
"Kim," my mom replied, "I'm not going to stop and have a cup of coffee."
My brother continued to laugh. "Good one mom."
Ok, I thought. I guess that was a legitimate stop then. Mom would never break the rules. Of course she wouldn't.
Fifteen years later I generously rolled through a stop sign in my new home town as I came off the highway. It was a sign most people treated as a yield sign, I observed over the few years I lived in the area.
It wasn't even 60 seconds later and I saw the lights in my rearview mirror.
"Good morning!" the cheery cop gave me a pleasant smile. "Do you know why I'm pulling you over?"
"Yea, I ran that stop sign back there."
"Wow. You are the first person I've run into who actually told me the truth. Most people lie to me. I'm going to give you a warning. Enjoy the rest of the day, and be sure to stop at the sign next time."
I have to thank my mom for instilling in me the value of honesty. However I only have her to blame for my driving skills.
Behance is a company I learned of through a book I read called Making Ideas Happen. The company started in 2006 with a mission to put control back into the hands of creative professionals.
One of the company's main philosophies is the use of the Action Method, a method designed to help push projects forward by organizing ideas and focusing on action steps. By incorporating the Action Method into your lifestyle, you work to constantly create action items as a result of meetings, brainstorm sessions, phone calls, etc. so there is a focus toward getting things done. No more leaving meetings without clear vision or direction. Each action item must start with a verb so it tells you to actually DO something when you read it. Once you complete an action item, you check it off your list.
I bought Behance's Action Journal and have really enjoyed using it as my go-to notebook for work items. It helps keep me focused. You can easily create your own action journal with a regular old notebook, but buying new organizational items makes me happy, so I spent the $17.50 on the hard covered journal. I think it's important for everyone to determine their own system to making things happen, and a good place to start is by learning the Action Method.
Learn more about the Action Method.
Last night I found myself repeating something from my childhood, something I hadn't said out loud in a long time. It was one of those instances when you don't think about something for a really long time, but it's still present in your subconscious so that when something triggers it, the memory surprises you, and surfaces just like it happened yesterday.
I told my husband last night that I was going to retire to the bedroom by myself for a 15 minute bread basket.
A bread basket. 15 minutes.
I was instantly back at our house in Sterling, CT. It was bedtime for my brother, sister and I. Of course we hated having to go to bed, but we listened to the rules and headed upstairs to change, brush our teeth and get ready for a kiss goodnight.
My mom had started allowing us some extra "awake" time before bed on special occasions. Man did we feel like we were smart kids, using our conniving ways to get mom to extend our bedtime. Usually it happened when we behaved ourselves.
She called it a Bread Basket. If we were rewarded a Bread Basket, we got to keep our light on in our room, and read while in bed. A Bread Basket could last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.
Upstairs, teeth brushed, pj's on, under the sheets, book in hand.
Wow, was mom a smart woman or what?
What we thought was a huge treat at the end of the night and an extension of the dreaded bed time involved us improving our minds, relaxing the brain and engaging the imagination. And because it was so special, fun and highly anticipated, the three of us would never think to not follow the Bread Basket rules.
If that's not a win-win situation for mom, I don't know what is.
My only hope is that someday if I have kids, they will enjoy Bread Baskets as much as I did, and still do.
I'm Kim. I like to work hard but not enough to stop having fun and enjoying life. I hope I never stop learning and exploring. Other people inspire me to be and do better every day. Read on for reflections on work and play.