Four Favorite….

Career & Life Planning Resources for 2017

I wanted to share a few of my favorite resources for the New Year on Life & Career Planning- I hope you find these helpful!

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Favorite Podcasts:

  1. Success Talks: Interviews with various successful people from multiple fields (featured in Success Magazie)
  2. Michael Hyatt: This is Your Life
  3. The Tony Robbins Podcast
  4. TED Radio Hour– Various speakers on multiple topics

Best Books on Life / College / Career Planning:  (most are available as ebooks and on Audible)

  1. Living Forward – Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy
  2. What Color is your Parachute for Teens –  Carol Christen
  3. Teens Guide to College and Career Planning– Justin Muchnick
  4. The Art of Work- Jeff Goins

Helpful Websites for Career Planning:

  1.  Occupational Information Network:   www.onetonline.org
  2.  Career One Stop:    www.careeronestop.org
  3.  My Next Move:   www.mynextmove.org
  4.  Bureau of Labor Statistics:

My Newest Habits:

1.  Make small but consistent healthy choices. 

Often New Years is a time for dramatic resolutions that can quickly become overwhelming and lead to burnout.  If I had decided I should start running 5 miles a day I would quickly get discouraged and give up.  Instead I decided to make a few small changes that I can realistically stick with over time, including:

-Drink more water and less caffeine.  (It’s easy for me to drink coffee and sweet tea all day long- but that’s not the best way to stay hydrated and the excessive caffeine actually makes it harder for me to focus.)

-Do something physical for at least 10 minutes a day- even if it’s just a brisk walk.  (This one is not difficult now that I get to chase my very mobile 1 year old around most days- it’s not official exercise, but it wears me out!)

-Eat one more salad and one less fast food meal a week  (On work days I quickly default to the familiar cheeseburger and french fries for lunch- but all those calories just make me feel overly stuffed and lethargic by about 2:30.  I feel much more energetic with smaller portions and healthier options.)

These simple changes will have a positive impact on my health over time and are easy enough to commit to and stick with over time.

2.  Wake up 30 minutes earlier than I need to.

I’m using this time to pray, plan out my day, read, or spend some time planning for our future.  And it’s truly amazing the impact these few minutes alone have had on my mindset and productivity the rest of the day.  (My husband actually got me started on this when he started setting his alarm and getting up at 6am.  At first I was mildly annoyed to be woken up so much earlier than absolutely necessary- but when I decided to try getting up early too instead of laying there trying to squeeze in those last few minutes of sleep I suddenly had so much more free time in my day!  And where mornings used to be alot of frantic rushing around and stress, they’re now calmer, peaceful and actually pleasant- which is a nice start to the rest of the day.)

3.  Waste less time on TV, Facebook, etc.

 It’s so easy to grab my phone when I have a free minute, open Facebook and spend 30 minutes scrolling through other people’s lives.  Or to watch “just one more episode of whatever” on Netflix…6 or 7 times.   And while there’s nothing wrong with catching up with friends or enjoying a couple shows occasionally-  these activities have the potential to drain away a lot of my time with very little positive results to show for it.   I’m becoming more aware of how I’m choosing to invest my free time.

4.  Fill the void– Be productive with downtime; read, listen to podcasts, exercise or connect with someone.

We all have things we know would be beneficial for us but we “just don’t have time” for.  And while it may be difficult to find a whole extra uninterrupted hour in a day, we all have little pockets of time we can put to good use.   Five minutes to go for a quick walk outside, 10 minutes to read one chapter in a book or call a friend you haven’t talked with in a while.

We live in Houston so we spend a lot of time driving and in traffic- and I used to just flip constantly through several radio stations and get frustrated we weren’t moving any faster.   However lately I’ve been using my drive time to listen to podcasts and that gives me something to focus on and makes the drive time feel so much faster.  A friend of mine uses her drive time as prayer time and prays for herself, family and friends while driving.  How can you make better use of the little pockets of time we all have scattered throughout our day?

These are just a few of the resources and life changes I’ve found to be helpful recently and I hope they are useful for you too as you start off 2017!  I’d love to hear what positive changes you’re making in your life and what helps keep you motivated and focused on your New Year’s Goals!

 

Why I’m Never “Caught Up”

Last week I listened to an interview with author Steve McClatchy on time management.  It was a bit mind altering. I had to listen to it three times to fully process the ideas Steve was presenting.  I wanted to summarize some of the main points that really captured my attention here and I hope it is as helpful to you as it was to me.  (The full interview can be heard on Success Magazine’s February 2015 CD.)

  1. There are 2 types of activities we do in life.

-Prevent pain activities:  Things that we have to do or we will have negative consequences- our “to-do” list.

            Ex: take out the trash, clean house, laundry, etc.

-Gain activities: Things that move us closer to our big goals in life.

            Ex: write a book, get a degree, go on a vacation

Most of the activities in the Prevent Pain category are cyclical and must be done on a repetitive basis.  In other words- you’ll never “get caught up.”  Often we tell ourselves, “I’ll work on my goals when I get caught up with _________ first.”   But if we wait to work on our Gain tasks until we have time we’ll never get to them because we’ll be too busy taking out the trash and doing laundry.   This is why some days we can feel like we’ve been so busy all day long but didn’t really accomplish much.  One solution for this abundance of tasks and shortage of time is to delete or delegate some of these simple, repetitive activities.

  1. We must make time for what’s truly important.

If we want to make progress on our goals we must be intentional about scheduling time to work on them.  The same is true for relationships.  Leaving things to chance or spare time will never work.  Get out your list of goals and your calendar and schedule time to make progress on what you truly want to work on, and then guard that time and commitment carefully.

  1. Do your best work at your best time.

We all have a different time of the day when we work best, when we feel our most alert, energetic and creative.  Schedule your most important tasks for these times so you can make the most progress- and save the mundane chores for your less productive times.  Don’t waste your best energy doing laundry.

  1. Live in the now.

We have to train our brain out of the habit of just crossing tasks off the to-do list and learn instead how to live fully in the present moment and actually enjoy the life we’re living now.  Vacations can help with this.  Schedule one today!

 

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Write your own Job Description

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Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the stuff you need to do and you don’t know where to start?   Or do you ever feel like you’ve been busy all day long but didn’t actually get much done? I get that way sometimes.  And for some reason when I get stressed I tend to clean…which is not always a bad thing because I like my house to be clean, but it usually isn’t the best use of my time when I have a lot of other things that I need to be doing.

One way we can help stay better focused and actually accomplish some of our projects and goals is to write our own job description.  Start by listing out your responsibilities and tasks you need to accomplish.

My list for my career coaching and speaking business included:

            Grow / Learn: read blogs, podcasts, TED talks, Platform University

            Create / Give: write blogs, videos, workshops

            Market/ Network: advertise, connect, book events

            Speak / Coach:  my actual fun “work” activities

Then analyze your schedule and work habits and assign your tasks to the best time slot.

Mine is here:

             Mornings: productive, active, energetic

                        Quiet time to focus

                        Do creative work / blogging

                        Network/ connect / book events

            Afternoons: usually less engaged mentally

                        Do busy work-  run errands, laundry, cleaning, etc

                        Exercise with podcasts

            Evenings: usually rather passive

                        Growing/ Learning: watch TED talks, Platform University

I’ve also found that To-Do Lists help keep me focused.  So when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed I write out everything I need to get done and start ruthlessly working through it so I can cross stuff off my list.  There’s something quite addicting about crossing stuff off a To-Do list.  Lately I’m trying to make my list the night before so I wake up with a plan and don’t spend 2 or 3 hours busy but not productive.  It’s easy to find stuff to do, but without a plan sometimes you never get to the most important tasks.

One last thought:  pay attention to your most common time wasters-  checking e-mail, facebook, tv, whatever- know where you tend to get stuck and plan accordingly.  But don’t waste your most productive hours on activities with low returns.  Be intentional with your time so you can make the most of it in a focused organized way and avoid the frantic rushing around with little direction or accomplishment.

Detours

Sometimes life doesn’t work out exactly as we envision.  Sometimes there are bumps in the road in the road to success.  Sometimes mountains.  Sometimes quicksand.  Sometimes being a grown up isn’t as easy or as glamorous as we anticipated.

An unplanned pregnancy, a relationship ends, illnesses happen, jobs don’t work out.

So then what?  What do you do when you need to come up with a Plan B, or C, or D right now?

You have two options:

  1. Shut down / Get bitter

-Focus on the past, replay regrets – what should have been and what went wrong and make excuses for why things can’t get better.

  1. Keep going / Get stronger

-Focus on the future, keep moving, learn from the past and get better because of it.

The difference is your attitude, not the circumstances.  So when life gets messy and it’s not what you were planning for don’t just shut down.  Give yourself time to analyze the situation, reevaluate your goals and recalculate your directions- but keep moving.  Don’t get stuck.  Do the best you can with what you have to work with and remember you can’t control the rest of the world, but your response is up to you.

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Which adjectives best describe your typical day at work?

  Focused  or  Distracted

Productive  or  Busy

Organized  or  Overwhelmed

Engaged  or  Apathetic

Calm  or  Anxious

Which list best describes your typical day at work?

My first two years as a new nurse definitely involved all the adjectives on the second list and few from the first.  I worked 12 hour days on the med-surg floor taking care of about 6 patients with lots of issues, medications, doctors, and worried family members.  And I hated my life because of my job.  I remember thinking multiple times a day, “There has got to be a better way!  This can’t be it!”

Eventually I found another job- still in nursing but this time in the Baby Department and my overall job satisfaction improved greatly.  But even working with precious little babies can get a little hectic from time to time…especially when there’s 20 of them all over the nursery and they all decide they’re hungry at 7:10am, which is also when all the doctors show up needing help with this and that and the phone starts ringing that we need nurses for more deliveries and there’s visitors staring through the nursery glass watching us zoom around trying to organize the chaos… and then I just remind myself, “It’s ok- it could be worse- it could be med-surg!”  But even on the crazy days I am still grateful for that job, in that department, and with the awesome nurses I get to work with.  (Some days I might have to remind myself that I am grateful a few times before I start to believe it… my nursing friends understand this…  🙂

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Our work days can be noisy and our schedules can get hectic quickly.   Here’s a few ways to manage the chaos without having a nervous breakdown:

  1. Sleep – Your body and mind need time to rest. Often when we’re feeling stressed we try to cut into our sleep to get more done- this is rarely helpful long term.
  2. Pray or meditate- Giving yourself some quiet time to focus before a busy day can help us stay in the right mindset throughout the day- and our attitude has a profound impact on our day.
  3. Prioritize your To-Do list- focus your best attention on the most important tasks, delegate or decline the ones you don’t have time to do well now. Give yourself time to prepare for upcoming projects & use that time efficiently.
  4. Be healthy- Food is our fuel and our bodies and brains can only go so long on coffee, coke and cheeseburgers. Exercise is a great stress reliever and there’s so many different options to help make exercise fun.
  5. Relax and have fun- When you work in job situations with high levels of stress or responsibility you need time to unplug from that and just relax. Friends or hobbies can help with this.  My personal favorite way to relax after a chaotic day is a bubble bath. Vacations are also fantastic ways to take a long break from work and recharge.

Finally, depending on your personal life and job satisfaction, you may need to reevaluate your work situation and goals and see if there could be better options you could consider.  If you’re living for Friday’s and dreading Monday’s it might be time to explore new opportunities.

Three Options when Facing Fear

Fear is a normal response to new or unfamiliar situations.  And it’s not always a bad thing.  Fear can help us be cautious of a potentially dangerous situation.  But fear can also shut us down.  This can sometimes come across as “the voice of reason” or “just being realistic” or “here’s a list of all the reasons this idea won’t work.”  And we can often talk ourselves out of an idea because there may be some element of risk or uncertainty involved.  Life is full of change.  And change can often be scary.  But if nothing ever changed how safe and boring would life be?

So how can we constructively handle fear:

  1. Assess the situation or decision for what it truly is.
  2. Identify the true risks and separate them from the unknowns or unfamiliar.
  3. Weigh the risks and the benefits of your options.

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?”  (Usually it’s not the end of the world.)

“What’s the best thing that could happen?”

  1. Pray and seek wise counsel – especially from people who have done what you’re considering.
  2. Make a decision and move forward.

Fear can sometimes be crippling and the easiest decision is often to do nothing-this is sometimes referred to as “analysis paralysis.”  Often it takes doing the thing we’re most afraid of to realize it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be.  Sometimes we can break this down into small steps we can work on a little at a time- a process known as “gradual desensitization.”  Other times we may just have to jump out of the plane.  Next time you feel fear remember you have three options: shut down, move forward with baby steps, or face it head on and see what’s on the other side.  It might just be amazing.

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“Do one thing every day that scares you.”   ― Eleanor Roosevelt

What is one thing you’re afraid of?  What is one thing you could do today to constructively face that fear?  Or how have you faced a fear in the past and what was the outcome?

 

(P.S.  This is not a picture of me skydiving, because I don’t have a picture of me skydiving…because I’ve never been skydiving…because that kinda scares me a lot… but it also looks kinda awesome….so I need a buddy.  Any takers?)

New Growth

We had a bit of break in the gray winter weather yesterday so I scooped up the Yorkies and headed off for a long walk around the pond.  They were so excited to be out of the house and bounding around chasing ducks and celebrating the sunshine.
 
As I was walking through the layers of fallen leaves I looked up at the empty tree branches and wondered how much longer it would be before they started blooming again with new growth for Spring.  

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And I realized that sometimes in our lives we have to let go of old things to make room for new growth.  And sometimes we don’t want to let go of what’s familier to us, don’t want to move, or change jobs, or leave old friends because sometimes all we focus on is what we’re losing. 

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But the beauty of the seasons and of our life is that the new is coming.  New growth, new jobs, new friends, new seasons. 
 
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 What in your life is God calling you to let go of to make room for new growth?
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven…”  Ecclesiastes 3:1
 
This blog post is deticated with love to my sweet Mother, who was my very first blog subscriber and one of my biggest fans- and who has been working on Spring Cleaning for a while now… Remember Mom, “Let it go, let it go!”

8 Tips for Increasing Productivity

Do you ever feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done that you need to (and still get enough sleep)?  Have you ever made it to the end of a day and wondered what exactly you were busy doing all day?  I have sometimes felt like the little hamster frantically running in the wheel, quite busy all day- but not actually accomplishing much by the end of the day.  Here are a few tips that can help move us from busy activity to actual progress and success with our goals.

1. Work when you’re most alert.

Try to schedule most of your tasks for the time when you’re most likely to be awake, alert and able to focus clearly.   Most people report that they tend to be most mentally sharp mid-morning (assuming they had a decent amount of sleep the night before), and many report a brief crash after lunch.  Some people claim they get their second wind after 9pm.  Take advantage of your own creative rhythms and do your most important work when you’re at your best. picture-4

I have found my mind tends to wake up and take off running as soon as my feet hit the floor (usually about 7:30 if work doesn’t require me up sooner)- and has shut down completely by about 8:30 in the evening- so night classes or a night job would never be a good idea for me.

2. Take a break.

sleeping-kittenBalance your physical and mental activity.  Our minds are usually not capable of preforming at top capacity for extended periods of time.  Without a break here and there we tend to exhaust ourselves and are more likely to make mistakes and produce poor quality work.  So work hard for a bit- then take a break.  Go for a walk to get your blood flowing (outside if possible – sunlight increases our vitamin D levels and can be helpful in building our immune system, reducing stress and fighting depression).

Caribbean Vacation Beach HammockIn addition to short breaks throughout the day, remember that sometimes an actual vacation can be a refreshing time to change your routine, relax, and hopefully return with a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm – assuming you actually return.  (I could have easily stayed on the ship for another couple of months after our first  cruise- but I did return to work with a more cheerful attitude, which lasted about 3 full days- clearly the lesson here is that cruises should be a bi-monthly occurrence…)

3.  Remove (or at least limit) distractions.

time-flies1-760x424It’s so easy to waste an hour (or more) of daylight on facebook, checking e-mail, or keeping up with office gossip that isn’t exactly necessary.  Pay attention to your biggest time traps and set up a strategy to avoid getting stuck when you need to be busy accomplishing something important.   Turn off the TV, computer, or Words with Friends while you need to focus- or schedule a 15 minute window for checking all your social pages, and then return to work when the timer goes off.

4.  De-clutter (and decorate) your work environment.

Strive to keep your work area somewhat organized and well arranged.  While some especially artistic personality types tend to enjoy working in a cluttered space, most people find clutter to be distracting and a bit unnerving.

Before any big test in nursing school I always had to clean my dorm (the bigger the test the more thorough the cleaning).  Somehow I just couldn’t focus on memorizing the endocrine system when there were dirty dishes in the sink or laundry in the basket (perhaps this was a procrastination technique?  More on that later…)8891_Corner_Office

In addition to keeping your work space clean, try to make it an inviting and enjoyable place for you to be.  Add a lamp or pictures of family (or the cat), or a piece of art – anything unique that helps you feel inspired, creative or basically positive.

5.  Check your diet.

work-tired-youtube-videosIncreasing caffeine and sugar consumption is usually not the best solution to increasing productivity or working under stress- and usually comes with a crash after the initial high wears off.  Some healthy and energy-giving alternatives for snacking could include: fresh fruit or veggie sticks, nuts, peanut butter, boiled eggs, toast, string cheese, yogurt with granola, water or fruit juice.

6.  Keep a to-do list.

Research has proven we are more likely to reach our goals when they are written down and visible.  And there’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment that comes with scratching a completed project off your to-do list.   Keep in mind if you’re working on a big project it may be more helpful to break it into smaller steps to stay focused and keep from getting overwhelmed.

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7.  Prioritize.

Some days you may not have enough time to get done all you would like to.  On these days focus on what is most important first.  We also must learn to differentiate between urgent unnecessary demands and truly important tasks.  It’s easy to become the hamster frantically running in the wheel busy with all sorts of trivial issues.  Remember that it’s ok to say no to some requests for our time or attention so we can focus more on what is important.

8.  “Always be prepared.”

advice_1962357bAs often as possible try to prepare for projects in advance- waiting to the last minute increases stress and tends to produce sub-quality work.  This requires a bit of foresight and time management – but the lower stress level is definitely worth it.  A calendar or day planner is helpful when preparing for future projects so you can see when something is due and schedule time to prepare in advance.

Nursing school was helpful in teaching me the value of preparation.  Our first day of class we were informed that classes would begin promptly at the scheduled time and that “Early is on time, on time is late, and late is completely unacceptable.”  It only took getting locked out of class once to get the memo.

“Lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”     

-Sign hanging outside an instructors door in nursing school.

I hope some of these ideas help you stay focused and get more done in your day!

What other tips have you found that help you be more productive?

Reprogramming Your Auto-Pilot: How to Achieve Lasting Change

So we’re heading into the first full week of the new year!  How are you doing with your New Year’s Resolutions?  Still committed and excited?   A little less motivated than you were on the 1st?   Or back to the status quo already?   Hopefully these ideas will help you build some positive momentum wherever your Monday finds you.

I’ve noticed that I usually start a new project with high levels of enthusiasm and effort- which quickly dissipate over the next few hours or days.  Typically this involves me announcing to myself that I am going to get into good shape (for me this means be able to run a whole mile without dying).  So I eat a banana and go to the gym for a vigorous hour long workout.  As soon as I come home, I immediately step on the scale, see that I weigh about the same I weighed pre-workout and don’t go back to the gym for 4 months.  So I end up exercising about three times a year, and still can’t run a whole mile.

I think I’m not alone.  Most people tend to want immediate results and are quickly frustrated when they don’t see instantaneous and dramatic progress.  When trying to implement lifestyle changes it is helpful to remember that creating lasting change takes time and hard work.

Success = Effort Over Time.

The following Change Agents are some helpful tips for creating personal transformation:

1.  Set goals that are realistic and specific.  If they’re too challenging it’s easy to get discouraged and give up.  If they’re too vague, it’s easy to forget about them.  If you have one big goal that you’re working toward, break it down into smaller steps so you can measure your progress.

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For example, don’t say your goal is to “Get In Shape”, instead say you want to lose 10 pounds by March 1st.  Or in my case, when trying to run a mile, I tell myself, “Just make it to that tree.  Good!  Now just make it to that bench- ok now make it past that duck…”   The little markers along the way help make a big goal more manageable.

goals2.  Keep your goals written & visible.  The act of writing out a goal helps clarify your vision. Being reminded of them daily helps keep you focused and on-task.  “Out of sight, out of mind” is true when starting a new pattern in life.  Here’s a good article by Michael Hyatt about writing goals.
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3.  Buddy up.  Not only can company make the journey more enjoyable, but consistent accountability can be a motivating reminder to stick with your commitments.

january4. Map out your strategy.  Be intentional about scheduling time for your new commitments instead of waiting for a convenient time to come up.  Seeing your workout time or date night on the calendar gives yourself time to mentally prepare beforehand.  Life is busy and we have to make time for what is truly important or it may not get done.

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5.  Celebrate small victories.  This could be getting a massage, buying a new book, going on a weekend getaway, whatever would be motivating for you.   A friend at work introduced me to the website Novica where artists from around the world hand craft beautiful pieces of unique jewelry.  She told me she rewards herself with a new piece of jewelry from this site whenever she accomplishes one of her recent goals.  Remind yourself of whatever reward you’ve set when you need a little extra motivation to keep going.

love exercise6.  Make it fun- find ways to enjoy your new activities.  If the smell of sweat and rubber isn’t appealing to you but you want to exercise more, don’t commitment to a yearlong gym membership, but consider finding a Zumba class or nature center for your exercise goals.  If you find a way to enjoy the work, you’re more likely to stick with it.

rest7.  Don’t overload yourself.  Pick a few goals to focus on at a time, not an entire lifestyle upheaval.  Remember that stress and exhaustion make staying committed to new goals difficult- be sure to keep yourself healthy and get the rest you need so you’ll have energy to work on your new endeavors.

dontgiveup8. Don’t give up.  It’s easy to find excuses for why something won’t work.  Creating lasting change is hard but you’ll only succeed if you keep working on it.

Happy Monday, Friends!

 

Special thanks to my husband, Nathan, for helping me learn how to add pictures to a blog post!  Thanks, Buddy!  You can check out his new blog here.