With everyone pressed for time and email inboxes overflowing, one of the worst things you can do is fire off an email that is unread, left lingering or summarily deleted. Not only do poor emails waste time on both ends – minutes and hours that could be used more productively – but they also may create negative impressions about your ability to think, solve problems and communicate.

If you want to be known as someone who acts strategically, demonstrates leadership and otherwise has a positive professional outlook, writing better emails is a crucial place to start.

 ✔︎ Prepare

 ✔︎ Write

 ✔︎ Review

 ✔︎ Follow-Up

Click here or on the icon below to read my results-driven system to writing effective emails on Forbes.com. Click here to request my 12-point checklist “Write Emails that Get Results.”

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Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is founder of Segal Coaching, author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and through local booksellers) and a frequent public speaker in New York, Connecticut and beyond.

Image credit: Adobe Images.

Hello November sign on blackboard

Hello November! Today marks 61 days to the end of the year!

If you saw my time management posts from last week, you know that productivity or even prioritization is not the ultimate goal. The goal is to spend your time like the precious commodity that it is. 

If you count up the days in November and December, you have 61 days of opportunity before the New Year. That’s 1,464 hours.

1,464 hours to make count on what is meaningful to you. 

Clients often ask me how to make better use of their time. Here’s what I suggest:

Figure out what you want to do most. For example, maybe you want to celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and/or Kwanzaa holidays without interruptions. Then back into what you can do now to get yourself there. What do you know will be lingering over your head, ready to jump out at you, if you don’t address it early?

If you can get ahead of the game, without rushing, not only will your work product be better but also your quality of life.

Again, Happy November! Hope your hours are meaningful, however you choose (or need) to spend them.

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach, author and resume writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She recently brushed up on her time management skills to finish her first book, Master the Interview. Her short post about what it is like to write a book is here.

Image above from Adobe Images.

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If you live in the U.S., it’s almost Halloween. That means time for fun, if you can get the work done.

Four Quick Tips to Getting It Done

Here are four quick tips to making your day more productive, so you can get on with the festivities.

  1. Prioritize. Only do what really matters, and the parts that matter, based on what results can be achieved before November 1. (Coming back to the rest when you have more time, and prioritizing again.)
  2. Delegate ruthlessly. If there is a better person to complete a task than you, and you can be confident it will be done right, take the time to pass it on.

  3. Take breaks. Even if you are racing at breakneck speed to get stuff done, you will be more productive if you break up the tasks with a walk or change of scene every hour or so.

  4. Be organized. Just as chefs set out all of their ingredients and utensils before starting to cook (called “mise en place”), you will achieve a greater result in less time if you can mitigate distractions and sustain concentration while completing a task.

Copyright 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

Image above from Adobe Images.

 

Time and idea

 

How can you successfully manage your time when the next great idea could strike at any moment?

How do you make time for inspiration in any already busy day?

As a coach, I provide answers. As an individual, I have my own questions. One question that I have been struggling with this past year is how to foster inspiration while maintaining a sense of balance. I must admit that these two goals often work at cross-purposes in my life, as they do for many others who are blessed with the creativity bug.

Often the more I am inspired I am, the harder it is to be at peace. Channeling inspiration is a nagging, messy, guarded and complicated process. It makes me want to wake up at the wee hours of the morning and start going, and it propels me to extend my day much beyond the time my body is telling me that I need rest. It urges me to skip lunch and feed it instead.

Inspiration says, “don’t stop and eat lunch, feed me instead!”

I can set a perfect plan – at 10 am I will be doing X, by 11:30 am I will move to Y. But inspiration is jealous. It does not know how to share. It threatens to abandon me if I leave it on its own for too long, so when I return at 12:30 pm, it may be grumpy like a child.

Of course, I need inspiration as much as I need water, and I am sure you do too. The more inspired I am, the more I find passion and meaning in my life and the more energy I have for the other tasks in my day. On the days that I am most inspired, my output can be 20x the days that I am not.

To that end, I have become a huge fan of energy management rather than time management. If you focus on energy management, you channel your activities with the end game of increasing your overall energy for the day, so you can be at your best in each task. This matches many of us more than straight time management, in which we try to fit inspiration into a set of pre-programmed times.

Yet our days don’t always work that way either. Inspiration on one topic may strike at 1 pm, and a critical meeting on another may start at 1:15. So the question may become how to push and pull inspiration, weaving it into our free hours (however many or few those may be) without dampening those very creative ideas and the flow that can accompany their execution. 

This is hard. In fact, it may be one of the hardest things that we need to do as human beings. Coaxing inspiration to fit into the ins and outs of modern life is akin to shaping glass – you need just the right amount of heat, skill and supple touch – and you need to risk that your project will be a bust. Yet the more you practice, the better your results will be.

I have found something that has worked for me, so I wanted to share it. It’s a cliche, but made new again in this analogous context. Here it is:”If you love something, set it free.”

I love inspiration, so I have set it free. Right now, for example, I am writing this post at 9:50 am. I will stop at 10 am to prepare for my next meeting. If it means that I lose my train of thought, there is always another train. I cannot control inspiration, but it doesn’t control me either. We live in harmony with each other.

Inspiration will not leave you if it knows you are coming back.

If you live in the world of inspiration long enough, it starts to feel like home. It’s like an old friend with whom you can pick up a conversation started 15 minutes or 15 years earlier. Or a child who knows that although you have left the room, you will always return. If you trust inspiration, it will trust you back.

9:58 am. Inspiration, it’s almost time to go. It’s farewell and not goodbye. See you soon!

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach, author and resume writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. Her book on job interviews, Master the Interview, is available on Amazon.com

Image above from Adobe Images.

 

Fire alarm push botton

A client recently asked:

If you spend all day putting out so-called fires at your job – in a very reactive environment – how can you possibly plan or address your career pro-actively?

Preliminaries:

First, let’s define some terms:

  1. Pro-active: creating a situation or causing something to happen
  2. Reactive: responding to a situation (rather than creating or controlling it)
  3. Fire alarm: a colloquial way to describe a frantic and urgent situation or deadline in a corporate environment, often one that is a “false alarm” created by lack of planning rather than a true emergency

As Randy Pauch said, in the last few months of his life, “time is the only commodity that matters.” We need to manage our time just as we manage our money, and in fact the time management piece is even more important. In addition, as you may realize already, most leadership roles are only achieved by individuals who have learned to address matters pro-actively, yet most environments today are full of fire alarms that require us to react rather than plan our time.

Answer:

Here are some ways to manage your time, even in a pro-active environment:

  1. Stop the bleeding, then take care of the patient. Sometimes an emergency has pieces that need to be addressed immediately and other parts that can wait. Can you schedule your day so that you can still get the important things done while addressing what is urgent? Are there portions you can delegate?
  2. Block your calendar, and then block it again. In order to plan, you need to block out uninterrupted time on your calendar. If an emergency (real or otherwise) creeps up on you, the first thing to do is to move the blocked time on your calendar a few days out, so it stays scheduled and is not forgotten.
  3. Break things into small steps. While you may not be able to plan the next few months and what you would like to achieve, you can start to plan individual pieces of it. If you only have 10 minutes, you can empower yourself to do one thing that really matters.
  4. “Do the right things, rather than ‘doing things right.'” I owe this quote to Randy Pausch and the lecture I link above. As he said, “You don’t need to clean the underside of the bannister.” In other words, put your efforts where they pack a punch. For more about that generally, see my posts on the 80/20 rule and high profile/high need tasks.
  5. Know and remember the goal(s). Ask why. Start by asking yourself, and then (if appropriate) politely and directly ask the person who created the task. What are the intended benefits of the work you are doing? Don’t just do something because you are told to do it; think about what results you are individually and collectively trying to achieve. This will save you time if you can find more efficient ways to get to a solution – and avoid unnecessary iterations – rather than just following steps assigned (which may not have been well thought out in the first place). It will also keep you focused on the point in #4 above.
  6. Stop wasting time during your day. Be more organized and match your workload to meet your peak energy levels. Also, eliminate distractions. I’ll talk about all of this more in a future post.

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach, author and resume writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. Her first book, Master the Interview, is available on Amazon.com

Image above from Adobe Images.

 

Woman working at home

Working On Your Career vs. In Your Career – What is the Difference?

If you have ever spent time in an entrepreneurial role, you have likely heard the phrase “working on your business” (versus “working in your business”). Working on your business means investing time in activities that will build the business over the long term,  such as marketing, streamlining of activities and professional development. While these activities may serve your immediate clients, they also are critical to assure that your business is headed in the direction that you determine will best position you for growth. In fact, a crucial part of working on your business is figuring out where the future growth lies, aside from how to achieve it.

Employees at companies, as well as new graduates, often do not have the lens of working on their careers as well as in them. In fact, a large part of my work with my own clients is helping them understand the importance of also lifting their heads up, rather than always keeping their heads down. To rise to the higher-level (and more interesting) roles, you need to lift your head above the fray of everyday life and activities to see the bigger picture. We know this intuitively, but we are often too busy to stop and do it.

In addition, it is only the fortunate few who are encouraged to think beyond the box. In a minority of workplaces (and sometimes only for a minority of employees in them), leadership is expected and part of one’s contributions is to develop that presence and state of mind, which can only be achieved when there is time and space to work on developing that goal rather than letting the days go by consumed by urgent deadlines and ill-defined projects whose benefits have not been fully vetted.

Instead, we are often taught in school and tacitly (or openly) encouraged in jobs to keep plugging along, rather than being strategic about where to place our efforts. We move from academia where assignments are determined by a professor or instructor to the workplace where tasks are doled out by bosses or leadership teams.

Due to this constant source of new projects from above, it is not hard to understand why many people go through their careers expecting the decisions to be made for them, rather than seeking out leadership and decision-making opportunities themselves. I often call this “gotta make the donuts” after a commercial by Dunkin’ Donuts in which an beleaguered store employee kept running back to the store every few hours so that his customers (you and me) could have fresh donuts to eat. How different are many of us in our jobs, running from task to task, so harried and hurried that we almost forget why we are doing what we are doing?

Beautiful young woman working in her office.

A large part of my work with clients is helping them lift their heads up, rather than always keeping them down.

In yesterday’s post, I shared that there are 10 weeks until year end. I encourage you to spend a meaningful amount of uninterrupted time – and at least one or two hours – this week or next thinking about how you will spend them.

In the rush of holiday parties and vacations, it is tempting to go on autopilot, with the chief goal of just getting there, making it to year end, rather than actually achieving something meaningful in the time until the calendar turns over to the next January 1. You may have a rush of New Year’s resolutions, but don’t let this time be lost time. There’s a lot you can achieve even before 2017. Here are some ideas:

  • Set up 3-4 networking events or activities in the months of November and December
  • Write an article on a current topic in your field
  • Line up a public speaking event or, better yet, give one
  • Finish ONE project that has been nagging you all year
  • Start ONE project that you can (and will) complete by year end
  • Take the first step in a project that can complete by mid-year 2017
  • Attend a conference that is meaningful to your future
  • Learn a new skill that you need now or to grow in the future
  • Update your resume
  • Find a new mentor or sponsor who can help propel your career
  • Strengthen an existing relationship by a few acts of giving and kindness
  • Help mentor a younger person in whom you see great potential

When working on your career, it is not enough to just do something. Choose the best idea based on what will bring the most benefits to your career. If you don’t know what that would be, you have just identified your greatest area of need – figuring out what will benefit you based on where you want to take your career next (and, possibly, determine where exactly that is). Can you do that, or make significant progress toward that goal, by year end? Yes, but only if you work on it!

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach, author and resume writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. Her book on job interviews, Master the Interview, is available on Amazon.com. Her website is at www.annemariesegal.com.

Images above from Adobe Images.

 

January 1 Sunday

Psst… January 1 is almost here!

Did you accomplish everything you wanted to achieve in 2016?

I know I haven’t yet. Although I did write a book (my first), there were many other goals I set for myself that remain undone. One of these was writing 50 posts for this blog in 2016. So far, I have written 21 posts, plus one guest blog and this post totaling 23. And I have only 10 weeks to go.

You may have your own goals that remain unmet….

Earlier in my career, I was obsessed with the smaller goals. Set a goal, and meet it. Set another one. It was textbook tunnel vision.

Over time, I learned that the TRUE GOALS are to live your best life and make the greatest contributions to your work (writ large) and the world. Sometimes our smaller goals, if we let them take precedence over our greater goals, obscure what is really important. Other times, when we are doing it right, our smaller goals support our greater goals.

When we are doing it right, our smaller goals support our greater goals.

So in the last 10 weeks of 2016, what now?

Now, you get to decide how to spend the rest of this calendar year, before you rip off the last page and turn to January 1, 2017. (Did you ever think we would be here?) No pressure. These are YOUR days to live. Make them count.

There are 10 more weeks until the end of the year, and less if you plan to take off for holidays or vacations between now and then. May I suggest you take an hour or two this week to plan your days for the rest of the year? You will be much further along in meeting your goals before we ring in the New Year.

Here’s the key: prioritize. 

Here’s the key: prioritize. Not every goal needs to be met. How much time do you actually have? What can you reasonably accomplish in the weeks and days that remain of this calendar year? Which goals are the ones that will bring the most results in the short-term and long-term? What do you want and need to do? How can you set yourself up for next year and beyond?

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach, author and resume writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. Her book on job interviews, Master the Interview, is available on Amazon.com.

Image above from Adobe Images.