It’s November: Time to Revisit Your Priorities?

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.

4 Quick Tips for Controlling the Time Demon on Halloween Weekend

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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.

 

Working On (vs. In) Your Career

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.

 

10 Weeks Until Year End – January 1, 2017 is coming!

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.

 

Ten Ways to Beat Your Procrastination

Have a lot to do today? This week? This lifetime?

So why aren’t you finishing that little task that should take 10 minutes (two hours later) or that looming project that should take 10 hours (back-burnered for two months)? And what can you do about it?

There are many different motivation killers, and you could be suffering from one or more of them. Are you bored? Ambivalent? Out of your comfort zone? Here are ten common reasons you may procrastinate, and how to get going:

1) You are tired. It happens. We have high-energy days and low-energy days. So what do you do? Finish the small tasks that will make you feel that you’ve accomplished something on the days that you are dragging, and save the bigger tasks for the days (and times of day) when your energy is at its peak.

If there is a day you can get more done, schedule some time to relax on another day, such as on a Friday afternoon. Procrastinating is time-wasting, and it is non-productive. Reprioritizing your time is taking advantage of your normal highs and lows, and catching yourself at your best. Nap or have downtime if you are tired, and later make it up. Or finish your memo or report first, then get an hour of reward time. And don’t squander it on Facebook or mindless web searches, you earned that hour!

shutterstock_leaning over desk

If you know you’ll be tired this Friday (your deadline) because you plan to be out late Thursday night, let your motivation be enjoying Thursday night because you’re finishing the project by Wednesday.

If you are consistently tired, of course, get more sleep and nutrition. You have to keep yourself running well to do good work, and a tired brain or body can’t go the extra mile when needed.

2) You are hungry. In the modern world, we put off lunches and dinners because we think we will be more efficient. In the long run, we are racing to finish things but not being more effective over the course of a month or a year.

Eat when you are hungry. Have an apple with some almond butter. Or whatever suits your fancy and fuels you up.

I don’t keep it a secret that I have food with me at all times and stash the storable variety in desk drawers at my office. If your workplace does not have a refrigerator, consider investing in a mini-fridge for yourself or with a group.

3) You are bored. Boring tasks are hard to finish. It’s just a fact of life. The worst part is when they take over half a day or more because they are SOOO boring that they rain on your happy-parade. (Yes, I did say that.) I have two solutions for making boring tasks less tedious: get creative and drum up a deadline.

Make a boring task less brain-draining, and keep your focus, by using brightly colored pens or highlighters or crossing out lines on the page as you complete each one. In other words, dress up the task to make it more interesting.

You can also create a deadline, even if one doesn’t exist. I often set a timer on my phone and bet myself how quickly I can finish something. This doesn’t mean you do everything on ASAP mode or ignore important details. It does mean, however, that you get the hard parts done with the momentum of adrenaline. Sometimes, it works even better if you have someone else who can be your designated “taskmaster” on the task. For example, bet that you will pay a friend $1 (or $10) if you don’t finish the super-boring-thing by noon. Or more, if that’s not enough to motivate.

Betting yourself you can finish early doesn’t mean you do everything on ASAP mode or ignore important details. It does mean, however, that you get the hard parts done with the momentum of adrenaline. 

4) You need to move. Maybe you are procrastinating because your muscles feel as stiff as hard as the chair you are sitting in. Get up from your desk. Stretch. Walk around. Oh, and make a plan to go to the gym this week, or get outside and run, walk or swim in the sunshine.

5) You are distracted. Distractions abound, and you need to find ways to get around them. Sometimes they are physical distractions, like conversations you can’t help overhearing that drown out your own thoughts in your head. Can you take action to create a more peaceful atmosphere? Or can you relocate?

Sometimes distractions are emotional, like expecting an important phone call or being upset. Take a moment to recognize the feeling and, if possible, address whatever come up. If it is a phone call, for example, and you are worried about what you’ll say, write down five speaking points for the conversation. If you are upset, maybe the priority for you in that moment is to work out what is going on (or, if you are on a deadline, take at least take five minutes to honor the feeling, rather than trying to bury it). Then you can go back to complete the other task that you have been distracted from.

For the five procrastination triggers above, the key is being aware of yourself and your surroundings. For the five below, beat the procrastination game with tactical strategies and your own priorities.

6) You haven’t broken a large project into smaller tasks. Create a chart or list to map out what you need to do, then cross off each task as it is completed. You will feel a sense of accomplishment to have 6 out of 10 parts done, rather than a sense of defeat that you still have not finished the project. Consider breaking it down by function or mini-deliverable (even if the only recipient is yourself) rather than a step-by-step list.

7) You are out of your comfort zone. Sometimes you may not have the skills or information to tackle what is expected of you, or what you have designated as a new area that you would like to master. Where can you get it? Who can you ask? Or can you start first and fill in the details later? For example, can your first task be to familiarize yourself with the process? Cross that off your list, and you are one step closer to your goal of completion.

8) You have forgotten your priorities. Next time a work project or task is taking more time than it needs, ask yourself what you could be doing with the time if you were more efficient. What’s your big picture, based on your own values and priorities? Chances are that you’ll have lots of good answers about how you could be using that extra time.

At the same time, sometimes we focus more on a smaller task because we don’t want to get to the larger one that is really the priority. It’s fine to do that if you are really getting things out of the way to have a clean slate to concentrate, but not if the lower-priority items weigh you down or are time-wasters masquerading as helpful tasks.

If you looked back on your life a month or a year from now, would you be thankful for how your spent your time. Does it fit into your big picture?

9) You are ambivalent about whether you want to do it. This point is similar to the one above. If you are consistently late responding to someone or deciding whether to commit to a project, maybe you are uncertain whether it is the best use of your time or resources, or if you can make the emotional commitment to see it through. This can manifest as procrastination, but really it’s your gut talking to you. Can you hear it?

Take the time to sort out your thoughts and feelings. How does this person or project fit into your bigger plan? Will you have more energy, move yourself further toward a life or professional goal, do important work and enjoy it? I used to think that at least one of these had to be true to make the commitment. Now I look for all four.

(Note: the” important work” from time to time may only be keeping your job, but if it often feels like that’s the only importance of your work and time spent, maybe a life change is in order?)

10) You want it to be perfectLife is a process, and so is work. Deadlines require that we complete things before they are perfect. And frankly, what may be “perfect” to one person may be only “pretty good” to another, or even to your future self!

You will get more points for getting something done, on time, when you are fresh, than belaboring it through to a long and bitter end, where the big thought could get lost in the polishing of details. Take satisfaction not from perfection, but from valuing yourself and each moment of your time on this planet.

You only get one life, after all. How do you want to spend it?

Anne Marie Segal is a business and career coach to attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She writes a blog on career and business issues and often posts on LinkedIn Pulse. You can find her website here.

If you have any more tips to get motivated and beat procrastination at its own game, please leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Copyright 2015 Segal Coaching. Originally published on LinkedIn here.