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Category Archives: Changing Your Life

Energy Management

Time management is not solving anything.

Why? Because we can set aside time to work on specific projects, but if our hearts are not in it, we’ll end up drifting off or doing something completely unrelated (checking Facebook, browsing through new recipes, catching up on the latest news…).

Instead of managing blocks of time, it’s better to manage energy.

It’s more advantageous to work in short, productive bursts than in long blocks of time in which your attention wanders. When you set aside everything else (including your smart phone!) and focus on a single task, you’ll find that you’ll work better and faster than you would if you simply reserved a block of time and let your attention be captured by new emails, other projects, and social media.

The reason it’s better to work in shorter allotments of time is because human beings are not meant to slog through an entire work day without breaks. As Tony Swartz, founder of the Energy Project, says, “human beings are meant to pulse.” We work in cycles. Our concerted attention can only last for so long (typically 90 minutes, according to Schwartz).

There reaches a certain point where no amount of schedule-shuffling will enable us to stay on top of things. We may do our best to manage time, but if our energy isn’t also managed we can suffer from burnouts, stress, and unhappiness (which can bleed into our personal lives).

The lesson is: Don’t focus on your time management–just assume you’ll be busy. Instead, take care of your energy levels throughout the day.

Schwartz outlines some tips for tending to your energy levels during the day in a book he co-wrote with Catherine McCarthy called Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.

The authors point out that your time is finite, but your energy levels can be replenished if you attend to them closely. They offer a few ways for you to do this throughout the day:

  • Take a break every 90-120 minutes. Physically get up from your desk and enjoy a brief change of scenery.
  • Eat light meals and snacks throughout the day, every couple hours.
  • Dedicate time every day to focus on what you’re best at and what gives you a sense of fulfillment.

They also suggest that leaders pay attention to their employee’s energy needs:

“To effectively reengergize their workforces, organizations need to shift their emphasis from getting more out of people to investing more in them…”

  • Keep a room devoted to taking breaks and relaxing
  • Subsidize gym memberships
  • Encourage staff to move around every so often

And I’ll add a suggestion of my own for leaders:

  • Energy is directly related to feedback. Positive feedback energizes folks and helps them keep the momentum going. Negative feedback, if delivered well, can also motivate people to make improvements. The point is, I find that giving specific, frequent feedback is one of the best ways to help people manage their own energy levels

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Learning agility and using fear as a catalyst

When learning something new, we instinctively keep it close and secret until we feel confident that we’ve got it down pat. Usually this is because we feel embarrassed by our clumsiness with new skills. However, we can’t learn until we apply our skills, which means a bit of screwing up. You’ll find that even though screwing up might be hard on your ego, it’ll increase the rate at which you learn and respond in unique situations.

This is because of a special nerve in our bodies, called the vagus nerve. As Christopher Bergland explains in this article on Psychology Today, “When people say ‘trust your gut’ they are in many ways saying, ‘trust your vagus nerve.’ Visceral feelings and gut-instincts are literally emotional intuitions transferred up to your brain via the vagus nerve.”

Bergland goes on to say that we can teach ourselves to respond positively to the “gut-feeling” we get from the vagus nerve by being in tune with the loop between our bodies and minds and using this awareness to our advantage. Instead of choking under pressure, which comes from a negative response from the vagus nerve, we can control its signals and stay calm under stress.

Now, I’m not saying that you should go out and look for the most stressful situation you can find and purposely make your learning experience as intense as possible. Many people thrive under pressure, while others do much better using more gradual methods, and I understand that. I do want to encourage you to push the limits you think you have when you’re taking on something new, because:

  1. Most of us underestimate ourselves.
  2. Most of us overestimate the thing we’re learning.
  3. You won’t really know how true either of the above are until you go out and see for yourself.

Examples of diving in:

-Giving a presentation using material you’re new to. Of course, don’t do this at your next big, job-on-the-line presentation, but do try out new materials, approaches and styles when you have a less career-defining presentation.

-Teaching yourself a skill that is outside your normal set of skills. If you’re a numbers wiz, try out some of the good literature. If you’re an extrovert, try meditation. If you’re shy, try the above suggestion!

-Wearing your mistakes as badges, knowing that each falter invariably pushes you closer to mastery.

How do you deal with handling pressure? How does it impact your ability to learn?

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Are you in a summertime slump

For those of you who live in cold climates like I do, you welcome summertime and everything it brings—picnics, swimming, strolls in the park, bike rides. During the chilly winter months, you envision spending time in the sunshine…and not having to don a down coat and pair of boots whenever you want to venture outside.

When summer comes, it has an energizing effect. Your mood lifts, you finally have enough vitamin D, you’re full of plans and expectations.

But what people often do not think about is their work. Even though summer has arrived, work does not simply end (unless you have a seasonal occupation). We still have to work through bright and sunny days; we still have to show up.

Even though we may feel energized outside of work, the opposite might occur during work. Your motivation might dwindle or your concentration might wander as you think of being outside, enjoying the weather.

Furthermore, many people go on vacation over the summer, so it’s sometimes difficult to complete team projects or use others as a resource. As Inc.com says, “Summer is nearly always a slow season. You, your team members and your customers are either breezing away on weeks-long vacations (or wish they were), and those who are in office are struggling to cover their teammates’ absences and keep up with demand.”

With low motivation, absent team members, and the constant desire to be outside, it’s easy to fall behind during the summer…which can make you feel even less enthusiastic to come to work.

What to do?

1. Try working in shorter bursts.

Look at your clock and tell yourself, “Okay, I’m going to work for XX number of minutes without taking a break. Ready go!” Start small and gradually increase your work time.

2. Set goals

Write down three tangible things you’d like to accomplish today. If you’re working on a large project, what bite-sized item(s) can you accomplish that will help you complete it? (For more on effective goal-setting, visit this blog post.)

3. Move around

Making sure you get your blood pumping and your body moving is important to not only improving your health, but your concentration as well. And don’t forget to move from your desk during the day. Try working in a different location for a few hours and then return to your designated workspace.

4. Set challenges for others

If you’re in a leadership position, get your team motivated by setting up friendly challenges. It helps to focus on a short period of time (such as two or four weeks) so you can maintain enthusiasm for the competition. Consider giving rewards that people actually value, such as a half day (or two) of paid time off.

5. Bring summer to the workplace

Just because you’re in the office, doesn’t mean you have to pretend like summer isn’t happening! Have lunch on a patio, invite co-workers out to ice cream, or wear bright summery outfits. As a leader (or an HR manager), you could also plan company outings every once in a while that take advantage of the nice weather. Try going to a baseball game, having a company picnic, or doing some outdoor volunteer work together.

 

Carry some of your summertime energy into the workplace. It’s amazing what a small shift in attitude (and a little planning!) can do. Besides, while others are in their workplace slump, you can take advantage of the season and rise to the top. Your dedication will be noticed.

Contact me for other ideas on how to shake your summertime slump!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Lessons from fireworks

Yesterday was Independence Day in the U.S. and fireworks lit up the night sky. It’s a holiday that equalizes and unites us—we can all gather and enjoy the same display, side by side.

What is it about fireworks that excites us? That makes us want to shoot them across the sky year after year? There is something about the very nature of a firework that is inspirational. Here are five reasons you should aim to be more like a firework:

1. Fireworks illuminate

When the mood is dark, be the light-bearer. When your team is feeling exhausted or overwhelmingly negative, be the one to lift others up and energize the room.

Remember, a single firework has the power to light up the night sky. In the same way, you can make a difference with a single kind act, a sentence of truth, or a positive statement.

2. Fireworks are bold

Pop! Boom! Flash! Fireworks are anything but shy. Take a page from their book and practice being bold. Stand up for your ideas and values; be a strong leader; bounce back from rejection. Even if you project confidence when you’re not feeling it, you’ll eventually start to believe in yourself and your capabilities.

3. Fireworks aim high

Dream big. We each only get a limited amount of time, so why not make the most of it? Your goals are worth pursuing.

4. Fireworks are colorful

There is value in every personality type. Whether you tend to be analytical, bubbly, empathetic, or take-charge, you are uniquely equipped to contribute to the workplace. Let your authentic self shine and show your true colors! (Find out more about getting in touch with your deeper self).

5. Fireworks unite us

If you’re in a leadership position, aim to bring people together for a common purpose. Celebrate diverse personalities, talents, and perspectives, instead of demanding that everyone be the same. Strive for unity, but respect differences.

If you’re part of a work team, focus on ways to be inclusive and welcoming. Make an effort to stand up for others and make sure everyone’s ideas and opinions are heard. Reject gossip, and be a positive force on your team.

 

We can learn a surprising number of lessons from fireworks! How will you sparkle this year? How will you live boldly and be a positive force?

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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confidence, the key to success

Think of someone who is wildly successful. You might picture Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Brené Brown, J.K. Rowling, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of your company…or any number of people who have made it big.

What do they all have in common? What traits could an author possibly share with a techie?

The answer is simple on the surface, but difficult in practice. All of these successful people have an underlying firm belief in themselves and what they do.

Much of success is a mind game. If you are confident in your beliefs and your actions and you exude that confidence, others will be confident in you. If you move forward boldly, you will be perceived as a leader and someone who can be trusted.

The power of confidence is real. It’s what drives entrepreneurs to create start-ups. It’s what helps people step up and lead a team. But can you really switch on your confidence? Aren’t some people naturally more confident than others?

While you may not feel naturally confident, you DO have the tools to boost your self-assurance and step into your leadership. As Margie Warrell of Forbes says, “Confidence is not a fixed attribute; it’s the outcome of the thoughts we think and the actions we take.”

Warrell goes on to discuss research into brain plasticity and says that, “we can literally rewire our brains in ways that affect our thoughts and behavior at any age. Which means that no matter how timid or doubt-laden you’ve been up to now, building self-confidence is largely what psychologists called volitional. Or to use layman language: ‘By choice.’ With consistent effort, and the courage to take a risk, we can gradually expand our confidence, and with it, our capacity to build more of it!”

How can you start building your confidence and working toward success? Start with these four steps:

1. Have a clear mission.

What do you believe? What drives you? What is your vision for yourself and the future of your company? Create a roadmap of where you’d like to go and keep it at the forefront of you mind. Enlist the help of a career coach or counselor.

2. Fill your thoughts with positivity.

Practice building up your confidence every morning (or every time you’re feeling self-doubt) by telling yourself positive affirmations and actually believing them.

3. Stop limiting yourself.

Reach outside your comfort zone. The only way to achieve growth is to constantly stretch yourself.

4. Have courage.

Courage is one of the ten leadership attributes in my book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge. Having courage means that you’re willing to stand up for your beliefs and defend others, if necessary. It means taking the occasional risk, even if you’re not feeling brave.

BONUS: 5. Start seeing setbacks as opportunities, rather than obstacles.

If your ideas are challenged, your project faces difficulties, or you’re told “no,” don’t give up! Instead, look at your setback as an opportunity to reframe your idea or your work. Author Stephen King was rejected dozens of time and told that “no one is interested in horror.” What did he do? He edited his work and kept on submitting it, standing firmly by his genre. It’s okay to rework your ideas, but stay steadfast to your core beliefs.

 

YOU have the power to be successful. Your internal monologue can either drive you toward success or make you shrink back into your comfort zone. Be bold, be confident, and above all BELIEVE in yourself, your capabilities, and your ideas.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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There you are, day in and day out, punching the clock. Suddenly, after many dedicated years at an okay job, you are laid off. Unfortunately, that seems to be the story for so many individuals over the last few years. What to do now?

Most people dive into the traditional job search, seeking out something similar to what they had done before. But, that’s not the only option. You could take your experiences and acquired skills and strike out on your own! Or, you could go back to school, even taking just a few classes, and gain new skills for a flourishing business.

Here are a few resources to help get you started when you find yourself thinking about entrepreneurship (running a business), or even becoming a solopreneur (running a business on your own, such as freelancing).

Program Specifically for Laid Off Aspiring Entrepreneurs:

Here in Minnesota, the government offers the Dislocated Worker Program to laid off employees. If you want to start your own business, you can take advantage of their Converting Layoffs into Minnesota Businesses (CLIMB) sub-program. CLIMB allows you to work toward building your business full-time while still collecting unemployment, eliminating the “regular” job search stress. They offer counseling, training, and financial help to guide you on your self-employment journey.

Programs for Aspiring Entrepreneurs: 

  • S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers counseling, classes, loans, and special services for minority and women-owned small businesses.
  • WomenVenture provides women with classes, counseling, and loans for successfully starting a small business. Their Guided Business Plan course is a six-month long program intended to help you complete your business plan and strategize every aspect of your business.
  • SCORE is a free mentoring program for small business owners. They also offer workshops and tools to get started and thrive.

Training and Development for Aspiring Entrepreneurs:

 Bolstering your education or training can give you a leg up for starting a thriving business. I know one woman who was laid off after eight years on the job. Because she felt that her skillset was outdated, she decided to take advantage of the classes offered in the programs mentioned above. The classes renewed her confidence and gave her the courage to start a freelance writing business, something she had considered doing for a long time.

Another option to brush up your skills is to take classes online or complete an online degree. Many universities and colleges also offer continuing education certifications if you want a shorter time commitment. The CLIMB program can help pay for these classes.

Use any of the above resources to see if they offer training that may help you move forward in your quest for self-employment. There are many other resources in Minnesota; check out this website for further information on starting a business in this state.

 

It can be scary to suddenly find yourself jobless. But it can turn into an exciting journey toward entrepreneurship, and this state has excellent resources for successfully starting a business. Don’t be afraid to take the path less traveled toward a new career where you call the shots. Contact me if you would like support with your self-employment goals.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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everyday legacy

When you think of the term “Legacy,” you probably think of the grand achievements that people are remembered for. It’s the scholarship fund that you founded or the football stadium that’s named after you.

Sure, those are Legacies. But they are the big-picture results. They’re the long-term Legacies that you leave behind. I urge you to focus on your living legacy—the everyday things you do that impact others and the world.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t think about your long-term Legacy (or your “capital L” Legacy). It’s great to think about the future and work toward lofty goals. However, this kind of thinking sometimes causes people to lose sight of what’s in front of them. How can you make an impact through a conversation with a co-worker? Or by showing up to your child’s basketball game? Or by visiting a lonely neighbor? Or by donating a couple of hours to a soup kitchen?

Your “little l” legacy is just as powerful (if not more) than your “big L” Legacy. All those small actions and interactions add up. You never know how your words, behaviors, kind gestures, or attitude will affect those around you.

This concept of “little l” legacy versus “big L” Legacy is something we explore in Insights® Deeper Discovery. Deeper Discovery is an interactive workshop that utilizes science-based tools to explore participants’ personal paths as they relate to leadership, teams, communication, improved self-understanding, and much more. As a Deeper Discovery facilitator, I have worked with individuals who were experiencing anxiety or frustration because their big L Legacy wasn’t falling into place. They weren’t where they thought they would be at this point in their lives and they were having trouble figuring out which direction to turn next. In other words, they were feeling utterly lost.

Focusing on your little l legacy can help illuminate a path.

If you start to focus on what matters during your day-to-day, you start making the very best of what is currently around you. And that can open opportunities that you might not have noticed when you were busy being distressed about your lack of progress toward your Legacy.

How will you start to shift your focus to making a daily difference? What legacy will you leave tomorrow? Today? In your next conversation? Start making small positive impacts today and see how your world will change.


If you’d like more information on the Insights® Deeper Discovery program, please feel free to reach out and contact me.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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