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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Goals

Get things done

David Allen has influenced people all over the world with his best-selling book, Getting Things Done. What can we learn from his methods? I’ve highlighted seven key lessons for increasing productivity, each and every day:

1. Focus on your workspace

Where you work is important. Set up your workspace so that it is your “cockpit of control.” That means everything is intentionally organized and you have efficient, instant access to information or tools you need.

2. Don’t multi-task

Focus on one task at a time and give it your full attention. Multi-tasking ultimately slows you down because your attention will be disjointed and you may not complete tasks to the best of your ability.

3. Cut down on distractions with a Thought Bucket

When you’re working on a specific task and something else comes to mind, jot it down in your “Thought Bucket.” That way, you won’t lose your thought and it’s less likely to control your mind. Every week, take a look at your notes in the Thought Bucket. Remove unimportant items, complete 2-minute tasks, and plot out appointments/deadlines in your calendar.

4. Break down goals

If you’re staring down a big-picture goal, it may seem intimidating (and you may turn and run the other way!). Instead, break down your goals into bite-sized pieces and tackle those pieces one at a time. The most urgent step on the project list goes to the Next Action list.

5. Pay attention to time-sensitive items

Allen suggests keeping track of time-sensitive tasks in something called the Tickler File. Use this file to set reminders for deadlines that are coming up within the next 31 days and also 12 months into the future.

6. Keep a Someday/Maybe list

Dare to dream. If you have ideas for projects you’d like to tackle or initiatives you’d like to start in the future, keep track of them on your Someday/Maybe list.

7. Regularly update your information

Allen suggests reviewing and updating all lists weekly. In his view, daily to-do lists are inefficient because of their warped view of time. Weekly lists help you think “bigger picture,” but do not overwhelm.

How about you? Are you a list-maker? How do you organize your day/week/quarter/year? Do you tend to multi-task or lend your focus to one task at a time? If you’re finding that your current system isn’t working, you may want to give David Allen’s a try!

 

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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4 steps to start job searching

If you’ve been feeling discontent in your current role and are thinking about seeking a new one, NOW is the time to get started. Don’t wait until you’ve had it “up to here” with your current job and are feeling desperate to get the heck out of there. Instead, take a few simple steps to prepare for a potential upcoming job hunt. Your future self will thank you!

1. List Your Accomplishments

Spend some quiet time reflecting on what you’ve accomplished in the past year or two. Are you able to quantify any of your achievements? For example:

  • I helped reach XX% more customers through a new marketing initiative
  • I helped save the company $XX through the implementation of new technologies
  • I led XX people in a team project.

If you’re not able to quantify an achievement, are you able to describe it in a sentence or two? Have you won any awards or gained any recognition that might impress future employers? Make a list of everything you’ve accomplished.

2. Update Your Stuff

It’s time to take a peek at the ol’ resume and make sure it’s up-to-date. Additionally, make sure your resume reflects the skills that will be required in your potential future job. If a chronological resume doesn’t quite capture your relevant skill set, try creating a functional resume, which highlights skills/abilities instead of listing your jobs chronologically.

While you’re at it, update your LinkedIn profile as well!

3. Focus on Your Connections

  • Start writing out a list of anyone and everyone who may be a valuable connection or reference when you begin your job hunt. It’s helpful to use a spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel.
  • After you’ve made a list of at least 10-20 people, find their contact information and add it to your spreadsheet.
  • Then, order your contacts from “most likely to be an asset” to “least likely.”
  • Finally, make notes about whether or not you regularly keep in touch with each person. If you do not, jot down a plan for how and when you’ll revitalize your connection with that person.
  • Start networking and reconnecting! I can’t emphasize enough how important personal connections can be in a job hunt.

4. Search for Skills Gaps

If you’re thinking about pursuing a role that it significantly different from what you’re currently doing, take some time to identify any skills gaps you may have. What are 10 key skills required for you dream job? Which skills do you already have? Which could use a boost?

If you’ve identified some major skills gaps, consider enrolling in a certification course, a continuing education program, or conducting an informational interview with someone who works in the position you’re pursuing.

 

Even if you’re not quite ready to start your job search in earnest, you can take several small steps to get started. Today, I challenge you to reflect on your accomplishments, update at least a few items in your resume, start listing out your valuable connections, and identify your skills gaps. Even if you only have half an hour, you can at least get started on your path to a new job. It’s time to invest in YOU.

 

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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promotion worthy actions at work

Work. We all know to go above and beyond, we all know to be on time, meet deadlines, and dress for the job we want. But what about the things not everyone is keeping in their mental rosters? Things that have the opportunity to set you apart and give you an edge? Start with these four out-of-the-box tips:

1. People Like Being Around Likable People

Remember the cursed group projects of high school or college? Remember the characters you got stuck with? The slacker who never showed up, the bossy pants who refused others’ contributions, the walking vanity incapable of seeing beyond their lip gloss, or the one who was so emotionally strung out they spent most of their time crying in the bathroom? Don’t be those people!

Yes, you’re going to have a bad day. Everyone is going to have a bad day. But remember that people like to be around people who make them feel good. People feel easier working with someone engaged, easy-going, prepared, and generally friendly. When those new projects come up, chances are co-workers are going to opt for someone pleasant to be with and work with on their team. The better you can make someone feel at work, the more they’re going to feel good working with you.

2.Pretend This Is Your Favorite Underdog Movie

Someone needs to show Russia who is boss? Rocky punches in. Someone needs to herd a bunch of sheep? Babe the pig starts running in circles. Whatever your film genre, you’ve seen it – a job needs to be done, and someone unexpected comes along to do it. Now, don’t sign up for designing posters if you’ve never opened Photoshop. But, do get out there, take a chance on accepting a new responsibility and succeeding in it. Yes, there might be a learning curve or surprisingly unpleasant aspects to the job, but show you are willing to fill gaps. Show you are a more valuable asset than your coworkers by having a broader range of skills and greater willingness.

3. Manage Your Time

Engage in your work. By no means should you morph into a workaholic, but when you’re working, get to work. The best way to do this is to cleverly manage your time. If you have multiple projects, make a guesstimate of how long each one will take, rate their priority, organize the steps for each one, and maybe throw the more entertaining ones between the snore-fests.

Then, block out your time. Excel spreadsheets can be great personal tools. Keep track of what you do with your time so you can use it most efficiently, and hopefully clock out a little earlier. This also comes in handy when the boss comes knocking with another task. Simply shoot her your schedule of the things you are already doing, show her how much more still needs to be done, and convince her that another employee might have more time to do a good job on it.

Keep in mind: businesses want organized managers. Having proof of your time management skills might come in handy when a promotion opens up.

4. Take Care Of Yourself (Treat Yourself Like a Human Being)

The work day is long. No one can sit and stare into the abyss of a computer screen for eight hours and maintain their brain power. Do things to keep yourself somewhat functioning. Try:

  • yoga on your lunch break
  • going for a walk
  • reading your favorite magazine or a book for a few minutes
  • drawing a few pictures while you brainstorm

Each person is going to feel rejuvenated by something different. Yeah, a full spa treatment probably isn’t going to fit into the workday, but maybe grabbing a foam roller and getting those office chair kinks out of your back will make the rest of the work day easier.

 

Now, get out there and start using these tips to get ahead of the pack and to be a better YOU.

 

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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maybe someday

How many times have you said something like the statements below?

“I may start searching for a new job.”

“I may take a leadership class this year.”

“I may do                 , like I’ve always wanted to do.”

I know I’m guilty of the occasional case of the “mays!”

The thing about statements like these is that there’s no muscle behind them. There’s no clear goal or strategy to get there. Sure, you can start with a dream or an idea, but after that, you have to put in the legwork.

How do you turn “mays” into action?

Start by making your vague ambitions more concrete. Give yourself a clear goal with a stated deadline. For instance:

“I will start searching for a new job by the end of the quarter.”

“I will sign up for a leadership class this month.”

“This week, I will figure out how to get started on                 .”

Once you have more directed statements, develop a plan to follow through with them. Break down your goal into bite-sized pieces and tackle them one at a time.

Don’t forget to refer to your goal often and track your progress.

If you’re looking for a great way to get started, try creating a 90-day quick plan. An idea created by David Horsager, the 90-day quick plan helps you achieve one focused goal in 90 days by using “why” as your driver. Why do you want to accomplish a certain goal? What are the motivating forces surrounding it? Why would reaching this goal make a difference in your life?

Instead of continuing to say, “I may,” start saying, “I will.” Create a plan, set deadlines, and see what you can achieve in the next few months.

Go get ‘em!

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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Taking Risks

Think of an entrepreneur or a historical figure who inspires you. Do you have someone in mind? Maybe you’re thinking of Nelson Mandela or Martha Stewart or Albert Einstein. Maybe you’re thinking of Rosa Parks or Benjamin Franklin or Elon Musk.

What do all of these seemingly different figures have in common?

They were willing to take risks.

It’s easy to stay within your comfort zone and not venture too far outside the lines. But where does that get you? Nowhere extraordinary.

Even if you think you’re adverse to risk-taking, hear me out. Your risk-taking doesn’t have to put your career or wellbeing in jeopardy. You don’t have to throw all your money at an idea in order for your actions to count as “risks.” What you DO need to do is move forward, boldly (and that means something different to everyone).

What does risk-taking mean in YOUR life?

Does it mean finally asking for that well-deserved raise? Does it mean approaching your boss with a fresh, innovative idea? Does it mean reaching out to a co-worker who isn’t terribly popular around the office?

Or, does taking a risk involve something a little more extreme, such as making a career change or standing up to an abusive boss or coworker?

No matter how risks present themselves in your life, they are worth taking. Why? I’ll give you four reasons…

1. Opportunities abound for the person who takes a risk.

An employer is much more impressed by someone who dives into the unknown, and word will spread quickly about your willingness to venture into new territory. This will snowball and provide many more opportunities for you.

2. Failures are temporary, while regrets linger.

“When speaking to people in their forties and beyond, many tell me that if they could do their career over again, they’d have taken more risks, settled less and spoken up more often,” writes Margie Warrell in this Forbes article. It is always better to have tried and faltered than to have never gone for it.

3. You’re probably overestimating the odds against you.

Warrell points out that we tend to magnify the negative consequences in our minds, to the point where we no longer think about positive outcomes, which makes for a warped view of reality.

4. As a rule, you are capable of more than you think you are.

This is probably a result of having been conditioned early on to always be modest. But it’s okay to recognize your strengths and feel confident about them. And you’ll never know your ability until you take risks.

 

How will you move boldly forward today? How will you embrace opportunities for risk-taking instead of running from them?

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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Setting Courageous Goals

As you move forward into the New Year, it’s a good idea to pause, reflect, and think about how you would like your year to go. What are your goals and stretch goals? How do you picture your ideal year? What changes do you have to make to get there?

No matter what you resolve to do this year, you’re going to need a little (or a lot!) of help from one key tool: Courage.

Courage is the root of all bold action. It is what drives us to speak up, go to the gym, ask for the raise, seek a new job, or dare to dream big.

This month, we’re going to work on your courage. In a series of four blog posts, I’ll dive into different aspects of courage and give you activities to help boost and focus your courage.

This week, let’s think about courage in relation to goal-setting:

 

  1. What are your big goals for the year?

 

  1. What major changes will you have to make to reach those goals?

 

  1. What are some potential setbacks or roadblocks you might encounter?

 

  1. When those roadblocks occur, what will you do? How will you act? Create a “courage plan” to map out how you’ll overcome your roadblocks and move forward with your goals.

 

COURAGE NOTE: Remember that stumbling blocks are actually good for your development. They help you become a more nimble problem-solver, resilient, and adaptable. When you figure out how to overcome a problem, it will be easier to face a similar kind of issue down the road. SO: face your obstacles head-on!

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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I’ve been reflecting about my time on the Camino de Santiago. Last week I wrote a post about community on the trail, but this week, I want to focus on something a little different: Steps.

When we go through life, not every step forward is easy. Sometimes, we have to make hard choices, delve into difficult projects, or have tough conversations. Sometimes we’re so tired, brain dead, or feeling so darn defeated that we can’t imagine plunging ahead.

While hiking the trail, I didn’t always feel strong. At times, I was sore, achy, thirsty, or just plain burnt out. But I got up every morning and kept going. I didn’t have a choice. And, you know what? It got easier.

With every step I took throughout the day, my legs loosened up. With every encounter with a fellow hiker, my spirits lifted.

It all started with that first step in the morning—the one that shakes off the cobwebs and starts everything going.

In life, it’s easy to look at the big, scary future and stay rooted to the spot, not daring to move forward. Maybe you’re anticipating looking for a new job, moving to a new city, or starting a brand new relationship (personal or professional). Or maybe it’s as simple as looking at your to-do list and completely shutting down since there’s SO MUCH on that darn list.

In these cases, start with a single step. What’s ONE thing you can do today—right now—that will take you one step closer to your goals? If you’re gearing up for a job search, spend five minutes right now reading over your old resume and taking a few notes. If you’re moving into a new position at work, take a couple minutes to jot down a list of questions you have about your new role. If you’re staring down a gigantic to-do list, pick one easy thing and get it done right NOW.

Any step you take is valuable and, once you start with step one, you might just feel some momentum and continue on. This is how progress is made and journeys are completed: one step at a time.

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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