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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Organization

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea? Or thought of something you needed to do as soon as you stepped into the shower? Or had a poignant thought in the middle of a Zoom meeting, but didn’t want to interrupt the flow?

And then…the thought left your head. No matter how hard you tried to recall your brilliant idea, you could not.

This happens to me, and I’m guessing we’ve all experienced something similar. One way to capture these fleeting ideas is through note-taking apps.

That may sound simple (and it is), but the trick is getting into a note-taking habit. If this isn’t something you’ve done, you’ll have to train yourself to recognize when you’ve had a poignant thought, pause, and jot down the note. Tiago Forte, author of Building a Second Brain, says that it helps to view ourselves as “givers of notes to our future selves.” In a three-minute interview by Daniel Pink, Forte describes the benefits of note-taking apps and suggests a number of different apps to try, including:

Another advantage of note-taking apps is that they can keep all your thoughts organized in a single place. Instead of sifting through folders, documents, emails and tabs to find information, everything can be collected into one central hub. Plus, you can use the search feature to quickly identify what you’re looking for.

In a nutshell: using note-taking apps can help capture ideas and keep you organized. It’s a great way to grab ahold of those momentary flashes of brilliance and record them. You never know when your next big idea will strike!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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You might be immersed in holiday stress right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a few minutes to ponder the year ahead. After all, it is right around the corner, and it’s better to be at least a little prepared than to have it sneak up on you. By putting in even 10 minutes of planning, you can add a little focus and direction to your year, rather than having it lead you around by the nose!

Take charge of your year by sitting down (perhaps with a nice cup of tea or a glass of wine), pondering the year ahead, and going through the following 8 steps. You could undertake this activity in about 10 minutes, but I encourage you to take all the time you need.

1. Write down all your goals

Jot down whatever comes to mind. Don’t edit; don’t pause. Just write down everything (big and small, personal and professional) you would like to accomplish next year.

2. Rate your goals

Once you have your list, go through it and consider which items are the most crucial and which are not. You could give each entry a 1, 2, or 3 rating with 1 representing your most important goals/aspirations, 2 being goals of middling importance, and 3 representing less important goals.

3. Focus on your “1” goals

Take a look at your most important goals (i.e., the “1s”). Hopefully you only have two or three “1” goals (if you have much more than that, consider relabeling some of them) so you can place your focus on these particular objectives. You can still accomplish your 2s and 3s, but they might not be the center of your focus.

4. Work backwards

For each of your top goals, set a specific date for when you’d like to accomplish them. From there, work backwards on your calendar. How can you break up your goal into bite-sized pieces? What are some of the major milestones you need to accomplish? Fill in your calendar accordingly, working backwards from your deadline.

5. Highlight important milestones

Once you’ve completed step 4, consider your important milestones. What needs to be done by certain dates to accomplish each milestone? Starting thinking about the support/resources you’ll need, the tasks you’ll have to accomplish, and the time you’ll devote to reaching each milestone.

6. Create a derailment plan

Life happens. If you don’t happen to meet one of the deadlines for your milestones, what will you do? What’s your derailment plan? Will you sit down and rethink your schedule? Will you commit to working one evening each week (or part of the weekend) until you get back on track?

7. Think of an accountability partner (or several)

List a few people who would make good accountability partners—people who could occasionally check in to help keep you on track. Be sure to list people who will not necessarily let you off the hook if you miss a deadline or are getting sidetracked. Rather, choose people whom you respect and do not want to let down. Once you have your list, reach out to one person at a time until someone agrees to be your accountability partner for the year. If they ask, be sure to return the favor.

8. Set a “go” date!

You have a plan. You’re ready to blast off into the New Year. Now, all you need is a “go” date—a time to begin your launch. This could be the first of the year, or it might be a date further down the road—whatever makes sense with your plan.

Too many people get bogged down by day-to-day life instead of stepping back and taking a bird’s eye view of their work or personal life. It can be immensely helpful to see the forest, instead of staring at the trees. By planning the year ahead, you partake in big-picture planning. You chart your course through the forest, instead of getting tripped up by the roots and brambles that everyday life tends to deliver.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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Many organizations are still getting used to a work-from-home or hybrid workforce. Even if they use a variety of virtual technologies, that isn’t necessarily enough to create a level playing field between employees. Part of the reason some people may receive preferential treatment in today’s (often hybrid) environment is due to a subconscious tendency known as proximity bias.

What is Proximity Bias?

In short, proximity bias has to do with giving preference to those who are close by. The BBC describes proximity bias as “an unconscious – and unwise – tendency to give preferential treatment to those in our immediate vicinity.” Due to proximity, we might distribute projects or tasks unfairly, let certain people “have the floor” more often during meetings, or pay closer attention to those who are nearby…all without even realizing we’re doing it.

Humans are constantly seeking 1) shortcuts and 2) connections. Because of these tendencies, proximity bias is the most natural thing in the world. It’s easier to assign tasks or communicate with those who are in the office next door. And it’s easier to form connections when you’re in the same room as someone, rather than someone in the virtual space. Frankly, that is unfair to those who are unable to regularly be in the office for whatever reason (irregular childcare schedules, caretaking for an ailing loved one, an outlandishly long commute, etc.)

How do we change these impulsive tendencies?

How Do We Overcome Proximity Bias?

The first step is to build awareness.

Once you understand proximity bias and its implications, you can begin working to overcome it. Start paying attention to the interactions you have with those close by, as opposed to the interactions you have with virtual workers. Start questioning your preferences—who is assigned certain projects, who has the most air time during meetings, etc. Tuning in is the first step to making mindful, meaningful changes.

Secondly, normalize logging in.

Even if part of your team is sharing a conference room during a meeting, encourage everyone to log in to their own laptop. That way, you’re conducting one meeting (in the virtual space), instead of two meetings, and in-person participants won’t be able to strike up side conversations or give body language signals that the virtual attendees might not see. Logging in when you’re in the same room might seem awkward at first, but people will adapt (especially if you explain why it’s important to do so).

Third, make sure everyone has equal access to resources.

Files should be shared in a virtual space; action plans and notes should be digitized. To further combat proximity bias, it’s a good idea to promote virtual discussions/forums, rather than rely on casual hallway interactions. Besides, if you use online forums, you’ll have a digital record of ideas and discussions that could be useful going forward.

Fourth, balance in-person meetings/events with virtual ones.

When the office culture revolves around in-person lunches, activities, and get togethers, those who are working remotely are naturally left out. When that happens, their connection with the office and their co-workers (and, often, and their sense of loyalty to the company) diminishes. Instead, make a conscious effort to host online events just as often (or more often!) as in-person ones.

Proximity bias is a very real phenomenon, but it is possible to combat it. Even though it’s difficult to entirely erase this subconscious bias, we can all take mindful steps to minimize it.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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