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Less Time at Work 2

There’s a persistent myth that in order to get anywhere in your life or career, you have to put in long hours. As Americans, we’re working harder than ever—putting in a full month’s more of work per year than we did in the 1970s. We’re also the most over-worked nation in the developed world. According to the ILO, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.”

And here’s the thing: it’s making the other parts of our lives suffer. We don’t have time to take care of ourselves (which is evident with skyrocketing obesity and stress); we take fewer vacation days; we don’t have as much time to spend with our family or friends. Not to mention, it’s nearly impossible to squeeze in volunteer or community time when we’re consistently working more than forty hours per week.

“But wait!” you might be saying. “Don’t I have to put in the hours to prove myself to the company? Won’t I look bad since everyone else is working sixty hours per week?”

My answer to that is this:

It’s much better to work SMARTER than it is to work HARDER.

For instance, if you’re energized from getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly, your performance will increase and you’ll get things done in a shorter amount of time. Looking at it from another angle, when you’re able to step back from your work, this allows you perspective. Instead of being “in the weeds” you can reflect on your work from a distance, which can help you to strategize better and approach your projects with a clearer view of what you want to achieve and how you want to get there.

Not to mention, you’ll feel better and happier when you’re paying attention to other areas of your life besides work. A professor at the Wharton School of Business found that when people in his study spent more time on family, community, and self, “their career satisfaction increased by 21% and their work performance (self-assessed) improved by 8%. Happiness with family life grew even more.”

It’s time we stop “out-working” each other. Such a mentality is, frankly, a race to the bottom. Instead, be a leader in effective time management and work/life balance:

  • Take breaks when you need to
  • Spend time with your family
  • Practice self-care
  • Focus on ONE project at a time, be fully present (and complete tasks more effectively!)
  • Step back and recalibrate your goals
  • Take that vacation
  • Make service to others and your community a priority

A culture shift away from our “worker bee” mentality is absolutely necessary and it starts with 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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Capture Your Everyday Courage

Last week, we talked about setting courageous goals and making an action plan for when things don’t go quite as expected. This week, I’d like to address everyday courage—the small, bold actions that can lead to big things.

If you’re going to achieve major changes this year (a promotion, a healthier lifestyle, a better social life, a new career path, etc.) you’ll need to step into every single day with a courageous mindset. Your road to success will be filled with ruts, bumps, and fallen trees blocking the way. How will you be able to overcome these everyday obstacles and focus on the bigger picture?

Start with the 5 P’s:

  • Prepare

When you know a situation is coming up that will require courage, be sure to prepare. Your preparation will help you feel more confident when going into the difficult situation.

  • Pep Talk

Before engaging in a tough conversation, heading into an important meeting, or even trying a new workout at the gym, give yourself a pep talk. Repeat an affirmation or take a few moments to visualize your success.

  • Power Pose

Try this 2-minute power-boosting technique.

  • Project Energy

When you project positive energy through your body language and voice, your confidence will naturally grow.

  • Plan B

Creating a Plan B will give you something solid to fall back on when your initial plan didn’t fly. Take time to think of alternatives “best routes” whenever you’re diving into something new or trying to make a change.

 

For more the 5 P’s, watch this 2-minute video!

NOW, for the workbook part:

  1. Next time you need to act courageously, what will your pep talk be? Write out a few lines that you can recite to yourself when the time comes.

 

  1. How will you act with confidence this week? List three ways you’ll demonstrate your self-assuredness (speaking up, practicing your power pose, doing something you don’t want to do, etc.)

 

 

  1. Think about the next event/meeting/situation where you’ll need to tap into your courage. How will you prepare? What “Plan B” ideas do you have, in case things don’t go according to plan?

 

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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peaceful holiday season

This holiday season, I wish you joy, peace, and camaraderie. No matter how you celebrate the holidays, I hope you are able to find the space and time to do exactly what you’d like to do.

Whether that means finding quiet time with a cup of tea and a book, spending time with your family, going to a concert, eating your favorite foods, or anything else that gives you comfort, I hope you do something for yourself this season.

This is the time for renewal and rejuvenation. Set aside a little time for YOU and step into the New Year with a light heart and a clear head.

Happiest of holidays to you,

 

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Interview Question

Most of us know it’s coming. It’s that question interviewers love to ask, just to keep you on your toes: “What are your greatest weaknesses?”

Are your palms sweating yet? Is your brain spinning in circles, trying to figure out how to answer this question? Or, do you have some kind of canned answer you found from a website?

It’s a tricky question, and infamously difficult to get right. On the one hand, you don’t want to reveal anything too terrible that will potentially cost you your interview. Then again, you don’t want to be dishonest or gloss over the answer with something like, “People say I work too much and am too dedicated to the company!”

No interviewer is going to be impressed with an answer like that. It’s disingenuous and doesn’t tell them anything about you, except that you’re good at studying stock answers for interview questions. So how to approach this question?

First of all, be aware that sharing your challenges and flaws—the very things that make you human—can actually help you come off as a more authentic, relatable candidate.

Joe Grimm of the Poynter Institute, an organization dedicated to integrity in journalism, suggests that interviewees faced with this question should always be honest and avoid mentioning character flaws because these are traits that are difficult to change. Instead, mention areas where you’re determined to improve. Consider saying something like, “I’m not as adept with Excel as I’d like to be, but I’m currently improving my skills through internet tutorials.”

Be sure to never talk about strengths as weaknesses. Your “over-commitment” to work is just another way of saying, “I’m a dedicated employee” and interviewers can see right through your wordplay.

Remember: Don’t overthink your response to the point that you panic and don’t have one. As Washington Post journalist Lily Whiteman reminds us, “the worst responses are ‘I don’t know’ and the comical ‘I have no weaknesses.’”

You should also try to cater your response to the position and organization to which you are applying. Anticipate the motivation and interests of the interviewer when selecting your response and personal story. For example, if you are applying for a position as a financial adviser, you might talk about one of the specific areas in which you lack experience—say estate planning for people with over $1 Million in assets. And then (as mentioned earlier), demonstrate how you will familiarize yourself or how you are already working to improve in this area.

Keep in mind, this question mainly exists because it reveals whether you, the applicant, possess key qualities such as self-awareness, authenticity, sincerity, adaptability, and foresightedness.  Reveal that yes, you have weaknesses, but you will not let them stop you from doing the best job you can do for their organization.

Happy interviewing! Please contact UXL today to find out how we can help you transform the future of your business or career through guided professional coaching.

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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Earning thanks

In past posts, I’ve written about how to live in gratitude and express your thankfulness to others. Gratitude can make an enormous difference in your outlook on life, your motivation, and even your health…but what if others are not returning the favor? What if you feel that your co-workers, boss, or family members are constantly failing to recognize your contributions?

That lack of appreciation can get downright frustrating. It can make you feel unmotivated and uninspired. It can also make you wonder if you really are doing good work, since no one seems to notice.

Although we shouldn’t fuel our days entirely on other people’s thankfulness, it’s good to feel appreciated and valued—a worthwhile contribution to the team. If you’re fed up with your lack of recognition, try these four tips:

1. Know when to say NO

If you’re feeling like others are taking advantage of your generosity, it may be time to draw a firm line in the sand. Know your limits and be brave enough to say no when you’re feeling overworked, or when an assignment does not fall within your area of expertise. Although it can be difficult to do at first, saying no can help establish healthy boundaries and earn you respect (if you’re tactful about it! For more, read 10 Diplomatic Ways to Say NO)

2. Make yourself visible

It’s possible others are not expressing their gratitude to you because they are not aware of the work you are doing. Make an effort to check in regularly with your boss or your work team and give a brief update about your current projects. BUT, be sure to reciprocate and ask others about their projects and progress. Demonstrate that you care about others’ work and they will likely return the favor.

3. Express your feelings

Don’t just keep your frustration to yourself; tell others if you’re feeling underappreciated or ignored. How do you do that without exploding your emotions onto others and causing a rift? Try using the D4 model: Data, Depth of Feeling, Dramatic Interpretation, and Do. First, state the facts of the situation—what happened and why? Then, express how you felt about it and what meaning (interpretation) you give to the situation. Finally, suggest an action plan.

The D4 model could play out like this: “Susan, I put in ten extra hours last week to assist with your project and I’m frustrated that you didn’t acknowledge my help. I believe this is part of a larger problem in the office: we do not appreciate each other’s contributions. Going forward, I would like to change that by recognizing outstanding team members at meetings or awarding bonus gift cards to employees who put in extra effort. What do you think?”

4. Continue to show gratitude

If you take the time to recognize others’ achievements—whether in a company meeting, a private comment, or a written note—others are likely to reciprocate. You’re contributing to a culture of gratitude and when you lift up others, you’ll be lifted with them.

 

You deserve recognition for your hard work. If you’re frustrated by your office’s lack of appreciation, get cracking on one (or more!) of these four steps. Remember: don’t be accusatory or snide. Approach your situation with a level head and the understanding that most people are not giving you short shrift on purpose—they’re likely so wrapped up in their work and lives that they’ve simply forgotten the power of a simple “thank 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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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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As a career coach, I am well aware of the rigors of the modern workplace. Many businesses are understaffed or have ultra-high expectations for their employees, demanding sixty or eighty-hour work weeks. There’s a lot of rushing around, and forging ahead on projects…even if the plan or objective isn’t crystal clear. And that can cause a lot of trouble in the long run.

If there’s no room for question-asking, a work team could end up missing a crucial deadline, misinterpreting a client’s needs, or taking a project in the completely wrong direction. The team will then have to back-pedal and try to correct their errors, costing the company time and money.

The simple way to prevent such mishaps is by simply asking questions.

Good leaders not only ask questions, but encourage others to ask questions. This creates a culture of openness and candid interactions. Questions also can open up a dialogue about the best course of action, rather than limiting future actions to one set of ideas.

Utilize questions to…

Clarify

When a client or manager is introducing a new initiative or project, be sure to ask questions to make sure you understand everything correctly. If you are the one explaining a new concept to others, be sure to ask if they have any specific questions about the actions and objectives.

Learn more about asking great clarifying questions in my video on clarity.

Put Forth New Ideas

There is usually more than one path to a solution. When you ask questions that challenge the current way of doing things, you open up new ways of thinking and acting. These are the “What if…?” questions. They are the questions that encourage your team to think outside the box and become more innovative and creative.

Challenge

There’s a tactful way to challenge an idea, project, or statement. Use questions to uncover any holes in a plan, and gently offer a solution. A tactful challenging question may sound like this:

“I know your team has extensively tested the product on U.S. audiences, but have you considered our international market?”

OR: “I know we’ve been using the same financial tracking equipment for years, but have we thought about exploring XYZ Equipment?”

Dig Deeper

Use questions to really sink your teeth into a project and learn about the thinking behind it. “Digging questions” help to unearth any potential flaws in a plan and open up a dialogue to explore other possibilities.

These questions might ask, “How did we conclude that this is the best course of action?” or “What are some alternative ways we could market to X?” or “How does the data back this decision?” These kinds of questions will challenge your team to be more reflective and thoughtful about their current course of action (and potential future actions) and how they arrived at certain decisions.

 

Creating an open atmosphere that encourages asking questions can tremendously strengthen an organization. When people feel comfortable enough to ask clarifying questions or explore alternative routes, that opens the floor to increased creativity, candidness, and a sense of collaborative decision-making.

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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