Top 5 List – Find Motivation

Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain
Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain

Here is a Top 5 List to help you get back in the work groove after vacation, even if you’d still rather be at the beach. Or at any time during the year when motivation is lacking.

Create lists. The night before or the first thing in the morning, make a list of everything you need to do for the day – especially the difficult stuff. This is most effective if you write it on paper instead of inputting it into your device. Make multiple lists if needed (example – personal & business). This will result in more things being checked off. Actively checking things off a list provides the motivation to do the next task.

Celebrate all achievements. Set small, attainable goals for yourself to complete throughout the day, everything from making phone calls to finishing a report. Then take some time to reward yourself when each goal is reached. Get a coffee, go for a short walk, or listen to a brief podcast…something not work related. As long as it is within reason, whatever you feel you deserve.

Start with the difficult items. A long list of tasks can be overwhelming and discouraging, resulting in very little being accomplished. Especially, if you delay addressing those difficult items. You’ll feel better about yourself and your ability to take on the tougher jobs and finish the day with more enjoyable tasks.

Change things. Many of us fall into a routine, both at home and at work. Breaking that routine, even just once in a while can give us a fresh perspective and renewed energy. Perhaps work from home, change your hours, or simply hold meetings in an unusual place.

Collaborate. Surrounding yourself with others, even those who may also feel unmotivated, can lift the whole group. Keep it light and fun. Get people laughing. Try some word games or company trivia before getting down to business. Sometimes the best way to improve productivity is to think less about being productive.


Unlock Your Potential – Do This

Leadership – CC0 Public Domain
Leadership – CC0 Public Domain

What are you most proud of?

Grab that thought that just appeared in your mind. That’s right, the very first one that appeared when you read the question. For me, the answer has little to do with achievement, and much more to do with a time where I was able to contribute beyond what I originally thought I was capable of. In my mid-20s, I became the Senior Project Manager for a large retailer. What was supposed to be a temporary journey to lead several of their new construction projects, turned into a multi-year, amazing adventure.

The most profound times of our lives are the situations and challenges we couldn’t have planned for; yet choice-by-choice and effort-by-effort we ended up making it through better off than when we started.

The key to surprising yourself with what you’re capable of is to stay open to discovering more on your journey. When faced with challenge, don’t default to “I can’t.” Instead, center on what you can work towards. The reward is the richness of experience and the awareness that your capability often extends far past what you imagined being possible.

I’ve seen many examples of leaders (in the news this year) stepping up during the pandemic to work towards achieving more:

The manager who made the ask of her greater department to donate leave for an employee who needed extended time off to recover from COVID.

The coach who expanded his team’s roster to take on more players so more kids could have the opportunity to play and exercise during online school.

The senior manager who went without pay for three months to retain junior team members.

The boss who wouldn’t accept a parent’s resignation so she could provide childcare for her kids; instead, he worked to create a flexible schedule for her to get through until schools reopened.

Each of these leaders approached challenges with an eye for how they could be of service to others, finding a way to make things happen, even when it meant sacrifice or extra effort. When you face challenge, focus on the work towards mentality: the first step you can take to overcome it. Then, keep stepping, knowing that with the most difficult matters we face, the value is in the experience not the outcome. And, through it all, look for ways you can contribute to supporting others. That’s leadership.


Say No – To Being Time Poor

Need More Time
Need More Time

Like many, I’m time poor. (I actually think I may be bankrupt.) But, I’m learning a few powerful lessons during this stress test (known as the Global Pandemic) that I’d like to share.

Before You Commit to Anything, Get Clear on Your Priorities. You might think it’s crazy to take on all of these things that we do and I do agree, I’d also like to offer that all of these activities must be aligned with our top priorities. For example:

  • Family
  • Professional Development
  • Support & Service To Employer (and community)

For the record, I’ve said “no” to things recently, to make room for my “yes” replies When asked if I want to get involved in anything new, I say, “let me think about it” before I agree to move forward. Clear priorities give me guidelines on whether I should say “yes” to anything new.

You Can’t Do Everything. We all have limitations. What I’ve learned is that I can’t be everywhere at once, I don’t always make the best decisions, and there are others willing to step up and help when asked. To manage, we have to delegate and empower. Sometimes it’s hard for people to give up control as they assume more responsibility. You can delegate authority, but not responsibility. When you delegate authority, you give people autonomy – something we all crave. Any task that has been delegated can be a great learning opportunity for someone else.

Sometimes Good Enough Is….Good Enough. We’re all busy and in the greater scheme of our lives, things matter but maybe not as much as we think. When you’re busy, how you allocate your minutes is critical. During the week, there are things I spend time on and things I don’t. There are things that I perfect, and there are things I choose not to. In your world, you know when you’re trying to make perfect things that don’t matter. The key is being able to recognize when good enough is really good enough.

For all of us, we strive to feel full lives. I’ve given up on the idea that life can feel balanced – is anything ever really balanced?


Effective Communication Strategies For Students

Question Mark – CC0 Public Domain
Question Mark – CC0 Public Domain

Faculty often tell me…when students reach out they often express their concerns about their courses, they confess their shortcomings as students and writers, and they ask for some advice. The conversation might look like this:

Student: “What’s the one thing I can do to increase my chances of doing well?”

Faculty: “Simple, keep the lines of communication open.”

The most successful students are the ones who aren’t afraid to reach out to the faculty members with questions, concerns, and comments. As a student, if you’re not used to communicating with your instructors, here are some helpful tips to help you get the most out of each interaction:

Reach Out Early – Most universities and colleges require their instructors to respond to student inquiries within 24 – 48 hours. So, if you have a paper due by 11:59 PM on Sunday, you don’t want to wait until 11:00 PM to email your instructor. Look over the assignments in the beginning of the week and send questions as soon as they arise!

Avoid Vague Comments and Questions – If you ask vague questions, you’ll get vague answers. If you ask clear and specific questions, then you’ll get clear and specific responses.

Be Prepared – Every now and then, faculty members get a student who will send an email like this: “I’m confused by the assignment. Explain it to me, please.” Most faculty provide assignments with detailed instructions and rubrics. So, faculty members are not willing to simply rewrite the instructions. However, they ARE willing to respond to a specific question with a specific direction or a specific piece of language from the rubric.

Use the Appropriate Communication Channels – Be sure you’re using your instructor’s preferred method of communication. If he/she encourages you to call, then call – just be respectful, and don’t call in the middle of the night! If he/she asks you to communicate via school email, do so. If you don’t use the proper communication channels, you may stall the conversation.

Be Patient – Online courses are available 24/7. Online instructors are not. If the school promises a 24-hour response time, then be sure you give your instructor a full 24 hours before firing another email.

Be Nice – Professors are people. They don’t like to be yelled at. They don’t like to be called names. They are more willing to work with people who are kind to them. So, be professional and be kind.

Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to reach out to your instructors. Good communication can make the difference between an okay learning experience and a great one.


Stay Focused During the Holiday Season

Priority – CC0 Public Domain
Priority – CC0 Public Domain

Thanksgiving approaches. The short holiday break is almost here. It’s a stressful time for all students, faculty & staff members in higher education. Here are some strategies to make for a productive and relaxing holiday season – or at least a more relaxing holiday season.

Make a List of Important Dates – November and December are prime months for term papers, presentations, and final exams. They are also busy months filled with teacher conferences, holiday parties, and winter concerts. So, list all the important dates you need to remember. Once you do that, you can start figuring out a more concrete schedule.

Prioritize – Not all assignments or events are created equal. You want to make sure you’re focusing your energy on the big-ticket items. Make a list of all the major assignments and the mandatory engagements. Figure out how much time you’ll need to devote to those obligations, and create a schedule that will allow you to make the most out of your time.

Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan – Develop a very detailed and thorough plan of attack. Allow plenty of time (hint: use your list of priorities mentioned above to create a realistic timetable). If you can, spread your work over several days. Avoid waiting until the last minute to write that term paper or study for that final exam. You’re more likely to do well and less likely to get overwhelmed if you take things bit-by-bit.

Practice Self-Care – The holiday season has a way of making even the most well-adjusted individual a little crazy. Likewise, the end-of-the-term chaos can overwhelm even the most diligent student. You add holiday madness to the end-of-the-term madness, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. What can you do to stay grounded? Make a point to do something for you. Take time for yourself every single day. You don’t need to jet off to the spa or go to a ballgame. Just set aside 15 minutes each day to relax – take a break from studying or holiday prepping. Practice self-care by:

  • Reading a book or at least a portion of a book (no textbooks allowed!)
  • Taking a walk around the neighborhood
  • Having an extra cup of coffee/tea
  • Having a nice glass of wine (only if you’re of legal age)
  • Completing a Sudoku, Word-search or crossword puzzle
  • Taking a power nap
  • Having a quick dance party
  • Work on a jigsaw puzzle
  • Meditating
  • Enjoying some holiday music

The holiday season can be a magical and joyous time. Stay focused and organized…enjoy it!


Top 5 List – Stop Doing When Sending Email

Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain
Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain

Many of us send many emails over the course of a week. We don’t give a second thought as to what kind of impression they can have on how others view us. Even a well written email can make us appear less professional just through presentation and style. In order to make your next email look professional, here are five things you might be doing – and may need to stop.

Long signatures. Your name, title and company is plenty. If you really want to include your social media links and all of your current committee positions, think about listing them in a smaller font. Also, avoid icons, logo’s and images whenever possible. In addition to possibly appearing as attachments, they don’t always display well on mobile devices.

Reply all. In most cases, replying back to the original sender is fine. Not everyone on the list needs to know your question or see your reply. Use the reply all option when it really makes sense.

Writing like a text message. Poor spelling and abbreviations might be acceptable in a text, but in an email they make you look distracted and lazy. Write in a way that is professional and that would make your English teacher proud. Proof your work before sending.

Really long emails. If you have a lot to say, it just might be more efficient to pick up the phone (or meet in a video chat) and have that conversation with the person. You can always send an email afterwards summarizing the key points.

Auto replies, all the time. Just because you’re out of the office for the day (or half-day) doesn’t mean you need to create an auto reply message. Especially if you’re still receiving your email. There’s nothing wrong with answering emails at the end of the day or even the next day.


Ask Questions – If You Want Success In An Online Class

Building Community
Building Community

It happens before the beginning of every session. I will receive an email from an eager student who wants to know how to complete their first assignment. As always, I direct the student to the assignment requirements and the rubric. And I am always reminded, this is the student who will be my rock-star for the class. This is the student that asks questions…weekly and sometimes daily.

I see students from a variety of academic backgrounds, the students have a broad range of interest, goals and skills. However, the one thing that stands out to me time and time again is that my most successful students have one very important thing in common: they aren’t afraid to ask questions. 

So here’s the question: why is it so important to ask questions in an online class?

Gain clarity – most students struggle in online courses because they don’t understand the expectations or the requirements of any given assignment. As a student, if you don’t understand what’s expected of you…you can’t succeed. This is why it is important to ask questions to gain clarity.

Enhance understanding of the material – many online courses require the students to read a significant amount of material in a short amount of time. Asking the instructor some thoughtful questions is a great way to develop a more thorough understanding of the material.

Take ownership of the learning experience – online instructors try to meet the unique needs of all of their students. However they can’t provide students with the support that they require. As a student if you need an example or need more resources ask for those things. As a student you’ll be pleasantly surprised how willing instructors are to assist.

Show your instructors that you care – students are hesitant to ask questions because they’re afraid to admit they don’t understand the material. They don’t want the instructors to think they’re stupid. Asking a question can make yourself appear vulnerable, that’s understandable. However, instructors see your willingness to be vulnerable as a sign of your commitment to the course. Ask your questions to show you care about the course.

Ineffective vs. effective – not all questions are created equal. We’ve all heard that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but there are questions that are ineffective, these questions will lead to less engaged in responses. When you do decide to pose a question, make sure it’s one that will get you results!

For example, avoid sending your instructor a late-night email that looks like this: “HELP! I don’t understand the assignment. What am I supposed to do?” That kind of email requires a lot of follow-up questions by the instructor. Instead, identify specific points of concern and ask about those. If you do, you’re likely to get a more engaged response.

Don’t ever be afraid to be that student, that does ask questions. Be the student who asks questions, sends emails, contributes daily….and enjoys a successful academic career!


Trust The Process

This Way – CC0 Public Domain
This Way – CC0 Public Domain

Trust the process. What is your process?

When times get confusing, having a solid process can be very helpful. To help, you could:

  • Embrace change yourself and be patient helping others to adapt
  • Avoid pushing others (or projects) too hard or too quickly

It may be difficult for some to accept that rituals and habits have changed. To help, you could:

  • Build new and appropriate processes for the current times
  • Avoid clinging to old ideas that just can’t be used right now

By looking at your process, you can build clarity as you notice and choose how you will react to crisis and change.


Think The Best

Think The Best – CC0 Public Domain
Think The Best – CC0 Public Domain

Think the best of other people. Other people greatly influence us, whether we like to admit it or not.

You have most likely noticed that people may have left your circle recently because of quarantine and this can cause concern. To help, you could:

  • Be willing to reach out to these other people and share more often
  • Other people may not be doing well. Be sensitive to the feelings of other people and how they are coping. Simply ask others: How are you?

You may also be worried about people you love who are not with you or those who are worse off than you are. This can also cause heightened levels of anxiety. To help, you could:

  • Identify simple and realistic ways to help other people
  • Avoid overextending your giving to others, again simply asking someone how they are is helpful


Workplace Diversity

Diverse Coffee – CC0 Public Domain
Diverse Coffee – CC0 Public Domain

Leaders must understand a variety of complicated and sophisticated components within their environments. One critical component is that of cultural sensitivity. Now, more than ever leaders must be sensitive and aware of not just the workplace culture but also how people of varying backgrounds interact with each other. Cultural sensitivity can help improve office morale as well as attract top talent who will contribute to a healthy workplace that is productive. Here are a few tips to improve workplace productivity.

Seek differences in perspective

Poor assumptions can lead to many conflicts in the workplace. A few factors that can shape perspectives are gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnic background and political opinions/beliefs. Whenever in doubt about a difference of opinion in the workplace ask the following questions (in your own words, of course) before responding:

  • How did you arrive at this conclusion?
  • Can you help educate me on this by directing me to the most recent literature?
  • Is there something that you think I need to know about this?

Don’t shy away from awkward conversations

At work it is tempting to ignore the cultural differences and focus on the bottom line or other established goals. However it is important to take time to have an honest conversation on the differences. Chances are this will result in new and fascinating opportunities. For example, while discussing your differences in culture you may discover there is a need that you can support in a different and unique way.

Celebrate everyone

As a leader it is your job to celebrate everyone especially those from different cultures while making sure they are part of the unified vision and mission of your organization. On a regular basis remind all of your employees about your core ethics values and morals. Celebrating the many different cultures ensures that no one is felt alienated or ignored.

The productive team of employees are those who will feel supported, appreciated and validated. Your role as a leader is to make sure that your organization knows this message: everyone’s voice is important and must be heard.

Employees who understand each other can resolve the differences quickly and focus on being productive members of the team. Good leaders should always keep the lines of communication open and understand all members of the organization.