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.

~RG

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.

~RG

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?

~RG

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.

~RG

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!

~RG

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.

~RG

Top 5 List – Be More Efficient Working From Home

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

For remote workers, working from home can increase efficiency and reduce commute times while allowing for more time to spend with family. The problem is that there can also be more distractions such as kids, household chores, and running errands. Here are five ways to help you feel less stressed and more efficient while working from home.

Have a designated work area. Don’t use the sofa or the kitchen table — have a room (with a door) to call your own. Train your family (including pets) to know you are unavailable when the door is closed.

Schedule your time. Set aside blocks of time during each day for work, chores, meals, errands, and especially “me time”.

Keep set hours. It can be easy to take a few hours off in the afternoon then work until midnight. The problem is that this can lead to you working too many hours or not enough, resulting in either exhaustion or a lack of business growth. Try to keep your hours in line with the rest of your co-workers and others in similar types of work.

Have a second office. Studies have shown that a change of scenery can make you more productive. On occasion, grab the laptop and head off to a library, coffee shop or quiet park for some caffeine induced creative thinking.

Attend networking and other social events. It’s easy to become solitary working from home, making you unmotivated and uninspired. Meeting new people will not only keep you sharp, it may even bring in new ideas or ways to approach your work.

-RG

Working From Home

Working From Home – CC0 Public Domain
Working From Home – CC0 Public Domain

Going forward many of us may be working from home, for the summer…or the rest of 2020. This is the current state of affairs we are faced with. The coronavirus pandemic is and will be pushing many skilled workers to home offices. Time will only tell if we will be returning to our pre-pandemic offices or not. 

Those that have a history of working remotely report that they enjoy the freedom to manage their schedules, work anywhere and little or no commute. If you find yourself in need of a home office to function as your primary work place, here are a few things to consider.

Setup a focused workspace

A top priority for working from home is to ensure that your designated work space is equipped properly, comfortable and has good lighting. Additionally, you’ll need to have a comfortable and supportive chair as well as an area large enough to accommodate your computer and paperwork needed for each work day. TIP: If your work space is small or dark, consider hanging a mirror to bring in natural light.

Establish a routine

Those in leadership positions report that they worry remote workers will be distracted by household responsibilities or social media. However, when surveyed most employees report that when they are working from home, the challenge is more about breaking away from work. TIP: Schedule several 15-minute breaks during the day for light chores or set timers as reminders to get up and move around throughout the day. Finally, consider making a clean break from work at the end of the day by working out, playing with kids or pets.

Stay connected

Employees that enjoy remote work report that they do miss some of the routines of a shared workspace, including bonding with co-workers like coffee breaks, lunches and celebrations. TIP: Intentionally schedule meetings to replicate the in-office experience. For example, coffee hours or happy hours are a great way to keep remote workers in the loop, boost morale and stay connected.

Tips to quickly create a home office

If you find yourself in a position to quickly set up a remote work space, consider:

  • A desk with plenty of space
  • An uncluttered area or bare wall to serve as a background for virtual meetings
  • A computer with a built-in webcam, microphone and speakers
  • Noise cancelling headphones
  • An internet speed of up to 30Mbps for downloads should be fine
  • Check with local internet service provider for best pricing options
  • Sufficient outlets to keep devices powered up
  • Printer and printer paper
  • A room with a door that you can close
  • Plenty of natural or artificial light
  • A solid wi-fi connection – (a hard-wired connection, if possible)
  • Locate a solution for free file storage – OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox etc.
  • Online productivity tools that allow for low barriers to collaboration with colleagues (Google or Microsoft)
  • No or low cost video conferencing and project management solutions
  • Lastly, develop a plan to keep your hardware and software updated and secure

-RG

Get Organized

Get Organized – CC0 Public Domain
Get Organized – CC0 Public Domain

Have you ever started a work week only to realize that you are already dreading what lies ahead? It’s the first day of the work week and your calendar is already packed, there are endless emails, piles of papers and a long to-do list are waiting for you.

This is a common feeling for many people. In fact, it’s common for work to feel overwhelming and unorganized. It is difficult to do our best work when we are overloaded with too many things to do and too many distractions. We just can’t be closer to the work we’d like to do, when we feel that we have little control over our days.

When it comes to your workspace don’t let clutter interfere with your daily schedule or your digital life. Create an office space and a digital world that you can enjoy.

  • Start with the physical workspace, clean up any books, paperwork and miscellaneous items like supplies and electronics. Keep only the things that are essential for your job and discard everything else.
  • Clean up your inbox, the apps on your smartphone and the files on your computer. Try to free yourself from constant notifications and the frustration that may come from never being able to find what you need.
  • Change your calendar to make more room for the work that truly matters. Learn how to say no, so that you have freedom to say yes to what you’re going to enjoy and what’s most important.
  • Eliminate, automate and delegate the less significant decisions that can take up a lot of your energy so you can focus on critical decisions.
  • Bigger is not always better. Build a small number of meaningful relationships within your network. A smaller set of high-quality connections can offer the support you need to do your best work.
  • Prioritize your most important meetings and avoid those that waste your time. Be prepared to actively listen and be supportive of others ideas. In general try to keep the meetings small in size and short length.

No matter what your job is, share information, speak up when you have something to add and connect with your colleagues. Avoid teams that are loaded with personal drama and conflict.

Once you’ve made these adjustments, you will be much more comfortable and be able to do the work that you love. A more organized schedule allows you to dedicate attention to projects that will make a difference. You’ll embrace challenges and become more enthusiastic about learning new skills. The changes that come from healthy organizing will work magic for you!

-RG

Top 5 List – Tips To Avoid Sending An Angry Email

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

Have you ever sent an angry email only to later wish you had not? The “send” button gives fewer opportunities to allow cooler heads to prevail. As opposed to writing a letter, placing it in an envelope and walking to the mailbox. 

Here are five tips to help you avoid sending out an email that can ruin even the strongest relationships.

  • Set your goal. Are you writing this email to persuade someone to change their mind, request better service, or just to vent? Focus on the goal of your message and what you hope the outcome will be.
  • Use a word processor to write your email, to help correct spelling and grammar errors. This will add that extra step that could keep you from sending it too soon.
  • Don’t write when you’re emotional. Pet the dog or cat, if you are a pet owner. Go for a bike ride, make a healthy snack, do anything to clear your mind. This will allow you to focus and organize your thoughts. Perhaps, wait a full 24 hours.
  • Get an outsider’s perspective. Have someone else read it and provide feedback. Send it to a trusted friend or colleague for their honest opinion. 
  • Choose a face-to-face method of communication. Humor and sarcasm can often get misinterpreted when delivered in the form of an email. Pick up the phone or arranging a personal meeting can be the most efficient, mature and effective way to resolve issues.

-RG