" He Who is Afraid of Asking is Afraid of Learning... " ~ (Danish Proverb)


I have not written a blog in some time…I found that if I had to censor what I could say, or if I was simply too busy, tired or focused in other directions, then my thoughts could not lead to meaningful concepts and my words could not lead to coherent thoughts. So, I took a hiatus. But now that I am not as immersed in chaos and given quite a few new followers whom I did not wish to disappoint, I am back.

When you learn, teach, when you get, give. ~ Maya Angelou

…One of my favorite quotes, and one which I have written about in a very different context than I will here. The past several months have taught me much, so I will share. Although much has been written by many on the topics of work, life, work-life balance, and giving, here’s the reality:

  • Work – Work is not just work. I don’t care if you are the most lackadaisical, unmotivated person or the most driven. Yes -we work in order to [earn a salary, and therefore] live. That is empirical data shared by all humankind. However, our work in large part determines the true quality of our lives. Whether you are a barista at Starbucks, a manager of a team of employees, or a social worker – these many extreme roles illustrate that what we do impacts others. The interactions we have, the emotions we share and the lessons we leave behind occur involuntarily and impact the quality of other peoples’ lives . During these interactions, we also exchange energy. And the type of energy we exchange will dictate the quality of our own life . Simply put, in order to be happy, we must do work which has meaning to us and is not just the means to a [financial] end: work in which we do not have to settle for mediocrity, be pulled in so many different directions that we cannot find our way in any, work which does not serve to satisfy the egos of others but rather to accomplish the right and most effective outcome, work which makes a difference and inspires you to do more of it every single day. In the absence of joy and meaning in your work, the energy exchange is a vacuum which sucks energy from you leaving nothing replenishing in its place.
  • Life – Life is not the fairy tale every child believes it can be. Life is neither easy nor simple but it is a gift within which is wrapped a purpose. Joy occurs not in the absence of sorrow and hardship, but often in parallel to those things. A popular concept in business, “GIGO – ‘garbage in, garbage out’ ” – applies even more directly to life. And, be not mistaken: “garbage” refers not only to eating too much junk food and not getting enough sleep (whatever “enough” equates to for you) but also to the types of people with whom you associate, the amount of energy you allow yourself to expend on them, and the principles of integrity, fairness, truth or lack thereof that you set for yourself.
  • If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. ~ Malcolm X

  • Balance – Much has been written about the fallacy that is “work-life balance”; and while literal work-life balance may not exist all of the time nor in a precise quantitative ratio, it can be striven for and achieved however you may choose to define it and how much time you choose to spend in its realm. There is no truer place where quality trumps quantity than in your moments of balance, rest and rejuvenation. PS: there is a reason that balance appears third on my list – refer back to the sections on work and life above; if your work is not meaningful to you, and if you are surrounded by others who specialize in draining your energy or undermining your purpose, balance will always, always elude you. Trust me on this one. :)
  • Giving – The truism “give before you get” applies to so many positive and altruistic areas of life – volunteering, child-rearing, etc etc. But, if you were raised on the Golden Rule, my advice would be to UNlearn it at some point in your life, at least in an absolute sense. Doing unto others as you’d have done to you applies ONLY when the assumption that “others” have the same work-ethic, values and sense of personal growth and motivation that you do holds. And, much of the time, that assumption is flawed. There are people and situations to which you can give and give and give exponentially and who will simply require you to continue giving, refuse to do the work required to grow, and/or never appreciate what it takes from you to give. It is every adult’s responsibility to choose – strategically – those with whom they surround themselves, and carefully build meaningful relationships. Once again, quality trumps quantity. I’ve chosen to replace the ‘Golden Rule’ way of living with the “teach a man to fish” way of living – ” Give a man a fish, and he will eat a good meal. Teach that man to fish, and he will eat well forever”….and, if he chooses not to learn, well your energy remains intact to spend on someone who will.

Wishing You Success,

Re-defining the Trajectory of Success

In a recent article by Arianna Huffington, reflecting on Hillary Clinton’s career trajectory and professional profile, the focus quickly shifts from Clinton to every wo(man).

Succinctly put, Huffington examines the current standards on which professional success is based: lack of sleep, overwork, and burnout – symptoms anyone who is highly accomplished, driven, dedicated (i.e., Hillary) can attest to and slogs through in the name of hard work, responsibility and contribution. However, these same people (author included) can also attest to impaired decision-making, lack of creativity and overall motivation at times. So, as professionals in a rapid-fire, information-rich, decision-heavy society, where do we go from here…

I think Hillary sums it up best, in her goals for her sabbatical. And, I quote:

“I hope I get to sleep in,” … “I don’t have any real plans to make any decisions, “…”I am really looking forward to stepping off the fast track that I’ve been on,”…”I don’t quite know how I’m going to adjust to not having a schedule and a lot of work that is in front of me that is expecting me to respond to minute by minute,”…”I just want to sleep and exercise and travel for fun. And relax…. I would like to see whether I can get untired.”

So, unless you are planning a sabbatical, the above is not entirely realistic in totality. However, just by the mere acknowledgement of these fundamental human needs for sleep, mental rest, and relaxation, Hillary is speaking for us all.

In my own search for the above, I have found the following to be true:

  • Technology is our greatest ally in the battle against burnout. We live in an age with the ability to work from home and still connect via technology, VPN access to remote networks, cell phones with ever-decreasing rate plans and, of course, instantaneous email. The flexibility, ability to work according to your own circadian rhythms and maximize productivity, achieve work-life balance are ALL solved with flexible working arrangements. But, we are still fighting against the demons of late-adopters and those exceptions who simply are not disciplined enough to work remotely. Much like John Lennon imagined ” all the people living life in peace,” I imagine a world in which remote-workers are applauded and can seamlessly interact with those who insist on being office-bound, and where productivity soars because flexibility and work-life balance become achievable once more.
  • No job, paycheck, benefits package nor perk is worth lowering the standards of integrity, respect and growth you have set for yourself. If you find yourself not only in the midst of lack of sleep, overwork, and burnout – but even worse, unfulfilled, disrespected , or declining in skills – you owe it to yourself to take the time to find another path to success.
  • Define success for yourself. I am learning [the hard] way, that saying yes to everything – even the most worthwhile endeavors – just doesn’t work. Unless it is 100% happiness-guaranteed, I am probably going to say a gentle “No” for now.
  • Try keeping things in perspective and prioritizing your needs: vacations (or staycations), more focus on being present in daily life, prayer, living as drama-free as you can, family/friends (the drama-free kind) and enjoying a nap whenever you can!

Huffington says it best,

And maybe I’m dreaming, but the world needs Hillary not only to get herself “untired,” but in the next chapter of her life to become a role model for the idea that one can both be untired and successful.

Wishing You Success,

A Look Ahead into 2013…Moment by Moment

As 2012 draws to a close, I have been struggling to define a post that captures the ups and downs of the past year combined with any lessons to take into the new. It’s no surprise either. Why?

I began 2012 writing about Productivity, and ended it with the least amount of tangible productive outcomes of any year in my recent past. It seemed that, the more I did – the less I accomplished. The harder I worked – the weaker and less fulfilling (and more mistake-prone) the result.

For a solution- and goal-oriented ‘Type P’ like me, this is not a happy place to be.

But, ironically, the greatest accomplishment I’ve managed in 2012 is an intangible one. It’s the realization that life is a series of moments, not one large lump sum goal. And each moment, whether successful or not – whether pleasant or painful – leads to lessons that feed into the next experience, and hopefully toward discovering a purpose. But living from moment to moment is easier said than done.

So, I will borrow from a great article, excerpted from the Harvard Business Review, that I will surely be referring to in 2013…to get me from moment to moment:

Nine Ways Successful People Defeat Stress

by Heidi Grant Halvorson

Feeling stressed? Of course you are. You have too much on your plate, deadlines are looming, people are counting on you…You are under a lot of pressure — so much that at times, you suspect the quality of your work suffers for it.

This is life in the modern workplace. It is more or less impossible to be any kind of professional these days and not experience frequent bouts of intense stress. The difference between those who are successful and those who aren’t is not whether or not you suffer from stress, but how you deal with it when you do.

In the spirit of Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, here are nine scientifically-proven strategies for defeating stress whenever it strikes.

1. Have self-compassion.

Self-compassion is, in essence, cutting yourself some slack. It’s being willing to look at your mistakes or failures with kindness and understanding — without harsh criticism or defensiveness. Studies show that people who are self-compassionate are happier, more optimistic, and less anxious and depressed. That’s probably not surprising. But here’s the kicker: they are more successful, too. Most of us believe that we need to be hard on ourselves to perform at our best, but it turns out that’s 100 percent wrong. A dose of self-compassion when things are at their most difficult can reduce your stress and improve your performance, by making it easier to learn from your mistakes. So remember that to err is human, and give yourself a break.

2. Remember the “Big Picture.”

Anything you need or want to do can be thought of in more than one way. For instance, “exercising” can be described in Big Picture terms, like “getting healthier” — the why of exercising — or it can be described in more concrete terms, like “running two miles” — the how of exercising. Thinking Big Picture about the work you do can be very energizing in the face of stress and challenge, because you are linking one particular, often small action to a greater meaning or purpose. Something that may not seem important or valuable on its own gets cast in a whole new light. So when staying that extra hour at work at the end of an exhausting day is thought of as “helping my career” rather than “answering emails for 60 more minutes,” you’ll be much more likely to want to stay put and work hard.

3. Rely on routines.

If I ask you to name the major causes of stress in your work life, you would probably say things like deadlines, a heavy workload, bureaucracy, or your terrible boss. You probably wouldn’t say “having to make so many decisions,” because most people aren’t aware that this is a powerful and pervasive cause of stress in their lives. Every time you make a decision — whether it’s about hiring a new employee, about when to schedule a meeting with your supervisor, or about choosing rye or whole wheat for your egg salad sandwich — you create a state of mental tension that is, in fact, stressful. (This is why shopping is so exhausting — it’s not the horrible concrete floors, it’s all that deciding.)

The solution is to reduce the number of decisions you need to make by using routines. If there’s something you need to do every day, do it at the same time every day. Have a routine for preparing for your day in the morning, and packing up to go home at night. Simple routines can dramatically reduce your experience of stress. In fact, President Obama, who assuredly knows a great deal about stress, mentioned using this strategy himself in a recent interview:

You need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day… You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia. –President Obama, Vanity Fair

4. Take five (or ten) minutes to do something you find interesting.

If there were something you could add to your car’s engine, so that after driving it a hundred miles, you’d end up with more gas in the tank than you started with, wouldn’t you use it? Even if nothing like that exists for your car just yet, there is something you can do for yourself that will have the same effect… doing something interesting. It doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it interests you. Recent research shows that interest doesn’t just keep you going despite fatigue, it actually replenishes your energy. And then that replenished energy flows into whatever you do next.

Keep these two very important points in mind: First, interesting is not the same thing as pleasant, fun, or relaxing (though they are certainly not mutually exclusive.) Taking a lunch break might be relaxing, and if the food is good it will probably be pleasant. But unless you are eating at the hot new molecular gastronomy restaurant, it probably won’t be interesting. So it won’t replenish your energy.

Second, interesting does not have to mean effortless. The same studies that showed that interest replenished energy showed that it did so even when the interesting task was difficult and required effort. So you actually don’t have to “take it easy” to refill your tank.

5. Add where and when to your to-do list.

Do you have a to-do list? (If you have a “Task” bar on the side of your calendar, and you use it, then the answer is “yes.”) And do you find that a day or a week (or sometimes longer) will frequently pass by without a single item getting checked off? Stressful, isn’t it? What you need is a way to get the things done that you set out to do in a timely manner. What you need is if-then planning (or what psychologists call “implementation intentions”).

This particular form of planning is a really powerful way to help you achieve any goal. Nearly 200 studies, on everything from diet and exercise to negotiation and time management, have shown that deciding in advance when and where you will complete a task (e.g., “If it is 4pm, then I will return any phone calls I should return today”) can double or triple your chances of actually doing it.

So take the tasks on your to-do list, and add a specific when and where to each. For example, “Remember to call Bob” becomes “If it is Tuesday after lunch, then I’ll call Bob.” Now that you’ve created an if-then plan for calling Bob, your unconscious brain will start scanning the environment, searching for the situation in the “if” part of your plan. This enables you to seize the critical moment and make the call, even when you are busy doing other things. And what better way is there to cut down on your stress than crossing things off your to-do list?

6. Use if-thens for positive self-talk.

Another way to combat stress using if-then plans is to direct them at the experience of stress itself, rather than at its causes. Recent studies show that if-then plans can help us to control our emotional responses to situations in which we feel fear, sadness, fatigue, self-doubt, or even disgust. Simply decide what kind of response you would like to have instead of feeling stress, and make a plan that links your desired response to the situations that tend to raise your blood pressure. For instance, “If I see lots of emails in my Inbox, then I will stay calm and relaxed,” or, “If a deadline is approaching, then I will keep a cool head.”

7. See your work in terms of progress, not perfection

We all approach the goals we pursue with one of two mindsets: what I call the Be-Good mindset, where the focus is on proving that you have a lot of ability and that you already know what you’re doing, and the Get-Better mindset, where the focus is on developing your ability and learning new skills. You can think of it as the difference between wanting to show that you are smart versus wanting to get smarter.

When you have a Be-Good mindset, you expect to be able to do everything perfectly right out of the gate, and you constantly (often unconsciously) compare yourself to other people, to see how you “size up.” You quickly start to doubt your ability when things don’t go smoothly, and this creates a lot of stress and anxiety. Ironically, worrying about your ability makes you much more likely to ultimately fail.

A Get-Better mindset, on the other hand, leads instead to self-comparison and a concern with making progress — how well are you doing today, compared with how you did yesterday, last month, or last year? When you think about what you are doing in terms of learning and improving, accepting that you may make some mistakes along the way, you experience far less stress, and you stay motivated despite the setbacks that might occur.

8. Think about the progress that you’ve already made.

“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.” This is what Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer refer to as the Progress Principle — the idea is that it’s the “small wins” that keep us going, particularly in the face of stressors.

Psychologically, it’s often not whether we’ve reached our goal, but the rate at which we are closing the gap between where we are now and where we want to end up that determines how we feel. It can be enormously helpful to take a moment and reflect on what you’ve accomplished so far before turning your attention to the challenges that remain ahead.

9. Know whether optimism or defensive pessimism works for you.

For many of us, it’s hard to stay positive when we’ve got assignments up to our eyeballs. For others, it isn’t just hard — it feels wrong. And as it turns out, they are perfectly correct — optimism doesn’t work for them.

It is stressful enough to try to juggle as many projects and goals as we do, but we add a layer of stress without realizing it when we try to reach them using strategies that don’t feel right — that don’t mesh with our own motivational style. So what’s your motivational style, and is “staying positive” right for you?

Some people think of their jobs as opportunities for achievement and accomplishment — they have what psychologists call a promotion focus. In the language of economics, promotion focus is all about maximizing gains and avoiding missed opportunities. For others, doing a job well is about security, about not losing the positions they’ve worked so hard for. This prevention focus places the emphasis on avoiding danger, fulfilling responsibilities, and doing what feel you ought to do. In economic terms, it’s about minimizing losses, trying to hang on to what you’ve got.

Understanding promotion and prevention motivation helps us understand why people can work so differently to reach the same goal. Promotion motivation feels like eagerness — the desire to really go for it — and this eagerness is sustained and enhanced by optimism. Believing that everything is going to work out great is essential for promotion-focused performance. Prevention motivation, on the other hand, feels like vigilance — the need to keep danger at bay — and it is sustained not by optimism, but by a kind of defensive pessimism. In other words, the prevention-minded actually work best when they think about what might go wrong, and what they can do to keep that from happening.

So, do you spend your life pursuing accomplishments and accolades, reaching for the stars? Or are you busy fulfilling your duties and responsibilities — being the person everyone can count on? Start by identifying your focus, and then embrace either the sunny outlook or the hearty skepticism that will reduce your stress and keep you performing at your best. Put some or all of these strategies for fighting stress, and you will see real changes not only in the workplace, but in every area of your life.

Wishing You Success in 2013,

Re-visiting 2012

You might ask why the title of this blog states that we are “re-visiting” 2012 since it’s only 1/2 over! As I embarked on reviewing my midpoint budget and financials, I decided that this would be the best time to look back at our year thus far, review any words of wisdom we gave ourselves circa December 31, 2011 and how those words have measured up to reality.

My year got off to a slow start and with a renewed purpose to understand and refine my own limits of productivity. I vowed to “give myself a break instead of pushing forward aimlessly” and believed in the hypothesis that if I sought “clarity”, then my task list would magically prioritize itself. So, I studied the different facets of productivity and its underlying catalysts personalty type, motivation, planning, and eventually found myself back exactly where I began with a now-tested-hypothesis-turned-proven-theory about just what productivity really means (Hint: it did indeed involve slowing down and allowing my goals to drive my efforts) .

And, just how did I do that?…

  • Slowing down has not been easy task and the operative word here is task. I’ve forced myself to carve out quiet time and turn off the email, blogs, twitter and phone if only for minutes or hours. I have to prioritize silence, rest, and de-clutter my mind . This is akin to inviting a marathon runner to a tai-chi class. Torture!
  • I also have to be willing to try the unknown - experience things that make me uncomfortable in order to find those which I would enjoy.
  • I am loosening my attachment to pre-defined goals and allowing the goals to define themselves as the year progresses. After 6 months of hitting my head against a wall trying to force myself into the goals I thought I needed to achieve, I began to revisit those goals, accept that I was unmotivated to achieve them for a reason, and wait for the right ones to replace them. Not surprisingly, my goal list is far smaller today than it was then, and the two goals I do have are ones which I feel open to accomplishing.
  • And although last on this list, it should really be first since it drove all the others – I continue to pause until clarity arrives. Over and over and over again. Note, I did not say STOP. I merely pause, step away from the goal, do something to distract myself and clear the space the [wrong] goal is taking up in my head. This is NOT easy to do, without guilt or the drive to just do something, but it is necessary. In fact, clarity has become one of my top three words for 2012. The other two may make celebrity guest appearances in future blog posts.

So, it may take me longer to get where I need to go and my internal GPS is still mapping out the correct routes; but that is OK as long I do not allow self-doubt to drain the fuel in my car; and I believe that when I get there, I’ll know that it’s exactly where I should be.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wishing You Success,

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Productivity – What Does it Really Mean? (Productivity Series, 2012)

We all define productivity differently, depending on the responsibilities we have, our priorities, and our focus on any given day or time in our life.

Some days, productivity could mean checking off every item on a to-do list of 20; other days if you make one successful phone call that you have been dreading or needing to make, your day is worthwhile; and then there are days when you do nothing but enjoy the weather, some downtime or quality time with meaningful people – and that, too, is quite a “productive” day.

But so many times, in this ever-connected world in which we live, we go on autopilot. We answer every email which begets more emails, in-between taking calls/hosting meetings/handling projects, customers and demands, and all the while trying to focus on the “big picture” of what needs to be done next to get us/our organization/our team to the next level.

Unfortunately, speed and efficiency can be the antithesis of forward movement. Imagine driving down a long expanse of highway amidst scenic mountains and bodies of water. If you are in the driver’s seat, your foot on the accelerator pushing 90 mph, could you really be focusing on the grand environment around you? If you tried to, you would surely CRASH.

Don’t just get things done; get the right things done. Results are always more important than the time it takes to achieve them. Stop and ask yourself if what you’re working on is worth the effort. Is it bringing you in the same direction as your goals? Don’t get caught up in odd jobs, even those that seem urgent, unless they are also important. ~ Marc and Angel

I am guilty of getting caught up in too much, only to realize that this results in less and sometimes nothing. So, in this, the final post of the “Productivity Series”, I’m going to try harder to focus, prioritize, and continually ask myself “Is it bringing me in the same direction as my goals..?

Wishing You Success,

Strengthen Your Strengths – The Introvert’s Place in an Extrovert’s World! (Productivity Series, 2012 )

We’re all motivated by something

I remember being in sales and realizing that $$$ was not enough to make me jump out of bed every morning. I tried not to dwell on this too long or I would not have lasted in the job; needless to say, I escaped it as soon as I could. The challenge to compete against myself (not other sales professionals) every week is what kept me on top. So, therein began a quest to determine what really motivated me and how to keep its momentum going.

Then, as I continued to write the “Productivity Series” this year, I began a post about how important it is to understand motivation as a function of productivity. Quickly, I realized that it would be remiss of me not to explore personality as a function of motivation first.

Everyone knows someone who is “quiet type”, the “social butterfly”, or a “connector” (to borrow a term from Malcom Gladwell). I certainly do, and find myself always seeking to determine how people are wired as soon as I meet them. But the more I observed others’ behaviors and studied their motivations, I began to question my own…

I wondered why certain events, people and situations drained me yet they had no apparent effect on anyone I knew. I watched as others derived energy from the energy of those around them, observed their need to constantly “think out loud”, and to diligently seek opportunities to never be alone. I, on the other hand, coveted “alone time” – carefully interspersed with work and social activities – my priority being the former not the latter.

And, as a project manager, I have to interact heavily with others almost every minute of every day – tasks require resources to get the job done and stakeholders to provide opinions and approvals. So, every day that I wondered why I was drained, I became even more so. But, was I a freak? A minority? Unable to function in the real world?

Somewhere along the road of questioning, I recalled a personal profile I had done over 10 years ago – and all I could remember was the first letter the profile assigned to me.


‘I’, as in ‘I’ is for introvert.

So, that is where my study began. The research began not for entertainment but rather for reassurance. And I learned. I learned that not all introverts are loners, hermits nor antisocial as society would like to label them. And not all extroverts are exhibitionists and constantly need attention. There is a spectrum. I could be an introvert who really did enjoy interacting with people, who can be successful and very vocal, but who needs a larger proportion of time to recharge. And even my extroverted friends needed to stop for a moment, though less frequently, or they would spin into a frenzy themselves.

The fact is, we live in a socially distorted world where too much emphasis is placed on seeing and being seen. And, until recently, I wondered – do I need to be someone I am not - constantly – to get ahead or simply stay in the race? Well, thankfully there are experts, dating as far back as the 18th century – willing to answer that for me.

Almost every man wastes part of his life attempting to display qualities which he does not possess. ~Samuel Johnson

But as recently as this year, Susan Cain chimed in as well. Cain’s lecture, “In Praise of Introverts”, at the recent TED Conference has been viewed well over 1 million times and surpassed any other TED conference speech. I pause to wonder – who’s listening? There are surely many more introverts (perhaps in hiding) and those who appreciate what introverts can accomplish, than we realize.

It was over the last century, says Cain, that society began reshaping itself as an extrovert’s paradise—to the introvert’s demise. She explains that before the twentieth century, we lived in what historians called a “culture of character,” when you were expected to conduct yourself morally with quiet integrity. ~ Jenna Goudreau, Forbes Staff (from the article, “The Secret Power Of Introverts”)

Cain extols the value of introversion and points out that introverts are the outliers in the population who manage to do the homework that leads to the biggest creative breakthroughs which benefit everyone. Her speech is nothing short of brilliant, and well worth the 18 minutes you will spend, whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or not entirely sure.

The most important and underlying lesson one can take from her speech is this: honor and value your strengths, understand them and build on them – because if you stop berating why and what you are not , you can actually see the benefits and build upon the opportunities in what you are .

If we could all spend more time strengthening our strengths – and not our weaknesses, and honoring our internal wiring instead of fighting against it, we would all waste so much less time and energy and produce so much more.

Wishing You Success,

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Being Productive Amidst Frenzy (Productivity Series, 2012 )

It’s easy to be productive when you do not have a care in the world, are fully rested and nothing is overwhelming nor aggravating you. But what happens when you have work to do, demands to be met and are just not able physically or mentally to accomplish them? Are you confused, overwhelmed and not sure where to begin? Are you unable to decide if you are confused? Then, you probably are confused…

This is where planning becomes your best friend and worst enemy. A plan allows you to see what you need to do and cycle through each item/step robotically. That said, if you’re not in a completely coherent nor efficient state of mind, the plan could also resemble a trap from which there is no out.

I’ve discovered a few tips which help when overwhelmed and unsure how to get anything done…

  1. Create a list – You have heard it here before. If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Regardless of whether you stick absolutely to the plan, it allows you a bar from which to come in under or over safely.
  2. Prioritize the list – Particularly when you feel like you cannot do anything, allow yourself to prioritize the one thing you can do…realizing that if certain things do not get done, you – and many others – will survive.
  3. Tackle the list according to priority, one item at a time – Harvard Business Review expert – turned Energy Project founder – and the CEO every other CEO wants to know, Tony Schwartz, has advice for us all in a world of overwhelming demand. According to Tony, the brain is not designed to do multiple cognitive things at a time. Lower quality, higher personal costs and overall sloppiness are the results.

    So, what does Tony recommend?

    • Determine in advance what needs to be done (i.e., plan…) and tackle each item individually and with focus
    • Understand how your body and mind work
    • Do not demand constant responsiveness…of yourself AND others. All this does is reduce the likelihood you will be productive
    • Encourage renewal
  4. Listen to your gut – If you could only accomplish one thing today, or this week, what would it be? Putting guilt aside and assuming you have the luxury to choose, what could you do to make you feel like you have done something although it’s not everything? Most of the time, that is better than nothing….
  5. Get some air and move about – Whether a short walk, a brisk run, time at the gym, or just sticking your head out of a window – your thoughts will clear enough for you to move forward in ways bigger than you previously imagined.

Wishing You Success,

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Evernote is for Everyone! (Productivity Series 2012)

So thus far in 2012, as my year-long quest toward re-defining the limits of productivity continues, I’ve theorized about giving yourself a break in order to move forward and about the upside of trial and error. But now, I thought I would stop for a moment, and interject something practical – as opposed to theoretical musings…

Organization is definitely my thing. But, recently I realized that organization ≠ productivity. Imagine my disappointment and horror.

Regardless of how organized I am, I still risk not being productive if I do not have the correct organizational and productivity tools to use (and the knowledge) to use them. This also requires me to assuage my technophobia and embrace all things ‘i’, ‘cloud’ and ’smart.’ Enter the iPhone, iPad and iCloud. Still a PC user at heart, I needed some help to determine how to take all of the various bits of knowledge, research and reminders and make them accessible to me anywhere, anytime and in a format that made sense.

It’s taken months to finally make my Dell laptop speak to my iPhone and both of those to speak to my iPad. Enter: 3 different email addresses, 3 calendars, 2 sets of contacts, different categories of notes and reminders, apps and programs – and we have all just entered a technological abyss. That is, unless, you – like me – happen to know someone who is blessed with the technology gene and could make the whole integration seamless and painless, putting the fun back into functional!

HOWEVER, all that said, I am proud to admit that I made a discovery of my own!!! It has changed not only the way I organize information, but how I organize my brain. And, unlike custom closets or shoe racks or garage shelf built-ins, the brain is a far more chaotic space much in need of spatial compartmentalization. Let me introduce you toEVERNOTE.

Perhaps you have already discovered this wonderful utility, and maybe not. Even if you have, perhaps like me, you learn new things about it every day.

Did you know that, with Evernote, you can:

  1. Download the program onto your PC or MAC (in addition to the Evernote app for iPhone and iPad, of course)? So, you are not just limited to using Evernote on a smart device.
  2. SYNC the notes you enter (whether entering them on your computer, phone or tablet) so that they’re accessible to you anytime, anywhere? This is huge – unlike other similar “note” programs, which are local, you do not have to wait until you get home to complete that note or add to it or email yourself appendages.
  3. You can create NOTEBOOKS. This is what I call organizational utopia. I can have a notebook which contains all of my notes of inspiration, another notebook with notes pertaining to past, present or future blog entries, another with notes for each room in my house, notebooks for Pro and Con lists, etc., etc., etc. The possibilities are endless.
  4. You can create To-Do lists
  5. And, last, but certainly NOT least. You can not only tag your notes but then SORT by these tags. Say, for example, that you are an avid reader of investment articles and blogs online. And you like to make notes on each one or create lists of websites to which you’d like to refer back. You can tag each note by the investors the article mentions or the opinions stated therein, and then SEARCH back by these tags. All of a sudden, you see everything that you ever read which mentioned Warren Buffet and have a virtual bucket of Buffet. Similarly, I could create a notebook for each project I am tracking, each with its own notes, tags and to-do lists. All of which are easily searchable and would allow me to pin my finger on any type of milestone, date or project deliverable I needed!

Clearly, these are only my observations thus far, and there must be many other uses, tips and tricks for this wonderful program. Insert your own topics or areas that need organizing and the list goes on and on. I look forward to exploring them all. And, if you have not tried Evernote yet, do!

Wishing You Success,

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The Steve Jobs’ Effect

Trial and Error…Trial and Error…Trial and Error… (Productivity Series, 2012)

It’s difficult for anyone of us to stay on task, sometimes. Staying motivated, productive and upbeat takes a strong dose of discipline, positive self-talk and balance. Even if your strides have been moving steadily and momentum is helping you along. One small setback, unexpected brain lapse, moment of exhaustion, or negative voice (your own or another’s) is all it will take to stop your pace and freeze you in place. Then we wonder, is it really going to happen? Is it worth it? What’s wrong with what I am doing? Why is this all so hard?

I have been a contributor on the implementation of a new CRM (customer-relationship-management) system as part of a larger project with which I am involved. The system is robust and has many fine attributes. It’s also brand new, and does not work intuitively in most cases. What was supposed to be made easier is now more complex, and what was flawed but work-able before is now simply foreign. We’re forced to rely on each other and many external resources to move us forward, shed light on complexities, provide us with new methods to test, and try again..and again, and again.

Needless to say, no one is able to move as fast as necessary in this won’t-slow-down world in which we live and work; and as quickly as we move forward, we have to stop and rewind to determine why something failed. Efficient? Maybe not. Part and parcel of learning and experiencing a new way of doing things. Why yes, indeed.

We can (and do) get very frustrated with this CRM system. We submit copious numbers of trouble tickets and wait for the Gods of technical support to shine the solutions down on us so we can test the solution, then – resume the swift speed at which we feel we should be moving, and doing, and accomplishing.

Our only choice during this implementation has been to try, and try again..and again, and again. And, eventually it does work. Issues are fixed or we find acceptable work-arounds. The process takes time, but eventually, we do end up right where we needed and need to be. So, even when we feel at our least productive – it is in the patience and the process that our solution and ultimate productivity reside.

And, too, our goals and dreams may take longer than we wish. When resolutions do not appear instantly and people do not behave exactly as we think they should, we panic that the paint will dry while we are in the middle of creating the masterpiece that is our life. Yet, if everything went along exactly as planned, at the speed we believe we need, we would never stop to learn the lessons along the way nor meet the people who show up to help us learn them. Life, too, is about trying again..and again, and again.

Our primary source of success is not speed, despite what we might think. It’s the unwillingness to give up nor give in. Solutions do lie ahead if you’re patient and persistent enough to follow the course and all that it shows you along its path.

What do you first do when you learn to swim? You make mistakes, do you not? And what happens? You make other mistakes, and when you have made all the mistakes you possibly can without drowning – and some of them many times over – what do you find? That you can swim? Well – life is just the same as learning to swim! Do not be afraid of making mistakes, for there is no other way of learning how to live!” ~Alfred Adler

Special thanks to my dear friend, JH, for always showing me ways to not sweat the small stuff and that it’s ok to keep trying…again, and again.

Wishing You Success,

So here it is, 2012…(Productivity Series, 2012)

So here it is, 2012, and I’ve been anxious to launch my ” Productivity Series” of blog posts. Yet, as I sat down to write, the only thing I could focus on was my past several weeks of waiting and resting (translate: non-productivity). By default, and not design, I’d just been through 3 weeks of doing a whole lot of nothing. R & R, except one of the ‘R’s was missing. I quickly learned that ‘ not doing’ is NOT synonymous with ‘ relaxing .’

I’d been under the weather and forced to come to a complete halt. I tried planning projects I could tackle during the downtime, priorities I could finally shoot to the top of my list. For a planner like me, even my downtime needed to be accounted for. But, it simply wasn’t to be…

I had no choice other than to STOP DOING. My brain simply could not, would not shut off. I kept thinking of all of the personal projects I could ( translate ‘ should ‘) be working on, given this unusual and prime downtime. Shame on me if I did not take advantage !!! So many things I’d been putting off, so many personal development resources at my fingertips; if I did not complete some and begin on all, I’d begin 2012 feeling lazy, unproductive, behind the eight ball, weak and doomed to fail. I chastised my brain for being foggy, and would not let myself off the hook. I even tried to start back officially working and meeting personal commitments before my health would agree, because the calendar said the holidays were over; I was met with disaster, disappointing others with my poor results and sending mixed signals that I could, when – trust me – I could not.

Roughly one month later, and after the proverbial fog has passed, I notice myself with a greater strength and clarity than I’ve had in quite a while. Although my task list was left unattended, and part of “the old” me still wishes I had gained greater ground, I may just have gotten more accomplished by allowing myself to do nothing at all.

I’d ended 2011 hardened, exhausted, and generally tough on the inside and out. Fighting against a self-imposed timeline and working under constraints that no one else was measuring except me. Having had [forced] time to decompress, my mind, heart and intuition are slowly beginning to come together and listen to each other’s signals. With time comes patience and with patience comes clarity. With clarity, I choose to believe that my task list will magically prioritize itself; and I can begin 2012 with far more personal power and anticipated productivity than I would have otherwise, even if I’d spent all 3 weeks mapping out goals. Just maybe, giving myself a break instead of pushing forward aimlessly, is a very appropriate beginning to the productivity posts, after all…

Well, fancy that.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I’ve ended up where I needed to be. ~ Douglas Adams

Wishing You Success,

Three Words for 2012 (via www.justinrlevy.com)

A simply awesome concept – MUST READ for 2012!!!

Although I recently “unresolved” to do many a thing heading into 2012 – I wanted to share a most inspiring and intelligent blog post citing “three words” to lead into the year – from a a fellow blogger and someone whose accomplishments and work ethic I admire greatly.

Thank you, Justin Levy for this wonderful blog to start out the new year and for the cross reference to my article on work-life balance as well. Honored to be in such company.

Via Justin Levy

It’s that time of the year again where we look at the new year full of vigor and motivation, ready to take on everything that the upcoming year has to offer. However, it’s so easy to get bogged down and sidetracked from accomplishing our goals that by the time we look up again, the year has already escaped us.

This is why for the past few years I’ve joined Chris Brogan and several other friends in choosing three words that will serve as my guiding pillars for the upcoming year. These three words will help me to accomplish the goals that I have set out for myself, both professionally and personally. Read More….

Wishing You Success,

My New Year’s UNResolutions

I’ve realized that there is a distinct difference between planning and resolving. Planning is helpful to get your to-dos, wish list or goals in order. Plans can change, and most often do. Resolutions, on the other hand, imply some level of absolutism – one can infer that to veer from a resolution made is to fail or to have lost the willpower needed to achieve.

So, if I must make any “resolution” for 2012, it would be to NOT make any. Taking that concept one step further, I’d also like to suggest a few things I plan (translate: unresolve) to do:

  1. I refuse to believe any longer that writing down my expenses equates to ” budgeting.” This, perhaps, is the biggest lie I have ever told myself . Tracking what you spend and where is useful, so if you have to start somewhere – start there. But, please, set some limits ( ie, ” budget ” ) in your primary spending categories and be honest with yourself if you don’t stay within these parameters. If nothing else, awareness of your spending habits will increase and you’ll permit yourself the conscious choice of working to support your spending -or- working to meet your basic expenses. BIG difference.
  2. I unresolve to get so hot and bothered about things over which other people don’t seem to be losing sleep. I can’t solve the world’s problems, nor can I make everyone’s work ethic the same as my own. I can, however, set my own standards, measure myself against these, and let go ( translate: walk away) when others’ choices, behaviors or timelines are outside of my control. I’m really hoping to conserve some emotional and mental energy with this unresolution.
  3. For as disciplined and focused as people believe I am, I erred on the side of scattered and unfocused at times throughout 2011. So, I am moving toward less multi- tasking and more focused prioritization. PS: I’m learning that means minimizing distractions, too; so, don’t take it personally if I tell you ” not right this second, but how about –:– time, instead?” That way, I hope to manage my interruptions so they don’t manage me.
  4. Last year this time, I took a goal-setting seminar. I could not tell you one goal I “set” in that 7 hour workshop nor if any were achieved. Since then, and thanks to some brilliant people I’ve met along the way in 2012, I will continue to set goals using new and improved techniques. But more important than even the goals themselves will be the daily or weekly check-in to gauge where I’m at on the goal continuum and what I need to adjust. Goals are like finish-line flags, set in place to give you a marker to aim for. Either you wave it down when you reach it and shout ‘Victory’ or you decide to move the flag and adjust your path as life proceeds.
  5. And, lastly, on my list of “unresolutions,” I will be more positive when talking to MYSELF. Like it or not, life plays tricks on your mind; and although all bad things do come to an end, some of us relive them every day in the negative thought patterns these experiences leave behind. “It has been demonstrated that nearly 90% of our thoughts are negative…and these nasty little beasts can be even more powerful than positive thoughts because we often find them easier to accept.” * So, more so than merely repeating positive affirmations a la Stuart Smalley, I choose to use positive thoughts to challenge those automated negative ones and become MORE aware of my thoughts and words in everyday life.

Wishing You Success in 2012,

* Excerpted from www.vitalaffirmations.com

From Soybean Farmer to CEO…?

I know far more about project management than I do about the stock market; and whatever I do know about bulls versus bears and price:earnings ratios was handed down directly to me from my father, brother, and of course – Warren Buffett.

Being a Buffett groupie at heart, I have made every attempt to know a little about the companies he owns, why he owns them and how they are performing. And since I have someone extremely capable helping me to decide whether to buy, sell or hold – I get the luxury of spending most of my time admiring Buffett’s persona rather than his pocketbook.

But therein lies the point – his persona has led to what’s in his pocketbook (and therefore the pocketbooks of his shareholders).

Just recently, Berkshire Hathaway (Buffet’s holding company) – announced amidst much speculation that the 81-year old’s eventual successor will be his son, Howie. Should not be shocking. You would expect the same from, let’s say the Trumps or any other prominent, wealthy, family business. But it just so happens that Howie is a corn and soybean farmer, who likely does not own a three-piece suit nor has had any reason to step foot into Berkshire’s Omaha headquarters recently. However, Buffett made his choice clear, stating that:

…His son will serve as a “guardian” of the company’s “values” rather than a CEO. ‘You worry that somebody will be in charge of Berkshire that uses it as their own sandbox in some way,’ ‘That changes the way that decisions are made in reference to the shareholders. The odds of that happening are very, very, very low, but having Howie there adds just one extra layer of protection.’ ~ Excerpted from an article by Clare O’Conner (Forbes Magazine)

Howie is very happy tilling to his corn and soybeans, I assure you, so this is not about nepotism nor climbing the Corporate Ladder. What it is, however, is a strategic and genius decision Buffett has made to assure shareholders that his legacy of values and principles will not die with him.

Anyone can run a business, not everyone can run a business as intelligently, authentically and with the respect of its stakeholders in mind as much as Buffett has.

If only the values of authenticity, sound judgement, fairness, and the readiness to admit and be led by what one knows and does not know were more prevalent. We would all enjoy a measure of success closer to what Buffett has.

Wishing You Success,

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Thanks – Giving (2011)

For some people, Thanksgiving means cooking amidst chaos, lot of turkey and desserts and converging with others. Well, it would not be Thanksgiving for me without a blog post reflecting on some form of Thanks-giving.

2011 came in like a lion with a loud, thunderous roar, and I’ve spent the better part of 12 months trying to tame it back to the sweet silence of a sleeping Yorkie.

Although I would not have voluntarily signed on to learn any of them, I feel confident that the lessons learned from pain ARE the silver lining when life seems like one big black cloud. The lessons which came, albeit unvited but most welcomed, are noted below.

Everything is perfect. By training ourselves to see the perfection in our most difficult moments – a perspective often seen only in hindsight – we learn to trust life. ~ Cheryl Richardson

  1. When someone, something, or some situation is simply not good enough to be part of your life’s purpose, God will swoop down with a pick-up truck and remove it. And just like you have no fight against a 3 ton truck, nor can you stand in the way of what is intended for your best life. While there may be a trail of dirt left behind, rest assured that beautiful flowers will bloom in that dirt again one day soon.

  2. The next moment is as much beyond our grasp, and as much in God’s care, as that a hundred years away. Care for the next minute is as foolish as care for a day in the next thousand years. In neither can we do anything, in both, God is doing everything. ~ C. S. Lewis via White Feather Farm.

  3. Living your truth and growing your strengths regardless of anyone else’s opinions gets easier the more you do it. Knowing what you stand for, what makes you the best you and not compromising either is the source of motivation and energy which will propel you forward each and every day.

  4. If you have your back when taking a risk, you can pretty much try anything. Don’t terrorize yourself with criticism after doing something daring. Behave in a way that reinforces your commitment to be a cheerleader for your soul. Honor your gift. ~ Cheryl Richardson

  5. There is no price tag that can be placed on integrity, honesty and compassion. You really only get one go-round in this life, so treat others with respect. Be strong enough to stand up for yourself without demolishing another. Ultimately you only belittle yourself and will be the loser for it.

  6. It is not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity. ~ Sir Francis Bacon

  7. Stress, turmoil and overextension take a toll. It may seem like you have the necessary strength (translate – adrenaline) to fight through, but there will come a time at the end of the tunnel when the lights go out and that adrenaline turns to fog. At that moment, when it’s dark and you have no energy left – accept the gift that is stepping back and replenishing your mind, body and soul. Don’t keep going. People will understand and can wait a while for that cup of coffee, phone call or trip. The gift of permission and self-care is the gift that keeps on giving.

  8. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love & affection. ~Buddha

  9. Start that bucket list and don’t ever stop adding to it. However you define fun, excitement, adventure and peace will ultimately reveal themselves on that list and will become part of your life without your even trying very hard.

  10. The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me. ~Ayn Rand

  11. Listen to the voice which has been prompting you to… It keeps whispering for a reason, though that reason may take a while to reveal itself.

  12. There is a voice inside of you that whispers all day long, ‘I feel this is right for me, I know that this is wrong.’ No teacher, preacher, parent, friend or wise man can decide what’s right for you–just listen to the voice that speaks inside. ~ Shel Silverstein

  13. Give Back. It’s so cliché, but everything you’ve heard is true! Find something you believe in ,whether or not anyone else agrees, and offer your time or strengths. You will certainly receive more than you can ever expect.

  14. By being yourself, you put something wonderful in the world that was not there before. ~ Edwin Elliot

  15. Look more closely at the people around you – there will be those who can contribute to your life and soul and others who deplete it. You may be lucky enough to shuffle your buckets of friends, colleagues or contacts and gain more of the former and lose the latter.

  16. Don’t you dare, for one more second, surround yourself with people who are not aware of and can appreciate the greatness that you are. ~Jo Blackwell-Preston

    So, if I am thankful for anything this year – it is for everything and everyone that cleared my path to self-discovery or stepped aside so I had the luxury of moving forward, taught me gratitude for the smallest things (as they add up to the big things), and learning to live more in the present .

    And to one in particular – your leaving our lives closed a tiny hole of negativity which rippled down the stream eroding all it touched, and left in its wake a body of peace, happiness and strength the size of an ocean. So, thank YOU. :)

Wishing You Success,

Lessons from a CEO…about being a CEO in business and in life.

I’m not a CEO, although I did write a book about how it feels to be be on a precarious trajectory to becoming one. And, aside from being the CEO of my own career path, I don’t think I will soon be signing up for any open positions…

But anyone who’s been up, down or on some middle rung of the corporate ladder (and life) can certainly relate to the wisdom and musings of the 26-yr. old CEO whose article 26 Lessons from a 26 Year Old CEO was simply too good not to re-post, and whose success in business and in life have surely just begun.

And…I’ll go ahead say it up front, #s 9, 18, and 24 are among my ultimate fan favorites. :)

26 Lessons from a 26 Year Old CEO
Reprinted from Forbes Woman
By: Shama Kabani - CEO of The Marketing Zen Group

On April 25th I turned 26, and a few weeks later my web marketing agency turned two. What started as a single person mini-business, has turned into a 27 person global web marketing firm in just two short years. I’ve been immensely grateful for the opportunities life has presented me with. And, as I look forward to the future, it would only be fair to look back as well. Here are 26 lessons I have learned as a young entrepreneur and CEO:

1. A written vision of what you want your company to look like in 3 years is important. The pen (or keyboard!) has power. It isn’t enough to envision your goals in your mind. You must have a blueprint on paper. Every decision you make, ask yourself: does this help me get closer to my vision?
2. Learn to listen to your clients. When we started, we were only offering social media consulting services. But, clients quickly demanded more. We eventually ended up serving as their web marketing department. The marketplace will tell you what it needs. You have to listen, and then deliver.
3. Half the job is keeping up. The pace of technology will only continue to quicken. It doesn’t matter what your industry is, you have to keep up in order to constantly leverage it for your business.
4. Always think in terms of value — not price. Always judge based on the value something or someone brings to the table. Price is arbitrary.
5. Only hire people who have fire. This is especially true if you are running a small to medium sized business. In a large corporation, there is room for many types of personalities and people. In a smaller business, passion is a must in every position. Hire people who are driven to do well and see your business succeed.
6. If you must fire, be graceful and professional about it. This is hands down the worst part of being a CEO. It is tough to let people go, but for the greater good of the business, sometimes it must be done. It doesn’t matter if you are firing or being fired, don’t burn bridges.
7. Learn to forgive. Things happen. People change. You can’t move forward in business — or in life — if you can’t forgive and move on.
8. Cash flow is crucial. This is especially true in a recessionary economy, and if you are growing quickly. Work with clients to get payments upfront.
9. Balance is overrated. Aim for joy. When work is fun, you don’t feel the need to take as many breaks. Balance in today’s world looks very different than it did just 20 years ago. Embrace it.
10. Don’t underestimate the power of PR. The power of the press may now be in more than just the hands of journalists (umm…social media, anyone?). Learn to be a friend to the press.
11.Treat your team well. People will follow a leader who treats them with respect. Learn to value your team’s input, and always reward them for a job well done.
12. Focus is the most underrated skill that you must master. 90 percent of the time, what is on your computer screen is not resulting in a positive ROI. Learn to focus on what truly matters in your business. Then, do it consistently.
13. Multitasking doesn’t mean greater productivity. Don’t put “good multitasker” on your resume. Numerous studies have shown that multitasking decreases brain power.
14. Age isn’t just a number. Age does matter. Managing a Gen Y employee is different than managing a baby boomer.
15. Appearances matter. I just interviewed an intern who showed up in an outfit more appropriate for an 8 a.m. class. I had to wonder how he would represent us in front of clients. Whether we like it or not, appearances matter. Dress appropriately.
16. Learn to view situations objectively. Just because you would or wouldn’t do something, doesn’t mean others are the same way.
17. Life is short, and very easy to take for granted. Sounds like something you’d read in a self-help book, but true nonetheless. Life is temporary, and the only thing that matters at the end of the day is how you treated those around you.
18. Pets make the workplace better. I propose that every office should have a mascot. Ours is a little Maltese-Poodle mix named Snoopy. No day is a sad day.
19. A support network is crucial. As much as you try, you can’t do it alone. Building a personal and professional support network is imperative.
20. Give luck its due. Luck has played a huge part in my life. I don’t deny it. I am just grateful for it.
21. Hard work is a given. Struggle doesn’t have to be. I’ve learned that there is always work that will need to be done. The task list is never complete. So, just enjoy it!
22. It IS lonely at the top. And, yes, the view & the food are both amazing.
23. Ignore the trolls. They like the power the anonymity of the internet gives them. Don’t pay them any attention.
24. Be picky when choosing your friends. My friend list (and I don’t mean Facebook) is short. Surround yourself with people who inspire you.
25. Karma exists in business and in life. The old adage says “what goes around, comes around.” The older I get, the more I see this being true. Think twice before you act.
26. Being a CEO means being a CVO. CVO stands for Chief Value Officer. Always ask yourself: How can I create value for our clients? Our prospects? Our internal team? The answers will guide you to building a better company.

Wishing You Success,