Career Hack: Tools for Starting Fresh Every Day

“Every day is a fresh start” is a very simple idea that is much harder to embrace and actually act on. While every day is not a “throw the match and walk away” opportunity, the new day does provide an opportunity to reset and restart. But how?

You can start by making a plan. Don’t plan out your entire life but focus on the next two weeks. Set some SMART goals related to a larger career goal that helps you to build some momentum and excitement.

Check out a few of these “oldies but goodies” for a few suggestions about getting a fresh start in your life.

Let 2018 be the End of “New Year, New Me”

What November 9, 2016, Taught Me about Change

How You Can Give Your Career a Fresh Start

Simple Resolutions for Managers

New Year Be Awesome

It’s inevitable. The Monday after a holiday break and the struggle begins. You’re faced with all the professional challenges you tried to forget, or at least drown in a variety of feasts, parties, and slothfulness.

On top of returning to work, you are trying to focus on sticking to all of the personal resolutions you made for yourself. Between fitness and weight loss resolutions, living life to the fullest, and developing an artificial intelligence system that can control your home (these are seriously some of the top resolutions of 2016 according to Twitter and Google), you have little or no time to make resolutions specific to your role as a manager.

That’s where I can help.

Here are some fairly simple, easy to implement ideas for 2016. The best part is that these are not activities you simply resolve to do, they actually can be done.

1. Meet with your team to discuss goals they have set for themselves. If they have none, help them set a few. This method demonstrates an investment in the individual and can help to make future performance discussions slightly less tense. It is a great opportunity to set your staff on the path to achieving individual and team performance goals.

2. Commit to having a different team member lead staff meetings in the New Year. Let them develop the agenda and facilitate the meeting. This takes some of the pressure off you and shows that leadership isn’t entirely “top down”.

3. Launch a simple 360 Assessment for yourself. This one can be tricky because soliciting feedback means you have to be ready to accept it. If you develop your own questionnaire, however, you can focus on specific areas you want to assess or improve. This process shows a commitment to your personal development and allows your staff an opportunity to be heard.

Let the New Year serve as a chance to assess and set the course for who you want to be in the workplace. Are you a manager, coach, or leader? Make 2016 the year you decide to be all three!

Explaining my time at Boy Scout camp

IMG_6356Last week was interesting. I spent much of my time at a Boy Scout camp in New Mexico and returned to the DC area to lead a public lands day event on a military installation in MD.

As a woman who’s well into her 30’s, I got a lot of questions about why I spent four days at Boy Scout camp.

“It’s work” did not sufficiently lower the questioning eyebrows.

In trying to explain this trip and other trips and events I’ve been privileged to participate in, I took a step back to think about how to clarify the programmatic work I’ve done over the years.

How do you describe what it means to be a program leader for a nonprofit? I wish it were like being an X-Man and I could name one “special” power, but the reality is, the role of lead program officer means you have your hands in a little bit of everything.

I think what I experienced last week provides a good illustration of what leading programs entails. Below are a few categories I came up with that begin to answer the question “Why were you at Boy Scout camp?”

Project Management
This element always causes confusion. People typically think technology when they hear project management but I assure you any good program manager understands the need to establish program goals, identify milestones and available resources, and establish timelines.

The fantastic thing about project management within a small to medium size nonprofit is that developing and managing project plans has to be done without all of the software available to IT project managers. In many cases, it is just me my trusty Excel spreadsheet and my much-beloved whiteboard.

Event Management
This is way more than finding a fancy venue for an awards ceremony. Managing events for a program is everything from soliciting volunteers and donations to popping tents up in the wee hours of the morning, and of course writing talking points for the Army Colonel to use when preparing his remarks.

I will say that aspect of managing programs has allowed me to be very creative and challenged me in ways that I can only be grateful for now. Three years ago, I was working with a film crew to produce a video for a program launch. Somehow it became my job to develop the storyboard for the video and work with Bob Dole’s team to schedule his appearance in the video.

Budget Management
This is an important part of project management but I call it out as a stand-alone because developing the budget for the program and supporting elements is only a first step.

A good program manager makes sure that the team is aware of the total budget and what financial resources are available for their specific parts of the project. A good program manager is reviewing and monitoring expenditures regularly and managing overages, gaps, and the unicorn situation of underspending.

People/Team Management
No one manages a program by themselves. Program leaders must be able to lead and communicate with small to large teams. You should know when to impanel an ad hoc committee when necessary and delegate to other team members without losing control of the project.

Finally, leading programs also puts you in the position to promote the organization. In so many cases, an organization’s programs are so deeply linked to many nonprofits mission, vision, and overall financial health.

Cheers to all the program leaders who perform in all the areas mentioned above and beyond.

Career Gratitude: what are you thankful for?

gratful-bubbleOn Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), I will sit around someone else’s table, grateful that I did not have to cook a turkey that I never planned to eat. Each person will take a turn sharing what they are grateful for and I am almost certain that not one person around that table will show gratitude for something career related.

I am not talking about gratefulness for your job because it brings you money, things, and the ability to take care of your family. Those are important reasons to show gratitude but not quite the same as favorably reflecting on the opportunity to grow as a professional.

Take the time to acknowledge successes, challenges that have aided your growth, and other career moments that you should be grateful for this holiday season.

This article from Forbes has some great ideas about showing gratitude through forward facing and private behaviors.

If you still can find nothing to be grateful for on your current path, let’s talk. Comment on this post or find me on LinkedIn.

Just remember, encouraging thankfulness is not the same as promoting complacency. Never stop assessing and moving forward in your career.

The Clock Changes but Time Management Issues Stay the Same

melted-clockA few weeks ago I called a co-worker who works remotely to complain about how little time I have to actually get things done. I wanted to make sure he could focus on my complaining so I acknowledged the irony of using my time to place a call to complain about not having enough time.

Every day I work with people to set their professional goals and help them identify barriers to success and I would guess that ninety percent of the time, people name “time” as one of their biggest challenges. No one has time to spare or invest, or commit toward their goals. I have made very similar complaints during my own journey.

But, is it true? Do I and they really not have the time to do the things we say we want or need to do? A couple of tactics that I have used to answer these questions and help me feel more in control of the time that I do have are

1. Know where your time is actually going

A year ago, I developed and tested a time management chart before asking my staff members to record their activity for a week. I wanted to find out how labor intensive it actually was to document activities by the hour.  What I found was that I could better use my time in the office. I was having a number of unproductive conversations (not always initiated by me), shifting focus from one activity to another instead of following things through to completion, and spending far more time working on other people’s issues than I should have.

Now, when I am feeling stressed to my limit, I take a day or two to conduct an inventory of where my time is going. I look at my time during the work day as well as what I am doing during non-work hours. Most of the time, I find spaces that could be used to work on a specific goal of mine.

2.  Make you and your goals a priority

It is very easy to let everyone else’s priorities trump your own. In the midst of caring for and spending time with our families and friends, work, and all of the unexpected shenanigans that we can’t seem to avoid, it can seem frivolous to take the time to do something as simple as give your next professional move some real thought.

No matter how trivial or wasteful it sounds, YOU HAVE TO! Your goals have to be a priority for you and you need to make sure that anyone who cares about you knows what your priorities are.  When you list of your priorities in life or just for the day, include at least one thing that brings you closer to accomplishing one of your goals.

3.  Learn to multitask

It would be great if we could all get a six-month sabbatical (I would settle for a 72-hour break), to think, research, and actually work on a goal that I set. Alas, it ain’t going to happen. I can make use of the time that I have. For instance, I am typically alone in the kitchen when I am cooking. Once I have prepped everything and put the food on the stove, I have at least 15-30 minutes to focus. That is my time to finish a self-assessment, update my resume, or work on my LinkedIn profile.

Don’t categorize your activities so tightly that you don’t use all of your time wisely. When children are doing their homework, do your homework. Work on that goal. When you are supporting your kids or family members at their game, instead of Instagramming, Facebooking, or whatever activity you are doing to pass the time; work on that goal.

Finally, be very mindful of where you put your time and energy. Are you focusing on the “right” things? Does it matter to you and your end goal? If you are spending a lot of time on irrelevant things, recalibrate immediately.  Make every moment you actually have count toward what you have decided matters.