January is a clean slate. The starting point for our newly set professional and personal goals. It’s possible, however, to be overzealous in planning our intentions for the new year. When the expectations we place on ourselves for doing new things and seeking fast results become too cumbersome, we often fizzle out. This month, we want to encourage you to take a slower approach to your resolutions. Here are some strategies for building the lasting power to accomplish them. Develop a progress mindset Understand that achieving your goals might take some time. Approaching your professional goals is similar to taking on a new fitness plan. The best results happen when you work new habits into your already existing life routine and keep them going over a long period of time. It would be unrealistic if a person who doesn’t normally work out could suddenly find four extra hours every day to do nothing but exercise. Even if they could sustain such rigor, that kind of regimen might lead to burnout after a while. But if that person instead decided to pick three mornings a week to go to the gym or committed themselves to a 10-minute walk every day after lunch, they might be more likely to stick with it and then start to see real results. Keeping a progress mindset is similar. The results won’t be instantaneous, but intentional, well-planned changes spread out over time will put you on a path to longer-lasting success. *A Progress Mindset Trick* Don’t forget that all movement is progress, even when things don’t seem to be going your way. Even when you make mistakes. You might even develop a calculation to retool things that don’t go your way as symptoms of progress. For example: “That presentation didn’t go very well. Okay! Now I know that this team needs more data for evidence. I’ll be ready next time.” Or “My supervisor seemed frustrated when I didn’t have a status update on that project. Okay! Now I know that status updates are very important to my supervisor and can plan to have them ready weekly.” Break your goals into smaller bits Try organizing each of your goals as an outline. Attaching actionable steps to each goal not only powers them with momentum but it also converts them from a broad, overwhelming idea in your mind to something that you can actively tackle over the course of the year. Consider this example of a goal that has been broken into measured pieces. Goal: Secure a senior project manager position. Update resume Shadow a colleague already in this role Connect with supervisor about openings Ask HR for list of needed competencies You might drill into each step further with additional incremental tasks and even firm dates. Like this: Update resume Add current role- Feb 2 Read resume examples on LinkedIn- Feb 9 Updates/edits/condense oldest job description- Feb 16 Ask a friend to review- Feb 23 While it takes effort to think though each goal in such detail, breaking big ideas into small morsels makes things seem more possible. And, if you attach dates, you will practically be putting them on autopilot. No decision-making fatigue or wondering “what should I do next?” (Which sometimes results in doing nothing at all.) On February 2nd, you know to add a paragraph description of your current role to your resume. Revisit your goals throughout the year Pick a few times throughout the year to evaluate your goals and the progress you’ve made toward them. Maybe even set a quarterly calendar reminder. Take a minute with each individual goal and ask yourself the following questions: Why is it important that I meet this goal? How would meeting this goal make my job more fulfilling? How does this goal bring me closer to achieving my overall career plan? Refreshing your memory of why you are working on certain corners of your career will reinforce your own belief in yourself. And, from a pragmatic perspective, if your priorities have changed because a teammate has left, or you have been assigned to a new project- whatever the circumstances- checking in on your goals periodically will assure their relevancy. Ask a Mentor Talk to your mentors about the strategies they have used to make sure they stick with their goals even after the sheen of the new year has worn off. Some questions you might ask: How do you plan goals with accountability attached to them? Do you set deadlines for your goals? Do you have a system for evaluating progress? Is there anyone you talk to when needing career support or encouragement?
Career woman to career woman, wife and mother, that is what happened to me – as I am sure it has happened to many. In 1998 I was going to college and working as a waitress/manager at a restaurant when given the opportunity to work for a newly developed woman-owned company. Jumping at the opportunity, I couldn’t imagine that I’d spend the next twenty years helping to develop the company and advancing my career. After getting married in 2008, things began to change. I had someone else to consider in what time I would get home from work, what we would have for dinner and quite literally every decision in my life. Luckily, my husband knew just what it means to have a career and love what you do as he owns his own business (as well as being a full-time Firefighter/EMT). This understanding between us made the transition from “me” to “us” pretty easy. In 2010, when we welcomed our first child, into the world, this transition was not as easy. Now I had a career and two people who depended on me, and one of whom especially needed a lot of attention - - no, not my husband. This was the crossroad: I knew I did not want to give up my career, so I had to figure out how to be a full-time wife, dedicated mother and still a dependable employee. After many months, maybe even a few years (and the addition of our second child) I finally figured out that I needed to run my family life just as I run my business life. It is important to keep in mind that balancing career and home applies to everyone, not just people who happen to have significant others and children. Everyone has lives, interests and responsibilities outside of the office and everyone has a desire to manage both successfully. Below are some tips to keep in mind when tackling the hurdle of balancing career and home: Leave it at the door. Wow, that seems like an easy one. Walk out of work – leave everything there; walk out of the house, leave everything there. Of course, it isn’t easy at all. If you make an honest attempt, however, the goal is attainable. When you achieve this, it allows you to focus your attention where it is needed. To assist you in doing this you may want to read 4 Ways to Leave Work at Work by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. Unplug to be present. If you don’t unplug, you can’t recharge. Interesting metaphor, right? This is so very true. The inability to unplug does not allow us to “leave it at the door.” As I mentioned above if you are always looking at emails, always answering the phone, looking at social media, etc., you are not giving your attention to what may be right in front of you and requiring your attention. I was taught about unplugging by my children – when they said, “Mommy, stop looking at your phone.” That was the wakeup call I needed to unplug and be present, especially during family time. Take time to re-refuel/re-energize. Over and over again you hear how important it is to take time to re-energize. Re-energizing is different for different people, but some of the most common ways to re-energize is to exercise, get a massage, turn in early for a good night’s sleep, or eat healthy. For me, it is calling an old friend and catching up or even coming up with a new routine to keep me focused. Just like a car, if you do not take the time to refuel, you end up running on empty! Use an app. I know there are a ton of applications out there for time management, managing sporting events, managing grocery lists, etc. As they say, “There’s an App for that.” My husband and I have been using a shared calendar. This allows us both to know where we and our children are or need to be by certain times. As I mentioned before, between the nighttime work required of his job and the busy days in mine, we sometimes go a few days without seeing each other. Working off the same calendar helps us stay connected. Develop a board of directors or a village. A board of directors is a group of people who you have identified as your biggest supporters – the people who have your back and are going to look out for you. Once I understood the function of a board of directors and how they could help my career, I started seating mine around the table. They have provided tremendous support in my career growth over the years and I realized a board of directors could help me at home too. In my home life, I have an amazing village that supports me and I can trust. The most supportive village will keep your best interests in mind, whether that’s family, health or anything else, pick a village who will help you see it through. My village is made up of the people who can come to my assistance when I’m feeling overwhelmed or need help with my children. If you don’t already have a personal support system, make this the first step in regaining control of that balance between career and home. Invest in your relationships. Have you ever had a rough day where you feel sensitive or prickly and you accidently offend others who you care about? The people in your life will forgive you- as long as you have built an emotional bank account with them. Stephen Covey refers to an emotional bank account as “an account of trust instead of money.” Just as with any account you begin with a zero balance and you make deposits and withdrawals. These deposits and withdrawals build or destroy trust in your relationships. When you have made lots of deposits with someone, your trust level with them is high and communications flow without effort. You can make a mistake or offend them, because you are able to withdraw from those deposits and maintain the relationship with minimal repercussions. The bottom-line: invest in your relationships. Protect your identify and reputation. Be mindful of what you post on social media. People are constantly looking at your social media and sometimes it isn’t the people you planned. Keep this idea in mind as you post. One idea for managing your online reputation is to use LinkedIn for business contacts and Facebook for family and friends. Juggling a thriving career and a busy personal life is a balancing act. With careful planning, a strong village and a willingness to take care of yourself during busy times you can have it all-- a successful career and a happy home! ASK A MENTOR As you begin to explore ways to successfully balance career and home, talk to your mentor about the good and bad experiences they’ve had and how they have been successful at both. Here are some questions to get you started: How do you balance career and home? Do you feel you are successful? If so, what tips or advice do you have? If not, what adjustments are you making to be successful? Are there any time management systems you use? What are your favorite apps? Time saver ideas? What steps do you take to leave your work at work and home at home? What do you do to “unplug”? How do you practice being present? Who makes up your village? How do these individuals help you balance career and home? How do you invest in your relationships? How do you make deposits? How do you recover from a withdrawal? How do you protect your reputation? Are you mindful of what you are posting? Will your posts offend others? How do you separate home from work?
There has been much written and researched about the Pareto Principle; a theory about productivity and efficiency and pea pods, discovered over 100 years ago by Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto. His work focused on the distribution of wealth in society, where he observed that 80% of the wealth and income was produced and possessed by 20% of the population. What was most fascinating about Pareto’s work was that this 80/20 distribution turns up everywhere. Pareto even saw this rule occurring in his garden - 20% of his pea pods contained 80% of the peas. He came up with a guiding principle for, well, everything: 80% of the outputs are the results of 20% of the inputs. So, it seems it’s been scientifically proven that effort, reward and output do not directly correlate with each other. A certain minority of activities result in the majority of the outcomes. For example, who hasn’t been involved in a group project where 2-3 of the people do 80 percent of the work? Interestingly, this principle also says that individuals and organizations are spending 80% of their efforts to accomplish 20% of their results. How can this simple principle be exploited to the very best advantage? The key is to put the maximum effort in areas that will gain the most return. Stop and think about the areas of your life that could benefit from the Pareto Principle. Ask yourself: Do you own at least five amazing suits, but 80% of the time or more you grab the same one or two? Do you have 10-15 rooms in your home, but spend 80% of your time in just your bedroom, family room, and kitchen? Do you have 50 different mobile apps on your smart phone, but 80% of the time you are only using about 10? The fact is, there are opportunities for efficiency in every area of your life. And the best part is, because it’s something you have control over, it’s something you can improve. So how can you apply Pareto’s principle to increase your return on your time/energy/money investment? Many professionals are constantly faced with the challenge of limited resources. Instead of trying to do the impossible, a Pareto approach is to truly understand which projects are most important. What are the most important goals of your organization, or boss, and which specific tasks do you need to focus on to align with those goals? What tasks can you delegate or let go? This can also be applied to your personal life. Concentrate on those areas that provide you with a happy and healthy lifestyle and meaningful relationships.