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  • 0 Just Be Nice

    As I was researching subjects for this month’s newsletter, I found myself in a deep state of writer’s block. It seemed that any subject I felt strongly enough about to commit a couple of hours, and 1,200 to 1,500 words to, had been used before. I write these newsletters in hopes of sharing insightful nuggets that I have learned over the course of my 40 plus years in the workforce. I’ve written about leadership, perseverance, overcoming obstacles and other subjects along those lines. Diving deeper into those waters is something that I will continue to do, but I wanted a different ocean experience for this newsletter. I wanted something bigger, and something to challenge my style, but I had a hard time finding that “something.” So, eventually, I did what I never like doing, yet knowing full well that I should; I asked for help. I told my wife that I couldn’t come up with anything that I thought was exciting or inspirational, and I asked her if she had any ideas. She replied to me with a question, “Why does it have to be exciting, or inspirational?  Why not use a subject from your blog page, everyday day life navigation stuff, like just being nice?” This is what I said in response, “Okay. Thanks, Baby. I’ll look at something like that.” But this is what I thought, “But I WANT to be exciting and inspirational!” Nothing was written that day. Nothing exciting, nothing inspirational. The next day I called my mentor, let’s just call her Kathy, for the sake of this newsletter, and I said, “Hey Kathy, I’m stumped. I want to write something a little different, but I want to keep it exciting and inspirational.” It was as if my wife called ahead and spoke to Kathy, because after very little back and forth exchange, spit balling ideas, my mentor suggested that I, “… revisit some of your blog page subjects. How about writing something about the power of simply being nice?” Even though it was a phone conversation, I could see the smile on her face, as that light bulb flicked on over her head. Two out of two people, whose opinions I sought out, suggested that I write something about “being nice”. So here we are, and my initial question as I sat in front of my computer screen was: Do we really need to be reminded to be nice?  My immediate reply to my own question was, “Yes. Yes, we do.” I see it almost every single day. When I’m not writing exciting and inspirational newsletters, I’m a traveling salesperson. I travel by plane just about every week, almost always making a connection, so I’m in (at a minimum) four airports in a typical work week. As a society, airports do not bring out the best in us. When things go exactly as planned: flights on time, the weather is nice and turbulence free, and the seat next to you is empty, it is still stressful. I’ve been doing it every week for over 25 years, and it’s still stressful! We could point out all the stressors, but those points are not pertinent to THE point. We, as passengers, have almost NO CONTROL over the things that create the stress and anxiety when flying. And, for the most part, the people on the ground managing our flying experience have no control either. I can assure you, the gate agent who just informed us that our flight was cancelled, due to a mechanical issue, was not the last mechanic to work on that 737 bound for San Antonio. She is not in any way trying to prevent us from attending an important meeting or stop us from seeing our beloved but cranky Aunt Edna. In fact, she is trying to get us there. So, it is in our best interest to just be nice. On a Thursday in December, I was standing in line for over 45 minutes at the United Airlines help desk in Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Several flights were cancelled due to weather. I watched person after person curse out the staff at the help desk. I’m pretty sure the good folks at the help desk did not create the weather, I doubt very seriously that they even forecasted the weather, yet here they were taking all the blame. Just a thought: The one person who can help you get to where you want to go is standing in front of you AT THE HELP DESK! Be nice. I didn’t get to go home that Thursday… well, you know…weather! But I did get to go home Friday morning in a first-class seat. Just because I was nice. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it did on that day. I see problems at the airport, at the rental car counter, at the front desk of hotels, even at the grocery store… all the time. What I have never seen, is an anger reaction that solved one of those problems. This being nice strategy doesn’t just apply to travel. We need to employ the strategy in the workplace, at school, at home, and throughout our daily lives. We are all “influencers.” We always have been, in some way or another, and not through TikTok or Instagram, it’s in our daily behaviors. We see some paraphrased version of this quote, all the time: “We can’t control the actions of others, but we can control how we react.” It is about as basic as any common sense, self-help, enlightenment kind of quote there is, and yet, it can be difficult to adhere to. When someone at work is being difficult, whether it’s a boss, a coworker, or a client it is hard to just let it go, to let it just roll of our shoulder, but you need to find a way. Being nice and being pleasant in our response doesn’t weaken us. It makes us stronger. If someone is knowingly and willfully pushing you, pushing your buttons, to get a reaction, responding with kindness, in whatever form you put it in, shows that you’re not going compromise a value that is yours. You’re not avoiding confrontation, or backing down, it’s actually the opposite. Think about that: By reacting to someone’s aggression by being nice, you are imposing your will into the situation. You’re rewriting the script and steering an ugly or uncomfortable setting out of their darkness and into your light. That’s power, that’s leadership, and that’s influence. It takes practice. You need to employ proactive exercises to make “just being nice” part of your daily life. Compliment a friend or a co-worker…I have found that everyone appreciates a nice comment about their shoes! Buy a cup of coffee for a stranger. Finish a conversation with, “I appreciate you”, instead of a simple “thanks.” You might be surprised to find out how good it feels to make someone else feel better when there is nothing in it for you. (But there is something in it for you!) When being treated aggressively or unfairly, practice a calm kindness in your reply, “Okay Aunt Edna, I understand that you’re upset. I can see that you were passionate about my arrival on a Thursday. I can’t help that, because of the weather in Chicago, but I bet if we talk calmly with each other, we can figure out a way to make the best of it and still have a great visit.” Being nice won’t always put you in a first-class seat, but it will always make you look first class. At first, just being nice might seem cheesy and maybe even a little weak, but it’s not! Actually, it is the opposite - it’s quite powerful. In fact, just being nice, is exciting and inspirational.  

  • 0 Sprucing Up Your Good Habits

    Recently I forgot something important. REALLY important. It was an event one of my children was supposed to attend. Something we gasped with excitement over when he was first invited. We immediately rsvp’d, completed a pile of paperwork so he could participate, even proudly told his grandparents about it (“Listen to this cool thing Charlie gets to do!”). A couple of busy autumn months went by, brimming with other events, assignments, and ballgames and… when the day came around, it wasn’t until I was climbing into bed that night when I said, “Wait. Were we supposed to do something today?” I didn’t used to be prone to forgetting. I’m diligent about putting things in my smartphone calendar and this commitment was no exception. “How could this have happened?” is something I’ve asked myself relentlessly since. So, here’s what I think: My mind has grown lazy. If the receptionist at the dentist says, “see you in 6 months” you might see me physically standing there at the desk putting it in my calendar, but frankly they are going to send me 30 reminder texts and emails a couple of weeks before the actual appointment so there’s no reason for me to truly internalize the date. Of course, the phone is always buzzing but it’s sometimes with a weekly meeting I’ve forgotten to delete from the calendar or a notification about a school bus running late for my child who plans to walk home anyway.  What I’m trying to say is there was a time when I HAD good scheduling habits, but then it got muddy because someone was always remembering for me. And at one time I was responsible enough to register for constant text notifications about things like late buses, when messages became too voluminous, I learned to ignore them. With my son’s special event, there was no reminder from them and so there was no remembering from me. How absurd! I don’t need to recreate new habits; I need to spruce up my old ones. Habit Stacking If you’ve strayed from a good habit, one strategy for getting back on track is to attach something new to the way you’ve always done it. For me, from this day forward, the second I take my first sip of coffee, I open the calendar to read it. The good habit was always there: using the phone calendar to organize commitments. Now it’s time to build a small addition: instead of waiting for notifications, actively checking the calendar at the same time every day. This also works if you simply want to pick up a new ritual. For example, starting a mediation routine. If you’re good at exercising regularly consider adding 5 minutes of meditation to the beginning of your routine. If you want to maintain your network more intentionally, send a note to a colleague to say hello each time you open your healthy homemade lunch. Choose the Habits of Leader Pick good places for growth. Make a list of the attributes of a good leader. For example, a productive manager might set their intentions each day, prioritize people over tasks, or listen before they speak. How can you autopilot these interpersonal skills so that they become habits? Pick simple behaviors that you can put on repeat. Some ideas: To be a better listener- Listen to the other person speak and then paraphrase what they said. “So, what you mean is.” “Okay, so to make sure I have this right…” Knowing that you will end each conversation this way will force you to listen to what the speaker is saying instead of letting your brain fill with what you plan to say next. Prioritize people so they can succeed- Don’t simply download the specifics of a project. Think of how to help the people involved succeed. If you are delegating work, make sure the person in receipt of your project knows how the outcome will be measured and evaluated. Begin every meeting by sharing the goals. Be ready with ideas- Don’t present a problem without sharing possible solutions. If you’re good about updating your supervisor with the status on a project and you are honest about problems that might be happening, also take the time to suggest solutions. Keep Your Rhythm Re-energize your plan to keep your rhythm with a good habit. Repetition is the key so perhaps incentivize never missing more than two days in a row. If you decide to revisit your calendar every morning, maybe on Friday’s reward yourself with a specialty coffee or going for a walk during your lunch hour. Take a “small steps” approach to Improvement Be mindful that if you add too much into your already packed routine you might find yourself overwhelmed. Continuous and gradual steps might be a better approach. Try reading about “Kaizen”, the Japanese philosophy of setting small, manageable steps to improve your habits over time. The idea is that if you get a teeny bit better constantly, as little as 1% a day, you can be in a constant state of improvement- even when it comes to things that are going well already. Practitioners of this method find it to be especially useful in business but with some imagination, you can make it work for the individual.   Here are some ideas for staying consistent with a new habit without disrupting your current routine: Make a timestamp. Five to ten minutes a day and that’s it. Look at literature. See if there is a book or podcast that centers on your new habit and read or listen to just a snippet each week. This will help you remain rooted in what you are trying to achieve. Don’t let this new thing be the reason you stayed up too late or fell behind in another priority.

  • 0 This year, give the gift that matters: YOU!

    Each of us carries individual qualities and talents that make us uniquely gifted.  However, not everyone recognizes these strengths within themselves or knows how to discover, develop, and share them.  The season of giving offers a timely opportunity to reflect on what special gifts you have to offer and how and where you can best use them to contribute.    Discover your gifts.  Discerning what makes you an asset to others around you can be more difficult than it sounds.  For many folks, it is easy to see what makes other people stand out, but much harder to pinpoint what sets us apart.  This is made even more challenging by our propensity to second-guess ourselves and compare ourselves to others.  Many of us fall into the trap of trying to imitate the greatness we see in others rather than tapping into our innate abilities.    But every team needs a variety of talents and abilities to be successful.  Some, like leadership and vision, are obvious.  Others, like writing or interpersonal skills, are less evident but equally important.  After all, what good is a vision if you can’t communicate it or persuade others to buy in?  Figuring out where you shine and how that can be useful to your team means putting aside modesty and self-doubt and asking yourself a few key questions.  What do you know how to do that you excel at with ease?  During your daily tasks, pay attention to where you contribute the most to your team or have your best results with the last amount of effort.  Also ask yourself what you enjoy doing (or, if you find this difficult to answer, think back to what you most enjoyed doing as a child)?  What have others asked for your help with or told you that you are good at?    If you’re drawing a blank, ask people who know you in different areas of your life.  Ask your friends and family, who know you best and may share some out-of-the-box feedback that wouldn’t have occurred to you.  Ask your peers and colleagues, who have the unique perspective of working with you on projects and day-to-day operations.  Ask your supervisor, who assesses your performance regularly and can provide candid feedback about where they’ve observed natural aptitude and how you benefit the team.  And, of course, ask your mentor, who can offer you objective feedback based on their observations from your interactions, but also from their own experiences of what different gifts have helped make their teams and projects successful.   Develop and share your gifts.  Discovering your gifts and developing them takes more than thought and feedback—it requires action!  Whatever gifts you’ve identified in the discovery phase are only going to make an impact if you use them and use them well.  Legendary musicians and athletes are great in part because they were born with something special, but also because they practiced and then practiced some more in order to perfect their craft.  They didn’t settle for being naturally talented—they worked diligently and consistently to refine their gift.   Look for opportunities to flex and build your unique talents.  If your superpower is attention to detail, perhaps you could use that gift by attending all project-related meetings to take notes and take charge of the list of tasks and deliverables for your team.  Or perhaps you should be the last set of eyes on any document going forward for approval.  If you excel at critical thinking, you could ask to be involved in reviewing proposals or reports.  If you’re a gifted communicator, are there opportunities for you to present, facilitate, or pitch?   If you don’t see an obvious place to put your gifts to work on your own, tap into your deepest reserves of creativity and courage and make a space!  Challenge yourself to seek opportunities by consulting your supervisor to ask outright to handle certain duties or by paying attention to areas in your work unit’s processes that have room to improve and considering what solutions you could offer.    Teams thrive when every member is engaged and actively bringing their talents to the table, and we all feel better about ourselves and our work when we feel like an important, valued, and contributing part of our team.  We don’t have to compare and compete with our colleagues; we can focus instead on leveraging our unique gifts in a way that benefits the team and contributes to the mission.     Ask a Mentor Here are some questions mentoring pairs can discuss to uncover and highlight your natural gifts:   What would you say is my special gift, or which of my strengths have you observed that could be useful to my team? What opportunities do you see for me to share and apply those gifts/strengths? How do you think I could further develop my gifts/strengths? In your experience, what are some “behind-the-scenes” gifts that may be less obvious but contribute greatly to a team’s or project’s success? What are your gifts and how do you use them?    

  • 0 How to improve your critical thinking skills at work

    Having the ability to think critically about an issue is one of the most powerful demonstrations of your leadership capacity. Critical thinking or, the ability to analyze and evaluate information to make a decision, isn’t the easiest skill to develop. It isn’t an automatic byproduct of your knowledge or learning. On the contrary, it is something that requires self-discipline and practice. People often put it like this: critical thinking is turning knowledge into wisdom. It is unlikely that you could hear about a new problem and immediately have a clear vision for how to solve it. Using your previous experience and personal intuition should only represent a part of your decision-making process. In fact, the best leaders deeply absorb new information before integrating it with what they already know. Forbes devised seven critical thinking tactics that high-performing leaders use to make informed decisions. Much of their advice centered on listening, asking questions, and reflecting.   The origins of critical thinking The Foundation for Critical Thinking traces the skill all the way back to Greek philosopher Socrates. Remember, Socrates challenged passionate rhetoric by asking a series of targeted questions and urging those in authority to provide evidence for their claims. He would then, through more questioning, analyze the evidence to determine its logic. Essentially, the Socratic Method, is asking and answering questions to draw out any inconsistencies or irrational thought. The method is, at its core, critical thinking. Critical thinking has become a point of emphasis in education in recent years. In the previous century, students might have taken Latin because it was assumed that being able to unpack difficult vocabulary would help them perform better on exams. But over time, academic researchers have realized that being able to read a question, understand what it is asking, planning steps to answer it, and communicating the answer well is of greater value to students. In other words, a very smart student who has studied extensively for a test might still make errors if they aren’t able to think through each problem on the test and understand what is being asked of them. The knowledge itself isn’t enough. As early as the late 1980s, the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking started considering the value of elevating knowledge into something more profound, a deeper understanding of concepts and ability to make sound judgement based on that understanding. They said critical thinkers share two qualities: 1. A set of information and processing skills, 2. A habit of using those skills to guide behavior.  Processing and resulting behavior won’t be the same with each problem. As Daniel Willingham of the University of Virginia who has written extensively on the subject recently pointed out, “Critical Thinking is needed when you’re playing chess, designing a product, or planning strategy for a field hockey match, but there are no routine, reusable solutions for these problems.”    Improving self-awareness One of the most dangerous trappings of hasty decision making is letting your own assumptions and biases guide you. To be an effective critical thinker, you need to understand the way you handle things and how your own belief system is structured to include your preferences, ethics, and solutions you lean into because you’re good at the skills required to pursue them. Understand your priorities and consider jotting them down to keep focus but be willing to adjust them if necessary.  Seek opportunities for feedback, whether it’s from your supervisor, mentoring partner, or colleagues. Ask them how you’re doing on a specific project or whether you’re tackling a new skill appropriately. Be positive and open to critical feedback which is, honestly, sometimes most helpful. Don’t lose sight of your strengths because it’s easier to hear about your weaknesses when you feel rooted in what you know you’re consistently doing well. Developing a keen self-awareness is helpful when synthesizing new information on a problem and developing a fair and balanced solution.     Be a good active listener A strong critical thinker cannot make a decision without having proper background knowledge. Once you’ve heard everything, it’s okay to begin synthesizing that information by adding in your experience and the things you already know. Listen well and don’t interrupt when your co-workers are talking. Take stock in the challenges they are facing on their end and do not jump to conclusions or drift off thinking about what you’re going to say next. Don’t forget the non-verbal listening cues: put your phone away, mute notification, make eye contact, nod. Only ask questions when they are done speaking. Avoid “why” questions because when you’re gathering information, it’s too soon to jump to they “whys.”  Stick with the “whats” and “hows.” Your questions should only serve to check your understanding. You might ask them to clarify a specific point or to build upon something they already said. Also paraphrase what they’ve said to boil down their meaning and confirm you have a strong understanding of the situation.     Be the one to point out different perspectives Once you have a firm handle on the information, you can start pulling in different perspectives. Getting outside of your bubble will help you develop richer insights. You might leverage your existing professional networks or mentoring experience to get to know people in different groups. If there’s time, it helps to find several sources that present a different view. Are there alternative systems of thought on this? If so, think of examples and weigh their value. Look for assumptions and biases that can result from groupthink and point them out explicitly. Here are some tips for building perspective: Seek counsel from those with diverse backgrounds. Form relationships with people who challenge you. Ask for opinions in a way that lets others know it’s okay to disagree with you. Try to learn something from each person you meet in your networking encounters.   When making a plan, consider the outcomes To round out your critical thought, brainstorm to think of the potential outcomes of any decision you make. Think through what can happen in several different circumstances and be able to articulate that to your colleagues. Consider what might change and how you will pivot your plan if necessary. You need to have foresight and be able to make predictions. It is most important that you communicate your predictions clearly and with confidence. But generally, when it comes to predicting outcomes, here are some units of measure you should consider: What is the main goal, after doing these things, what will the distance be between the outcome and that original goal? Who will be affected? At what point in the process will they feel the affects of this decision? How will you track progress? What are some performance measures? (ex: budget money saved, customer satisfaction.) What will be your plan for reviewing the outcomes and articulating them to the rest of the group? Ask a mentor: Mentors have often developed their own critical thinking skills over time. Ask for their advice on establishing your own: - What are the metrics you use to predict outcomes on a project? - How do you check your own biases and assumptions? - What do you do to encourage critical thinking in problem solving for your team? - What are some of the best ways someone can demonstrate self-awareness? - When you need wider perspective on an issue, how do you find it?    

  • 0 Finding passion in your work

    When it comes to finding fulfillment in our work, we might need to actively seek it. It isn’t always practical to turn our most naturally revered passions into a source of income. That’s not to disparage the magical mix of dreams, grit, and perseverance that pushes us to reach for the stars and conquer our goals. It’s just that, often, where we are is exactly where we need to be. When a promotion or heading in a new direction isn’t the right course at the moment, how can we find inspiration in the very thing we’re already doing? When we turn on the office lights and switch on our computers, how do we access passion instead of just grind?   Notice what tunes you into your work Take an inventory of your current strengths and interests. When is your attention most rapt or when does time fly fastest for you? Maybe you enjoy planning meeting agendas and project timelines or collaborating with other teammates to fix problems and strategize workarounds. Isolate that thing because it’s likely what gives you the deepest sense of purpose. Think about how that thing enhances to your colleagues’ work, division’s responsibilities, and organization’s mission. Consider why that component of your work is valuable to others and brings you contentment. Does it lean into your natural abilities or contribute to the organizational goals of which you are the proudest? Does it relate to your original career vision?     Look for opportunities to elevate the things you do well Let your supervisor (or other influencers) know that you feel an affinity for this specific part of your job. Express gratitude and let them know of your interest for more opportunities get involved in this capacity. Think of it like a position on a baseball team. If you love centerfield, but the coach is always rotating positions, let them know you feel a fire for center. Enthusiasm is crucial as talent. Read trade publications and pass them on to your manager. Ask to sit in on related meetings or even lend a hand on another project so that colleagues associate you with competence and expertise in this space.   Find a mentor There are likely other parts of your job that don’t come as easily to you as that thing. Keep working to your fullest potential in areas where you feel most confident and look for help where you don’t. Mentors are everywhere. Once, a friend told me that a full email inbox was her pet peeve. “I just can’t stand when I have to scroll to see all my messages,” she said. For me, it was the opposite. I was having an awful time keeping up with email and knew that my clogged inbox was distracting me from my other work. “Are you kidding?!” I gasped. “I’d love to have a tidy inbox! Can you tell me how you do it?” She showed me a system of responding to and archiving messages that I still use today. Keep a healthy perspective An important ingredient to success is balancing the things we have to do with the things we like doing best. There will always be expectations, demands, and even dull routines that no one can get out from underneath. Don’t put yourself down or let hyper awareness of your weaknesses keep you from amplifying your strengths, but it’s okay to let people know when you’re in uncomfortable terrain if you do it graciously:   “You always catch all the details! I would have missed that on my own. I’m so glad we’re working on this together.”   But also make sure to let others know when you’re in your sweet spot:                 “I can’t wait to start working on this. This is my favorite stage of a project.”

  • 0 What Does Your Desk Say About You?

    It might seem like an unusual topic but the way you organize your workspace may say more about your personality than you think. Look around at yours right now. Is it perfectly neat or does it have a more “lived-in” look? Do you display personal mementos? Or prefer plain walls? Do you hang professional certificates and awards? Or have you designated a drawer for items of organizational recognition? Whether you share cubicle space, work remotely from a corner of your home or are tucked inside a private office with a door, your work space paints a picture of your personality and working style. To make sure your desk is saying what you want it to say about you, we will share some ideas for organizing and personalizing your space: Communicate Power and Efficiency with a Clean Workspace If you are interested in communicating power and having command of your workload, keep your space open and streamlined. Declutter your desk by getting rid of things you don’t need. Go paperless if possible; scan important documents and file them electronically on your desktop. Pick one spot for digital devices, cords, and chargers. Keep in mind some clutter is virtual, like the clutter of icons on your desktop. Having too many icons may make it difficult to find things quickly and can even slow down your computer. De-clutter your desktop frequently. Encourage Openness by Sharing Your Friendly and Unique Flair There are a couple of ways to add some personality to your workspace and express to your colleagues that you are an outgoing and interesting person with a happy life inside and outside of work. For example: 1. Pick the perfect wall calendar: A wall calendar makes it easy to reference dates and double-check commitments without always having to pick up your smart phone. Pick something that reflects your interests or aesthetics. Run a search on Etsy, check out a local stationary store, visit your favorite museum’s gift shop, or even make your own on Snapfish (or other photo website) with pictures from your phone or social media accounts. 2. Display 3-5 photos: Of course, you don’t want to clutter your desk with pictures from college or a wild summer barbeque, but just a few photos of a beloved pet, family members, or a scene from a recent vacation are great conversation-starters and can make you feel happy throughout the day. 3. Curate a small collection of your favorite things: If you love poetry books or collect Star Wars memorabilia, displaying just a few of those items in your office communicates that you have rich interests and a unique personality. Establish Stability and Harmony With their dreary corners and humming equipment, offices can feel at once hectic and stale. To brighten things up and balance the environment, add simple flourishes from the Chinese study of dynamic energy flow by adding a bit of Feng Shui: 1. Air-purifying plants: Low-maintenance is a must. Try cacti, spider plants, jade, or peace lilies, which do not require full-sun or daily watering. 2. Ion-neutralizing Himalayan salt rock: Believed to counteract positive ions produced by your computer and smart phone, many are outfitted with small lights that emit a peaceful glow. 3. Happy family photos: Communicate that you are a family-oriented person who treasures and draws support from your loved ones. Curate them into nice frames in a single spot. 4. Small mirror behind your desk: Ideally, your desk should face the door so that you see everyone who passes or enters. If that furniture layout is not possible, place a small mirror next to your computer so that you can see behind you, eliminating any feelings of uneasiness. 5. Desk lamp: natural light is the best alternative to Narsh fluorescent lighting in an office, but a small task lamp also produces a calming light. Demonstrate that You Are Organized and On Top of Details There is more to being “on top” of your projects than simply having completed them. Being able to communicate to your supervisor where your projects are in the process and reporting critical details will make you feel more confident about your workload and sound competent to your team leaders. For this reason, having an inbox and an outbox is not enough to encapsulate the middle of projects. Engineer a three-step routine at your desk that will make it easy for you to touch each project on your plate daily and report back on them concisely: 1. File: Create a master list for each project, either as a hanging file or electronic list or both. In it, take the time to break your project into a series of smaller tasks. It will make your work seem less overwhelming but also give you the freedom to take on easier tasks on already busy days. 2. Board: You can hang a simple wipe-off board or download an online task board like Trello, to color-code tasks according to priority level and move them through the process from “start” to “submitted.” 3. Tray: Take a day, weekly or bi-weekly to review progress against the project plan. Is the deadline still manageable? Will you have enough resources? Flag any issues and place them in a tray on your desk so that you remember to raise them with your supervisor or team leader. Taking the time to situate your desk will demonstrate competence in your job but can also make you feel more content and satisfied while you’re sitting there! Ask a Mentor!Your mentor has seen a lot of desks in their professional lifetime. Talk to them about what they like to see and what irks them. Here are some possible questions you might ask: Who has the neatest office space you can think of? What stands out most about it? What are the challenges you face when trying to feel at home and satisfied with your own office space? Do you have any personal items hanging in your office? Organizational certificates? What is an absolute must for you to feel productive when sitting at your desk? What is your pet peeve when you look into someone else’s office?

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