Category Archives for Career Advice Legacy

Reward Yourself to Refresh Yourself

If you are the typical woman, life never slows down for you. Between taking care of your work, family and personal obligations, there isn’t any time left for you. However, if you are feeling “burnt-out” you need, no, you MUST, take a personal break and reward yourself.

Here are three easy tips to refresh yourself.

  • Schedule quiet time each week
  • Reward yourself for your accomplishments
  • Have a personal day or evening each month

Schedule quiet time each week

You can feel the pressure building up inside you. You feel yourself becoming irritated at the smallest inconvenience or problem that normally wouldn’t upset you. You are heading for a “melt down”. Time to refresh. Start by forcing yourself to schedule a quiet time each week. Literally turn off the outside world. Turn off your pager, cell phone, forward your calls, and tell whoever you need to that you will be unavailable for the next 1-2 hours and go to a place that you know you can relax and can’t be bothered. This quiet time doesn’t have to be in response to work situations; it can also be applied to a hectic week at home. Our lifestyle today is becoming more and more hectic. Every day we try to cram 36 hours into the 24 hours God gave us. Use your quiet time to reflect on thoughts that make you happy. Block out negative thinking. Do something you really enjoy. See a movie, read a book you been putting off, have a latte, it doesn’t matter what it is, just do it!

Reward yourself for your accomplishments

Set up a system where you can reward yourself when you reach an accomplishment or a goal. Many times at work we go unrecognized for some extra work we did to compete a project on time. At home, we are expected to have dinner on the table, kids in bed and still clean up, all after coming home from a 10 hour work day. At work and at home, you must set your own rewards for a job well done. These little rewards will keep the focus on the upcoming “treat” instead of the constant pressure to perform. Rewards can be something as small as a little chocolate or a latte to something as big as a “personal spa day”. Remember to set the goals or accomplishments so that they are regularly achievable so you can reap the rewards.

Have a personal day or evening each month

A person can put up with a lot if they know that they will soon have a major reward. Think about when you were a child. Did your parents tell you if you finished your vegetables (the ones you hated) you could have dessert? How many of us put up with eating those veggies just because we knew we would get ice cream?!! The same principle applies today. You can suffer through a lot if you knew that each month you could have a personal day where you could reward yourself by doing only those things that you want to do. If you stay focused on your upcoming personal day reward while going through the rigors of your life, the stress will be more tolerable. You will probably have to coordinate this day with your family or significant other. This personal day doesn’t necessarily mean doing something on your own, by all means include your family if that is what makes you happy. Here are a couple of suggestions that can be stress busters: have Dad take the kids out and you take an uninterrupted bath, go out to lunch or dinner with your best friend(s), send the kids to an overnight and go on a date with your spouse, take a bed and breakfast weekend, this list can go on and on. The important thing here is for you to do the things that will relieve your level of stress and refresh you for the upcoming days.

Remember to look forward to your rewards when the going gets tough and keep the focus on the light at the end of the tunnel to help you get through those trying days. Good luck!

(originally published 3/20/2000)

Communication Tips For The Busy Professional

Have you called someone to just relay some information and was drawn into a relatively long conversation talking about the weather, the home team, political and current events, their home life, etc? The call took you completely off track of the subject matter you wanted to relay and you felt it would be rude to interrupt even though you had an insurmountable list of things to do. Here is a short list of three things you can do to save some time and keep yourself from being held captive in unnecessary conversation.

Announce time constraint.

When starting a conversation, you can open with something like, “Tom, I only have a minute and I wanted to get back to you about……” By warning most people in advance that you don’t have much time to spend with them, they generally will catch the subtle hint and not keep you with idle chit-chat. By announcing your time constraint, you will be able to exit the phone conversation easily.

Use voicemail.

When relaying information that doesn’t really require the immediate input from the other person, why not call their voicemail directly or if you reach their secretary ask to be put through to voicemail. This will allow you to offer up your complete thoughts without any interruption, objection or comment from the other party. Many times we want to relay just a small detail and just leaving a quick message will do. You can also just leave a small message with the secretary or telephone receptionist.

Write an email.

Just like leaving a voicemail message, you can write out your thoughts and have an accurate record of your communication. And also like a voicemail message, you can get out the complete thought without interruption. One of the wonderful traits of email is that you can write an email at any hour you choose and are not restricted to regular working hours.

Even as simple as these tips are, many of us will still find ourselves trapped in conversations that seemingly have no end when we can least afford the time. In today’s ever increasingly busy world, taking advantage of any time savings can increase our productivity.

(originally published 8/13/2000)

Active Listening – The Key to Resolving Conflicts

Sometimes being a frontline manager is a thankless job. You’re required to keep your staff motivated to work long hours, producing superior work product and remain “happy campers” even if their annual raise this year was not up to their expectation. Each person on your team is an important cog in the wheel that keeps your department running smoothly. Unfortunately, when someone on your team is not carrying her weight, resentment amongst the other staff members may surface. It is so true that “One bad apple can spoil the whole bushel”. What makes it worse is, if one person is consistently late to work or never completes their assignment on time and you allow this to continue, the other staff members blame not only the non-performing individual, but also you. If you notice a member of your staff falling behind in their work performance, you need to address it immediately before the resentment starts. But who wants to take on the ugly task of disciplining your staff? We’ve all gone through it. Bringing the individual into our office, closing our door, seeing the rest of the staff whispering to each other: “Kim’s going to get it now!” Hoping that we can have a calm constructive conversation, but instead it explodes into a shouting match with the individual storming out our office screaming: “You JUST don’t understand!” Unless you work in “Pleasantville” it has or will happen to you soon.

The key to a productive session with an employee is to make sure they are open to listening to your suggestions. Whenever you point out anyone’s weakness, their first response is to become defensive and on guard. Their mind is focused on what to say in their defense and not on what YOU are saying. You will never be able to work through the problem until the individual is actually listening to you. You must “defuse” the employee. This is accomplished through a technique called “active listening”. For example, you have an employee that is late to work every morning. You’ve just reminded her that the office hours are from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, not 8:45 to 5:00. She crosses her arms and quickly blurts out that traffic has been extremely heavy lately. You respond with “You are right, it has been pretty heavy lately. Tell me about it.” Let her talk and listen very closely, focusing all you attention on her. Don’t interrupt. After she is done talking, you may mention that her coworker in the next cubicle is coming from the same area and she gets to work on time. She may answer back with a defensive “Well, Sally doesn’t have kids!” You say “You’re right she doesn’t” and pause to let her speak if she wants. If she still sounds angry, say something like: “You seem angry at me” and pause again to let her speak. Each time you let her speak uninterrupted she relieves her stress, becomes less defensive and starts “losing her steam” as some put it. You keep repeating the procedure, each time letting her speak out about anything she wants with no interruptions and you will notice that her defensive body language disappears, she begins to open up and is more apt to listening to your comments. Only when this happens are you both ready to constructively find a solution to the problem. This technique requires a lot of patience on your part, but you will be very happy with the results. This method will gain you major “kudos” when your boss sees you quickly and effective solving a major situation without the regular shouting match and door slamming.


Make a Decision to Change to Be Successful

The second of the four steps to success is to make a decision to change. Here is a truism: “If you do what you have always done, you will have what you always had”. What this means is that you need to do something different to achieve more (yes, I do mean CHANGE).

After you have determined what you want (your goals), decide what you will be willing to do different (change) with your life and reprioritize your daily, weekly, monthly life’s activities to accommodate these decisions to change.

An example might be: You decide you need to go to school evenings to obtain more education, however, the bowling league you are in meets the only night the class is offered. Decision time! You make a decision to change based on your desire to achieve the goals you have set for yourself. You determine that it is more important for you and your financial future to attend school than to bowl. You reprioritize your life’s schedule and bow out of the bowling league on that night.

Another example: You decide to lose weight and go on a very restricted diet. Everyone in your office likes to go out to eat and not always in the most health conscious eateries or someone brings in donuts or pastries throughout the week. Don’t make excuses to go out and eat lunch or snack on the fatty foods.

It is important to stick to your decision. Set your mind to what you need to do. Make the commitment once and for all and you won’t have to weigh each new challenge against your decision because you have already made it.

Most people will change only when forced to, usually under extreme circumstances. Humans tend to be creatures of habit and comfort — just ask a Sunday Football Widow about men’s habits (just kidding). We humans fall into a groove and routine that meets our most basic needs and we are reluctant to make changes out of the fear that we might upset the smooth sailing boat.

One of the keys to being more successful in life is to recognize when you need to do something different and make that change without fear. You must weigh the benefits of what you have to do different with the potential reward of achieving your goals. It’s your choice — choose wisely and we will
Meet You At The Top!


Annual Reviews – The Roadmap to Success

It’s that dreaded time of year when your boss calls you into her office and hands you the all too familiar annual review form. Your heart beats wildly as you try to read the small print crammed into the little boxes titled “Comments”. Whew! You let out a mental sigh of relief because there are no unsatisfactory boxes checked. But some of the comments your boss makes about your work performance comes as a shock. What does she mean, “lacks initiative” or “needs to work on her time management skill” or may be even something like “lacks confidence”? Why didn’t she talk to me earlier, so I could improve BEFORE my review was written up….and why didn’t she write anything about the new marketing plan I put together. Everyone is already using it. Well, it’s too late now. I wonder if I’ll even get that promotion?

Most people take on a passive role in their review process, but the MsFiscallyFit Professional Woman takes a proactive role in her evaluation process. She is not surprised by any of her boss’ comments; instead she actually takes part in preparing the review form. The review process is a necessary step in getting the promotion and raise YOU want. Use the evaluation form as your road map to success.

Don’t expect your boss to remember all your past achievements. She may have several people to review and a year can be a long time. First find out when your review is scheduled. Submit a summary of all your achievements during the year with the results to your boss (give her ample time to evaluate it). Clearly detail the effects to the company’s bottomline. Did you increase revenues through a new marketing program? Did you reduce expenses by eliminating a cumbersome process? Be specific. Maybe someone in accounting can help put together some solid numbers to include in your summary. List all new accounts established during the year. Calculate a client retention rate and compare it to the company average. The idea is to increase the odds in your favor. You want your boss to see you as you see yourself.

In order to make the necessary improvements in your work performance, you need to have a clear understanding of your areas of weakness. Don’t let your boss get away with those “nebulous” terms like “lacks confidence” or needs to improve her time management skills”. Ask them to give you specific examples. You need to identify an action not just a general description.

We all want to be promoted and make more money. Right? To achieve that goal each year you need a plan of action and that is exactly why you need a review. Effective review forms not only document your past performance, but also outline what you need to change, improve or achieve during the next year in order to move up in ranks. If you are shooting for a promotion next year, tell your boss about it during your review. Don’t be shy. It’s all about good communication. You want and need her on your side. Ask her to draw out exactly what it will take to get that promotion. Do you need additional classes? Do you need to up your rating from satisfactory to excellent and if so what will it take? Can she help get you on a high-profile project and expose you to the right people? Now all you need to do is follow that plan of action, counsel often with your boss during the year and success will be “done deal”.

Writing Winning Memos

Memos are a great way of effectively conveying your message to many people. But what good is it if nobody understands what you are trying to say. Think of how many reams of paper with tiny black and white print cross over your supervisor’s desk each day. If you want your memo’s to stand out from the crowd, apply these winning methods for memo writing.

Before you begin writing, identify the purpose of the memo. Are you documenting a meeting? Do you need someone to take action? Are you addressing a personnel issue for an employee’s file? Make sure you clearly state that specific purpose in one sentence at the very beginning of the memo. No one has time to muddle through several paragraphs to figure out why you wrote the memo. For example:

“This memo documents our understanding of the terms of the agreement discussed at our meeting on ….”
“Please accept this memo as XYZ Company’s written authorization to change the payment terms from 30 days to 45 days.”

These short to the point “what is the purpose” sentences will set the tone of the memo right from the start. Your reader will have a clear understanding of what to do next.

The style of your memo is dictated by your audience. If you are writing a memo to the Regional Sales Director, use a formal format, such as justified paragraphs, rather than an informal format. Lean more toward a conservative writing style. Include people’s last names and titles. Avoid abbreviated words. On the other hand, if you are sending a memo to your assistant to order supplies, you can keep it pretty casual.

Effective use of the “RE:” is just as important as writing a clear “what is the purpose” statement in your memo. A busy manager will quickly look at the “RE:” to determine the urgency and importance of the memo. Your “RE:” should bring about immediate attention. Rather than writing: “RE: ABC Company’s Sales”, be more descriptive like: “RE: Proposal to Increase Sales at ABC Company”. This will put your memo at the top of the pile.

In the high stress, fast-paced corporate world nobody has the time or the patience to read long memos. Keep it short – not just the memo, but the sentences and paragraphs also.Bullets are good visual tools to help simplify complex subject matters. They are also useful in drawing attention to a certain point you are trying to convey to your reader. If you are short on time, bullets are an effective way to communicate your message in the least amount of words.