Posted in Planning

Power in Connecting with People

Have you ever seen someone across the way and thought to yourself “I’d like to talk with them.” How many times have you followed through, walked across the room, and introduced yourself? None. Once or twice? Why so many missed opportunities?

If you’re like me it’s because you have no idea what to say, how they’ll respond to a complete stranger walking up to them, how much time you’ll have to talk, or even the point in making the connection to begin with. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, right? So, why risk it and add to the population of people that know of you peripherally, but don’t connect with you?

I’d like to challenge you to step outside of your own mental crisis of “what will they think of me?,” and think about the blessing you could be to them. If you put yourself into the world to serve others then they need to know you. Their life will be better for having known you.

Some of the most meaningful relationships I still have today were prompted by an awkward “Hey, I’m Emily Anne. I noticed that you ____________ and I wanted to ____________.” For example, “Hey! I’m Emily Anne. I noticed the tag on your shirt is out. Do you mind if I fix it?” They say thank you and regardless if they fix it or I do, they appreciate the gesture and their response opens the door to something else around them. “I read that book last year. It was great! What part are you on?” Sometimes there’s no intro other than “could it be more humid out here” (or something else about the weather) to get them talking.

My boss today whom I adore working with was one of these awkward conversation scenarios at first. She grew up in DC and is now a California girl. I’ve been a Carolina girl my whole life. She has no kids and I have two high-energy Tasmanian devils living with me. She’s beautiful and blonde, I dye my dark hair now on the regular as my kids stress the pigment from tresses. On the surface we had nothing in common and I knew that I would be reporting to her in the coming weeks. I called her one afternoon just to connect – on nothing in particular, but wanted to learn more about her. She asked about my kids, I shared. I asked her about California vs. DC and she shared her perspectives on both and how each of them blend into her personality and outlook on life. I asked if there was anything I could help her with. She knew that I was looking to grow and do more. I didn’t care what it was if it would allow her to see what I could do, allow me to learn something new, and alleviate some burden from her I was game. Our call was nearly 45 minutes of random, at times awkward, get to know you conversations and she couldn’t think of anything I could help her with at the time. [She’s since come up with all kinds of things. :)] I can honestly say that job aside – she will be one of those people that have had a big impact on my life.

Learning to connect with people can be one of the most powerful skills in your toolbox. Maybe they have your dream job. Maybe they seem to have this whole parenting thing down. Maybe you’ve seen then running in your neighborhood every day and you’ve noticed how they’ve gotten faster or dropped pounds. Whatever it is. My former boss used to tell me “No matter what the question is, the answer is always in the room.” When your “room” extends beyond the physical walls of the building you’re in and into the community(ies) where you live/work – every question has an answer.

Posted in Planning

What you do matters. Right?

When you wake-up and think about your day ahead are you pumped? Are you excited for what the day has in store or for what you’re going to contribute? If not, I would argue that you need to spend some time today reflecting on really matters to you and coming up with a plan to make this your best day ever.

Morbid thought, but if you died today would you be satisfied with how you’ve spent the time that you had on this earth? If not, then you need to get busy living your life.

2019 started fast and furious. Work dominated much of January and February and I was left most days and weeks feeling like I was failing as a wife, mom, race director, blogger, everything else that I am or do. When I had this continual gut feeling that I was climbing the hamster wheel (read: going no where fast) I would stop my day and take out a sheet of paper. During this time-out I would start by asking myself if the way that I’m feeling is a pattern or a new “normal,” or is this just what I need to be focused on right now? I would itemize what was generating the most anxiety, what I was spending the most time on, and what needed to be done and how much time I thought that was going to take.

Being busy at work is nothing new. I love the company I work for and the work that I do. I’ve been here nearly 15 years. However, in late December/early January our entire team changed. There was some turnover, but more so every person on our team’s role changed. Some were really excited about new opportunities, some nervous about what lies ahead, all of us knowing that our work over the past 7+ years had stagnated and that we needed to shake things up. Shifting roles and responsibilities around allowed us to retain thought leadership across our team and get different eyes on processes and procedures that govern our work to find fresh ways to package our program or more efficient ways to deliver. There were other value-adds as well, but I’ll stick to theme here.

After doing this “time-out” session with myself seven times over six weeks my notes told me that this busy season of learning a new team, learning new people, learning a new delivery model would be over soon enough – this is just what I had to do right now to set myself up for maximum success.

As a leader it’s said that you won’t be able to satisfy 100% of the people 100% of the time. That’s a challenge and one I’ll happily stand-up to because the work that we do is meaningful to me on a personal level.

Some look at my job superficially and see project plans, Excel workbooks with color coded tabs, folders of standard operating procedures (SOP) that document our delivery protocols, list after list of things to do so that we deliver high quality work on time… It looks boring or mindless to an outsider. Someone very close to me has described my work to others as “pushing paper.” To me, if I don’t have statements of work that ensure our subcontractors come to the table prepared to deliver high-quality work, or have team members with development plans that help them connect their day-to-day with the larger picture of this program so that they are growing both personally and professionally, or I have an Excel sheet with errors or gaps in content that open our program up for risk – it’s a big deal! I take it as a personal failure if something with my name on it is plain wrong or if the team that I work with don’t understand the importance of the work we do. I do have SOPs, and project plans, and Excel sheets – many not out of necessity, but out of that being the way that I process the work we deliver. Another project/program manager may come in and run this show a whole other way, and that’s fine – actually, it would be welcomed.

The point though is that it’s not about how the work is operationalized – the mundane checklists that just help me ensure it’s all there aside. There are lots of ways to do any single thing. The point is that the work is meaningful.

When you get out of bed in the morning and think ahead to what this day holds and what you’ll contribute do you feel empowered to bring your A-game or do you just plan to be a warm body taking up space for that paycheck? Stay-at-home mom, police officer, electrician, project manager, lifeguard, nurse – all the professions apply – do you see CLEARLY how what you do matters? If not, I would argue that you need to take some time to re-evaluate or do something new.

Posted in Planning

5 ways to start your day

Every day is a chance to start over. You have the power today to be someone completely different than you were yesterday. Isn’t that amazing?!? It can also be scary. I have so many ideas in my head of what I want to do in this next year figuring out what to do today can be paralyzing. Don’t let that stop you. Here are 5 things you can do today to start your day in the most intentional way.

  1. Hydration and nutrition – Start your day by drinking a glass of water and eating something. This will kick-start your brain for the day.
  2. 15 minutes of You Time – Start your day by spending 15 minutes solely focused on yourself or a practice that you hold dear. If you generally get a workout in first thing in the morning then you’re already on track for this one. If you have more time – then go for it. I like to spend my 15 minutes in the shower listening to my daily devotional and praying. If you want to sit and meditate, if you need to wake-up earlier to get it in before the kids get up – then do it. It’s so valuable to start your day with something that fills you up.
  3. Tidy up – I find that I’m more productive when my work space is tidy. I work from home and tend to move from room-to-room as well so that I don’t get pressure ulcers from sitting in my desk chair and I get a new perspective. Moving my “office” around the house can be a draining practice because the total volume of clutter is directly proportional to how much time my kids spend in that same space. If I can take even a few minutes to straighten up a few things it yields big returns on my productivity.
  4. Make the list – I have a plan of the categories of work I want to complete each day. The things that have to get done that day (they can’t be moved out), the things that I’d like to get done (but if they need to move they can), and the things I want to do (things that aren’t a necessity but energize me or have a larger value proposition). Beside each item I make a notation of the type of work it is by the category and then I note how much time I expect it to take me. It’s important that you keep into perspective the number of work hours you have in each day. If you have 16 hours of work that need to get out of the fray. See this earlier blog post [Save yourself, Get out of the Fray] on how to accomplish the seemingly insurmountable.

    I start my work day with the most pressing, deadline-driven to-do’s first. Then I give my mind a break by focusing on one of the more creative to-do’s, then get back to the grind for a bit. It’s helpful to not stay in the trenches for the duration of a complete day.

  5. I set the timer – When I sit down and start working I set the timer on my phone for 50 minutes. When the timer goes off I get up for at least 5 minutes to walk around. It doesn’t have to be for long, but to get the smallest physical break helps energize me. If I’m not doing this during a conference call then I will also close my eyes for a quick mental break to.

We all work differently and we are all energized and motivated by different things. I believe these 5 practices are universal. Maybe your a firefighter and can’t set a timer for every 50 minutes to change your current environment – but you can set a timer to be intentional even if it’s to take notice of where you are and how you feel. That practice in and of itself can be energizing. I encourage you to think through these practices and which ones you can implement. In total this practice takes me less than 45 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes throughout a typical 8 hour work day.

You’re definitely worth 90 minutes each day to be intentional about how you want to show up for that day and to energize yourself throughout each day.