Posted in Planning

What Happens Next?

Today was one of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.

I’ve been laying in bed with my sweet girl to my left and my other cuddle bug on my right. Both have been asleep for hours. I just finished watching Free Solo telling myself it’s too late at night to write this post. I don’t want to wake my kids so I should just do this tomorrow. I’m tired and want this day to freaking end, but I can’t shake the urge to get this out. I feel like it’s going to be helpful to someone if not merely an outlet for me. Allow me to set the stage.

I’ve been with the same company for fifteen years now. Literally 15 years this week. In today’s corporate currency that’s more than a lifetime. An employee’s average tour of duty with an employer today is something like 4.5 years. Over the past 9 years I’ve been managing the same contract which ended this spring. I started out as the project manager and over the years took on more responsibilities and leadership to where now I’m leading this business unit. This contract, the work at it’s core, and the patients it served drove me to do my best for my team, my family, your family, our country every day for the past 9 years. Over the past 9 years I’ve had both of my babies too. After my son was born I actually requested to come back from maternity leave early because I missed “my” work. I was good at it. I was validated by it. I was passionate about it. That baby never told me what a good job I was doing and how thankful they were for my efforts. I kid (kind of). You get the picture. I’ve been fortunate enough to genuinely love my job.

About three years ago my company decided to pivot on its direction with contracts like the one I managed and my team became a political chessboard. Conflicts within upper levels of leadership bled down to the staff. Bitterness, disorganization, lack of communication and distrust permeated our entire unit. I started seeking counseling and for the first time in my life and was taking anti-anxiety medication. I never knew from one day to the next how to act around anyone. I feared for my job. Co-workers I had been friends with had chosen sides and that created strife. It was a mess. I was a mess.

The year prior I had lost about 50 lbs. My project was exceeding all performance goals. We were celebrated in press releases and at in-person national meetings. Now it was all seemingly in shambles. At this same low low point two other things had also happened:
1. I turned 40
2. I found Rachel Hollis and her book Girl, Wash Your Face

I had seen the writing on the wall the previous fall. All levels of my immediate leadership were in conflict. Meetings were tense. From all levels varying degrees of protection were being kept on certain information. Transparency was out the window. If you wanted to be in the know you had to pick a side and earn their trust in hopes they’d give you some inkling of what in the actual hell was going on. That November (2018) I bought myself a ticket to Rise Minneapolis (June 2019). Rise is a 3-day in-person women’s conference focused on personal development hosted by Rachel Hollis. I was so excited because I had never been to a personal development conference before and her book lit me on fire. I am all about women empowering women so the fact that this was women only really intrigued me, and I had never been to Minneapolis, MN before. Winning! In the 8 months between when I bought my ticket and when I flew to the conference, I dove into the world of personal and professional development head first. Ed Mylett, Jenna Kutcher, Tony Robins, John Maxwell. I read as many books as I could get my hands on. Taking in all of the information. I even started a book club for my team.

Finally, the day arrived when I was heading to Minneapolis, MN. I was a little nervous because I was traveling by myself for the first time in my life for something other than work. Heading to a new city to spend 3 days with more than 2,000 women I had never met. I knew no one. Day 1 focused on your present. Day 2 focused on your past. Day 3 we focused on our future. On Rise day 1 we went through an exercise in the day’s guided booklet that had us identifying our habits. Keep in mind I was mentally and emotionally fatigued from work. Work was the largest, heaviest piece of baggage I was lugging around everywhere back then. I’ll share the exercise and my answers with you.

What are the positive habits you do every day? (Habit being things you do that you don’t have to think about.) We had one song that Ashon the DJ played to get that done. We only needed three things. It took me the entire song to come up with brush my teeth and tell my kids I love them. I struggled even thinking of those two things. I felt sad. Next we needed to list 3 limiting believes that we tell ourselves. I wrote: 1. I don’t have time to do anything else because I work so much. 3. I don’t have the energy to do anything else because I’m so emotionally drained by work at the end of the day. 3. What will people think if I do something different? Keeping in mind I had been with my company for more than 13 years at that point – work was a large part of my identity. Next question was what are negative habits I’ve created that support my limiting beliefs. I ran out of paper to write on in the 3-minute song. 1. I don’t do anything. [I’ll add – I literally felt paralyzed by all of the emotions I was feeling at the time. I wouldn’t pay bills or get mail out of the mailbox. Anything “extra” was too much. I was clinically depressed.] 2. I work all the time. It’s what I’m good at. [I would work and take on big projects by myself because I knew that people would praise the effort and work, and for a brief moment there was a positive distraction from the negative.] 3. I’m a prisoner at home. [Yes, that seems a little dramatic. I’ve worked from home for years and I had two small kids who had a nanny at the time and they were always home too. There would be times pretty regularly that because of my workload and/or my kids I wouldn’t leave the house for days. A constant cycle of wake-up, breakfast, work, lunch, work, dinner, laundry, dishes, bath time, bed time, work, sleep.] 4. I spend money that I don’t have necessitating the need for my job to pay my debts. [Ugh.] 5. I’m a people pleaser. [And the funny part was that at this time in my life no people in my life seemed happy. My coworkers and bosses weren’t. My husband wasn’t. I was just coasting on autopilot. I guess my kids were, but I felt disconnected from them.]

Then Rachel asked us to list out what our lives would look like in 5 years down the road if we didn’t change those bad habits. I wrote “I’m bitter, resentful of what could have been. I’m not in control of my life. Everyone else dictates what I do today. I’m unhealthy. My husband won’t want me. I’m depressed. I’m bankrupt. My kids are ashamed of me.”

I started to cry. Like ugly cry in front of a bunch of ladies sitting around me that didn’t know me. I don’t want this life for myself. I don’t want to model that kind of life for my daughter (or my son for that matter). What am I doing?

I pulled out my phone and in that moment I quit my job. To be clear. I first took a picture of that page in the workbook and texted it to my husband who wrote back that he agreed with my assessment. Then I pulled out my phone and quit my job.

I wrote a very brief email to my leadership thanking them and the company for all of the opportunities to learn and grow over the past almost 14 years and noted my last day as 2 weeks later.

Immediately I felt the weight of a thousand worlds lifted off my shoulders. My focus on the conference was crystal clear. I was making this my time to push myself to new places. I was stepping into the unknown.

And then my phone started buzzing and ringing off the hook from my boss and her boss asking me to call them immediately. They knew, as I did, that big changes would be in the works for our team in the coming month or so and they both asked me to withdraw my resignation and stay on for 4 weeks. They both promised me that they would help me focus on getting my life back. Restructuring some of my duties at work to take some of the load off. “Things will get better,” they said. Why did I take their dang calls? I sat back down in the conference for the afternoon session more conflicted than ever. Was I really going to let the promise of balance and 4 weeks keep me from the feeling of clarity and relief I had just experienced 20 minutes ago when I sent my email?

I did. That fast I rested back into what I knew and the comfort of a paycheck for the 1 more month vs. leaning into the discomfort of the unknown. I finished the conference and returned home renewed, refreshed, and on fire for change.

And then at the end of those four weeks I got a severance package.

Why didn’t this make me happy? I at least worked another month and was being given a few paid weeks of time to seek alternate employment. I wanted change didn’t I? I was so unhappy before Rise Minneapolis wasn’t I? I had literally resigned and then rescinded my resignation weeks before. This should have been great jumping off point, but it wasn’t. I was devastated. I had never been let go from a job in my life. I had literally just quit my job 4 weeks ago but I stayed just to be let go on their terms??? Then I was mad. I was mad myself for placing trust where I knew no foundation of long-term prosperity lied. The writing had been on the wall for nearly a year at this point, but me? I’ve been loyal to the company for nearly 14 years and just like that you don’t need me any more? 14 years working nights and weekends. Years traveling Monday – Thursday every week until I was 36 weeks pregnant with my daughter. Never resenting it because I loved it. I had created a reputation in this space that I was proud of. Seven years on this project and the agency funding our contract recognizes me by name and for the reputation I had cultivated for this company. And they were letting me go? What? Does. Not. Compute.

Then our contract was extended and we were asked to stay on. Not the whole team, but some of us delivering on this one contract. Our team had been 27 people and now we were four. I had been clawing my way to the top for years now and overnight found myself driving the contract and our strategy, partnerships – everything. I loved it! The fog of politics and controversy seemed to vanish overnight. We were back to doing the job we all really enjoyed doing. A welcomed breath of fresh air after the war.

We finished our contract strong with many hospitals improving the quality of patient care and noting marked improvement in reducing opioid prescribing. Our contract ended March 31, and wouldn’t you know it April 1 brought with it another severance package. Again, I was gutted. We literally had not even had time to celebrate the accomplishments of our work that had just ended the day before. My new boss wasn’t even informed that I and my team would be getting severed. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. What in the hell?!?! Trying to save jobs for my team I convinced the business to keep us on to write proposals for the summer including a proposal for work that would continue our past contract. It was a busy summer but we felt good about the proposals put forth. Until today.

A text from a proposed partner on one of our proposals was asking if we had heard about contract award for the solicitation that would have been the next phase of our prior contract. This is the proposal we’ve been most excited to win – securing our jobs for the next 4 years. I noted that we had not and this sweet soul let me know that contract awards were going out today and work would start tomorrow. Wait. What? I call a few of our colleagues in the field and they too had not heard on their proposal but had heard awards were going out. The day progressed and about lunchtime my heart started to sink. 2:00pm. Then 3:30pm. Nothing. Then 4:00pm. 4:15pm. 4:17pm. Nothing. Needless to say it’s 3am on the day work is supposed to start and we still haven’t heard anything.

I’m, of course, still trying to process the potential of not having won this contract, but it feels very much like the end of an era. The work that my team has poured their lives into for the past 9 years has ended. The company that I’ve dedicated my professional life to for the past 15 years has let me go multiple times in the past 6 months, and I feel like that is once again looming. Perhaps this is as it should be. Now may be the time to close this book and start writing another. Even writing this blog post has been cathartic and therapeutic. It feels much like it did that day I decided to walk away last June. While I would have been walking away from the work, the visceral reaction was to escape the toxicity of my environment. For whatever reason, an underlying desire to see that contract through, continued loyalty to a company I’ve been working at for so long, comfort – I didn’t walk away last June. Now there’s literally no anchor holding me in this harbor.

Posted in Planning

It’s not too late to create your best year ever! Here’s how.

We’re a month into the new year. If inventorying your calendar for last year was too overwhelming – PAUSE – and do it now. Look back at the last month. In January did you do the things you wanted to do? Were your calendars (family, work, social) filled with things that build you up, push you to do more, bring you joy OR were there too many appointments or things to do that drained your soul, weren’t adding value, held you back?

If you don’t take the time to create your best life – no one else is going to do that for you.

Take time right now to review your calendar for January and set a plan for February that sets you up for your best year yet. You’ve got 11 more months in this year – and NEWSFLASH – they are going to fly by! Are there things you want to do this year but haven’t started laying a plan for? What are you waiting for?!?!? Get on it!

Here’s how to get started with your plan for the best year ever:

  1. Those things that you can’t get off your mind or heart that you want to do/NEED to do – write them down. Write them all down. Maybe there’s just one thing. Maybe there are ten. Write them down.
  2. Pick one to start with or start with the one you wrote down. If you wrote more than one thing down in step one, maybe you pick the one that will bring you the most satisfaction once completed, maybe you pick the one you can get accomplished first.
  3. Now that you have the one you’re starting with, write down WHY this thing is so important to you. Maybe you’ve always wanted to do it. Maybe it’s something that will reconnect you to friends/family. Maybe it’s creating a legacy for those coming behind you. Why is this thing so important? Write it down. Recalling your why when you’re in the grind of working your plan will keep you focused on why you started this in the first place.
  4. What are your goals for this thing? Be specific. Performance is improved where performance is measured, right? It’s one thing to say that you’re going to complete a marathon, but if you walk most of it and aren’t satisfied with your performance at the finish line – then you didn’t accomplish your goal. I recommend having no more than 3 measurable goals that when you accomplish this thing, you will have this overwhelming sense of satisfaction in what you’ve done.
  5. Create the plan. You have your thing you’re going to do. You have your goals. Now write down the work that needs to happen. I recommend pencil, putting the tasks on post-it notes, or an online text editor so you can move the order of things around. I’m going to lay out an example here.
    My thing: Produce a 5K for my neighborhood
    Goals: 1. 500 runners, 2. ensure $500 in cash awards for 1/2/3 male/female winners, 3. 0 injuries/incidents for runners, spectators and volunteers. A safe event for all.
    Tasks:
    Get permit from the city
    Establish race start/finish location
    Establish race route
    Evaluate sanitation needs (port-a-jons, hand washing stations)
    Get 10 sponsors or $5,000 in sponsorship dollars
    Create 5K artwork
    Registration website
    Get event insurance
    Secure police/EMT support

    In the example above, I write down everything I can think of that needs to be done first then I put them in order. For example, I can’t apply for a permit with the city if I don’t have a start/finish, route, insurance nailed down. So there are some things that have to happen before other things and you need to make your task list such that you can re-order items or add/remove items as you work your plan.

  6. Execute. The work won’t do itself. Ask for help. Delegate. Measure your progress towards the goals you set for your thing. When the going gets tough recall your why. Remind yourself why you started this thing to begin with. You can do this and think about how accomplished you’ll feel when you’ve done it.

Note about timelines: I’m not big on creating timelines for my goals. I do think that timelines can help create a sense of urgency around the need to continue which can push us over a hump when motivation wanes or the burden seems too great in the midst of the grind. Timelines can help us cut our work into smaller bite-sized portions. However, know that timelines can shift. For most, becoming a best selling author won’t come after writing their first book. If your goal is to become a best selling author you’ll write until you become one and that timeline doesn’t have an end date, but creating shorter milestones on your path to becoming that best selling author via your writing deadlines for creating your materials. Don’t get stuck on having to lose 100 lbs in the next 11 months. Set yourself up for success. Don’t rush it. Use timelines to create small wins that generate momentum toward your larger goal. Make sense? You’ve got this! I believe in you!

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.

Posted in Planning

How to Start a Daily Planner

I’ve been asked more often here lately about my thoughts for planners. I think it’s a natural response at big transition points like a new year to want to set yourself up for success. No one wakes up each day aiming to be mediocre, right? We want all the resources we can find that set us up for success each and every day. The first question I like to ask people when they ask me about my planner preferences is – Are you going to use it? You can spend all kinds of money on planners, but if you aren’t going to use it then that money would be better spent elsewhere (or saved).

If you’ve never used a daily planner before I suggest that you get yourself a cheap $0.79 spiral bound notebook or any other notebook you can re-purpose for 14 days. Think about what you want to capture in your daily planning. Do you need to capture meetings by time block? Do you need a quick view of the month or week? Do you want each day to have it’s own page or spread, or have a spread with multiple days? Do you need a to-do list? Do you want a weekly theme, affirmation or inspirational quote to be included? Are you introducing new habits (like meal planning) that you want to track progress with? Are you using this as a productivity tracker? What other things do you want to plan for daily (workouts, water intake, kid’s appointments, Bible reading, blogging)? Maybe you know you want to have a habit of planning each day, but you have no idea what to include. In that case Google “daily planner” and do some research on content different daily planners include. You can look at images online for different planners to spark ideas.

Don’t want to create your own daily planning pages? There are lots of free printable templates you can test in this process. Google “free daily planning template.”

In your cheap or re-purposed notebook, or on the printable template you selected, set the intention to plan for 14 days. If two or three days pass and you find that you want your daily planner to include something new – then include it. If there are things you thought you needed to track daily that you find you aren’t tracking then take those things out. This is YOUR planner and you can customize it every day until you have the core of the elements you want to plan for. Now that you’re at the end of your 14 days answer these questions:

  1. Did you find that you set your plan for the day in the morning or were you retrospectively reviewing the things you did/didn’t do that day?
  2. Did you find the daily planning exercise meaningful or was it just another “to-do” added to your list?
  3. Look back at the past 14 days of entries, are there things you wish you had captured or things you captured that you don’t need to?

Daily planning is an opportunity each day to set your intention so that you stay on track with your goals. If you don’t have a vision for where you want to go and a plan for how you’re going to get there – chances are you’ll never have the opportunity to live that vision. In question 2 above, if you didn’t find this daily process valuable, failed to complete your daily plan for each of the 14 days, or found it to be just something else you needed to work into your already busy day – I would encourage you to re-evaluate why you started the process. If you have a desire to create a new vision for yourself, to re-program habits, to track progress in a plan you’ve already started – make daily planning a priority. In my opinion, planning is best if done first thing in the morning because it sets your intention for the day. You can then keep a pulse on if you’re meeting that day’s intention as day progresses and flex as needed when issues or other priorities arise.

There are literally thousands of planners available on any budget. If you don’t get in the habit of using a daily planner and know what you want to plan for then you can waste a lot of money buying all of the wrong planners. So, again, if you didn’t complete your daily planning each of the 14 days and you’ve re-assessed the need for daily planning then try again. Before you spend any money on a planner, get in the habit of using a daily planner and know what types of things you want to plan for and track each day. Start again. Plan daily for 14 days making adjustments to the template you’re using. Keep doing this process of restating why you’re planning daily, understand how you like to plan your day until you have a clear vision of what you like and what you don’t like in a daily plan. You have your daily entries from your notebook as a guide for things you tried that didn’t work out and things you wanted to incorporate and maybe changed how you captured that each day.

Now that you’ve established a daily ritual of planning your day each day and know how you like to plan each day – now you can start looking for planners. WARNING: This process of finding a planner can be overwhelming. Don’t get frustrated and settle for a less than perfect planner. You’ll be back to square one – not using it – in no time because it doesn’t work for you. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you start looking for a planner:

  1. Does it matter if my planner is hard cover of soft cover?
  2. Do I like a wire-bound notebook or do I want a solid, lay-flat spine?
  3. Do you want a re-usable planner cover that you can purchase and switch out the inner contents as needed?
  4. Will this planner stay on your desk or will you want to throw it in your bag and carry it with you?
  5. *Don’t freak out* Do you not want a physical planner at all, but maybe an app you access on your phone or computer?

Again, there are thousands of planners available – do your research and find one that will work for you. Google “planners”, “daily planners”, “productivity tracker”, “goal setting planner”. Visit your local bookstore or office supply store. Michael’s and other craft stores also usually have a great stock of planners at the start of a new calendar or school year. If a virtual planner or planning application is what you’re after read reviews, you can search for planning and productivity apps to see what’s out there. If you have friends or co-workers that have a daily planning habit, ask them what planner they use. Don’t settle. If push comes to shove take some time in Microsoft Word to put the planning template you created for your 14 day test period into a template that you can print copies of and put those copies in a spiral bound notebook or have them bound at your local office supply company. Who knows you may perfect that template and introduce a new planner to the world.

Posted in Planning

Being the “bad guy” can be a good thing

The company that I work for is in the process of becoming DCAA compliant. I won’t bore you with what that means. You can Google it if you have to know. I tell you this to tell you that recently I have assumed the role of timesheet cop. Part of a company being DCAA compliant is ensuring you have strong timekeeping processes. Therefore, every day I run reports that show me all the time that was logged for a certain historical timeframe. I make sure that our team members are logging their time each day, make sure they’re logging all of their time each day, and making sure that they aren’t changing their time day-to-day. Yep, I’m the guy from Office Space running reports that literally no one else will look at but need done every day. Don’t get me wrong these reports take very little time to run and pivot. The soul drain comes when I send a message out to my teammates that didn’t log their time, changed time for a day in the past or entered time but forgot to enter a complete day’s time. I get GIFs of Lindsey Lohan shrugging her shoulders and rolling her eyes, I get middle finger emojis, most don’t respond at all – I’M THE BAD GUY. I totally get it.

I’m also a rule follower and when I get a list of criteria to check for I operationalize the heck out of it and I love a good ol’ Yes/No the criteria were met. It’s holding people accountable for having met said criteria that sucks. Many of these people on our team are my friends and we’ve worked together for years. I send my message in the nicest way I know how even anticipating the reaction, for example “_______, __________, ___________ [insert eye roll], This is a friendly reminder to enter your time for yesterday, Wednesday, November 28, and make sure that you’re entering your time each day. Thank you.” While we are no longer in the infancy stages of becoming DCAA compliant, we aren’t yet to the point that not meeting these criteria is punitive. At our recent in-person team meeting me and our VP of Operations did our little song and dance of why this is important and letting folks know that we would be reviewing timesheets every day, but it’s a big shift in business operations and I get that, but if we want to continue winning work (aka having jobs) then we have to change.

DCAA compliance aside this could be about anything. Me playing the role of the “bad guy” is me being victim to how I perceive other’s perception of the new task I’ve been given. No one asked me to play that role and it certainly has no merit. I’m personalizing reactions as if they have those reactions towards me and they’re not, the reactions are to the new process.  My job is to run these reports and send out the requisite messages. It would be a far bigger disservice to my team, my friends, if I didn’t do my job, we failed our DCAA audit, aren’t eligible for future work, and we all lost our jobs. My real friends will still invite me out for drinks after work timesheets aside. It’s not personal, it’s business. Occasionally business rules don’t make sense but if you want to win you have to play, and that’s why my new bad guy title is Chief Winning Officer (CWO). I’m willing to play the game so that we can continue to win the work.

Moral of this story: Next time you’re feeling like the victim or the bad guy – go high. Look for the bigger picture and ask yourself “what would happen if I didn’t do my job/this job?” Then think about the alternative scenarios that could play out if this new thing didn’t happen and you kept on business as usual. If you can’t answer this question or see the alternatives then talk with your supervisor and get to the root of why this is so important. Knowing why we do things as opposed to just doing them will build your credibility as a leader within your team and help you establish the changes that need to be made.

Posted in Planning

My Top 5 Podcasts Right Now

I’ve fallen in love with podcasts in the past few years and I’m going to share with you some of those podcasts that I tune into regularly. Before I list them I want to tell you that I don’t listen to podcasts for the entertainment value, but rather for the education. So, if you’re looking for a dramatic or theatrical podcast suggestion this isn’t going to be valuable information. I tune-in to listen to people smarter than me or steps ahead of me in something I’m interested in so that I learn from them. My time listening to any content is often limited to the 20 minutes or so of commute to drop kids off at school or when I workout. I’ll confess that sometimes I’ll slip out of the house for a walk or drive an extra block on my way home for a little more uninterrupted podcast listening time. We do what we’ve gotta do, am I right? Well without further delay here are the top 5 podcasts that I’m listening to today and why.

  1. Rise podcast by Rachel Hollis – When I learned about Rachel Hollis I was immediately obsessed and drank all the kool-aid in one gulp. I read Girl Wash Your Face, started Last 90 days, I write in my Start Today Journal, listen to the podcasts, have tickets for Rise in 2019….all the things. Rachel is that mom next door that you can actually relate to. She’s not trying to be better than you and isn’t trying to impress you. She’s living her best life and will push you to live yours. You will not be disappointed if you check out Rise or Rise Together which is the podcast she does with her husband Dave – they are gold together.
  2. The Goal Digger Podcast by Jenna Kutcher – I learned about Jenna a few months ago and when one of her titles is “professional napper” I knew we are part of the same tribe. I want to be a professional napper so bad. Oh, and the website for her podcast is all notebooks and planners and pens and that’s so me. She is a queen at teaching others about branding and creating social spaces that invite interaction. While I’ve never met her personally (yet), she’s sold me on her being genuinely in this industry to serve others and I love that. She has this coastal vibe that invites you in and has this calming effect on your soul. I could listen to her for hours. I hope you’ll take the time to check her out.
  3. Ed Mylett Podcast – I learned about Ed in a recent Rise podcast (see #1 above) and was instantly drawn to his supportive nature and enthusiasm. Since having listened to Rachel’s appearance on his podcast I’ve been binge listening in my pockets of time. He has been giving 1,000% of himself to life and business and it has paid off 10,000%+. Ed brings you powerful motivation from so many angles; baseball, bullying, entrepreneurial spirit, boxing – he uses his platform to give others a voice and fan the flame of what ignites change in us – ALL OF US. Ladies, his website is masculine and a lot (not all) of his guests are men, but the messages are for ALL OF US, and P.S. I can actually share stories about guy-stuff with my husband and his friends and they are impressed I even know some of these names…just putting that out there.
  4. Tony Robbins Podcast – I mean, how could I have a list of educational, motivational, inspirational podcasts that doesn’t include Tony? Finding your why, breaking free from stress, understanding different personality types, ending harmful relationships, how to innovate….Tony is no-non-sense and pushes the right buttons to get us beyond the superficial excuses we tell ourselves to not dig deep and make progress. Progress is the goal, right?
  5. School of Greatness by Lewis Howes – Lewis Howes I had heard was a professional athlete turned podcaster, but boy was that a bad descriptor. He lives to serve others not use his history has a professional athlete as his platform. Check him out. He believes a life well lived is more important than any money or possessions you may accumulate. He brings names you’ve heard of with stories you didn’t know they had to the table and I find it captivating. Alicia Silverstone talks about self-worth, Tony Hawk talks about creating legacies. With more than 700 episodes, there is SO MUCH CONTENT for you to listen to on topics relating to health, relationships, business, inspiration and more. Guaranteed there’s more than one thing in this podcast library you’ll find fascinating.

I hope this was valuable and maybe you learned about someone new or will learn something new from the podcasts these folks are putting out for you. The listening is easy, the work is the hard part. Enjoy the listening (and learning)!

Posted in Planning

Owning Feedback

Emily, you are such a great speaker, but your content today missed the mark.

Oh my gosh. She thinks I’m ignorant. I worked so hard on this content and I’m not sure how she missed my point. Was she even listening? She never says these things to anyone else. Why does she pick on me so much?

Hold on!!!! Maybe I over thought the assignment. Maybe I made assumptions rather than seeking clarification before creating my content. Maybe just maybe she’s not picking on me but has me in her sights for promotion, and wants to see me step up my game. Maybe she knows I can do better – heck, maybe I know I can do better, but I was traveling this week, my kids are sick, and I had these other things put on my plate so this didn’t get the attention I had anticipated.

It is what it is, right? I gave a speech or a talk and the feedback I received was less than glowing.

Has this ever happened to you? Maybe you aren’t a speaker, but you received feedback on a body of work you created. When you hear the word “feedback” does it make you shutter a little? It makes me shutter a lot. I have worked for YEARS to create a reputation for myself in the program and project management space. I want my customers to know that if my name is attached to it that it will be done right and on time. If I agree to something or someone entrusts something to me to complete then I show up. Hell will freeze over before it’s not done or worse – done wrong.

There is a flip side to receiving feedback and one that I hope you will try to embrace. If you can, look at feedback as a gift rather than a direct assault on your character. Feedback or rather a response to any intellectual property you create and share with others – is just that – someone’s opinion. It doesn’t validate you as a person. It doesn’t reflect anyone else’s opinion of your work. It doesn’t have power unless you allow it to.

Next time someone wants to give you their opinion of something you shared with them I want you to fight the instinctual response to take defense. Don’t immediately respond with all of the reasons why you did it the way you did it. Don’t start talking about the other people that you consulted or had review your content before you shared it. Don’t make excuses for why you didn’t have the time to polish your content. None of that matters to your audience.

(Note: I have to make an assumption here that you aren’t on a performance improvement plan or that this feedback doesn’t come after the 4th iteration of you trying to get this right.) The person providing you feedback took their time to listen to your talk or review your content. They had a laundry list of other things they could have been doing instead, but they showed up for you. Their feedback or ideas for changes are a gift. This person is providing you with the opportunity to make your work even better. Thank them for taking the time to hear you out or review your work. Ask questions. Provide them with how you are going to use their feedback to make changes; or not. Let me repeat – OR NOT.

If the person providing you feedback is your supervisor, project manger, or the person who assigned you the work – then their insights are absolutely valuable and should be considered and incorporated. Maybe the person providing feedback has limited knowledge of your role or the project and they are offering you an unbiased opinion as a completely independent third party. Maybe they’re your friend. Maybe they don’t know the details of the assignment (style requirements, assignment details). Thank them for their time and respectfully consider their comments. They may have ideas that you nor your team would have thought of that could take your work to the next level. If not and if their feedback isn’t applicable then don’t dwell on it. Move on.

I won’t belabor this point, but it’s natural for us to take a defensive stance when we feel that we have let others down or that other’s perceptions of our work is less than exceptional. Accept feedback in all forms with an attitude of gratitude. Believe that the comments come with the commenter having the best interests of you, your team, and your project in mind. Fix/augment/revise content as needed to make it the best it can be, but when feedback isn’t valid, don’t take it to heart. Don’t give it power.

*Featured image by Comic House.

Posted in Planning

Reasons for Inaction

The single fastest and best way to build a reputation is to take action; to do something. Not doing something is in fact doing something. Have you ever wanted to do something, but shied away because you didn’t feel you had the prior experience, know-how, or reputation? Let me tell you a little secret – you can do anything with NO PRIOR EXPERIENCE. Guaranteed. Your reputation for being organized, a doer, risk-taker, problem solver can pave the path and open doors for you that you never imagined. I’d also add that your actions need to align with what you want to be doing. If your mission in life is to have a blog and you have no time on your calendar to blog,  then you aren’t ever going to be a blogger. Maybe you’ve filled your days, weeks, years up with work that is helping someone else achieve their goals – the company you work for, your kids, your church, your community. It’s wonderful that you are so generous with your time, but you need to make time to fulfill YOUR dreams. This world will be a lot better place with your contributions.

Take out your calendar right now. If your work and life calendars are separate put them both up side-by-side with a view of the entire month. Same month folks. Take a gander. Look across the days and weeks – those 4-5 short weeks of each month. Does your calendar align with your dreams, plans and priorities? Do you see time blocked for actualizing YOUR dreams or are you making time to fulfill someone else’s dream? Are you on a diet or trying to save money, but have lunch or dinner plans with friends 3+ days per week? If you were to bucket your calendar invitations and reminders into categories would those categories align with creating the life you wan to live?

Life is passing us by so fast! It’s November. When did that happen?!?!? If you’re a New Year resolution type of person are you on track for having achieved those bold goals you set for yourself as the clock struck midnight on January 1? Say you’re not a resolution type of person, but you created a vision board. Maybe you created a bullet journal spread with a grid of thousands of blocks to color this year for new habits you were cultivating. Maybe your dreams are stuck to a Pinterest board. Wherever they are – they are out there. Are you honoring those dreams? Drink more water, make it to the gym more, pay-off your car, read the entire Bible, run a marathon. So many big things had the potential to happen this year. Did you turn that potential into reality? If not, let’s dive into some reasons why. Why don’t people take action on their dreams?

Reason 1: You’re too busy. Visualize all of those calendar invites on your calendar as sand. Weekly “stand-up meeting” with the team to discuss work that needs to be done. Touch base with your supervisor on performance. Mac n’ Cheese competition and draft beer festival. Parent/Teacher conference. Annual mammogram. Women’s group. Reminder to buy Metallica tickets. Gym. Time blocks for blogging. These are just a few gems from my very own calendar over the past few weeks. Don’t get me wrong, some of these calendar holds are important. Some are time blocks set aside for me to show up for someone else, some of them making time to show up for YOU (you’re reading the blog post, thank you). Some of these calendar holds are not value-add and are not the best use of my time. If you poured all of your sand (calendar invites) into a vessel, would you have enough space to add those bigger milestones that need to happen as you work toward your dreams? Do your little grains of sand make a sand castle when they are all together? Or are they so scattered that they really don’t make any impact on anything? Stop making yourself busy with work that doesn’t contribute to the greater good.

Reason 2: You don’t know how. This is an excuse and a crappy one at that. You’re reading this blog which means you have access to the internet. You can Google, Bing, Ask Jeeves anything under the sun and get FREE information on how to turn your dream into reality. Want a tutorial on how to create a plan in Microsoft Project? Free on YouTube. Want a printable for making a cute, action-oriented calendar? Free on Pinterest. Want a training program for running a marathon with no previous running experience? Free on Runner’s World magazine’s website. Want a real good recipe for apple butter? Free on this here very blog (Food tab). As my girl Rachel Hollis says, in a world with so much free information your ignorance is a choice.

Reason 3: You’re dreams aren’t big enough. Stay with me for a minute. Let’s say that you dream of paying off your credit card(s). You actually look at your statement. You consolidate what you can to a lower interest rate, and you create a real life budget. Great job! The first month you pay all of your bills and what little is left over you put towards your debt. Month after month you chip away at it little by little. Over time maybe you start to reflect on the things you feel you’re missing out on. Maybe you feel like this is taking FOREVER…. It’s certainly not as much fun being fiscally frugal in the hopes of paying off a credit card or two as it was running up the debt on those cards buying stuff you can’t even remember.

Now, make that dream of paying off your credit cards bigger. Bigger than just not owing banks money. Bigger than feeling fiscally and emotionally drained at the end of the month when the money has run out. Take that dream and magnify it as big as you can. Say…..your dream is financial freedom. Financial freedom is not just not owing the banks money. Financial freedom is having actual dollars in your savings account. Having money saved for retirement. Having the money to travel when you need to or want to without feeling like you have to save for it or sacrifice something else. Having enough money to live comfortably and share your generosity with others. Having the freedom to be able to pivot and change course knowing that you’re okay. Now make a plan to make this bigger dream a reality and the pain associated with the sacrifices won’t sting quite so much. I believe that if you get beyond what you know needs to happen (paying off the credit card(s)) and get to true longing of your heart (the bigger dream) then you’ll have the fortitude to create a plan – and stick to it – that will get you to your ultimate goal faster. Those short term sacrifices that need to be made for you to reach your dream won’t be a drop in the bucket because you have your eyes on the bigger picture.

Reason 4: You’re embarrassed. Recently I saw an Instagram post by Brendon Burchard (@brendonburchard) that really struck a cord with me. It was something to the effect of it not being real fear that you’re feeling, but rather you’re embarrassed to have those around you see you start small. Does that ring true to you? Man, it sure did to me. I used to blog years ago and had created quite the following, but 2 kids and a different job later it had been more than 2 years since I had posted any content. I literally deleted the entire site one day in an episode of frustration and self-loathing. I can still hear the internal monologue today…”It’s been years since anyone’s seen anything from you, no one follows this blog any more, no one wants to hear from me. How many mom bloggers does the world need?” It was pathetic. All of the content that took me years to curate was gone with the click of a button. *Poof*

Fast forward nearly 3 years and I get this idea to re-create an outlet to put my voice out there. I ignore and push it away for nearly 8 months and then for 2 months I resign to not having time for it, but the thought won’t go away, and it starts showing up everywhere. That internal self-sabotaging voice crept back in. “You’re ridiculous. You’ll never have the followers that you did on your last blog. You have no content. When exactly are you planning to do this? Your friends and family have seen you try and quit this same thing before, they aren’t going to follow you down this path again.” (Sidebar: I really dislike this voice in my head.) I was embarrassed, not only at my having deleted my previous blog and all of it’s content, but at starting a blog/Instagram site/Facebook page with 1 post. I have some really successful friends and colleagues who follow me on social media. I can see them shaking their head or worse choosing to keep scrolling when they see this pop-up from me. Maybe I won’t share it on my social accounts, but let people find it organically. Emily, come on!

One night I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed this outlet in my life. That feeling was far stronger than the embarrassment holding me back from starting. I stayed up all night (no sleep) creating PowerInThePlan.org. 1 logo, 1 Instagram post, 1 Facebook post, and 2 shares from my blog pages to my personal social media pages in hopes that some folks would be curious and click on the link. Oh, and that one link was me explaining my vision for the site and what I hope to offer you as the reader, it wasn’t actually value-added content. It’s been a few weeks since this site launched. It’s had 3 themes and while we don’t have 1 billion followers – we have more than 1. While this site isn’t yet exploding with content so rich that I need to add a search bar – it’s up and content is getting added all the time. 2 people even commented on different posts which means they actually read it. <insert audible gasp here>

Get this in your brain. Every new things starts from NONE. Every. New. Thing. Starts. From. None. When this was an idea in my head I had no content, no followers, nothing. Don’t be embarrassed to start small. Just start.

Reason 5: You’re the only one with this particular idea. That’s fantastic. Less competition. Please don’t tell me that you think because you are the only one with this particular idea that no one else will love it or appreciate it. Or <gasp> there won’t be a bunch of free information to follow on the internet (see Reason 2 above). This is a blessing. Having this idea that no one else has opens you up for creating more content and you’re the subject matter expert. Get the thing created and out to the people, then create the how-to, create the video demonstration, be the expert. This could be a new branding opportunity for you. This could be your way to monetize your hard work. This unique idea of your has a lot of potential and you need to take action on it. Come on.

Reason 6: Time is against you. Why start if you won’t have the time to dedicate to it? You know this better than anyone. You make time for the things you want to make time for. If you don’t want to do something you’ll find every excuse to not have to do it. On the other hand, if you have a true calling on your heart to make something happen then you will move heaven and earth to bring that body of work to life. Call a spade a spade. Time isn’t the issue. Your embarrassment of starting small, lack of focus or lack of initiative are what’s truly driving your inaction.

There are so many more reasons why people don’t take action. Most of them are excuses. Heck, even some of the reasons I have above are excuses. Bottom line if you have a calling on your heart to do something, you have every reason in the world to find out how to make that calling a reality. Let’s go! Get to work!