There is so much to do!

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It feel likes you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off (literally running between departments and meetings and/or mentally churning with all the projects you’ve got to get done!).

It would be GREAT if you could set priorities – but how in the world do you do that when you can’t even seem to get your thoughts straight?!

This week, we’re going super practical on some tips!

Tip 1: Make and keep a list

At the beginning of each day start out by writing out all you’ve got to accomplish.

And, as more things get added onto your plate, update your list!

Feeling a little sad about the length? That’s ok! It’s better to have all those tasks identified in one place than scattered around your brain.

Tip 2: Mark all your items in order of importance

My guess is that almost everything you are working on is urgent (or you wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed) and you probably feel like everything is important, too.

But, there are only so many hours in a work day and you can only get so much done. So, pick out those 2 or 3 or 5 things that you HAVE to get done today and mark them one color.

Mark those next 5 or 7 times that would be great to get done in a separate color and take all the remaining items and mark them a 3rd color.

Now you’ve got your starting place!

Tip 3: Set time goals for yourself

Look at those items that you have to get done today and think through the following question: if you are at your best and totally focused, how long should each of those take you?

Now, plan out when you’ll work on each of those items and set your goal to be to finish in a specific amount of time.

Zone in, get your coffee in hand, and set your mind to execution mode!

Now – get it done!

Staying Engaged in your Work

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In wrapping up our tips for working from home we’ve got our team member, Audra Brown, on how to stay engaged while working at home. Take it away, Audra!

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 11.08.19 AMThere are days when I can honestly say I miss my life in a cubicle, when getting my job done required little more than the subtle motivations of the workplace: my boss sitting in the glass office across from me, my co-workers entrenched on similar projects, and the constant team meetings, lunch, and water cooler breaks.

Working from home with two small children means that getting my “office” work done with excellence is a whole lot more exciting to accomplish! My role as a work-from-home mom requires me to operate in an environment of constant demands and a timetable that is variable at best.

Although organization (what’s that again?) and time management (wait, you can manage time?!) are key pieces to meeting my deadlines and ensuring I am focused and engaged, I have also found that motivating myself properly is a significant piece in achieving success in an otherwise, as I like to call it, hostile work environment.

It has been said that the best jobs are the ones you love and happen to get paid for. Who doesn’t want to have the best job? I try to make mine just that by finding ways to love what I do, even if that connection isn’t naturally there in the beginning.

Here are some ways I try to engage myself with my work:

  1. Find the areas of each project/task that play to my strengths. How can I exercise my strengths to not only do a good job but possibly take it to the next level?
  2. Define why I care about the outcome and/or the people that will be on the receiving end of it
  3. Discover pieces of my work in which I can incorporate slices of fun, interest, color, or insight
  4. Figure out if I can grow myself as a person through this task and come out more skilled or learned on the other end
  5. Reinforce my vision of the end goal and how I want to feel at the end of it. Recognize what it is going to take to get me there

Lastly, I would add that remembering that I control this project and my attitude towards it (and not the other way around) always takes a bit of the pressure off, allowing me the freedom to truly enjoy my work and take it where it needs to go no matter what hour of the day, night, or weekend I’m working on it!

Take a Break!

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We’ve been focusing the past few weeks on how to be most effective while working from home – from getting organized while working from home to recognizing and staying at your productive peek.

But what if you’re too focused? Our team member, Jocelyn Dove, is here to help!

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 7.32.59 AMOne hurdle I have been striving to accomplish is taking breaks! What’s a break? When you are in an office environment you may not realize that you have several breaks…the “coffee break”, the “bathroom break,” the “random peer coming to your cube break”, the required “lunch break”, and then the “end of the day/work is over break”.  

I really didn’t realize how many “breaks” I was truly afforded when working in a traditional office environment until I started working from home! One morning I made breakfast and sat down with my cup of coffee to start the day and then BAM! It was 10:46 PM and my coffee cup was dry and I couldn’t recall the last time I went to the bathroom or had a glass of water. But now it’s too late to eat dinner because I should be going to bed soon, but realize “why not?” because I’m just going to wear yoga pants anyway…

Ever done that before? That was a big wake-up call that I had to get some structure around taking breaks. Here’s what I’ve done to help myself that might apply to you:

  1. Added a break to my work calendar with a reminder. I’ve even made it look like an official meeting on my calendar so people know they can’t steal my time!
  2. Made plans to leave the house – I’ve set up a lunch date with friends, planned to go to the grocery store, got my car serviced, haircut etc. SOMETHING that get’s you out of the house in a planful way
  3. Found a workspace outside of my home office to devote a couple of hours to a day. It doesn’t have to be fancy – a museum or coffee shop will work just fine!
  4. Get a pet (I haven’t done this, but I’ve heard this helps!). A pet needs love and maybe a walk at some point during the day – a perfect trigger to take a break

Thanks, Jocelyn! Can anyone else relate to not prioritizing yourself throughout the day? What tips do you have on making sure to take breaks?

Pace Yourself

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Working from home can come with many challenges—it’s part of the territory! However, there are just as many benefits, and as the world continues to convert to a predominantly digital space, working from home is a new challenge that many people are facing every year.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 11.52.43 AMOur Team member, Jeff, has some helpful tips:

I used to work from home 1-2 days a week until recently, when I converted to working from home full-time! It has certainly come with it’s challenges, but the benefits outweigh these ten-fold. Here are a couple of ideas and strategies that I’ve used to help this process go smoothly.

Thought #1: Use your Time Smartly

Is there a particular time of the day where your creative juices are really flowing? Maybe there are certain times of the day that you find yourself more self-motivated than other times. Find that time, exploit it to your benefit, and plan your day’s work around those times. Is it in the morning? Do the draining tasks then! Save the motivating work, the work that gives you energy, for the time of day that you’re struggling to stay on-task.

For myself, I’m WAY more motivated in the morning. So this is the time that I save for time-consuming tasks that don’t inspire me, they don’t give me energy, but they simply have to be done. Once the clock hits 2:00PM, my morning coffee is wearing off, and my eyes start to wander to the book on my table, or my mind towards the many pleasure of the Netflix app. This is when I do the tasks that inspire me, that give me energy, and feed my brain and soul. I have meetings in the afternoon, and am re-inspired by these tasks and these people to finish the day strong.

Thought #2 – Pace Yourself

Throughout each day I always remind myself this: pace yourself. Know that every day will not be the productive, butt-kicking day that you want it to be. You’re not a task-churning robot, and that’s okay!

Be okay with failing at productivity some days. Don’t beat yourself up. Push through it, and know that tomorrow can be better! Some days I’m extremely motivated; and other days I’m not. Some days, I get 10 hours worth of work done in 5 hours. Other days I get 2 hours worth of work done in 7 hours. And often, these results are no different when working in a traditional office environment.

Thought #3 – Don’t Do it Alone

Lastly, if I’m really struggling to finish a report that has to be done that day, but my Motivation Meter is reading 0, I’ll video-conference a co-worker (or friend!) and ask them if I can “sit” with them while I finish this up. Just being able to have some banter back and forth can help “humanize” the work and get me through that home-stretch.

So let’s recap:

  1. Use Time Smartly – Do the right tasks at the right time of day
  2. Pace Yourself – Don’t expect perfection, it’s okay to fail some days
  3. Don’t Do it Alone – Develop a work from home group of friends, and support each other through motivation and virtual relationships

Thanks so much for listening, and I hope that these ideas help you on your adventure in the growing group of people who work from home!

Working At Home

Working At Home

As the world gets more and more virtual, so does our work. Studies have shown that 3.7 million employees (2.5% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time and more and more companies are moving to be totally virtual.

Sound exciting? We agree – at CRN, we’re proud to be in those ranks as well.

BUT – if you have worked from home for even a small portion of your week, you might have found some interesting traits about yourself and home/work style:

  1. You are so PRODUCTIVE. When you’re not concerned about the commute home, worrying if you locked the front door, or if you have to sign for that delivery – some of the typical stress of being away from your dwelling is completely out of mind and taken care of. You also don’t have the social cues to head to Starbucks with a colleague, or spend a bit more time at the proverbial water cooler, so those extra minutes are spent knocking things out!
  2. Some days, it’s harder to stay focused on the tasks at hand. AND stay motivated. The joy of working from home is that you’re, well, at home. The not-so-joy? All of the off-work distractions are front and center – and there’s no one physically there to hold you accountable.
  3. I’m kind of lonely. It’s harder to fulfill that basic human interaction need when all you’re doing is staring at a computer screen!

What other aspects have you found out about yourself while working from home?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at a few of our Team’s tips and tricks on how to keep the work-at-home productivity rockin’ and the distractors at bay – to have the most productive, work-at-home day ever.

Stay tuned!

Get Inspired

Get Inspired

What is your first thought when you look at the picture above?

I’m going to guess that picture made you want to do something.

That’s inspiration.

As the excitement of 2016 starts to fade away and the daily grind starts to sink back in, take a moment to think about how is your team doing.

Do they need a little inspiration back in their day-to-day?

So many times, all people need is to feel cared about to get that little pop of inspiration back.

Take a couple of minutes to think of one question you can ask each member of your team to communicate that you care about them. Think about something that you’ve seen them do recently or you know is important to them.

Here are a couple examples to get those juices flowing:

  • I heard you mention you were going to the game, what was the most exciting part?
  • I noticed you have been really busy lately. Tell me about one accomplishment you’re really proud of?
  • Tell me a little more about your kids/pets! What’s something funny they’ve done recently?
  • I know you were thinking about moving, did you make any more decisions on that?

The next time you find yourself grabbing a cup of coffee with them in the break room, casually ask them the question you’ve thought about.

Inspiration doesn’t have to be some big speech or moment – it can as simple as the moment when you looked at a picture.

Finishing Out Strong

Finishing Out Strong

Do you remember back in January of 2015 when we asked you what 3 words you wanted to use to describe 2015?

I know January feels like FOREVER ago! As we are starting the process of wrapping up 2015, pull out (or think back!) to those three words.

How’d you do?

We’ve got a couple more weeks – what do you need to do to finish out this year strong?

Maybe there’s a conversation you’ve been putting off – prep for it and have it!

There is that ONE pile on your desk that you’ve been claiming your going to get to eventually – organize it!

Whatever that thing is that you’ve been putting off for the last week or two (….or three….) commit to doing it in the next week.

There is no reason to leave something hanging around from this year.

Commit. To. Doing…. That’s how we can continue to push ourselves to be better than we currently are!

Navigating Your Workplace

Murkey Water

Organizational politics.

I know… those two little words made you shutter. No matter how large or small an organization is—all of them have politics. Regardless of where you are in your organization, navigating these can be tricky!

Terry Hildebrandt, PhD, PCC is back to Middle Seats to share some tips on becoming more political savvy.

Here’s what he’s got to say:

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 1.14.22 PMPolitics do not need to be negative. In fact, one can use political savvy in a very ethical and positive way to expand one’s influence and increase the probability of getting what you want at work and in life.

 

Here are some steps:

 

Step 1: Recognize Key Players

 

In any given scenario there will be key players. The obvious players include the executive sponsor, the team members, any relevant customers or suppliers, and supporting staff. What is less clear are the hidden players that work behind the scenes to influence the stakeholders to make certain decisions or take certain actions.

 

Best Practice: Create a Stakeholder Map listing each of the key players and their roles and relationships.

 

Step 2: Identify Interests

 

Each of the key players identified in step 1 will have their own interests that need to be understood. It is your job to build relationships with the key players in order to understand their true motivations. This will require some time and networking skills to talk to those close to key stakeholders to understand their perspectives.

 

Best Practice: create a table listing all the key players and their interests as they become clear to you.

 

Step 3: Understanding Authority and Power

 

Understanding who has authority (those empowered by the organization to make decisions) and who has power (those who have the ability to influence those in authority to make decisions) among the key players will help you understand how influence flows in an organization, how decisions are made, and how resources get allocated.

 

Best Practice: creating a power and authority map of who has access to the ears of key managers can help you better understand how power and authority flow in your organization.

 

Check back next week for Terry’s final two steps!

Moving Forward on Your Goals

Wunderlist

 

How have your 2015 goals been going? Making some progress? Hoping to make some headway soon?

Sometimes (we’re not pointing fingers here!) it’s hard to remember the goals or deadlines we’ve created for ourselves. It’s also exponentially harder to get things done if we don’t have some accountability.

Want to create that accountability for yourself? We’ve found some apps for that job!

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll review a productivity/tracking app road-tested by one of our teammembers that will help you focus on (and hold yourself accountable to) the goals you’ve created.

Let’s check out App #1: Wunderlist

Who tested it?

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Ashley Clark

  • Program Manager for 5, global, complex projects
  • Lover of learning and thinking strategically
  • Wife, frequent Instagrammer, and Mom of 2 kids (under 2 years)

 

Why I like it?

  • Multiple to-do lists for today, this week, this month, this year, etc.
  • Sharing capabilities for some (or all) of your lists with your friends
  • Simple layout, making it very user friendly
  • Easy task management that includes due dates, reminders, stars, and list groups
  • It’s free!

What could be better?

  • No sub tasks on created tasks
  • No option for reoccurring tasks

Ashley’s bottom-line:

This app is very easy to use for both you and sharing your goals with others!  I found it easy to create to-dos and it was helpful in keeping track of all the different things I have going on in a day!

Stay Tuned: More reviews coming your way next week.

Seeing People’s Strengths

StrengthsYou know those weeks where it feels like professionally or personally (or both!) the people around you are just trying to push your buttons?

It becomes really easy to focus on the negatives.

So, if you are having one of those weeks- we want to encourage you to take a step back and gather a little more perspective.

  • Step 1: Take a deep breath and let it out slowly, counting to 5 (we’re serious… you will begin to think more rationally!)
  • Step 2: Ok – now, think back to what was pushing your buttons, but try to think of the situation with the lens of the other person’s strengths

For example:

Someone on your team seems to be impatient and wants to take action on projects quickly. You don’t feel like they are giving enough thought to the project as a whole. But maybe your employee’s strength is taking thoughts and instantly turning them into action. So, this is a teammate who you know you can rely on to help get things done!

Or:

Everything feels like it has gone wrong this week… the deadline wasn’t met, the client or executive team was not happy, and then there was the one person on your team who was upbeat and positive. You were feeling like this was not at all a time to be positive. This teammate is able to easily get others excited, rallying a team together, to have the encouragement to keep pushing onward!

See, your frustration, when seen in another light (may still be frustrating but) makes a lot more sense and puts value back on each member of your team!