Taking Notes

taking-notesAdmittedly I am a product of the Luddite era, when taking notes meant pen and paper, unless you had a working knowledge of shorthand. In class we all developed our own versions of transcribing the words of the lecturer into some legible form to be reviewed later. Unfortunately, “later” often meant well beyond the time when those scribbles made sense and the well intended abbreviations morphed into indecipherable gibberish. Fast forward to the present and, with few exceptions, students are keyboarding. Most people can type faster than write longhand, so why would you choose the latter? In short, digital note-taking is easier.

New information suggests that longhand may be a better tool for locking in learning and help us remember what we heard. UCLA researchers had students take notes at a lecture and quizzed them later. Even with the Internet disabled, long-hand note-takers performed better on tests. Mueller/Oppenheimer referred to the “desirable difficulty” —when an obstacle that can frustrate us, actually helps us learn. Students who were transcribing the lectures were acting as stenographers and not grappling with the task of taking in the information, processing it and creating a way for them to recall it. Note-taking is a two part process; encoding or creating the notes and storage – reviewing the notes later. Printing information in hard to read fonts was another example of “desirable difficulty”.

As an aside, in a class I recently took, I was the only one still writing notes by hand. What I also noticed was that many screens were not capturing the speaker’s words, but playing solitaire, scanning Facebook or checking messages. So, has attention become so fragmented that even in the middle of a lecture, the focus is elsewhere, accounting for the information retention gap? Or, can we make the best use of these tools selectively knowing that once you store a phone number in your mobile device, for example, you will not have to recall it from your memory, having sent it to the cloud and safely stored elsewhere.


Ignore the Small Stuff

5475688_m_-_crowd_gesturing_silenceYou have only so much energy. Spend it wisely.

Some things just aren’t worth your time and energy. Perhaps a co-worker refuses to greet you in the morning. Maybe a customer uses a sharp tone of voice. Your partner may forget to do an errand, sending you over the edge. Is it worth stewing about it, replaying the incident, slight or misbehavior endlessly? Possibly, but more often than not, we expend much more effort on minor grievances that can take on a life of their own, relinquishing our power to someone or something else

Think about how much time you’ve wasted on what really amounts to minor irritants when you could have used it to redirect your thinking and avoid getting trapped. Are you willing to carry along the annoying experience in the AM, through your day, only to share it in the PM with family or friends? How much “rent” can you charge to that earlier incident for taking up premium space in your head?

One effective strategy for managing frustrating situations can be as simple as counting to ten before engaging or responding. Try it when you’re sitting in traffic and before you lean on your horn. Another technique is to change the geography by physically moving to another space or area before reacting. Sometimes that action alone can make a huge difference.

Get smart. Don’t spend $10 worth of energy on a 10-cent problem. Learn to identify the higher value issues and act accordingly.

“Do not let trifles disturb your tranquility of mind…life is too precious to be sacrificed for the nonessential and transient…ignore the inconsequential.” ~ Grenville Kleiser

Has Your Career Been Delayed, Detoured or Derailed?

habitWhether you are returning to the job market or have a significant work history with some gaps, change is coming and you need to prepare. Are you an empty-nester? Took a buy-out or an early retirement and now what? Have you been laid off and unable or unwilling to relocate? Newly divorced or separated? Bored to death, scared to death, or just stuck? You’ve been out of the marketplace for awhile and are contemplating a re-entry, but where do you begin?

Getting back on track means something different for everyone. Perhaps you simply don’t like the career path you’ve been on, yet the salary is good enough and the benefits are important and could be hard to duplicate elsewhere. You remember being inspired and excited about your career at one point, but the job market is tight and you think you are too old to make a change.

According to recent studies, only 30-percent of Americans feel engaged or inspired at their jobs, which leaves a huge number of unhappy people in the workplace. The reality is that most of us need to earn a living and too often we check-out or settle for less than we should. However, when you spend 40+ hours weekly in addition to commuting time, don’t you deserve more? It could be the best time to reconfigure your professional life.

Ask yourself several important questions:
• What is your definition of work?
• Do you believe that making money will make you happy?
• Do you feel confident that you are exceptional at something?
• Do you believe in yourself?

At KICKSTART Your Transition ™ we want you to be equipped with the tools, strategies and skills that will make your job search and interviewing process less formidable. Preparation is key and distinguishes you from the rest. Make no mistake about it, this is your personal campaign and your success is directly related to developing a focused, proactive approach. Interviewers and hiring managers want to employ the right person and they need your help in making that critical decision. Take control of the process and view this as a full time commitment as you gain new skills and insights into an industry, a company, or a career path.

To learn more about our packages, programs and next steps in planning your encore career, exit strategy or career pivot, please visit our website. www.kickstartyourtransition.com


The Future of Work

binocularsRecently, as I was departing from a Caribbean airport, I noticed a bank of pay phones on a wall near the gate. It actually took a minute to register what was right in front of me and to marvel at the instrument I had in my purse that made those phones relatively obsolete. The idea of picking up a telephone in a public area and placing the receiver near my mouth was revolting, and yet, that’s exactly what we did. Who was sanitizing the handset? Who even thought about the need to do so?

And then I began to consider what the consequences are when technology replaces something like the public pay phone. While it didn’t happen overnight, someone installed and maintained them, collected the coins and serviced the units. They were manufactured somewhere and aside from the very identifiable red phone booths in London; it’s unlikely that the need for production will increase.

According to Brian Whetten, PhD, “Recent research shows that 65 percent of current preschool students will work in a type of job that doesn’t even exist yet. Every 2 days, we now create as much information as was generated from the dawn of mankind through 2003. For someone working on a science degree, more than half the information they learn in their first year will be out of date by the time they graduate.

It’s truly an exciting time and your perspective probably depends in large part on things we don’t even yet know. Driverless cars will change the world dramatically and how could that impact your future? Will it potentially make your job obsolete or can you pivot into something else seamlessly? How prepared are you to keep an eye out for what’s coming towards you beforehand and look for new opportunities?

If you don’t choose to dedicate a significant part of your time checking future trends and their impact, I suggest a Department of Labor resource. O*NET OnLine has detailed descriptions of the world of work for use by job seekers, workforce development and HR professionals, students, researchers, and more.

For each job, O*NET provides the following information:
• Personal requirements: the skills and knowledge required to perform the work
• Personal characteristics: the abilities, interests and values needed to perform the work
• Experience requirements: the training and level of licensing and experience needed for the work
• Job requirements: the work activities and context, including the physical, social, and organizational factors involved in the work
• Labor market: the occupational outlook and the pay scale for the work

Being ahead of the curve can prepare you for what can be a new and ideally, an exciting career.


Time Management- The Pomodoro Technique

pomodoro-timerI‘d heard about a time management system called the Pomodoro Technique, created by Francesco Cirilio. It seemed too simplistic, but as they say, the simplest things often work best. According to users, this time management system is simple to learn, and life-changing when applied correctly. The Pomodoro Technique can be broken down into the following four basic principles.

1. Work with time, not against it: Many of us live as if time is our enemy. We race the clock to finish assignments and meet deadlines. The technique teaches us to work with time, instead of struggling against it.

2. Eliminate burnout: Taking short, scheduled breaks while working eliminates the “running on fumes” feeling you get when you push yourself too hard. According to users, It’s impossible to overwork when you stick to the system.

3. Manage distractions: E-mails, phone calls, Facebook messages, or suddenly realizing you forgot to get the car inspected– distractions constantly bombard us. Short of a true emergency, these things can be attended to later. This technique helps you log your distractions, and prioritize them for later.

4. Create a better work/life balance: Most of us are intimately acquainted with the guilt that comes from procrastination. If we haven’t had a productive day, we can’t seem to enjoy our free time. When you create an effective timetable and achieve your high-priority tasks, you can truly enjoy your time off.

“All this is great,” you may think, “but what do I actually do?”
• Choose a task
• Set a timer for 25 minutes
• Work on your task until the timer rings, then put a checkmark on a tracker
• Take a five minute break (you just completed your first Pomodoro)
• Repeat steps 1-4 three more times, followed by a 15-minute break.

That’s 25 minutes of steady, focused work on ONE task. No multitasking. No emails. No phone calls. No checking Facebook. Nothing! No distractions allowed!

Suggested tools from someone, not me, are:
1. A kitchen timer
2. Phone on Airplane mode
3. A quiet place to work and/or a good pair of headphones
4. Pen and paper for the Pomodoro check off marks
5. Five minutes each morning to plan out the day’s tasks
6. 30-minutes at the end of each week to review and plan for the next week

I’m definitely going to give this method a try and see how it works for me. My most productive times have been when I chunk activities and refrain from distractions. Multi-tasking is a myth, so a timer based approach, makes good sense.


A Book is a Dream That You Hold in Your Hand

book-club“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

I’ve always been a reader, averaging one to two books weekly. There are more volumes in our home than I will ever be able to read in a lifetime, but happily the possibility still exists. A tablet is ideal for travel, yet for the most part, I prefer to hold a book in my hands, to feel it; the energy is somehow different and more personally connected. Books are anyone’s ticket to other places, more information and a wheelhouse of knowledge.

Based on my own experience and the value I place on books and other written material as resources, I was surprised to see the following statistics compiled by the Robert Brewer research organization.

• 33% of High School graduates never read another book in their lifetime
• 42% of College graduates never read another book after college
• 57% of new books are not read to completion
• 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years
• 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year
• The more a child reads, the likelier they are able to understand the emotions of others
• Reading ONE HOUR per DAY in your chosen field will make you an international expert in 7 years!

Purchase books, reserve them at the library, share with friends and colleagues, even begin your own lending library at work. Vary your choices and pick something out of your comfort zone. When I travel, I frequently leave books at the front desk, especially guide books from that country. There are many ways to share so the gift of reading can continue.

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Haruki Murakami


Habits to Make and Break

First we make our habits, and then our habits make us. – John Drydenfuture and past

No one would critique your habit of going to the gym daily or preparing lunch the night before or limiting TV watching to specific programs. They might envy your discipline and wish they had the same stick-to-it drive. What they don’t realize is that you’ve gotten to this place through a series of steps and missteps, revising and working to find the combination that supports your goals. You are also flexible enough to know that not all habits work forever, and that tweaking and adjusting behaviors is an ongoing process.

What about BAD habits? Whether it’s mid-day snacking, skipping the gym or procrastinating, feeling helpless to change takes its toll on your self esteem. Yet, you feel helpless to change and so the loop continues and you become more discouraged and resigned to accept these behaviors as a given. The good news is that you are not alone, nor are you a victim of genetics. Research breaks down the psychology driving habits into Three distinct stages:
1. Cue
2. Routine
3. Reward
This habit loop is very challenging to break and has actually been hardwired into our psyches. Furthermore, we don’t break bad habits; rather, we replace them with more positive alternatives.

If you are committed to changing your behavior, there are 4 doable steps to begin:
• Identify the stages– what’s the cue/routine/reward series that lead to your habit? Feeling tired in the afternoon and passing the candy bowl or vending machine for a shot of sugar?
• Explore alternatives– what’s a healthier routine? A different route? Getting outside for a quick walk? Packing a nutritious snack?
• Commit to change and adjust as needed– test drive your new routine. Is it enough of a change or can you tolerate something more radical? Perhaps your mid-day stroll for a snack was really a way to change the scenery and move, while the sugar treat was just an added “bonus”
• Anticipate setbacks- make your new habit loop bulletproof. Plan ahead and whether it’s wearing sneakers or packing an apple, prepare for the inevitable slide. It’s OK- tomorrow is another day to begin anew.

When we walk away from labeling some habits as bad, we give ourselves permission to be human. After all, we created them for ourselves and we also have the power to add new ones that rather than break the old, replace them with a preferred alternative.


Personal Excellence

PerceptionYou are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

Does this quote resonate for you? With whom are you spending your time and how does that affect you? It really is a big deal. Do a quick calculation from your personal to your professional relationships. You are impacted by all of them, moderately or in some cases significantly.

When taking your inventory, are these contacts smart, positive in outlook, achievers, supporters, and also objective? Or, has this been the role you’ve taken on?

If you’re always the smartest person in the room, it’s time to change rooms.
If you’re always the cheerleader for other people and their ideas, but find your own actions met with pushback, it’s time to find new associates.

1. What kind of person do you strive to be?

2. Who are the five people you spend the most time with beyond immediate family?

3. Are these five individuals a match for who you want to be?

4. Name the top five people who embody the qualities you desire; dead or alive, famous or note?

5. How can you increase contact with them or learn more about their lives?

The possibilities are endless and the nature of relationships can and should change. Our world is not stagnant and by addition and subtraction, we have the power to evolve. What is crucial when taking your personal assessment is identifying how you can maximize your awareness of what you need to be successful and how you too can be an agent of change for someone else’s growth and development.


The Power of Small Distractions

smooth-stonesOver the years we’ve all seen various desk objects that were more than likely gifts from someone who had no idea what to get, opting instead for a gender neutral item, suitable for work space. Brookstone and Sharper Image were at the head of the curve for categorizing and promoting this “New Age” like approach to serenity, focus, and creativity, enhanced by these purchases. I scoffed at the idea. Even handling some of the doodads seemed excessive and at the very least, a dust collector. Would anyone buy one for him/herself?

Well, “bah-humbug” and fast forward to new research and the power of these small distractions. According to studies done at the NYU School of Engineering, playing with everyday objects at work may boost creativity and help workers de-stress and stay on top of their mental game. Perhaps we all engage in some unconscious hand movement, tapping a pen or playing with a paper clip, but with more of us keyboarding and not needing pages to gather, what else might we turn to? Researchers suggested some of the following as examples and avoid driving your co-workers too crazy at the same time.
1. Rubber toy:
Squeezing one helps vent frustration and lighten the mood.
2. Pen:
Clicking a retractable point rapidly and repeatedly can stimulate the mind just enough to sustain attention through mundane tasks.
3. Magnets:
Fiddling with smooth, plastic coated magnets from a dry-erase board provides tactile stimulation and keeps the hands busy.
4. Executive Sandbox:
Playing with sand is relaxing and can spark conversation. A compact set-up combines an easy to handle blend of sand and polymer.
5. Smooth Stones:
Running the hand over a surface that is pleasing or soothing to the touch can evoke a meditative state and help screen out external stimuli.
6. Slinky:
Stretching and bending a wire coil during long, tedious conference calls can keep the mind busy enough to avoid bigger distractions like e-mail.
7. Coat Toggle:
Pressing and releasing a spring-loaded device provides a satisfying tactile experience that can stimulate creative problem solving.

What is your immediate goal? Try one and see if it’s a good match for you.
• Stress reduction
• Focus
• Creativity


When to Say “No Thank You” to New Business

say-noExperience is often the best teacher. When new opportunities are presented, on what basis do you make the decision to accept or decline an offer? Not all business is the best match and in fact might cause more harm than good. What is the true cost of working with a client? There are many ways to evaluate whether to proceed or opt to walk away and perhaps make a referral for the client. After all, this could be a dream project for someone else and not only will you have served yourself, but by being proactive, you have also preserved your reputation and sanity.

Three red flags to pay attention to:

1. The PROJECT is not a fit!
If you are not crystal clear in identifying who your ideal client is, then anyone with a check book is fair game. This may sound ludicrous, but the reality is that until you have done your homework and understand your business mission and core competencies, you will continue to be frustrated by the relationships you cultivate. While you should not decline every job that is less than ideal, flexibility is important, it is critical to understand when the cost of doing business is too high. Will you have to invest in becoming conversant with an industry unfamiliar to you, hire experts or purchase new equipment? Is there true value here or do you need to walk away?

2. The PEOPLE are not a fit!
First impressions are made within 30-seconds of meeting someone. Pay attention to how you feel in the presence of the prospect. People do business with people they like and even a short-term project with a difficult group can make the time an energetic drain which also depletes other resources. Are you prepared to regularly justify your fees, manage a challenging client or be on 24-hour call? While you do not have to love the client or become the best of friends, warning signs that they may be overly demanding or reactive makes the case for saying “no”.

3. The PROCESS is not a fit!
When you override your initial reaction or force fit a project into your business you can write the final script in advance and it may be one that you are all too familiar with; a promise NEVER to do x again! What is the overall experience you want for yourself and/or your group? Is this a project you are anxious to do but the timeline is not workable? Does it contribute to your portfolio, experience or future work you hope to do? Is the proposal in alignment with your personal and professional goals and values and does it add to your bottom line? Understand the scope of what you are getting into before you commit.

Walking away from someone who wants to pay you is not easy. Increase your fees to compensate for the project, person(s) or process that is not a good fit? Of course you can, but is that the best way to do business? If your resources are stretched to the limit servicing clients you do not want, where is the space for those you really want to be on board? Make a solid referral whenever possible. By saying “no” to the wrong fit you can also say “yes” to the better client, project, or opportunity that is also out there looking for their best match.