Know Enough to Be Dangerous

Know Enough to Be Dangerous

Have you ever wondered why people who are very successful are able to call out errors and mistakes before they happen? Because they can see them coming a mile away. Over time, they have learned a little bit about everything in their field and they can see when the pieces aren’t coming together in the way that they should. With time, this will come.

For me, it was helpful to shadow someone in every different role that impacted my line of work. I took some time for them to explain what they did, how it impacted me, how what I did impact them, and tried to better understand their challenges and opportunities.

Read through job descriptions and learn as much as you can about what function each person within your company performs. Ask questions. You don’t have to understand every single detail of what others do but you do need to have a pretty good understanding. If they tell you about something that they do and you don’t understand it, you should ask questions and do research until you could at least explain it to a five-year-old.

The Benefits of Becoming an Expert in Your Field

The Benefits of Becoming an Expert in Your Field

Malcom Gladwell, author of Outliers once wrote about a statistic that says that in order to become an expert in any given thing that you must actively participate in that activity for 10,000 dedicated hours which translates to 20 hours a week for ten years or 40 hours a week for five years.

If that’s not overwhelming, I don’t know what is. Becoming an expert in your chosen profession or hobby takes time. Success doesn’t happen overnight and when it does it’s very rare.

You need time to read, do, absorb, fail, and then fail again.

To become an expert, you must put in the practice and establish a level of credibility above and beyond the level of knowledge that everyone else has. If you are just entering the workforce you might feel fully prepared from your collegiate courses but I can promise you that no level of education can prepare you for all of the real-life situations you will face. No matter what college you attend, there is always room to grow when you start a new job. Processes to learn, other experts to connect with, learning never ends.

When people start to seek you out for answers, that’s when you know you are STARTING to becoming an expert.

Becoming an expert will take time, but when you learn everything you can about a specific subject you are setting yourself up for success. Here are some tips and tricks to help you feel confident in your level of expertise!

  • Teach others what you have learned. Try out a mentorship program or talk to your company about joining the training team for new hires. This allows you to work through questions that you might not get it if you are just performing your day to day tasks. It also allows you to think about the subject matter in a different way. Young, fresh minds tend to challenge the status quo and ask really good questions.
  • If you have been in the field for an extended period of time, consider teaching at a local university. Some University programs have opportunities for you to teach alongside an “actual” professor. You might even make some spare cash in the process. If teaching isn’t your thing, you can always reach out to your alma matter or high school and see if there is any interest or need for a guest speaker. Once you have mastered the subject matter enough to teach it, it doesn’t hurt to share what you know.
  • Have a never-ending curiosity. Read everything you can get your hands on, attend any seminars and lectures that you can. You need to be a sponge and absorb everything. I MEAN EVERYTHING. Note: Make sure that the materials that you are studying are legitimate. Wikipedia is probably not the right place to start.
  • Stay up to date on trends. Add google notifications for key terms so that you get automatic notifications when big things happen.
  • If there are parts of the business that you work on that you don’t understand, it doesn’t hurt to ask to shadow someone in another position or get invited to re-occurring meetings. You would be surprised by how much you can learn just by being a fly on the wall.
  • When you start to feel like you are getting the hang of understanding the material, start writing about it. It doesn’t matter who you write for. It could be your company’s newsletter, a trade publication, a scholarly journal, a magazine. Writing allows you to begin to establish yourself as a credible figure.

Again, it takes time. It’s not an overnight process but think how great it’s going to feel what you can say “I’m an expert at {insert topic here}”.

Not only does it feel great but it also helps you accelerate your career. You should try to make a goals list before and after every performance review of things you need and want to learn. Align with your manager and then go after them.

Becoming an expert will position you as an authority figure, someone who gets to make choices and decisions, someone who knows enough to be part of the bigger conversations. Someone that people listen to and value their opinion. Someone that people want to work with and for.

The cherry on top is that typically when you have mastered a job function, you tend to make more money which is never a bad thing.

Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Efficiency

Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Efficiency

You aren’t born efficient. You’re actually born quite the opposite.

Think about how long it takes a little kid to pick up their toys. If you don’t have kids or don’t spend time around little kids let me tell you it’s one of the most time-consuming tasks. Watching little kids pick up toys makes my skin crawl. I dread it with every fiber of my being. One toy at a time, no specific order, they play a little bit with each toy before they put it away but somehow after hours of the clean-up song – they might get the job done. Just to start all over again.

Being efficient is a skill that you must work to improve every damn day or your entire life.

Being efficient is so important. It’s one of the most sought after traits employers are looking for. Here’s why… It makes you a more valuable employee. If your employer is trying to decide who to keep and who to let go and both people are paid the exact same amount – the volume of their output is a major factor in the decision.

If there are multiple people up for the same promotion and they all meet all the same criteria, but one person gets double the work done they have a much higher chance of getting that coveted position.

Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks that I have learned for living an efficient life at work and at home:

  • Do the hardest, most terrible task that you are not looking forward to doing first thing in the morning. I know. It sucks. It majorly super sucks! This sounds so easy but it’s so much harder to do than you would anticipate. Fight through it. It will make the rest of your day remarkable. Think about how nice it would be to spend the rest of your day cranking out the easy tasks, think about how accomplished you would feel, think about the momentum you would have if you didn’t have to stop mid-day and start working on a big, tough, scary project. Before you go to bed at the end of the night write down the task that you are dreading the most for the next day – just one – that way when you wake up you can knock it out and don’t get caught up in to-do lists.
  • Get organized. I’m not talking about Marie Kondo organized – just orderly. Everyone has a different system. I like to print everything out (sorry environment – it’s nothing personal) so I can physically see that things are getting accomplished and can grab what I need without having to dig through digital files or email. Having an organizational system will ensure that you don’t waste time plus it makes it look like you have your life together.
  • Find a system that works for you and stick to it. Do it once. Do it right. Save it in the correct location, sort it, review it, respond immediately. Put things where they belong right away so that you don’t spend hours searching later. If you touch it, handle it.
  • Create systems where they don’t exist. If you notice you are doing the same thing every day and the process could be simplified if you just had time to sit down and create a process or system to speed things up – then you guessed it – spend the extra time on the upfront to save you time down the road. It will seem overwhelming and daunting but it’s worth it. If you elevate these types of things to employers some of them are willing to put together a team to tackle them if it’s worth it for the business in the long run.
  • Create templates. Are you writing the same email each week or sending out the same report with different words? Spend some time with the document to clean it up, make it look impressive, ensure it’s comprehensive and create a template that you can just plug in the information each time you are working on it so that you have a consistent format and don’t have to set up the document each time you jump in. If your co-workers are doing the same tasks – share the template with them. Sharing is caring folks!
  • Find out your personal daily work-flow. Align your tasks with how you work best. Block off these chunks of time on your calendar. Be strict about your plans. If you put something on your calendar it doesn’t move.
    • When are you the most creative? When you feel energized in the morning? Plan to ideate and brainstorm during this time.
    • When are you the most likely to take a bunch of breaks? When you are hungry? When you’re tired of sitting at your desk? Plan your exercise during this time. Get up, get moving then get back to it.
    • When do you need to re-energize? When do you hit that wall where you can’t possibly work anymore? This is the perfect time for a meeting over coffee.
    • When are you the most talkative? When do you have time to chat it up without being interrupted? In the car on your way home? On your way into the office? Make those calls, honey!
    • When do you just want to be left alone? Plan to tackle projects that require deep thinking and lock the door. Put up a sign that says something like “please don’t bother me unless it’s an absolute emergency” or better yet if you can work from home or a coffee shop and turn off your internet and notifications.
    • When do you like writing? When do the words just roll off your tongue? Curl up with some snacks and get it all out.
    • When do you like to do monotonous tasks? Take this time to organize your life.
    • Set ICOE time. ICOE = In Case of Emergency. There is always something unplanned that comes up. Having this flex time in your day will ensure you don’t feel stressed out when the emergencies roll in. It also makes it harder for you to move the other stuff on your calendar if you have a designated time to handle ad hoc requests and spur of the moment needs. There are very few cases where something is actually needed “urgently”. Also, if you didn’t know “ASAP” does not mean right now, it means As Soon As Possible.
  • I’m about to tell you something that is going to rock your entire world. Wait for it… You don’t need to check your email every five minutes. Wait, wait, wait… It gets better. You don’t need to check your email every hour. Hold onto your seat folks, you don’t need to check your email every day. Unless your company has a written rule that dictates how often that you must check your email then it’s up to you. You make the rules. Every time you stop working to check your email then you must get back in the zone. It’s a time suck. If you need to get work done, put up a friendly out of office that let your co-workers know that you will get back to them and if there is a true emergency, they can reach out to you with a quick call and then turn off your email. Shut it down. This rule also applies to social media, instant messengers and your phone. Want to get bat shit crazy? Turn off your wi-fi. I said it. Turn off your wi-fi. This will eliminate any temptation to “pop-in” and check on things. Airplane mode will become your best friend. If your company gives you the option to work remotely, try to select one day and work from a place where you know you will have zero interruptions.
  • Go into every meeting with a set agenda and ensure that the attendees are the people that need to be at the meeting (not people that are just looking for something to do so they don’t have to do their real work). Don’t invite the whole company. Outline exactly what needs to be discussed and how much time you need to talk about each topic. Send out the agenda at least 24 hours ahead of the meeting to ensure everyone has time to review along with any and all materials that will be discussed. I have noticed that in a lot of the meetings that I sit in the entire group spends the first half of the meeting just reviewing the materials. Make it the expectation that everyone will have reviewed the materials provided prior to the call. This allows you to focus on exactly what needs to be discussed. When you are finished, wrap up the meeting and leave. If other people want to hang around and chit chat that’s fine but never get sucked into the end of meeting wormhole time suck.
  • I recommend having three email accounts. Never interchange them. The reason I am admit about this is because it allows you to bulk delete and never spend time sorting the spam emails while allowing you to focus on the emails that you need to address. Here is how I handle each of my accounts.
    • Spam Account: Coupons, sweepstakes entries, advertisements, loyalty cards, social media notification, etc.
      • Bulk delete – yes, please!
      • Example:
    • Personal Account: Invitations, personal correspondence, bills and photos and memes from aunt Suzie
      • Check it out, add it to my calendar and move on.
      • Example:
    • Work/Professional Account: Only items pertaining to my career
      • Never delete anything. This allows me to go back and address issues when associates tell me that I “never told them that” or that they “never said that”. I am a firm believer in having everything in writing and it has saved me so much time along with helping me maintain a good reputation. People are much more willing to admit they made an error if you have something in writing. Believe me.
      • Respond promptly and then save for future reference if needed
      • Example:
    • Take Breaks. I heard a statistic once that the most productive people take a five-minute break every sixty minutes. I am a firm believer now. I try to make sure that I get up from whatever I am doing every hour and go to the bathroom, grab a cup of coffee or water and a small healthy snack and then get back to it (if you haven’t realized it yet I really like snacks). It helps me to refresh my train of thought and not get bogged down by unnecessary details. I will say that if you are going to take this approach you must be very good at avoiding distractions. Almost every time I get up and walk no more than a foot away from my desk there is someone that wants to chat for “just a minute”. I must let them know that I will get back with them later to maintain my focus. At first, this felt uncomfortable but the more I did it the better I got at it.
    • Another one of my favorite tricks is to find the place that you are the most productive. For some people, it’s at a coffee shop but for me, it’s at my desk in the office. I have everything I need printed out at arms reach and multiple people that have answers to all my questions sit within ten feet of me so instead of typing up a lengthy email I can just turn around and ask all my questions thus breaking my own interuption rule.
    • Find a proofing pal. Someone who is somewhat close to what you do so they understand the context of your emails or work. My personal motto is to avoid sharing out big projects until you have them completed but you should try to find one person that you trust to share out with mid-project for big projects.  This allows you to get a fresh set of eyes on your work and talk through any questions, comments or concerns. I would avoid having this person be your boss but to each their own. I have had some of the biggest revelations when I shared my work with someone who sat next to me and they did the good old “well, did you ever think about including…” or “I might be missing it but shouldn’t you cover off on…”. Use them as a test dummy before big presentations and always be willing to do the same for them. Being prepared will make you look and feel like you’ve got it all together.
    • If you are like me and have a long commute (anything longer than 20 minutes) then I suggest figuring out what calls you need to make for the day and taking them from the car. Unless there is a reason you need to take detailed notes. I am definitely not suggesting taking any notes while driving. If I have questions that I need to get answered or want to reach out and ask someone for advice I use my time in the car to get this done. Sometimes I use my drive time to get some of my personal calls done like paying bills and making appointments. Every minute of your time is precious, and you should treat it as such. There is no reason you should spend all that time listening to mindless radio chatter.

Why Remembering the Little Details is So Important

Why Remembering the Little Details is So Important

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou

It makes a difference when you care about the people you work with. When you REALLY pay attention. It might not feel like a big deal if you forget someone’s birthday and it’s probably not, but it is a big deal when you remember it. It helps you create a connection with them, and they feel like you really care. You don’t have to be nosy or get personal but knowing the right questions to ask (or not ask) can make all the difference.

It’s always really impressed me when an associate or boss remembers an important detail without having been prompted by social media…that’s a skill!

You don’t need to remember all of these details but knowing one or two about each person you interact with frequently can really make an impact.

  • Birthday’s (this is a great one to remember – people love it when you remember their special day and get even more excited if you give them a card or send them a small gift)
  • Kid’s Names
  • Work anniversaries
  • Hometown or Where they Live
  • Favorite Sports Team
  • Hobbies and interests
  • How their parents/kids/siblings are doing
  • What big project they are working on that they are excited about

Here are a few tips and tricks that can help you remember these details a little easier.

  • Write it down! I keep a notebook or planner with you and jot down these little details when they come up. I can’t remember anything. I write everything down so I can look at my cheat sheet before I go into meetings. After I have interacted with someone a few times and know them I don’t need to check my notes but it helps when I am learning about someone new.
  • Visualize. If someone has two kids and loves to cook create a mental image of them in their kitchen making cookies with their kids. It sounds silly but creating a mental image will help you recall facts.
  • Repeat information back out loud. If your trying to remember someone’s husband’s name is not just say “what does your husband do for a living” adjust your words very slightly and say “What does Bob do for a living” it’s a simple shift that will help you memorize names.

One of the most important things you can do to help your big old brain is to take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, take a daily vitamin, drink enough water, exercise your mind and body, and eat all the brain foods (fish, berries, nuts and seeds, avocados, eggs, broccoli, kale and don’t forget a little dark chocolate).

Say “No” When Your Plate if Full

Say “No” When Your Plate if Full

Saying NO is a complete sentence. It doesn’t require explanation or justification.

Saying NO takes guts… but why?

I have learned from watching and listening to my 1.5-year-old son that there really isn’t an art to learning how to say NO. We are born with the ability to say NO. Watch any little kid, it’s not hard for them to determine what they want and what they don’t. As you get older you are taught to agree, conform and oblige others but at what expense?

I am certain this is a skill I will forever be working on because I am a people pleaser.

It’s okay to say no. I’m going to say it a little louder for the people in the back… ITS OKAY TO SAY NO.

There are so many things that I don’t want to do. So stinkin’ many. Some of them, unfortunately, benefit me so I will continue to do them. Some of these activities include taking my vitamins, exercising, eating healthy and going to sleep on time.

There are, however, a lot of times when it’s okay to say no. You can say no to anything that doesn’t benefit you and you just don’t want to do.

Here are some of my favorite things that I have started to decline so that I can use my time for things that I want and need to get done:

  • Cleaning up after company parties. I usually bring a dish and sometimes even help set up so that’s a big N.O. from me. I have found that sneaking out about 3/4 of the way through the event makes saying no to being on the clean-up crew a lot easier.
  • I love learning and hate it when I attend conferences and webinars and am asked to be “the main notetaker”. Why? I would rather engulf myself in the information than take notes for everyone else. They couldn’t even take the time out of their day to attend. I spend all my time on my notes and can’t take in the info.
  • Pulling together presentation decks/print-outs/folders. When I first started my career I always got stuck with this task because I’m organized and a sucker for visual presentation. I was the best at printing out paper, stapling every sheet at the same angle and aligning them perfectly straight in their branded folders just for them to get tossed in someone’s briefcase, shuffled around and then quickly passed out at meetings. I would spend so much time trying to impress my boss with my skills and it always went unnoticed. Looking back, my skills probably didn’t matter at all. I was just the only one who didn’t put up a fuss when this task was being delegated out. I will now leave this task up to someone at OfficeMax.

When I commit to something I always go all in and I don’t have time to commit to everything, so I have had to become more conscious about what I am committing to. I have learned to respect people that say they don’t have time (or don’t want) to do something instead of looking at them negatively. They know their boundaries and I respect that.

It’s hard to say no if you don’t know your limits. Once you can outline your priorities then it becomes easier to decline anything that doesn’t fit in those guidelines. If you are up for a challenge, I recommend you get out a sheet of paper and write down every time you say no for the next week. Then on the back of that paper, write down every time you say yes. At the end of the week highlight all the times you said yes that you wished you said no. It’s a lot more than you think. Can you imagine the time you would have saved? When you become aware of when you decline to do something you will realize there are probably a lot of things you are doing out of pure habit.  Slowly start chipping away at your list. Free yourself up for the things you want to do and allow yourself to approach your career and live the life the way you want to.

I will note that there is a big difference between knowing your boundaries and acting entitled. I never have a problem getting in the trenches with my team if something needs to get done. Having an all hands-on deck approach is always the best approach.

Just because you have a higher title than others doesn’t mean you will never have to get your hands dirty. If you want to rub me the wrong way, that’s a good place to start. You should never say “that’s below my paid grade” or “I get paid too much to do this”. If there is something that needs to get done and you have a team of people digging their heels in to get the work done and you don’t have another fire to put out, then you damn well better be working with them to make the goal a reality.