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Month: August 2015

How to Avoid Fire Drills: 3 Steps to Plan the Urgent and Important into Your Life

Have you ever had a situation at work where you have to drop everything you are doing due to the urgency of the item at hand?

How about at home?

Do you feel like you are constantly taking care of the crises that arise on a daily basis?

I know there have been many times that the urgent items in my day overtake the important and it feels like I am constantly scrambling.

Take Sunday night for example.

The urgent items of getting everything ready for my child to start pre-k overtook the items that I deemed important. I had planned on writing that evening. Instead, I prepped lunches for the week and filled out registration paperwork for 45 minutes. In retrospect this was important for me to do, but it became urgent when I didn’t plan out my time appropriately.  This was both important and urgent for me to complete.

Often we confuse what is important and what is urgent.

Urgent items require immediate attention. They have to be accomplished or taken care of within a certain timeframe.

Important items help you move towards accomplishing your goals and vision. When you schedule the important it creates a level of intentionality in your day and week.

Schedule the Important and Urgent. This isn't an exact science, but an art. It will help you… Click To Tweet

Decision Matrix

President Eisenhower developed a decision matrix that was made popular by Steven Covey. It helps one distinguish the difference between what is urgent and what is important. There are four quadrants as listed below:

Important and Urgent: These items can be foreseen or unforeseen, as stated above. I had an important and urgent task to complete. In hindsight, it was so important that I should have scheduled it into this category to begin with.

These tasks can be deadline driven, crises, or problems.

Important and Non-urgent: These items help you further your goals and mission.

These tasks could include personal and professional development as well as recreation.

Non-important and Urgent: This area is what I like to refer to as the “fire drill” zone. It is a phone call or email that has to be taken care of immediately. If you do not have scheduled time to focus on the other areas, everything can begin to be lumped into the non-important and urgent.

These tasks include meetings, activities, and any interruptions.

Non-important and Non-urgent: The items that fall into this category are normally time wasters. It is ok to relax, watch tv, or play on your computer, but you can still be intentional about the time you spend doing such things.

These tasks include time wasters, trivial matters, and busy work.

How does this play out in real life? There are three ways you can approach this; your work life, your home life, or your whole life. The good news is, whichever approach you take, you can utilize these 3 steps to plan the urgent and important into your life.

Urgent and Important

1. Think Through Your Life in light of the Matrix

Think through your life. If you want to focus only on work, think through a typical day and week. If you want to focus on hours outside of work, think about your home life. I would suggest you think through this exercise in a whole life approach, especially if there are people and goals that are important for you to accomplish.

2. Place Items in the Appropriate Boxes

Now that you have thought through your specific areas, write them down in the corresponding quadrant.

The items that fall into the first quadrant, important and urgent, do those.

The items that fall into the second quadrant, important and non-urgent, plan to do those.

The items that fall into the third quadrant, not important and urgent, delegate those tasks (if possible).

The items that fall into the fourth quadrant, not important and not urgent, drop those tasks.

 

Urgent Non-Urgent
Important

DO IT

PLAN IT

Not-Important

DELEGATE IT

DROP IT

 

3. Schedule It

This is the most important step. Pull out your calendar and place the items on your calendar that fall into quadrant one and two. Those are the items that have to get done. You really want to schedule time for the important and non-urgent, as those are the items that are important but often are overlooked because of the urgent items that come up.

In Conclusion…

Life can seem like a giant fire drill. Knowing where your different responsibilities and priorities lands in regards to important vs urgent can help you plan out your day and week. It all starts with an understanding of the decision matrix, thinking through your life, and then planning according to the important and urgent, also known as your priorities. This isn’t an exact science, but an art. It will help you move in the right direction.

Have you ever completed this exercise? If not, what is stopping you? Share below!

Here’s to the Journey!

Stephanie_small (1)

6 Steps to a Successful Training

As I sat listening to my boss give an overview of the training that was about to take place, I looked at the faces of my co-workers and new immediately none of them cared about what was about to take place.

The reality is the training I was about to do in conjunction with my boss was very important. Working with patient information, we were obligated to follow HIPAA (keeping your personal information private). We were about to teach nurses, office assistants, and admitting interviewers a very simple, yet important task. It would add to their already packed workload. I knew the importance of the training as did my boss, but in the end, I wasn’t so sure.

No One Likes Trainings

The last thing any staff member wants to do is sit through another training. This is especially true when the employee feels like they are in meetings all of the time or they have a heavy workload.

Learning a new process when you have already learned an entire system can be frustrating. Your employee believes the program they use works just fine. The process in place is great. Learning an entirely new system can be, frustrating. It becomes even more frustrating when you switch systems just to go back a year later to the system you were previously using. This happened with the company my husband works for.

If you work for an innovative and thinking organization, odds are that you look for the most effective tools available. Sometimes there is a change in technology that the industry must take into account and staff must be trained. This can mean changing systems more frequently than you anticipate. If you make a change for change sake, you are going to have disgruntled employees.

No one likes to go to trainings, especially when they do not understand the value of what they are learning. Engaging the staff with different senses during the training will help them retain the information better. Here are 6 steps to a successful training, 6 ways you can make the training worth your employee’s time.

6 Steps to a Successful Training (1)

1. Cast Vision

One of the main problems with the training that day is vision was not properly cast. The new process was in place because of a law. We all understood that. It was presented in a dry, straight forward manner, which left the staff annoyed at the new process they were learning.

To create buy in, my boss should have shared the bigger picture. Some simple, true statements would have been:

“When we follow x, y, and z, we ensure that Billy’s very important information is kept safe and secure.”

“We would be showing a greater level of care for our client’s.”

“Stolen identities are on the rise. This procedure will help us keep our client’s information safe.”

“If this was your or your child’s information, wouldn’t you want to make sure it was being handled with extreme care?”

Telling your staff how this new procedure or software will help them, the organization, and potential clients help to create buy in to what you want to put in place.

2. Explain the New Process

After you cast vision, but before you dive into the information, explain the new process. Giving an explanation, an overview, of how the new process will fit into their workflow will help them see another piece of the puzzle.

3. Show the New Process or Software

Now that you have explained the process or software and what it can do, show them. I was able to walk the staff through each step. I had them watch me do it the first time. I explained what I was doing with each click of the mouse.

I asked the staff to keep questions until the end, until they had a chance to do the process on their own. This isn’t always what I would recommend. In this instance, I knew that once they started doing the process themselves, it would begin to click for them. If it didn’t begin to click for them, then I would be happy to help.

4. Let the Staff Do it

Once you have shown the staff, the staff needs to do it. This is where each staff member having their own laptop or access to a computer lab comes in extremely helpful. For many people, the new information will not click until they start doing it. Having a hands on experience allows your staff to interact with the information in a new way.

If you include a handout with the new process or software (which you should), make sure to hand it out at this point so they can review the document, reading and engaging the information on their own, as they move through the process.

5. Never Make Staff Feel Stupid

This happens more often than you could imagine.

Not all people learn at the same rate. Some read slower than others. Some older individuals are not as quick on the computer. Some simply have a hard time navigating the new process/software.

Walking alongside your staff while they are learning this new information is the epitome of servant leadership. We should never ask our staff to do something we aren’t willing to do. Helping them process and digest this information is what we are supposed to do as leaders.

Eye rolling and snide remarks when a staff member is having trouble with the process will not help with staff engagement.

6. Offer the Opportunity for Questions

At the end, never assume that all questions have been asked as staff are going through the process on their own.

If the training permits, asking your staff along the way if they have questions opens up the lines of communication. It gives them a chance to speak up when they may have kept quiet previously. Telling staff there are no stupid questions and reinforcing that you want them to leave the training with a good grasp on the information will also open up the lines for communication.

In Conclusion…

Trainings can be dry and difficult to teach. The reality that most of the staff don’t care makes it difficult for them to become engaged with the information. Cast vision from the beginning to help hook them in. Although I am unsure of the accuracy of this quote, I found it fascinating:

We retain 10% of what we read.

We retain 20% of what we hear.

We retain 30% of what we see.

We retain 50% of what we hear and see.

We retain 70% of what we say.

We retain 90% of what we do.

~various attributions

 

What else can you do to ensure a successful training? Share below!

Here’s to the Journey!

Stephanie_small (1)

5 Steps to Assess Your Strengths

I am never as frustrated in my work or in life when I have to focus on my weaknesses. I don’t thrive on being creative (painting at least) or being left alone for long periods of time. When either of these things happen, I’m usually miserable.

Often, we think we are supposed to work on our weaknesses instead of our strengths. I believe that we need to do just the opposite.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The following questions usually come up in an interview:

  • Tell us your greatest traits
  • Tell us your strengths
  • Tell us about your weaknesses

My all-time favorite line when it comes to explaining one’s weaknesses comes from the TV show The Office. If you work in an office setting, then odds are you can resonate with the show.

In an interview for a promotion, Michael Scott is asked about his strengths. This is his response:

The desire to work on our weaknesses, I believe, comes from the idea that we can be anything we want to be. That we must improve on the areas we don’t have much talent in so that we can be well-rounded. I think we need to stop focusing on being well-rounded and start focusing on our natural talents that are our strengths.

The book, Strengths Finder 2.0, gives you an access code to complete an assessment which produces your top five themes, or strengths, out of a list of thirty-four. Obviously, this assessment does not, and cannot, take personality nuances in to consideration. However, it does take into consideration that the strengths are a list of raw talents and as you build upon them, and invest in your talents, they become your strengths.

34strengths

Here five steps to assess your strengths:

1. Buy the book. Take the assessment.

I bet you don’t even know what your strengths are though. Am I right? If you don’t know, then I encourage you to spend the $15 to get the book which has the assessment code. $15 may give you a level of self-awareness you did not know was possible.

There are a few short chapters (if you can really even called them that) which introduces the premise of the book and the assessment.

The code for the assessment is in the back of the book. You should set aside 35 minutes of distraction free time to take it.

2. Review Your Strengths

Once you have taken the assessment, the program gives you a printout of your top five strengths. There are several PDF reports that are created based upon your assessment. Here is a list of the 34 themes with a brief description.

Along with these reports, the book has practical information in it, including how to get along with coworkers who have specific strengths.

3. Your Real Life

Take some time to think about how your strengths play into your real life. Not just your work life, but the things that you enjoy. The things that you are good at.

For instance, one of my strengths is Achiever. This means exactly what it says. I like to achieve things. I set goals for myself, I challenge and motivate myself. I will write down an item I have already completed on my to-do list simply so I can mark it off.

Sounds like I have a problem, right? I probably do…

4. How does your job connect with your strengths?

Now think about your strengths as it relates to your job. Do you find that you use your strengths in your job? If you struggle with your job, it may be because you are working out of your weaknesses and not your strengths. At least that is the case for me.

I’m currently in a position where I am not using my strengths. Some days I go home weary and frustrated because I am not fulfilled each day. Although I am learning valuable skills, I am not working out of my strengths.

Luckily I work in a place that had us take this assessment. The plan is to evaluate everyone’s strengths and to begin to assign tasks, when possible, to utilize their strengths.

5. Pick a Strength You Want to Improve Upon

After reviewing your five strengths, and thinking about your real life, it’s time to think about what strength you want to improve upon. For example, if one of your strengths is communication, you could figure out which form of communication you are best at and begin working on that.  There are some great suggestions in the book on how to improve upon your themes.

Focus on improving your strengths. Find joy in what you are good at. Focusing on your weaknesses can be frustrating and tiresome. There is no need to drudge through life focusing on what you aren’t good at.

Focus on improving your strengths. Find joy in what you are good at. Click To Tweet

In Conclusion…
Knowing your strengths is just one step in figuring out the type of life and occupation you want. When I took the assessment for the second time, years apart, it was interesting to see the differences. As I looked back as to how my life has changed, the strengths then made more sense. Knowing your strengths is one piece of the puzzle that will give you a greater level of self-awareness to live the purposeful, prioritized life you want.

Do you know your strengths? If not, go find out!

Here’s to the Journey!

Stephanie_small (1)

Mini Goal Monday

Is there something in your life that you want to accomplish but you continue to push off?

You come up with excuse after excuse as to why you can’t accomplish the goal?

I have a list of things I want to accomplish. But they usually stay on that list unless I set aside time and put forth effort.

How about you?

It’s easy to get bogged down with all the things we want to do and then never accomplishing them.

Every Monday I want to help you take an action step to accomplish a goal that is important to you.

This could be as simple as cleaning out a closet that you have been putting off week after week. It could be a goal focusing on exercising (which is something I need to get back into doing!). It could be a goal to begin meal planning. It may be even be a goal to read a couple chapters in a book that you been putting off.

The goal has to be something that’s important to you, otherwise you will never work towards accomplishing that goal.

Nothing in your life will change unless you choose to change it.

Nothing in your life will change unless you choose to change it. Click To Tweet

The only way we change or accomplish anything is to state that goal and then have accountability.

That’s where I come in.

mini goal monday

Every Monday I want you to come up with an action step towards a goal you want to take. Something you want to accomplish.

Think about a S.M.A.R.T. goal. A S.M.A.R.T. goal is a goal that is

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Realistic

Time specific

What does this really mean? It means establishing a goal that you can really accomplish!

Once you know what you want to accomplish, head on over to www.facebook.com/stephaniegerman, find the Mini Goal Monday post, and let me know what you want to accomplish for that week. I’ll check in with you periodically to see how you are doing.

Again, this doesn’t have to be a huge goal. Small victories lead to continued success.

I want to help you live a prioritized, purposeful life. And this is one small step in that direction.

Here’s to the Journey!

Stephanie_small (1)