Let’s Be More Productive…


No hot dogs roasted here!

This time of year, I take a look at my New Year’s Resolutions to see if I’m staying on track.  Actually, I’m not doing too bad.  Some resolutions are going better than others, but when your goal is to “cook more food at home” and you end up having to have contractors in to fix water damage in your kitchen…well, let’s just say cooking without a kitchen takes more time and effort than most of us are willing to put in. (I did consider roasting hot dogs in the fireplace, but that directly contradicts “eat less processed food”…it was a really great fire though!)

Something that helps with a lot of these goals is a tool that I learned back in high school from the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Foundation.  One of the many skills they taught me was how to create SMART goals.  SMART goals meet the following criteria:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress
  • Attainable/Assignable – achievable/able to be assigned to someone
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved

Since you aren’t here, and I don’t have any of your New Year’s Resolutions handy, I’ll pick on myself.  Here is the first thing on my list (inspired by Random Acts of Kindness Project I did for my birthday last year)

Commit Random Acts of Kindness (at LEAST one per month) such as:

  •          DVIS volunteer
  •          Packages for Homeless
  •          Food for…whomever
  •          Smile and wave at strangers (if nothing else, it will freak them out a bit, but most likely just make their day better)

So, I’m putting myself to the test.  Is this a SMART goal?

  • Specific – random act of kindness (kind of vague, but at least there are examples)
  • Measurable – some of them, like volunteering for DVIS or making packages and food for people, yes.  Overall…not as much
  • Attainable/Assignable – I assign myself!  Very attainable
  • Realistic – There are options, none of which have to be incredibly taxing or time consuming
  • Time-Related – at least one per month, definitely time related.  There’s a deadline for each month.(Wait, what’s today?  whew!  I still have time)

UltimateProductivity_1So what does this have to do with energy?  I’m thinking more about work in general here, and maybe personal energy expended.  Productivity is something that is on my mind quite a bit.  My friend, Jim Stovall wrote a book, Ultimate Productivity and in it, he warns of the danger of activity vs. productivity.  You know what he means.  How many of us have gotten to the end of what felt like a really busy day, but have no idea what we accomplished?  (You don’t have to raise your hand.  I can’t see you.  Don’t feel bad.  It happens to me sometimes too.)  I wonder a lot about whether I’m just being really active or if I’m actually being productive. (I’m wondering that today, in fact.)  There are some tools I use to combat this niggling worry of “am I really productive?”

Today's List

Today’s List

Begin and end every day by reviewing a list of “Things to Do”.  Yes, I actually mean a physical list, not a mental one.  At the end of every day I look over that day’s list and create a new one for the next day.  Personally, I like paper, because there is nothing quite like making that slash through an accomplished task. (Also, I remember the stuff on the list better if I actually write it down vs. typing it.)  If there are remaining items on the list I move them to the next day with a priority mark before putting other items on my task sheet.

My workday is pretty fluid to begin with. (Aren’t they all?)  You never know if you’ll be called upon to take on a task that has to be accomplished “immediately”.  I also work closely with clients, so that adds an extra level of fluidity.  Most days, I do much more than the items on my list.  If I get a new task, I just write it at the bottom of the list (sometimes, I write it and mark it out at the same time).  Yes, it seems a bit redundant, but it also eliminates that feeling of being hard at work and accomplishing nothing.  I have a physical reminder of all the things I did accomplish.  It feels pretty good.  You can see my list for today on the right.  It’s nothing fancy, and not everything got marked off.  Not a bad day’s work, though.

Make SMART goals. What?  You’re telling me you don’t always set your own goals?  Well, me either.  Goals are handed down from pay grades well above mine, but I review them with my manager when I get them.  Not all the goals that I receive start out specific, measurable, attainable/assignable, realistic, or time-related.  However, we reword them so they are.  For example, “increase sales” isn’t a SMART goal.  However, if we tweak it a bit to read “increase research sales by Q4 through reaching current customers at least once every 30 days, identifying and contacting at least 15 prospective customers a week, and recruiting subject matter experts to participate in free monthly webinars about existing products and services” that looks a lot more like a SMART goal.

These are the tools that I fall back on when I’m feeling more active that productive, or even if I just feel like my schedule is running away without me.  What tools do you use?

‘Til next time,



New Year’s Resolutions and Their Impact on Your Career

It is time to say “bye-bye” to 2013 and “hello” to 2014, and for many of us that means New Year’s resolutions.  As I was thinking about my resolutions and realized that I’d left off something important.  It isn’t exactly a “resolution”, but maybe it should be.  So here for all of you…(drumroll please)


Resolution 24. Learn new stuff.


This one is something that I am passionate about, and last year I found a very practical, cost-effective, and career enhancing way to do that.  They’re called MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses).  I’m a bit of a nerd (Just check out Lifelong Goal Achieved!  Professional(ish) Student Status…Granted)anyway, so taking classes online, at no cost, and at my own pace isn’t a hardship.  I bribe myself with fun classes on personal interests when I finish a practical course that can benefit my career.  (Just because I want to know this stuff doesn’t mean that I don’t need a little incentive from time to time.)  There are no college credits awarded, but many of these courses have the opportunity for a Certificate of Achievement.  This means you did all the work and would have received a grade of 70% or higher for the class.


The platform that I like is Coursera, although I’m sure there are others.  They allow you to compile a “watchlist” of courses that you want to take.  Maybe you missed it the first go around, maybe you just didn’t have the time to squeeze out of your schedule, whatever the case, you are interested in the class and want to know when you’re next chance to take it will come around.  Right now, my “watchlist” includes career enhancers like “Energy 101”, “Foundations of Business Strategy”, “Energy the Environment and Our Future”, “Financial Markets”, and “Understanding Media” for starters.  (This is by no means a complete list.)  They have everything from engineering courses to “The History of Rock ‘n Roll” (This is a class I will be “bribing” myself with the next time it comes around!)available.  As a salesperson, I’m focused on putting together pieces of information about business strategy, media, social psychology, and communication with the information that is being discussed worldwide about energy.


The courses are set up with discussion boards, and your class may have thousands of students from around the globe contributing to the discussion.  This is where the goldmine really is, because you don’t only have the professors take on the subject.  You get your classmates point of view as well, and you’re not limited to “class time”.  Some of the best information I received in a previous business course came from the discussion boards.


Incandescent light bulb (no labels)

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Today as I reviewed the news for the energy sector, an article caught my attention.  “Best Jobs in Energy 2013“, and I started thinking about career advancement and training.  What options are there for people who need additional training and/or education to move to the next level?  What if your company doesn’t offer a reimbursement program and your budget is a bit tight for a college level course?  Student loans? (If you’re like me, you do not want to go back to that whole rigmarole!) Did the light bulb go off for you?  It sure did for me. MOOC’s.


Now, have I tried putting these certificates on a résumé and applying for a new job, well no.  I’m more of a “knowledge for knowledge sake” kind of person.  Well, and I’m a sales person…having information at my fingertips that helps me do my job better?  I’m so in!


What other options can you think of?  Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?  More importantly, do you keep them?  What steps are you taking to advance your career to the next level?


‘Til next time,




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