The Organized Work Life

When my husband started picking up clientele for the marketing and web-design arm of The Schlott Co., it was evident he all to much understood the stress and weight I carried through the work day.  How to meet deadlines, how to maintain sanity while being pulled in multiple directions, how to manage working with others - nicely, and how to let it go when family and kids took center stage.

It can overwhelm us. We can feel disjointed from our goals and feel unorganized in how to approach our objectives.  We see a mountain of things that must be accomplished in order to meet the deadlines, with only 10% of those tasks being recognized or appreciated by those of whom we are meeting said deadlines.

Over my career I have been involved in Jurassic business model changes that brought with them over the moon expectations and extreme deadline time frames. I learned to work through the chaos by adopting the following.

Organize your workspace

Keep your work space clear of clutter. Even my super comfy and relaxed husband benefits from a clean desk. When work starts to pile up on our desks, it starts to pile up in our minds as well. Keeping a tidy work space not only de-clutters our desk for work space, but also clears up some mind share to tackle our tasks. OfficeMax put out a report last year that found that along with productivity and motivation, happiness, confidence and stress levels are all heavily impacted by a disorganized work space.

Keep the Bad Energy Out. Nine in ten (90%) Americans admit that unorganized clutter at home or at work has a negative impact on their life. Their productivity (77%), state of mind (65%), motivation (53%) and happiness (40%) are affected when there is disorder.

Positivity Reigns. when all their belongings have their place, Americans feel good about themselves. Close to three quarters (71%) feel accomplished when they organize their work space, while others are in control (68%), confident (54%), motivated (52%), and relaxed (43%).

Organize your deliverable

Keep it simple. Try to orbit earth first, then shoot for the moon later.

I have a tendency to overreach.  Always have.  When I tackle a project I aim to over deliver and create a finished product that is not only beneficial to the company and person requesting the project, but also beneficial to those using the finished product. I aim to design for the company, end user and the creator in mind.  Many times this results in stretching my current skill set to deliver and I can at times get caught in the weeds to produce within the deadline.  If you enjoy your job or want to find deeper satisfaction in your job, you mostly likely do the same.

What I've learned since, is that while I can and should continue to design in this manner, I can cut the end product into smaller and more realistic deliverables and phases.  Phase I, keep things simple. First and foremost cover the initial request within the given deadline. You can always expand later.

Organize deadlines and timeframes

When we began quoting new clients for the Schlott Co, we wanted to deliver everything the next day to not only make an impression but continue gaining momentum. But when we pile all deliverables into the same deadlines we become overwhelmed and our work can suffer. We can also unintentionally miss deadlines.  I did the same thing at the office.  Something always comes up either within the scope of the project or additional deliverables from senior management, that tend to send a wrench in even the most realistic timeframes and we miss our deadlines.  Instead of trying to impress with quoted timeframe, we should set realistic timeframes, add in some buffer for those last min items that pop up, and then aim to impress instead with the quality of product delivered.

For more productivity tips from a multi-billion dollar corporation, read here.

Organizing Your Personal Finances: Pseudo Minimalism & Budgeting

I know a very rich man that will die with everything he owns still in the bank.  It reminded me of Scrooge McDuck - swimming in his vault of gold and money each morning. For some reason I thought Scrooge's vault of gold meant he too would die alone and with everything he owned still in the bank.  That was until I saw this below clip and my take on Scrooge McDuck took a turn for the best.

Organize your personal finances through budgeting

All of us have general ideas regarding budgeting, even if we never thought about it for too long.  As Scrooge McDuck would say:

  • You have to budget your money so you can see where it is going
  • Save a piece of the pie for yourself
  • Make it grow

While this sounds so simple in theory that it can be accompanied by a snazzy little show tune number, when we first start to think through budgets and building wealth it can quickly become a daunting task. But it doesn't have to be.

The key is to just start.

The pseudo minimalist approach

I have found that with most things in life, the less of something we have the easier it is to actually do something with. So, don't wait until you reach your goal income before you start to save and invest - organize what you have now, however little or grand the number is - because it is all relative anyhow. You will be thankful you organized now than when spending or income grow, as they inevitably do, and your are stuck with a bigger task to organize.

When it comes to the three bullet points above, take a pseudo minimalist approach.

  • You have to budget your money so you can see where it is going
    • Easy does it, start simple.  Start by tracking your money.  Mint.com has a great app for tracking your spending. Start there. Once you see where you money is going, it's easier to say, "Hey wait, I didn't know we were spending $300 a month going out to eat, I'd rather save that for a summer vacation."  Cut back your spending on things that don't matter, say another home decorating treasure, a 20th American girl doll for your daughter and 15 pairs of yoga pants you aren't wearing. Again, it's easier to organize a smaller group of things. Think about the things you really love and make you happy, and the things you buy out of obligation or keeping up appearances. Drop the latter. My motto, I pinch every penny on those items I don't deem as adding value and splurge selectively on things that do.  I'm not a slave to my budget, I am in control.
  • Save a piece of the pie for yourself
    • You simply have to start saving.  There is no way around it. Once you have at minimum 3 months of expenses saved up, even things like your job don't seem so stressful.  You have a safety net at the end of every possible bad situation.  You will clear your mind and finances and find confidence.  Even if just a little, start saving.  When my husband and I started to save, having previously lived paycheck to paycheck, we started out with 1% and increased 1% every paycheck until we reached the average suggested 10%. I know that 1% may sound silly but can add up over time. Let's say 1% of a $1,500 paycheck is only $15 dollars, but with 24 paychecks a year and with adding an additional 1% each pack check (meaning paycheck 1 you save 1%, paycheck 2 you save 2%, paycheck 3 you save 3%, and so forth until you are saving 10% each paycheck) brings you $2,925 saved in 12 months.  Saving any extra income (bonuses, gifts, etc) on top of that gets you there faster.
  • Make it grow 
    • It's common belief that we need to have loads of money before we start investing. Not so. Start now. Modern technology has made that super simple to do with the use of robo-advisors like betterment. Use the same 1% rule above and get going.

The Four Agreements: Instantly Happier Today!

I recently watched a documentary entitled Happy. Contrary to my single objective when deciding to watch Happy and much to my dismay, I was not happy thereafter.  As summarized in this documentary, it would seem only retirees in Japan or Hawaii and hippies living in community compounds truly find happiness.  Not what I was hoping to discover, as I am not a beach person nor am I going to cook for 10 families once a week and share a bathroom with 5 other women down at the community compound. I would benevolently accept that I was doomed to being unhappy for the rest of my life. Imagine then, how pleasantly intrigued I was when my Mom came over for our weekly coffee and yoga and announced “you can be instantly happy, Sarah.  It is so cool how!”

You can be instantly happy. And it is SO cool how!

She then pulled out a small framed piece of paper. Initially I thought, okay this is really cute of Mom. She’s always been so crafty and extremely cute.  Like the time I told her how tired I had been from work, and the next time I saw her she brought over a flower, reusable Keurig cups, a mini-spoon – the size for afternoon tea with the Queen – and small teapot shaped holder for said mini spoon. And while cute, the framed paper was just what the doctor had called for.  Nicely framed sat before my eyes, the four agreements.

“Have you heard about the four agreements? Agreements that we make with ourselves and for ourselves.  And I’m telling you, if you do these 4 things, it will change your life.”  My Mom exclaimed.

I hadn’t heard of them, though I do have a mindfulness book that needs dusting …and reading. I took a look down at the agreements and quickly read them. “Hmm, I thought. This could make a lot of sense.”  These Four agreements are meant to be four agreements with your self that are unencumbered and disjointed from the actions or expectations of any other.

Agreement 1: I will be Impeccable with my word

As kids we learned to respond to sandbox bullies with the following rhyme: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.  Unfortunately that is not true. Not by a long stretch. Words dig into our unconscious minds and can act as a poison in the most unexpected of places. They take root, and like GA kudzu take over everything.

With my kids we talk about this often. Not calling each other stupid, don’t talk negatively or talk about people (a.k.a gossip).  But we have also talked about not doing these things to yourself. Words truly have the power to heal or destroy and we use them more often than we are aware. Try and speak only what you mean. If your anger or hurt takes you to a place where that is hard to do, try understand what you are truly upset about rather than defaulting to more hurtful words. Try to rebuild that moment for yourself or with the other instead of continuing to break down.

Agreement 2: I will not take things personally

I wrote on a sticky note several years back; ‘this was not the Sarah show’.  I wrote that because I can be emotionally needy. A lot of this comes from my past. Some of it is human nature. It’s natural to internalize what happens to us in the moment. But nothing that anyone does or says has anything to do with us.  Every person is master of their own ship and choices are made independent of others. What others say and do is a projection of their desires, their hurts, their focus,  their defense mechanism and even their ability to address a situation in that timeframe or not. Unchaining ourselves from interpreting someone else’s very complicated and ulterior motives frees us from needless suffering.  Don’t take it personally and move on.

Agreement 3: I will not make assumptions

Recently I had a little argument with the hubby.  After work he and the kids were out. I assumed they were our having fun without the drama of a continued argument. I hadn’t planned on a continuing argument but after coming home to an empty house, I was upset again. When I called my husband he mentioned that they were ‘just out’ and they’d be home ‘whenever’.  Didn’t make me happy to hear that.  I assumed he was still angry. I didn’t think the argument was that serious.  But my assumption that he was angry, made me angry.  Ten minutes later hubby and kids show up with some beautiful Cacti. (My favorite house plants)

What we imagine is far too often more terrifying than reality. Don’t make assumptions. Be brave enough to ask the right questions if something is on your mind or bothering you. When we are free to ask questions we not only allow another person the freedom to honesty, we allow ourselves to discover the reality of things from which to start from.

Agreement 4: I will always do my best

This one is more fluid than the others. Our best is going to change from moment to moment and situation to situation. Sometimes we have all the support, time, skill, health and resources available to knock the ball out of the park. Sometimes we are lacking in any one or all of those needs and instead knock the ball straight into an outfielder’s mitt. But if we always do our best under any circumstance, we will avoid self judgement, regret and self persecution.

Stuff happens in life and in work alike… adopting these four agreements can help us navigate them with integrity, boldness and wisdom.

Should Women Work Outside The Home?

Dear women,

"If a wife works to produce more income for the family, it is important to analyze exactly how much income, after taxes and expenses, her work contributes to the family. Couples often are surprised to learn that this income is not as much as they had expected" - Howard Dayton

I couldn't help myself with this one. I'm sitting at my desk researching some personal finance topics when I ran into this one article from Howard Dayton (go look him up). In this article he talks about his beliefs on women in the work place. Now mind you this is a reference I pulled from the book "Your Money Counts". The biblical guide to earning, spending, saving, investing, giving and getting out of debt.

He starts off by giving us some revolutionary facts about a women's circumstances on working, I won't spoil them for you so please go read this book if you're curious. He then throws in a little sentence about a study Stanford University did on women who worked and who were also dedicated to their house work. The study says the women who worked full time jobs and came home to clean worked over 70-80 hours a week. He when insinuated that a women should be at home when her children were home as a result.

My Parents

Now I know and understand that a-lot of people agree with this train of thought, specially here in the South. My mother worked 80 + hours week, most weeks. I was a latchkey kid growing up.

My parents both owned and operated a travel agency after my dad got laid off from Coke. I'm sure they weren't planning this path but took the responsibility of providing for the family. My mother was the manger, while my father took care of the admin and finances.

I witnessed at an early age the power of hard work & initiative. I learned early about the sacrifices that were made and benefits of having both parents who worked. From a provisional stand point all bases were covered; we had food, lived in a nice house etc, etc. But it wasn't all roses and sunshine. I got in a-lot of trouble and when my parents came home they brought the office drama with them. It wasn't easy but we made things work.

I'm not writing this article to condemn anyone or to get out my violin but instead thought this would be a great opportunity to talk about conformity. Should women work outside the home falls under too many personal beliefs, ideologies, and circumstances. And has less to do with the woman and more to do with the family unit. Men are fully capable of sharing the work load - both inside and outside the home. I think the question should be rephrased by asking how we as men should be supporting our women regardless of their activity and their proximity to "the house".

The Reality

Growing up I was taught that women didn't have a voice and that I was always wrong. I was taught that women served men and and if they didn't they could easily be replaced. The author of this book hides behind scripture but it's obvious he's got an agenda. I read this book several times and it's funny because it's true, the majority of men I know feel this way about women.

Titus 2:4-5  "Encourage the young women to love their husband, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home."

I said I'd never reference scripture but I'm telling you, if women lived by this one scripture alone US space exploration wouldn't have happened. Rosa Parks would have never been on that bus and history as we know it would be completely different.

"Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History" - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Now this is a quote I can stand behind because it speaks to conformity and the unwillingness to be silenced. Women that have followed this logic created the world as we know it today. Here's an example: Ruth Wakefield, inventor of the chocolate chip cookie, Mary Anderson who invented windshield wipers, the list goes on.

The truth is, is that women should be praised for their accomplishments and supported for thinking outside the box. I hope more women will take the initiative to get into the workforce and become professionals in their fields. And I hope the men in their lives can support them equally.

Conclusion

If you're interested please read Howard Dayton's book, let me know what you think. The more conversation we have have around this the better. And if I'm honest I'll admit there are many things my wife can do that I can't. Life without her wouldn't work and I'm thankful for that.

Learn To LOVE Your J.O.B In 3 Simple Steps

I got home late last night. A large project had allowed me to work from home the past 6 -8 months, because I was putting in extra hours. However, same said project was now keeping me at the office as the wind-down was approaching.  I had missed both breakfast and dinner.  But, I rushed home to make sure I didn't miss the tuck-in. As I quietly talked with my son, he said to me "Mom, sorry you had to work late. I missed you." My heart mush. I told him he didn't have to be sorry; that I love what I do and I love being good at it. Job satisfaction can be considered lucky, for those that aren't in their dream job. And even still, taboo for those of the population that still believe a woman's place is only in the home.

I felt so lucky to have a compassionate son and  it had dawned on me that job satisfaction was not something some people are just lucky to accidentally find.  And I hadn't always have it, and many times still hit plateaus and rough spots. But it is possible to create job satisfaction. Yep, as in the power is yours.  All yours.

And we don't always have to find a new company to create it. More often than not we can find it within our own situations.

1. Analyze and recharge

Our brains, while machine like, capable of complex computations and quick downloading times, are simply put: muscles. Muscles that get tired, pulled and can become incapable of using. As any pseudo athlete or Sunday yogi knows, you have to rest and recharge your body. Our working minds work the same way: we have to recharge if we want to have optimal performance in the coming days.

So what I started doing was investing in some serious time management skills (read here) and opened up time for me to also invest in the things that bring me joy - time with family, music, learning new skills, etc.  What I found is that I wasn't okay with giving up certain aspects to save the other. I needed those additional areas in my life in order to be the best version of myself inside and outside of work. When I didn't make time for these other areas, it was costing me more than just time spent on other opportunities.

In our pursuits we have to be cautious of what we are giving up and where those lines are - for ourselves. If we don’t, we get disgruntled and angry or make ourselves sick with guilt, worry and anxiety. We have to understand that in our pursuits we make daily decisions to give up something else.  What are we giving up? Are we okay with those opportunity costs? If not, we need to make some changes.

It's a continual process: Clean up your work day (time management), do more of what makes you happy, analyze your opportunity costs and  recharge

2. Remember where you've been

From stuffing invoices to driving business for successful mergers and acquisitions, I've put in a lot of hard work - a lot.  When things start to weigh on you at work, think about where you have been. Where you are headed and take stock of where even your current situation aligns (or perhaps can align). Our paths are riddled with stories of doing things we never thought we could do. Better yet is still to come. When we can look back on the road we travel and realize just how much we have accomplished, we can be supercharged for the challenges ahead. Chances are while we were accomplishing those same things, we had some of these same emotions and more than likely on the fence with our job satisfaction rating.

Don't forget where you've been. It could be the answer to where you are going.

3. Switch things up

I ran track in high school. Not a long distance runner. I was a sprinter. But my coach would continuously try to up my mid distance game. He would require me to compete in races up to a mile. Doesn't sound like much now, but in high school it was going to literally kill me.  The best advice I received was that runners switch up their stride, pace, arm movements or breath when fatigue sets in. Switching even small things like that, help your mind and body to push through.

So too, when in a work rut, which low job satisfaction is almost always the indicator, I like to schedule out time to switch things up.  I consider myself a project. What does the company need most and even if outside my wheelhouse, I acquire those needed skills. Do something different. Switch up roles. I switch up how I do things or how I respond. Perhaps I change how I breathe through out the day. I reconsider how I interpret the day.  I switch who I talk to, I switch what my objectives and goals are.  But mainly I switch up my skills until my second wind comes in. And it always comes in.

No one can find job satisfaction when the job is mundane, mindless and excruciating for them to even think about. So switch things up. What can you do have an impact that is different than what you did yesterday?

The Secret Message Your Checks Are Telling You

I recently read a story about a husband and wife that were going through some hard times and decided to end their marriage. While in anticipation for the divorce, the husband thought it wise to go through his finances to make sure things were taken care of. In the midst of filing old receipts he found an old check that had been written out to the hotel were he and his wife had their honeymoon. As he continued going through his desk he found another old check for the down payment on their first home, then a car payment appeared and finally a check he’d made out to the hospital; the day his daughter was born.

After an emotional moment he’d realized the investment he and his wife had made on their marriage. The checks he wrote were symbols of their story - a list of priorities he and his wife held while married. He picked himself up off the floor and ran to the phone to call his wife. After some awkward explanations of why he was calling he told her what he’d found. Would she find the checks as valuable as he did? Would she work with him to rebuild their marriage?

While some of us may not understand this crisis, the checks or the story of the checks is a common one. What we spend our money on means something; it tells us what we value, how we save and to whom we give. In fact if you want to know someone’s heart, look at their finances. The checks will reveal the truth of what we value. This is why the wife and I have personal  conversations about what we want in life. My wife has always asked me what the plan is. I didn’t understand it for a long time, because to me it was simple. The money came in, we paid the bills we could and the rest we spent.

I didn’t realize what she was really asking. Many times as a family we get “caught in the weeds”, we wake up, rush the kids off to school, run to work, Netflix & Chill- then repeat. Budgets get a bad rap because they often tell us what we can’t or shouldn’t do, so naturally most people hate them.

But if we change that thought from what we can't do to what we will invest in, we can have a bank account that reflects the real us and not just the life happening around us.

1. Create a life plan, OR a family plan.

It’s not that complicated really. Sit down with your spouse and start asking the hard questions. I usually start with something like this. “babe, if you didn’t have a job, and all the money in the world, what would you want to do?” Sounds a little day dreamy but it works. It gets your brain to start thinking of things a little differently. I love this question because it changes from decade to decade.

The hopes and dreams you once had as a child shouldn’t have changed. The day dreams of you being a fire fighter/superhero or a graphic designer/soccer hero should be the dreams that keep you afloat. The only differences I feel should change is the HOW. The how of what you want should change but never the what! [enter] "budget talk" - This is what budgets represent to me, a means to allow me to plan out how super hero fits into my current situation and how much it’ll take to get me there.

2. Get excited about dreaming again.

This year my daughter made the summer national team in soccer. Her mother and I were shocked, in a good way but shocked. She’s only been playing soccer for about a year and a half now and she  already wants to play on the women's Olympic team. I love it, she’s got her head in the clouds and her heart in a soccer ball; I’m super jealous. We talk a-lot about what it’s going to take to get her ready for her first game on the women’s US team. Her eyes light up, her ears hone in aaand then daddy says “so we have to budget your time" …what???

I’m always telling her that her road the women’s US team is going to rely on how she choices to spend her time (time is money). Are we going to spend all day gabbing about what, "what's her face" said at school or get our home work & chores done so we can get to soccer practice on time. I think she gets it.

3. Start today, right now.

There’s no motion like forward motion to get things going. I know it sounds cliché, in fact I’m cringing as I write this but there’s really no other way to say it. I realize that number 1 & 2 are the easy parts but this last one here is where the gold medals lie. We can plan and budget to the stars but if we don’t jump, nothing will ever happen.

The man in this story was a great example of these three points if you think about it. He found his dream, the family plan was right there in front of him in the checks he’d written. He’d lost sight of it but found hope in the memories. I can only imagine the excitement he felt remembering the first time he held his daughter in the hospital, the check was just a reminder. Who knows what happened after he spoke to his wife but I’d like to think they talked and found a new excitement about a dream they once had.

Budgets are budgets they can be as complicated as you make them. The key to wielding their magic lies in creating them from a dream.

4 Time Management Tips for Good Business

When I want someone to know how I feel, I stoutly wear that feeling all over my face.  Nope, not emotional... intentional. If I have something to say, you will know it.  So when I was constantly being interrupted at work, by emails that should have been delegated to someone else, unnecessary questions, and office gossip pouring into my office, I had to take an honest look around and could only blame myself for the interruptions.  After all, as I stated: if I wanted anyone to know that I wasn't "feeling" these interruptions, I would have shown it by now.  Not only was I getting annoyed, I was falling behind on my to do list.  Of which makes me feel entirely unsuccessful and fulfilled at work. Apparently, I had some very clear boundaries I needed to set and some time management issues to resolve.

At the time I was working on a very large and very serious project. One that was not only challenging but one that required undivided attention.  Ergo, when I had the opportunity to complete said project from the comfort of my own home: I jumped at the chance, ran screaming for the doors, peeled out of the office parking lot and never looked back.

Well, until I had too...

True, I wasn't being interrupted every 10 minutes. And true I could get up at 4:00 am and power through lunch without a break in order to help the kids with their homework. Then, yes, I could pop back on and get in a 12 hour work day before most had started the dreaded rush hour traffic home. And yes, speaking of traffic, I was no longer sitting in it.   However, after returning to the office, I started to notice things about the office environment that had once helped meet objectives, not threaten them.

According to cnbc.com, time management is a big issue at the office. Stating that over 3 hours a day is wasted by email, phone, internet, personal phones and co-worker drop-bys. For those of us dreaming of a remote lifestyle (or continued remote lifestyle), this news certainly pushes us to get up from our desks - like right now - march into our boss' office and demand the flexibility to work from home.  After all, there are too many distractions at work! Right?!

But before you storm into your boss' office and demand remote work,  I'm here to let you in on a little secret:

Work distractions are not only inevitable, some are necessary. And quite honestly, the cost of not only doing business, but the cost of doing good business.

With our sense of accomplishment, confidence to preform our jobs and the bosses perception at stake when we begin to miss deadlines, it's vital we curtail these office interruptions and/or transform them into time management powerhouses for good business -  I'll tell you how.

First, let's understand how interruptions are good for business:

People change people that change the business

My daughter and I religiously were watching this Disney show titled: "Girl meets world'. A spin off from throwback 90's show: "Boy meets girl."  It's a kitschy show packed with encouraging and powerful one liners:

People change people.

I have found myself quoting this as my daughter gets closer to all the drama of being a growing pre-teen and the importance of choosing friends wisely. But I began to see it's relevance after returning to work. People change people. And I had been missing out on all of it.

From my office, in the break room, or during those co-worker drop-ins;  I could hear business processes breaks, control issues, items that had negative - or positive - financial impact. Co-workers that were customer facing had great ideas of how to retain customers and employees. Co-workers over in development had great ideas on how to help market our product.  Sales reps talked about what developments could help meet customers needs. And all these great things were either communicated or NOT communicated up through, you guessed it, PEOPLE. Without some of those co-worker drop bys or water cooler talks that take maybe a little bit more of our time than we intended when we said "good morning, Bob" - turns out they can be good for business.

These are ideas that wouldn't necessarily come up on sweat pant conference calls because they weren't happening in the normal business conversations. They were happening as people talked with people. And in those conversations, people had the opportunity to help change what was happening to the business. When this clicked for me, the once biggest pet peeve of mine, (unannounced drop ins), can be appreciated and necessary. And I then needed to couple this with effective time management skills for a more effective working atmosphere.

Human interaction, discovery, communication. People change people who change the business.

Build relationships and promote team work

Another thing I noticed, when we allow time for this interaction, we create bonds with those of whom we work.  Call it allies in the jungle of the work place, call it friends, call it partners, call it frenemies (I can't believe spell check can even pick up this millennial slang) - I don't care.  What is important is that  when you spend half of your waking life either driving to, or working at your place of business you, tend to form some kind of connection with those of whom you spend that waking time. Working effectively is not just about time management, but also with whom you are working during that time.

If we can make those connections meaningful, we get a group of team members that buy into one another and help each other head in the same direction.  And while we are tech savy and social media frenzied, we are still have a disposition for personal contact, connection and physically social interactions.  These interactions build trust  and promote teamwork.

Invite deeper investment

And what comes of relationships and teamwork? Satisfaction on the job. And what of that you say? Our teams end up investing more of themselves, their ideas and their skills into the company. Our teams are invited to invest deeper into their careers, which benefits the top and bottom lines.

"But my team spends WAY too much time on things like personal calls, gossip and emails", you say.  And I get it. No one gets it more than I do. Trust me, I've offended many a people when I've had to shut down these distractions for sake of a deadline. I'm not saying we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We should accept some of these distractions as beneficial, and then with our remaining time, be extremely aware of our use of time management skills to still accomplish our goals and use the information garnered in those distractions to propel our companies further.

4 highly effective time management tips

Cut out the toxic interruptions

First, let me start by saying: abusing company internet use, gossip, and personal phone overuse is not what I'm talking about here when I say interruptions are good for business.  Those interruptions are unnecessary, toxic and completely in your control to reduce. Do you have someone coming into your office daily and complaining about anything and everything? Sure, blowing off steam is one thing. Constantly creating a negative work space is another. This impacts the work of others and if you are spending your entire morning helping someone else feel better, (that just isn't going to feel better no matter what). This kind of interruption is only going to be toxic.   It's a horrible interruption that needs to be expired ASAP.

Furthermore if you are the naysayer and toxic interruption, I'd suggest finding another outlet to blow off your steam, perhaps outside of company walls and co-workers. Or do something about it and either be the change you want to see, or find another devil to dance with and say adios to your current company.  In the long run it would be better for everyone involved.

I equate it to a poor marriage. If the two spouses of said poor marriage complained to one another about one another, neither one of them would ever have the courage or encouragement to do anything that would make their marriage thrive. So too with work environment and relationships.

Let's face it, we spend too much time at work to feel like we are in a dead marriage with it. So, don't let yourself or anyone else worsen the atmosphere. For effective time management, cut out the toxic interruptions.

Manage your time before anyone else has the opportunity

Manage your work day before someone else has the opportunity to do so.  There are several areas in this time management tip that you need to consider.

  1. Email: Many times we get to work and first thing we do is open email.  Stop doing that, like yesterday.  What this says to your brain and to your work day is that you are here to accomplish what ever objective is in your inbox, instead of the objectives you have on your plate, desk or to do list.  You immediately are giving your first line of business away to someone else, in order to respond to someone else's need. Stop doing this. At least stop doing this as action item number one.  First focus on the emails you need to send out before responding the emails that were sent to you.  This ensures that something on your plate has been addressed and you have established with your brain and your workday that you are here to accomplish very specific goals, from YOUR list.
  2. Meetings: Blog out time on your calendar for meetings with yourself. Seriously.  Finding it hard to get things on your to do list accomplished?  Block out time on your calendar so others don't schedule meetings at those times. You now will have a set time to work on your items. After all, your to do list is to help your boss and your company. This is not  a selfish way of handling business. This is a smart, proactive and effective way to not only handling your business, but in getting things done.
  3. To do Items: You need to be spending time at the end of your day prepping your following day. Why? Because it helps you close the day out so you have a clear mind when you are home.  This clearing of mind, helps you to refresh for the productive day ahead. Additionally, this allows you to walk in the next morning with your goals set and ready to tackle. Knowing what you need to have accomplished when you first walk into the office, helps to focus on accomplishing those things. And while some of those requests from others may be important, you still have your objectives that you must accomplish in order to preform well for your company. You might want to concentrate on those.

Do only the top 3 most important tasks

I'll keep this short and sweet. And this advice comes from the CEO of a multi-billion dollar public company where I was employed. In an interview the CEO gave some important advice for productivity and time management.  Fist he had this to say: a whole lot of people in any organization are working hard, but not many are actually getting anything done.

And we all have been there. We all know what it feels like to work ourselves to the bone and not have touched the items on our to do list, nor meet the objectives set by our employer.  To combat this, said CEO advised to have only the 3 most important tasks on your to do list for the day. And do only those 3 things until they are done.  Anything else delegate or ignore.

Want to make an impact? Do only the 3 things that will make the largest impact for the company or your boss. Put all your effort into those 3 things.  And those other million items that fall on your desk, perhaps they could be someone else' 3 most important things.  But we can all only effectively manage 3.

Yes, 3. I'm serious. Make them impactful, make them meaningful, and make them push the needle for the company. Otherwise, you are just working hard, but not getting anything done.

Learn your work rhythm (do the hardest items during your 'go time')

Finally, I'll leave you with this:  do your hardest items during your peak hours. For me, my peak hours are between 4:00 am and about noon. My husband is about 5:00 pm to midnight. Take a mental note of when you are your sharpest and most alert. Do those top 3 items during those hours.  When you have your dead zones, (mine is around 2:00 pm), do simple things like clean up emails and delegate work.

Confused by Trump and the Stock Market? Combat Risks with Self Education

I sat with co-workers as recent trips to Europe became the topic of conversation. I remember the feeling of somehow not yet feeling that I had arrived, because I hadn't yet made that trip. Yearning the financial freedom that trips to Europe seem to offer, I could only gaze past the cityscape. I could not join in the discussion. After all, I had kids and a mortgage in Johns Creek. A trip like this was not in my immediate future.

Later that same week, water cooler talks about stocks, and family discussions about trust funds turned my mind into mush. I was embarrassed, as I think many of us are, to admit that I was lost amid stock market conversations. I'd stay away from commentary because being in finance, it's assumed that stocks and anything related to money would not only come natural to me, but I'd have mastered them by now.  Instead of lean in, I'd back away. Until I didn't.

Average interest in the Stock Market has increased

Truth is, with the advancement of technology in trading, the market has been more open to "normal" individuals than ever before. And post election, stock market headlines jump out of market and financial specific publications into mainstream media. Once a game for the rich, the average person's interest in the stock market has exploded.

This interest married with technology makes it possible for nearly anybody to own stock. It's because of this, the perfect time to boost your interest and education has approached us.

The stock market is making no sense to investors

If you are still sitting on the fence because you are confused by Trump and the stock market, you are not alone. Non investors  and investors alike are spinning their wheels. Confidence levels swayed by headlines and talk of big risks to come. Delays in financial promises amoung the rumors.

In fact, Google Trump (especially after hitting the 100 days in office the week of April 28th), and you will find numerous articles both in support of and in contrast to a positive Trump effect on the stock market. In fact, I know many voters who voted solely with their portfolios and the Trump effect in mind. With cnbc.com stating that Trump's 100 day report card is "among the best for Republican presidents in the post-WWII era," and marketwatch.com explaining that the "Trump Bump" has less to do with Trump than it may seem -  attributing gains to a pre-election strong market, solid global growth, solid wage growth and inflation pick up - it can become a stinky onion to unravel.

Education is key

Unfortunately, for even those that want to invest in stocks, the stock market is not the most easily understood of systems. And as such, we either make poor decisions or shy away from the very vehicle that can help us find that financial freedom.  Therefore, education is key.

It's important in life and in the stock market to not act too quickly on our emotions. Still some of our most trusted advisors and analyst, do just that. But life and stocks; both are long term games that ignore. the sweeping day to day emotions. In order to think this way,  we have to be educated. We have to know what we are looking at and how we will play the game. Whether you begin your stock market journey with the traditional brokers, or through online robo advisors like Betterment, again, we have to be educated. But where does one start?

 The Intelligent Investor

After searching through several reviews from top financial publications, The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham continued to top the charts.

 The greatest investment advisor of the twentieth century, Benjamin Graham, taught and inspired people worldwide. Graham's philosophy of "value investing" -- which shields investors from substantial error and teaches them to develop long-term strategies -- has made The Intelligent Investor the stock market bible ever since its original publication in 1949.

Over the years, market developments have proven the wisdom of Graham's strategies. While preserving the integrity of Graham's original text, this revised edition includes updated commentary by noted financial journalist Jason Zweig, whose perspective incorporates the realities of today's market, draws parallels between Graham's examples and today's financial headlines, and gives readers a more thorough understanding of how to apply Graham's principles.

Vital and indispensable, this Harper Business Essentials edition of The Intelligent Investor is the most important book you will ever read on how to reach your financial goals.

I'll be going through this book online, if you'd like to join me, please pick up a copy here and I look forward to discussing the book with you in the coming weeks.