Take It Off the List

dreamstime_xs_34342688Do you have things on your to do list that have been there for weeks? Months? Longer?  If so, may I make a suggestion?  Either do them today or take them off the list.  If you  haven’t done them by now, what makes you think you are ever going to do them?  Plus, if they haven’t been done by now, they must not be that important.

Keep in mind that a to do list is not the same thing as bucket list of things to do before you “kick the bucket.”  It might take a long time to accomplish some of the things on your bucket list.  It’s good to keep that list to keep you motivated to accomplish those things.

A to do list is not the same as your long-range goals and corresponding plans, either.  Those, too, can take a long time to accomplish.

However, for your daily or weekly to do list, I’m sure there are things that you can safely delete if they have been there far longer than a day or week.   Clean up your to do list so that you can focus on the important items.

Everything is Subject to Change

dreamstime_xs_76945264My husband and I saw a sign in Key West stating:

“Everything is Subject to Change.”

Yep, that pretty well sums it up.  Anything and everything can change at any time.

Although we can plan for what might happen, I think the best thing we can do is to try to be mentally and emotionally flexible and deal with changes the best we can when they occur.

Surface and Hidden Cultures

dreamstime_xs_79148620I met a woman recently who works with companies to change their cultures.  It was an interesting conversation and it prompted me to think about company cultures that I have experienced.

One in particular comes to mind.  It was a skilled nursing facility with a very high turnover in the nursing department.  The turnover didn’t make sense because the facility was positioned well in the area related to pay and benefits.  Other departments in the facility did not have the same problem.  I don’t remember whether the administrator finally investigated the situation closer or if it was a new administrator, but the result was that although the nursing staff complained about being short-staffed and having to work overtime, in reality, they liked the extra pay.  To keep the overtime pay, they were driving away new employees.

In looking back on this situation, I realized that companies might have surface cultures and hidden cultures.  Of course, it can be argued that whatever is happening reflects the true culture.  But for the purpose of discussion, let’s use the terms surface culture, what it appears to be on the surface, and hidden culture, what it really is.

In the skilled nursing facility mentioned previously, one department, on the surface, appeared to share the culture the rest of the facility had with not wanting to be short-staffed and in making new employees feel welcome.  In reality, the department had a hidden culture that drove employees away.  On the surface, they talked the talk of wanting more employees.  Underneath, they didn’t and undermined attempts to retain, and maybe even attract, new employees.

What is the surface culture of your organization?  Are there any hidden cultures in your organization?  If you are not achieving the results you want in your company, is this worth investigating?

This same concept can be used in our personal situations as well.  Are there hidden cultures in your immediate or extended family?  Is the surface culture one of support but the hidden culture one of sabotage?

Find a New Balance

dreamstime_xs_32614115We need to balance all aspects of our professional and personal lives.  We need to balance not only our time but also our energy, mental focus, and finances. We know this.  We try to do it.  The trickiest part, I think, is that our lives change and then we need to find a new balance.

If we change from being single to being married, it means finding a new balance.  If we go from being married to divorced, that necessitates finding a new balance.  We need to find new balances when we have children, as they grow, and again when they leave home.  We find new balances as our parents age and need more assistance.  Often if we start a new job or career and it requires more of our time, we need to find a new balance.

My husband is recently retired.  Of course, he has a major balance change.  Unlike some people, though, he is not having any difficulty in finding things he wants to do.

I’m finding that I also need to find a new balance related to his retirement.  I still want a writing career.  However, I also want to spend time with him.  We enjoy traveling, hiking, golfing, and other activities that we feel we should do now while we physically can.  My challenge is finding how to balance all the things I want to do.

My current plan is to consider myself semi-retired.  I have found that it helps me feel less guilty about not spending as much time working as I did.  I haven’t quite found a balance that feels “just right,” but that’s o.k.  Often finding a new balance is as much of a process as it is a destination.

Clean as You Go

dreamstime_xs_71944316A food service concept is “clean as you go.”  Basically, that means that you keep your work area clean.  As you complete one task, you clean the area before beginning the next task.  If you spill something, you clean it up.  As you have time, you wash pots, pans, and dishes.  All this helps keep food safe.  Plus, it is easier and more efficient than trying to clean a disaster of a kitchen at the end of the day.

This concept is something that can be used in our professional and personal lives.  As we complete one task, we can clean our desk, kitchen counters, or other work area before moving to the next task.  If we make a mess, we can clean it up immediately.  It can make us more productive.

We can use this concept from a mental standpoint.  When we complete one task, we can clear our minds before starting the next task.  It can help us focus.

We can use this concept from an emotional standpoint.  If there is something bothering us, we can deal with it rather than ignoring it.  It can help our emotional health.

The concept of “clean as you go” really is that we take care of things when they are small and easier to do rather than waiting until they are large and more difficult to do.

Planning Backwards

dreamstime_xs_54563294Although we usually think of planning as starting at the beginning and finishing at the end, it can be beneficial to start with the end and continue backwards to the beginning.

Most of us probably do this frequently in small ways.  For example, to determine when we need to get up in the morning to get to work on time, we might plan something like this:

  • I start work at 8:00, so…
  • I need to arrive at work at 7:45 to park the car, punch in, etc. to be on the job by 8:00.
  • It takes 45 minutes to drive to work, so I need to leave home at 7:00.
  • It takes 90 minutes to get ready and take care of the pets, so I need to get up at 5:30.
  • However, it’s snowing, the roads will probably be bad in the morning, so I need to allow an extra 30 minutes to drive to work. I need to set the alarm for 5:00.

This process can also be beneficial for our large dreams and goals, especially if they are very specific.

For example, if someone wanted to design motorcycles for a specific company, good information to obtain could be:

  • Is this an entry level position? If not, what entry level position can lead to the desired position?  What advancement is necessary within the company?
  • What experience is required to be hired by the company? How can it be obtained?
  • What education/degree is required? Where do most of these graduates attend college?
  • What needs to be done to be accepted into that college and that degree program?
  • What needs to be done to be able to attend that college? (For example, would it require moving? Financial assistance?)

The plan, of course, would include the details on how to make this work.  Additional questions might include the following.  Would an internship meet the experience requirement and could that be completed during college?  If the person is in high school, what classes could she take and what grades would she need to be accepted to the college?  If she is already in the workforce, can some of her work experience assist her in being accepted to the college?  Are there classes she needs to take before she will be accepted either into that college or into that program?  What financial assistance is available?  What support, if any, will she need from family?

The next time you need to plan something, try planning backwards and see if it helps you develop a better, more detailed plan.

Lose 5 Pounds 5 Times

dreamstime_xs_78713976A family member and I were discussing (complaining) about how difficult it is to lose weight.  I said that my philosophy was that I would rather lose 5 pounds 5 times than to try to lose 25 pounds once.  She laughed at me, until I explained why.

It is easier to lose 5 pounds each time we gain 5 pounds, even if it means we repeat this 5 times, than it is to wait until we have gained 25 pounds and then try to lose it all at once.  We can make small adjustments in our lifestyle to lose 5 pounds.  We will have to make larger adjustments to lose 25 pounds, and it will take longer.

I think the concept of losing 5 pounds 5 times is sound and is something that we can use in all areas of our lives.  Problems and issues are easier to deal with when they are small.  When we address them when they are small, they do not become big problems or issues and are not as overwhelming.

One example is overall health.  It is easier to make the life changes necessary to avoid a heart attack than it is to deal with life after a heart attack.

It is easier to deal with debt when it is small, rather than letting it pile up and trying to deal with it when it becomes large.

It is easier to deal with people over minor issues as they occur than it is to let bad feelings accumulate and then try to deal with them.

It is easier to deal with anything when it is small, rather than waiting until it becomes overwhelming.

Is there anything you should deal with now before it becomes worse?  Won’t it be easier to deal with now, rather than later when it is a larger issue?

Why?

dreamstime_xs_91972430Why do you do the things you do?

I think why we do things is usually more important than what we do.  If we don’t know why we are doing something, how do we know if we are doing the right thing?  If we don’t know why, we are just going through the motions.

I encourage you to think about why you are going to do something before you do it.  Since we usually have more than one “why” keep asking yourself “why else?” until you have a complete answer.  Are those good reasons for doing what you are planning to do?  If so, do it.  If not, reconsider doing what you had intended.

Sometimes Good Enough is Good Enough

dreamstime_xs_45846139Although I believe that we should strive for excellence, that we should do our best, sometimes we can’t.  Often, we don’t have the time to do everything that we need to do as well as we could or as well as we would like.  We must prioritize how we will spend a limited resource—time.

When this happens, all we can do is to do the low priorities well enough to get the job done so that we can spend the time we need on the high priority items.

Sometimes good enough is good enough.

Life Happens, but…

dreamstime_xs_88002753A friend and I were discussing how difficult it can be to accomplish things because “life happens.”  I have been thinking quite a bit about that conversation and I have decided that “life happens” isn’t an excuse.

Yes, things happen.  Usually, though, we can manage this either through better planning or through making better choices.

For example, we all get sick sometimes. If we plan that things like this will happen, then it’s not as disastrous when they do happen.  Whenever I have the opportunity, I work ahead.  I like to have blogs written a few weeks in advance of posting.  If something happens, I can still post a blog.  That only takes a few minutes, compared to writing a blog which can take a couple of hours.  I rarely wait until the last minute to do something.  Not only do I not have to explain to clients why I cannot keep a deadline, it also greatly reduces my stress.

We can also plan financially.  If we have an older home, we can plan that we will probably need to replace appliances, the furnace, or maybe even the roof within a certain number of years.  There is also always the possibility of unplanned unemployment.  By saving money now for emergencies, it is not as detrimental when it does happen.

Making better choices interrelates with better planning.  If we make the choice to use our time and money more wisely, we will have those resources to help us when “life happens.”

Making better choices sometimes involves telling people “no.”  Everyone wants more from us than we can usually give.  It’s acceptable to set boundaries and tell people that we cannot help them.

Sometimes making better choices involves being realistic about how much we can do and telling ourselves “no.”  We may want to do more, but it might not be feasible.  For example, I would like to adopt almost every kitten that needs a home.  It’s not feasible for me to become a crazy cat lady, at least not if I want to stay married!

Frequently it’s not so much that “life happens” as it is that we haven’t planned and/or chosen as well as we could.