Time to Focus

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Reporting in!

I am startled at how fast the days fly by  in my new job. Today, my co-worker pointed out that I’ve been in my new role for several months! It’s been an onslaught of new vocabulary, new team dynamics, new everything. It’s all a blur. Now, it’s time to focus.

The picture above is a coloring book picture which resides on my cubicle wall. (Yes, I colored it!) It reminds me to focus on where I am. It prods me,  Put your efforts into learning and mastering as much about your new job responsibilities as possible, and you’ll be successful.

Although I have a million things running through my mind most of the day, I’ve really tried to use my own best practices to focus. I rely on these methods to reel me back in when my day starts to unravel.

  1. Reconfirm task due dates. My new position has SO many projects with start and end dates. Mind-boggling. Reconfirming dates allows me to better budget and manage my time.
  2. Headphones with NO music. Basically, ear plugs. They help ward off distraction.Keep me on task.
  3. Headphones with music on – so I can remain energized when working on repetitive tasks I’ve got to get done.
  4. An organized desk. An absolute. When I leave at night, my to-do list and calendar for the next day are right in front. They jolt me into action before the caffeine kicks in. Also, having (paper and digital) folders, utilizing consistent file naming conventions. My desk is a mess during the day. It’s lovely first thing in the morning and when I head home for the night.
  5. Jot down questions in a notebook. Many times a day I’ll have a light bulb moment. I must write it down but, not be distracted by it. Writing it in my notebook daily allows me to remember it. [You know, I NEVER remember something if I tell myself, ” Oh, I’ll remember this. I don’t need to write it down.” WRONG!]  I love this because I can pull the notebook with me into any team meeting or 1-on-1 with my new supervisor, get answers and lessen the odds of repeating mistakes.
  6. OneNote. Keeping OneNote open with my annual review tab. When I learn something new or take on a new task, into the notebook it goes. Again. Not having to remember these things six months after the fact and once it is there, it is off the train track in my head. I also use it to document the steps I take for certain tasks. Brilliant start to a procedures manual. (That’s another blog post for another day.)
  7. Take my lunch break. So much easier to focus when I get away from my desk to eat or go out for fresh air. Vital.
  8. Limit surf time (Squirrel!). It’s too easy to go from article to article, site to site. Next thing you  know, you’ve lost 30 minutes.
  9. Recognizing when my brain is done for the day and make the switch to getting myself ready for the next day.

Stay rooted. Stay focused. Bloom where you are planted.

How I Stay Focused on Work from Home Days

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On a rare occasion, I’ll find myself with a day with few or no obligations. No obligations to drive my kid to a school function. No obligation to work or do laundry or to go to the grocery store.  Then, it hits me.

Oooh!  I can go see that movie I’ve wanted to go see. I can do a thorough cleaning of our guest room. I can go shopping. I can nap.I can write Thank You notes I owe. I can… aaaaaaaaaah!!
Too many choices!
Sometimes this happens. And I empathize with the issue of not being able to focus.

Here are some tips  (in addition to remembering to brew and drink coffee) I’ve gathered over the last few years that help me focus– especially when I’m working from home during a snow day because truly, I do have some obligations when I’m working from home and I need to get things done. I start work earlier when I’m working from home and therefore, build in more breaks to accommodate various distractions.

  1. Set appointments on my calendar for bathroom breaks and lunch.
  2. Set an additional 2 appointments for 10 -15 minutes each. The first appointment is to remind me to get up from my desk and stretch. The second appointment is for me to spend 10 minutes playing with my kid and my cat.
  3. Sometimes, if I’m super unmotivated- I’ll add in additional reminder appointments to ask me– Have you send so-and-so this? Have you posted that?

And, that is how I remembered that I wanted to post a blog today! But.. my timer says my break is done and I need to get back to work.

One month until I leave for Executive Secretary LIVE in London, and I can’t wait to meet so many amazing people!

Leadership Credentials at Work- afterthoughts from the DE-MD-DC IAAP Fall Ed Program

When it comes to the workplace, career administrative professionals deal with so many interesting challenges, priorities and personalities.  When the day is done though – many just want to hear the words, ‘Thank you’.

I’m grateful to have worked in many organizations that encourage an environment of strong mutual respect and direct communication. Yet, I hear over and over from my peers that mutual respect and acknowledgement of administrative support contribution is rarely encountered in the day-to-day work.

What’s been your experience? Have you ever pulled a co-worker aside to address this issue?  I suspect my love of what I do for a living –shows through– and leaves my co-workers with little doubt about my dedication, experience, and skills. I’m honest about what I cannot accomplish. I’ve got the worst poker face anyhow.. everyone can tell when I’m tired, frustrated, or just not 100 %.

I have to have enough self-awareness to not let my fatigue or hangry (that’s hungry +angry for those of you not familiar with the term) take over my vocal cords. I get out.. Get a walk. Get a drink of water. Maneuver my way into an earlier lunch break.

Most importantly, I pay attention to what is going on with the industry, the company I work for and the people I work alongside. I don’t need to know their personal business– but I can tell when we’re all in a time crunch.. and I can certainly recognize the face of someone that is overwhelmed.

Lately, I’ve been reading more blogs on leadership and employee engagement to help me get a better perspective.

Here are a few of my faves-

Dan Rockwell, LeadershipFreak
Alli Polin, Break the Frame
Jon Mertz, Thin Difference
Liz Ryan, Human Workplace
Lolly Daskal, LeadFromWithin — though I read her stuff almost every day!

So how do we show what we know and how competent we are.. if we are invisible as support staff to those around us? That’s the question lingering in many a competent admin’s brain cells.

I’d love to read your thoughts on this.. please do share! Thanks.

Five Things Learned from My Mentors

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm. ~Willa Cather

I’m admittedly slow to pick up social cues, and sometimes slow to pick up on workplace politics.  I had the opportunity earlier this summer to talk about mentoring and it gave me the chance to reflect on the peers and supervisors in the workplace that have changed my approach to work and workplace shenanigans.  Many other career coaches will have undoubtedly already covered this topic… but here’s my take.

1. You don’t have to like or be friends with the people you work alongside… but you do need to be civil and respectful.

Early on in my career and sometimes now when I’m very tired and/or hungry, I’ll allow my disdain for someone else’s work style to show through in my interactions with them. Not cool.  Not professional.  I do not have all the answers to the problems of the world, and frankly aren’t we all just trying to get through the day without a major hassle?  Why make someone else feel less than.. just because I’m feeling less than..

2. Get plenty of sleep.

Having enough sleep allows me to be able to think clearly, calmly and not feel that every challenge is a crisis.

3. Appearance does matter.

Whether we like it or not.. it’s true. The more professional and business-like your wardrobe for work, the more people treat you in a more professional and business-like manner.

4. Don’t take yourself so seriously.

I’ve seen this comment traveling the twitterverse and blogsphere a great deal lately. It’s great advice.  Take the tasks and the deadlines seriously and set your self-importance to the side. You’ll get the job done faster and build better work relations.

5. Don’t make the mistake of caring (too much).

One of my supervisors once told me, ‘Foley, You made the mistake of caring.’  It wasn’t that I shouldn’t be invested in what I was doing but that I needed to put the situation, the work task and the challenge into perspective.  It wasn’t all about me.

It also follows that lovely quote about not ever seeing the quote ‘I wish I had spent more time at work’ on a gravestone epitaph.

Keep it in perspective.  How important really? Have I completed the tasks? Communicated to the rest of my department where I stand on my projects?  Then, I am good to move on to the next task, the next project or better yet, good to head home for the day.

Seems simple enough, right? For me, it’s always great to remind myself to go back to the beginning.