The $25,000 To Do List Method

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I am a note taker and to-do list guy, almost to a fault.  Yes, I am one of those weirdos that will actually remember something I accomplished during the day and put it on my to do list, only to be able to mark it off as completed.  There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with marking a line through something, almost like removing that nagging voice in my brain reminding me of the things I need to get done. Something inside of me cannot relax until the items on my list or the metaphoric list that I keep in my head is completed.  Unfortunately, there are over a thousand ways to keep a to do list and I have tried 85% of them.  Finally, after reading Double, Double by Cameron Herold, I found a method that seems to work for me.

I was happy to find that Charles Schwab had a similar issues with getting things done.  The story goes that Schwab brought in a well-known efficiency guru, Ivy Lee, to help him with some of the inefficiencies in his company.  Lee met with the executive management team and advised them to make a to do list at the end of each day with six of the most important tasks to be completed the following day.  The next day, each member was to work on their list in order of priority, adding those tasks not completed to the next day’s list.  The legend states that Schwab agreed to pay Lee the value of his advice as product of the efficiency/production value over three months.  According to the legend, Lee received a check for $25,000 and the rest is history.

So for the past month, I’ve adopted this method using a 4×6 index card to force myself to be realistic in what I can accomplish in one day.  On the front, I keep my to-do list and on the back I document voice-mails I need to return or people I need to connect with.  I chose an index card not only for its brevity but also for its convenience.  I can keep it in the book I’m reading as a bookmark or keep it in the visor in my car (because all of my great ideas or cognitive moments come when I am behind the wheel).

I have had to do some adjustments to the process to make it work for me which included going very old school for this tech nerd…. buying a dated expandable file.  In this little jewel, each section is numbered to 31 so  I use it as my daily tracking system.  I put my little index card in there, bills to be paid, forms to be reviewed etc.  This method has helped me be able to plan ahead and forget.  This has been a life saver and has helped me be able to up my game in terms of my clients’ experience.

Bottom line, you have to find a method that works for you.  Here are some quick advice points for you as you search:

1. Try your method for one week, make revisions after that.  Sometimes just the process of trying something new feels awkward and makes you feel like it won’t work, give it a week.

2.  Be realistic. I have had grandiose plans with a to-do list that was an entire notebook page long.  Of course, I didn’t meet all of those tasks so the little “pat on the back” feeling I sought for eluded me every day.  Keep it to no more than 10 critical tasks and be willing to carry items over to the next day.  It’s really ok.

3. Categorize your tasks according to projects. This is another helpful method if you manage multiple projects.  Associating these tasks according to project will begin to shift your mind more to the “projects” you need to make progress on that day versus a simple task list.

About the Writer:

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I have a passion for driving results and have since I started my career in banking.  This blog is about that passion as well as the frustration I endures from those who do not seek results or slow down the process.

I have a degree in Marketing and a Masters in Management with an emphasis in Project Consulting.  Over my career, I’ve worked in numerous positions including sales, sales management, consulting, HR and recruiting.  I currently work as a head-hunter and project consultant, while trying to stay abreast of all of the changes in today’s workforce.

For a professional resume, click here.

VA Scandal-When Policy trumps People

Boehner-White-House-agree-Shinseki-should-stay-on-at-VA[1]The recent scandal involving the Department of Veterans’ Affairs speaks to an issue that is not only prevalent in government-run organizations but many organizations regardless of size.  The allegations include deadly wait times and manipulation of client records according to recent reports.  In any organization, policies are needed to help provide a structure or operating procedure for basic tasks and processes associated with producing a product or service.  Unfortunately, if not properly managed, these policies can be come the golden calf of the organization resulting in such erroneous decisions as those associated with this scandal.

As a leader, we are tasked with managing not only policies but people.  I think there is a pandemic of management strategies that worship the policy with little or no regard to the people executing it or those affected by it.  Typically, organizations have managers in place to help ensure the efficient deliver of a product or service but the issue is not the policy that is implemented but those in charge of executing it.  When such constrictions are placed on an employee or group of employees, the consequences can be the death of an organization.  These policies that are the cancerous death of organizations could include those associated with production times or quality, incentive plans, processes or even human resources policies.

While there exists a need for policies and procedures, there also exists a need for team members to be able to make good judgement on the impact of those affected by the policies.  Teams should be engaged and empowered by senior executives to make such judgement calls when employees deem the impact to negatively affect a service, delivery, or end-client.  I have had experience working for organizations that valued policies over people and can attest to the miserable existence that results in such mantra.  While working in a leadership within those confines, I dreaded going to work, disdained any type of meeting, and lacked brand engagement.  After all, my views or opinions were not valued because at the end of the day because the policy is the golden rule and the most important aspect of the ethos of the company.

Evaluating your company’s priorities can be a daunting task but well worth the amount of time spent.  Ask yourself these questions to determine if you have a “Policy over People” policy:

  1. Do my team members feel empowered to make decisions that will result in the best interest of our client when needed?
  2. During meetings, does my team or I feel as though policy dictates strategy?
  3. If I were to do an audit of client complaints, what would be the percentage of complaints associated with policies being enforced where a simple work-around could have created a more pleasant client experience?

We could go even further to evaluate the use of incentive plans or bonus compensation plans being used to validate the use of policy over people, but that would open Pandora’s box.  Start with these three questions and if you find you have a problem, address it quickly, efficiently, and most importantly, NOW!

About the Writer:

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I have a passion for driving results and have since I started my career in banking.  This blog is about that passion as well as the frustration I endures from those who do not seek results or slow down the process.

I have a degree in Marketing and a Masters in Management with an emphasis in Project Consulting.  Over his career, Trent has worked in numerous positions including sales, sales management, consulting, HR and recruiting.  I currently work as a head-hunter and project consultant, while trying to stay abreast of all of the changes in today’s workforce.

For a professional resume, click here.

Simplicity=Sohpistication

Image“Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.”Leonardo Da Vinci

This year I have decided I am going to embrace simplicity.  Last year is already a blur and I plan on this year being more being more of a “move the needle” kind of year.  In an effort to find the answer of how, I began researching ways to simplify life and discovered this wonderful quote by Da Vinci.

If you stop and think about it, what are the items that we consider “sophisticated” today?  I immediately think of items like the iPhone or Android devices, tablets, and other electronic devices.  If these are used correctly, it can make life less complicated and more organized.  The question is, how?  Which apps are best?  Here are a few of my favorites right now:

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Evernote is a jewel if used properly.  This program is the ultimate of note-taking platforms and syncs with your desktop, tablet, and mobile devices.  You can take notes from meetings, create a grocery list with check marks, create an audio or web note and then file it away to the appropriate notebook that you create to organize all of your notes.  There are several uses for this great application and it’s easy to create a template that works for you.  Topping it all, you can share these notes via email or social media.  If you have not tried this as a tool, you must.

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Ok, this isn’t an app but work with me. So I decided I would simplify my life by using my calendar more effectively.  I am notorious for scheduling items back to back not leaving myself any time to be effective.  This year, I have decided that before major meetings, I will block at least 15 minutes off of my calendar to prepare for the meeting.  This could include gathering information, determining my talking points, or clearing my mind.  I have also begun blocking off time to get away from the office, typically around lunch, and attempt to stick to it.  During this time, I plan to go and work out then grab some lunch.  Studies have supported that getting out during the lunch break to walk or work out can increase your productivity and mental clarity throughout the day.

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This is a critical one.  I plan to say no to the extra things this year.  I have a bad habit of having the best of intentions and overcommitmenting myself to projects or initiatives that drag on my personal and professional productivity while adding several levels of complexity to life.  Saying “no” can seem like something negative, but if you say yes to something, but default, you are saying no to something else.  So, I will plan to say no more to extra items so I can say yes to more things like kids’ plays, family time, and focus on the real things that matter in life.

Like beauty, simplicity is in the eye or brain of the beholder.  Items that are simple for me might be complicated for someone else so you will need to find what works for you.  These are just some of the items I am using or plan to use this year.  What are your suggestions?

About the Writer:

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I have a passion for driving results and have since I started my career in banking.  This blog is about that passion as well as the frustration I endures from those who do not seek results or slow down the process.

I have a degree in Marketing and a Masters in Management with an emphasis in Project Consulting.  Over his career, Trent has worked in numerous positions including sales, sales management, consulting, HR and recruiting.  I currently work as a head-hunter and project consultant, while trying to stay abreast of all of the changes in today’s workforce.

For a professional resume, click here.

Why Recruiters Should Use Google +

People ask my opinion on why recruiters should use Google Plus. To me, Google Plus is what LinkedIn is trying so desperately to be but coming up short. Sure, you have the ability to post to groups, message people and other basic options, but unlike LinkedIn, Google Plus makes you a driver and not just a navigator. How? Circles, The GOLDEN Ticket

Solution 1- Direct Your Content

As a recruiter, I can set up different circles based on my efforts-projects of sorts. So if I have four jobs I’m working on, I can set up four different circles of potential candidates, influencers, or groups that would fit what I am looking for. This is perhaps one of the best reasons to use the platform because when I post a status update, I can specify which group my information targets. So if I am talking about a need for a Social Media Engineer, I can only target those in my Social Media group that I designed.

Solution 2- Monitor the Crowd

I’ve always been one of those who likes being in the know. On LinkedIn and other platforms, I have to search through a number of channels to stay up to date. Other platforms like Google Alerts or Twitter Alerts are also good, but Google Plus takes it up a notch for recruiters. Once I have my separate circles, I can select which circle I want to see in my home stream. Example, say I hear some newsworthy tidbit on the evolution of a Social Media platform that would impact the job I’m recruiting for. I could easily go to Google Plus, select my handy dandy Social Media circle, and see what everyone is saying on it. Better yet, I can engage in the conversation and hopefully develop passive candidates into active ones.

Solution 3- Hangouts

I love using a Google Hangout when I can. It’s a great way to keep interview costs down, especially if you need to lay eyes on your candidate but have neither the time nor resources to fly across the country. These are great and if you’re connected to a circle, you can even host a hangout to talk about the job you’re recruiting for or the brand you are attempting to hire for. It’s a great next-level marketing tool that, if used correctly, could alter how you engage your candidates.

So some people say that Google Plus is for the Social Media snobs and if that’s the case, I am a snob! I love the platform from it’s design, interface, and cool features. I can say that I have been successful in engaging candidates using this platform more than I have other mediums like Facebook. So if you’re looking for something outside of or in addition to LinkedIn, try Google Plus. I think you might just fall in love with it if you let yourself.

Social Media:Being Engaged without being Obsessed

I get picked on a lot by fellow professionals and family alike asking me questions like:

  • Do you ever sleep?
  • Do you ever work?
  • Are you obsessed with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
  • Can you shut your Social Media Voice up for a week?

Typically, these comments come from people who also ask me to assess the value of Social Media and ask for business tips so I don’t take the questions personally. It does bring up a great question though, how do you remain engaged in social media without being obsessed with it?

I have a full time job, I am finishing my Masters, have three active kids, and am on more projects than I can remember. Being a self-proclaimed nerd, I typically read at night as a way to decompress my mind and find new ideas. Personally, I use the PULSE app to aggregate all of the various blogs and news sources I like to follow so I can go to one place and scan for the things that jump out at me. What many people don’t know is that I will often schedule my content two or three days out on my various networks, sharing what I’ve read or sparking a conversation. This takes all of three or four clicks and using a platform like HootSuite to manage all of my platforms (except Google +).

As for my blogging, I typically get inspired over the weekends to get my writing out, again, it’s part of my weird relaxation method. Some people like to do yoga or run, but I like to get my thoughts out on my blog. Again, I typically will crank out three or four posts and just have them scheduled to be released throughout the week. This method helps me remain relevant and active without having my eyes glued to the screen throughout the week.

Also, there are times when it’s good to take a break from work, a 5 minute siesta of sorts, to remain energized. I’ll occasionally scan through my various feeds for items of worth and then get back to work. This helps me with a variety of work related issues:

  • Fatigue
  • Mental Block
  • Shaking off a bad call
  • Getting by mojo back

So if you’re looking for a great way to remain engaged without being obsessed, check out platforms like Pulse or Hoot-suite that brings everything to you in one place. If you’re thinking about blogging or engaging in conversation, this is the best route to take. Look up similar products until you find the product that fits your needs. Don’t be overtaken by Social Media but don’t be silent on it either. Both decisions result in death by Social Media.

Google Plus goes into Overdrive

Google+ also shared new user metrics, confirming that the site has 540 million active users if you count log-ins through Gmail and 300 million monthly active users in the stream (users who visit the website or app directly). Users also upload 1.5 billion photos per week, said Google VP Vic.

Personally, I like this site more than Facebook for one major reason: I can control my feed and my audience. Google Circles allows those of us that recruit, market, and pontificate direct our message to the appropriate audience. Unlike its competitors, Google Plus let’s you be more of a sharp shooter with your message versus looking like that annoying guy on the corner yelling on the street corner to whomever will listen.

In addition to this great feature, you can use its awesome photo editor. Now this editor I’d pretty wicked to say the least. It touches up your blemishes and also allows you to cut those aggravating photo bombers with ease. If you’re like me, you’re always using your phone to take pictures of the kids or the cities you visit but struggle to remember how you filed it. Well, Google takes care of that add well with auto indexing.

Bottom line: if you’re not using this platform you’re missing out on some great add ons. Next we will explore how the platform helps your rankings.

Busiocrity-The Art of Looking Busy but NOT Being Productive

I’m not sure about you but I love the medicine commercials now. With all of the regulatory requirements placed on the pharmaceutical industry, 75% of those commercials are spent informing the potential consumer of all of the side-effects that could happen as a result of taking the medicine. Everything from blood in your urine to constipation to dry mouth or mood swings. I find myself being more intrigued with the side effects and forgetting what the medication is actually supposed to treat! So, in honor of that tradition, let’s assume Busiocrityis a virus…. indulge me for a bit.

Busiocrity, a virus that is plaguing offices internationally. Common symptoms:

 

  • Back to back meetings
  • Meetings about meetings that you’ve had or meetings you’re going to have
  • Endless To Do lists that carry over from one day to the next
  • Having a clean email box but destroyed desk at the end of the day
  • Trouble sleeping, constant list making, fever, heartburn, acid reflux and mood swings

 

Sound familiar? If so, you might be suffering from this common virus. Constant emails andmeetings that produce no results are becoming an epidemic in today’s workplace. As humans, we have evolved from spending our days toiling the land or chasing our food to toiling in meetings and chasing productivity. What’s worse is that there seems to be no end in sight for this plague. There are, however, some individuals who have escaped this Zombie virus to rise above the mess. What do they do? Let’s take a look:

Tip 1: Change your To Do List

Get away from the to do list, it’s a killer. Look at managing by projects and let that be the focus for your day. Managing according to projects helps to naturally shift your brain to keep your focus on the end goal versus the tiny steps that will get you there. Choose to focus on two or three projects a day and accomplish as much as you can for those. You will leave the day feeling accomplished and maybe even energized. Jeff Haden with Inc.com states that successful people “start at the end” and using a project minded approach will help move you more in that direction.

Tip 2: Shut down the email beast

Email owns so many people in ways that are borderline sadistic. If I am working on a project or doing research, I will close out my email and my social media and just focus on those items. This helps my ADDHD (in my case the HD is High Definition). I find I remain more productive and tend to get more accomplished by shutting down the noise of email and social media for two hours a day to do my most critical items. It also allows me to connect dots that would not normally jump out of me because of my fragmented focus.

Tip 3: Just Say No

This tip will be easier if you are in a management position or a position of influence so keep it in mind. If you are invited to a meeting with no agenda or is organized by a person that enjoys meetings because they allow them to pontificate, just say no to the meeting. I had one individual that I invited to a meeting who asked what we were to accomplish during the meeting. My response obviously didn’t engage them because they declined the meeting. After four times, I talked with this highly successful individual that said he only goes to meetings that have an agenda and a goal to accomplish. I’ve tried to keep this in mind as I get invitations and have learned to politely push back in some cases.

We are all busy but not all of us are productive. Try these simple tips and see if they work. If you have other tips, please share them. We’re all in this Zombie race together!