Archive for the ‘Goals’ Category

Only you know if you’re REALLY working, working from home

Inspired by a pretty fantastic webisode by one of my favorites, Marie Forleo, about sticking to your schedule when working from home in response to Jade, who wrote in for advice.  Jade was feeling overwhelmed by both household and work tasks during the day, feeling more frazzled than when she was in the office.  She was berating herself because she’s comparing to the years that worked around the inefficiencies of an office and to people who have kids or don’t have a husband as helpful as hers, and was expecting a windfall of free time.

This is a subject very close to my heart, and my uterus, as it were that my days working from home while footloose and fancy-free are numbered down to my first born’s due date.  Nothing like a growing waistline to drive that one home.

I love the schedule that Marie laid out (especially compartmentalizing email!), highlighting some of the areas that are probably taking Jade, and a lot of us, longer than they “should” like getting ready for the day and dishes.  It’s amazing how if you don’t actually have to leave, you can look up at 11:59 and still have your hair in a towel.   I love that she included working out, not only because it’s a nice healthy living nudge, but because exercise makes you less sluggish for the rest of your morning routine so it doesn’t take as long!

7am-8am wake up & work out

8-9 shower, get dressed, eat

9-12:30 work! (no email)

12:30 – 1:30 lunch

1:30 – 3:30 work! (no email)

3:30 – 4:30 break or what I like to call “BS O’Clock”

4:30 – 6:30 work!  Reply to emails and plan for tomorrow

“BS O’Clock” is the 1 hour on my schedule when I take care of annoying errands like going to the post office, meal planning, updating my voter registration.  For me, BS o’clock is at 10am, so I don’t look up at 4:30 and realize I didn’t stop to eat and these little things have magically multiplied to take up my whole day (or that my project tasks have taken the whole day and now I can’t run my errand).

Like Jade, I’ve tried tons of schedules and the real work is sticking to them.  I find that “planning my schedule” was just one more task I did instead of getting my work done.  I needed something to hold me accountable, a carrot to run for or a stick to run from.

Sometimes it helps to do the math: how much real money are you losing by sleeping in / Twitter-instead-of-project time?  Losing on real proposals?  Losing real hourly wages?  Paying someone real money to do what you don’t “have time” to do?  Add it up.  Then, divide the money you’re losing by 1 week or 1 day and that’s the real money you gain or lose when you decide if you will give in to the snooze button or distraction.

I did something like this when my husband was procrastinating on preparing for a credential that would earn him a bonus at work.  We agreed on the amount of money 1 week of studying was worth and I’d write a check to him if he hit his goal, he’d write a check to me if he didn’t.  We share finances, so it didn’t “really” matter whether I gave him money or he gave it to me, but there is an undeniable rush of adrenaline when you receive any reward and an equally strong twist of your gut when you have to hand something over, no matter how small.  This makes for a visceral sensation when your alarm goes off in the morning, like realizing that you’ll miss your flight if hit snooze.

Add to that the social pressure of having someone else know about whether you’re meeting the goal as they are giving you the reward or punishment, and you have some pretty powerful motivation.

I know, I know, there are a lot of reasons to not pull out and keep that amount liquid.  I like to look at the money I’m saving by sticking to my schedule, just to know it.  Then I set my incentive to something nominal.  Some fun incentives:

  • Loyalty card for a movie or milkshake when you stick to the schedule 15 times
  • Physically take $5 out of your wallet and put it in a clear jar or “piggy bank” where you can see it accumulate for each day you stick to the schedule

Disincentives, work better for other people, done if you don’t stick to your schedule

  • Physically take $5 out of your wallet and give it to a friend or put it in a box you can’t unlock
  • Physically take $5 out of your wallet and give it away – donate it or give it to a homeless person or street musician
  • …(some people find that this isn’t enough of a disincentive, they have to give to something they’ll not be happy about later… like donating to the political party they oppose)

I can’t stress enough how important it is to physically give or take the money (or whatever your incentive is) even if you’re just moving it from your wallet to your dresser drawer.  Compared to an office, working from home and working for yourself is so conceptual.  In the office, you have so many signs that you should be working: you’re surrounded by colleagues who are working, your boss or client is asking you for things, you only use this space for work and the work day is bookended by a commute.  None of this is true of working from home, which is why it’s so great and so hard.  If you’re lucky enough to work from home and can’t find the gobs and gobs of extra time that you thought you’d have when pined for it in the office, don’t forget to cut yourself a break.  This is its own challenge, different from everything you mastered in the office and when you master this, you’ll be even more prepared for whatever comes next.

March Monthly Meet Up

I’m letting go of February’s goal.  I was planning on keeping this up through April, but my work is done here.

Me: Are you going to hit your PE goal this week?  Because I was just looking at something completely irrational that I want and I was wondering if I can plan on buying it this week.

D: Nooooo!

Me: I don’t remember asking your permission

D: I wasn’t even thinking that! How long have you known me? I’m just not going to be the reason that you rationalize buying something ridiculous this time.

My belligerent spending when D slacks off has gotten him in the right studying for this certification that will make him a lot more money mindset and I no longer need to be involved.  It’s just a matter of studying the right material now, not whether or not he finds time to look at it.

As for March, I’m testing the waters for an international position. I’m too superstitious to call it a goal, so I’ll have to leave it at that for now.  More to come in April.

February monthly goal meet up

You may have heard that I am hanging tight with my professional progress.  I’m not setting out to change my situation (for once!), I am enjoying where I am right now and focusing on what’s in front of me.  I’ve found a professional goal that I can still go after.  The catch is: I can’t do it, my husband has to do it.  He’s an engineer and recently eligible to become a professional engineer (PE).  To become a PE, you need a 4 year degree from a recognized university (check), 4+ years working as an engineer (check), and to pass a very difficult exam that is only given twice year.  The consulting firm where he works offers a very enticing bonus and raise to PE holders, since they can charge a higher billable rate for their work. He wants to it for job security, possibility of more latitude and plum projects at work, as well as for the raise.

He signed up for the April exam last November, and I noticed that he hadn’t studied much.  So, I let the dust from the flurry of year work projects and family parties and travel settle.  On new years day, while we all nursed hangovers and made resolutions, I took out my calculator.

I calculated the amount of the raise between his test and next available test + the bonus.  That’s the 2010 money at risk if he doesn’t study. Then, I divided the money at risk by the number of weeks between today and the test.  That is the money wasted by not studying that week.  For arithmetic simplicity, let’s say it a $500 bonus and $5000 raise.  The bonus won’t change if he needs to take the exam again, but passing the first exam makes the raise is worth $2500 more because the next test is available in 6 months.

($500 + $2500) / 15 weeks until the exam = $167 wasted if not studying over a certain week

He set out a plan of what he needs to cover and how many hours he’ll need to study in a given week to be prepared.  In weeks that he hits the goal, I’ll cut him a $167 check and he can watch that money accumulate or do whatever he wants with it.  In weeks that he doesn’t study that amount, I will waste the same amount of money that “effectively wasted” by not studying.  So he doesn’t look for a silver lining I’ve assured him that I won’t put it toward anything practical or worthy.

It’s a dissonant feeling for me to set something as a goal that I’m supporting, not personally accomplishing.   I’m following this road, because it will lead to dollars in my pocket and hopefully to satisfaction.  I’ll keep you posted.

Once more, here is what I’m up to in January/February –

1. Enjoying this moment

2. Supporting (and enforcing) my husband’s test prep

Falling off the Goal Wagon

You may have read my November monthly meet up goal, and wondered how I fared, or what I was vowing to do in December and resolving to do in January.  Isn’t it funny how a decision made in January is a “resolution” but nothing decided the rest of the year is given such a lofty term?

I’m working on life coaching, which I know will be a partial source of income if I want to continue to pay my bills.  Blending with my current job works out well when my day job is not “busy.”  Busy can mean different things to different people – busy for me means overtime at unpredictable times.  Unpredictability is not something I want to embody when coaching someone to be accountable to that whatever they’re striving for, and quite inconvenient when I have an appointment.

Meanwhile, what I was striving towards was applying to grad school. In November, I needed to pick a program that fit what I wanted to learn and could qualify me to be a independent counselor.  Nothing fit.  Instead of hustling toward a goal I’m not even excited about during the honeymoon phase (the honeymoon phase is what I call the high after deciding on an action), I decided to throw on the brakes and focus on the moment I’m in now.  It may not be that fantastic or enviable, but I worked very, very hard to be where I am right now.  I spent a lot of time and effort and gave up some things in order to break into my industry, be trusted to work autonomously, to afford living a walkable distance to my office so I don’t show up with a short fuse from my nasty commute.  Its easy to look at people with cool jobs, and say what am I doing wrong that I’m not you?  But if I knew all the details of these admired strangers’ lives, I bet I’m doing quite a bit right that I’m not them.

Coaching, which is not counseling, fits everywhere but financially.  So, I’m keeping my day job.

This all sounds very relaxing as I write it down, but believe me: it isn’t.  It’s easy to just jump on a goal because it is an action.  Indecision is uncomfortable, so Indecision loves action because it feels like a decision, just without the buyer’s remorse.  Holding out for the right action is hard.

November Monthly Goal Meet-Up

At the gentle and not-even-specific-to-me urging of an old college friend, I’m setting goals by month and publishing them on my blog. This might sound a like what 43things.com does, and it is a bit of an overlap. But the kicker is, I’m logging in again in one month to own up, publicly, about whether or not I did it. Yipes.

Without further ado, here is what I’m up to in November –

1. Make a full list of schools that I will apply to. Write down their application deadlines.

2. Make a full list of documents needed to apply.

3. Prepare a timeline and game plan to get each document ready in time.

4. Evaluate my budget (i.e. what I’m actually spending/saving, not what I could be spending/saving), then slim it down. Starting with alcohol.

Bucket List

I just encountered a website that made me smile, http://www.43things.com. I did and read a couple fun, quick things on my lunch break and copied them down for you, but what really tickled me was the tagged / word-clouded list of people’s goals.  “Get a dog” was the first one.  I know, I know – order doesn’t mean it was mentioned the most.  Just a nice reminder that I have checked a few important things off.

The site has some recommended rules for conquering the list, which are quite good, so I’ve copied them for you below.  But I’ve got a few recommendations for getting the most of this site and the community of people checking up on their goals.

1. Be public, but be anonymous.  Don’t use your real name and use a different name than you use on social networking sites, especially professional sites.  You don’t want your employer to know you have a long term goal of switching careers or your boyfriend of 2 weeks to know that you want kids, etc. Even if you don’t have a conflict now, don’t create a situation where you’ll need to limit your bucket list to goals that fit your image.

2. Let it all hang out.  It’s natural to want to be private about goal until you’ve made some progress at it. You’re among friends here.  Your anonymity allows you to keep something front of your mind without putting it in front of anyone else in your life.

3. Be general. If your goal is general, you can connect with people who are also pursuing (or have completed!) a similar goal. For instance, I want to teach my dog to fetch his leash so I don’t have to search for it when I take him for a walk.  (Hopefully, I can do the same with my keys).  I could write “Teach Waldo to fetch his leash,” which would be accurate, but I’ll miss out on the support I could get from the site unless Waldo is a more common dog name than I thought.  If I write “teach my dog tricks” my goal will link to anyone else who wrote “teach my dog tricks” on their list, and I can get tips or encouragement.

4. Get specific in the details section. That way, you’ll know when you’ve completed it.  You want to accountable to yourself, don’t you?

5. Don’t be afraid to cut a bad goal loose.   A couple reasons it could be a “bad” goal – it could be in conflict with another, bigger goal; you could find out that it was someone else’s goal all along.  This is better articulated below, but I wanted to point out these 2 scenarios where a goal go bad without repeating what’s been said.

43 Things’ Ten Rules for Creating and Conquering Your Life List

1. Make your list public. Making your goals public solidifies your commitment to them, holds you accountable, and helps you connect with others who share your interests. You’ll discover connections to social and professional networks that you didn’t know you had and gets lots of encouragement from the people who care most about you. So make sure to tell friends, family members, and coworkers about your list and post it on the Internet at 43Things.com.
2. Include serious and fun goals. Vary the scope of your goals and include some wild just-for-fun dreams. Also, don’t be afraid to complete less daunting goals first. Building momentum from these early successes helps you find the courage to tackle larger tasks.
3. Include undefined goals. Avoid overlooking a developing passion or interest by fearlessly adding goals even if you can’t totally articulate them. If you wake up one morning with the desire to create art, add it to the list. Let the idea simmer in your mind until something more specific emerges.
4. Document progress. While reviewing the list, record your progress and determine the next steps. Documenting progress allows you to identify behavior patterns or other obstacles keeping you from accomplishing goals-it can also show you how far you’ve come.
5. Make goals manageable but rewarding. Divide big goals into smaller tasks, but not so small that they become tedious. Taking incremental steps keeps you from getting overwhelmed by a monumental goal. For example, instead of vowing to “get organized” try listing “declutter the garage.”
6. Define the finish line. You’ll find it easier to complete certain tasks and track progress if you determine the duration, results, or final outcome you desire from achieving a specific goal. Revise vague goals such as “give back to my community” by specifying what kind of work you want to do. You may not be able to do this right away-as we said, undefined goals are good, too.
7. Prioritize goals. Arrange your goals to reflect what you want to begin working on right away. You may want to run a marathon and get a promotion at work, but rather than trying to find the time and energy to run thirty miles a week and put in long hours at the office, focus on the goal that’s more important to you.
8. Maintain a manageable list. Somewhere between twenty and forty-three is a sweet spot for many people. Limiting your life list to forty-three goals forces you to make some choices. Fewer than twenty goals doesn’t offer enough variety to keep you moving forward.
9. Review your list weekly. It sharpens your focus, keeps up your momentum, and reminds you of what’s important. As you review the list, ask yourself, “What have I done to achieve a particular goal this week?” If the answer is “nothing,” is this goal important enough to keep on your list?
10. Revise and remove goals. A life list should be constantly evolving-it should reflect what’s important to you right now, not what mattered in the past. Remember, there’s no penalty for changing your mind or tweaking a goal to better reflect your desired outcome or new circumstances. A short-lived passion for making pottery can be reborn as “find a creative outlet,” or ambitions to get straight A’s in chemistry can be tossed because sometimes a passing grade is enough of a victory.