productivity

Look for the Opportunities Right in Front of You

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I can’t tell you how often I hear people complain that they don’t have time to focus on something important to them. There can be several reasons they don’t dedicate the time or make the effort. For some, fear holds them back. For others, the sense of urgency isn’t there. But in many cases, people simply do not see the opportunities in front of them to make progress on what they want.

So, I work with my clients to develop ways to achieve their goals without adding layers of work—which is key to getting the ball rolling. Below are three simple steps you can take. Think about each of these in the context of what you really want to accomplish.

1. Review what is already on your calendar.

To get started, look 1-2 weeks out on your schedule to see who you have meetings or calls with. You may find that you will be in front of important people with whom you want to cultivate stronger relationships or get visibility. By looking at your schedule ahead of time and in the context of your goals, you can begin to set the stage for making progress on what you’d like to accomplish.

2. Think about how you can make the most of that time.

Next, think about how you can make the most of the opportunity whether it’s a meeting, phone call, or something else. For example, I have a client who has a strong internal network but wants to expand her external network. With her work and travel schedule, she doesn’t have much time to participate in networking events. She’d been struggling to make time for quite a while.

When we looked at her calendar, she noticed that she had a two-day meeting coming up. It was part of a prominent leadership program for which she had been selected and it included leaders from other organizations. So, we worked together to establish 1-2 goals for this meeting. She identified two individuals she wanted to cultivate relationships with and developed concrete actions steps to do just that. Ultimately, she got more out of the program and made progress on her networking goal without adding any time to her schedule.

3. Set up a structure to help you.

Finally, make this process a habit for yourself. If the thought of looking out a week or two in advance sounds overwhelming, you can still make the most of any single opportunity sitting in front of you.

Before each meeting or call you attend, take a couple of minutes to ask yourself:

  • How do I want to show up (i.e., what impression do I want to leave? How can I reinforce my brand?)?

  • In this forum, how can I also make progress on one of my goals or priorities?

  • What one action will I take in this meeting or call?

My clients can attest that this really works! So, set aside time to strategically look at your calendar and set goals for your upcoming meetings and calls. As a first step, pick just one meeting in the next week to try this approach. If you’re really adventurous, block 15-20 minutes on your calendar each week to strategize about the following week’s meetings. You will show up with much more intention and may be surprised at the results you get.

The Secret to More Energy Isn't What You Think

Happy business coworkers celebrating

Happy business coworkers celebrating

You probably have some go-to strategies for when you need more energy, from listening to upbeat songs to squeezing in an extra workout to hitting your favorite coffee shop.  

Have you thought, though, about the energy you surround yourself with? The people we're around regularly have a huge effect on whether we feel lively and productive or depleted and crabby.

Researchers Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas study how people succeed or fail based on their networks. They’ve found that "if those around you are enthusiastic, authentic, and generous, you will be, too. … Energizers bring out the best in everyone around them, and our data show that having them in your network is a strong predictor of success over time."

But Cross and Thomas also warn of de-energizers: "And our own research suggests that roughly 90% of anxiety at work is created by 5% of one’s network—the people who sap energy."

That's why I recommend taking an "energy audit" of the people in your life. Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Who are the people you spend the most time around?

  2. How does each person on that list affect your energy? Do you feel more energy or less after spending time with your boss (for example)? Or is she more of a neutral person?

  3. What cumulative impact do these people have on your energy? Do the energizers counteract the energy drainers, or do you have an energy deficit?

With the results of your audit, you might decide to take one or both of the following actions to give yourself more energy.

  1. Distance yourself from de-energizers. This has been a major change in my own life, especially during key periods where I know I need to maintain as much energy as I can. I've gotten a lot more selective about who's in my inner circle.

  2. If you can't escape from someone who drains your energy, develop strategies for dealing with that person to protect and replenish your energy. If, for example, you have a colleague who's always negative, accept that she isn't capable of showing up with positivity. Knowing that, how do you want to engage with her? Can you limit your time with her or put a stop to her habit of swinging by your office every afternoon to complain? (This blog has some good strategies for dealing with a complainer.) What can you do before or after seeing this person to replace the energy she takes from you?

This week, pay attention to how others fuel or drain your energy. Surrounding yourself with people who bring out your best is key to your success. The small changes we've talked about here minimize the effects of the people who drag you down – and free up time to spend with people who fire you up.

I'll be speaking on how to get more energy on May 11 at a luncheon presented by the Plano Chamber of Commerce Women's Division. You can find additional tips in "Staying Engaged" and "Building a Powerful Network," two titles in my Leadership EDGE SeriesSM.