Tag: Planning

The 3 Crucial Steps to Managing Your Time and Getting Things Done Efficiently

There’s a limited amount of time in each day and an unlimited amount of things you could do with that time.  Like everyone else, I often feel busy but don’t always see what I’ve accomplished when the day is done.  With funny videos being posted on Facebook, texts, emails, popular articles surfacing on your timeline on Twitter, there are countless things to pique your interest and make you veer away from the day’s agenda.

A few days ago, I was catching up with a friend who is 800 miles away. Our catchup session was longer than usual since our schedules often conflict.  We soon realized that we had both fallen victim to sleeping in, relaxing and not tackling the things on our to-do lists as planned.  Of course you need to take it easy sometimes, but my plan was to be up and out the door by around 8 AM so I was already hours behind schedule.

So I spent some time thinking about what it really takes to get manage your time and get things done.  I started with a long list but in terms of what is truly crucial and consequential, I was left with these three steps:

1.  Figure out what you need to do.  Without direction, an objective and a clear list of tasks, it is hard to move forward and accomplish anything.  So the first thing is to figure out what you need to get done.  If you’re following through on directives from others, make sure you’re clear on the details.  If you’re running the show and creating and tackling your own list, make sure you’re honest with yourself so you include everything.

2.  Prioritize your list.  One really important skills is to know what to work on now and what can wait.  Not everything in your list will be high priority and being able to attack your list accordingly will really impact your effectiveness.  This is especially important if you’re reporting to others who are depending on your output.

3.  Get things done, efficiently.  If you’re working on your list, that’s generally a good thing. But don’t spend all day working on one item with 20 more left untouched.  Being busy doesn’t always translate to effectiveness so make sure you’re not spinning your wheels unnecessarily.  In between tasks that require a lot of focus, do lighter tasks or take a break altogether to do something different.  Stepping away will usually give you that boost and revitalization you need.

My friend and I eventually got our acts together and by the time I checked in later in the day, she had called her cell phone provider and was well on her way to getting a new phone within the week.  Some time ago, her iPhone stopped working so she reverted to an old flip phone because she wasn’t due for an upgrade for two months.  By picking up the phone and sharing she was considering switching providers, she got her monthly bill lowered and the option to upgrade her phone immediately for a minimum down payment.  On my end, I revisited the installation of some software onto my new computer and got it to work with one try after multiple failed attempts the night before.  Now I finally had access to Word, Excel and PowerPoint which I needed to do other things on my list.

So get your list, your coffee and snacks and get to work.  You’ll see how amazing the power of the start is!

Do you ever feel like you could do a better job of managing your time and getting things done?  What are some obstacles you face?  How do you get on track and accomplish things?

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5 Places and Events that Facilitate Networking Opportunities

We’ve heard that networking is one way to circumvent the traditional approaching to becoming employed.  But unbeknownst to many, networking is more than the new way to get a job.  In fact, once you’ve been hired, networking can help you get placed on the right projects and with people who will help you grow professionally and succeed. Similarly, when you’re ready for your next move, networking can help you pivot.

With days ran by long to-do lists, conference calls, and meetings, you’re probably wondering where you’ll find time and opportunities to network. But just as you would create a plan for important tasks, you can do the same for your networking goals by setting aside times and places to make it happen. Here are a few places:

Conferences – National or regional conferences provide great opportunities to network with others.  If you’re attending a conference that’s specific to your industry, it is a great way to meet others with similar expertise and who may be a resource if you have a technical question. Or if you’re attending a conference for a common interest such as blogging, you can build a network and can help each other grow your blogging community.

Alumni events – It warms my heart when I come across Wharton and Penn alumni.  It happens so frequently and most recently while I was traveling in Canada!  With that common bond and having “grown up” in the same place and having shared similar experiences that have since shaped our lives, I’m especially willing to help and support my fellow alums.

Boards – Non-profit or advisory boards provide a great opportunity for you to meet people who are accomplished in their respective fields and are passionate enough about a cause to lend their skills and expertise.  Working with them for a common cause, they learn about your work ethics and will be able to speak first-hand about your credentials.

Clubs and community organizations – Coming together to play a game of volleyball or soccer with individuals who are nostalgic about their athletic youth is a great way to stay active. At the same time, you’ll be actively expanding your networking and meeting people who you may not run into with your normal routine.

Training events – Training events bring together people who are interested in improving themselves whether it is rooted in professional development, technological skills or general self-improvement.  These individuals are usually very interested in sharing ideas and strategies and having an accountability partner to help them follow through after the training.  Therefore, this presents a great opportunity to continue the conversation and expand your network over time.

What places and events help you the most when you’re looking to expand your network?  Are they places and events that are part of your normal routine? Or do you go out of your way to network? Share your experiences below!

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A Picture Guide To Creating An Effective Budget – Part 1 of 3

Budget.  For many, this is a scary word.  It means numbers.  Making sense of numbers.  Calculating numbers.  And quite frankly, I’ve learned over the years that not everyone is comfortable confronting numbers.  But if you want to have control of your financial situation and use simple concepts that big businesses use to your advantage, you’ll need to be armed and ready to face the numbers.  I’m happy to say that they’re not as intimidating as they may seem!

Even numbers can be visual, and in this Three-Part Series, I’ll show, in pictures, how you can create an effective budget that gives you power and control over your finances.  In Part 1, we’ll address the overview of a budget and why it is important.  In Part 2, we’ll go over how to create a budget; and in Part 3, we’ll address what to do after you’ve created your budget to maximize its use.

So what is a budget, why is it important and why do you need one?

A budget is an itemized financial plan for a certain period of time such as a week, month or year.  You anticipate your income (inflows) and plan your expenses (outflows) accordingly so you can see what you’re left with.  Ideally, you will spend less than you bring in.  Here is what this looks like:

This snapshot of a budget allows you to see your monthly income, itemized expenses and what you have remaining. This makes it easy to see if you’re sending more than what you’re bringing in.

Over time, a budget helps with planning ahead and in anticipating problems that may arise.  This insight allows you to think about what changes should be made and respond by reallocating resources as needed.  For example, if you’re over your groceries amount for the month, you can plan to spend less.  Or if you’re spending too much on cable each month, you can negotiate a lower rate with your cable company.

See how the highlighted amounts changed compared to those in Exhibit A. By planning and reducing your expenses in certain areas, you’ll be left with more to reallocate.

To your benefit, a budget provides an organized and easily understood breakdown of how much money you’re bringing in and how much is leaving your pocket.  It is an invaluable tool that allows you to manage your money and prioritize your spending.  An important point is the fact that the effectiveness of a budget doesn’t depend on your income.  In fact, your financial situation is largely about what you do with your money as opposed to how much you make.  With a budget, you can identify and get rid of wasteful spending, quickly adapt as your financial situation changes and attain your financial goals faster.  You’ll have a more accurate sense of if you’re able to afford your dream vacation or your friend’s wedding.  You’ll know how much you can save for your future.  This financial clarity is especially empowering.

With the reductions made in Exhibit B, additional money at your disposal can help you save more for your future or toward planned expenses.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll go over each step in creating a budget that is tailored to your situation.  Share your experience with a budget or what you would like to see in Parts 2 or 3 in the comments section below!

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