Time Diary

June 24, 2010 on 3:59 pm | In life coaching | No Comments

Having worked in professional services for most of my career, I am used to accounting for my hours.  As a consultant, you itemize which hours are spent on each client.  Ideally, the most valuable clients get the most time.  So, too, in our personal lives the things we value most should get the most attention.  How close are you to living up to the things you value most?  For one week (one month or even longer would be preferable), keep a Time Diary.

List all the constituencies vying for your time (e.g., family, work, household, finances, fitness, personal, etc).  They are your clients.

Keep a log of everything you do in half-hour increments.  Be specific and honest with the time you actually.  If it takes you two hours to do laundry one day, don’t log one hour, thinking you can get your speed up at some other time. 

Assign each individual activity to a client (in the above example, laundry is the activity, and household is the client).  Other examples:  taking the kids to school is Family; hours in the office is Work.  At the end of the week (or longer), total the number of hours you spend by client.  The percentage of time that you devote to each client is a point-in-time audit of how you spend your life. 

Sample daily entry:

Date

Client

Activity

Hours

3/2/2001

Household Cooking

1

3/2/2001

Family Take Daughter to school

1

3/2/2001

Personal Dinner with friend

2

3/2/2001

Work Office

10*

*Includes time working AND commuting/ preparing for work.

Sample monthly summary:

Client

Hrs

% of Total

Work

200

67%

Family

75

25%

Fitness

10

3%

Household

10

3%

Finances

3

1%

Personal

3

1%

Grand Total

300

 

Of course, quantity is not quality, but the Time Diary is a tool to keep yourself on track.  Are you even able to fill out  this type of report, or are many hours “unbillable”?  Is this how you intended your schedule to be?  Are you spending your time on what is meaningful to you?

A Matter of Life and Death

June 17, 2010 on 1:55 am | In life coaching | No Comments

I saw a Dateline Survival Story of a young hiker, getting caught in a blizzard, and surviving for days with only his lunch and water bottle.  (He didn’t sleep to prevent freezing to death and used the snow to refill his water bottle, first warming the bottle with his hands.)  This story illustrates an important point:  when you want something that badly, you will find a way.

This man wanted to live.  He realized, if he lived, he had a chance to be rescued.  He couldn’t do everything on his own (i.e., rescue himself from the mountain), so he focused only on what he could do:  stay alive – not alive for a certain time, not alive with all his belongings, just alive.

So it should be with our goals.  When we have the same life/death clarity, goal or no goal, we focus on what we can do.  However, many of us pick a goal and assign extraneous conditions to it.  We don’t just want to be a successful actor; we want to be a successful actor by a certain time (typically very soon after we decide to be an actor).  We don’t just want a fulfilling career and family; we want them both now and moving in lockstep each and every day. 

Unfortunately, goals are messier than that.  Our goals push our mental, physical and emotional limits.  Our goals conflict with other things that we want.  How do you know to keep pushing yourself?  You need life and death clarity about your goals.  If the goal is as meaningful to you as staying alive was to that survivor, then keep scrambling.    You may be rescued and have your dreams come true.

Taking A Chance In A Down Market

June 14, 2010 on 1:53 am | In career coaching, life coaching | No Comments

A reader asks:  I’ve been planning a career move, but the market I’m targeting is slow.  Should I wait till the market picks up before making the transition?

Making a move in a down market is tougher than in a robust market.  In the heady days of the last labor market boom, employers were so strapped that they considered a wider range of candidates – candidates with less experience, different industry expertise, or different functional specialty.  Now, employers can be selective and demand exactly the profile they prefer.

That said, there are many aspects to consider in a career move, and the state of the market is but one.  Other factors include professional preparation and emotional readiness. 

Have you thoroughly researched your target field?  Do you know the top firms?  Do you know the major trends? 

Have you conducted informational interviews to gain firsthand knowledge of your target field?  Do you know what personalities and backgrounds are most successful?  Do you know what it means day-to-day to work in this field?

Have you considered the impact of this transition on your life outside of career?  Are there significant lifestyle changes (e.g., longer hours, less money) associated with this transition?  Are you ready to work harder as you always do when you embark on something new?

If you have done your homework and are professionally and emotionally ready for a transition, then this supercedes the market circumstances of the time.  Yes, you could wait for another market upswing.  But then you never know when this might happen, and in the meantime, your knowledge goes stale and your courage starts waning.  In a down market, people still get jobs.  If you feel you’re ready, go for it.

The Importance of Heart

June 10, 2010 on 1:51 am | In career coaching, life coaching | 2 Comments

Early in my career, I was told, “You will be phenomenal in whatever it is you put your heart in.”  I have been a pianist, actor, consultant, banker, recruiter, and career coach.  Can you guess who said that?  A musician seeking to inspire?  A coach seeking to encourage?  Actually, I heard this and similar quotes at every stage in my career.  This particular one came from a partner at an investment bank.

Heart is probably not the first thing you think of when you think investment banking.  Yet, this successful person in this quantitative, business-minded industry recognized the importance of desire.  When we discussed the elements of career success, grades, degree, experience, and other tangible qualifications were not mentioned.  We talked exclusively about heart, passion, and wanting to do what you do.

We all hit career plateaus.  It might be an outright setback, like a layoff, or something subtler, like remaining at a position that no longer challenges you.  How do you know if your career is still the one for you?  There are many techniques to jumpstart your progress.  You can find mentors to inspire you, read trade journals to get new ideas, and research industry trends to plan ahead.  You can also just ask yourself:  How badly do I want this?  If your career still gets you excited — lights the fire behind your eyes, pulls at your heart – then focus on that and allow yourself to get excited again.  And you will be phenomenal.

Minding The Bottom Line

June 7, 2010 on 3:48 pm | In career coaching | 1 Comment

Successful businesses mind their bottom line.  Your career is your business, and your personal bottom line matters.  People with strong balance sheets are better positioned to ride out tight labor markets.  People with profitable bottom lines have a cash cushion to rely on during that career change or entrepreneurial venture.  People who mind their personal bottom line have money to fund their career and life dreams.  (If you still don’t believe this, maybe it’s a blind spot; see above!)

However, budgets and to do lists often don’t work.  Wishful thinking about how you could/ should/ would spend your money or your time is often not as illuminating as seeing how you actually spend these resources.  Sometimes, you don’t need to plan.  You just need to see what is actually happening.  Then, you have your wake-up call:  a point-in-time audit of how you’re doing.  For helpful hints on accounting for your time, see the August 2002 newsletter for the Time Diary exercise.  To account for your money, simply check your account balance at the beginning of the year versus the end of the year.  If you use multiple accounts, total your findings for each account:

How much money did you spend? 

How much cash did you withdraw?  Are you bleeding cash? 

How much did you pay your credit card companies?  Are you overextended? 

How much in checks did you write?  Checks leave a paper trail, so you know where this money goes.  Are you happy with where your money is going?

What expenses are fixed versus variable? 

Are you spending your money on your dreams?

Blind Spots

June 3, 2010 on 1:46 am | In life coaching | 3 Comments

We all know someone who looks good all the time –who knows how to dress for any occasion, who looks fabulous effortlessly.  Do we admire that skill (because it is a skill) or do we disdain it and criticize (oh, she’s so vain)? 

The same example can be made about other skills, such as money management.  We all know someone who’s good with money – frugal, disciplined, knowledgeable about finance.  Do we learn from this person or do we demonize her (oh, she’s greedy)?

We all have weaknesses, and we all want to improve them.  However, some weaknesses are blind spots because we don’t recognize them or we don’t admit that a particular area is actually useful.  A good way to identify if you have a blind spot for fashion sense or money management is to see which opinion you shared for each of the above examples.  When we have a blind spot, we resent people who do well in our weak area or rationalize that the skill is not important.  Blind spots are energy drains, and blind you to ways to bring out even more of your talents.

Instead of envying the fashion queen and begrudging the financial guru, learn from them.  Why shouldn’t we look better, have more control over our money, and ___________ (fill in the blank with the skill that you know to be useful but currently don’t have).  Pay attention to moments where you find yourself judging someone negatively for doing something well because these might be blind spots.  Obviously, different skills vary in importance for different people, but a financial genius won’t get clients by looking like a mess, and a supermodel can overspend herself into financial ruin.  A breadth of skills is useful to everyone.

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