Archives for Business
Manage Expectations So They Don’t Manage You
5
Aug
2014

How to Manage expectations by Alli Worthington.com Expectations. There are two ways they can shackle you, and make your professional and personal lives far more difficult than they ever need to be. 

But, Alli, expectations are good! It’s a good thing to have standards and expect for them to be met.

Ah, yes. Standards are mandatory.

But there is a critical difference between having agreed-upon criteria for behavior or performance, and “expectations.”

By definition, an expectation is not an agreement between people; instead, expectations are beliefs that a certain outcome or event will happen.

Expectations are purely conjecture about what the future might hold, based upon strongly held assumptions. 

Let’s start with an example to illustrate the concept.

A college professor I know of once told his Philosophy classroom about his wife’s recent birthday. He’d planned everything he knew she’d love, so that when she arrived home she’d be wonderfully surprised. He had prepared her ideal meal, the lights were dimmed and scented candles were lit. The centerpiece contained her favorite flowers, and the music was exactly what he knew she’d want. 

When she walked in, she said, “Ugh. I’ve had a horrible day. I’m not even hungry. I’m going to go take a bath.” 

The Philosophy professor told his class how he was originally very angry. How dare she? He worked so hard! Where was her appreciation?

Then he realized that she failed to live up to his expectations, but that isn’t her fault. The expectations were his; she had no obligation to fulfill them.

In this story is a valuable lesson we can take with us throughout all aspects of our life. Expectations should be avoided, otherwise they can cause grief for all parties involved. The professor was originally upset that his wife didn’t react the way he’d anticipated, and his wife was shocked and upset that he was angry with her for simply wanting to take a bath at the end of a long day.

We’ve  all had similar experiences, whether or not we realized at the time that expectations were the culprit. But we can manage the expectations that could arise in our life, so that we aren’t affected by their consequences.

So I started by stating that there are two ways that expectations can shackle you…it’s time to delve deeper into each of them!

The first type of expectations is when you have expectations of others, as in the example of the Philosophy professor. 

The second? Is when others heap expectations upon you, as the wife of the professor experienced.

Knowing each of these potential pitfalls, and more importantly how you can avoid them, is a life skill that will serve you well as you go through your day, from business to family and everything in between. Once you being to recognize them, you’ll be surprised at how often throughout your day expectations are at play.

Managing Your Own Expectations

Once we understand that our own expectations are nothing more than our best guesses sculpted into theory. These best guesses are really- at their core- our deeply held opinions mixed up with a big dash of hope.  

But we don’t need to fall prey to them!

3 Ways to Avoid Having Unrealistic Expectations 

1. Never assume.

When in doubt, ask. Ask your friend, coworker, child…ask what it is they want or need in any particular situation. It’s so easy to assume that your spouse is going to want their favorite meal for their birthday dinner. But really they might just want to take a quiet bath.

It’s easy to assume your assistant knows exactly to whom you want your memo emailed; but they might send it to the wrong department. Save yourself time and effort; ask in advance.

2. Realize that removing expectations from your relationships, both personal and professional, is not only wise, but kind. 

Being misunderstood never feels good. Human beings, even the most hermit-y amongst us, really thrive on feeling that they are connected with others.

When expectations are projected onto others, the consequences can be very uncomfortable when the assumptions fail and they feel that they’ve not lived up to…well, expectations. 

3.  Enjoy what your life looks like today.

This isn’t about expectations of others; this is about having expectations of yourself.

All too often we compare ourselves to others and fall short in one way or another. Then roll in those fantasies and dreams that really are just expectations in disguise, “As soon as I get that raise, I’ll be happy.” “Once we’re married, I’ll feel content and like my life has really begun.” “All I need to be fulfilled is x, y, z.”

Nope. Revel in the day you have today. Don’t mistake expectations for goals. Goals are fabulous and as a coach I’m all for them; in contrast, expectations just make people feel bad.

3 Ways to Manage Other People’s Expectations

A bit more difficult than managing our own expectations is managing other people’s expectations of us. But you can do it, and it is absolutely worth investing your time and energy into.

How? By being proactive in key areas.

1. Communicate. 

In business- Over-communicate. Communicate redundantly. Communicate like crazy. Let others know exactly what your boundaries are; when you’re available or not, your firm boundaries, where you are and are not flexible, your timetable, etc. Don’t leave anything up to chance.

In Life- It is just as important to over-communicate with others outside of work as inside. Just like you want to let others know what your boundaries are, what your plans are and your preferences, it is important to share all these things and more with your friends and family. If no one knows how to please you, they everyone loses.

If Aunt Betty knows when you are coming to visit and exactly how long you will stay, then she is less likely to anticipate you staying longer and feeling hurt when you leave.

2. Anticipate Problems.

In business- For big projects, sometimes it’s worth spending a few minutes “catastrophizing.” That is, imagining a half a dozen worst-case scenarios and how you they could occur. Then articulate to your team a few key points that ensure those scenarios do not happen.

In Life- This translates to non-business situations as well such as a family trip or home remodel. My husband is the king of anticipating every possible outcome and being prepared for everything and making decisions to ensure things go well.

3. Know the biases of others.

In business- Think about any common history or relationship you may have had with them; do they give you any clues as to their perspective? This likely speaks to how they are coming to the situation with preconceptions; preconceptions grease the wheels for expectations.  In this scenario, you can use expectations as opportunities. Not only can you anticipate what they might expect, you can under-promise and over-deliver. Win-win!

In Life- Knowing where your friends and family stand on certain issues and their core beliefs can help you have compassion for and communicate better with them. 

Show Expectations Who’s Boss

Once you understand the role of expectations in your everyday interactions, you’re well on your way. Remind yourself…goals are not the same as expectations! Goals are concrete based upon reality and facts, expectations are beliefs based upon hope and opinions.

You’ll feel empowered once you being implementing the strategies, for both eliminating expectations of others, and for not allowing others to have expectations of you.

Having this understanding will enable you mitigate and navigate expectations, so that you manage them…not the other way around.

Now it’s your turn-

What ways have you seen unrealistic expectations hurt business and personal relationships?

Here are some tweets to share:

Don’t mistake expectations for goals. (Tweet this)

Managing expectations of ourselves and others is a key to success. (Tweet this)

Our own expectations are nothing more than our best guesses sculpted into theory. (Tweet this)

How to Boost Creativity During the Day
2
Jun
2014

How to boost creativity during the day “How do I schedule my day?”

I hear this question from clients and friends alike. Deciding how to structure our time and steward  our resources is top of mind for all of us.

 We’re working longer. But that doesn’t mean we’re getting any more done.

Of course, scheduling your work day depends on lots of factors. If you work in an office, home office, what type of work you do, etc..

No matter what field you are in and what type of business you do, there are three habits that will help you have the best day possible.

(Two of the habits, we have already covered here together, just click the links for the article on each one.)

3 Keys to Structuring Your Day:

1.  Do the things that have the most impact. 

2. Stay focused and avoid wasting your time.

3. Schedule breaks throughout the work day.

This one is so counterintuitive, you may be tempted to roll your eyes, skim over it and never think of it again. (How do I know this? I used to do the same thing!)

We can only stay focused on a single task for about 90-120 minutes at a time.

Physiologist  Nathan Kleitman, a groundbreaking sleep researcher, first coined what he called  the “basic rest-activity cycle”: the 90-minute cycles during which you progress through the five stages of sleep. Kleitman found the 90-minute pattern in our days, too, as we move from higher to lower alertness–the ultradian rhythm.

Have you noticed how you have certain times of day where you operate at peak performance and other times you seem to be phoning it in? Ultradian Rhythm at work! 

Our brains are meant to have breaks.

We can only focus on a single task for a limited amount of time before our focus and work suffers. When we take a break, we are allowing our brains to  process.

The brain gradually stops registering a sight, sound or feeling if that stimulus remains constant over time. For example, most people are not aware of the sensation of clothing touching their skin. The body becomes “habituated” to the feeling and the stimulus no longer registers in any meaningful way in the brain. 

Taking a break from the task at hand allows our brains to make breakthroughs in our work. (Research)

Want to remember more and be more creative? Take breaks during  your work day.

Your brain needs time to be away from the computer screen. In my opinion, checking Facebook does not *really* count as a break, neither does checking your email. Why? Those things are too closely tied to your work because you are still staring at the screen.

Try going outside for a few minutes, do some stretches, chat with a colleague or friend, say a prayer or (if you must stay at the computer) watch a 5 minute clip on Youtube that will make you laugh. Disengage and get out of the normal ‘head space’ that your brain is in during the work day.

Try this for a few days and your brain will thank you! 

 

P.S. I was inspired to write this article after seeing a new marketing promo from Staples. It is a gorgeous scrolling infographic that highlights our need for breaks at work. (I don’t know if it will make people go buy their supplies at Staples, but either way, it’s a cool infographic. Kudos to the creative team!)

Here are the screengrabs from the Breather infographic. Enjoy!

1 in 5 workers feel too guilty to take breaks

58 planes take flight

5 new businesses are started
204 million email is sent
21 million cups of coffee
9% more productive when you take breaks at work
13% more accurate
breaks give our brains a chance to process information
Solve problems and boost creativity
Go take a break
It'll be worth it

How to Work Less and Do More
6
May
2014

Productivity, technology, Alli Worthington

Did you know that email takes up the largest chunk of people’s workday? An average of 28% of the work day is spent organizing, deleting and answering email. How much time do you spend on email? Or on Facebook? Or the gazillion other things that pop up during your day? Who knows, right? The work piles up and the day seems to fly by.

And did you know that every time we try to multitask and switch our focus it takes an extra 25 minutes to refocus to what we were doing before? No wonder our days feel overwhelming with so much to do and so little time.

I’m here to help. It doesn’t have to be this way.

One of the first things I work on with my clients is identifying where their time goes. Our days are easily filled with distractions and time stealers that add up slowly.

The secret to spending our time on the right things is to first know what we are spending our time on.

The first step in getting control of our days is identifying how we spend our time.

How to Work Less & Do More

1. Make it Easy and Automate

When doing anything in life or business, you want to make it as easy as possible to succeed. So instead of busting out a spreadsheet and writing down how you spend your day (seriously, I’m depressed even writing that sentence) we want to automate it.

Today I’m showing you how I use a brilliant tool called Rescuetime. You can download it, and it runs in the background of your computer. Rescuetime will silently document how you spend your time for you. At the end of the week, you will receive a full report of exactly how you spent your time, if you spent time on things that weren’t productive and every little detail in between.

Below is my Rescuetime dashboard. You can see that it shows me my week at a glance and let’s me run reports, check my productivity and my progress.

Rescuetime also allows you to manually add your offline work activity as well, I obviously do not track my offline time.

I spend an average of 10 hours doing group and individual coaching and 5-10 hours writing per week. I don’t need to document it, but the option is there and could come in handy depending on your needs.

Rescuetime tutorial, productivity

 

2. Identify Where Your Time Goes

Run Rescuetime for a week and look for patterns of heavy use for certain sites. You will quickly see patterns emerge of how you spend your time.

Rescuetime tutorial,  productivity

Click to see full-size

 

2. Categorize Your Most Visited sites & Activities

After you know which apps and sites you use most, the next step is to categorize them in terms of how productive each activity is.

Here is a screenshot of one of my week’s online activity in detail.

Rescuetime tutorial, productivity

Click to see full-size

 

4. Monitor Your Daily Patterns

After Rescuetime gathers your data, you will be able to quickly see at a glance how you spend your time. You can see from the screenshot below, that I keep my activities rather standard.

As an entrepreneur this did not come easily for me, I used to work all the time, but I worked inefficiently. Skype would pop up with chats, the ping from Facebook would distract me, and I would lose an hour or two during the day. I used to work 12-14 hour days unfocused, and now I work 8-10 hour days that are focused.

Did you skim that last part? I used to work 12-14 hours a day, and after I had data on how I spent my time, I narrowed my work day down to 8-10 hours. How much less time could you spend working if you stayed focused?

Rescuetime, how I spend my days

Click to see full-size

 

5. Protect Yourself From the Lure of Time Wasters

I have alerts that pop up and warn me if I’ve spent more than 30 minutes a day on Social Networks and 1 hour on email. (Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I do cheat and use my phone, but it still keeps me focused during the day.) You can even block certain sites during specific time periods. That’s a bit extreme, but I’m not judging.

 

Rescuetime tutorial, productivity

Click to see full-size

 

The Secret to Working Less and doing more

Once you know what is taking up your time, you will be able to edit out all the things that are distracting you. And you’ll soon have more entries for your  Stop Doing List!

So go ahead and install Rescuetime today, and you will be on your way to working less and doing more. After you use it for 30 days, let me know what you learn and how much time you are able to save everyday.

 

 

 

 

Secrets of Success: How Reading Gives You an Edge
18
Apr
2014

Secrets of Success. How reading makes you smarter and happierEver since I was a little girl, I’ve loved reading. I was the girl who checked out all 20 books, until they told me I couldn’t check out anymore at one time. My favorite books were always about practical wisdom. (I’ve always had a special appreciation for Benjamin Franklin!) I’m all about Secrets to Success. By this I mean key lessons, beneficial behaviors, and bits of wisdom that just work.

One of the best secrets to success? Reading. What you’re doing right now, in fact! Congratulations, you successful person, you!

In all seriousness, did you know that by reading more you can actually become smarter, lower your stress levels, keep your brain young and fit, and flat out be happier? It’s true. You can.  Here’s the how it works.

4 Ways Reading is a Key to Your Success

1. Reading is the best way to relax

Have you ever felt stressed and opened Facebook or turned on the TV? More than likely, you felt more stressed or just as tense after scrolling online or watching TV. Reading helps us all chill out, and it is a healthy escape from the stresses of day-to-day life. Only six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by more than two-thirds.

2. Reading helps you focus and boosts productivity

If you are like me, you are online a lot. We all know that the fast-paced world we live in is not great for our brains. All the back and forth distractions can hurt our ability to focus.  We need to balance the time we spend racing around the Internet and skimming articles, with time spent focused on a great book.

I’ve found that even reading for a short period each morning helps me to be able to focus, remember things more clearly and be more productive during the day. If that isn’t enough, reading can help fight dementia and even Alzheimers as we age.

3. Reading gives you a competitive advantage

Reading a great nonfiction book will give you an edge because you will gain wisdom you can use in your career. You will be smarter if you are an avid reader. Period. Here’s something to think about. Have you ever noticed how reading biographies and memoirs of people who have overcome crazy odds and challenges and done great things encourages you to do your best?

I’m way less likely to feel sorry for myself if I lose a sale or get a nasty comment about my work when I compare my circumstances to the experiences of pioneers and leaders who’ve gone before me. That is seriously humbling!

4. Reading gives you a psychological boost

There’s nothing like diving into the story of a person who lived life well to remind us that life is more than the (sometime depressing) images and messages we see on TV, life is beautiful and full of opportunity to live it well. Studies show that reading self-help books can also help lessen depression. 

Feeling ready to crack open a book or two?

Good. I have some suggestions! Here are two great books, both written by friends of mine, that will inspire you and make you smarter and happier- guaranteed.

Business & Work Book Pick

Out of Office 13916587865_5a2747116d_z

by Simon Salt

If you are thinking about how to set up a home office and what all the options are, you will love Out of Office. Simon goes into great detail on how to set up productivity systems, boundaries (both personal and psychological), and how to work with remote teams.

I like Simon’s book so much, I endorsed it. If you have any questions about all the ways you can work out of office, this is a great choice. Find Out of Office here.

Life & Inspiration Book Pick

Hope Runs Hope Runs

by Claire Diaz Ortiz

  I can’t say enough about this book, and Claire’s story of meeting and bringing Sammy to the U.S. under her guardianship. I met Sammy when he and Claire spoke at BlissDom together a few years ago.

 As I read the chapters he wrote (he and Claire co-wrote the book) I was amazed at his perspective, his strength, and his ability to thrive despite such hard circumstances early in life. Here’s a bit of the beautiful story you will find in this book:

“When Claire Díaz-Ortiz arrived in Kenya at the end of an around-the-world journey, she decided to stay the night, climb Mount Kenya, and then head back home. She entered an orphanage, seeing it as little more than a free place to spend the night before her mountain trek.

Sammy Ikua Gachagua had lost his father to illness, his mother to abandonment, and his home to poverty. By age ten, he was living in a shack with several other children and very little food. He entered an orphanage, seeing it as a miracle with three meals a day, a bed to sleep in, and clothes on his back.

Hope Runs is the emotional story of one American tourist, one Kenyan orphan, and how one day became one year that would change the course of both of their lives forever. It’s about opening your heart to outrageous possibilities. It’s about what it means to hope for the things you cannot see.

It’s about how God can change your life in the blink of an eye.”

Hope Runs is a fast read (I read it in a day) and if you have tweens and teens, you may want to give your copy to them to read when you are done. The book is an adventure and a lens to a very different world. Sammy’s chapters will be especially fascinating for boys. My older guys loved it.

*Speaking of people who love to read, Claire can read me under the table. She reads 150+ books a year.

I have never done a giveaway on this site before, but I love this book so much I’ve decided to give 5 copies away.

Simply leave a comment below and 5 people will win a special copy!

 

Should You Post That Selfie? This Flowchart Can Be Your Guide.
1
Apr
2014

Should you post that Selfie? Use the Selfie flowchart at AlliWorthington.com (Infographic) Selfies. Love them or hate them, we can’t escape them. I love seeing faces pop up all over the web of my friends and people whose work I respect. What I don’t like is the word, “Selfie.” It just sounds ridiculous.

On Facebook yesterday, I asked for your opinions about selfies. So far, we have over a hundred comments and it is still going.

 

See the whole conversation and join in here. 

 

My favorite comment was from George Smith, Jr-

 Selfies are like establishing shots in a movie. When done right – it adds context, gives the viewer a chance to see the person behind the camera. When done too often, seems like a mess with no “story” to it. The best people online use photos to establish a storyboard for their life.

One of the biggest take aways from the conversation on Facebook is that most folks love seeing each other’s faces, but many feel awkward or uncomfortable sharing their own self-portraits. Some think it is a bit narcissistic, but most do not.

The truth is, the selfie discussion itself is a big mirror that reflects our individual views on much more than just self-portraits online.

We are part of a cultural shift where CEOs, solopreneurs, pastors and farmers are sharing their daily lives. Selfies can be used brilliantly to tell the stories of who we are, our day-to-day lives and, as George said, to let people see the person behind the camera.

Not only that, faces in images are good for business. They are 38% more likely to get likes and 32% more likely to get comments. 

If you are still unsure of whether you should post a selfie or not, here is a handy flowchart.

Should You Post a Selfie- Alli Worthington (Infographic)

 

What do you think? Pro-Selfie or No-Selfie?

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