Monday, December 31, 2012

5 Things You Should Know Before You Write Those New Year's Resolutions

I love a clean sheet of paper. I love to make lists. I love to commit to writing what I want to change up in my life. I think it is a great and necessary first step to making it happen. So you would think I would be a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. But I’m not.

I have my reasons.  For starters, I don’t like the word.  Which is why my list is labeled Intentions. I also don’t think it needs to be the New Year to experiment with change. I think change is necessary to growth and that is a year round activity. But that’s just me. And I tend not to fit into the norm.

Most people will make a list that will be doomed before they finish it. It might even be the same list they wrote last year and the year before that, only now on a fresh sheet of paper. They'll tuck it away someplace safe. Maybe even for a few days they'll act on it. Half way through the year they'll wonder why nothing changed. 

Here's what they needed to know before they started:

1- Don’t call them resolutions!  Resolution is a terrible word. It’s so clinical and unsexy. You’re doomed to failure before you start. Plus, it implies that whatever you were doing before was a big problem that you are now going to re solve. That does not sound like fun, and let’s face it, if there is not a way to have fun with this, why bother? 

2-Experiment with the word intention. Intention has no fixed outcome. You can intend to do something differently. You can intend to create something new. And by intending instead of resolving you allow the Universe to intercede, perhaps delivering up something that is even better than what you originally wrote down. 

3- Remember that true change requires discipline. Yes, discipline. Not a very user-friendly word in our culture. But if it is a 2013 that does not look like 2012 you want, you are going to have to exert some discipline.

For instance, if one of your resolutions/intentions/desires is to expand your business network then put aside at least one hour a week to go and spend on LinkedIn.  Set the timer and don’t get up until  it goes off. And then do it again, next week. 

4-Don’t forget to check your progress. Most of us will forget where we stored the list before Martin Luther King’s Birthday rolls around much less what we wrote on it. If you’re really intent on making some changes in 2013, you need to revisit that list periodically and see how things are going. Set up a schedule of reminders. 

I’ve become a big fan of a program called GoodtoDo that allows me to schedule recurring ToDo’s. This year I will set one so I can check in every month on how I’m doing with my intentions. The beauty of the program is that you don't have to worry about remembering to check in. Through the miracle of technology the program will remind you automatically on the day you told it. 

Let’s face it, in this 24/7 information on overload world we live in, we will all forget, no matter how important or what our age. In fact, it is often the things that we want most to change that we subconsciously push to the back of our mind.

Hold yourself accountable. Or enlist the help of someone or something else. Like GoodtoDo.

5-Read your list out loud. Preferably in the company of a living, breathing witness. Check in with yourself. Can you feel the rightness of your intentions? Are they coming from a true desire you have or what you think you should be doing?  If they make you nauseous, is it the good kind that lets you know you’re on the right track and headed towards something good? Or is it the kind that is a warning signal to you that this isn't really what you want on your list this year?

Now go to it! Make that list. Check in on it every month and let me know how it goes. Happy New Year!

Happy new year 2013

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Day The World Did Not End

"All roads lead here, and this is where all worlds end"

The first time I heard the world was scheduled to end I was thirteen.  I had just met a Jehovah’s Witness. Up until then my world according to religion was divided amongst my own Greek Orthodox family, the Jews who were predominant in my neighborhood and the Catholics who went to Our Lady of Snows. I didn’t know much about what Jehovah’s Witnesses believed or how it compared to the way I was raised. So I was rather jarred when my new acquaintance told me that according to what she was being taught the world was going to end in seven years.

Seven years! I was bit terrified. When I did the math I was even more afraid. If my simple addition was correct the world would come to a screeching halt somewhere around my twentieth birthday. As far as I was concerned I had not even begun to start really living my life much less be prepared for the demise of it.  And then there was the question of what was going to happen to all of us if it was really going to end. It was all too much for my young and impressionable self, so I took the subject to the one person I was sure would make me feel better. My father.

I still remember the look on his face. Apparently my fear amused him, because he broke out into a big smile, laughed before taking another puff on his cigarette (my father was always smoking) before he pulled me into one of his famous big bear hugs and laid some truth on me.

“Honey, don’t you worry about a thing. They’ve been saying the world was going to end in seven years since I was your age!  And it still hasn’t happened.”

My father had a way of assuring me like no one else ever has. I marched back into school the next day and announced to said friend that she was wrong and my father was right. So there!

She didn’t want to hear any of it, which I didn’t really understand at the time. It seemed to me that an assurance the world would keep on spinning past our twentieth birthdays was good news.

That experience taught me three things.
  1. There would always be doomsayers and they would never be interested in why their theory might be wrong.
  2. It was wise not to befriend them.
  3. A little humor and a smile is very reassuring.

It also colored the way I took in all the brouhaha that has been percolating around the Mayan Calendar ending today. If you’ve done your homework you know the “world ending” interpretation was a whisper down the lane version of the world as we know it. You’d know that December 21, signals the end of this Mayan calendar and the beginning of another. You’d know that many believe, as I do, that is the start of a new world order in which masculine and feminine energies will be in balance, and that is a good thing because if you haven’t noticed they’ve been out of balance for about two thousand years.  That we are on the cusp of the promise of a more beautiful and enlightened future.

But even if I didn’t know all that I still carry around my father’s assurances from so long ago.

“Honey, there will always be people saying things like that. There are always people who want things to go wrong.  You just keep smiling and remember it will all be okay.”

I imagine that right this moment, now that we've made it through to the other side of today, someone is concocting up the next dire prediction.

I won’t be listening. Instead, I’ll focus my efforts on what I can do to help create that better new world.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Not My Holiday Gift Guide

Today I was going to post my holiday gift guide. The one in which I would remind you all about the books I've written and the coaching programs I offer that make great holiday gifts and how buying from people like me supports small business. But I couldn't bring myself to hit publish. It felt too soon to go back to business as usual. At least not publicly. Not after Friday. Not just yet.

I've been quiet since then. I haven't been doing much of my usual social media thing. But I have been reading and watching. I obsessed with CNN's coverage for much of Saturday. I'm like an addict when these tragedies occur. I find myself unable to press the off button on the remote or even to change the channel. I shed tears for children and adults I never met.  I felt the collective anguish of so many others. I tried to make sense of something that will never make sense. And it was only when I realized I had seen the same interview three times that I managed to pull myself away from one medium and move myself to another.

I read the Facebook posts and the Twitter feeds. People weighing in on their sorrow and their feelings about gun control and how we deal with mental illness in our society. But I continued to refrain from posts of my own.

Not that I don't have a lot to say about gun control and mental illness. Or about some of the outlandishly insensitive statements made by the many who did choose to make their feelings known.

I was simply unable to find any words that seemed adequate. I still can't.

I cannot begin to fathom what those children and adults who were murdered went through in their final moments, nor those who witnessed it. No amount of empathy can come close to replicating the emotions of the parents and families who have lost their loved ones to horror and need to now try to figure out how to move on. 

What is easier for me to articulate is that I am struck, once again, by our inability to stop and pause, to take in the enormity of a situation like this and to demonstrate a modicum of sensitivity. To be quiet. 

Instead we fill the band waves with endless conversation and posturing about what needs to be done and what should be done to prevent this in the future. 

We don't stop. We don't pause. We don't allow ourselves to feel the magnitude of such a tragedy. We spew whatever we feel like the next day on the social network of our choice. We vent our rage, our disbelief. Some just ignore and before taking a breath are once again tweeting pictures of the Christmas cookies they just baked, offering up the ten reasons to dump your man or how to have a "killer book signing." To say I found that offensive and insensitive is simply an understatement.

Which is why it felt too uncomfortable for me to hit publish on the cheery holiday gift guide post I had ready to go without acknowledging what happened in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday.

Not that I don't want you to buy my wares. I do. I have a business and a living to earn, but I did need to press pause and reflect. At least for one more day. It seemed the right thing to do.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

So Good To Do

When it comes to time management I am all for simplicity. I am not a fan of adding another App or complicated piece of technology into the mix for the purpose of managing work flow. We have enough new technology crowding our overloaded brains already. To me it seems inane to add one more for the purpose of managing all the rest.

To really streamline things, I believe in mixing things up with as many old fashioned methods as possible. Hence, my predilection to managing my work load with the aide of a non-digital, hand cranked kitchen timer.

But I am about to make an exception. I am a Good Todo convert.

When I first heard about it I dismissed it without even taking a look for the reasons I already mentioned. Not that I don't believe in to-do lists. I do. The simple act of writing down what needs to be done, eliminates worry and frees up genius for the art at hand. Paper and pen have worked for me, especially since any electronic programs that I had tested out only seemed to complicate things and take up more of my time.

But when my friend Nancy Moon tells me I must look, I listen. Not only does she run a top notch PR and Social Media firm, she is always one step ahead on what's new and cutting edge in technology. She's never steered me wrong. So when she wouldn't stop talking about how much more she was accomplishing because of this one little program, I had to take a look. No matter how much I might resist.

And am I glad I did.

Good Todo is an online to-do list that helps you to empty your email inbox and improve your productivity. 

There are several great features:

  • Most importantly, it is easy to maneuver. You do not need to know how to write code to use it.
  • It will sync with all your devices so if you are out to dinner and remember something you want to add, you can do it from your phone and know it will appear on your desktop in the morning.
  • You can create a to-do for future days
  • You can manage your to-dos by categories, so you separate personal from business or however many you need  for your work flow. I added one for Christmas this month to address all my holiday to-dos. 
  • If you don't get to something today, it automatically rolls over to the next day.
  • There is a place for notes about a specific to-do. I created a category for Blogs in which I keep track of the blogs I want to write. The notes section is a great place to capture the snippets I want to include in that blog. Once the blog is ready I redate the item for the day I am going to put it in the cue to be published.
  • You can forward an email to your to-do list. This is probably one of its coolest features. If you get an email that you don't want to act on immediately, you can forward it to your to-do list and label it for the day you want to work on it. And you don't have to worry about it getting lost in the clutter.

There are a couple of little hitches that I came across. For instance I discovered that for the devices to sync you have to push the refresh tab. I was clued into this by the creator, Mark Hurstwho rather impressively responded immediately to my email when I told him of my problem. He also informed me they are continuing to work on improvements.

There is a free trial plan. If you have more than 10 to-dos a month you'll need to sign up for the $3 a month plan. Reasonable and by me, definitely worth it. 

There are very few things that will really "change your life" so don't expect this to. But what it will do is help you to manage your to-do list more productively and with greater ease.  At least that's what it's doing for me.

For more information and to sign up visit Good todo 

For more ideas on how to create more time for your life, pick up a copy of It Takes An Egg Timer, A Guide To Creating The Time For Your Life

Friday, December 7, 2012

How To Stop Wasting Time Worrying

I come from a long line of worriers. Part genetic (my mother) and part cultural (being Greek). I grew up surrounded by people who considered it an art form, complete with a set of worry beads to hold while performing their craft. My grandfather would sit in his recliner for hours, his thumb moving the beads back and forth while the strand was draped around his hand doing nothing but worrying. I have no idea about what. Like most men of his generation he was not a man of many words. 

My mother inherited his obsession. She tells me that she was born with two worry birds, one sitting on each shoulder. Lucky for her she married my father, who didn't worry about very much. It was a good balance. He tried to get her to stop. He would tell her not to worry so much. She would tell him she couldn't help herself. It was a dance they did their entire marriage. 

I had a front row seat to see how much time could be wasted worrying. The evidence was right in front of me that worrying would not change a thing. You can't stop anything from happening by worrying. Nor can you make anything happen you are worried won't.  You would have thought I would have learned not to worry at all. To be more like my father.

Some days I am. But as I said, this worrying thing is in my blood. It can sneak up when I'm least suspecting. And if it gets me in its claws, well, I can lose a whole day.

So I'm always looking for tools to help when that happens. 

Tools like The God Box.

The God Box is the title of a memoir in which the author shares her mother's gift of faith, love and letting go.  Mary Lou Quinlan's mother kept a God Box for years, a collection of notes to God on behalf of family, friends and strangers in which she would ask for help without expectation. Instead of worrying, she would write it down, drop it in the box and let it go. Or as I like to say surrender to a power greater than herself.

When her mother died, Mary Lou uncovered ten God Boxes stuffed with little pieces of paper that spanned the last twenty years of her mothers life, offering a wealth of insight into her mother as well as herself. It's a wonderful story I highly recommend,  as long as you have a big box of tissues next to you and no where to go until the puffiness from all the crying subsides. 

I had the pleasure of hearing Mary Lou speak the other week. The God Box, it seems, has taken on a life of its own. There is a website, The God Box Project, a play, and yes, even an App if you want to create your own God Box and don't want to kill a tree in the process.

It doesn't surprise me how this has caught on. Whatever your image of a higher power is, God, Goddess, Buddha or Allah, surrendering your worries to them by writing on a slip of paper, asking please and thank you, is a wonderful symbolization of release. By doing this, you feel like you've done something when really all you've done is delegate it. The worry bird is off your shoulder and in the hands of someone who might actually be able to do something about it. I think that's pretty efficient business and what I consider a true time saver

Yes, if you are wondering, I have started a God Box of mine own only I call mine my God and Goddess Box. I believe they work better together than alone.

For more about Mary Lou Quinlan and The God Box Project go to:

PS. The God Box, like most books, mine included, make great holiday gifts!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Are You Choosing The Words That Will Get You Noticed?

Choosing the right words is essential to telling a good story. The right combination has the power to influence. If we do it correctly, words afford us the ability to create exactly the visual we want the receiver to have in their minds. 

In 7 Reasons You Need A Vibrant Digital Profile, I told you why it was important to make yours robust. So it stands to reason that the words you use to describe yourself be selected carefully. 

You might be considering a word like "creative". You assume this makes you unique. That it puts you on the short list of potentials for whatever the searcher was looking for. Who doesn't want a truly "creative" individual on their team? How many really possess such an attribute? This word, you are certain, will make your profile shine a bit brighter.

But alas, you would be sadly mistaken. You see "creative" qualifies as an overused buzzword. As do other seemingly sought after attributes like "effective" and "motivated." That is according to LinkedIn's just released 2012 List of Overused Profile Buzzwords.

Every word on this list is a good attribute. They're the kinds of qualities that a prospective employer or business connection would want you to possess. They're also the obvious choices.

And in the wild and crowded planet on which we live, one in which it is increasingly hard to be found, whether you are a person or a brand, obvious will not get you noticed.

So if everyone is using the same words, and they are all reasonably good words, how do you distinguish yourself? Do you simply check the Thesaurus and look for replacements?

Nicole Williams, LinkedIn's career expert suggests that you "Show, Don't Tell."

I'm all for that. Writers live by this maxim.  If they don't you won't keep reading. 

So do revenue producers. Anyone who has ever sat in a sales meeting has heard their managers reiterate, time and time again, that they don't want to be told you are going to get the deal.  They want to see the signed contract.

Apply that premise to your profile by not simply stating that you are "a problem solver" and "innovative" but by backing it up with authentic and hopefully interesting examples. As Nicole suggests you can use the Links feature and direct the reader to a website or article that substantiates your claim. 

I think another good place to do this in your Summary section. Instead of just listing off these tired old, overused buzzwords, tell your story in full sentences, including illustrative examples of your tangible accomplishments. The whole point is to make your profile more interesting and make you jump off the page as a real, breathing, vibrant human that the reader will be pulled to call in for a meeting.

In the words of The Bee Gees, it may sound like "it's only words." You may be thinking it doesn't really matter if you include timeworn ones  in your online profile. You may convince yourself that no one really cares.

But they do. In this very competitive and noisy online world we live in, words are often all we have to "take your heart away." 

Or to make your digital profile to stand out from the crowd. 

Click here if you missed my post on ForbesWoman last week, 7 Reasons You Need A Vibrant Digital Profile 

Click here if you'd like to sign up for a  Digital Profile Makeover.