The Complete Job Interview Checklist

June 13, 2008


How great would it be to avoid oversights or last-minute rushing before your next job interview? Well, now you can! Access The Complete Job Interview Checklist here. I’ve designed this checklist to be a quick tool for getting materials in order “the morning of” — so you can feel relaxed and prepared, knowing you won’t forget a thing. It comes in handy for business meetings, too!

My hope is that this checklist proves useful to you, allowing you to walk into future interviews and meetings with confidence and enthusiasm (two ingredients that count far more than any others on this list).

With cheer!
Click for The Complete Interview Checklist
Jen

p.s. If you know someone who might find The Complete Job Interview Checklist helpful, please share it. You may wish to print it and store it with your good resume paper…(you’ll be glad to discover it when the time comes). The checklist is a
PDF document. If you have trouble accessing it, download Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Jen helps dynamic individuals achieve professional success and personal fulfillment.
Her career coaching programs are custom-designed to help you meet your unique career goals.

To learn more about Jen’s private coaching services or to schedule a get-acquainted session, please contact Jen directly:

914-617-8283
Jen@JZBcoaching.com


Visit Jen on the Web at www.JZBcoaching.com
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How To Get Yucky Tasks Done

May 30, 2008

Can you think of a certain task you dread doing that you consistently avoid?  Consider trying “the combination approach”.  Pair the loathsome task with a rather neutral undertaking you already do everyday.  This tip comes courtesy of a dental hygienist, who recommends flossing in the shower.  Over time, once your mind forms the association, the neutral task automatically triggers you to remember it’s time to do that pesky task, too.  Make things easier on yourself by keeping reminders of the association close at hand.  For instance, keep dental floss in the shower by the shampoo.  Try keeping those vitamins you resist taking next to your toothbrush.  Using this “combination approach”, one of my clients now associates boiling water with sorting the mail.  Whenever she puts water on the stove to boil for dinner, she sorts the mail and pays the bills.  By the time the pasta is al dente, the junk mail has been tossed and the checkbook balanced!

High-five!
Jen

Make Follow-Up a Snap!

May 16, 2008

Sometimes there’s no way around it. You can’t seem to reach the business contact you’re calling directly, and you must leave a voicemail. If it’s your first time reaching out to a particular contact, it’s a good idea in the voicemail to allow yourself some room for follow-up right off the bat. After you introduce yourself briefly, leave your phone number and a good time to reach you. This is where you can add: “I’ll also send you an e-mail, in case that is a better way for us to connect.” This way, your “stage 2 follow-up” is already in place.

(see today’s full article below…..)

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Have you noticed that as tough as it can be to “put out initial feelers”, it’s often the follow-up with new contacts that presents the real hurdle?

If you’ve ever been caught wondering what to do after you’ve put yourself out there and haven’t heard back, you are not alone. It’s likely that each of us — whether we are looking to grow a business, land a new position, advance in our chosen field, or just make a new friend — can relate to feelings of discomfort around following up. We’ve all asked ourselves the same questions: Should I call or e-mail? How can I be diligent without being too pushy?

Months ago, I worked with a client (I’ll refer to as Sally) who had a goal to land a new position in a competitive field, and would often find herself STUCK when leads seemingly went cold. Sally told me she would hesitate to follow up if she hadn’t gotten a response to an initial e-mail she’d sent, her mind filling with a litany of possibilities:

“I think to myself, perhaps the person never received my e-mail; perhaps she hasn’t opened my e-mail; perhaps she’s too busy to write back; or, worse yet…perhaps she isn’t interested in me! (??!).”

This last thought stops many of us from taking further action, and has us dropping the very leads that could be instrumental in reaching our goals.

So, how can we make follow-up more comfortable…and effective?

Three things…

1) Recognize e-mail for what it is. While it may be less intrusive to send an e-mail as a “first step”, it is important to consider the other side of the coin. E-mail is a largely anonymous and more passive means of communication (than say, picking up the telephone). From the perspective of the person receiving them, e-mails are an easy medium of communication to ignore. Not even to mention that many people won’t even open e-mails from people whose names they don’t recognize.

2) Gain permission in advance to follow up. If e-mail is the mode you feel most comfortable using initially, consider requesting permission for a follow-up phone call inside your initial e-mail. By doing so, you invite conversation and effectively put an end to wondering what to do if an e-mail of yours should go unanswered. At the very end of your initial e-mail, include a “call to action”, such as: “Feel free to e-mail me at this address, or I’ll give you a call Wednesday morning to discuss further.” When Wednesday morning comes around, if it turns out that you haven’t heard back, it is no longer a question of whether to follow up or not; rather, following up is a commitment you have made to that person.

3) Consider placing a phone call first. Unless you know the person does not like to receive calls or is very difficult to reach, an initial phone call allows you to learn and do several things that an e-mail does not. For starters, when reaching out to a new contact by phone, you can ascertain quickly if this person is indeed the correct one with whom to move forward (better to know upfront than to send an e-mail to the wrong person). Secondly, his or her tone on the phone allows you to gauge a person’s general interest level immediately. And lastly, time permitting, you can engage in a give-and-take conversation on the phone, the likes of which would be nearly impossible via e-mail. Many times, folks find they come away from one phone call with more insights and leads than they ever could have gained through e-mail alone. Added bonus: A phone call positions you for more productive follow-up. After speaking with you by phone, a person is much more likely to open your subsequent “follow-up” e-mails, simply because you — the SENDER — are now recognizable.

There is, of course, one notable drawback to using the phone — the possibility of not reaching the person directly (see above).

My client, Sally — who used to spend time & energy wondering what to do when an e-mail of hers went unanswered — had this to report recently, which I share with her permission:

“…Jen, I realize it all shifted when I began placing phone calls before sending e-mails. This let me determine if the hiring managers: a) were still there, and b) were receptive. By establishing a more personal connection by phone, I noticed they took my ‘follow up’ e-mails more seriously…And not for nothing, this new way of operating gave me valuable practice making phone calls. Three months later, I’m writing to you from my brand new office!”

If you’re game for experimenting in the coming weeks by including “calls to action” in your e-mails or by swapping e-mail for the phone, I’d be curious to know how it goes. Let me know! I would love to hear from you.

Cheering you on!

Jen

Learn more about Jen’s career coaching services at www.JZBcoaching.com

To sign up for Jen’s newsletter, THE ZOOMLETTER, click here.

2 Extra Tips to Stop Worry

April 30, 2008

Other handy distractions:

These are great when you’re driving or otherwise occupied and you can’t use traditional distractions like puzzles or sports to keep your mind from drifting to worried thoughts. Examples include: Counting backwards in three’s from 100 (ex. 100, 97, 94, 91….); Reciting to yourself boys’ names from A to Z (ex. Aaron, Brian, Carl, David….), and then reciting girls’ names A to Z; Naming cities from A to Z (ex. Austin, Boston, Chicago…); or Finding the alphabet in the letters of street signs (ex. finding letters A and B in the sign for The George Washington Bridge; finding letter C in the sign for the Cross Bronx Expressway, etc….Attention New Yorkers: signs for Queens really come in handy for Q’s and U’s). The object is to use these fun and easy mind-teasers to keep your mind OFF worry. They really work…I encourage you to try them next time you’re driving and fretting. Perfect for traffic jams!

A great way to quiet nerves when giving public speaking presentations:

One thing that works really well involves shifting your mind AWAY from thinking about how you’re doing. The more you can GET INVOLVED with the audience, the less nervous you’ll be. To quell nerves just BEFORE “show time,” think about the audience rather than focusing on yourself and your speech. Think about what the audience is eager to learn, why they might be interested in attending your talk, and what value you can provide to them. Better yet, greet and talk to attendees as they arrive, asking them these same types of questions. Again, place the focus squarely on them. If nerves strike DURING your presentation, again GET INVOLVED with the audience by looking different audience members in the eyes as you speak. You will find your nerves running higher if you direct your gaze over the audience as one large group. Rather, by looking at distinct individuals as you speak, your mind will interpret that you are having a series of individual conversations, and your nerves will calm themselves as a result. These techniques work great for office meetings, too!

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4 Ways to Stop Worrying

(the full article from this week’s ZoomLetter…..To sign up for Jen’s newsletter, click here.)

Many years ago, a dear friend shared a powerful and liberating piece of advice with me. After I had “entertained” her with some worries on my mind — insignificant enough (when judged in hindsight) for me to have trouble recalling them now — she turned to me and said, “You know, you don’t have to believe every thought you have.”

She had lighted upon something important in the way I was worrying. She detected that I was granting my worried thoughts the authority of facts — as if they were sure to occur, or worse yet, as if they had already occurred.

It’s true that some of us worry more than others, but if one thing is true about human beings, it is that each of us worries at least some of the time. And unlike healthy and useful preparation, worry is unnecessary and wasteful “wringing” of the body and mind. Worry gets us nowhere, except for making us feel more upset. It’s no wonder that the dictionary definition of worry begins with the phrase “to torment oneself”.


So, if worrying is a waste, how can we stop doing it?

The following are 4 techniques to end worry.
(and they work pretty well on negative thoughts, too)

1) GET TURNED OFF: As soon as your mind brings up a worry or negative thought, dismiss it. When you catch yourself worrying, picture a bright red STOP sign in your mind. Use the image of the STOP sign to block giving the thought further time or notice. If a STOP sign doesn’t work, try keeping a rubber band on your wrist, and snap it every time you notice a worry or negative thought. The harmless sting will focus you outside your worry and will remind you to stop doing it.

2) GET ARGUMENTATIVE: If the worry or negative thought doesn’t take STOP for an answer, talk back to it. Be your own best defense attorney and line up evidence that runs counter to the invading worry. If it’s helpful, jot down a quick list of counter-arguments to the negative thought. No one has to see your list but you. Keep the list handy, because negative thoughts can be persistent and usually need a good thrashing on more than one occasion.

3) GET DISTRACTED: This technique is one reason why hobbies are so popular. If you’re having negative thoughts or worries, one of the very best things you can do is distract yourself. The human mind has a beautiful way of not being able to focus well on more than one thing at once. Take advantage of this. Occupy your mind with very tangible things that distract your attention. Some of the best distracters include: puzzles of all sorts, needlework, crafts, sports, and cooking. Keep in mind that if you really needed to do something about your worry, you’d be doing it. By the very fact that you are worrying (and not acting), it’s likely you are wasting energy and are better served by keeping your mind occupied in other ways.

4) GET INVOLVED: This one is all about taking the focus off oneself. Volunteering and helping others is a win-win all around. We feel great for two reasons: 1) we bring joy to others, and 2) we keep worry at bay because we shift our mind away from our own negative thoughts when we focus on others.

One thing I enjoy most about being a personal coach is helping clients quit torturing themselves. Clients often remark that through coaching, they get to trade worry for tangible action plans that get results. There are many more tricks where these came from. Learn more at www.JZBcoaching.com.

To borrow my friend’s line, here’s to not believing every thought we have!

Jen

A Good Problem to Have

April 11, 2008

It’s a rare person among us who sits around thinking, “What problems can I create for myself today?” Most of us spend our days on the lookout for how we can best avoid problems, preferring to act when we’re fairly certain we’ll be successful, or at least incur the fewest headaches for our efforts.

It may be counterintuitive, but recognizing “good problems” to have — and allowing them to happen — is a key to personal and professional fulfillment.


THE EVIDENCE:

Have you ever noticed that as a group, folks who enjoy the greatest achievement and satisfaction (with the least accompanying anxiety) often share a common view of challenges?

1) Simply put, they welcome good problems to have in the pursuit of their goals. In fact, these folks tend to view challenges as opportunities which indicate and spur growth. They know that most goals worth pursuing come along with a fair share of hassles. And so, they get good at spotting those challenges that are necessary and useful along the terrain they wish to travel. Rather than dwell on the hassles, these folks place their focus firmly on the potential upside the hassles herald.

2) Perhaps even more importantly, these same folks rarely spend time forcing themselves to come up with the solutions to anticipated problems in advance. This way, they don’t waste energy, and they don’t hold themselves back from taking action altogether. It isn’t that these folks ignore the potential downside to problems. Rather, they trust they will “handle it” and find solutions when the time comes. They know that their first solution may not be the best one, but that won’t matter. After all, part of the growth that problems create is ingenuity when it comes to solving them.

GOOD PROBLEMS TO HAVE:

In a former life, the producer I worked with at the hit HBO show, The Sopranos, taught me the value of this approach. Her favorite response to anyone’s “what if” questions was, “Now that would be a good problem to have!” (When problems did occur, she’d respond in the moment with useful solutions). I remember we were kicking off the 2nd season of the show with a screening at The Ziegfeld to an invitation-only crowd that we had overbooked. I asked her, “But what if we have to turn away people at the door?” to which she responded in customary fashion, “Now that would be a good problem to have, wouldn’t it?” She saw the value that lay in the short-lived hassle of crowd control. No further mention was made of the “problem” as we got busy on preparations for the special event. In fact, the “problem” did surface the night of the screening, and after we performed some damage control and made a few quick arrangements to accommodate some extra guests, the press covered the event to glowing reviews as a star-studded, standing-room only affair. It was then that I realized one of the things which made this producer so talented — she knew how to direct her energy towards the results she wished to create (while recognizing the gold in the inevitable hassles along the way). After six terrific, Emmy-award winning seasons, her mindset couldn’t have been more productive.

As a coach, I sometimes notice clients holding themselves back with the intention of avoiding a hassle they foresee lurking around the corner. Recently, a client was wrestling with whether to attend an interview for a job she wasn’t sure she wanted. “But what if they offer me the position?” she asked me, to which I heard myself reply, “Now that will be a good problem to have, won’t it?” Once we discussed it in greater depth, the client realized all she stood to gain by inviting the “problem” to occur, including: the opportunity to learn more about the company, extra practice interviewing, a chance to surprise herself and be surprised by what the company might have to offer, and increased self-confidence. (It turned out the hiring manager agreed with her inclination that this wasn’t the position for her, but he was so impressed by her that he offered her another position that was beyond what she could have imagined!)

PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS:

So how do you put this concept of seizing on “good problems to have” to work for you?
Consider the following questions next time you’re starting a new project, taking on a big goal, or making a transition:

  • What would be a good problem to have happen here? How can I make it occur?
  • What hassles am I trying to prevent, avoid, or solve upfront? By doing so, how might I be holding myself back from taking action?
  • What else could I be doing with the energy I’m currently using to focus on problem-avoidance?
  • What problem might I need to allow to occur to get past this stuck point?
  • What strengths must I recognize in myself in order to feel comfortable moving forward on this?


And remember, puddles are made for splashing!


Jen

Visit Jen and learn more about her personal & career coaching services at www.JZBcoaching.com.

To subscribe to Jen’s newsletter, The ZoomLetter, click here.

A quick & useful newsletter on keeping happy and productive, delivered to your inbox twice a month.

The Exercise Quick Fix

March 28, 2008

It turns out there is a quick fix when it comes to exercise. That’s right — a short jolt of exercise is great for regaining focus and sharpening attention.

So what kind of exercise are we talking about here? Kids’ stuff — a handful of jumping jacks!

According to Dr. Edward Hallowell, world-renowned psychiatrist, educator, and author of Crazy Busy, when your mind starts to wander or you get drained mid-day at work, doing 25 jumping jacks can provide a short boost to the brain to help you get back on track and refocused (not to mention, the silly-fun factor).

A few less conspicuous “quick focus boosters” include: doing a set of push-ups, walking up and down 3 flights of stairs, or taking a 5-minute walk outside. (As with all exercise, make sure your doctor gives the okay first).

While exercise is great for our hearts and our waistlines, it’s equally good for our brains. And, we’re not just talking the familiar mood-boosting endorphins that come with lengthier and more intense exercise. Chemical changes in the brain, which result from even fairly quick exercises, have a profound effect on our executive functions — our abilities to focus, prioritize, memorize, and maintain alertness.

…And, heck, if you’re caught doing jumping jacks by co-workers who look at you funny, tell ’em this crazy coach you know suggested it.

Jen

P.S. There are so many more great tricks for boosting focus, attention, and memory! One of my areas of specialty as a personal coach is working with adults who have symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD) — helping them to make their lives easier and more fulfilling. If you’d like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to reach out. It would be a delight to talk with you…and it could make a real difference in your life or the life of someone you love.

The Resume Profile: A Mock Example

March 14, 2008

Joe Smith

123 Sunshine Road, Pleasant, MD 12345 (321)555-6789 joe.smith@mail.com

Senior Marketing & Sales Executive

Accomplished management professional with 25+ years of experience in sales/marketing leadership positions. Record of success in developing campaigns, strategies, and solutions that have generated 6- and 7-figure revenue growth. Recognized for ability to build relationships with key personnel and close large sales in heavily competitive markets. Well-versed in sales lifecycles and skilled strategist/negotiator. Exceptional trainer and mentor with skills to motivate peak individual performance from team members while driving sustained forward growth momentum. Areas of expertise include:

High-Impact Presentations/Brand Strategy Implementation/

C-Level Relationships/Strategic Partnerships/

Product Line Development/Team Building

(Resume would continue from here…)

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FROM THIS WEEK’S ZOOMLETTER:

Sound familiar?…You write your resume, and then every so often, you go to dig up the last old, dusty version and find yourself re-writing it…all over again.

While there are lots of pointers about resume writing out there, this ZoomLetter focuses on the most important part of any resume — the first few lines (the part just below the header containing your contact information). Not only is this THE MOST-READ SECTION of the resume by hiring managers, but given that most decision-makers spend about 30-seconds scanning any given resume, it may be the ONLY section that gets read. The trick to getting your resume noticed lies in making this valuable space work for you…and in not letting it go to waste.

You may have noticed in the last several years a quiet “revolution” taking place in this top section of the resume. It is official — The era of the Objective Statement is over, and in its place has emerged a new animal (and a much more useful one). Generally called a PROFILE or SUMMARY, this section is very often the #1 enhancement you can make to your resume. A Profile can best be thought of as a synopsis that immediately answers every employer’s main concern: “What does this candidate offer me?”

If you already have a Profile Section (sometimes called a Qualifications Section) on your resume, you’re ahead of the game. If instead you jump right in with your “Employment History”, you may be missing a HUGE opportunity. Leaving off the Profile, you launch the reader into a chronological rundown without providing a reason to bother or a roadmap of what to expect. Especially in today’s super-charged market, we all love a good “hook” and a quick summary (look no further than reviews on Amazon or profiles on Match.com). Employers are no different — they have limited time, and they respond to being enticed upfront. A good Profile Section gives them a reason to want to read further.

Notice that the Profile Section is quite distinct from an Objective Statement (the latter usually addresses our own desires and interests). The best case for using a Profile rather than an Objective is that a hiring manager will have much more interest in reading about the VALUE you can provide, as opposed to what YOU hope to gain. Here is where it’s important to note that far from being an archive to detail the past, your resume is in fact a marketing tool meant to attract a buyer — by illustrating what you can do for that buyer in the future. If you think of the prospective employer as that buyer, then the resume is meant to speak directly to the needs and interests of the employer, just as an advertisement details the benefits of a product to a consumer.

So, how to write a good Profile Section? There is no one-way-fits-all here, but there are some useful rules of thumb:

1) Keep it succinct and specific. Consider writing the Profile in paragraph form in a few short sentences. Include keywords that can be picked up easily through a database search. You may also choose to include a quick list of bulleted highlights conveying specific areas of expertise.

2) Consider the employer’s perspective. In looking over the job listing, consider what challenges the employer is facing. How might you craft your Profile to convey to the employer that you can provide solutions to those challenges? The more closely you address the employer’s needs, the better results you’ll experience.

3) Provide focus. Especially if your experience and job history are diverse, use the Profile to make the case that you are an ideal candidate for this particular position with a concise, hard-hitting illustration of your transferable experience, skills, and achievements. Don’t shy away from revising your Profile to fit each new position.

Colleagues, friends, and family can be great resources for suggestions when it comes to writing or re-crafting your resume. Interested in receiving professional feedback on your resume? I’m a phone call or e-mail away.

Warmly,

Jen

Visit Jen on the web at www.JZBcoaching.com.

When It Comes to Procrastination, It’s About Outsmarting Fear

February 29, 2008

 

One of my favorite tricks is: COMMIT…AND THEN FIGURE IT OUT.

I’m talking about putting a deadline on the calendar. When a person makes a commitment to another person with a date marked on the calendar, it’s amazing how 99% of the time, it gets done.

This is a great trick if you find yourself putting off something out of fear that you really want to do deep down.

Try it next time you’re presented with a vague request to do something that scares you. For instance, if you’re in business for yourself (like I am) and you find yourself getting requests to give public speaking engagements, and if (like me) the thought of giving these presentations makes you weak in the knees, experiment with this: Call the point person at the organization that is requesting your presence and set a date on the calendar — BEFORE you prepare the presentation. Tell them you’ll get back to them with a topic and proposal, but you want to set aside the date well-in-advance to be respectful of them and to be able to plan around it. Once a date is set and you know it’s approaching, you’ll be surprised by how quickly the ideas will flow — DESPITE the fear (The fear itself takes scores of speaking engagements to abate).

This way, rather than the fear eating away at you as you continue to put off picking up the phone to schedule the speaking engagement, now the fear and adrenalin will meet productively as you make preparations for a real, scheduled presentation.

Jump off the cliff, and you’ll find a way to fly!

Jen

Learn more about Jen’s life coaching services at www.JZBcoaching.com.

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THIS WEEK’S ZOOMLETTER: Procrastination Fuels Stress

We’ve all been there — procrastinating out of sheer boredom or repugnance. Take the ultra-common resistance to perform household chores. Most of us can relate to the thoughts: “If I just hadn’t put it off!” or “If I had only done a little tidying up each day, I wouldn’t be faced with the piles of mail or the overflowing hall closet!”

But many times, procrastination springs from something a bit less transparent than simply not wanting to bother. I’m talking about the type of procrastination rooted in FEAR.

With permission, I share a valuable approach to just this type of procrastination, relayed to me by a client. She makes a great case for…

Why procrastination causes us more stress than it’s worth (and what we can do about it):

She writes: “I often put things off that I’m scared to do. Like if I have to make a phone call; or commit to something; or get back to someone; or meet with people. I always try to put it off. The problem is, when I put it off, I’m then spending all that extra time worrying about it. So, procrastinating only feels good for the first day or so (when I feel like there’s still a lot of time until I have to do the scary thing). But, really, I spend the rest of the time worrying.

So, I’ve started experimenting (like we discussed) — committing to things right away and setting up meetings sooner rather than later, even if I’m scared I won’t be prepared. This way, I end up getting whatever it is out of the way, and I have a lot of time left to feel good that IT’S DONE! I know it’s a simple idea, but it’s worked so far.

I’m actually finding that I’m pushing things UP (instead of BACK). What I’ve found is that I have more time to work on things sooner this way, which leaves less crunch time in the end. If I push things up, I can feel more freedom to make mistakes, because there’s more time to correct them. So, I might show my supervisor a crummy draft, but that’s not nearly as scary as if we met further along and I showed her a crummy final draft, because then I’d have no time to make corrections. I find the old saying to be true: The sooner you start, the better. Oftentimes, if you push something off, you end up having only one shot at it. Better to work the kinks out earlier than have it be too late. Plus, it’s a bonus to realize I can handle most things sooner and don’t need the extra time.

Now when I’m nervous about something, I don’t put it off, because that will just leave me more worried about it. The key is it’s better to take action sooner than set your life up constantly worried about what’s coming next.”

This client’s valuable insight is this:
Procrastination that stems from stress & worry ends up FUELING stress & worry. ACTION interrupts this cycle.

I encourage you to try this…Take a moment to consider ONE thing that you’ve put off out of fear, and imagine the stress that could be lifted if you were to look out your “rear-view mirror” at it COMPLETED.

With cheer,

Jen

Learn more about Jen’s life coaching services at www.JZBcoaching.com.

Favorite Organizing Tricks

February 15, 2008

In this week’s ZoomLetter, I shared 4 of my favorite ORGANIZING TRICKS.
What follows is an addendum to each of the first three of them. (To check out all 4 original tricks, scroll to the bottom of this post).

1) Additional e-mail trick: If you have the willpower, make it a point to check e-mail just twice a day. To take this one step further, consider adding an auto-responder message along the following lines: “Thank you for your email. Please note that I regularly check email at 11am and 4pm. If your matter requires immediate attention, please call me at the following number. Thank you and have a great day.”

2) Two more TO-DO list tricks: a) Consider dividing your daily TO-DO list into two or more parts based on content, location, or time of day. For instance, I divide mine into “day and evening” sections, placing daytime items towards the top of the list. Alternately, you can experiment with dividing your TO-DO list into “work and personal” sections or into “in the office and on-the-road” sections. b) When it comes to longer-term wish list items (i.e. planting that garden, taking that dream vacation, cleaning that closet, or taking that painting class), try keeping them all on one “intention” list (perhaps as a document saved to your computer). Then, each week during your 15-minute personal planning session, scan the “intention” list and see how you might add a small piece of one intention to your daily TO-DO lists for the coming week. For instance, “call travel agent” jotted on Wednesday’s TO-DO list or “research classes at The New School” jotted on Thursday’s TO-DO list starts to make taking that dream vacation or that painting class MORE REAL in bite-size chunks.

3) A twist on eliminating piles: If folders aren’t your thing, consider using open bins. Any type of boxes or bins will do (i.e. plastic, cardboard, wicker). The trick is to make sure not to use lids, so it’s easy to throw things into the bins. This will eliminate the tendency to leave papers accumulating out in the open on desktops or counter tops. You can assign names to the bins just as you might do to folders: “the action bin” and “the catch-all bin”, and you can put off sorting the bins until they start to fill. If you’re looking for something important, the worst that can happen is that you’ll have to sort through one or two bins (rather than looking all over the house). For young kids, try making tossing items in bins into a fun game.

If you have more organizing tricks that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment to this blog below…

To learn more about personal coaching, visit www.JZBcoaching.com.

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THIS WEEK’S ZOOMLETTER: 4 OF MY FAVORITE ORGANIZING TRICKS

2) TOUCH E-MAIL ONCE: The old rule about touching papers once applies to e-mail, too. If your e-mail inbox feels like an overwhelming TO-DO list, it’s time to stop using e-mails as visual reminders that lie around like piles of paper. When opening an e-mail, commit to do 1 of 3 things: a) delete it, b) reply to it (if doing so will take less than 1 minute), or c) make a note on a separate daily TO-DO list to respond later. This eliminates the need to continually scan through e-mails or re-read them (both big time-wasters), because you rest assured that if an e-mail has been opened, either it has been acted upon or has been “captured” as an action item on your TO-DO list. Keep in mind, too, that in many cases, time spent deliberating over how to craft an e-mail “to strike just the right tone” can be cut in half by picking up the phone.

2) SCRAP THE LONG TO-DO LIST: A lengthy TO-DO list that includes everything from work meetings to salon appointments to grocery items to longer-term wish items (like finally planning that dream vacation) can overwhelm the sanest of us. Instead of keeping one long-running TO-DO list, commit to putting aside 15 minutes once a week for a “personal planning session”. I like to hold mine on Fridays. Every Friday, I transfer my work appointments and personal appointments for the upcoming week onto individual, daily TO-DO lists (this is a snap if you use an electronic PDA, but if you’re like me and do it longhand, a ringed steno notebook or weekly planner comes in handy). After the appointments are in, I add other action items to each day, according to what errands I want to run and where I’ll be that week. For instance, I generally add an item like “work out at the gym” most weekday mornings, while I might add “do laundry” to Thursday’s list and “buy groceries” to Tuesday’s list. This way, items aren’t left floating on a long list, but rather, have a day of the week assigned to each of them. Another nice thing about taking the 15 minutes for a planning session once a week is getting to scan the upcoming week from a 30,000-foot view, allowing a vantage point to plan ahead. For instance, if I see “corporate presentation” on Wednesday afternoon, I can make sure to add “prepare handouts” to Tuesday’s TO-DO list.

3) ELIMINATE PILES: When opening mail or sorting papers, keep 4 items close by as a short-term “filing system”: a) a garbage can, b) a folder labeled “catch-all”, c) a folder labeled “action”, and d) your daily TO-DO lists (or PDA). The most obvious is the garbage can – for items that can be tossed.  (As a wise reader points out, ALL clean office paper, receipts, cardboard, inserts etc. should be recycled, and not tossed into the garbage can). The “catch-all” folder comes in handy for items that don’t require action but may be good to hold onto for future reference (i.e. coupons, notices, receipts, etc). Alternately, for items that require action (i.e. bills, invitations, etc.), file them in the “action” folder and make a note – right then and there – on your TO-DO list of the action you want to take (i.e. pay insurance bill or RSVP to Jane’s birthday party). When it comes time to take the action, you’ll know just where to find the bill or the invitation — tucked away safely in the “action” folder. After the action has been taken, you can transfer the bill or the invitation to the “catch-all” folder (for safe-keeping, if you want to hold onto them). This filing method eliminates clutter on counter tops, takes the pressure off needing to sort or file upfront (since you only have two folders to contend with), and means you always know where important papers are (either in the “action” folder or in the “catch-all” folder). Once a month or so, carve out some time to go through the catch-all folder, discarding some items and transferring others to longer-term filing systems as needed (for example, if you save statements or bills for tax purposes).

4) ADD A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR: As helpful as a TO-DO list and a fab organizing system can be, nothing beats a sense of humor when it comes to feeling good in the midst of the crazy-busy lives most of us lead. Cut yourself some slack, be kind to yourself and to others, and remember to laugh when the best laid plans go awry or something falls through the cracks. Others will appreciate you for it, and you’ll add years to your life and quality to those years.

As a personal coach, I help busy individuals self-style approaches to taming “overwhelm”, finding time, and keeping organized. If you have a valuable tip for doing any of the above, I would love to learn about it and share it with our readers. Please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Here’s to being human and having fun,

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Tales of a First-Time Novelist…

January 31, 2008

 

On January 28th 2008, twenty-eight days after putting hands to the keyboard, I met my personal goal of completing the first draft of my very first novel in one month’s time!

During the wild ride, I vacillated between times when I marveled at my own elation (quite literally, I was nothing short of shocked at how much I could enjoy the process) and times when I would have preferred to rub my palms against sandpaper than stare at the screen and wrench another 1,000 words from my constipated brain.

That’s the experience in a nutshell, but it leaves so much out. The takeaways for me were the lessons I learned about how to approach and enjoy any meaningful undertaking that starts out feeling daunting.

I found a few things to be extraordinarily helpful along the way. I figured it might be valuable to share the three BIGGIES:

1) WRITING IN JANUARY: Although NaNoWriMo takes place each year in November, I found January to be an ideal writing month for the following reasons: It’s a long month (31 days); it includes a 3-day weekend (ideal for catch-up); it’s cold and dreary where I live (so no problem missing the outdoors, as long as skiing isn’t your thing); and it’s still football season (which, if you’re the wife of a JETS fan, makes the play-offs less painful).

2) TRUSTY WRITING COMPANIONS: Mine are www.dictionary.com (and its cousin www.thesaurus.com); www.wikipedia.com; and www.bartleby.com.

3) A FOCUS ON ACTION OVER CONTEMPLATION: Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, calls it “exuberant imperfection”. As the NaNoWriMo website states, “The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly…By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.” And, I found it to be TRUE. The relentless drive towards quantity took my focus away from perfecting each line, and kept my sights set squarely on the action I had set out to do — WRITE.

Some reflections on writing a novel in one month:

What I come to love most about writing my novel “NaNoWriMo-style” (i.e. in one month flat) is this — AGONIZING is not an option. On days when I’m not “feeling it,” I simply don’t have the TIME to feel sorry for myself, get angry, give up, or (the deadliest time-waster of all) RE-READ what I have already written. I know that to do so means not finishing by the end of the month — not meeting my personal goal — and in effect, sacrificing however many days I have already committed to this insane project in the first place. I am not about to let all that prior labor and elation (not to mention, word-count) go to waste. And so, what I realize by Day 5 is that it isn’t the BIG GOAL (a 50,000-word finished novel) that keeps me going; rather, it’s the DAILY GOAL (of writing 2,000 words/day) that keeps me motivated. On the practical side, I have incentive to NOT GET BEHIND for even one day, as 2,000 words are more than enough to shoulder each day.  While maintaining my full-time coaching practice, I am writing anywhere from 2-5 hours per day (depending on the muse’s whims), pulling early mornings or late evenings before and after clients.  On the more emotional side, I come to see that while the big goal (50,000 words) continues to feel overwhelming (most of the way through), the daily goal (2,000 words) continues to feel doable — and MORE DOABLE each day I do it!

But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it is harder to write on Day 5 than it is on Day 1. Even though I begin Day 1 without so much as an outline or a plot (appropriately, I might add, as the NaNoWriMo book written by founder, Chris Baty, is after all, titled No Plot? No Problem!), I find myself flying through Days 1-4, charged up on adrenalin as well as Brie, hard salami, and imported olives (which I spy at the grocery store and jokingly fancy might make me feel a cosmic connection to one of the “Lost Generation“). I keep a log of REFLECTIONS as I write. Reflections from Days 1-4 include: “Getting such a kick out of the fact that as crummy as the sentence may be, it has never been written before!” “The best part of writing is losing all sense of space and time — when I turn around and 2 hours feels like 20 minutes,” “I’m enjoying laughing out loud as I write (nothing new here, as I’m always laughing at my own jokes)”……..and so forth. A plot starts to emerge slowly, and then…Days 5-8 HIT like the 20-mile “wall” in a marathon (many miles short): “Having trouble, words don’t flow easily,” “I’m dragging my carcass behind the keyboard,” and “It feels great afterwards, until I think, I have to do that all over again tomorrow.”

And so, as with most things in life, this one comes in spurts and drags…and spurts again. Allowing myself no weekends off is one of the toughest parts, and Day 10 marks the first time I miss my self-imposed 2,000-word daily quota, but I manage to make it up quickly. On Day 13, I reflect with joy, “I crossed the half-way point today with just over 26,000 words!” and by Day 20, I write for the first time, “I have a strong feeling that I can do this.” On Day 22, I reflect on the physical “toll”: “Exercise has suffered, as have the eyeballs…I’m trying to remember to blink as I type.” It is towards the very end, Days 24-27, that I pull back some, missing the daily quotas. In one reflection, I wonder at my reasons for slowing down, “Could it be I’m really going to miss this?…I think so.” At 3:23pm on January 28th, I type the final two words — THE END — and instead of what I anticipated (jumping up and down, painting the town red), I enjoy some quiet moments of feeling very lucky to have experienced something I’ve always wanted to do AND some twinges of sadness that this part of the journey is complete.

So what comes after writing a novel in a month? Some rest & relaxation, some enjoyment of weekends again, and one quiet afternoon I have planned to read the first draft from start to finish for the very first time. I have been told that a good re-write can take upwards of a year to pull off, so my work is cut out for me if I decide to continue this extraordinary process. And not least, I look forward to giving back. One of my favorite things to coach around with my private coaching clients is “how to effectively take on a challenging personal goal — something bigger than ever before.” I feel more energized than ever to coach others to GO FOR ACTION and enjoy the messiness of the ride…

Personal Coaching is an incredible asset…If you’ve ever thought about writing a novel of your own — or taking on another wild adventure that more closely suits your personal style — I am enclosing my loudest cheer of support and a warm welcome to reach out. I would love to hear from you!

To learn more about personal coaching with Jen, visit www.JZBcoaching.com.

To adventure!

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