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The Awkward Moment When: You realize that working hard just isn’t enough.

9 Feb

It can be really discouraging when you know that you are doing a lot of great work but you realize that no one is noticing it.  There are two ways to handle this situation:

1.  Accept the fact that others are not going to go out of their way to notice your work and be at peace with that fact

2.  Realize that others are not going to notice your work unless you go out of your way to show them what you’ve done

I think the first option has always been my go-to reaction.  I always thought that good work would get noticed because it always did in school. Regardless of outward recognition, at the end of a semester I’d see a good grade and feel good about the fact that my work was noticed.

How did my teachers know that I was a good student?  They went out of their way to figure out how well I was doing.  They assigned tests, projects, and homework that was meant to be completed, collected, and graded.  Their job was to record my progress and they worked their butts off doing it all year.  The only effort I had to put into the process was hard work.  The rest was up to the teacher.

Now let’s fast forward to my place in the working world.  I am still working hard and completing projects to the best of my ability.  Up until this point in my life (let’s just ignore last year) someone has always tracked my progress.  Up until about 15 minutes ago, it had been natural to assume that someone else would continue to track my progress at work.  This next point is a great argument for why the transition from being a “kid” to an “adult” is not an easy one:  It is now MY job to track MY progress.  If I can’t show others what I’ve done well, I’ll just get lost in the dust.

To complicate this situation ever more, I should mention one important fact about myself:  I hate attention in pretty much every form.  I don’t want people to notice me any more than they notice anyone around me.  Although I appreciate the idea of recognition, I would absolutely hate it if someone made me stand up in front of a room of my peers to congratulate me for doing something well.  To me, the best recognition would be if someone pulled me aside and mentioned that they noticed __(Insert positive feedback here)__.

After rereading my post up until this point, my problem seems very obvious now: my fear of attention has been holding me back from being noticed for a long time.  My assumption that people will notice my hard work just because I’m working hard is wrong.  I know plenty of people who work hard and have never been recognized or noticed.  In an ideal world, those who work hard will be rewarded.  Just in case anyone was wondering…. we do not live in an ideal world.  We live in a world where “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  As much as I don’t want to admit it, I know that I need to learn how to be assertive and put myself out there to be judged.

This is that awkward moment when:  I finally understand my own blog title.

I could spend my entire life “Building My Brand” but never actually selling it.

From what I hear, admitting that I have a problem is the first step.  So then what’s the next?

For me, the answer is easy: Planning.


Planning Addiction

8 Feb

I’ll admit it, I need structure.  (Maybe that is an understatement.)  Embarrassingly enough, I will also admit that I plan time to be spontaneous.  I feel the most comfortable when I know what I’m supposed to be doing next.

I make plans by the day, week, weekend, month and season.  I use multiple tools to record my plans: a note-book, weekly planner, Outlook calendar, and a white board calendar.  I need to see my plans written down before I can act on them.  There is no way that I could plan using my only my memory.  I’d forget half of the things I need to do.  I know the all of the different planning tools are overkill, but I just can’t help it: I’m addicted to planning.

There are two very important components of planning: prioritizing and executing.  I use these two components as I am planning my workload for the day.  My Daily To-Do list is by far my most valuable planning tool.  If you want to try it, follow these 4 easy steps:

1.  Each morning, take 15-20 minutes to write down a list of everything that needs to be completed throughout the day.  The important part is to list everything that comes to mind, regardless of its importance.  The idea is to ensure that nothing is forgotten once you start working on projects.

2.  Prioritize this list based on items that are time sensitive or have a large impact on your customers

3.  Determine when you will be the most productive throughout the day.  I happen to be a morning person so I take care of all of my detail oriented work first thing in the morning.  I save the less thought-provoking tasks for the afternoon “When that 2:30 feeling strikes” (I wish I could make every day a 5 hour energy day).

4.  Pick off tasks one-by-one.  Regardless of personal preference, time sensitive work needs to be completed first.  If everything is time sensitive, prioritize based on impact to your customer.  Use your judgement to determine what needs to be done first.  The goal is to execute everything on your list in priority order.

While these steps seem extremely basic, I can guarantee that there are a lot of people who spend their days at working being more “reactive” than “proactive.”  I prefer to plan ahead and take care of work before someone asks me to do it.

Since I see planning as an “area of strength,” my goal for the month is to learn how to improve this skill.  I’d also like to learn how to use this strength in my personal life.  I’d like to improve my Career Planning and Financial Planning.  I’d also like to focus on the importance of execution.

If you also consider Planning as an area of strength, what is your secret?  I’d love to hear it!!

February topic: Planning

1 Feb


If you ask anyone who has known me for a while, most would describe me as a “Planner.”  It’s not that I am not flexible, it’s just that I feel much more productive when I have a plan.  I consider “planning” to be a strength of mine mainly because it comes natural to me.  When I want to get something done, I plan how I am going to do it.  When I am faced with a difficult situation, I plan how I am going to get out of it.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that planning is a defense mechanism for me.  It is a way of dealing with unknown or stressful situations.  My first reaction to stress is to make a list of everything that I need to do to fix the problem.  When I sit down at work each morning, I make a list of everything that I need to complete throughout the day.  It is my way of ensuring that I can have as much control of a situation as possible.  I guess one could describe me as a bit of a “Control Freak.”

I can thank my High School for giving me my first Planner.  Since that day in 9th grade, I’ve bought a weekly planner for 10 consecutive years.  My current one is pretty awesome but I do miss my school-themed planners.  I can’t believe it’s actually been a decade since my first planner.  I fully admit that I am a nerd, but I completely attribute my success thus far to my planners.

You can’t sell a product if you don’t focus on its strengths.  That is why I this February I am going to be focusing on strengthening my planning skills in the following ways:

  • Identifying planning strengths and areas of opportunity
  • Finding and following blogs that discuss career planning
  • Reading about planning through articles and books
  • Recognizing the appropriate time to plan vs. act