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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Honest Abe Says ...

One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Abraham Lincoln. It simply states, "Whatever you are, be a good one." I think a lot of us forget about being good now, right where we are. We want to be a good one once we get the dream job, land the right partner or move into the right neighborhood ... but it doesn't really work like that.

First of all, if you aren't doing your best where you are, how can you expect to move to the next step? The bare minimum is rarely rewarded. Want a promotion? Do more than enough to get by. Want a better house or car? Treat the one you have with care.

People are watching you. They are watching more than listening. If someone talks about fidelity and loyalty but constantly cheats in their relationships, which will you believe, their words or their actions? It's your actions that matter, so make them count.

Also your actions become your habits. This idea that you'll do better when you have more doesn't often play out. A strong work ethic is born of a series of habits and, of course, habits aren't established overnight.  If you don't believe in taking care of your rental property then there is a good chance that you wont' take care of your property when you become a homeowner. Those habits are ingrained. They can be changed, but it takes work, a lot of work.

From another perspective, being  a good one - working hard, doing your best, treating people the way you'd want to be treated, feels good. When you do good and are good, you are laying down a strong foundation. You are setting yourself up as a person who is prepared to answer the door when opportunity knocks. True enough, it might not be acknowledged in your immediate circle, right this moment, but I truly believe that it will be acknowledged.

Take pride in who you are, where you are, and in what you are doing. Be a good one! You might not be where you want to be but that's okay. Be a good one now and you'll have the opportunity to be so much more very soon.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Get It Together Girl!: Time Management edition

This brief four-week series will introduce the workbooks in the Get It Together Girl series.

As the holidays approach, it's a great time to talk about time management. The second in the series, Get It Together Girl!: It's About Time - Finding It, Saving It and Making the Most of It is a collection of time-saving tips doled out one per weekday.

A common excuses that many people have is that they don't have enough time. One thing is certain, you aren't going to get anymore! The trick is to do better with the time you have. Most people get defensive when I say it, but I can squeeze an hour out of the average woman's day.

The trick is to not look for large blocks of time; but to use small pockets of time more effectively. I had a client who claimed she couldn't study for the bar because she couldn't find enough 3 hour blocks of time. I agreed. Three hour blocks of time are hard to come by. I gave her a question and a challenge. My question was how long are the blocks of time she did have. She told me an hour. Next, I challenged her to take those 3 hour subjects and break them down into hour-long subtopics. Working with the time that she had, she was able to finally study.

This book starts with a question? What would you do if you could find an extra two-hours in your week? Next, we spend two weeks looking at different ways to get that time: bundling errands, using the Focused Fifteen outside of organization ....

What makes this book different, is that I've included a lot of extra information in the Appendix. There is a chart for age-appropriate chores for kids, tips on how to delegate as well as web-based and mobile applications that will help readers save even more time.

Challenge: Ask yourself the question: what would you do with two extra hours a week? I start with this question because saving time is a task that is hard to track. If you have a good answer to this question you'll have something to work towards as well as a great way to tell if you have succeeded!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Get It Together Girl! - Home Organization edition

This brief four-week series will introduce the workbooks in the Get It Together Girl series.

The first, and most successful, in the series is the original. Get It Together Girl: A 28-Day Guide to Practical NOT Perfect Home Organization is built around the power of the Focused 15. I am constantly amazed at how much can be accomplished in a dedicated quarter of an hour.

I gave a series of 15 minute assignments to be completed Monday through Friday. We move from the kitchen to the bathroom to the bedroom (and the closets!) and finally the living room and work areas. If just the Monday through Friday assignments are done, you've spent over 5 hours organizing!

For example, Day One is the Refrigerator Run-Through. You aren't cleaning the fridge out so much as you are getting rid of everything that is "moldy, hairy, furry, gooey or otherwise inedible."

At the end of the week, I provide a series of steps that help you stay organized. Most can be accomplished in less than one minute. For example, get undressed while standing in front of the hamper. This way your dirty clothes go directly into the hamper without making a pit stop on the floor. Also, if you keep your hangers on the hamper or in another accessible place, it is easy to hang up things that can be worn again.

Weekends are free ... unless you want to do more. For the overachievers in the group, I give some longer weekend assignments that make great projects (or possibly punishments for the kid! LOL!).

Challenge: Try the power of the Focused 15 for yourself. You don't have to limit yourself to organization, it works in almost any area. Devote 15 minutes to a specific task: walking, cleaning, organizing, reading, filing, talking to someone on the phone, budgeting.

At the end of 15 minutes, one of two things have happened. Either you have made a dent in whatever you are working on or you've gotten your momentum going and are ready to keep going.

The key to an effective 15 is to seriously devote 15 minutes to the task at hand. This is not 15 minutes spent multi-tasking or with a split focus. It's called the Focused 15 for a reason!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Karyn Cooks: Sweet Potato Cheesecake

One of the things I enjoy is reading recipes. I found this one and it sounds delicious! I haven't made it yet but it seems like it would be a perfect addition to the Thanksgiving Dessert Table. Try it out and let me know if it's as yummy as it sounds!

For the crust:
1 14-ounce bag of gingersnap cookies, finely ground
6 tablespoons butter, melted
For the cake:
1 14-ounce can of canned yams in light syrup, mashed with fork until it makes 3/4 cup
24 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider
3/4 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons cream
4 large eggs, at room temperature

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider (see note)

To make the crust: 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10 1/2 -inch springform pan. You can optionally line the bottom and sides of the pan with buttered parchment paper. This makes it easier to remove the cake from the pan, but it is not essential (see note).

In a mixing bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs and melted butter. Stir to mix well. Place the crumbs into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the prepared pan, tamping down to form an even crust. Bake at 350 degrees about 8 minutes until the edges of the crust just start to pick up some color. Cool completely and reserve.

To make the cake: 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer with a paddle, combine the cream cheese, butter and sugar and mix until very smooth and well-combined. Pause to scrape down the bowl once or twice.

Add the reserved sweet potato puree and mix to blend. Add the apple cider, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cream and mix well. Add the eggs, two at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions and mix just until incorporated and the batter is smooth.

Pour batter into the reserved prepared crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn oven to 325 degrees and bake an additional 20 minutes. Turn oven to 300 degrees and bake an additional 20 minutes. Turn oven to 225 degrees and bake until the cake is just set around the edges, yet slightly jiggly in the center.

While the cake is baking, prepare the topping by whisking together the sour cream, sugar and apple cider. 

When the cake is done baking, remove it from the oven to cool for 5 minutes and turn the oven to 350 degrees. 

Spread the sour cream topping over the baked cheesecake, using a small offset spatula to ensure an even layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes until the topping is just set. 

Remove from the oven. Gently run a paring knife around the top outer edge of the pan and allow the cake to cool completely.

Once the cake is cool, refrigerate it for several hours or up to two days before serving.

Makes 12 to 16 servings. Per serving (based on 16-slice serving): 484 cal., 33.6 g fat, 40.1 g carbo., 7.1 g pro.

NOTE: If you have lined the bottom of your pan with a parchment liner, remove the cake from the bottom by briefly running the chilled cake (still in its springform) over a medium-heat stove burner for 30 seconds. Remove the springform sides and loosen the bottom of the cake by inserting a long bladed knife between the crust and the parchment liner. The cake should easily pop off and can be transferred to a serving plate.

NOTE: You can substitute bourbon for apple cider in both the cake and topping if desired. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Get It Together Girl: The Philosophy

This brief four-week series will introduce the workbooks in the Get It Together Girl series.

I'm a writer and have been all of my life. After getting my coaching certification, I found that I had a unique opportunity to combine my interest in coaching with my passion for writing. This had two results. The first one is this blog. The Lose the Excuses blog gives me the opportunity to write about coaching-type topics. Here I can reach people with messages that are positive, practical and, hopefully a few, that help readers be more productive.

However, I wanted to do more and the result is the Get It Together Girl series of workbook.

Through my coaching clients and conversations in general, people shared with me the obstacles they felt kept them from achieving their goals. Surprisingly, many of them weren't big things, but little ones. By taking one topic at a time, the Get It Together Girl workbooks were born. Filled with practical information, my goal wasn't to uncover brand new ways to do everything but to put a series of solutions in front of people and, most importantly, give them a framework to take action.

The workbooks are just that - books designed to be worked - not just read. They are short, targeted and contain daily action items. To me, reading and researching are great but after a point, they become another form of procrastination. There are times when reading takes the place of doing. So, at the end of the day, the reader has amassed a lot of knowledge through reading but none of the results that come from doing. Get It Together Girl workbooks are designed to get the reader to take action.

So far there are three books in the series:

  1. Get It Together Girl!: A 28-Day Guide to Practical NOT Perfect Home Organization
  2. Get It Together Girl!: It's About Time: Finding It, Saving It, Making the Most of It
  3. Get It Together Girl!: Getting to Goal: Your Dreams, Your Desires, Your Way

I self-published the workbooks through Amazon (Kindle) and Amazon CreateSpace (paperbacks). It's an exciting and empowering process, to undertake your own publishing. Gone are the days of having to beg a publisher to look at your work!

I am looking at creating workbooks for office organization, money-saving tips. What other topics, would you like to see?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Nickels and Quarters

About 20 years ago, I spoke with a woman who had been married for over 60 years. Not only had she been happily married but she and her husband also worked together! With this rare opportunity in front of me, I asked her for her secret to marital success. She thought for a second and said, “There are nickel battles and quarter battles. Fight over the quarters and let the nickels go.” I’ve never forgotten that. In fact, it is a critical life lesson that applies to a variety of situations (family relationships, friendships, work, driving in traffic…).

How often do we get caught up in nickel battles? How much time do we spend stewing over small slights and petty arguments? As easy-going as I am, for years, I harbored one dark secret. I suffered from road rage. I mean road rage so bad that, on several occasions, people got out of their cars and came after me. It was bad!

Yet, a few years back, I got a ticket. To avoid the fee and the points, I had the option of going to bad driver’s class and I jumped at the opportunity. The instructor actually made the class fun. When she touched on road rage, she focused on how truly insignificant the incidents that incite road rage really are. At that point, I realized that I had been fighting over nickels every time I got upset. Nickels! Definitely not worth my time.

I don’t think we need help knowing the difference between nickels and quarters. We just need to learn not to react to nickels the same way we react to quarters. We need to learn, even if we are annoyed to just take a deep breath and move on. We need to learn not to carry those nickels around all of the time. When compared to the quarters, they aren’t worth that much anyway.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Writing's on the Wall

It’s easier some times to stick your head in the sand. And, as the saying goes, “Ignorance is bliss.” Refusing to see the signs that are flashing in front of your face may seem easier in the short run, the long-term consequences of refusing to look at the facts can have devastating consequences.

Often after seeing someone else’s fate, we comfort ourselves by saying, “Whew! That could never happen to me.” However, if you are dealing with the same person who inflicted the pain or caused the situation, know that it could very well happen to you. In fact, it probably will. The chronic cheater will probably cheat on you too. The boss from hell will eventually pull you down to her level. Watch how people treat others and you’ll have a good idea how they will, most likely, treat you.

Other times, we make excuses for people’s behavior. An excuses, even if it’s unplausible or unlikely, is easier to believe than the truth of the matter. A co-worker takes credit for your work and you rationalize that you both worked on it and the lack of acknowledgement is an oversight. But, especially if you can combine that with other underhanded behaviors, there is a good chance that it is exactly what you thought it was.

Then there are times when we see the behavior, acknowledge it and still refuse to act on our knowledge. Inertia is a powerful force to overcome – doing nothing is easier than doing anything else. After all, acting on your knowledge will take a lot of work, rock the boat, upset the status quo or involve stepping on someone else toes.

Reading the writing on the wall provides you with truth and gives you the opportunity to prepare yourself for what’s ahead. In this case, the writing isn’t graffiti to be ignored or cleaned up. It’s a gift. Treat it as one.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bullying – It’s Not Just for Kids Anymore!

We talk a lot about bullying. It’s wrong and it shouldn’t be tolerated. However, bullying doesn’t stop when school ends. Unfortunately, bullying often continues into the workplace. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (yes, there is such a place), over 50 million Americans say they have been bullied at the job. This too needs to stop.

Here are some signs of workplace bullying

  • You are given tasks that you have not been trained on, saying no is not an option and asking questions is frowned on. Needless to say, when you complete the task unsatisfactorily, it’s all your fault.
  • You spend your work day feeling agitated and anxious knowing that something bad is about to happen (and it usually does) 
  • Jokes are made at your expense and teammates make baseless complains about you and your performance.
  • You are left out of meetings and team activities.
  • You are shocked when accused of incompetence, despite a history of objective excellence, typically by someone who cannot do your job 
  • You are never left alone to do your job without interference usually in the form of criticism, knit-picking or derogatory comments.
  • People feel justified screaming or yelling at you in front of others, but you are punished if you scream back 
  • You are singled out for discipline or chided for behaviors that others engage in without any consequence.

If you feel you are being bullied, first off, you are not alone. And, unlike school-aged bullying victims, you are not being targeted based on any perceived weakness. On the contrary, many targets of workplace bullying are targeted because others view them as a threat based on their knowledge or expertise. Often they appear to be more independent and/or more technically savvy than those doing the bullying.

Sometimes targets become targets not for their technical skill but because of their social skills. Workplace Bullying targets are often well-liked or generally respected. Finally, the target tends to be a non-confrontational type of person. They are not going to respond to bullying with equal treatment. Unfortunately, this makes more bullying more likely.

There are very few laws against bullying on the job so taking legal action isn’t usually the most effective way of handing bullying. It also does nothing if you, the target, sink down to the level of your bully. In fact, tit-for-tat with a bully will normally lead to more bullying.

To combat the bully, start keeping a journal. Use it to list the facts relating to each incidence of bullying “On November 1 (when) Sally Shaw (who)copied a vacation photo of me from my Facebook page and passed it around to co-workers (what)  including Lisa, Stephanie, Allison and Heather, who all joined her in ridiculing me and the outfit I was wearing in the beach photo.” As you journal, stick to the facts and try not to interject any emotion.

Once you have several incidences in your journal, go to your manager, If your manager is involved, go directly to Human Resources. If you think that HR might squash your complaint, if possible, go over their heads to corporate HR.

If nothing else works, you might have to consider a transfer or getting a new job all together. No job is worth your peace of mind or emotional health.

What other advice would you give someone being bullied on the job?