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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Quality is Job #1

My mom used to say, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when are you going to find the time to do it again?” This was often said when I’d throw the covers up on the bed and call it made or when I would ‘clean’ my room by shoving the junk under the bed (she’d always find it). Ultimately, I’d have to make the bed correctly or fish everything out from under the bed and put it where it belonged. It took more time and more effort this way and eventually I learned the lesson.

On a daily basis, at work and just going through life, I come across people who try to minimize their workloads by cutting corners. The common excuse is time. Ironically these people end up doing more work because, they have to do things over or they spend time fixing errors or handling problems that they wouldn’t have encountered if they just did it right the first time.

It may seem faster to do things this way but it takes longer. Reading an email completely might take an extra 20 seconds but (depending on the email) it can save hours of time doing things over.

Taking a moment to proofread or looking something over can catch costly mistakes and avoid misunderstanding.

Asking questions or clarifying what someone needs might take an extra few minutes but it can save a ton of work on the backend.

Finally confronting procrastination and diving in to the tasks you don’t want to do can save time, money and headaches. Here are three techniques I use to banish procrastination.

  1. The Sandwich: I usually try to sandwich unpleasant tasks between two more enjoyable (or at least bearable!) tasks. 
  2. The Focused Fifteen: This is where I set a timer or look at the clock and agree to do the task for at least 15 minutes. After that time is up, I’ve usually overcome the inertia of getting started and have some momentum going so I don’t mind continuing. Otherwise, I will stop or do another fifteen.
  3. The Countdown: This one is great if you have something repetitive like making phone calls, grading papers or other items that you have to complete a lot of. I will take a sheet of paper and write down the numbers in reverse order (20 to 1 or ten to one) and as I finish each call or complete each item, I will cross it off the list. After my first phone call, I’ll cross off the number 20 and know I have 19 more calls and so on. Putting the numbers in reverse order shows you how close you are to being done.
As mom would have said, I job worth doing is a job worth doing well … if not, you will be doing it again!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Cold Hard Truth: Nothing Lasts Forever

The Cold Hard Truth is a five-week series designed to discuss things that people don’t really want to hear but need to!

Cold Hard Truth: Nothing last forever. Everything changes. People change, grow and move on. Circumstances change. Money comes and goes. At work, roles and responsibilities change, even if your job doesn’t.

Change happens. It’s about the only thing you can rely on. Friendships and relationships have grown and ended abruptly. My best friend and I have been friends since the 4th grade. Our relationship has changed over the years. She’s married with kids. I’m not. She’s still in our hometown. I’ve moved around. We’ve both changed and grown and although we haven’t taken the same path, we’ve grown in the same direction as far as maturity and spirituality.

Yet, I can point to other relationships that don’t have our longevity. Some of these relationships weren’t meant to last. Looking back, I can see that the specific person was in my life for a reason, a season or to teach me a lesson. When time was up, so was the connection. I don’t wish any of these people any ill will; they just weren’t long-lasting relationships. They weren't meant to be.

Jobs change, finances come and go, and the quality of our health fluctuates. When things are going well, I have learned to savor those times. When things aren’t going well, I know that change means that this too shall pass.

But, it isn’t just the tangible things that that change. At the very heart of the matter, we change. You aren’t the same person you were a year ago and the person you are now is not the person we are going to be in a year from now. We grow. We change. We are shaped by our relationships and our circumstances.

Trying to hold on to what we have, who we are and what we know is fruitless. Nothing lasts forever. Likewise, we can’t expect others not to change or grow either. The best we can hope for is that we change and grow together.

At first, nothing lasts forever sounds depressing. While some change might be unwanted, a lot of it can be embraced if we accept it for what it is. Who knows it could be a change for the better!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Go Karyn, It's Your Birthday (well, almost)!

Tomorrow I celebrate my 44th birthday!

I make a huge deal out of my birthday. In fact, I actually tried to get my friends to give me a flash mob in honor of the occasion (they didn’t get on board with that one). Tomorrow, I will treat myself to a massage and a Pandora bracelet. I will spend the evening surrounded by my friends at a great restaurant and cap the evening off singing at my favorite piano bar.

Last year, an acquaintance commented to me that most women ‘my age’ don’t make a big deal about their birthdays. Well, I guess I’m not most women. I told her I’d celebrate 43, 63 and even 103. The way I see it, another birthday beats the alternative! I’d rather celebrate with daisies than push them up!

I've enjoyed every age I've been. Trust me, I wouldn't want to be 18, 21 or 30 again. I have had lots of experiences (lots of good ones and my share of bad ones, too), met lots of people, made my mistakes and had my successes. I'm learning. I'm growing. I like to think I'm getting better with age. ; )

For me, my birthday is my personal New Year. It is a great time to reflect on the year that has passed and look forward to the year ahead. I love to set birthday goals. This year won’t be any different. In fact, I’ll be in Edisto Island, South Carolina next week, taking time to relax and reflect.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow and to the next year.

Happy birthday to me!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cold Hard Truth: Thinking Does NOT Make It So

The Cold Hard Truth is a five-week series designed to discuss things that people don’t really want to hear but need to!

Cold Hard Truth: Positive thinking, in and of itself, is not enough. If thinking were enough, we’d all be living the lives of our dreams. We’d be working in jobs that we love or we wouldn’t be working at all. We’d have perfect mates in perfect relationships. We’d have wonderful kids and live in the homes of our dreams. How many of us are doing that?

Positive thinking is an integral part of success; but, it isn’t the only part. Thinking has got to be combined with action; and not just any action but consistently-applied action.

Positive thinking might make for a happier attitude but it won’t make for a happier outcome. If you want change, you have get out of your head and get busy.

Really, thinking and action are two sides of the same coin.

  • Thinking without action is dreaming.
  • Action without thinking is reckless.

The two go hand and hand. Positive thinking can give you the motivation to take consistent action when you may not feel like it (think exercise, diet, saving money or even going to work!). If you are taking consistent action but run into obstacles or roadblocks, it is thinking, positively and proactively, that will help you develop an alternative plan.

Positive thinking might be the first step, but no one accomplishes a journey in a single step. To take the next step, and the step after that, you have to do more than think about your destination, you have to take consistent action to reach it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My Skewed World View

I have a view of happiness that has been called depressing and pessimistic. Yet, I honestly believe it to be true.

To me, the definition of happiness starts with problems that you can deal with. Happiness is not, and can never be, the absence of problems because that kind of nirvana only exists in the landscape of your mind. Therefore, why should it be your goal? Likewise, perfection is non-existent as well. If you to manage to catch it for a fleeting second, you can’t expect to maintain it. So why should that be your end game?

Life is messy. People are imperfect. Timing is never what you want it to be. Situations change. The unexpected is the only thing we really should expect. So our definition of happiness needs to be both realistic and attainable.

Since a problem and error-free existence is no real existence at all, shouldn’t problems and mistakes be incorporated into our definition of happiness?

Right now, my life is good. I have my health and am surrounded by great friends and family. I like my job and am compensated decently for it. My bills are paid.

Basically, I have problems I can handle. My health is good but not perfect. I have a few minor ailments – but they are minor. I need to lose weight and I’m working on that. Saving money has always been a struggle. I have to deal with my share of office politics, which I don’t care for. I’m very single and would like that to change. However, I’d rather have no man (and a few lonely Friday nights)  than the wrong man (who unpacks suitcases filled with drama, misery and heartache).

These are not overwhelming or catastrophic problems. So I choose to focus on the abundance of things going right in my life … including the minor problems I have. The key to happiness is keeping those minor problems in perspective and not blowing them up in my head and making them bigger than they are. In fact, I’m actually thankful for them … it could always be worse.

In fact, one day it very well may be worse. A major health crisis or job loss or death of a close love one could throw my happiness into jeopardy. It’s part of the ebb and flow of life. I know that. Yet, for now, I’ll just enjoy the flow.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cold Hard Truth: Not Everyone Wants to be Happy

The Cold Hard Truth is a five-week series designed to discuss things that people don’t really want to hear but need to!

Cold Hard Truth: Not everyone wants to be happy. We assume everyone does but misery does love company. Misery is looking for cohorts and not a change of heart.

A little unhappiness is not a bad thing; in fact, it is a necessary thing. It is a reality. No one is happy all the time (without lots of drugs). We all go through tough times, disappointments, grief, anger. We always will. I’m not talking about a bad mood or a tough patch. I’m talking about people who are chronically unhappy and who want to remain that way.

The unhappy come alive when they are complaining and when things aren’t working right (for themselves or others). They come up with reasons why they don’t want to change – why they don’t look for a better job or relationship. The truth of the matter is that they don’t try to change because they don’t want to.

There are benefits from being unhappy. Unhappy people get the attention and effort from happy people. After all, they want to turn them around. Some unhappy people actually enjoy the attention.

The relentless search for perfection is another source of unhappiness. If there is a problem or even a blemish in an otherwise pristine situation, then it isn’t good enough. Their attention immediately goes to the imperfection. They dwell on it. They make it bigger than it is and that becomes a source of unhappiness.
Ironically, many people consider this a good thing. The search for perfection, in their minds, pushes them to do better or have more. In a sense, this can be true but after a point, this philosophy yields fewer results an d the damage it causes far outweighs any benefits.

Some people choose unhappiness because of the drama associated with it. The feelings of disappointment, sadness and frustration can become so commonplace that they become habitual. These people feel happiness as almost second nature.

Regardless of the reason (attention, perfection, habit), some people are comfortable staying right where they are. If you know someone like this, who steadfastly does not want to change, then your goal becomes not letting them change you. Accept them for who they are but do not let their mood or outlook affect you. It doesn’t have to be contagious.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Karyn Cooks: Key Lime Pie and Whipped Cream

I haven’t done a Karyn Cooks in a while ... although I have been cooking! A few weeks ago, I was at the Farmer’s Market. I just had my debit card and was told I had to spend $10 to be able to use it. I was just over a dollar away and there was a line of people behind me so I grabbed the closest thing: a bag of key limes.

Driving home, I had no idea what I was going to do with key limes. The only thing I could think of is pie. So I went on line and found this surprisingly quick and easy key lime pie recipe. I made my own whipped cream too. If you use lime juice (and don’t squeeze your own key limes), this whole thing can be done in 30 minutes.

Key Lime Pie

5 egg yolks
½ cup lime juice
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
9-inch Graham cracker crust

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix the egg yolks, lime juice and milk together.
Pour into graham cracker crust (unbaked).
Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

If you want to make it pretty, you can top in with whipped cream (recipe below) and or lime slices.

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat, cream will then become lumpy and butter-like. (I used an electric mixer and not a wire whisk for mine).

Key Lime Pie recipe and Whipped Cream recipes courtesy of All Recipes. 

Monday, September 3, 2012