Archive for November, 2009

Speedwriting Technique.

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

College lectures can stretch much longer than the lectures you receive in high school. They can also be very detailed. For this reason, many college students address the potential problem of missing critical information by developing a personalized form of shorthand. They simply come up with a set of symbols or abbreviations for common words that they find in lectures.

Tips For Using Shorthand:

Developing shortcuts in your writing is not a new idea. Students have been using this method for as long as they’ve been taking class notes. The trick is to develop a good system and to do it well. To do that, you have to practice.

  • Develop shortcuts for the most commonly used words and make shortcuts for them.
  • At the beginning of a term look through the textbooks for each course. Find the common terms that you’ll see over and over  and develop shortcuts for them. For example, words that might appear frequently in a literature class are: character (ch); allegory (alg); allusion (allu); figure of speech (fos); and so on.
  • Practice your course-specific shorthand at the beginning of the term, while your text is still new and you’re curious and excited about the information. Find a few interesting passages and practice writing them in shorthand.
  • If possible, find a study partner (or ask parent) to read the passage to you. This will give you experience.
  • Time yourself for each passage you practice. Pretty soon you’ll start to build up speed.

Sample Shortcuts :

  • @  =  at, about, around.
  • no.  = number, amount.
  • +  =  bigger, greater, increasing.
  • ?  =  who, what, where, why, where.
  • !  =  surprise, alarm, shock.
  • bf  =  before.
  • bc  = because.
  • rts  = results.
  • resp  =  response.
  • x  = across, between.

By Grace Fleming.

Read more @ http://homeworktips.about.com/od/studymethods/a/speedwriting.htm

Encouraging Learning in the Workplace

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Helping Others Learn:

Opportunities to help others learn come up all of the time in the workplace. When you help a staff member deal with an angry customer, you have an opportunity to help her learn. When a team member comes to you frustrated by a recent change in a work system, you have an opportunity to help him understand why the change was necessary.

Whether you regard this as ‘training’ or not, this kind of learning doesn’t just take place in formal classrooms, seminars, or online courses. And you don’t have to be a trainer to want to help people learn new things, and better understand their roles within the organization. Many people, at many levels, train others at some point – and they have a role in creating a learning environment that affects the way work is done, and how their teams are taught new things.

So how can you help people learn effectively within your company or team? There are many ways to do this, some of which involve actual ‘lessons.’ However, the general idea is to create an environment where people are committed to learning, and in which they are supported in their efforts.

Motivating people to learn:

People aren’t always motivated to learn. Some simply don’t want to learn new things; they just don’t want to change. Others think that learning happens naturally, and that it’s an inevitable outcome of instruction. Clearly that isn’t always true, because you can teach someone lots of skills, and still not know whether the person will actually use and apply those skills.

However, you can’t make someone learn. You can have the greatest session prepared. You can have the most organized presentation. You can be charming, and know your subject thoroughly. But unless ’students’ are motivated, it’s unlikely that they’ll learn.

That’s why it can be helpful to know a technique for motivating people to learn. A useful model is ARCS, which stands for ‘Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction.’ This was developed by John Keller in 1983, and it’s been used and validated by teachers and trainers across a wide range of learning environments – from universities to the military.

Here are the basic components of the ARCS model:

  • Attention – Capture the learners’ attention at the start of the session, and maintain it throughout the lesson.
    • Ask the learners questions to make them think about why they should learn the skill.
    • Use role-playing or other activities to show the importance of learning the skill. For instance, you could play the role of an angry customer, and have the learner respond to you as a way of demonstrating the best way to handle a difficult situation.
    • Use specific examples, and ask learners to offer their own solutions, to stimulate their interest further.
  • Relevance – Explain to learners how important the lesson is, and how it could benefit them.
    • Describe the benefits. For example, by learning strategies for handling angry customers, your staff will be less stressed and anxious about dealing with them.
    • Relate the lesson to their current jobs and experiences. The learning materials, assignments, and projects should be applicable to their work, and to specific situations they face in their daily jobs.
    • Develop a connection between learning the skill and developing their careers. Discuss issues like increased satisfaction, higher pay, and promotion opportunities.
  • Confidence – Tell learners what is expected of them.
    • Set clear objectives for the session, and check in regularly with learners to make sure they’re not falling behind.
    • Design projects and lessons so that learners experience small successes along the way, before they completely master the skill.
    • Give learners enough time to practice the skills so they’ll be successful when they apply those skills on the job.
    • Make sure you’re teaching at the right level. Learners can lack motivation if something is too difficult – or too easy.
    • Allow learners to have input into their learning by helping them create their own learning goals.
  • Satisfaction – Reinforce successes and motivation.
    • Give lots of feedback. Make sure it’s specific, timely, and relates to how learners can put the skill into practice on the job.
    • Recognize learners’ successes. Praise often, and find ways to reward achievements. Let learners know that you and the company value and appreciate expertise and high levels of skill and competence.
    • Look at ways to increase motivation. Find out what learners are interested in and passionate about. And find ways to get learners to motivate one another as well.

Some guides:

As well as increasing the motivation to learn, there are many ways to make your sessions more interesting, enjoyable, and suitable for all learners. These ideas can be used for formal lessons, or for spontaneous learning opportunities that present themselves.

You can help the learning process by doing the following:

  • Use pre-instruction questions – These can get learners to think about why they should be learning this new skill, as well as to appreciate the benefits of learning.
  • Use conceptual models – These are often a useful way for helping learners to store and retrieve information. Mental models (which can be in the form of diagrams and charts) are often helpful for learning the details of a lesson.
  • Vary the learning material – This will help you deal with all learning styles. Some of the systems we use for learning are as follows:
    • Visual – Charts, graphs, or images may represent the idea being presented, as well as information in books or reports.
    • Auditory – Lectures, presentations, and group discussions allow learners to ‘talk through’ what’s being presented.
    • Kinesthetic – This is experience and hands-on practice that’s either real or simulated.

    We all have our own preferred learning styles. If you provide as many different learning experiences as sensibly possible, you’ll be more likely to connect with each learner.

  • Group learners of the same skills – Encourage learning and understanding by having people work with others who are learning the same skills. By helping one another, they can all reinforce what they’re learning. Everyone in the team will then benefit from the strengths of the individual members.
  • Provide opportunities for reflection and thinking – Learning journals are a popular and effective way for people to write down their thoughts about how the learning process itself has been helpful to their overall development.
  • Actively review the lesson at the end – What progress did the learners make, and what difficulties did they encounter? By revisiting the lesson, you have an opportunity to learn from the experience yourself – and hopefully figure out how to improve the content or approach next time. A review also gives the learners an opportunity to analyze their performance, and increase their commitment to continuous learning.
  • Use all of your emotional intelligence and communication skills – This means establishing a connection with learners, listening actively, using empathy where appropriate, being patient, and showing genuine interest in the people and in your teaching. Your attitude toward learning has a huge impact on the learners’ attitudes, so make sure you’re a good role model for continuous, active learning.

Read more @ http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newISS_89.htm

Helping Your Childen in School.

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

You can help your children succeed in school by helping them follow these 10 tips.

1.   Focus on Homework:

  • For each subject, whether your children have been given homework or not, make sure they review their notes – so that when a big test or an end of unit test comes up, they will be prepared to study for it.
  • Focusing on homework will also help your children be ready for the next lesson, and ready to ask questions that might have come up.

2. Keep your notes neat and clear:

  • Make sure your children notes contain all the information they need to know.
  • Have them highlight or underline the most important points.
  • Notes full of crossed out words and messy ink patches need to be rewritten altogether.

3.   Keep your schoolbag neat:

  • At least once a week have your children empty their schoolbags to make them neater.
  • It is best to have your children do this in the middle of the week; Wednesday night is best.
  • After a while, your children will become naturally neater.

4.   Use your time efficiently:

  • If your children get stuck on a particular piece of homework, have them leave it and move onto the next piece.
  • Otherwise, their frustration will rise and make matters worse.
  • Have your children go back to the piece they left after a while.

5.   Always look ahead:

  • Your children should use their school planners or their own schedules to anticipate what they will need to be doing soon.
  • Encourage them to do a little bit extra, even when they seem to be finished with the homework for that day.
  • If a test is coming up, make sure your children don’t leave studying to the last minute.

6.   Do research wisely:

  • If research is involved in a project, be careful about how your children use the Internet.
  • The Internet is a valuable resource,  but it can be very distracting.
  • Your children might get sidetracked and waste time going from topic to topic.
  • Every now and then, take your children to the library to do their research.
  • They will find valuable information and learn many useful research skills.

7. Use technology:

  • Help your children to use a computer effectively to apply to their schoolwork.
  • Let them experiment with PowerPoint, Publisher, Front Page, and other programmes.
  • Help your children learn to type efficiently and use Word correctly.
  • Install appropriate audio books on their iPods and watch the Discovery Channel and other educational television programmes with them.

8.  Find your way:

  • This is going to be trial and error at the beginning, but for any subject and homework assignment, your children will have to find what works best for them .
  • If positive results are not occurring, there is something they are not doing right.
  • Some children may have to rewrite their notes to remember facts, others might have to read them aloud, while still others might need to act them out or build something.
  • Once the right way is found, learning will improve.

9.   Prioritize what must be done:

  • Your children must learn to prioritize the things they need to do.
  • Schoolwork and extracurricular activities must come first.
  • Make this very clear to your children and help them stick to this priority.

10.   Communicate with teachers:

  • This applies to you as parents as well as to your children.
  • If there is any doubt about an assignment, contact the teacher.
  • Encourage your children to ask the teacher if they find something to be unclear.
  • Your children can do this after class or the next day.
  • Doing this will also help your children develop important communication skills and build their  self-confidence.

Read more @ http://www.how-to-study.com/study-skills/en/other-helpful-articles/51...

Three Ways to Impress Your Boss

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Whether you’re working toward a raise, a promotion, or your work ethic just won’t let you do otherwise, you probably aspire to hear the words “good job” from your boss. If that’s you, one of the quickest ways to impress your boss is by making his or her life easier.

Although every supervisor is different and will be impressed by different actions, here are three things you can do that are likely to give any boss a favorable impressions of you.

  1. Pay attention to detail: There’s a distinct difference between getting something done so  an assignment can be checked off and doing something with an eye for detail. All other things being equal, the average boss will be more impressed by an employee who pays attention to key details over someone who merely checks off a box and says “task complete”. Roger, a supervisor of five, recently told the writer about his frustrations with Ann, one of his employees. ” She a real go-getter and concerned about our company’s success, but sometimes she gets working too fast and doesn’t pay attention to detail. As a result, there have been times I’ve had to re-assign people for six or seven hours to fix a problem that occurred because of her oversights on very simple details. That gets expensive real fast.” No doubt Ann would impress Roger more if she paid more attention to detail.
  2. Take initiative: Think  ahead and anticipate what must be done.  Then, without  waiting to be told, do it. Naturally, a balance must exist. You won’t find many bosses impressed by employees who must be told what to do and when to do it every step of the way. However, you won’t find too many bosses impressed by someone who thinks ahead too far and then creates problems by taking too mush initiative. Communication, coordination, and cooperation are essential. One example of an employee taking good initiative is Kristy, who recently received a promotion to a newly – created supervisory position. When Kristy’s first day as a Supervisory came, the director showed her around and made some customary introductions. Then he said “I guess from here you’ll just need to ask me questions.”  Kristy was prepared. She had taken the initiative to think through myriad situations she might face, and had two pages of questions typed up and ready to go.  Kristy opened a folder and produced them. This spawned a three-hour conversation, and Kristy got her questions answered. And yes, her boss was impressed.
  3. Help others when needed: Perhaps more practical and to the point is “help others where needed.” Something as simple as holding a door open for someone demonstrates the basic tone, but to really make an impact, we can take it much deeper. In other words, it’s easy to notice when someone has their hands full, so holding a door for someone is a no-brainer. But if we get outside the focus of our own work we can often see opportunities to assist others and make a great impact.  How we go about assisting others will vary depending on the person and  the type of help we’re  offering, but the point is that the whole benefits when we do it. And, when the boss sees that we’re able to see a bigger picture and lend a hand outside of our normal responsibilities, it makes a good impression.

By Dan Bobinski.

Read more @ http://www.hodu.com/impress-boss.shtml

Five Ways to Overcome Boredom at Work – and Anywhere Else.

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Boredom can have a massive impact on job satisfaction, energy and productivity. Decrease boredom by proactively reducing its causes.

I’ m bored” is a phrase parents often hear, especially from their children. Yet boredom is felt more than just children. Consider these statistics:

  • 55 percent of all US employees were found to be “not engaged” in their work in a Gullup Survey reported in the Washington Post (10 August 2005);
  • 24 percent of office employees surveyed by Office Angels claimed that boredom caused them to rethink their career and look for alternative jobs (reported in The Guardian, 20 January 2003);
  • A third of Britons claim to be bored at work for most of the day (DDI survey Faking It, 2004);
  • Nearly 45 percent of hiring experts in a 1998 survey said firms lost top workers because they were bored with their jobs (Steinauer, 1999).

Defining boredom:

Boredom is often described as feeling tired, weary or unengaged. Some components of boredom include:

  • Fatigue;
  • Dissatisfaction;
  • Anxiety;
  • Irritability.

Clearly if we or others are experiencing feelings of boredom at work (the research says that if you aren’t bored someone you work with is), this will have a negative impact on retention, job satisfaction, work quality and overall productivity.

Solutions:

Consider these solutions a partial list. By acting on even one of these steps can have a significant, perhaps permanent, impact on boredom and its associated problems; and also as a leader, to help others apply that idea.

1.  Look for meaning:

When you know how your work matters to other people (internal and external clients, your team, perhaps even society at large) you are less likely to be disengaged or bored).

  • As an individual, look for ways to understand how your work matters;
  • As a leader, make sure people see a clear linkage between their work and the team, department and organizational goals;
  • Help people put a face on their clients;
  • Give people work they see as making a difference.

When people see how what they do impacts others positively, boredom will be greatly reduced, if not eliminated.

2.  Be curious:

Active minds are less likely to be bored. When we are actively curious our minds will keep moving! As a leader you can encourage curiousity and creativity by :

  • Giving people some latitude in their job responsibilities and expectations;
  • Give people time and resources to work on special projects of interest to them and that match with their natural skills.

3.  Make it memorable:

When tasks seem mundane, ordinary or routine, boredom can gain a foothold. Find ways to make your work more memorable by :

  • Readjusting your routine or trying something new;
  • Try your work in a new location or from a new perspective;
  • As a leader allow some flexibility in this area if possible. Encourage your team to try for a new record, to work with different people or to spice up their work or work environment in other ways.

Take action:

Boredom often is partnered with feeling tired or lethargic. The best cure is to take action! Get started on a new goal, take a step on an existing goal or learn something new. As you take action on anything, boredom will recede.

As leaders provide or help people set meaningful and challenging goals, boredom will subside too. If people on your team can get their work done in less than their full allotment of hours, challenge them with with something extra that is meaning both to those and to your organizational objectives. This could be an exciting project, a learning opportunity, mentoring a new colleague, anything really as long as the person is excited to be doing it and not feeling like you are just adding more work.

5.  Focus on others:

Boredom rarely sets in when you are focused on someone other than yourself. Think of things you can do to make a difference in the lives of others.

In your personal life that could be serving as a volunteer or doing something for a neighbour, friend or family member. At work it could be as simple as offering to help on a project.

As a leader, it can be as simple as encouraging people to help others. Recognize too that as you help people see more  meaning in their work, you are helping them take the focus off of themselves as well.

Even if you don’t often experience boredom personally, adding more of these solutions into your work will elevate your attitude and improve your productivity. Consider the leadership ideas as ways that you can help others, regardless of your role and relationship to them.

By Kevin Eikenberry.

Read more @ http://www.hodu.com/boredom.shtml

Daughter’s letter home from college.

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Dear Mom and Dad,

It has now been three months since I left for college. I have been remiss in writing this and I am sorry for my thoughtlessness in not having written before. I will bring you up to date now, but before you read on, please sit down. YOU ARE NOT TO READ ANY FURTHER UNLESS YOU ARE SITTING DOWN. OKAY!

Well then, I am getting along pretty well now. The skull fracture and the concussion I got when I jumped out of my dormitory when it caught fire shortly after my arrival are pretty well healed now. I only get those sick headaches once a day.

Fortunately the fire in the dormitory and my jump were witnessed by an attendant at the gas station near the dorm, and he was the one who called the fire department and the ambulance. He also visited me at the hospital and since I had nowhere to live, because of the burned out dormitory, he was kind enough to invite me to share his apartment with him. It’s really a basement room, but it’s kind of cute. He is a very fine boy and we have fallen in love and are planning to be married. We haven’t set the exact date yet, but it will be before my pregnancy begins to show.

Yes, Mother and Dad, I am pregnant. I know how much you are looking forward to being grandparents and I know you will welcome the baby and give it the love, devotion and tender care you gave me when I was a child. The reason for the delay in our marriage is that my boyfriend has some minor infection which prevents us from passing our pre-marital blood tests and I carelessly caught it from him. This will soon clear up with the penicillin injections I am taking daily.

I know you will welcome him into our family with open arms. He is kind and although not well educated, he is ambitious. Although he is of a different race and religion than ours, I know your often expressed tolerance will not permit you to be bothered by the fact that his skin colour is somewhat darker than ours. I am sure you will love him as I do. His family background is good too, for I am told that his father is an important gun-bearer in the village in Africa from which he came.

Now that I have brought you up to date, I want to tell that there was no dormitory fire, I did not have a concussion or a skull fracture. I was not in the hospital, I am not pregnant, I am not engaged. I do not have syphilis and there is no man (of any colour) in my life. However, I am getting a “D” in History and an “F” in Science and I wanted you to see those marks in the proper perspective.

Yours-

Your Loving Daughter.

By Anisha

Read more @ http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/9-21-2001-4767.asp

7 Ways to Handle Conflict: Which One is a Winner?

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Conflict is an ever-present reality whenever people work together. It can manifest itself in differences of view, differences of opinion, differences of personality, and differences of interest.

But conflict doesn’t have to be destructive. If the right options are chosen to handle conflict – either as a strategy or as a tactical choice – the result can be of huge benefits to both sides. These are  the seven options you have:

1.  No Deal: A no-deal outcome to a conflict means that the status quo is confirmed and nothing changes. No-deal is rarely a successful end to a conflict unless during discussions it become clear there is no advantage for you in continuing. To make sure you are not disadvantaged if your buff is called when you threaten “No Deal”, make sure you have a good second-best BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) to fall back on.

2.  I Win, You Lose: The “I win you lose” approach to conflict is also known as “the World War One solution”. At the end of World War One, the victorious Allies decided that, such were the horrors of the war, the defeated Germans should be humiliated and never again allowed to threaten their neighbours. The denigrating peace terms were completely one-sided but, as in all win-lose solutions, the losing side harboured deep resentment. It was only a matter of time before resentment led to a desire for revenge and the outbreak of a further war in 1939. Fritz Perls called the “I win you lose” approach to conflict “the peace of conquest”. Quite simply, when you use “win-lose” on others, you encourage them to find ways to use “win-lose back on you.

3.  I Lose, You Win: The “I lose, you win” approach to conflict should never be considered as a strategy. This is the route of appeasement, a quiet life and letting others have their way: sooner or later they will come back for more. The story is told of a newcomer to an African village who became frightened by wolves at night so he threw them some antelope meat to appease them. The next morning he had the whole pack at his door.

4.  Win at all costs: Win-at-all-costs is a negotiating strategy that is based on the belief that you are not responsible for the conflict and therefore will not budge an inch to the other side. You must be seen to win.

5.  Compromise: Although the end result of many negotiations is a coming together of positions and a settlement somewhere in the middle of extremes, compromise should not be a pre-planned strategy. This is because …

  • it encourages a spirit of concession;
  • the other side will interpret your concessions as weakness and try to push you further;
  • negotiation is not about trying to be nice to one another;
  • your case may merit better than than a compromise; their case may merit worse.

6.  Arbitration: Going to a third party is often suggested to resolve a negotiation stalemate  but it should never              be considered as an alternative to negotiations in the first place. If you’re tempted to resolve all your  differences through a third party, first remember this Indian fable.

As two otters were standing on the banks of the river Ganges, a great fish came swimming by. The first otter dived in but, unable to overpower it, begged the second otter for help. He too dived in and together they brought the fish to shore. Then they began to quarrel as to who should have it.

A jackal came up to see what all the noise was about and they asked him to decide the case. The jackal cut off the fish’s head and tail and said: “I divide the spoils equally” and gave the first otter the head and the second otter the tail and ran off himself with the middle part.

“Stop”, shouted the otters, “you’ve taken the only part worth having”.

“I can’t help that,” said the jackal. “when you call in a lawyer, you have to pay his fee. You should have settled things together.”

7. Win-win: Win-win is the only strategy worth pursuing in negotiations. Just because the other side wins as well as you does not mean that your gain is any less. Win-win encourages constructive conflict: the belief that to come out on top does not only happen by destroying the opposition.

“It is as inappropriate to ask ‘who’s winning?’ in a successful negotiation as it is to ask ”who’s winning ?’ in a successful marriage. The answer, of course, is: ‘we both are’.”

Two four-year-old boys were playing soldiers together.

“I want to be leader,” said one.

“But I want to be leader,” said the second.

“OK. You be the leader in front and I’ll be the leader behind,” said the first boy.

“OK,” said the second boy.

The best strategy to pursue in conflict is a win-win solution. This is the belief that, despite all the differences, a solution is possible that will benefit both sides.

When you think win-win, and act win-win, out of discord comes the greatest harmony.

By Eric Garner.

Read more @ http://www.hodu.com/conflict-win.shtml


Action Programmes

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Becoming Exceptionally Well Organized:

You are probably familiar with the idea of “To-Do Lists.”

To-Do Lists are great for managing a small number of tasks. The problem is that, for most of us, our To-Do List is not really a planned, focused action list. Rather, it is a sort of a catch-all for a lot of things that are unresolved and not yet translated into outcomes.

Specific entries, such as “Call Tina,” exist along with vaguer aspirations, such as “Get started on house painting project.” Often, the real actionable details of what the list-maker has “to do” are actually missing. (Take, for instance, the house painting project: more precise entries would be choose color scheme, buy paints, and so on.)

What this means is that you tend to do the specific tasks, and fail to make progress with the big, important projects. And even if you do get beyond the quick actions, having a complete project as a “to do” can lead you to focus all of your attention on it. This makes multi-tasking difficult.

This can be a serious problem in a job where you need to make progress on many different projects at the same time – and this is exactly the situation most senior managers find themselves in.

This is where Action Programmes are useful. Action Programmes are “industrial strength” versions of To-Do Lists.

Because they incorporate short-, medium- and long-term goals, they allow you to plan your time, without forgotten commitments coming in to blow your schedule apart. Because priorities are properly thought through, you’ll be focusing on the things that matter, and not frittering your time away on low value activities. And because they support delegation, they help you get into the habit of delegating jobs where you can. All of this lets you save time – and get away on time – whilst also significantly increasing your effectiveness and productivity.

Follow this four-step procedure to create your Action Programme:

Step 1.  Collection

First, make a list inventory of all the things in your world that require resolution. Try to collect and write down everything – urgent or not, big or small, personal or professional – that you feel is incomplete and needs action from you to get completed.

To an extent, this collection is taking place automatically. E-mail requests are getting stored in your email account, memos demanding attention are being delivered to your in-tray, mail is reaching your mailbox and messages asking for action are accumulating on your voice mail.

But there is other stuff – stuff that is idling in your head, projects you want to run, things you intend to deal with lying at the bottom of the drawer, ideas written down on stray bits of paper – that need to be gathered and put in place too. Bring all of these actions and projects together and inventory them in one place.

And – this is really important – make sure that your personal goals are brought onto this list.

Step 2. Pruning

Now, process the list you made in step 1, by looking carefully at each item.

Decide whether you should, actually, take action on it. A lot of what comes our way has no real relevance to us, or is really not important in the scale of things. If that is the case, then delete these things from your inventory.

Step 3. Organizing and Prioritizing

This comes in three parts.

First of all, review your inventory of items. For any which are separate, individual actions that make up part of a larger project, group these individual actions together into their projects.

For example, at home, you may want to improve your bathroom, and repaint your living room: these can go into a “Home Renovation” project. At work, you may be providing input into the requirements for a new computer system, and may be expected to test and then train your team on this system at a point in the future: all of these go into a “computer system” project.

What you’ll find is that once you start, items will almost seem to “organize themselves” into coherent projects.

You also need to make sure that your personal goals are included as individual projects.

Second, review these projects, and allocate a priority to them (for example, by coding them from A to F) depending on their importance. Clearly, your personal goals are exceptionally important projects!

Third, insert your projects into a formatted Action Program.

The Action Programme is split up into three parts:

  1. A “Next Action List,” which shows the small next actions that you will take to move your projects forward.
  2. A “Delegated Actions List,” which shows projects and actions have delegated to other people.
  3. A “Project Catalogue” that shows all of the projects you are engaged in and the small individual tasks that you have identified so far that contribute to them.

The great news is that, by this stage, you’ve already created the largest part of this: the Project Catalogue! This is the list of prioritized projects and activities that you’ve just completed.

Typically, the Project Catalogue is at the back of the Action Program, as it’s often only referred to during a weekly review process.

Next, create the Delegated Actions List by working through your Project Catalogue, and identifying tasks that you’ve delegated. Record these under the name of the person who you’ve delegated the activity to, along with the checkpoints you’ve agreed.

Typically, the Delegated Actions List sits in front of the Project Catalogue in your Action Program document, as it’s referred to quite often.

Finally, create your Next Action List by working through the projects to which you’ve given the highest priority – the projects that you want and need to move forward on straight away – and extracting the small, logical next actions for these projects.

The Next Action List goes on the front page of your Action Programme, as you’ll refer to it many times a day.

Now review the Next Action List. If it is too cluttered, move some of the less urgent/important jobs back into the project catalogue.  If it is thin and under-challenging, pull up some more Next Actions from the Project Catalogue.

Also, it makes sense to prioritize the items (for example, from A-C) in the Next Action List so you know what to focus on (it’s unlikely you’ll have any Actions with a priority lower than C on your Next Action List).

Step 4. “Working” Your Action Program

An Action Programme is typically fairly long. But you don’t have to run through the entire Programme every day!

Usually, you’ll only be dealing with the top page or pages. Some activities may be day-specific or time-specific. Depending of the way you work, these can be either maintained as the top page of your Action Programme or marked on your calendar.

In effect, these pages are just a new form of your old To-Do List. It is just that only specific short actions are outlined here, while the major projects to which the actions belong are stored in your Project Catalogue.

What you must do, however, is review your Action Programme periodically, for example, every week (put time for this in your schedule). Delete or archive items you’ve completed, move items from the Project Catalogue to the front pages as you make progress on your project, and add any new actions that have come your way.

Read more @ http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_83.htm

Leverage

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Achieve Much More with the Same Effort:

Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, and I can move the Earth.
- Archimedes

To lift a heavy object, you have a choice: use leverage or not. You can try to lift the object directly – risking injury – or you can use a lever, such as a jack or a long plank of wood, to transfer some of the weight, and then lift the object that way.

Which approach is wiser? Will you succeed without using leverage? Maybe. But you can lift so much more with leverage, and do it so much more easily!

So what has this got to do with your life and career?

The answer is “a lot“. By applying the concept of leverage to business and career success, you can, with a little thought, accomplish very much more than you can without it. Without leverage, you may work very hard, but your rewards are limited by the hours you put in. With leverage, you can break this connection and, in time, achieve very much more.

So how can you apply leverage to your career? And how can you achieve much more, while – if you choose to – reducing the number of hours that you work?

To do this, you’ll need to learn how to use the leverage of:-

  • Time (yours and that of other people).
  • Resources.
  • Knowledge and education.
  • Technology.

Time Leverage

Using the leverage of time is the most fundamental strategy for success. There are only so many hours in a day that you can work. If you use only your own time, you can achieve only so much. If you leverage other people’s time, you can increase productivity to an extraordinary extent.

To leverage YOUR OWN time.

  • Practice effective time management. Eliminate unnecessary activities, and focus your effort on the things that really matter.
  • As part of this, learn how to prioritize, so that you focus your energy on the activities that give the greatest return for the time invested.
  • Use goal setting to think about what matters to you in the long term, set clear targets, and motivate yourself to achieve those targets.

To leverage other people’s time.

  • Learn how to delegate work to other people.
  • Train and empower others.
  • Bring in experts and consultants to cover skill or knowledge gaps.
  • Outsource non-core tasks to people with the experience to do them more efficiently.

Providing that you do things properly, the time and money that you invest in leveraging other people’s time is usually well spent. Remember, though, that you’ll almost always have to “pay” up front in some way in order to reap the longer-term benefits of using leverage.

Resource Leverage

You can also exert leverage by getting the most from your assets, and taking full advantage of your personal strengths.

You have a wide range of skills, talents, experiences, thoughts, and ideas. These can, and should, be used in the best combination. What relevant skills and strengths do you have that others don’t? How can you use these to best effect, and how can you improve them so that they’re truly remarkable? What relevant assets do you have that others don’t? Can you use these to create leverage? Do you have connections that others don’t have? Or financial resources? Or some other asset that you can use to greater effect?

A good way of thinking about this is to conduct a personal SWOT analysis, focusing on identifying strengths and assets, and expanding from these to identify the opportunities they give you. (An advantage of SWOT is that it also helps you spot critical weaknesses that need to be covered.)

Knowledge and Education Leverage

Another significant lever of success is applied knowledge. Combined with education and action, this can generate tremendous leverage.

Learning by experience is slow and painful. If you can find more formal ways of learning, you’ll progress much more quickly. What’s more, if you select a good course, you’ll have a solid foundation to your knowledge, and one that doesn’t have high-risk gaps. This is why people working in life-or-death areas (such as architects, airline pilots, medical doctors and suchlike) need long and thorough training. After all, would you want to be operated on by an unqualified surgeon?

While few of us operate in quite such immediately critical areas, by determining what you need to know, and then acquiring that knowledge, you can avoid many years of slow, painful trial and error learning.

In the same way, it’s inefficient if many people in an organization have to learn how to do their work by trial and error. A much better way is for organizations to capture the knowledge gained by the first few in some way and pass it on to others. This is the core of the “knowledge management” concept.

The keys to successfully leveraging knowledge and education are: firstly, knowing what you need to learn; secondly knowing to what level you need to learn it; thirdly, being very focused and selective in your choices; and fourthly, in taking the time to earn the qualifications you need.

Even then, having more education or more knowledge isn’t necessarily a point of leverage. These become advantages only when they can be directly applied to your career goals and aspirations–and when they’re used actively and intelligently to do something useful.

Technology Leverage

Finding technology leverage is all about thinking about how you work, and using technology to automate as much of this as you can.

At a simple level, you might find that all you need to keep you in touch with home and work is a laptop computer. Alternatively, a personal digital assistant (PDA) can help you maintain a single, convenient, properly-backed-up time management system. Cell phones that access email and browse the web are handy tools for making the best of your downtime during working hours or while traveling.

At a more sophisticated level, you may find that you can use simple desktop databases like Microsoft Access to automate simple work processes. If you do a lot of routine data processing (for example, if you run many similar projects) you can find that this saves you a great deal of time. More than this, you only need to set up a process once with a tool like this – afterwards the process will be executed the same way each time, by whomever initiates the process (this reduces training, meaning that new team members can become productive much more quickly, meaning that you can scale your operations – and your success – more quickly.)

Businesses can choose from a wide array of software solutions. Some of these can automate or simplify tasks that are otherwise very time-consuming. Customer relationship management (CRM) databases can bring tremendous benefits for sales and customer service organizations, as can point-of-sale (PoS) inventory systems for organizations that need to track and manage inventory. Websites and web-based catalogs can give clients easy access to up-to-date product information, and help them place orders simply and easily. And blogs and email-based newsletters help people stay in contact with thousands of people quickly and easily. All of these use technology to provide tremendous leverage.

Read more @ http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newSTR_83.htm

Stress Diary

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Identifying the Causes of Short – Term Stress:

Stress Diaries are important for understanding the causes of short-term stress in your life. They also give you an important insight into how you react to stress, and help you to identify the level of stress at which you prefer to operate.

The idea behind Stress Diaries is that, on a regular basis, you record information about the stresses you are experiencing, so that you can analyse these stresses and then manage them.

This is important because often these stresses flit in and out of our minds without getting the attention and focus that they deserve.

As well as helping you capture and analyse the most common sources of stress in your life, Stress Diaries help you to understand:

  • The causes of stress in more detail;
  • The levels of stress at which you operate most effectively; and
  • How you react to stress, and whether your reactions are appropriate and useful.

Stress Diaries are useful in that they gather information regularly and routinely, over a period of time. This helps you to separate the common, routine stresses from those that only occur occasionally. They establish a pattern that you can analyse to extract the information that you need.

Also make an entry in your diary after each incident that is stressful enough for you to feel that it is significant.

Every time you make an entry, record the following information:

  • The date and time of the entry.
  • The most recent stressful event you have experienced.
  • How happy you feel now, using a subjective assessment on a scale of -10 (the most unhappy you have ever been) to +10 (the happiest you have been). As well as this, write down the mood you are feeling.
  • How effectively you are working now (a subjective assessment, on a scale of 0 to 10). A 0 here would show complete ineffectiveness, while a 10 would show the greatest effectiveness you have ever achieved.
  • The fundamental cause of the stress (being as honest and objective as possible).

You may also want to note:

  • How stressed you feel now, again on a subjective scale of 0 to 10. As before, 0 here would be the most relaxed you have ever been, while 10 would show the greatest stress you have ever experienced.
  • The symptom you felt (e.g. “butterflies in your stomach”, anger, headache, raised pulse rate, sweaty palms, etc.).
  • How well you handled the event: Did your reaction help solve the problem, or did it inflame it?

You will reap the real benefits of having a stress diary in the first few weeks. After this, the benefit you get will reduce each additional day. If, however, your lifestyle changes, or you begin to suffer from stress again in the future, then it may be worth using the diary approach again. You will probably find that the stresses you face have changed. If this is the case, then keeping a diary again will help you to develop a different approach to deal with them.

Analyze the diary in the following ways:

  • First, look at the different stresses you experienced during the time you kept your diary. List the types of stress that you experienced by frequency, with the most frequent stresses at the top of the list.
  • Next, prepare a second list with the most unpleasant stresses at the top of the list and the least unpleasant at the bottom.
  • Looking at your lists of stresses, those at the top of each list are the most important for you to learn to control.
  • Working through the stresses, look at your assessments of their underlying causes, and your appraisal of how well you handled the stressful event. Do these show you areas where you handled stress poorly, and could improve your stress management skills? If so, list these.
  • Next, look through your diary at the situations that cause you stress. List these.
  • Finally, look at how you felt when you were under stress. Look at how it affected your happiness and your effectiveness, understand how you behaved, and think about how you felt.

Having analyzed your diary, you should fully understand what the most important and frequent sources of stress are in your life. You should appreciate the levels of stress at which you are happiest. You should also know the sort of situations that cause you stress so that you can prepare for them and manage them well.

As well as this, you should now understand how you react to stress, and the symptoms that you show when you are stressed. When you experience these symptoms in the future, this should be a trigger for you to use appropriate stress management techniques.

Stress Dairy Template: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/worksheets/StressDiary.pdf

Read more @ http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTCS_01.htm