Tag Archives: Michelle Fox

How to Tackle New Project Anxiety

I always get overwhelmed when first assigned a new project. It’s that point in time when you have no answers, limited information, and no plan that evokes the fear of the unknown. My head begins to swim with questions, ideas, and thoughts as the new assignment is laid on me. It’s not until I have a moment to sit down and organize the muddled mess in my mind that I begin to relax and move forward with confidence.

When tackling a new project, organization is key. You have to organize your thoughts before you can even begin to make sense of it all. Here is what I do during the initial stages of project planning:

Ask questions

Get as much information as you can right from the beginning, and take notes. Make sure you are clear on expectations, timelines, and assumptions. If you don’t know something, leverage the knowledge and experience of others. The more details you can get from the beginning, the less chance you have of losing time by heading in the wrong direction.

Make a list (1 of many!)

This is how I release all those thoughts clogging my brain, so I can think clearly. I write things down in lists, starting with the major components of the project. I sort these sections in order of urgency and sequence. From there, I break down all the actionable items into tasks for each.

Create a timeline

Once you have a better understanding of the work breakdown structure, it’s easy to start creating a timeline or Ghantt chart. Be realistic with your time estimation; you have to find the balance between over ambitious and dragging your heels. Give yourself a little cushion because overly aggressive timelines could set your project up for failure.

I always feel much better once I have done these things. What do you do when journeying into the unfamiliar territory of a new project?

To a happy, healthy, and productive life!


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Going the Extra Mile

It was a beautiful spring day in Reno today, and on top of it, I kicked off the running season with my first 10k race! I have done a handful of 5k’s, and I moved up to an 8k last fall, but today I accomplished one of my goals by adding an extra mile and going for the 10k. I really enjoy participating in local fun runs, and we do have quite a few to choose from here in Reno. I love the energy and comradery that radiates from these runs; it’s pretty inspiring being in the midst of so many active, motivated people.

Not only is it the thrill of the race that makes these runs exciting, it’s knowing that the whole crowd has come together to support a cause. Most fun runs are organized to raise money for research, charities, and other non-profits. What better way to give back to the community, while simultaneously doing something good for your health? Not to mention the awesome T-shirt and goodie bag full of loot.

If you haven’t done one of these events, I highly suggest you give it a try. Even if you don’t consider yourself a runner, these races are usually walker friendly. The best way to set a goal for a race is to choose one you would like to do in the future, whether it’s in a month or 6 months, and register. Now you are committed. Put it on your calendar and start telling everyone about it. Once it’s out in the open that you have set this goal, you have even more motivation to follow through with it. If you don’t run much, start small. A 5k is 3.3 miles, so start jogging 1 or 2 miles without stopping and add on from there. You can count on some adrenaline and crowd energy to give you an extra push on race day.

If you do race regularly, I challenge you to set a new goal. I plan on tackling a few more 10k’s before the season is over. In the next year or two, I will work up to a half marathon. Do you have any fitness goals you are working toward?

To a happy, healthy, and productive life!

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Filed under Health, Motivation, Personal Productivity

Get Off Your Butt and Do Something

I don’t know about you, but these drizzly Spring days take their toll my motivation. Despite the fact that I’ve got tons to do, I want nothing more than to remain in my pj’s and watch movies. It’s perfectly acceptable to have one of those lazy days every once in awhile, but when you have weeks or months of gloomy weather ahead, you cannot afford to let it get to you.

When you are feeling exceptionally sluggish, may need a little extra push to get yourself going. Sometimes all it takes is just forcing yourself to get off your butt and do something. Here are some suggestions to get you moving:

Turn off the TV

A coworker of mine recently told me if he could give one word of advice to anyone, it would be, “Turn off your TV because you never did anything to make your life better while watching it.”

Change your clothes

Getting out of your pj’s is the first step. Either put on some workout clothes or some street clothes. Once you are dressed, you have no more excuses for not leaving the house.

Put on some music

I like to put on some up-tempo music to get me going. It boosts my energy for cleaning, cooking, and exercising.

Make a commitment

Call up a friend and make a date for coffee or shopping. When someone is counting on you, there is more pressure to be productive.

What do you do to get yourself going on a lazy day?

To a happy, healthy, and productive life!

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Boosting Productivity with Warm Fuzzies

Do you feel like you get more done when you are in a good mood? It’s probably because you have a more positive attitude, higher energy, and greater optimism when your mood is elevated. In his Positive Organizational Behavior blog, Dr. Bret Simmons recently wrote on the topic of feeling good by doing good. He suggests that engaging in helping behaviors at work creates a more positive mood, and in turn, increases the productivity of employees.

This is based on the idea that doing good for others makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, and who doesn’t like feeling warm and fuzzy? People like to do things that make them feel good, and if you can incorporate this into your company culture, you may end up with happier, more motivated employees. Here are some ideas for encouraging helping behaviors in the workplace:

  • Create a mentorship program
  • Promote courtesy and gratitude
  • Start a charity drive (clothes, food, toys, etc.) competition between departments
  • Engage in volunteering
  • Collect donations for an employee/family in need
  • Encourage employees to help each other with projects

Not only can this positive mood be obtained through employees helping each other, but also through helping customers. I work for a company that is developing a technology with the capability to assist paralyzed individuals with communication. I find myself highly motivated to work for a company with such an altruistic purpose.

Foster an environment in your organization that encourages employees to engage in helpful behaviors. Not only will it boost their mood, it can also increase motivation and productivity as well.

Do you work for a company that emphasizes helping others? Please share your thoughts!

To a happy, healthy, and productive life!

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Are You in it for the Long Haul?

I just had the opportunity to be with my grandparents to celebrate their 50 years of marriage. Now, we all know that 50 years of anything, especially a marriage, is a long time and definitely an occasion that should be celebrated. There is something so special and significant about reaching a milestone like this because it doesn’t come easily. Short term goals are easier to commit to because they feel safer and the reward is much more tangible. Creating long term goals with delayed gratification, now, that’s challenge!

Long term goals are packed with uncertainty, doubt, and fear of failure (Will I be strong enough to make it to the finish line, despite all the hurdles and obstacles that may enter the path?). Nonetheless, without them, you have no sense of direction or mission to motivate you through life. It’s our long term goals or desires that give us something to strive for, whether it’s becoming what you want to be when you grow up, owning your own piece of land, or even upholding the vow “till death do us part.”

Establishing these goals can be as easy as asking yourself, “What do I want in life?” It’s sticking to them that is the hard part. That pesky self-doubt gets in the way sometimes, causing us to second guess our ability to achieve our dreams. And sure, sometimes our lives just take a different path and our dreams change, but those who set their sights on a goal and remain steadfast till the end, accomplish something truly remarkable.

My grandparents waited half a century to reach this milestone. It undoubtedly had its ups and downs, but their determination and love for each other helped them through. Their reward for all their effort was being surrounded by their 11 children and grandchildren to share the moment and the memories with them. Reaching a long term goal takes a lot of work and time, as well as strong commitment and the will to endure whatever stands in your way, but the reward is priceless.

To a happy, healthy, and productive life!

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How to Give a Productive Presentation

Let’s face it. The moment you lose your audience’s attention, you are wasting both their time and your own from that point forward. It is impossible for a presentation to achieve its purpose, whether that’s to persuade, inform, or entertain, if your audience has drifted to some other place in their mind. These are some tips for catching and keeping your audience’s attention, so everyone’s time is used productively:

Start off with a bang

You have no more than 30 seconds to convince someone to listen to what you have to say. Start your presentation with something that is going to leave them wanting more. Contrary to common belief, this is not the time for a personal introduction and life story overview. A powerful way to start is with a shocking statistic, an entertaining (yet relevant!) anecdote, or if you have the guts, something humorous, but tasteful of course. You want to engage them from the start.

Don’t read to them

No one wants to listen to you stand up there and read to them. Whether it’s off your notes, your PowerPoint slides, or the palm of your hand, it is never ok to dictate to your audience what they can read for themselves. The only exception would be a brief quote or a crucial statistic. If you are going to write your entire presentation on your slides, you might as well print everyone a copy and call it a day.

Use PowerPoints as a visual enhancement ONLY

We have become a PowerPoint dependent society, so much so that we’ve forgotten the intended purpose of this application. When used properly, a PowerPoint can be used to enhance your presentation and engage your audience; however, there are way too many guilty of PowerPoint abuse. Remember, it’s called Power”Point,” not Power”Paragraph.” Use visually interesting images and graphs that illustrate your point visually. If you must use bullet points, each bullet should have no more than 7-10 words, and there should be no more than 5 bullets per slide.

I’m sure we’ve all fallen victim to poorly conducted, unproductive presentations. I hope these tips help you maximize the success of your presentations, and I’m sure your audience will thank you.

To a happy, healthy, productive life!

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4 Reasons You’re Stressed & It’s Your Fault

You’ve heard it all before: “It’s just one of those days,” “I hit traffic,” “My dog ate my homework.” We find excuses for the consequences of our actions and try to blame them on some external force out of our control. We often use stress itself as an excuse: “Sorry, I’ve been under a lot of stress lately.” I’m going to tell you something you probably don’t want to hear… it’s probably YOUR fault you’re stressed. It’s not traffic, and it’s not your poor dog. There are many cases in which stress is self-induced, and here are some examples:

Poor time estimation

One of the most frequent causes of stress is time constraint. Deadlines, appointments, and other obligations put pressure on us to be somewhere or have something accomplished by a certain time. If you don’t manage your time effectively, you create more stress for yourself than if you had planned properly.

Procrastination

We’re all guilty of putting things off to the last minute sometimes. If you procrastinate, however, you are just asking for stress. No one else is to blame for waiting until the last minute but yourself.

Should have said “No”

Are you a “yes” person? Do you take on too many things and wind up spread too thin? It is ok to say “no” sometimes, especially when you already have a full plate.

Distorted perspective

This one is the trickiest source of stress to identify because it usually takes someone on the outside looking in to say, “hey, it’s really not as bad as you are making it.” When you lose perspective of how things really are, you lose sight of the big picture. When you place too much importance on things that are actually insignificant in the long term, you cause yourself undue stress. Ask yourself, “Is this really something worth the energy, time, and mental capacity I’m giving it?”

The good news is, these self-induced stressors are actually the only ones you have control over. There are circumstances that cause stress which are out of your hands, but the ones you impose on yourself can be prevented if you recognize you are doing them and assume full accountability. You must admit that the stress is your fault before you can take action to fix it.

To a happy, healthy, productive life!

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