Did you know that studies have shown that leaving your phone off of the table when you are engaged in conversation with someone dramatically increases your chances of having a meaningful and productive exchange? Imagine what leaving your phone at the door would do when you’re at a holiday gathering or family dinner. Just the other day I was talking with someone who said she really wished her mother had heard something she was talking about when they were at dinner. “Where was your mother?” I asked, assuming she had to step away for a minute, “Oh, she was at the table, but she was reading her email and I didn’t want to interrupt her,” she replied. We often don’t even know what we are missing when we choose to check our phones instead of leaving them in a spot where they won’t interrupt the important business of good and meaningful conversation. Don’t let quality time with loved ones be spent looking into your phone, instead enjoy each other’s company. Take a holiday from your phone for just one gathering in the next week and let me know what kind of difference it makes.
Balancing work and the holiday season can be stressful. This hectic pace that some of us take on can make us look for every possible short cut. Years back, I put the artificial tree away and seriously thought about leaving the ornaments on to prevent the hassle of pulling everything back out of the overcrowded attic the next year. When it came time to trim the tree the following year, I was looking for ways to save time and decided not to go on the annual hunt in the attic for the traditional ornaments. Instead, I went to the store and bought all new matching decorations. That year we had a tree that looked like it belonged in the window of a department store- perfect. I felt guilty for buying decorations when we had good ones nestled in the attic. However, I wanted to enjoy the season with a minimum amount of hassle. It was a relief, really.
The year of the new decorations was especially significant; it was the first Christmas we had after our family changed our traditional way of celebrating the holidays. When they were 14 and 16, my daughters successfully persuaded me to give all of the money that we would have spent on Christmas to the poor. Oddly, I resisted at first, not because I thought it was a bad idea, but because I couldn’t imagine a Christmas morning without gifts under the tree. Once we changed our way of celebrating the holiday, it seemed that the tree and decorations became less important. It was okay for everything that was familiar to stay tucked away in the chaos of storage.
More than a decade has passed, my daughters are grown, but I am drawn now more than ever to finding ways to give to the poor and tend to the lonely, rather than how to decorate the house. I ask friends and family to give me the gift of time rather than something purchased at the mall. I like to believe most people want things that money can’t buy. The story about the year I bought all new decorations used to be amusing, but not anymore. I now look back at it for the lesson it taught me. The money I spent on new decorations could have been better spent on making someone’s life just a little easier, and that would have been more consistent with how our family intended to celebrate Christmas.
The year of the readymade tree, a friend told a story about a woman who wrote to Mother Teresa asking if she could join her in Calcutta to help with her work. As the story goes, Mother Teresa responded by saying there was no need for the woman to travel so far to help the poor, she said that we each have our own Calcutta right in front of us – we just need to look around and we will clearly see the poor, the lonely, the homeless, and the hungry who need us as much as those in Calcutta needed Mother Teresa.
Now, instead of taking too much time decorating a perfect tree or hunting for ornaments, I make the effort to find what needs to be done to help those around me during the Christmas season. I think it’s important to be intentional about how we celebrate the season. Calcutta really is all around us. What Mother Teresa said was true – maybe more so now than ever.
Here we are at the start of a new year — time to make that list of resolutions. Chances are that some — or most — of them pertain to your work life. The most frequently made resolutions related to work are:
Here are some ways to make a promise to yourself and actually keep it.
1. Keep your list short. It’s better to choose one thing to focus on than to make a long list and get nothing done.
2. Start with the top 10 things you would like to commit to that will make a positive change in your life. Take a hard look at the list and narrow it down to one promise. That’s right — one promise that, if you can actually do it, will significantly improve your life. Start by crossing out five things on your list of 10. Now take the shortened list and cross out four more. I know this is hard. Why? Because we all see the new year as a great way to hit the reset button, to get rid of some those nagging bad habits that we can’t seem to control. Complete this sentence: Once I have done _____name the resolution______my life will be ______________________________________. Finish the thought so that you can be sure that whatever you are committing to spending your energy on will have a measurable impact on your life.
3. Remember that January 1 is just one day of the year; you can add to your list any time. Making too long a list right now can create the opportunity to sabotage your chances of success.
4. Post your resolution in places where you will see it daily, such as on your bathroom mirror and on your computer screen. This will help keep you focused on your commitment.
5. Treat your resolution as the most important promise you will make to anyone this year. How often do we make promises to others and move heaven and earth to keep them at the expense of keeping promises to ourselves?
6. Break your resolution down into reasonable steps and make them very easy to achieve. For example, if your resolution is to expand your network, the first thing you can do is to make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. Once that’s accomplished, do some research on which groups you should join on LinkedIn. Next, make a list of people you would like to meet and see who in your network can make an introduction for you. Don’t feel as if you have to start going to three events a week. Just sharpening your networking skills slightly can go a long way toward making every interaction you have more productive. Consider what steps you will take in the first month and how you will you measure your progress.
7. Make changes gradually. It takes about 21 days of doing something consistently to establish a new habit. For your first 21 days it will be important to track your progress and be intentional about the change. At the end of each day, make a mental note of what went right and whether you need to revise your plan.
8. Get support. Consider joining an online support group with people who have made a similar resolution. Telling someone else about your goal and asking him or her to support you dramatically increases your chance for success.
9. Celebrate your milestones by doing something that you enjoy. Reward yourself for your progress. Think about how good you will feel (and how much your life will change) when you have achieved your goal.
10. If you falter, don’t give up. Don’t abandon your goal. Hit the reset button and keep going.
Think back on your resolutions from last year. Do you even remember what they were? Make this the year that you deliver on your resolution.
December might be the busiest month for networking events with the holidays bringing office parties, and events sponsored by trade associations, vendors, and civic groups. It’s important to network, but it’s really easy to fall into the trap of overdoing it. So how do you decide when to go and when to stay home?
Here are a few questions to help you decide:
It’s the holiday season and chances are you will be invited to attend an office party. Maybe it’s been a stressful year and some people will feel that the annual office gathering is the time to kick back, relax, and have a few drinks with their friends at work or a time to get to know that boss who never comes of his office better. Both of those assumptions are true but it’s so important to keep a few rules in mind. Here are a few tips on etiquette and for making sure you don’t end up being one of the stories told about a holiday party gone wrong ten years from now.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” - Melody Beattie
With the constant drive to succeed and competition that many engage in every day, it makes Thanksgiving that much more significant. It’s the day to consider how lucky we really are, and to be grateful for it.
It’s good to pause and see if we are actually doing this as a common practice where we work as well. Many studies show that people appreciate praise and recognition of a job well done as much as, and sometimes more than, they do money. We need more than one day out of the year devoted exclusively to taking time out to be thankful.
Consider how many times a day you stop to look around and notice the good work of the people in your office. I remember early in my career working in a company where many people walked down the hall without looking up to say hello- needless to say a simple thank you was not at all a part of the culture. When this type of culture exists, how can an atmosphere of gratitude and appreciation be present?
Let this Thanksgiving be a day to appreciate even the smallest pleasures, but don’t let it be the only day. Studies show that people who show more gratitude are happier, more likely to exercise regularly, more likely to help others, and more likely to take steps to reach personal goals. Overall, they are more successful. Showing gratitude can decrease stress and depression. People love to be thanked for their efforts, and doing so can greatly change the morale of any workplace.
One of the most powerful phrases at work is, “thank you.” Take just one day this week and keep track of how many times you actually say that to the people you work with – it could change everything about the way your company does business.
Management Expert, Executive Coach, Columnist, Strategic Networker