What is holding you back?

In April of 2008, I was sitting on the couch after tax season ending trying to figure out what I was going to do with myself for the rest of the year. I was finally feeling like myself after going through cancer treatment and I wanted to find a job that I could work around my business. I had always wanted to teach but I was afraid to put myself out there.

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I had always wanted to teach. I also knew that we needed to kick start our income if we were ever going to get out of debt. It all seemed so overwhelming. I had no idea where to start.

I thought back to the last time I was in this predicament.

It was 2001 and I had just gotten married. I was also scheduled to graduate in six months and had not done an internship. I sent resumes to every firm within 30 miles of my house. I was able to get an internship which later turned into a full-time job.

I had done this before. Could random resumes work again? I didn’t have anything to lose. So I sent my resume to every college and university within 30 miles of my house. That is actually a lot of resumes.

I had no idea when colleges did their hiring so I waited.

And waited. And waited some more.

As the middle of August came and went, I was pretty sure I was not going to get a call. I had given up by the end of August. I was defeated. I had lost hope. I had sent my resume to more than 25 institutions and not a single phone call. I would never teach.

And then the phone rang. There was a last minute opening at a local university and the department chair wanted to know if I would be interested in teaching two sections of an introductory course. Classes would start in a week.

A week. Seven days. Did I mention I had never done this before? The courses covered material that I had not seen since I took the course almost ten years prior. Everything within me said “no”. Actually, it didn’t say no. It screamed “NO!!!! Um, hell no.”

As my mind said “no”, my mouth said “yes”. I had committed to teaching two courses with a week of preparation. A few days later, I had a syllabus and a textbook.

On the first day of class, my key card was not working and had to wait until for one of the maintenance guys to open the door for me. I overheard one of the students ask if anyone knew anything about the professor. Another student replied, “I believe it is an old guy.”

I was doomed. So doomed. I saw scenes from every movie and TV show I had ever watched where the students ate the new teacher for lunch. I was going to be that teacher.

Once the door was opened, I let all the students enter the room before I walked in. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and walked to the front of the room. The students were a bit shocked that I was not an “old guy”.

I can’t say I commanded that first class, but I made it through without being eaten for lunch. As the semester went on, I became more confident. Students appreciated my style and the way that I taught. I was asked to teach in the spring and the following year. In 2010, I got my first full-time teaching job. I have been fortunate enough to teach full-time each academic year since. I love my job and I love my students. It is amazing to see all they have accomplished. It is awesome to know I have made a difference in the lives of so many.

None of that would have been possible if I had said no. I overcame my fear. I put myself out there when it was not comfortable.

What is stopping you from accomplishing your goals? From searching for a better job or asking for a raise? From asking for help to improve yourself? How can you overcome your fears?

How to Budget Your Time to Get More Done

“I don’t have time for that.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that over the past few years. I’ve said that about writing, exercising, eating breakfast, and lots of other things. Then I started to look at how I was actually spending my time and realized that I had more time than I thought.

We all have things we want to do. I constantly have new ideas, books I want to read, and things I want to get done. In the past, I’ve convinced myself that I just didn’t have time. I had one of those moments over the weekend. I’m working on a new project and started to convince myself that I just didn’t have the time to do it. It’s summer and my schedule is pretty open. Of course, I had time to do it. I had to make time to do it.

As I was going through my twitter feed, I saw a post by Michael Hyatt about designing your ideal week. I love how intentional he is about his schedule. He has time to work on his projects because he makes time.

Budget your time

I budget my money so why wasn’t I budgeting my time? The same rules apply. We have 24 hours in a day so why not budget that time? With budgeting our money, we allow some funds for fun stuff. When budgeting my time, I do the same thing. I’ve got downtime each night to focus on me and unwind. Having that time was always something I felt guilty about. I think that is mainly because I wasted so much time during the day when I should have been working. I am going to be more intentional about my time.

Over the weekend, I designed my ideal week. My summer schedule does not budget weekends right now but I may change that. My fall and spring schedules will budget weekends because I work during the school year and need those weekends for my hustle.

ideal weekly schedule

Eliminating distraction

I included all of the things that I want to accomplish each week, including walking, errands, and housework. I scheduled housework because if I don’t I get distracted by it. I should be at my desk getting work done but I don’t because I’m doing laundry or some other chore. Now, I know I’ve got time scheduled for it so I can focus in the morning. I’m actually really enjoying my walks in the morning because it gives me time to clear my head and think about the rest of my day. I also use that time to listen to podcasts that I need to catch up on. It’s a great way to start the day.

Stop feeling guilty

I also have a few times during the day to check email and social media. I get a lot of email each day and was constantly check it. I also love social media and sharing information with my followers which also took up a lot of my time. By being intentional about email and social media time, I am able to stay focused on other tasks during the day, knowing that I will have time for those activities later. I also don’t feel guilty about checking my email and social media because the time is scheduled for those things and I know I’m not missing out on something else I should be doing instead.

Scheduling when you work from home

For those of us who are self-employed or stay at home, a schedule is pretty important. It’s so easy to waste time during the day if we are not intentional about our time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked up and it is already 3:00 and I have no idea where my day went. Now I know where my days are going.

Scheduling when you work for someone else

For those who work full-time and have side goals, having a schedule like this is key to your success. During the semester, my time is limited. Having a schedule allows me to know that the time I am not working at my job is being used wisely. This is also a great way for students to budget their time. When I was in school running in 50 different directions, having a schedule like this would have been really helpful.

Start to be intentional with your time. You’ll be amazed what you can accomplish.

What do you wish you had more time to work on? How can being intentional about your time help you accomplish your goals?

 

Why I love Mondays

Why I Love Mondays

I love Mondays. I know I am one of the few but Monday can be the day that launches the rest of your week. Monday is my day to get organized for the week. It’s the day I get organized for the week ahead and lay out my game plan.

Every Monday morning, there are a few key things I do to get organized for the week. It gives me something to look forward to on most people’s least favorite day.

1. Update my check register and plan spending for the week (5-15 minutes)

I know that sounds extremely exciting, but one of the first things I do on Monday morning is update my check register to reflect our spending from the last week. I also plan out how much money we need for the week and pay any bills online that need to be paid.

Starting the week knowing how much is left in the account and that my bills are paid gives me peace of mind. It is one less distraction during the week and gets things started off on the right foot.

2. Clean out my inbox from the weekend (5-10 minutes)

I tend to let things slide in my email box toward the end of the week and into the weekend. I go through my remaining email and clean out the box. I first delete anything I know I’m not going to read, which are mostly ads. Then I go back through the remaining emails and deal with each one. Some are quick to deal with and are handled immediately. Some are blog posts that I want to read later and comment on. Those are archived with a reminder for later in the week (usually Monday night or Tuesday). I use IQTell to manage my email so setting up the reminders is a snap!

My goal is zero inbox when I finish this task. I like starting the week knowing that everything is dealt with for now and I have a nice clean inbox.

3. Reflect on last week’s to do list and create this week’s (10-20 minutes)

Each week I create a to-do list that I review on Monday nights with my accountability partner. In order to be able to have this meeting, I need to review the prior week’s list and create this week’s.

I have about 15 new ideas a day. That’s just how my brain works. Ideas for blog posts, new projects, things I want to do around the house, and recipe ideas hit me at all hours of the day and night. I need somewhere to organize all of those items as they flood in because otherwise my brain would paralyze me. I also use IQTell for this. The app (available for web, IPhone and Android) allows me to set up projects and actions. Plus, I can attach notes and emails to those items.

Over the course of a week, I dump all my ideas into IQTell. On Monday, I decide which items make the action list for the week and review the items from the previous week that did not get finished. This helps me prepare for my meeting with my accountability partner and map out my plan for the week.

These three items help me start off the week right. In less than an hour, my week is mapped out, my inbox is clean and my financial life is taken care of. This is why Monday is a great day in our house.

What could you do on Monday to help set your week in a positive direction?

5 tips to stay focused for the long haul

stay focused

It’s hard to stay focused on a goal, especially when it is a long term goal. We get tired. We get discouraged. It’s easier to give up than keep pushing along. No matter what your goal is, whether financial, personal, relational or spiritual, we all need help staying focused.

Here are some tips I use to stay focused on my goals:

How to ask for a raise

How to ask for a raise

 

Most people want to make more money but most people are also afraid to ask for more money. I’m not saying you should rush into your boss’s office this second. You’ll need to do some homework first. There are a number of questions you need to answer.

Am I underpaid?

Some people truly are underpaid. Employers are not always good at keeping up with salary trends so you’ll need to do some homework. I love Salary.com for this. Make sure you look up your job title and location. If you are a help desk person in Kansas, don’t pull up salaries for a help desk person in California. Look in your local area. See what the average salary is. Are you there? If you are way above the average salary, make sure the job description is accurate. There are typically multiple levels for each job title. Once you have the right one, and you think you are not getting your fair wage, bring that with you to the meeting with your boss.

Are my accomplishments recognized?

Are you generating revenue or cutting costs for the company? Have you implemented efficiencies? Keep a list of your accomplishments and bring that list with you.

If I were in the boss’s chair, would I give me a raise?

Put yourself in the other chair. Would objective you give you a raise? Why? Make sure you have those reasons ready. The fact that you come to work everyday is probably not a good enough reason. Go back to your accomplishments.

Asking for a raise

When asking for more money, be gracious. Do not demand more money. If you are below average in salary, ask what you would need to do to get to that salary level. Sometimes, employers don’t know you are underpaid. I’ve known folks to just go in with that question and get a raise after the company confirms your data.

If your salary is inline with your position, ask what you would need to do to advance in the company. Maybe there are openings within the company. Ask if there are ways to develop the skill sets needed for those positions. Show that you are willing to learn and grow.

No matter what happens, be grateful for the opportunity. Thank the person for meeting with you and be genuine. You may not get an instant raise, but you have opened the door to possibilities. Most people in an organization want to help others succeed. Find a good leader and learn from him/her. If you work for a good organization, be a shining star. You will get noticed. If you don’t work for a good organization, it may be time to move on.

What are some tips that have worked for you in the past?

Some books I love on the subject of employment and finding the career of your dreams:

Need to increase productivity? Get your timer out!

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Yesterday, I was working on a writing project. I spent about two hours sitting at the computer attempting to write. I say attempting because I only got a few pages written. I kept getting distracted by email, Facebook, Twitter, laundry, cats, thinking of other projects, checking on dinner and just about anything else I could think of so I didn’t write. Today, I decided to try something different.

The juggling act

Why Balance is a lie

Today, we were having a discussion in a Facebook group about balance. Most of the people in the group are small business owners trying to find the perfect balance of work, family, faith and community. We have all been told it is achievable and we all feel like failures because we can’t find it. Well, I’m here to tell you a secret…