You Really Need to Sort Out Your Priorities

Katie Corbett holds the book, "The 4-Hour Workweek"

By Katie Corbett

In the craziness of daily life, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Between work, school, family life, friends and all the other responsibilities that come with adulting, it can be a struggle to get back to what is really important. In “The 4-Hour Workweek,” by Tim Ferriss, I found a tip that changed the way I think about my life and the tasks I need to accomplish each day. It goes something like this:

If someone said you only could work for two more hours, and after that you needed to stop everything and recover from a fatal illness, what would you get done in those two hours? Put another way, if someone held a gun to your head and told you that you could only do two things that day, what would you do?

I know these are extreme questions, but sometimes getting extreme is enough to make you pause and really think about the answers. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, I like to stop and ponder those two questions. That way, no matter what else happens that day, I’ll know I’ve accomplished the two things—or the two hours of work—that really needed to get done.

I have a long to-do list today, but I know that I absolutely had to write this blog post and I’m planning to make some phone calls as soon as I’ve finished writing it. So if the world ended, or I got stuck in traffic, or my computer crashed, I will have at least gotten those two things done. To me, that’s worth it—not to mention a lot less stressful.

So, what two things do you absolutely need to get done today? What would you do if you could only work for two more hours?

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Developing a Goal Plan

Katie Corbett holds the book, "The 4-Hour Workweek"

By Katie Corbett

I am a goal-oriented person. I get satisfaction from crossing items off to-do lists and being able to tangibly see myself moving forward. I realize that not everyone feels this way, and I even recognize the appeal of being a bit more spontaneous. In one of my favorite business books, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” by Tim Ferriss, I think I’ve found a happy medium. It’s a technique that involves some planning so that you’ll continue moving toward those things you want to do in life, but is not so rigid that you’ll need to cross items off a list each day, or even each week. I’ve done this twice, and I’m excited to share the concept with you.

First, take a piece of paper and divide it into three sections. Label each section, “To Have,” “To Be,” and “To Do,” respectively. Write 3-5 things in each category. Some examples from my own list:

To Have: A work-at-home job, a product prototype, an updated Linked-In profile, Trim and Burn weight-loss supplements, and a braille display; To Be: A remote worker, thinner, an interviewer, a product designer, and a hand model; To Do: Learn Filipino, finish latch-hooking project, join a young adult book club, finish editing the novel I wrote, and work with new coaching clients.

After that, pick the four most important items you’d like to achieve in the next three or six months. (I have always chosen three months as my target, because the immediacy of the closer deadline spurs me into action.) Write these down. Be sure and write the date of the specific day you would like to attain these goals. When you do this with goals from the “To Be” category, phrase these items as specific goal statements. For example, I wrote the desire to be thinner as a goal to fit into a specific pair of dress pants. This will help you measure something that might seem intangible.

After that, determine the financial cost of accomplishing each of these goals. Add the costs up and multiply by 1.3. This extra 0.3 will help account for emergencies, or if something turns out to be a little more expensive than you had previously anticipated. Divide the total by the number of months you set for yourself—so either 3 or 6—and there you have the cost per month. This should hopefully make you feel like the goals are easier to save for and you can justify putting money toward them since you’re planning ahead. Finally, I like to write down the first step I need to take in order to accomplish each of the goals. Mark the projected completion date on your calendar or put it in your phone so you can track your progress once the day comes.

Tim definitely lays this process out more concretely in his book, so I highly recommend picking up a copy. And even if you don’t get his book for this success secret, he has a million other nuggets of wisdom in there which are definitely worth getting a copy for yourself. It’s one of the most thought-provoking career and lifestyle design books I’ve ever read. I was so inspired after reading it for the first time that I went skydiving—something I had always wanted to do. Sure, I was unemployed, probably considered broke, and didn’t have a clear direction for my life, but I found a friend, took advantage of a Groupon and made time during the day on a random Friday in April to jump out of an airplane at 1300 feet. I lost one of my shoes on the way down, which still makes for a funny story. So take a chance and read the book—or at least decide what things you want in life by the next 3-6 months. Who knows what could happen?

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How “Fear-Setting” Leads to Goal-Setting

Katie Corbett holds the book, "The 4-Hour Workweek"

By Katie Corbett

It was a few days after a really big women’s conference, and I had just met a woman who could help me bring my product from idea to reality. I sat at the computer keyboard, getting ready to email her and reconnect. On the one hand, I was excited, because something I thought was merely a dream was so much closer to becoming a reality. On the other hand, I was terrified—because something I thought was merely a dream was so much closer to becoming a reality. The only thing to fear is fear itself, right?

I’ve found that when I’m setting a personal or professional goal, especially one that seems daunting, a million questions run through my head: What if my project is a complete failure? What will other people think if I set out on this journey and don’t achieve this goal? What if I do achieve it? It turns out, answering these questions is often just what I need to get me started.

In his book, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” Tim Ferriss suggests a strategy called “fear-setting.” He asserts that brainstorming your worst fears and coming up with solutions to them can be the catalyst for you to feel more prepared to start working toward your dreams. I found this to be true when working to develop that allusive product I keep talking about.

After defining the absolute worst that could happen—someone stealing my idea, the product failing, me never getting around to making it in the first place—and finding solutions to each situation, I decided it was better to try than to do nothing. Plus, I had met this woman who could help me, so the universe was begging me to start, right? I know it sounds too good to be true, but I seriously wouldn’t be doing what I am today if it weren’t for the fear-setting exercise. That’s why I’m going to tell you to check out the questions for yourself.

Yep, that’s right; I’m dying to share Tim’s fear-setting exercise with you, but I’m not sure what is required in terms of copyright law compliance, so I’ll include a link to Tim’s blog post about it so you can see the questions. Read his post, answer the questions, and work toward tackling those long-put-off goals. If you don’t start, who will? No one cares more than you

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Time is The Great Equalizer

Katie Corbett holds the book, "The 80/20 principle"

By Katie Corbett

Everyone has 24 hours in each day. No matter how much money you have, where you live on Earth or who you are, we all have the same amount of time in each day. Time is the equalizer.

According to Richard Koch’s book, “The 80/20 Principle,” 80 percent of our results are attained in 20 percent of the time we spend. How you spend that time is important. Ask yourself the following questions to build the kind of lifestyle you want.

• If you had a day ahead of you with nothing planned, how would you spend it?
• What do you most often do on your vacations?
• If money was no object and you could separate making money and time, what would you do?
• What are your values? (Time freedom, experiences, relationships, buying whatever you want, making lots of money, being able to live within your means?)
• What is one action you can take today to start living the life you want according to the values you have?

I once designed my ideal day. I decided I would want to work for about five-seven hours and then have the rest of the time to read, try new things, spend time with friends, go sight-seeing with my significant other, and cook. The first step to realizing that dream was writing my goal down. That way, it stayed top-of-mind as I looked for jobs.

I also decided I wouldn’t settle. I did not apply for any jobs which exceeded that number of hours. I then worked to eliminate debt so I could live on the income of a part-time writing job. I was very specific about what I wanted and told as many people as made sense—recruiters, people in my network who could get me a job, people with writing connections. About six months of actively working toward this goal, I achieved this lifestyle! I’m now brainstorming to figure out what’s next.

How would you like to spend your 24 hours of each day?

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What Are You Good At?

Katie Corbett holds the book, "The 80/20 principle"

By Katie Corbett

No one can achieve excellence in every skill. I’m a decent writer and am good with people, so I have come back to those skills again and again in the jobs I’ve held. According to Richard Koch’s book, “The 80/20 Principle,” 80 percent of the jobs you get will use 20 percent of your skills. Here are some questions to ask yourself when figuring out that 20 percent contributing to your success. Grab a blank sheet of paper or open a new document right now and write whatever comes to mind. This might be some of the most valuable time you spend in career planning.

• What activities have you enjoyed doing since childhood?
• Can you think of a way to monetize them?
• When looking at your work experience, what skills have you used in previous jobs?
• When you didn’t go to work because you were out sick or attending a workshop, what things didn’t get done?
• What do your friends, family and coworkers or teachers tell you you’re good at?
• Has anyone ever said “I’m glad you’re good at {insert thing here] because I would hate doing that.”?

From my personal experience, summarizing information has been something I have been good at and have enjoyed doing since childhood. I loved learning things and then telling my friends and family about it through writing, having conversations or giving presentations. I’m good at organizing information and presenting it in a way people will find interesting.

Many possible career paths presented themselves to me given this information. Teaching, writing, public speaking, coaching and tutoring are just a few options I have tried. I have most often picked writing and public speaking because other people hate doing those things so I am more likely to get paid to do them.

What comes up on your list?

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What is the 80/20 Principle?

Katie Corbett holds the book, "The 80/20 principle"

By Katie Corbett

Life isn’t fair. I’ve heard that expression since I was little. Aside from not getting ice cream before bed because my sister was being rowdy or having allowance discontinued because my brother kept begging to spend his money on Candy every chance he got, I have since learned an economic rule that helps use the unfairness of life to my advantage. This is called “The 80/20 Principle,” or “Pareto’s Law.” Discovered by Italian economist Milfreto Pareto in 897, this law states that a minority of causes, inputs or efforts are responsible for a majority of results, outputs or rewards. According to Richard Koch’s book, “The 80/20 Principle,” this law comes into play in all aspects of life.

I have personally witnessed this law come into play when job hunting. Having tracked the number of jobs I have applied for and what resulted from those applications, I concluded that 80% of the companies willing to grant me interviews were temp agencies. This led me to start reaching out specifically to staffing services, which led me to an interest in recruiting. This, in turn, opened the door to career coaching.

The majority of the jobs you have will use a small number of skills. The ability to write and work well with others have been skills I have applied in almost every job I’ve had, so I know that a job analyzing numbers in a room by myself would not be something I would enjoy or be good at doing.

For more examples of the 80/20 principle at work, as well as suggestions about how to apply it in your life, I highly recommend reading Koch’s book. I will provide a few examples of how I have used the 80/20 principle in my career, but my life experience and the ways I have attempted to apply this principle are nowhere near exhaustive.

What would you like to spend less time doing? Where could the 80/20 principle make your life easier?

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What It Means to Work for Yourself: With Elise Montgomery

Headshot of Elise Montgomery

I’ve decided to switch things up a bit on this final Friday of September! Check out my interview with Elise Montgomery, Business Coach!

Elise Montgomery is a business coach for women service-based entrepreneurs. With a rare start in business coaching with one of the top coaching companies in the world, she has created her own coaching business committed to empowering her clients to design a business that truly serves them at the highest level in income, lifestyle and passion. She has built her own career from the ground up and can understand the fears and frustrations of her clients but more importantly how to rise up to the next level. She’s on a mission to show female entrepreneurs that they can make way more income and impact than they ever thought possible while creating a lifestyle that lights them up.

Watch my interview with Elise here:

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Why you Should Develop a Product you Know Little About

Katie Corbett holds the book, "Start With Why"

By Katie Corbett

Sometimes, it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of your job that you forget your purpose. I found this to be true at my first job out of college. I went to work and did the same thing day after day. Part of the reason I hated that job was because I was there to make a paycheck and knew it wouldn’t be a long-term gig. The other reason I hated it was because making a paycheck wasn’t a compelling reason for me to work the job in the first place.

I was so focused on the “how” of my job that I couldn’t keep close to mind the “why” for my being there. Author Simon Sinek points this out as a pitfall and potential reason for failure. When companies—and people—forget their purpose, they start throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks. Often, he says, this leads to disaster. Sinek’s book, “Start with Why,” gave me a great idea for defeating that possibility: Be the “why” person; hire the “how” people to work for you. I decided to apply this in my own life by jumping into activities, even when I didn’t know exactly how I would do them.

About a year-and-a-half ago, I thought of an idea for an apparel product. It’s still under development, so I won’t give away too many specifics, but I’ll say that my knowledge of the apparel industry was limited when I started. I knew this product was in line with my “why,” because it would help people overcome a specific challenge and that they could be happier and more fulfilled. I wanted it to be created. I just needed to find the people who had the tools and knowledge to make it happen.

Through networking, recommendations from others, and by accident, I found the people I needed. I’ve brought on board a textiles consultant who is helping me plan and strategize, a seamstress who is assisting me with the design and will create prototypes, a web developer who will be working on my web presence and e-commerce store, and a branding expert who will support me as I market my product.

All the while, I’m able to keep a clear vision of my “why.” I’m excited to learn and to see something that started as an idea in my mind turning into a real product. I’m eager for the journey. And even if this venture doesn’t succeed beyond my wildest dreams, I’ll know why I undertook it and will have learned a lot in the process. To me, that’s worth the risk. Why not think of a way you could try this for yourself?

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Feeling Obligated? Apply the Celery Test

Katie Corbett holds the book, "Start With Why"

By Katie Corbett

Confession time: I’m a people-pleaser who avoids conflict. I often used to find myself saying yes to people and projects simply because I felt obligated to do so. Resentment would build, motivation to accomplish tasks would wane, and I would be left feeling annoyed and grumpy that I had agreed to do things I had no interest in doing, all because I couldn’t say no. Developing a purpose statement for who I am and what I do changed everything.

Getting clear on your “why” can keep you from taking on projects that don’t inspire you or line up with your life’s purpose. In “Start with Why,” by Simon Sinek, the author describes this process as “The Celery Test.” Sinek applied this test in the business world.

The celery test goes something like this, to paraphrase Sinek. People will tell you many things are good to try in your business. Some will say, “You should get M&M’s in your business; everyone likes those.” Others will say, “Oreos! Success lies with Oreos.” Still others will say, “Celery! That’s the way to attract customers.” You could go to the store and buy Oreos, M&M’s and celery. Would someone looking at your shopping cart know why you are in business? That, of course, will depend on your “why” statement. If your “why” consists of being all things to all people—which is not sustainable or desirable—then this might work. But if your “why” is to provide healthy snacks, the Oreos and M&M’s would make no sense. If, however, you walk by with celery and granola bars, anyone who peeks into your grocery cart knows healthy food is important to you.

I’ve applied this test as an individual with liberating results. When I’m asked to volunteer for a nonprofit or take on paid projects, I evaluate them through the filter of my “why.” Will this project encourage people to overcome challenges? If so, then great; I’ll consider it. If not, I can say no with confidence that I’m making the right decision for me.

After you’ve discovered your “why,” apply the celery test the next time you’re asked to do something. You’ll know right away if the task doesn’t fit with your skills and interests and can say no with confidence.

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