Feeling Stuck? Just Do the Next Right Thing

Katie Corbett holds the book "Perfectly Yourself"

By Katie Corbett

If you’ve ever had a big dream, you’ve also likely had a feeling of anxiety or downright fear that you couldn’t accomplish it. In addition to using the “Fear-Setting” technique developed by Tim Ferriss, I have also found that continuing to move forward is the best way to push passed that fear. Getting started can be the hardest thing you will ever do.

In his book, “Perfectly Yourself,” author Matthew Kelly says that just doing the next right thing is a great way to hold yourself accountable to your goals and keep yourself on track. I have especially found this to be true whenever I’ve felt stuck. Some questions I have used to plot my next move are:

• Where do I want to go? What is my end-goal?
• What is the next step I can take to move me closer to achieving my goal?
• If I don’t know the steps, what can I read or who can I talk to in order to find out?
• If I don’t personally know anyone who has achieved this dream, how can I find such a person?
• If I do know what my next step is but want help, who would be the best person to help me?
• What is the next specific action I can take now to move forward?

When I started my garment project, for instance, I knew that my first step was defining what I was going to create. I knew I needed a seamstress, but didn’t know anyone personally who could help. Then, my first step became finding such a person. I reached out to some friends and to some local entrepreneurial groups on Facebook, seeking recommendations. That was it. That was all I did before I considered this project started. That was the next right thing. After that, the momentum of thanking those who had given seamstress recommendations and reaching out to the seamstresses they recommended was all I had to do. From there, the ball kept rolling.

What is your big dream? What is the next right thing you need to do in your life? Often, we already know what the answer is, and all we need is to take action to get started.

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Defying the Norm: Make Friday your Most Productive Day

Katie Corbett holds the book "I Know How She Does It."

By Katie Corbett

Friday. It’s the workday that signals, for many, the start of the weekend, a day to celebrate, a time to let loose and relax. It comes as no surprise, then, that it is the least productive day of the workweek. I wanted to change that for myself, since, for me anyway, there’s no worse feeling than getting done with work and realizing I didn’t accomplish anything. Goal-oriented much? I know, but bear with me.

In Laura Vanderkam’s book, “I Know How She Does It,” there are several tips suggested to improve productivity. I have taken her suggestions and modified them so they fit my productivity needs. These ideas helped me ensure Friday was a day of the week when I definitely got work done.

1. Set Deadlines for Friday: In my work as a writer, I need to submit articles, content plans and fundraising copy to my manager. Setting my deadlines for Fridays gives me time to get everything done on a day when I’m less likely to get interrupted or have meetings.
2. Plan Weekly Goals on Friday: Laura Vanderkam stresses that to move forward, it is a good idea to plan goals in three areas of life—career, relationships, and self. When I worked at a company with fewer deadlines or where I didn’t have as much control over my schedule, I found it helpful to plan my personal, career and relationship goals on Friday afternoons. This meant I was spending otherwise unproductive time moving my life forward.
3. Work Fewer Hours Each Week: I currently work 25 hours per week at my writing job. That’s typically 5 hours per day, 5 days per week. This means I have 25 hours to get everything done, and that I have to use all of that time efficiently and effectively. Working this schedule requires me to focus and accomplish tasks every day, even on Fridays.
4. Start and Stop Work at The Same Time Each Day: While there are occasionally days when I need to stay late, I typically start work at 9 a.m. and am done by 2:30 p.m. each workday. This spreads out the work among all 5 workdays of each week. It also means I don’t have the luxury of staying late to get last-minute projects finished
5. Be Intentional About How to Spend Time and Energy: In the mornings, I’m much fresher and my mind is ready for intense work, such as writing articles. In the afternoons, I’m in a more relaxed mental state, so making edits to documents, conducting interviews, and meeting with others to brainstorm for upcoming projects is a better use of my time. Following this pattern every day of the workweek makes Fridays just as productive as the earlier weekdays.

In what area can you defy the norm? How can you incorporate better use of your time and energy? If you have a trick that is working for you, feel free to leave a comment so others can benefit.

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Moving Forward: Planning Goals Each Week

Katie Corbett holds the book "I Know How She Does It."

By Katie Corbett

When going through life day-to-day, it can be hard to see the ways in which we have moved forward. Progression, however, is a criterion necessary for satisfaction. Otherwise, how will we know we are heading in the direction we want to go? How will we be confident we are taking solid, concrete steps to get us there?

I first found a strategy for addressing forward momentum in Laura Vanderkam’s Ted Talk, and she mentions it in her book “I Know How She Does It,” as well. She says to develop 3 goals in each of 3 areas of life: career, relationships and self. Do this at around the same time each week. Laura suggests Friday afternoons, since Friday afternoons are the least productive time of the workweek. I have found this strategy very helpful in moving forward in these important areas of life, though I found that planning on Sunday afternoon or evening works better for me, since sometimes I set goals for events or items I have planned for that weekend. I write my goals on my phone, since I always have it with me. This makes it easier to review my goals throughout the week.

One of the many benefits I have gained from this practice is pushing myself to do things that scare me, but are necessary to making progress. As an example, I needed to order materials for the product I’m developing. This involved calling a fabric retailer in Chicago, which seemed intimidating at the time. Because I had it on my goals list, however, I talked myself into making the call.

Now, I’m not perfect, and there are weeks I don’t accomplish everything on my list. If it comes time to set next week’s goals and I realize there is a goal I did not achieve, I ask myself if the goal is still something I want to accomplish and, if so, add it to the list for the next week.

Another thing I will mention is the importance of setting goals that don’t depend on the actions of others to accomplish. Instead of writing “Have conversation with my sister,” I would write, “Send a text message to my sister.” That way, all I have to do is send the text. If she doesn’t reply, or says she is too busy for a chat, I will still have met my goal because I reached out to her.

Just as an example, my goals for this week are:

• Career: (1) Meet with friend to brainstorm ways to reach employees of a certain company who might benefit from career coaching; (2) Take the minutes for the staff meeting at work; (3) Contact paralegal for product development paperwork status.
• Relationships: (1) Praise hubby for 10 things he does well; (2) Go to networking event on Thursday; (3) Go to girls’ night on Tuesday.
• Self: (1) Read at least 1 fiction book; (2) Give dog her medicine Saturday night; (3) Call for information about conference discount.

What goals will you set this week for your career, relationships and self? When will you write them down? Where will you write them down? Do they rely on the actions of others to achieve, or is their accomplishment solely dependent on you? Have fun with this activity. If done consistently, you will start to see yourself intentionally making progress toward living the life you want.

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Achieving Balance: Make the Most of the Time you Have

Katie Corbett holds the book "I Know How She Does It."

By Katie Corbett

No person wants to feel like one area of their life is dominating over all others. I first had this experience when I was working a data entry job fresh out of college. I went from primarily spending my time how I liked to being at the same location for nine hours a day, five days per week, doing work I didn’t enjoy. This period of my life forced me to manage my time better during off-hours.

I didn’t read time management expert Laura Vanderkam’s book, “I Know How She Does It,” until a couple years after leaving that first job, but she makes many points I have found to be true and have made more of an effort to apply to my life. She first points out that every week consists of 168 hours, so there is a lot of time not spent at work. I spent 45 hours at the office and 7 hours sleeping per night, resulting in about 49 hours of sleep. That meant I had 74 hours free the rest of the week. Making the most of that time is the best way to fit everything in to live a full life.

One way I made the most of my off-hours was to take charge of my commute. Since I’m blind and cannot drive, I either hired a driver or took public transportation to work. I found that taking the bus was ideal, since I could listen to audiobooks on my daily commute. Taking the bus also meant I needed to leave at the same time every morning, so I had to head out the door and be ready bright and early. As a result, I made a point to plan what I was going to wear and have for lunch the night before. Taking the bus also involved a walk from my home to the bus stop, and another walk from the bus stop to work. This brisk exercise, repeated for my commute home after work, was a great way to get outside and move, even just for a few minutes each day.

What area could you take charge of each day to make yourself more productive? In what ways could you make the most of your time when not at work? Share any suggestions in the comments. I look forward to reading them!

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Fun Product Friday: Scrunch It Shower (Review)

Katie Corbett holds the Scrunch It Shower product.

By Katie Corbett

Today is Fun Product Friday! On the last Friday of certain months, I review a product that has changed my life!

Showers are a part of life. I’ve revolutionized mine with this product, the Scrunch It Shower! Watch this video to find out what I love about this product, including how it lessens frizz and helps hair air-dry faster! It works no matter what type of hair you have, but is especially great if your hair is curly.

Want a Scrunch It Shower for yourself? Visit https://www.scrunchitcurls.com/ to get one of your very own!

Enjoy!

To Get More Done, Track Your Time

Katie Corbett holds the book "Coach Yourself to Success" by Talane Miedaner.

By Katie Corbett

If you don’t already have a job when you are looking for your next one, job hunting can involve huge swaths of time that will get away from you. You might intend to apply for jobs, only to discover you spend your whole day watching videos on YouTube or going down the rabbit hole that is Thought Catalog. How can you know when is the best time to apply for jobs or when to schedule interviews so you will be at your best mentally? And if you do have a job when you are looking for your next one, how can you keep yourself from wasting the limited time you do have to fill out applications so you can find work that is a better fit? For me, the answer came when I decided to track how I spent my time.

In her book, “Coach Yourself to Success,” Talane Miedaner says that the best way to determine what you do that wastes time, as well as to find your most productive hours of the day, can be deduced by writing out how you spend your time during a typical week. I did this by creating a spreadsheet with the hours of the day running across the top, and the days of the week running down the side. I kept track of what I did during each hour of the day. (You can create a template and print it out, or find a time-tracker app for your phone, or order a journal with the time blocks already mapped out. Do what will work well for you.)

If you are thinking, “But, Katie, that sounds super tedious and boring,” you are right, it kind of was. But what I learned from this exercise has made any frustration I felt totally worth the effort. As a result, I learned:

• How Much Sleep I Needed: I discovered that I usually slept for seven hours within a 24-hour period.
• I Can’t Take Short Naps: When I conk out, I’m asleep for at least 90 minutes–if not three hours.
• I prefer to Problem-Solve in the Morning: I made it a point to schedule job interviews in the morning, because my brain was most fresh and ready to meet challenges at that time.
• I Slow Down in the Afternoon: This time was great for taking a break, either to relax with friends or to bake or read alone.
• My Best Creative Solutions Come at Night: I would sometimes lie awake at night and get a great business idea, think of a contact I should reconnect with to help with my job search, or get some inspiration to write a fiction piece or start a new hobby.

After I learned these insights, I did my best to act according to them. I stopped calling myself lazy when I laid down to sleep, since I knew I would be up in about seven hours. I scheduled interviews, cold calls, and cover letter writing in the mornings, made plans for relaxation in the afternoons, and kept a notebook or my phone handy late at night so I could jot down my ideas.

What could you discover if you tracked your time for a week? You never know until you try it. Be sure and pick a typical week, free from vacations or business trips. Jot down what you are doing during each hour and note how much energy you have. What are you waiting for? Grab your spreadsheet or journal and get to tracking.

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Have More Fun: Install Ten Daily Habits

Katie Corbett holds the book "Coach Yourself to Success" by Talane Miedaner.

By Katie Corbett

When a person has almost total control of their time, and nothing concrete that needs doing, it can be easy to become bored. Job hunting can be a time with little structure and not very much fun. I found a tip in “Coach Yourself to Success,” by Talane Miedaner, that was a game-changer for me during my search. This tip involved developing a list of ten daily habits.

The trick in sticking to this list is that the habits need to be fun. It should not be just another list of things you need to get done that day. Some of the items on my list included:

• Trying something new
• Reading fiction
• Spending time with a friend either in-person or on the phone
• Praying at specific times of the day, which served to keep me on a more set schedule
• Flossing my teeth. Admittedly, this is not very fun, but it only takes a minute and I always feel amazing afterward.

What fun things could be added to each day of your life if you made a list? Could you take up a new hobby? Rekindle your love of an activity you set aside in the rush of your daily grind? How could you impact the lives of others? And I repeat: This isn’t meant to be a list of the things you “should” do. It has to be fun, make you feel good, or bring a smile to your face. If it doesn’t, then it’s not on the list.

Whether you are on the job search or already work, this tip will likely brighten up your day and make life more fun and interesting. So give it a try. What’s on your list?

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Unclutter Your Life: Make a List of the Things that Annoy You

Katie Corbett holds the book "Coach Yourself to Success" by Talane Miedaner.

By Katie Corbett

Sometimes, it can be hard to think, focus, or get things done because there are a ton of little things that seem insignificant, but they add up to equal a pile of annoyance. Whether it is the additional time it takes for you to find papers at your desk, that pesky cell phone charger that still works–if you tilt your phone a certain way while it is charging–or the looming tough conversation you know you need to have with a friend or family member, it can be a good idea to make a list of all these little things so you can tackle them once and for all. Getting the little annoyances taken care of will free up your mind for the more pressing problems in life.

I read this tip in “Coach Yourself to Success,” by Talane Miedaner. I first created my own list in May of 2015, when I was in the midst of my job hunt. I wanted to do everything I could to restore order at a time in my life that felt uncertain.

I created an Excel spreadsheet and made column headings for the life categories that needed work:

• Tasks and Chores
• Home
• Work
• Money
• Family
• Friends and Relationships
• Hobbies
• Pets
• Bad Habits
• Body

In each category, I wrote all my little annoyances down. I began working my way through the list. Instead of crossing off items, I put a star next to them, because that is way more fun. I had a “Totals” column and kept track of the items yet to be handled and it was exciting to watch that number go down.

At the time, I was deciding if I should move to San Diego for my boyfriend, and there were a bunch of little annoying things I would need to deal with if I chose to make that move. If I decided to stay where I was, that choice would eliminate a bunch of worries all at once. Realizing this caused me to see how I truly felt about moving–and about the person I was dating. We eventually ended our relationship–for many reasons aside from the move–and this gave me the freedom to double down on my job search, since I knew where I would be living.

Make a list in any way that works best for you. It will bring you surprising clarity and peace of mind, just knowing all the little annoying things in life have been written down. And if some things on your list can not be handled right away or if you feel powerless to deal with them, just writing them down acknowledges to yourself that you don’t want that thing in your life anymore. Revisit your list six months to a year later–maybe some of the problems you felt like you couldn’t handle took care of themselves.

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To Find your Dream Job, Design your Ideal Life

Katie Corbett holds the book "Coach Yourself to Success" by Talane Miedaner.

By Katie Corbett

When I was job hunting, it was easy to apply for any job just because it was an available job. I applied for many jobs I didn’t want, and interviewed for positions I was not enthusiastic about holding. I looked into fields I thought would be ideal, only to discover they involved crazy hours or commission-only pay. I didn’t think about what kind of job I wanted until I was encouraged to design what life I hoped to have.

I was flying home in February 2015 from visiting my then-boyfriend in San Diego for Valentine’s Day. I read “Coach Yourself to Success,” by Talane Miedaner, and came to the tip about designing my ideal life. The author states that it is easier to find a job that fits into the life you want, rather than trying to live your life around a job you hate. I thought back to my days in data entry and to the amazing two jobs I had held after that and realized this advice had some merit. I pulled out a piece of paper and a slate and stylus–which is a writing implement used to write in braille–and got to work designing my life.

My ideal job involved working for 20-30 hours per week, having time to read and write for pleasure, spending time with my significant other going to new restaurants and sight-seeing after work and on the weekends. The point is, I thought about what I wanted, wrote it down, and kept this vision in my mind as I continued my job hunt.

About a year-and-a-half later, I landed a job working for a local healthcare company in their communications department. The job was part-time, so I was working 33 hours per week. At the same time, I began dating the man who would become my husband. (We both enjoy going on day trips and he can usually be persuaded to try a new restaurant every now and then.) While at this temp position, I ended up meeting the woman who hired me for my current job in communications working 25 hours per week. That made for two ideal jobs in a row, and all thanks to my lifestyle design. Try it out for yourself. Here are some questions to get you started:

1. Where do you want to live?
2. What kind of work do you want to be doing?
3. How many hours per day or per week do you want to work?
4. How do you want to spend your time when not working?
5. Who–or what kind of people–do you want in your life?

Start living as many aspects of your ideal life as you can now. If you have written down the answers to these questions and keep the ideas firmly planted in your mind, the rest of your ideal life will likely fall into place. It won’t happen overnight, but the ideal life is worth taking the time to create.

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