Chocolate Vent’s Question of the Day – What’s one thing you’re deeply proud of, but would never put on your résumé?

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He Thought We Weren’t On A Date, But We Really Were

If a man asks you out & then when you show up he tells you it’s not a date, what would you think?!

A man that I had been talking to for several weeks asked me to come to his job so he could give me a tour (he works for a company that sits on over 100 acres, has a museum, several buildings, a laboratory and a gift shop). Afterwards, he said we could go to dinner and because he seemed like a nice guy, I agreed.

He said he had never asked a woman to come to his job before (except for his mother, who I’m sure was so proud of her baby boy), so the day-of I went out of my way to make sure that I looked my best. I got my hair done, and even purchased a new outfit just for this occasion. I was going to this man’s job & I wanted to look nice not just for him but for any of his work colleagues we might run into. Because of traffic I got to his office a little late but when I finally arrived, he seemed really glad to see me. He took me on a tour of his job and we ended up in his office where we talked about some of the things that he was working on and what else he wanted to accomplish in his career. By the time we were done talking about everything work-related it was time to eat so we got in his car & headed to a nearby restaurant for dinner.

As we walked towards his car, he opened the door for me and that’s when he said it: “I know I’m coming from work but I didn’t change clothes because this isn’t a date.” Right after he said this, he closed my car door & all I could think was how could this not be a date, if he asked me to be here?! I was quiet the rest of the car trip because I was confused. How could he invite me to his job, take me to dinner and it not be considered a date?

Was I reading more into this than I should have? When a man asks you to come to his job, aka his place of employment, doesn’t that mean anything? Why invite me at all; I certainly didn’t ask to be there. And when he mentioned that we could get something to eat afterwards, while that may have been just a “gesture of courtesy”, I took that to mean he wanted to go out to dinner with me (especially since we both could’ve gone our separate ways for dinner).

Over dinner, the conversation got a little more personal. We shared old college stories (we both attended similar colleges), talked about his family and upcoming events we both wanted to attend in our area. At the end of dinner (which he paid for), he took me back to my car, gave me a hug and just like that, our evening was over!

One online website defines dating as “a stage of romantic relationships in humans whereby two people meet socially with the aim of each assessing the other’s suitability as a prospective partner in an intimate relationship or marriage.” While dates can come in many different forms, when one person feels like they are on a date, even if the other person hasn’t explicitly said that they are, then it’s still a date. It might not be an enjoyable one & there might not even be a second date, but if one person asked the other out & they both people agreed to go, then, it’s still a date.

I don’t know why he said we weren’t on a date, unless he was using that as an excuse to take me out on a real date in the future.

#MondayMotivation: Don’t Get “Timed Out”

We’ve all heard that financial intelligence requires knowing how you spend your money. The problem with time is that unlike money, it is finite. We each have 24 hours in the day and must divide that precious time between personal, physical, professional, and familial commitments. We can’t borrow extra hours from a credit card or bank. We have to work with the 24 hours that we have. Everyone always complains that they never had enough time, that they were constantly running from one commitment to the next, and that their lack of time led to feelings of frustration, guilt, shame, and an overall sense of not moving forward at an adequate pace. But at the same time, they couldn’t answer the most basic questions about how they spent their time because they just don’t know where the hours go.

I’ve tracked my money before. At first, I believed it was a total waste of time because I thought that I already knew how I was spending it. But the first month I tracked every penny, I couldn’t believe the discrepancy between what I thought I spent and what I actually spent. Knowing where my money went enabled me to start gaining control over my finances and making conscious decisions that would allow me to meet my long-term goals, which continues to be a work in progress.

Likewise, the first time I tracked my time over a week, I was shocked by how much time I was spending on planning to get work done (yes, this includes just thinking about it) and how little I was spending on getting actual work done. Understanding how you spend your time each week (not in your imagination, but in reality) will help you to decide if you are investing in things that will pay off in the long run or spending it on things that offer immediate gratification but no long-term interest. And more importantly, you must know how you’re investing your time today in order to make conscious decisions about how you will spend it in the future.

Track Your Time

Keep track of how you spend your time this week. If you are feeling exhausted, frustrated, and I-don’t-even-know-how-I’m-gonna-make-it-to-Spring-Break tired, then try starting this week by simply tracking your time. Time tracking doesn’t have to be difficult or unpleasant, and it doesn’t require you to buy or do anything different. Just put a little scrap of paper on your desk and keep a running tab of your activities and the time you spend on them during each day this week. Include everything: e-mails, writing, dinner prep, talking on the phone, reading, out-of-work meetings, family time, exercising, day dreaming, running errands, worrying, eating, on Facebook, etc. (If you prefer to use apps to track your time, you can use Rescue Time).


 

Evaluate Your Data

Once you have a week’s worth of data, tally up how much time you spend on cleaning, working, sleeping, etc. when you sit down for your weekly self-planning meeting. That’s a great time to gently and patiently ask yourself:

  • Is how I’m spending my time aligned with how I will be evaluated at my job?
  • Does my time reflect my personal values, priorities, and long-term goals?

If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then congratulations! But if you find that the answer is a resounding “NO!” then it’s time to make some changes. For example, if 50% of your evaluation criteria is based on establishing business relationships, but you are only spending 2 hours a week networking — there’s a problem. If travel is 25% percent of your evaluation criteria, but you are spending 30 hours a week on the road — there’s a problem. And if training is taking up more than a few hours per week — there’s definitely a problem. The good news is that these are problems that can be resolved by proactively adjusting your behavior.

Rethink Your Time Expenditures

Researchers have documented that the difference between successful people and those who struggle is how they spend their time. Successful people –

  • Spend at least 30 minutes a day on working towards their goals
  • Integrate their everyday learnings into their work
  • Manage preparation time and avoid over-preparing
  • Spend time each week discussing your goals with colleagues

Only you can determine if you’re satisfied with how you are spending your time each day, but if you’re unhappy, exhausted, and feel like you’re not moving forward, then it’s time for a change. Becoming conscious of how you spend your time AND comparing it to the successful behaviors of others should give you some concrete ideas about how to climb out of your “time debt”.

I hope that this week brings each of you the patience to track your time, the wisdom to evaluate your current situation and pinpoint areas for change, and the sense of empowerment that results from making conscious decisions about how you spend your time each day.

#MondayMotivation: Listen To Yo’ Body!

We all know people who might be in a Springtime funk – physically & mentally exhausted, annoyed with friends, can’t stand to hear from family, and kids working their last good nerve. While the springtime funk is a recurring phenomenon, it’s unfortunate the amount of physical manifestations and illnesses that have emerged along with the escalating stress level. As a result, let’s talk about something you should not be doing: Ignoring Your Body.

While some of our physical ailments are just that – purely physical, I believe that others result from work-related stress and the manifestation of unresolved emotional issues. When we fail to provide for our own needs and personal care, our body has a way of getting our attention by sending out pain signals: all those aching backs, chest pains, breathing problems, migraine headaches, dizziness, digestive problems, and hair falling out by the fistful. And I understand why many of you are stressed! If you’re under-represented, you may also be facing racism and sexism at work that can result in elevated expectations and scrutiny in the workplace.

Additionally, you may be a caregiver who is also responsible for aging parents, extended family members, small children, and some grown folks that act like children. The combination of all these factors on a daily basis creates stress that needs to be relieved on a regular basis. The problem is that when we ignore our body’s messages in pursuit of productivity and meeting other people’s needs, our own symptoms can continually increase in severity. Pushing ourselves past our limits — until we are ill and require immediate medical attention — doesn’t make any of us more productive! Instead, we are forced to take blocks of time off to recover and end up being simultaneously less healthy and less productive.

This week, I want to suggest that we each acknowledge the stress we are experiencing and check in with our bodies and our spirits. Below are 3 steps you may want to follow to check in with yourself, assess your stress, and take a step toward stress reduction.

  1. Check In With Yourself

Start by asking yourself (without judgment): How am I feeling today, physically and emotionally? Are my needs being met? Do I have regular stress-relieving activities? What is missing in my life? What have I let fall by the wayside while I’ve been working so hard and caring for others? How can I get my needs met in an immediate way?

  1. Assess Your Stress

Once you are in touch with your needs, name them. Some of you may have physical aches and pains that require medical attention. So, make an appointment with your health care professional instead of reading the rest of this post. You may find that you need some basic personal care. Whether it’s a guilt-free nap in your office or a honey-butter massage, go ahead and make arrangements to do what you need to do. Some of you have emotional needs that aren’t being met, or maybe the cumulative impact of daily disrespect, devaluation, and drama has taken a toll on your sense of self-worth. It’s time to ask supportive people in your life to help you restore your internal equilibrium. Or maybe you have a generalized sense of exhaustion in which case it’s time to open up your calendar and figure out how you can get a good night’s sleep every night this week.

  1. Ask For Help

Many people are afraid to ask for help because they imagine it will be perceived as a sign of weakness and/or they don’t want to impose on anyone else’s precious time. In reality, we need other people’s help, and they will need ours at some point in time. Asking for assistance is expected and serves as a sign of clarity and strength. My experience is that most want you to succeed and be helpful in that process. The problem is that they may not know how to do so because they don’t know what you need at any given time. Presenting them with a problem you’re having and asking them for advice makes it easier and more effective for them to mentor you.

Alternatively, you can describe a problem and ask for specific assistance. Getting the kind of help that will pull you out of the springtime funk is as simple as: 1) being highly specific about your needs and 2) asking others for concrete forms of help that take minimal time.

Let this week bring you the physical & emotional health, the self-awareness to identify your needs, and the courage to ask for help from those in your community who are committed to your success.

#MondayMotivation: What Do You REALLY Want To Be?

I am often contacted by people after they realize that their productivity isn’t going to meet their department’s expectations. The most common scenario is a person who has received a negative review because they fell into the typical work trap: spending all their time on helping others but making little progress because they’re exhausted from over-functioning in other aspects. As a result, they use all their free time to physically and mentally recover, yet experience guilt and stress over their lack of productivity.

These are always difficult conversations, but I typically start with the basic organizational tips and tricks to get people re-connected to their work. I recommend 30 days of structured support and accountability. At the end of that time, assess your progress. Some people get right down to business; they quickly establish a plan and settle into their daily routine. But others are so deeply blocked that they just can’t do it, so they need to start to work their way through the common fears underlying the resistance that they experience. Working through unrealistic  expectations, disempowerment and a hyperactive inner critic helps get the vast majority moving through whatever funk they’re in. However, there’s one qualitatively different type of energy that blocks productivity that can be the most difficult to identify and resolve — unclear goals.

Get Real About Your Goals
At the most basic level, unclear goals can be problematic for those who simply have no overarching plan. For example, you may be having difficulty establishing your agenda or it may be the case that you just keep reactively responding to opportunities that come to you instead of evaluating whether or not they make sense for your career. In other words, you react to other people’s agendas instead of proactively crafting an agenda that addresses your own substantive interests and questions. But at a deeper and far more problematic level, resistance to productivity that is driven by unclear goals is often rooted in a lack of clarity about your long-term professional goals. When I have tried everything I know to break through resistance, I typically end by asking: What is it that you really want to do?!

I imagine this as a direct and easy question for some. But oftentimes this question is often met with nervous laughter, long pauses, and surprising hesitation. People often tell me that they were either inspired by someone else or came across an issue that needed to be addressed. The trick is to determine the difference between escape fantasies that result from feeling confused and the gut-level resistance that occurs when you REALLY know you’re on the wrong path.

I hope that by asking yourself what you really want to be clarifies your own purpose by either helping to confirm your commitment or redirecting your amazing talent and energy. Either way, putting conscious thought towards answering this question will energize you and get you reconnected to your goals in life.