Cultivating Productivity in Our Teens

career fairLast week we talked about senioritis, and how giving in to the temptation to slack off near the end of the school year can come back to bite us. That’s why it’s so important that we as parents and teachers do our best to cultivate productivity in our teens.

Over the years, I’ve noticed an interesting trend in my chance encounters with people. It goes something like this:
Me: “It’s great to see you! How’ve you been?”

Them: “Busy!” Or,

Them: “Crazy busy!” Or,

Them: “Out of control!” Or,

Them: “Overwhelmed!”

Is this good?

No, it’s not. We’re experiencing a crisis of over-commitment and information overload like never before. It’s not supposed to be this way. After all, technology is supposed to make us more efficient, isn’t it?  Not more stressed! At the risk of sounding like Fred Flintstone, faster isn’t always better—especially if it reduces our quality of life and productivity.

These days, everyone is consumed with “busyness.” You see it everywhere. Our attention spans are shorter, our responsiveness has markedly deteriorated, our cell phones have become appendages (where almost nonstop beeps and vibrations are creating a false sense of urgency), we’re having a harder time focusing, and relational depth is increasingly being replaced by superficial breadth. Our children are bombarded with information and opportunities like never before and it’s showing up in anxiety levels.

It is crucial that we arm them with a strong productivity foundation to handle this brave new world.

Let’s start with time management. Whether they go on to college or the workplace, they will be in charge of how they spend their time. Successful people are extremely disciplined with their time, viewing it as a priceless asset they cannot get back. That’s the attitude we want to cultivate in our teens. They will need to develop prioritized daily “to-do lists” arranged by importance and urgency, and plan their time accordingly. Top priorities come first and before the fun.

Another key productivity driver is their ability to set goals and plan for their achievement. Encourage your children to set goals regarding their career, family, education, personal growth, finances, service, experiences, recreation/leisure, and daily responsibilities. The more specific, realistic, and measurable they are, the better. Consider setting some time aside with your student and making a list together of their measurable goals— immediate, short term, and long term. Then, train them to develop strategies and plans to achieve them. Without a planning mindset, success is, at best, a random proposition.

Finally, our kids need to become great decision makers. In What I Wish I Knew at 18, I describe an effective six-step decision-making process. The steps are: 1) determine your key decision criteria, 2) get the facts, 3) identify all the alternatives, 4) conduct an objective pro/con analysis for each option, 5) engage wise counsel, and 6) listen to your “gut instinct” or intuition. By working the process, their best option will usually reveal itself. It’s a GREAT discipline for selecting among several college alternatives!

Here are some questions to consider as you prepare for launch time and “train for productivity:”:

  • Are they effective goal setters, planners, time managers, and decision-makers?
  • Do they control technology, rather than allow technology to control them?
  • In their daily planning, do they focus first on what matters most?
  • Do they consider their time as a precious asset?

Let’s do our best to cultivate a foundation of productivity in our teens, as it will the foundation of success for the rest of their lives. Also, don’t forget to lead by example. Ask the above questions about your own life, too. There’s room to improve for all of us!

Out with the Old, In with the New!

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A fresh year always inspires fresh dreams. Most of us think, “What are the things I could improve in my life, if I had a fresh start?” For some reason, “January 1st” symbolizes new possibilities and a chance for a “do-over.”

In what area of your life would you like a fresh start? In your parenting or other relationships? Your performance at school or on the job? How about being more financially savvy or more organized? Or, maybe yours is like mine: to take control of busyness and reserve more time to reflect. All of these are admirable aspirations—but how can we make them a reality?

Most successful people accomplish their aspirations by staring with dreams and then establishing goals and plans to help make them come true. And, they know that the most effective goals are both specific and measurable (as opposed to vague and difficult to evaluate). As you start to identify your aspirations for 2016 and beyond, it’s important to develop short-, intermediate-, and long-range goals to help get you there.

Even if you’re not naturally a goal-setter, it’s not difficult to become one.  Start by imagining what you want your life to look like. What are the large-scale goals you hope to achieve? These are your long-term or lifetime goals.  It’s important to set these first because they will shape your overall perspective and help frame your smaller and shorter-term goals. Think about such areas as:

  • Education and learning
  • Career
  • Marriage and family
  • Finances
  • Community service
  • Relationships
  • Spiritual life
  • Physical goals (sports, etc.)
  • Talents and skills
  • Travel
  • Experiences
  • Retirement

Once you’ve established your long-term goals, you can set some medium-term goals (e.g., three to five years) that will help you achieve your long-term goals.  From there, you can set one-year, six-month, and one-month goals, all of which will ultimately contribute to the larger picture. Periodically check on your long-term goals to make sure they remain high on your list. Also, monitor your progress on your medium-range goals to make sure you’re on track.

(Parents, you may want to make some parenting goals … check out our book, Parenting for the Launch, for some ideas to help you set goals and create a family mission statement.)

Finally, start making daily to-do lists, prioritized by importance and urgency. If you do, you’ll be contributing on a daily basis toward the things that will make your lifetime goals and dreams possible. Here are some guidelines as you do:

  • Phrase your goals in the positive, not the negative
  • Make them realistic goals—ones that are possible and achievable
  • Make them measurable and specific, such as “visit five continents” as opposed to “travel around the world”

What are your aspirations for 2016? Beyond that? This can be fun and lively discussion with family and friends over the holiday season. Make a plan to check back with each other next New Year’s and see who has gained the most ground in accomplishing their goals.

Build Your Value and Win Promotions!

You’ve heard the saying, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” When it comes to your career, your value is in the eyes of your employer!
I had a somewhat unique reputation during my career. I was an investment leader who knew how to market the firm to sales prospects. Consequently, while performing well on my investment job, I also helped our sales professionals land new accounts. This had a direct impact on our profits, which caught the attention of the business leaders who were my advocates during bonus time. By diversifying my skill set and helping our business, I built my value and reputation.

How highly prized you are to your employer should be a matter of ongoing importance. Among the sources of your value are:

  • Your proficiency and achievement on the job
  • Your contribution to the financial well-being of the organization
  • Your ability to develop others
  • Your ability to work successfully in teams and in projects
  • Your ability to solve problems and lead initiatives
  • Your willingness to go above and beyond the job description

In a nutshell, it’s not simply how well you’re doing your own job, but also how you’re contributing to the broader enterprise. What are the benefits of being a highly valued employee? They are many:

  • Higher compensation
  • Greater promotability and leadership potential
  • Greater job security during layoff periods
  • Opportunities to participate in high impact projects
  • Industry recognition (headhunters will call!)
  • The intrinsic value associated with being well regarded by others

As you progress in your career, always ask what you can do to become more valuable to your employer. If you can diversify your skill set to improve the financials or reputation of your employer, you’ll be that much more valuable to them and win those prized promotions along the way!

What are you doing to build your value in the eyes of your employer, both now and throughout every step of your career?  Check out our blog archive for more ideas on how to be the best and most successful YOU possible! Pass the information along to a friend or young person in your life, and share your ideas and comments below; we’d love to hear from you! 

Positioning Students for Workplace Success

Are the young people under your supervision—children, students, or employees—prepared to soar in their eventual career? Not just to land the job, but to be a workplace MVP?

 

With high youth unemployment and all-consuming scholastics and activities driving their schedules and priorities, many of today’s young adults are entering the work force sorely lacking the skills and maturity they need to thrive in the real world. We hear from employers all the time: “They may be book smart, but they’re certainly not life smart,” or, “They can write a resume and complete an application, but they lack the intrinsic qualities and life skills we need in our employees.” Many students understand how to succeed in the “front end” (resume and interview skills), but aren’t trained to succeed once they land the job.

 

At LifeSmart, we’re excited to announce our newest resource designed to help create future workplace superstars! Our new DVD, How to Be an MVP Employee. offers invaluable perspectives from employers and four road-tested strategies for succeeding in any career:

  • Selecting a career that plays to their natural strengths and interests
  • Modeling the qualities employers value
  • Delivering on-the-job excellence
  • Contributing to their employer’s success

 

This 45-minute live presentation at Appleton West High School includes illustrations, skits, training, and strategic insights to promote career readiness and workplace excellence. Viewers will gain practical wisdom about what separates those who soar from those who stagnate in their careers.

 

For $79, you can bring this valuable training into your own classroom or group. How to Be an MVP Employee will help prepare the young people in your life to reach their career heights and to succeed in the increasingly competitive landscape of today’s workplace.

 

For more information or to order, call (920) 319-3169 or email at dtrittin@dennistrittin.com.

Be Your Best Self

Are you your “best self” in everything you do? Are you committed to excellence?

Consider this scenario: A young man (let’s call him Joey) finds a job opening in his chosen career field. He lands an interview and arrives for it ten minutes early, dressed to the nines. Joey wants this job, so he is determined to be on his “A game.” He sells himself in the interview and lands the job with his knowledge, gregarious personality, and unique skillset. He is told that there is a 30-day probationary period for the job, at the end of which they will determine if his position will become permanent. Joey does a great job during his 30-day “trial run.” He takes initiative, is excited to work with his team members, and pushes himself to excel. He thinks outside of the box and goes above and beyond all required tasks. At his review, his superiors tell him the job is his for good.

However, something isn’t quite right. Once Joey is given the permanent position, things go downhill. His performance in the workplace greatly suffers—he begins showing up late to work, becomes increasingly uncooperative with his co-workers, and misses important deadlines. Because of his sudden change in performance, his team members also suffer. Projects are unfinished; meetings are cancelled. When Joey realized the job was his and he didn’t need to try and “impress” anyone anymore, he got lazy and content. His efforts were on winning the trophy, not keeping it. He lost the motivation to continue being his best self.

When we participate in anything, whether it’s a class project team, job, sports team, volunteer effort, etc., we contribute two things: our TALENT and our ATTITUDE. In this situation, Joey’s talent was constant but his attitude was variable. His loss of motivation caused his performance to suffer, even though he had all the talent to do an excellent job.

When you’re involved with anything individually, your own dignity and self-respect is at stake. However, when you’re operating as part of a team, you shoulder the additional responsibility of contributing to the group effort—the end result. When you choose to let your negative attitude overshadow your talent, these things are compromised.

Never take lightly the responsibility of being your best self. This does not mean that you’re not allowed to rest, sit down, relax, or treat yourself for a job well done. It simply means to remain aware of why you’re in the role you are. You’re at your job because of your specific skillset. You’re on the sports team because of your talent and athleticism. You’re in the church choir because of your natural gift for singing. Maintaining a conscious and thankful mindset will help keep your attitude right and showcase your greatest talents, helping you be your best.

Whether in the workplace, at school, or on the field, if you always be the best you, regardless of whether it’s a major project or minor task, you’ll be respected and admired. That’s the hallmark of a true winner.

Do you find yourself “slacking off” in certain areas of your life? Why or why not? What helps you give your best performance when it comes to working with others?

What’s on Your To-Do List?

Sometimes I wonder how we all survived before sticky notes. They sure come in handy for jotting down my daily reminders and holding myself accountable!

 

The discipline of writing out a daily prioritized task list (organized by importance and urgency) is a hallmark of a productive person. I begin each day with a to-do list, and it certainly has made me more focused and effective. (And, yes, when unexpected items arise, I add them to the list and cross them out after completion. There’s power in a sense of accomplishment!)

 

Here’s an idea. What if we took this concept beyond its daily application and take a “sticky pad” approach to planning our lives? After all, the most successful people begin with dreams and then establish goals and plans to make them come true.

 

How can the sticky note approach work for you?

 

Poor or random planning puts your dreams in jeopardy and, at best, makes it take that much longer to realize them. But, even if you’re not naturally a goal-setter, it’s not difficult to become one.  Start by imagining what you want your life to look like. What are the large-scale goals you hope to achieve? Think of areas like your education, career, service opportunities, family, finances, health, experiences, passion areas, and interests.

 

Once you’ve established your long-term goals, you can set some shorter-range goals that will help you achieve them. You can set one-year, six-month, and one-month goals, all of which will ultimately contribute to the larger picture.

 

At the same time, don’t forget those daily to-do lists!  You’ll be amazed how much more you accomplish. It doesn’t have to be a fancy leather-bound day-timer to keep you on track.  Many times all you need is a vibrant-colored sticky note placed somewhere visible to remind you what you hope to accomplish that day! Oh, and once all your items are checked off the list, be sure to take some time to celebrate for a job well done. You deserve it.

 

“If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”

Lawrence J. Peter

 

What kinds of goals have you established for the short-, intermediate-, and long-term? What strategies have you learned to help accomplish them?

We’d love to hear your ideas!