Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Tribute to the Go-Getters and Dreamers - Helpful tips for going after what you want

I think there's something to be said for those who are relentless in pursuing their dreams. So many people talk of success, but very few are willing to do what it takes to achieve it. We often ridicule those who have tons of ideas that never seem to pan out, without giving credit for them not only having a plan, but mustering up the courage to take the leap and execute it.

Instead, those with closeted ambition and weak commitment throw stones to shatter the dreams of others.
But they are the ones who truly deserve the ridicule. We are the Alices caught in the looking glass between Wonderland and Reality, watching our true selves fast asleep in the green pastures, while life happens and passes us by.

I admit that there have been numerous occasions where I have found myself on both sides of that mirror. How about you? Well if you're anything like me, you're not going to be content with being a dreamer for long. Do you have a fabulous idea burning in the back of your mind but have no idea how to get started? Below is a tried and proven strategy to help you organize your thoughts and develop a manageable plan to bring your dreams to fruition.

Think it -All great ideas begin as a thought. We see a need and we think, "Wow, wouldn't it be great if someone would.....(insert brilliant idea)?" It's crucial that you don't dismiss those thoughts because they could be the start of an amazing project!

Write it - According to national studies, the average human brain has over 3,000 thoughts per day. Now of course, you're not going to write down all 3,000 of those thoughts, nor would you probably want to. But when you have a great idea, don't take for granted that you're going to remember it later. Grab a piece of paper and write as much as you can down, preferably in a notebook that you revisit often. I'm a bit manic about capturing my thoughts so I went out to Barnes & Nobles and bought a package of 3-4 of those cute Moleskine notebooks and stashed them all around my apartment and in my purses. This way, I'll never miss an opportunity to write down an idea.

If you're more technologically inclined and your smart phone or tablet is like a third hand, I highly recommend downloading an app such as Evernote to keep track of your thoughts when you're...say...driving and are hit with a good idea.

Speak it and seek advice about it - Great ideas are useless if you keep them to yourself. Share them with a friend or colleague who you feel comfortable with. I typically have one or two people in my circle that I love to bounce ideas off of because I trust them to be honest with me and give me constructive feedback. I'm a collaborator by nature so I thrive off of idea sharing and often times, one quick conversation with a friend can enhance the quality of my idea so much that it ends up being even better than I originally imagined.

Plan it - So after thinking, writing, and discussing; if you feel like you have a winner, now the real work begins. Lately I've become obsessed with vision boards because they give me a visual representation of my vision for the project. I organize the vision into steps and then cut out pictures and words that demonstrate each step that I want to take to bring the idea into fruition. I also start to make a list of all the resources I'm going to need to complete the project.

(For those of who you are interested in learning how to use vision boards, I'll be writing a follow-up post to discuss how I use vision boards now to flesh out ideas and actualize projects.)

Now if you're more of a list person, make a list, preferably in chronological order, of what it's going to take to execute the project. I would suggest using legal size paper though so that you can get as much of the plan on one page as possible. This will help you get a full view of the plan.

Execute it - With your blue print in hand, decide which steps need to happen first. Words of caution...DO NOT TRY TO DO EVERYTHING AT ONCE. This will only overwhelm you and make you feel like the task is too daunting. In reality, it may be a huge undertaking, But if you tackle it in bits, it becomes more manageable. Evaluate what you have time to take on now and give yourself a time limit for each task, allotting a reasonable amount of time commensurate with the amount of work most likely needed.

Lastly, don't stop until it's finished. There's no point in following the tips laid out in this post if you don't have a mind to finish. Even if it takes you longer than expected, don't stop. You may need to go back and re-adjust the plan at times, but you should always have the mindset that you are going to finish what you started.

What ideas are burning a hole in your head? I'd love to hear them! Sound off in the comments box. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Christina's Reads

I'm big on sharing great information. Check out some of my favorite reads from around the web this week. Enjoy!

Feel trapped in a dead-end career? Want to make some changes in your life? Alexis Grant reminded me of Why It's Never Too Late to Create the Life You Want.

Boy did I need this one this week. Jude Bijou taught me 7 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Work Get More Done.

If you're a fellow writer, you can certainly appreciate this one. When you've labored over a piece and finally get the edited copy back only to find an entirely different piece, here's how to handle it with class and professionalism. Check out Sophie Lizard's post "That's Not What I Wrote!" What to Do When You're Hit With Heavy Editing.

Everyone says that as a professional, or as an aspiring professional, it's important to be on social media. But what if you have nothing to say?? Alexis Grant offers some solutions in her blog post What to Say on Social Media When You Have Nothing to Say.

As a self-admitted workaholic, I'm constantly walking the tight rope of the professional versus the personal life. Check out these 5 Tips to Achieve Work-Life Balance.

Are you a huge fan of lists? Well so am I! Check out 10 Things to Do Every Workday and watch how much closer you are to meeting your professional goals.

What else is new with me?

I'm hard at work recruiting members for my program development board and planning the activity calendar for my professional mentoring program, 20/30 Enterprises. More info to come!

AND I'm gearing up to teach my first College Success course in the fall. Super stoked!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

How to channel restless energy into a life plan

Photo by Jagaro
I started reading Alexandra Robbins' Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis because lately, as I reflect on the past 10 years of my life, I realized that while I have accomplished a lot, and feel that ultimately, I've gotten to where I want to be at this age, I also have started to feel like I'm at the cross roads of Contentment and Ambition.

At first I felt guilty about feeling a lack of satisfaction, because I pretty much have everything I wanted by this point in my life. I have an awesome career in higher ed. I'm one of the youngest administrators in my organization, and I've established a pretty solid professional reputation. Not to mention, I've finally broken into the ranks of the upper middle class, in the process of starting a biz and really doing it for myself, all as a single gal. A true independent woman (Beyonce' would be proud).

I sat down and made a list of all the personal and professional goals that I've accomplished and was very pleased at what I saw. But I also noticed that there was another page that was completely blank.  So I got to thinking...what's next?

I have a thousand ideas, but I needed to break them down into a feasible game plan that would make it easier to set goals and structure action plans. So as an introduction to my 30s, I took the following steps to channel my restless energy into an actual achievable life plan.

Brain storm
I had to really sit down and figure out what it is that I wanted to do. It's not enough to just say, "I need a change". Ask yourself simple, yet provocative questions. What kind of change do you want? What kind of changes are you capable of making? Challenge yourself to give real answers.

So to execute this phase, I had a heart to heart with one of my dearest friends so that I could flesh out what it was that I was thinking and feeling. I described the direction that I saw my life going in, what changes I wanted to make, and what my initial thoughts were on how to make it happen. I allowed myself to be open to taking constructive feedback, just in case my big ideas started to lean a little too far to the left. And then I started to plan.

What I discovered is that I still very much love the work that I have been doing in promoting the benefits of higher education. So the good news was that I didn't hate my job. But I've realized that I wanted to take it a step further and really start to mentor young adults, particularly young adults of color, and provide them with the tools that they need to build a name and a sustainable reputation for themselves professionally.

Write a mission/vision statement: 
Now that you've hashed out the vision, write it down. For me, nothing gives life to my ideas more than seeing them in print. In one sentence, write down what you hope to accomplish and keep it as simple as possible. As a little bonus, I'll share my mission statement for a non-profit that I want to start (a result of my brainstorming).

"To produce a generation of young adults who will become starters, builders, and completers, by providing them with knowledge, resources, and a supportive network."

Your mission statement is not the platform to be superfluous. Use direct language that really gets to the meat of what you want to do. Essentially, your mission statement should say three things.

  • Who you want to impact.
  • What impact you want to make.  
  • How you plan to make the impact.
This will be your north star as you continue to hash out what your next moves should be.

Make the blueprint:
You need a plan, or what I like to call the blueprint. The definition of a blueprint is a design, scheme, or plan. It's going to serve as your birds-eye view of the overall goal that you hope to accomplish.

For my blueprint, I organized my vision/mission into three phases. There's the starter phase, builder phase, and completer phase. I've decided that all of my tactics and programming efforts would need to fall under those three categories to support the overall vision.

Develop a feasible plan of attack:
I quickly realized that while having this fantastic life plan is great, the reality is that I also work a full-time job and have a slew of other responsibilities and activities that monopolize a lot of my time. I'm excited to get started, but I have to make sure that I don't overwhelm myself. So I decided to break down my plan into a few small action items that I knew I could accomplish in a relatively short period of time. Here are a few of my action items.

  • Reach out to contacts in my network with similar goals and interests and gain support for vision.
  • Establish a core meet-up group with interested individuals and brainstorm potential programming and outreach opportunities.
  • Based on list of programming opportunities discussed in the meet up group, develop a sell-sheet to market to target audiences. 
The great news is that I've already accomplished two of these goals and am quickly moving on to the third. 

Planning to take a leap? How are you turning your restlessness into a power plan?