Professional Development is Your Project

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The problem with high school is that there’s a lot of people telling you what to do, where to be, and how you need to complete x,y and z in order to get your diploma.

Then in university or college you’ve got a little more freedom to decide how and when you do things, but you still have to meet the prerequisites to graduate, and do more schooling, or become a whatever and by then you’ll have totally figured out how to do things for yourself, right?

Unfortunately, I’ve found this isn’t always the case. Sure, each workplace has a certain set of rules you have to follow, and most jobs have a job description that you have to adhere to. But your job is just you job; your workplace is just where you work. That is, for now. Who helps you to decide when it’s time to move on? Who tells you what to do to gain upward mobility in your company? What the prerequisites for getting promotions? For changing careers? For scaling back?

For some, knowing that your career has the ability to head in whatever direction you want is really freeing. Others might be totally cool with finding a good position and sticking with it, providing it meets their lifestyle needs. If you’re one the latter, congratulations- it sounds like you’re already in the place that you need to be.

I think most of us meet somewhere in the middle (myself included). We crave the autonomy to make our own decisions about when, where and what we work at (exciting!); at the same time, we wish there was someone to guide us where we need to go otherwise how else do we find our way of getting there? (Scary!)

It’s kind of brutal, but it’s the truth: professional development is your project.

Don’t panic; it’s actually pretty liberating. Does it require a certain amount of discipline and motivation on your part? Totally. But you’re in change of when, where and how you want to develop yourself professionally.

The most exciting (and challenging) part is deciding the what:

  • What skills do you want to acquire?
  • Which skills do you want to improve?
  • What contacts do you want to make?
  • What experience do you want to gain?
  • What do you want to get certified in?
  • What do you want to learn?

Once you’ve figured out the what, the how comes so much easier: take a workshop, join a club, go back to school, audit a class, attend a conference, get a membership, volunteer, shadow a mentor.

And read, read, read: books related to finding your ideal career or better yet, find the biography of someone who has achieved success at what you want to do. Read magazines, newspapers, blogs and other industry publications to keep your knowledge current.

You may want to map out what of some of these steps look like on a long-term scale. What are some of your goals? What do you want to accomplish? Where do you want to go? Where do you want to end up?

Or maybe you’ve already found yourself in a good place career-wise and you’re looking to keep the momentum going. Your professional development projects might be more along the lines of expanding your target market, developing a new product, or re-branding your company.

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to change it up, or hate challenging the status quo: professional development is definitely a project we have to take on ourselves. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. In a way careers can mimic- they can be ebb and flow and take us to destinations that we never thought were possible.

The beauty of it, is that you have the freedom to choose how you’ll navigate that flow, and hopefully you’ll end up somewhere wonderful.

At the very least, I hope you enjoy the ride.

KBwB-BFlower-50What are some of the professional skills that you’ve been working on? Share your trials and tribulations below, or email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com.

For more advice on navigating careers and the workplace, click here.

5 Steps to Making Your Office More Productive

KBB_markersUs freelancers are strange creatures. We keep strange hours, and work strange days, and we develop strange workflow habits. People who telecommute or have another special arrangement with their employers can understand too the challenges we face working from home. On top of the continuous distractions that come with running a household and having a pet and/or kids, it’s a wonder we can find a dedicated, organized space to pay our bills let alone run a small business. Having an unproductive work space can make this journey an uphill battle for even the most dedicated of business owners, so here are five solutions I’ve implemented in some of the offices and homes I’ve organized (as well as my own!) to make them more productive.

Make it light. If you can’t see anything you won’t be able to do anything- or at the very least, you won’t be able to do anything very well. Makes sense, no?

Make it comfortable. Almost as important as your desk (or your counter, or your diniing table, or wherever you work), the seating that you choose can make a big difference to how long and how comfortably you can focus on your work. Obviously you don’t want to be so comfortable that you never want to leave your desk (I have enough problems with that anyway!) but you do want to be able to get up from your desk with some feeling still left in your back. Or avoid this altogether and invest in a stand-up desk- just make sure you pair it with a specialized mat underneath designed to minimize the impact prolonged standing has on your back, hips, knees and feet.

Make it ergonomic. A bright desk lamp and an appropriately comfortable chair are two important ingredients in the ergonomics of your work space, but make sure you aren’t forgetting other important considerations. Is your desk tall enough for your legs to fit underneath? Do you have a place to put your feet? Do you have an accessible electricity supply? Does your work space allow for enough storage to house the things you need on a daily basis to maintain your flow at work? Fitting together all of these elements is like fitting together a jigsaw puzzle- as soon as you have one or two of these answers figured out, the rest are going to start conveniently falling into place.

Make it convenient. Obviously it would be wonderful if we all had the means to create a work space that’s configured exactly the way we want it. However, depending on your position at work, or the conditions of your home life you find yourself in less-than-ideal working conditions. In that case, it’s important that you concentrate on the convenience of your working space. I’ve known many small businesses owners who have run companies from their dining room tables. However, if your dining room table is always covered in junk, or is crowded with kids doing their homework, you may want to consider creating a dedicated space on your kitchen counter, or even on your dressing table to house the necessary supplies to fire off a quick email, pay some bills, or look up an address.

Make it your own. Each individual has their own set of wants and needs that they feel is conducive to a productive workflow. It doesn’t matter if they are deemed necessary by others. What matters is that these are the items that give you the pleasure and convenience required to have a successful workday. I call this set of items your “office essentials” and I’ve shared what’s on my list here. No matter what’s on your list, it should be in amply supply and well within your reach.

Working from home isn’t always easy and without a lot of discipline it can be a challenge to maintain focus even in the most organized of work spaces. But hopefully with a more productive work space, (one that’s designed to fit your needs and store the essentials necessary for you to run your business) you’ll be better equipped to face all of the little battles that life throws your way.

KBwB-BFlower-50Have you tried any of these solutions in your home? Is there anything you’d like to add to my list? Comment below or drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com. I’m always looking for ways to improve my productivity (and by that I mean makeover my desk). I could definitely use your help!

Writing and learning about productivity is kind of my jam. If you’d like to read some of my other thoughts on cultivating a more productive lifestyle, why not mosey on over to my productivity page here?

That One Silly Thing

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This is going to seem silly, but ever since I was a little girl I have wanted, no, longed for a coloring caddy. You know, one of those organizers designed to hold all of your different art supplies- they’re often available at office or craft supply stores, and sometimes come pre-filled with markers, pencil crayons and other coloring items. I’ve even seen caddies for other types of art supplies, like craft scissors with fancy edges.

Be still my beating heart.

It wasn’t that I suffered from a lack of art supplies; it’s just that the coloring caddy never really materialized. The years went by and my desire for the caddy faded and became this distant dream of mine, like having a gift wrap station in my apartment or meeting Ryan Gosling. These things would all be nice, sure, but are definitely unattainable.

That is, until Christmas 2015 when Santa arrived bearing a sack of coloring books, pencil crayons and markers. And they were all for me. (Cue evil laughter.) The idea of the caddy resurfaced in my mind. My recent change to an open-concept workspace meant I had virtually zero storage. Suddenly the caddy seemed less like a distant dream, and more like a logical solution.

It was after Christmas, and I was poor but neither of those things were going to stop me from seizing my crazy childhood dream of organizing all of my art supplies in that magical caddy. Sometimes when life gives you lemons you have to make lemonade.

My lemonade came in the form of an old metal shower caddy from IKEA that’s followed me from apartment to apartment and held everything from actual shower supplies, to towels- even baking supplies. Up until recently I had been hoarding it in a box destined for a garage sale but I decided to give it new purpose by adding felt feet to the bottom to prevent scratching, and a selection of glass jars I stole from my pantry.

It may not be the picture-perfect caddy that I always dreamed of, but it’s that one special item, that one silly thing that brightens up my day every time I look at it. The handle is perfect to cart it off to wherever I feel like working, whether it be working on my latest coloring book picture or making a birthday card for a friend.

My desk is where I spend the majority of my time and it’s worth it to me to surround myself with special things that make the ordinary tasks in my day feel extraordinary. It may be a foolish thing to wish for, but if that one silly thing increases my focus, improves my functionality and puts a smile on my face, I’m going to do it! My only regret is that I didn’t do it years sooner.

KBwB-BFlower-50Have you ever lusted after anything that seemed ridiculous? Have you D.I.Y’d anything for your desk? Do you also hoard old shower caddies like I do? I want to hear all about it. Drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com or comment below.

Looking for ways to change up your office and get happy? I talk about makeovers here, my office essentials here, and how to get to your organizing happy place here, here and here.