Happy Thanksgiving! (2017)

I just want to take a moment to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! I am grateful to you, my readers and course participants. Also, I know that this can be a frenzied week and time of year. Thanksgiving is intended to be a time of counting our blessings and grounding ourselves in our gratitude, however it can be hectic preparing for the meal and celebration (and also a little crazy with Black Friday the next day!).

 

If I start to feel stressed during weeks like this one, I just remind myself to “draw the box.” I think of the comments and issues from others as being outside my box, and I remind myself of the idea: what can I do in this moment. What can I control?

 

Just taking a breath and thinking about the box produces a subtle but powerful shift; by shifting my attention off of my anxiety and stress, I can transition to a healthier mental and emotional state.

 

If you are feeling stressed this week, try to draw the box (more info in Optimize for Victory). I hope that helps bring you some peace.

 

Again, have a very Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the time with loved ones.

 

Sincerely,

Lisa

 

Additional Resources:

 

Books:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Course: Design Your Success Academy

This is too much. Where do I begin…?

Cultivate Good Habits.

 

Improve Your Mindset.

 

Create a Vision.

 

Hustle.

 

Be Disciplined.

 

Set Goals.

 

Be Productive.

 

Wake up Early.

 

Do this, don’t do that…

 

A bit overwhelming, right?

 

All the above concepts are touted in the areas of personal and professional development. In some ways, it’s almost a vicious cycle. People seek help in order to take the next step—to overcome a problem or to improve a particular area, but it can be paralyzing.

 

In the process of trying to take the next step to improve, you hear all these things you are supposed to be doing, and in doing so, you deepen your state of inaction—because you don’t know where to start. You may think, “Well I don’t have a vision, so I’d better create that, but then I have to improve my productivity, and then I have to improve my mindset…so I can’t really improve anything until I fix all those,” and in the end, you wind up doing nothing—because you need to return to your survival mode. How can anyone improve all those at the same time and see a difference in their lives the next day?

 

And in many cases, people actually feel worse about themselves, because they start taking inventory of all the things they are not doing. And that certainly doesn’t lead to individuals overcoming their challenges or achieving their dreams more easily!

 

One of the most common questions I hear is with regard to not knowing how to take the next step.  It’s very easy to get caught up in realizing everything you’re not doing as described above, and that can be justification for not making expected progress in your life. This is why I am focused on resources that can help you take action. It’s even one of the reasons I use the word “optimize” because it’s like what we do in engineering—let’s yield a high quality product with minimal cost (i.e. yielding an even higher quality product for 100x the cost, in time/money, may not be profitable nor will it provide you the supply you need for your customers tomorrow!).

 

If we’re looking to improve something, we don’t necessarily want to take a year to get our systems in place; we typically need a different result as soon as possible and need to “optimize” the current situation for the better. And while it’s important to have good systems in place, realistically people need to see improvement more quickly. Therefore, I suggest taking action as soon as possible (while keeping in mind the overall system you’re aiming for in the future). I’m concerned that if you work on the system and don’t take action immediately, you’ll get so focused on perfecting the system that nothing will actually get done in the process!

 

Over time, you’ll find that the small improvements will compound, which is often discussed in the Kaizen approach. And if you do this intentionally, knowing the overall system or place you want to wind up, you’ll find that life helps you “course correct” along the way. But you can’t “course correct” unless you start taking action.

 

Therefore, if you’re in the boat of not knowing what to do next, check out my baby steps article for reference, and also keep the following in mind:

  1. Just start working on what makes sense. While it’s important to take time to reflect and take a step back, don’t do that for days on end while waiting for an epiphany. Take a break and then get back to the task at hand.

  2. If you’re not happy with your current situation and want a change in your life, keep doing #1 while also investing in yourself: take a few minutes each day to think about your overall system.

Sometimes when I present the above two points, an individual will respond to me and say, “Yes, but what makes sense for the next step?”

 

Naturally this is something best discussed in person. It’s very personal, but it may help for you to use some of the tools discussed in Success Blueprint or Design Your Success Academy. It’s hard to cover all the iterations of where you could be in your life or imagine what your situation is. But my quick, general advice would be:

 

  1. Continue what you’re currently doing and just keep trying to do your best at it until you’re clear on your new goals. For instance, if you’re in a career you don’t like, keep working at it while you start preparing for a new one (taking online courses to increase your skills, posting your resume, etc.)

  2. If you’re stuck not necessarily in terms of wanting a career change, but you want to feel better about  yourself in terms of discipline or productivity, try to implement one small change while you continue to invest in yourself (described above). For instance, if you can’t bring yourself to start something you don’t want to do, create a spreadsheet (described in Optimize for Victory) and track your progress on simply working on it, with no expectation to how much time you spend on it. Your goal is to ensure the time you spent on it each day is simply not zero (0).

 

To wrap up, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s understandable. It’s easy to “go down the rabbit hole” so-to-speak when you’re looking to make a change. Start small and enjoy the compound effect of small improvements each day as you keep your intention about the new person you want to be (or new career, or whatever it is your heart desires!).

 

And one final note: I’ve noticed that as hard as it is to start something I don’t feel keen on doing, it typically doesn’t seem as bad once I’ve begun it, and I often feel a sense of relief and a release of tension for at least finally starting it!

 

Additional Resources:

Books:

Optimize for Victory: A Simple Approach to Overcome Challenges and Achieve Your Dreams

Success Blueprint: Get Out of Survival Mode, Regain Control of Your Life, and Get Ahead at Work and in Life

 

Course: Design Your Success Academy

Money, Success and “Worth It”

Money, Success and Worth It

In the past few years, I have made the following observation about the relationship between people and money:

 

Many people are overwhelmed by money

 

and/or

 

They are trying to “achieve success” to increase their income and overcome their money troubles.

 

In some cases, people are simply trying to “achieve more” because they are trying to achieve a particular goal and are seeking fulfillment by pursuing that endeavor. I am finding more and more, however, that sometimes one of the underlying factors to wanting increased success can be related to money, so I think it’s an important topic to bring up in the blog!

 

[Since I have noticed this, I am including some discussion and references to “optimizing your finances” in the blog (hence the recommendations page I started!)]

 

If you are in one of the aforementioned areas, I would recommend taking a step back and focusing on learning more about “optimizing your finances.” This doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a rigid budgeter. It simply means learning to assess your personal situation, so you can convert your worries into a feeling of clarity, particularly about how to move forward.

 

A new book that can help reframe your perspective and make you feel more empowered in terms of assessing your net worth and re-evaluating your life (ie evaluating your choices as risks) is Worth It: Your Life, Your Money, Your Terms.

 

It’s important to note that the book was written by Amanda Steinberg, Founder and CEO of DailyWorth and WorthFM (both have primarily a female audience). Therefore, the book is written with women in mind, however the overall concepts about how to reframe your life and money can serve everyone.

 

Read more below:

 

Worth It Book

 

Title: Worth It: Your Life, Your Money, Your Terms

Author: Amanda Steinberg

 

Formats: Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback, Audible, Audio CD

Reviews: 4.7/5 Stars (Amazon)

 

Why I Recommend: Many women (and people) are stressed and anxious about their finances. This book cuts through all that. It’s definitely not a boring book. The author brings up her personal backstory to give the reader context and relates relevant stories, statistics and concepts. I like the “roots and wings” analogy as well as the emphasis on understanding the risks associated with buying property, starting a business, etc. and how all of that needs to be considered.

 

Warnings: Written with women in mind.

 

Structure of the Book: The book is divided into 3 major parts (11 chapters with an epilogue and “cheat sheet” at the end/summary):

 

Introduction: What is a Woman’s Worth?

Women are more powerful than ever in US history. So what’s wrong with our value?

 

Part 1: Your Life: Telling Stories. How your life story is also about you and your money.

 

Chapter 1: Hit the Reset Button.

The (money) story of my life: what I learned, when I rose, why I fell, and how I started all over again from scratch.

 

Chapter 2: Rewrite Your Story.

Wake up, Sister. Time to take this story in a different direction.

 

Chapter 3: Grow Your Roots, Spread Your Wings.

Tether yourself to solid ground; set sail accordingly.

 

Part 2: Your Money: Getting Clear to Set Yourself Free.

Grow your money, feed your mind, expand your life.

 

Chapter 4: Know Yourself.

How are you when it comes to money? Discover your MoneyType to make your best investments.

 

Chapter 5: Fund Your Future.

Support the life you want to live and the self you want to be.

 

Chapter 6: Go to Market.

You don’t need to learn stocks–you need to learn how to invest according to a few basic guidelines.

 

Chapter 7: Value Property.

Is buying a home the right investment for you?

 

Chapter 8: Run the Show.

Launch a business for fun and profit–if you’re cut out for it.

 

Part 3: Your Terms: Mastering Cash Flow.

Save your money, save the world.

 

Chapter 9: Wings.

Create affluence on any income.

 

Chapter 10: Overcoming Overspending.

You didn’t really want it in the first place.

 

Chapter 11: Money Clarity.

From chaos to clarity.

 

Epilogue: Design Your Life, Fund Your Dreams.

 

Summary: Formulas and Checklists.

 

Closing Comments: It’s a good book to reframe your perspective about your relationship to money. Instead of being afraid of it, you will learn to assess your current relationship/MoneyType. In the end, you will have greater clarity around money and how to view it as a part of your life.

 

Want to get this book for free? You can get two free books when you start a free trial with Audible.

Lisa’s Review: Hustle: The Life Changing Effects of Constant Motion

Last week I had the pleasure of reading Hustle: The Life Changing Effects of Constant Motion on my Kindle by Jesse Warren Tevelow. If you’re stuck in a rut, or want to read something motivational to “get you going,” this might be a good read for you. Currently, it’s only $0.99 on Kindle. Read more below:

 

Hustle Kindle Book

 

Title: Hustle: The Life Changing Effects of Constant Motion

 

Author: Jesse Warren Tevelow

 

Formats: Kindle, Paperback, Audible (side note for Audible — you may want to save your free book or credit for a more expensive title as it’s currently only $4.87; be sure to check the price in case it’s changed, especially if you want to purchase directly)

 

Reviews: 4.6/5 Stars (Amazon)

 

Why I Recommend: Many people have “analysis paralysis.” They may have trouble moving forward and may stay “settled” because they have fear, are uncomfortable, or simply over-analyze before moving forward. This book will get you in the mindset of gaining momentum so that you can instead reap the benefits of gaining insights as you make significant progress in your endeavors.

 

Warnings: For those who want to take action and move forward. It’s not a long text, but just long enough to get you in the spirit of moving forward.

 

Structure of the Book (and highlights): The book is divided into 15 chapters:

 

Chapter 1: Introduction

  • Author cites examples of well-known people who have demonstrated what “hustling” really means.
  • Key: “Constant motion delivers life-changing results.”
  • There is value in creating momentum.

Chapter 2:  Where Does Hustle Come From?

  • Boils down to aversion to settling — you want more.
  • Discusses how to improve confidence due to whom you surround yourself with.

 

Chapter 3:  Hustler’s Diary – Day 1

Author chronicles his progress on writing the book quickly as an example of hustling; his diary entries are insightful as he is faced with common issues we may be faced with as we try to hustle.

 

Chapter 4:  What Does Hustle Require?

  • Adjusted mindset.
  • Facing your fears.

 

Chapter 5:  Hustler’s Diary – Day 2

Author chronicles his progress on writing the book quickly as an example of hustling; his diary entries are insightful as he is faced with common issues we may be faced with as we try to hustle.

 

Chapter 6:  Hustler’s Habits and Tricks

  • Discusses taking the leap from mindset to action.
  • Question everything.
  • Gather inspiration.
  • Focus and productivity tips.
  • Manage your physical energy (this is something I addressed in my own book, Optimize Your Productivity).

 

Chapter 7:  Hustler’s Diary – Day 3

Author chronicles his progress on writing the book quickly as an example of hustling; his diary entries are insightful as he is faced with common issues we may be faced with as we try to hustle.

 

Chapter 8:  Hustler’s Traits

  • Idiosyncrasies of hustlers.
  • Emphasizes focus on a goal and disregard for forced convention.
  • Ignore Doubters
  • Think Different.

 

Chapter 9:  The Lifestyle of a Hustler

  • Getting things done.
  • “Ship Product.”
  • Expect detours but keep on hustling!

 

Chapter 10:  Thirty-six Hours of Pure Focus

  • Rules can be rewritten.
  • Not overwhelming.
  • “Working faster = more focus, passion and output.”

 

Chapter 11:  Hustler’s Diary – Day 4

Author chronicles his progress on writing the book quickly as an example of hustling; his diary entries are insightful as he is faced with common issues we may be faced with as we try to hustle.

 

Chapter 12:  From Concept to Launch in Seven Days

  • How the author planned the book.
  • Authors discusses how he organized himself, tracked process, and pursued the publishing process.

 

Chapter 13:  Hustler’s Diary – Day 5

Author chronicles his progress on writing the book quickly as an example of hustling; his diary entries are insightful as he is faced with common issues we may be faced with as we try to hustle.

 

Chapter 14:  So You Want to Be a Hustler?

  • Discusses steps you can take.
  • “Live your life as a hustler.”

 

Chapter 15:  Who Are the Hustlers?

  • More examples and wrap-up.

 

Closing Comments: Overall, a good book to get the idea of moving forward ingrained in your mind. This does not mean rushing through projects without creating things of high-quality. The focus is more on the idea of moving forward at all, since many people will stay settled in their ways and they struggle to make progress.

 

Want to get this book for free? You can get two free books when you start a free trial with Audible.

2017 and “The Untethered Soul”

Personal Note

 

It has been a long time since I have written in the blog. 2017 was a year of stepping back (and personal change) for me. I continue to focus most of my time on my growing family. I have also returned to teaching part-time at the university (NJIT). Interestingly, the course I’m teaching this semester is not a traditional chemical engineering course — it’s actually a “Career Planning” course for chemical engineers!

 

In terms of my website and my books, I’ve been teaching myself to code (very slowly!). I’ve also spent a lot of time planning out my next books and blog topics. While I had started to plan out one book earlier this year, it was feeling very forced; I decided it was time to take a break and “sharpen the saw” as Stephen Covey would say.

 

During my break, I had time to reflect on the tagline for this site and I have decided to call it “Think Inside the Box” based on the free ebook I wrote a few years ago. That ebook, and the concept of “thinking inside the box” explains the overall optimize approach and therefore is quite applicable to the spirit of the site.

 

Some additional changes you may notice is that I cleaned up the site (deleted old articles/announcements) and changed email providers. I also added a “Lisa Recommends” page; personal finance is a hobby of mine, so I will keep this page updated in terms of how I “optimize my finances” using various services.

 

In terms of content going forward, I am keeping in mind the special review I received from author John Schwartz a few years ago. He had entitled his review for my book Optimize for Victory with Stick to her website with good current advice.” Therefore, I will resume writing in the blog in an effort to create value for you:

 

Going forward, I will continue to write occasional posts reflecting on how we can optimize our lives in various ways. Further, as I come across helpful resources, I will blog about those as well. For instance, I read a lot (either on my Kindle or via Audible). Some of the books I read may be helpful for my readers, and therefore I will break some of the titles down for you so you can decide if you’d like to read them, too.

 

Thank you for reading my blog and now on to a recent book I read.

 

—–

 

the_untethered_soul_book

 

Title: The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

 

Author: Michael A. Singer

 

Formats: Kindle, Paperback, Audible, Hardcover, MP3 CD (I listened in Audible)

 

Reviews: 4.7/5 Stars (Amazon)

 

Why I Recommend: Many people struggle with perspective and self-awareness. This book is written in a  way that you can unravel and understand your current awareness and consequently raise your level of self-awareness while improving your perspective. In the past, I have written about the concept of taking the “aerial view” to gain perspective. I’ve also mentioned how critical self-awareness is in self-improvement. If you struggle in these areas, this book may help.

 

Warnings: For open-minded individuals. It’s not prescriptive or religious; however, the concepts come from various places/sources to increase your level of “consciousness.”

 

Structure of the Book: The book is divided into 5 parts:

 

Part 1: Awakening Consciousness

  • Helps you recognize “the voice in your head” and relate it to your “inner roommate.”
  • First step to stepping back and viewing yourself differently.

Part 2: Empowering Energy

  • Introduces the concept of being “closed off” and how you can start opening up.
  • Discusses how your energy and how you feel is related to how “closed off” you are.

 

Part 3: Freeing Yourself

  • Discusses “letting go” and how to do that.

 

Part 4: Going Beyond

  • Challenges you to surrender and live freely as a way of life.

 

Part 5: Living Life

  • Brings up death and rounds out your perspective as the book is wrapped up.

 

Closing Comments: Overall, a good book to broaden your perspective, especially if you are plagued with negative, habitual thoughts. Further, if you have trouble “letting go” I would recommend reading it. I recall someone once asked me how to let go, and this book might help if you struggle with that.

 

Want to get this book for free? You can get two free books when you start a free trial with Audible.

How to Be More Productive When Your Days are Unpredictable

Some of the leading productivity experts discuss having a system to capture your thoughts and tasks, and then scheduling those tasks accordingly in your calendar based on priority. I also include that approach (as well as other tips) in the overall framework and system I present in Optimize Your Productivity.

When this process is utilized, it is an efficient way to get things done, and it does seem to make productivity easier. The problem, however, is that this process depends on two very important conditions, otherwise it won’t work.

These conditions are:

  1. Having a very predictable calendar so that tasks can be scheduled
  2. Having sufficient health and energy to get things done.

While I worked in high-intensity environments in the past, where there could be constant interruptions (especially for crises, manufacturing issues, etc.), I felt that the productivity system described in my book would work for the most part, especially if you can account for and accept that sometimes only the highest priority items can get done.

But what if you do not have a relatively predictable calendar, or you are suffering from health issues that make your days quite uncertain? I personally experienced these issues earlier this year, especially the past seven months while I was not feeling well in my pregnancy.

As many of you know, I’m expecting a baby girl in the New Year! My pregnancy was much more difficult this time — from feeling very sick to having to limit my mobility due to back and leg issues. On top of that, I take care of my son (a toddler) most of the time, so between not feeling well and having a mostly unpredictable calendar, my own productivity systems were challenged!

The good news is, I was able to adapt my systems in the event someone has a similar situation — where days are quite unpredictable in terms of schedule or energy level. I was still able to write and publish another book, after all (my second this year!) and I had a number of clients in my online programs this year.

The following slides highlight some tips you can utilize if you are in a similar position, or you can keep reading this article to see the tips explained.

1. Use a notebook or a “non dated” productivity planner.

While I previously used a blank notebook and then scheduled my tasks, I adjusted my system to use an actual productivity planner (this is the one I bought and personally recommend). Previously, my system required a certain amount of discipline to stay on track. With the planner, I was able to use it as a tool to keep me on track for the next few steps, primarily utilizing it as a means to stay organized and monitor my progress on tasks.

2. Identify and write down the most important tasks for the week.

By prioritizing my tasks and having that identified list readily available, I was able to have tasks ready to “pick from” when the individual days would arrive (step 3). This approach ensured I minimized wasting time once an open window did present itself. Instead of jumping all over the place saying, “What should I do next?” I was ready to tackle the most important items I had identified.

3. Review tasks and identify 1-3 tasks to accomplish the next day.

Once you have your priorities written for the week, it’s a good idea to pick the most important 1-3 items to accomplish the very next day. Again, building on step 2, you will be ready once that open window of energy and time presents itself the next day. Also, starting with a realistic number of tasks will help you focus and will minimize overwhelm.

4. Review your planner in the morning and use it to track your progress.

At this point, you will not have to make any decisions. You simply need to work on the 1-3 tasks you identified the night before. This will help you be more efficient and reduce the need to spend energy on decision-making. Further, the planner is set up to focus not necessarily on calendar days, but individual days, and it presents tools to help you monitor your progress for the day.

5. Evaluate your progress at the end of each day.

At the end of each day, you can use the tools inside the planner to assess if there could have been any improvements in terms of how you managed your day.

Once you have implemented these 5 steps, you can repeat the cycle! You will get better and better about knowing yourself, what you can handle and what you can’t, and your productivity will improve, despite the challenging conditions of time or energy.

In summary, I hope this article and presentation help, especially for those who are dealing with unpredictable calendars, caring for dependents, and/or managing health issues.

If you’d like more productivity tips, claim your free Optimize Your Productivity ebook at this link: http://productivity.lisakardos.com.  

 

How to Change Your Life When You Don’t Know What You Want — in 7 Easy Steps

With 2017 approaching, some people have already started thinking about their upcoming goals for the next year. These individuals are the ones that always seem to know exactly where they are going and always seem to be in control. They know what they want, and they are going for it! And, they even seem to like and enjoy what they are doing in their lives.

In other cases, however, there are individuals who don’t like what they are doing in their lives or careers. They don’t know what to do next, and they don’t know what they want for their future.

If you are in the latter group, you may be wondering, “What’s my next step? How do I change my life for the better, if I don’t even know what I want?”

If you’re in that situation, and would like some answers — and to change your life — there are seven steps you can begin to take (today)! Feel free to check out the highlights in the following presentation, or keep scrolling to read the entire article!

 

Step 1: Let go of the idea that you need an epiphany before you take the next step.

I have worked with some clients who feel trapped and stuck by their decisions. They may have built up their education and expertise in an area that turned out to be unappealing, or they may feel like they have plateaued in their career.

In the vast majority of these cases, I have found that these individuals know they are unhappy, would like things to be different, but don’t know what they want. As a result of not being sure of what they want, they just keep waiting for the “lightning bolt” to strike them. They keep hoping for an epiphany, that moment of clarity which gives them all the answers. In fact, in many cases, they may be seeking answers in the wrong places, or asking lots of people for advice, but getting nowhere because they keep waiting around for that unattainable moment of hearing, “Do this exactly.”

Therefore, the first step to changing your life, is to actually let go of the idea that you need an epiphany or major moment of clarity to make change in your life. Waiting around for inspiration will lead to simply more waiting around, and typically no answers!

 

Step 2: Shift your mindset: you just need to know the very next step…not the exact destination!

Building on Step 1, once you let go of the idea of needing an epiphany, it’s best to start shifting your mindset to the idea that you don’t need to know all the answers, or even what your eventual path or destination will be.

The key to changing your life is taking action. While it’s important to think before you jump into something (more on the process of deciding the next steps shortly), the most important thing to consider is to take a next step in the first place! The idea is that taking action will actually give you more answers.

For instance, once you take the very next step, and you begin the process of getting data and feedback about what you are trying or attempting, you’ll start getting the answers you have been seeking — such as “I like this” (or don’t like it). Beginning this process will enable you to collect feedback as you go along and eventually you will be able to “course correct” and make adjustments because your goals will become clearer as you collect the data you need to make your decisions.

 

Step 3: Take inventory: Write down all the things you know how to do and all the things you are interested in!

Now that you have let go of the idea of an epiphany, and understand the importance of taking action, it’s time to start the process of figuring out what those next steps will be! To do this, it’s often helpful to “take inventory” of your life. Often we are running on autopilot — we don’t even realize what we know (or don’t know). Therefore, I recommend taking a few minutes to list out your skills and interest areas. This will give you something concrete to work with in the next steps, and it will help you get organized!

 

Step 4: Identify the next step for each skill and interest area from your inventory.

Once you have your concrete list of skills and action areas, you can create an adjacent column, and list out the very next action step for each of those skills or areas. For instance, if you have writing skills, the next action step would be to further those skills or make a product from those skills, such as a book or a blog. You could list out the next action step to read a book on the subject of writing or publishing a book.

Though you may have a “hunch” about an area you should explore, it’s best to attempt to be as objective as possible during this process so that you consider all options and possibilities. Therefore, be sure to list out your next action steps for every area you listed!

 

Step 5: Choose one of the next steps you identified and start it.

Now that you have everything laid out on paper, everything from your interests and skills to the identified next steps for each of those areas, you can visually see all the possibilities available to you. After reviewing all this visually, you can more easily choose an interest or skill that you would like to pursue further.

Naturally it may be difficult to make this choice. Taking some time to examine your feelings about each of the areas, and also what may make sense logically for the ones you feel strongly about, will be helpful for your decision on which area to pursue.

It’s also important to consider that it’s not “the end of the world” if you start to pursue one of these paths and later determine it’s not right for you (more on this in the forthcoming steps). To a certain extent, you need to rule things out so that you can narrow your focus. Sometimes you don’t know what you like until you try it. Again, this is better than sitting around and waiting for inspiration to hit you. You’ll have made the most of your time by beginning the process to get feedback and answers for your life.

Once you have chosen which next step you’d like to take, you’re ready to take the action associated with that step!

 

Step 6: Identify and take the very next steps for the path you started

After taking that first step, it’s important to assess what the next few immediate steps would be for the path you began, and take the corresponding actions identified. This part of the process is a “data collection” period. Often you don’t know if you like something or if it’s right for you based on the very next step; you need to take at least a few action steps, and spend a few weeks or months on it. Of course this is case-by-case and dependent on the specific area you chose.

The important thing is to be observant during this step: notice if you like this path so far and focus on your progress. The first few steps of any process, especially something new or outside of your comfort zone, will be difficult, so be careful not to immediately rule out a path. After you hit a milestone and have completed a number of steps, however, you can get a better assessment of where you are (and where you’d like to be).

 

Step 7: Evaluate and make adjustments based on the feedback and data you collected.

Collecting data, feedback and making observations from Step 6 will enable you to implement Step 7, essentially to “course correct” as needed. As mentioned in Step 2, having additional information will enable you to make informed decisions about your path forward. You can determine if you’re on the right path, or if you need to tweak your path slightly. You may be able to refine your focus and create a goal around that path. There are so many more possibilities that will open up to you once you have taken these steps, especially as opposed to waiting for an epiphany!

In summary, these seven action steps are not hard in and of themselves — in fact they are quite easy to take, once you have accepted the idea of making change through very small, daily changes (which is more realistic than waiting for a bolt of lightning or overhauling your life)!

To learn more about this, and to access special checklists and additional information and resources on this topic, check out my new book, Success Blueprint: Get Out of Survival Mode, Regain Control of Your Life, and Get Ahead at Work and in Life.

Success-Blueprint-Get out of Survival mode, regain control of your life, and get ahead at work and in life

You can access the Amazon version by visiting: http://success.lisakardos.com!

 

5 Steps to Optimize Your Shopping this Holiday Season

Deals! Deals! Deals!

 

Chances are, prior to reading this, you have been exposed to many “Cyber Monday” advertisements today. In fact, if you rewind the clock, you probably saw “Black Friday” ads rolling into “Cyber Monday” ads over the weekend, and before that, “Black Friday Preview” sales earlier in November.

 

Naturally it’s great to get discounts for holiday shopping, but it can be overwhelming, especially if you set foot inside the stores, though combing through all the web deals can be dizzying as well!

 

In today’s post, we’re going to review 5 Steps to Optimize Your Shopping this Holiday Season; we’ll focus on how to minimize overwhelm in the holiday shopping process while maximizing not only your discounts, but also the amount of cash back you receive.

 

(1) Determine the shopping style that works best for you

 

Determining the shopping approach that works best for you — whether that’s in person or online (or a combination of the two) is surprisingly a good first step. It gets back to the idea of self-awareness: Know what works for you. For instance, personally I do not like large crowds. In the past, if I went to an overly crowded store, I was actually more apt to leave early and give up on shopping (foregoing some deals) because it was just too much for me. Now that you can buy a lot online, doing a significant amount of online shopping is a legitimate option.

 

Therefore, it’s good to get a rough idea of how you need to allot your time — will you set a time to go to the store, or carve out some time to comb through stores on the computer? It’s good to ask yourself what you can physically (and mentally) handle.

 

The step of understanding how to carve out your time (so that you’re not panicking last-minute as the holidays approach) helps with the process of organizing yourself and being more efficient.

 

(2) Organize Yourself with a Shared List

 

My next recommendation is to organize yourself with a list. Taking a few minutes to write the names of everyone you need to shop for, and writing out the status update and possible gift ideas can help tremendously. Further, even if your spouse does not get too involved with the shopping, just sharing the list can help you feel less alone in the process.

 

This year, I decided to make a simple Google Spreadsheet to organize my holiday shopping, and I set it up so that it’s shared with my husband’s Google account. I made significant progress over the weekend once I organized the list (and it feels great to mark off “ordered” or “completed”)!

 

This list worked hand-in-hand with step one for me, because I was able to figure out who I could shop for online, leaving just a couple gifts for in-person shopping (which I plan to do when it’s a bit less crowded)!

 

(3) Discuss Expectations with Family

 

Sometimes part of the stress of holiday shopping includes not knowing what to get people. More recently I have tried the approach of actually talking with family members to get a sense of what they might need, or if they prefer to be surprised. If someone identifies a few items they might need, then it’s easier to keep an eye on those types of items for deals, and it eliminates the overwhelm of not knowing what to purchase.

 

(4) Learn how to Maximize Your Discounts

 

Sometimes holiday shopping can be stressful if you find out you didn’t get the best deal possible. To ensure I do not miss out on deals, I carry coupons in my purse (I have a big bag…) and I regularly purge the ones that expire. I used to keep coupons for department stores separately, and then I wouldn’t have them with me when I needed them. Carrying the most current ones has helped ensure I get deals if I do set foot in a store.

 

Another way to ensure you get the best deals, particularly if you’re shopping online, is to do an email search. If I think I’m about to purchase something in a particular store online, I search the store name in my email account to make sure I didn’t miss any coupon codes that are relevant.

 

(5) Get Cash Back

 

More recently, “cash back” credit cards seem to be very popular (I see tv commercials for them all the time). In other cases, you can get points, rewards, or airline miles for your credit card purchases. It’s a personal decision on what kind of rewards or cash back you’d like, but it’s important to consider which card you want to use (if you use one) in order to get the benefits that are the most meaningful for you. Don’t forget that using your department store card can also mean extra discounts sometimes, too!

 

Interestingly, there is actually another way you can get cash back, that can potentially multiply the benefits from using your reward-based credit cards, and that’s through online cash back services. The one that I’m very familiar with is Ebates. Basically, before I shop, I log into my Ebates.com account (free to create, and sometimes they give you a $10 credit just for signing up — check the current details). From there, I click on the store that I want to shop in, and it tracks my shopping trip from there. If I purchase something from that store, and Ebates says “10%” cash back, that means I get 10% back for my purchases (on top of any other discounts I might have gotten through my cards, etc.)

 

It’s easy to forget to shop through Ebates, but it’s worth it. It’s also important to mention they have a convenient button for your browser now so that you don’t necessarily have to login if you install it. So far I have generated over $200 in cash back from them, (over $170 in 2016 alone!) Every quarter, they mail a check to my house with the cash back I received, and I simply cash it or deposit in my account.

 

Today, on Cyber Monday, the cash back is double in some cases. Be sure to check Ebates as you shop today (Macy’s has 12% cash back as an example).

 

Naturally it can be overwhelming to prepare for the holiday season, especially in terms of holiday shopping, but I hope these five steps about organizing and maximizing your discounts will help you! Good luck out there 🙂

 

*Note that if you join Ebates through the Ebates link inside this article, I may receive a small credit since it is my referral link. However, I recommend their service regardless based on my experience with them.
Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Update: 10/28/2017

To find out more about other ways to earn cash back, please check out the “Lisa Recommends” page!

Slideshare on Productivity

Optimize Your Productivity Slideshare

I just published a new presentation on Slideshare about optimizing your productivity (based on my latest book). To view my presentation for free, please click below.

Details:

Learn how to “optimize your productivity” in this presentation. ***Includes a free productivity worksheet bundle.***

This presentation defines productivity, and breaks down how we can apply simple engineering principles to ourselves to improve our productivity. It presents a unique approach, in that a framework is presented, as opposed to dictums for you to follow. This framework enables you to customize and work with your individual traits. By working with your individuality, you improve your chances for making actual change in the area of productivity.

For more info, please visit http://optimizebooks.com/productivity.

Optimizing Time on The Zone Show

I had the honor and pleasure of being interviewed by Tom Evans of The Zone Show podcast in April. It was a wonderful experience being on Tom’s show, where he features experts and authors, as well as his own work, on how to stay in “The Zone,” perform at our peak levels and live life to the fullest.

As explained on The Zone Show site, we explored the following topics during our conversation:

  • Crossing the bridge from ‘hard’ science to the ‘gentler’ side
  • Taking an engineering approach to personal development
  • How to go about ‘re-‘engineering yourself
  • Where to start with productivity?
  • Using your own victory as a driving force
  • The value of actively chilling out
  • The power of anticipatory thinking
  • Manage your efficiency and you manage your time
  • Engineering emotions
  • What else can be optimized?

Feel free to listen to our conversation (embedded at the bottom of this post) or visit the podcast site to hear interesting and thought-provoking episodes with other guests at http://www.thezoneshow.com/.

In addition to being a great host, Tom is a very productive author, educator, mentor, creator — someone who provides a lot of value to the world. He has a number of self-study programs and offers help to his clients in numerous ways through his programs, meditations, books, and more. To learn more about Tom and his resources, please visit: http://www.tomevans.co/.