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Before I die I want to…

Saturday, September 15, 2012 3 comments
 
 
Place your “Before I die I want to…” in the comments.
 
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What I’ve learned from playing with LEGO®

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 2 comments

(Photo: Legospective, originally uploaded by Guillermо.)

There I was, a young child, sitting in the middle of the floor in my parent’s living room with my box of LEGO® bricks, each in their own compartment sorted by color. My options were endless; with LEGO® I could be anyone, go anywhere and do anything. Now thirty odd years later in my own living room I relive those memories, sitting on the floor with my sons, toiling with them as they build their own LEGO® dreams.

As indirect as it may seem, I learned much from playing with my LEGO® building bricks. Many of those same lessons my sons will learn too.

1. Organization

“Organize your life around your dreams – and watch them come true.”

To this day, I am particularly organized; including lists, calendars, general tidiness and yes – color coding! Did it all start there so many years ago placing each color LEGO® into it’s own pile making sure none of the blue were mixed in with the red? Who knows, but I do know every day when it was time to clean up, each piece went back into its own color coded compartment ensuring the next time I brought them out, no sorting would be needed.

2. Following Instructions

I don’t remember them when I was a kid, but in today’s LEGO® sets there are step-by-step instructions of how to put together each item in the set. The coolest creations are made easy following along with page after page of pictures stepping you through the construction. Maybe it stifles the creativity a bit, but what it does is teach you how you can accomplish your tasks by following along with the directions. Not bad lessons to learn as you are starting out in life.

“Discoveries are often made by not following instructions, by going off the main road, by trying the untried.” – Frank Tyger

3. Creativity

“Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.” – William Plomer

Once you get past the instructions and let your creativity flow, the options are infinite. With the LEGO® bricks in hand you can build whatever you want; there are no limits. When you build a straight up tower of bricks, it can be a rocket ship or a tall building or a sword, your imagination is your own limitation. Let your mind be your guide as you steer toward your life’s destiny.

4. Patience

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” – Saint Augustine

Building with LEGO® bricks is a slow progression. It can be a grueling process, but it is a lesson in the value of patience. And patience is a virtue teaching you self control and restraint.

5. Attention to Detail

“In the successful organization, no detail is too small to escape close attention.” – Lou Holtz

Piece by piece you labor to advance your work of genius; each part needing to be in the right spot in order to achieve your desired outcome. I watch as my son studies in detail the pictures on the box, carefully calculating the placement and adjacencies needed in order to build his next LEGO® project. I recall similar analysis myself at a young age and to this day you can find me sitting down with a pad of paper and pencil to layout the design of my next project.

6. Adapt to the Situation

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. – George Bernard Shaw

One day you can build an airplane and the next day, with those same LEGO® bricks, you can build a skyscraper. If you find yourself a few LEGO® pieces short for your intended project you can modify your results by using another color, a different piece or scaling down your design. The possibilities are never ending. In life everything will not happen as we intended, we need to be able to revise our plans when necessary and go with the flow.

7. Any Mistake Can Be Fixed

“Ok, I can fix this” – My son upon breaking one of his LEGO® creations.

My son enters my office to showcase his latest LEGO® construction. As he extends his arms to present me with his creation as it breaks into two. There were no tears, no grumblings of anger, none of the negativity you might expect when something you worked so hard to build falls apart. On the contrary the first words out of his mouth were, “Ok, I can fix this.” We can all learn a lesson from this type of can do attitude, knowing no matter how awful circumstances may seem our problems can be repaired with a little ingenuity.

8. Problem Solving

“Any problem can be solved with a little ingenuity.” – MacGyver

One of the greatest characteristics I developed playing with LEGO® is the ability to know I could use my mind to remedy any situation. No challenge was too great; I would always be able to determine a method for success. It may not have been my original intended approach, but I knew there was always a path to my final destination.

9. You Can Build the Impossible Dream

“Without dreams, there is no reality!” – Luis B. Couto

Dreams are the means to a desired end. With LEGO® bricks you can capture those ideas, you can construct your vision no matter how large an obstacle it may seem. The same applies to your life; never accept that something cannot be accomplished – despite the barriers to can realize your dreams.

10. Never Give Up

“Never, never, never, never give up.” – Winston Churchill

Sure there are times when you want to throw your hands up in defeat, I did it myself and I see it from my sons as they construct a LEGO® projects, but the answer is to never give up. Determination is a key factor in life; if you endure the journey keeping the vision alive you will see some of the greatest accomplishments achieved you never thought would happen.

11. Teamwork

“The nice thing about teamwork is that you always have others on your side” – Margaret Carty

We can all use a little help now and again, my sons will periodically come up to us for assistance with their LEGO® creations needing my wife or me to snap a piece or two together. Sometimes we can all use a little guidance to get us through a tough spot and it is good to know you have others to rely on. There is no need to go through a difficult situation alone; the insights from others can often be inspiring as they allow us to see circumstances from perspectives outside of our own architecture.

12. Celebrate your Achievements

“The virtue of achievement is victory over oneself. Those who know this can never know defeat.” – A.J. Cronin

Finally, you have worked so hard to carry out your objective don’t let your labors go unnoticed. Boast your accomplishments with humility and place your LEGO® creation up on the shelf for all to see. The same policy is relevant in later life; use tact, but be proud of your accomplishments.

Those are just a few of the lessons I learned from play with LEGO®; I’m sure there are many more. Who knew back in 1934, when a carpenter turned, wooden toy maker, Ole Kirk Christiansen, took the first two letters of the Danish words LEG GODT, meaning “play well,” and put them together; the concept later developed by LEGO® would expand into a global staple of childhood toys shaping the minds, visions and futures of children into adulthood.

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” W. Clement Stone

What other life lessons have you carried into adulthood based on your childhood experiences?

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What’s so honest about Abe?

Friday, February 12, 2010 Leave a comment

(Image: Michael J Deas)

Abraham Lincoln had many nicknames during his lifetime—the Rail Splitter, The Great Emancipator, The Liberator, Father Abraham, Uncle Abe—but perhaps none of these is as widely recognized and referenced today as the nickname, “Honest Abe.” But do you know why people called Lincoln “Honest Abe?”

Stories of Abe’s Honesty:

As a young man, Abraham Lincoln worked as a general store clerk. One evening he was counting the money in the drawers after closing and found that he was a few cents over what should have been in the drawer. When he realized that he had accidentally short-changed a customer earlier that day, Lincoln walked a long distance to return the money to the customer.

On another occasion Lincoln discovered that he had given a woman too little tea for her money. He put what he owed her in a package and personally delivered it to the woman–who never realized that she was not given the proper amount of tea until Lincoln showed up at her doorstep!

Lincoln’s integrity and insistence on honesty became even more apparent in his law practice. In his book, An Honest Calling: The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln, Mark Steiner notes that: A relative by marriage, Augustus H. Chapman, recalled: “In his law practice on the Wabash Circuit he was noted for unswerving honesty. People learned to love him ardently, devotedly, and juries listened intently, earnestly, receptively to the sad-faced, earnest man…I remember one case of his decided honest trait of character. It was a case in which he was for the defendant. Satisfied of his client’s innocence, it depended mainly on one witness. That witness told on the stand under oath what Abe knew to be a lie, and no one else knew. When he arose to plead the case, he said: “Gentlemen, I depended on this witness to clear my client. He has lied. I ask that no attention be paid to his testimony. Let his words be stricken out, if my case fails. I do not wish to win in this way.”

Lincoln didn’t like to charge people much who were as poor as he was. Once a man sent him twenty-five dollars, but Lincoln sent him back ten of it, saying he was being too generous.

He was known at times to convince his clients to settle their issue out of court, saving them a lot of money, and earning himself nothing.

An old woman in dire poverty, the widow of a Revolutionary soldier, was charged $200 for getting her $400 pension. Lincoln sued the pension agent and won the case for the old woman. He didn’t charge her for his services and, in fact, paid her hotel bill and gave her money to buy a ticket home!

He and his associate once prevented a con man from gaining possession of a tract of land owned by a mentally ill girl. The case took fifteen minutes. Lincoln’s associate came to divide up their fee, but Lincoln reprimanded him. His associate argued that the girl’s brother had agreed on the fee ahead of time, and he was completely satisfied. “That may be,” said Lincoln, “but I am not satisfied. That money comes out of the pocket of a poor, demented girl; and I would rather starve than swindle her in this manner. You return half the money at least, or I’ll not take a cent of it as my share.”

“When I do good, I feel good, and when I do bad, I feel bad, and that’s my religion.” – Abraham Lincoln

(Image: The Warren Report)

Lincoln carried his regard for the truth through his years at the White House. He, himself, was forthright and deeply sincere. It seems as if some of his colleagues wondered if he could ever tell a lie. During the Civil War, President Lincoln stated, “I hain’t been caught Lying yet, and I don’t mean to be.” [Rufus Rockwell Wilson, Lincoln Among His Friends: A Sheaf of Intimate Memories (Philip Clark, “A Friend of Lincoln’s New Salem Days”), p. 65.] For Lincoln, the truth was not worth sacrificing for any gain, no matter how large that gain may have been.

Lincoln didn’t need to lie to save the Union, to unite the people, to free slaves or to lead a nation. Perhaps that is why he remains a hero to so many around the world, and an inspiration to leaders well into the future. From his work as a clerk to his duties as a president, Lincoln’s honesty was unwavering, showing that telling the truth is an essential lesson for all, no matter who you are or what you do.

Thank you for the influence you still provide us more than 200 years after your birth.
Abraham Lincoln: February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865

What can you do to be more honest in your life?

Story Adapted from:
Why Honest Abe?. By Kathy Crockett, The MY HERO Project
Honest Abe. By Adam Khan, Stuff That Works

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Betrayed in the Fourth Grade

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 1 comment

(Photo: hayitstayler)

It was a begrudging incident the day we voted for fourth grade class officers I remember it well…

The year was 1984; incumbent President Ronald Reagan and former Vice President Walter Mondale were vying for our nation’s top spot. As a practice in politics my fourth grade teacher opened the door for us to campaign as class officers. My chosen position – Class Secretary. My opponent – a cute, kind hearted girl I had befriended since pre-school. We campaigned through the classroom working to secure the votes of our classmates. Election Day arrived and each member of the class cast their votes for President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Once the ballots were tallied the officers were announced, but wait there was a tie. As it turns out the votes were split 50/50 for the position of Class Secretary. With neither candidate willing to concede the teacher called for a revote. Prior to casting the second round of ballots my opponent the sweet, kind, girl I had known for the majority of my life, who I sat next to in class, leaned over to me and offered an olive branch, “If you vote for me, I will vote for you.” Wow, such a kind offer, a show of support for true friendship by supporting one another, no matter which of us wins we’d know this election, would not come between us.

The second round of voting commenced, the teacher counted the ballots and this time there was a clear winner. The announcement was made, “The winner, by the change of a single vote is…,” we’ll just say, it wasn’t me. Disappointed by the loss, I vowed to go on supporting my friend who I had shared a keen friendship with for so many years. But wait, this just in! Word had spread through the classroom newswire, the vote that tipped the scales in her advantage, was….her own! My long time friend had broken our pact, tricked me and voted for herself. My feeling was that of devastation. How could someone do such a thing? How could my life long friend deceive me? The anguish of this event hit me hard, it was this day I learned an early lesson in life. The lesson of BETRAYAL!

Betrayal can strike us hard, obviously – for me to refer back to this incident from more than 25 years ago. It is a life lesson most of us learn at some point along our path, but not one we easily forget.

Once trust is broken, can it ever be repaired? Sure, but it is not going to happen overnight and it is not going to come easily. Trust can take years to rebuild it is something you have to believe in and work hard at.

What is betrayal?

Betrayal is the breaking or violation of a presumptive social contract, trust, or confidence that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship.

Resolving Betrayal
The first question should be, “Do both parties want to repair the relationship?” If not, then you cannot force it on them, it is best to move on. Hopefully with time, forgiveness will come.

If both parties are in agreement and would like to move forward rebuilding the relationship then it needs to begin with courageous integrity on behalf of the offender. The guilty party needs to:

  • Admit fault.
  • State their mistake.
  • View the breach of trust from the victim’s perspective.
  • Listen to the offended party allowing them to speak without interruption.
  • Reflect their feelings, avoiding the temptation to explain your actions. This can have a negative affect leading to a feeling of your insincerity by the injured party.
  • Accept responsibility for the violation.

Rebuilding Trust
Can trust be rebuilt? Most likely, with time the wounds will heal. Although steps will have to be taken to rebuild the trust once shared by all parties.

  • Set up an agreement going forward stating boundaries for all parties involved.
  • Determine methods continuing the relationship without overstepping the bounds.
  • Allow time for memory of the incident of to dissipate.
  • Make amends.

Aftermath
Even when forgiveness has been granted and reparations have been made, relationships do not always return to normal after violations of trust. The violator often has lingering feelings of guilt, embarrassment and self-consciousness when around the victim. It may take time for the victim’s emotions to wane as well. Full forgiveness may take weeks, months or even years, but if everyone involved is committed to the relationship time will help to heal those wounds.

So, do I resent my fourth grade friend for something that happened so many years ago? No, let’s face it, we were nine years old at the time, I have long forgiven her; in fact she represents to me, someone who alerted me to the stratagem we can experience in life. She taught me early on, trust is a sacred contract between people and once broken, it is not easily repaired. People learn from many of life’s lessons, but few have such a great impact on us as those of trust and betrayal.

Do you have any stories of betrayal? Feel free share, I’d love to hear them.

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ON A BUDGET: Motivating your team, bolstering loyalty & elevating morale. (Full Series)

Monday, November 23, 2009 2 comments

(Photo: stopnlook)

(Originally posted as a series November 16 -20, 2009 on The Blog of Jason Christensen – “Your Life as a Remote User”)

Times are tough right now. Raises are not being doled out, salary’s are being cut, 401K’s are not being matched, people are losing their jobs…morale is low. Many managers may not be concerned if their remaining employees are unhappy; where do they think they are going to go in this economic environment? Don’t be short sighted; employees who are not happy are looking elsewhere and when the climate turns many will abandon ship. Now is the time to keep your employees exhilarated!

“So what can you do to motivate a team and create loyal employees when morale is low?”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————
In this economy it’s imperative employers concentrate on non-monetary motivating factors by:

  1. Taking a genuine interest in people
  2. Keeping an open line of communication
  3. Helping people to understand the importance of their role
  4. Bestowing recognition on your team
  5. Cultivating career development plans

—————————————————————————————————————————————————

1. Take a genuine interest in people.

When times get tough people band together; they take a bona fide interest in one another.

  • Find out what is going on in the life of your team members
  • What is important to them right now
  • Let them know you understand
  • Do what you can to help them
  • Offer advice if they are looking for it

Try making a mental list of everyone you may encounter today; think of what they are working on or what they have going on in their life and try to relate to them. People appreciate it when you take an interest in their lives. It will increase morale, let people know you care and help them realize they are not just another number in the corporate books.

Remote Note:

When your team is remote and you do not see them face-to-face this can be especially challenging. Take the time to work with each of them personally. Be sure to contact them weekly even if it is just to touch base. A one-on-one call will let them know you are thinking of them and will be there help should anything come up.

Keep in mind; this may be something you have to ease into if you have not shown an interest in the past; otherwise they may think you are prying and become suspicious. So take it slow, work to re-develop those relationships and with any luck it will lead to a motivated team, stronger group bond, greater retention rates, and increased team morale.

Think of others first, show interest in their lives, offer a helping hand.

What are some ideas you have to strengthen the bonds with a team?
Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

2. Keeping an open line of communication.

An open door policy sends a message to your coworkers you are approachable, willing to listen and discuss issues as they come up. An open line of communication also acquaints you with your team in order to know what is important to them. If you are familiar with their goals and desires, you will be able to lead them more effectively grooming them for the next steps they wish to achieve. Without and open line of communication you are leading them blindly and will not get the synergies needed to achieve your goals.

  • Ask employees for their ideas
  • Be a good listener
  • Take notes
  • Work to find ways to incorporate their ideas into the corporate vision

You may be surprised at the good points of information they will provide to you. And when you do use their ideas and the employees see them in action you will be surprised by their loyalty to you and the company.

Don’t forget, communication is a two way street. People feel important when they know what is going on with their company. They feel a sense of power when they are “in-the-know” on breaking news. Reach out to your staff when there is news to be shared, organize your thoughts and convey a clear, concise, informational message without breaching company confidentiality.

Remote Note:

It can be tough to have a so called “open door” when you lead a team of remote users. Here are some tips to help:

  • Always take their calls or return their calls as soon as you are available.
  • If you only have a moment, let them know and schedule a definitive time to speak with them further.
  • Hold weekly conference calls to allow for corporate communications, success and improvement stories as well as an open forum for issues affecting the team.

Keep an open line of communication, be a good listener and make them feel important.

What are some thoughts you have to enhance the communication within a team?
Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

3. Helping people to understand the importance of their role.

People like to feel needed, so helping people understand their contribution to the corporation and showing them their efforts DO make a difference will increase their morale. It is important for people to understand how each gear turns to keep the machine operating effectively. They need to understand the part they play in the overall corporate structure and the flow of the business.

Take a particular function in your business as an example:

  • Where was it generated what is the intended outcome?
  • What path had the process taken before it reached your team?
  • Where did it go afterward?
  • What was the result and how did it contribute to the goals of the company?

It is important to illustrate this so people understand their role is not idle and without function.

Another way to generate a feeling of contribution to the company is to delegate authority. Delegate authority by:

  • Encouraging people to take on additional responsibilities
  • Aligning them with the company goals
  • Letting them take ownership of certain processes.

This increase in leadership responsibilities will build the bench strength of your team and increase fellowship amongst employees. Furthermore take the time to publicly recognize them and convey how their initiatives helped the company and/or the customer. Better yet invite the customer to take the time to provide a public testimonial of the employees efforts. This kind of respect in a timely manner will go a long way with your team.

Remote Note:

When your team is part of a remote workforce it can be especially challenging for them to understand the role they play in the company and the path processes take from inception to fruition. By illustrating to your team the route a business process takes whether it is through a slide presentation or work flow chart it helps them understand the function of their position and how they can affect the overall process.

In addition, it is important for the remote work force to understand the appropriate contacts for varied situations they encounter in their day to day. This will help them know where to go for answers when a problem arises.

Help your team to understand their overall role in the company and build bench strength through delegation.

What are you doing to build the bench strength of your workforce?
How do you communicate workflows and processes within your group?

Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

4. Bestowing recognition on your team.

Expendable funds are minimal, but how do you recognize your team for a job well done? One of the best ways is to allow your employees a greater stake in the company. By offering your team options in the organization it generates a deeper interest in helping the company to succeed. The closer the ties, the more loyal they will be and the more desire they will have to look out for the best interest of the company.

A lesser option is to provide them with a gift they would not otherwise spend their own money to purchase. In better times companies had gift catalogs allowing the staff to pick from a selection of nice items. In today’s climate a more resonable token may be company logo merchandise. It allows the employee to boast his affiliation with a nice corporate logo while at a minimal cost to the company.

Let’s face it, people enjoy recognition, but the timing and context have to be right. Be sure to:

An award is good, but bragging rights are better!

Remote Note:

With a team of remote users it can be difficult to publicly recognize a job well done. A great vehicle for recognizing a team member is through a weekly newsletter. Create a short article touting the wonderful job they did and if you can get a customer testimonial it makes the achievement all the better. There is nothing like being able to show others your achievements right there in print.

Another great method is on your weekly team call where their colleagues can applaud them in person. It is always nice to have a quick pat on the back for a job well done.

What a terrific way to spark a friendly internal competition for your team members in order to vie for that top spot.

Awards and recognition generate loyalty and elevate morale.

What forms of recognition do you use?
How do you recognize an employee for a job well done?

Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

5. Cultivating career development plans.

One of the worst feelings as an employee is not knowing where you are going with your employer. Take time with the individuals on your team and sit down with them to develop a clear career path showing them the next steps they can take based on their achievements. A great time to cover this is during biannual performance reviews. Take this time to provide constructive feedback AND discuss with them what they can do to grow with the company. Find out what you can do to help each of your team members advance and work to make it happen. Not only will it help them, but as management sees future leaders continually being produced from your staff it lets them know the value you offer to the company.

Develop your team using:

  • Books and short articles on related topics
  • Online Courses
  • Out of office training workshops or seminars

When people are excused from their regular duties for a short period of time to participate in these type of events, it makes make them feel important amongst the crowd.

Out of sight out of mind.

Remote Note:
When you manage a remote team it is challenging to enhance the visibility of the work your team does. Often their achievements get overlooked by people who work in the office since they do not see your team members regularly. This can make it difficult for members of your team to exceed in the workplace and continually grow with the company. It is important to create campaigns to tout the accomplishments of your team. It could be through a company newsletter or possibly a weekly email stating the highlights of the week. Be creative and find a method which fits your corporate structure.

Take time with your team to make sure you understand what their goals are with the company and help them to develop and achieve those goals.

What have you done to develop your team?
What are some methods you use to boast the triumphs of your team?

Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

Keep your team on board! Think of others first by conveying an interest in their lives, talking with them frequently, letting them know they are doing a good job and you appreciate their contributions, then help them to develop in their careers. With any luck it will lead to a motivated team, stronger group bond, greater retention rates, and increased team morale.

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“HELP! I’m buried under here!”

Saturday, November 7, 2009 2 comments

(Photo: Tasja)

Do you ever feel like you are getting buried under a ton of bricks, by your work? Like you are unable to breathe and no matter what you do you will never catch up with your workload? Well join the club; the club of millions of people across the globe fortunate enough to be employed in this age of cutbacks and layoffs. Everyone is taking on heavier and heavier loads, bearing more weight for the company. And you’ll do it without a flinch or the bat of the eye, after all look at your alternative – unemployment! You may be only one person but you need to learn to cope and to manage yourself as a more productive and effective employee.

Prioritizing can help!

This is one of those times where you need to spend a little time to save yourself even more time. Start by writing down each item on your to do list. It’s okay if you fill up the whole page, just take the time to get your list written down no matter how big or small. Next, label each item prioritizing it as an A, B or C item.

  • A = Item which is urgent in respect to time. No matter the importance it needs to be done right away.
  • B = Item of importance and somewhat time sensitive, but not with an immediate need.
  • C = Item which is not urgent or does not have a time line.

Once you have each item prioritized, the path is clear. Start with the A items, work through each task, move to the B items, complete each task and eventually move on to the C items completely clearing your list. Well maybe not. You see it is not likely your list will ever be clear and it this economic climate you should be concerned if you don’t have another project in the queue. It is likely you will continually be adding new items to your list which is why you will need to reprioritize as new tasks come in. Each task will vary in importance so be flexible with your priorities allowing new projects to take precedence when need be.

As times passes, items which were lower on the list, often increase in priority. Something which was not important last week could take precedence today; so it is important to review your list daily. As new items keep piling up taking precedence; when will you ever get to those C items? Great question.

A and B items can frequently take much time and concentration, but if you use your time wisely, you will find time to complete all your tasks. First take a good look at those C items determining if they are really something you need to get done or are they non-productive filler items which can be scratched off your list. Next, take a look at your schedule to find bits of time where you will not be able to focus accurately on the important A or B tasks; this could be on the seat of airplane, on the commute into work or while waiting for an appointment; no matter the case, use this time to knock out a few of those C items. It could be a phone call or quick email, either way use this gray time do what you can to complete a few C items.

What if you have multiple high priority items needing completion right away? Take a look at each item determining which item is most important or urgent. If you come across a hard decision it becomes a judgment call. No one knows your job better than you so make the call. If you are not confident in your ability to do this, contact your manager present him with the conflict, provide potential solutions, and then ask for assistance.

When you are feeling buried alive remember to ask yourself what is important, prioritize it and accomplish your goals one by one.

  • Are there other things you can prioritize in your life?
  • What other methods do you use to get yourself out from under the workload?

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