3 Things I'm Thankful for...

Thanksgiving week 2015 is upon us. This is the opportunity to take a moment to reflect on what we are thankful for; while at the same time race around to spend time (and money) with friends and family. 

Nonprofits also take the time to thank those that support their work, combining it with #GivingTuesday, which will be here in exactly 8 days. So while you spend time (and money) with friends and family, they hope you share some of that time (and money) with them. 

Since I'm down here in North Carolina, and keeping with the spirit of the season, this post will be a list of three things for which I am thankful for:

1. I'm thankful for a job working as a consultant. What a year it's been. What a few years it's been! I can't begin to think of anything else to be thankful for without first giving thanks for a job and the work that I love and enjoy that has also lead me to this place at this time. 

2. I'm thankful for the leadership of the Food Bank. I've been so impressed by the overall leadership of this organization from the Board to the President (whom I am particularly thankful for). The Food Bank is headed in a positive thanks to this dynamic group of leaders.

3. Finally, I'm thankful for the people who work at the Food Bank. They have welcomed me from day one. Their kindness during a difficult time for me this past summer, to just the day to day interaction is something I will take with me long after my contract here is finished. Everyone here is incredibly helpful, diligent in their work, and fun to be around. I could go on and on...

So thank you everyone at the Food Bank. The people that make this place special are having a meaningful impact on the people they serve. I'm excited to see what 2016 has in store for me and this incredible place. Time (and lots of money raised) well spent in my mind!  

Launch of Project 40

When I started this site, the idea was to write about topics concerning leadership, issues that confront the nonprofit world, and maybe a dash of my personal life. The good news is, so far I have stuck to that idea (although there is certainly room for growth in this space). 

But I have been thinking for a few weeks now with 40 approaching, what is it that I want to do after I reach this age? I'd love to track it in a way that would be easy to chronicle. My journal is a mix of lots of different things, and I would feel like I was writing a book. Could I simply add it to this site? How can I do that and remain true to the mission and the theme I want to build here? Then it came to me:

Create another blog on Tumblr! And so I did. 

Look, these two corners of the internet are nothing more than me exercising some fun hobbies. It's about me actually holding myself accountable in order to actually call them habits. Blogging is just a simple way of doing that. 

So here's the launch post of what I am calling Project 40.

I hope you enjoy it. 

A Happy Retreat

This past weekend I attended a spiritual retreat at my favorite Jesuit retreat center in Southern Maryland. A year before I went there to reconnect and strengthen my relationship with God and His Son Jesus Christ. 

At the time I was facing some serious personal and professional challenges in my life. In fact it was hard to distinguish between the two because my perils were intertwined. I wasn't a happy person and I needed to return to God to help me figure out what His plan was and what I needed to do. Spending 40 hours in silence on 235 acres of wooded land was the perfect place to work on me.

When it was time for me to leave that Sunday, I felt like a new person. God spoke to me in so many ways, basically telling me, "I'm here with you always. Don't worry, we got this." What I hoped to accomplish I did; my faith was strengthened, my resolve was solidified and my anxiety was eased. 

Fast forward through the end of 2014 and midway through 2015. Life is better than those hot, uncertain days of summer. I have a job that I absolutely love, I'm living temporarily in a town that I find to fit my exact needs right now in terms of pace, and things to do, and the habits of praying and listening to God get stronger by the day. 

So it was with great eagerness and anticipation that I return to Loyola. Again I had a basic need that I wanted to be filled and that was, "Don't try and recreate last year." 

I placed my weekend in God's hands and let Him find me. He didn't have to work hard, and our conversations were a more straight forward, rather than fundamental. Not that I didn't need a reminder of basic principles, along with some uplifting messages, but I felt I built upon the foundation we created together in September 2014. 

I don't have everything resolved. I'm a work in progress. I need to trust God's will for me. That is the theme for me to discern over; trust. Trust was the final message God had for me this past weekend. On Sunday, just before I was set to leave, I was presented the Prayer of Thomas Merton. 

There is so much to like about the words in this prayer. I like the idea of having NO IDEA if what I'm doing is what God wants. But pleasing Him is a good thing I think. I'm not sure where the road will lead me, but hey, I thought that a year ago and look at me now....

Pretty happy.

It's that feeling that I plan to build upon over the short and long term. Advent is near, the promise of a Savior. One that walks the path with me. I look forward to retreating again next fall and seeing where I am on the path and the direction I'm headed.  

4 Steps that help me be more effective at work

Many years ago I once had a job where at the end of the work day I had no idea what I had accomplished.  Sure I "worked"; I sent out emails, fielded phone calls, and had various meetings with different people throughout each day.  But in general, I had a feeling where I looked back and couldn’t remember specifically what I had done from the beginning of the day to the end.

After a while that feeling began to weigh on me. I was feeling more unmotivated, depressed, and unsuccessful. Work was something I got up in the morning to go to, spent the day at a desk and then at some point I was staring at a performance review that said, “Good job, but certainly there is room for improvement.”

I was getting by but not enjoying myself.

I needed to change my approach where throughout the day I felt direction, not only for the specific work day, but for the week and beyond. I sought out some advice and here’s what I have done since then. It begins and ends with lists.

Create that day’s to do list.
I begin every morning with a simple breakdown of what I’m doing that day. This is a simple way to review what was pushed back from previous day and pare down what needs to get done that day.

Map out my day.
I schedule everything out, (even lunch!) to keep me committed to what I have to do that day. I either break it down hour by hour, or group things together over a few hours to work on depending on the meetings I have that day.

Prep for meetings scheduled that day.
Part of mapping out my day is that I make time to prep for meetings. I find this extremely important to make that time more efficient and effective.

Create action steps from each meeting.
For me the purpose of meetings is to have action steps to take from those meetings. I highlight what I need to do, review what others need to do that I have to either check on, or monitor. This will build out my list for the next day or week ahead.

These four simple steps have helped me become a more effective employee and one that is happier knowing I can cross things off my list and look back and see what I did that day.

Now my days are filled with a variety of work that have a lot of moving pieces, how I manage my time effectively will ultimately determine my success.

What time management tips do you use to help you throughout your work day? What hasn’t worked?