6 Ways I’m Closing Out 2019 and Preparing for 2020

The quiet time between Christmas and New Year has been a special time for me to bring closure to the previous year and intentionally prepare for the next.  I often find that my days are so full throughout the year that I lose myself in the grind and neglect to recognize how much I have accomplished and grown in a given year and what major events and memories have helped shape who I am.

This tradition started five years ago when I went through some painful events that, frankly, I found difficult to process, bring closure to, and pick myself up from. It was during this time that I borrowed a workbook my father had purchased from the Michael Hyatt Company on bringing year-end closure.  While initially I was skeptical that this would help, I found that I loved the process that Michael had outlined, the clarity and perspective his questions provided, the way I was able to see the good and lessons learned in the midst of pain, and ultimately the way I was able to tangibly see and track my own personal growth.

Over the years, I have refined my annual review process and have experimented with additional methodologies/questions that I have added to the core list that Michael outlined.  I’m always tweaking to adapt to my needs in a particular year, but here’s a look at how I’m currently closing out 2019:

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What it’s like to grow up in a GTD household

Eric Mack and Wendy Haddad at the GTD Summit

The Getting Things Done methodology has provided tremendous value to so many drowning professionals over the past several years, but have you ever wondered what it was like to grow up in a GTD household? I’ve had the privilege of being trained in the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology since I was a little girl.

My family’s a little “Type A”, and as I grew up around the time GTD was being developed, my parents decided to run an experiment with their homeschooling family and tack on Productivity 101 as an extra “subject” in school (Thanks, Dad). I fell in and out of love with GTD as I grew up, but once I hit university, I was shocked to realized that the habits I was taking for granted were missing in many of my peers.

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4 Reasons Why You Should Consider Starting a Blog

Photo credit Damon Duncan, Creative Commons

I have been blogging ever since I was nine years old.  Yes that’s right, nine years old!  We setup a blog for our robotics team, the LEGO Imagineers and I became a regular contributor there and for our family blog. 

Initially I was skeptical of the value of blogging and it felt like a chore, but over the years I’ve become convinced of the value of blogging.  I often see posts that promise incredible financial benefits from blogging, but I want to share five other reasons why I found blogging to be invaluable:

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4 Ways Competitive Robotics Gave Me A Professional Edge

Robot

I can still remember the pressure as my sister called out, “three, two, one, LEGO!”.  We had worked toward this goal for the past year – drastically revising strategies and even the physical construction and program of our robot at the last moment to achieve what we had originally thought impossible – a perfect score.

“One minute remaining.”  The pressure mounted, but we fought to stay calm and focused.  While stress could help us get in the zone, it could also cause us to make rash decisions or become imprecise in our alignments of the robot.

“Ten, nine, eight, seven…” I will never forget that moment.  One January 23rd, 2008, the LEGO Mountaineers scored a perfect 400.  Even nine years later I haven’t forgotten what that felt like or the essential life lessons I learned through competing in the FIRST LEGO League competitions

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Extending the Classroom Through Video Conferencing

When I worked as the Educational Technology Specialist at The Master’s University, I was always looking for ways to help professors maximize their impact. I designed a workshop entitled “The Canvas Next Steps”, where I taught the faculty how to make use of a variety of tools that would expand their reach beyond the classroom.  One professor who attended this workshop  decided to tuck away the Canvas Conferences, a video conferencing tool, for future reference.  He messaged me a while later to share how this technology had enhanced his class and helped a student:

Tonight I had a student text me that she was not coming because she was in bed sick. ¬†Well tonight was a very important class and the first half of the class would be a brutal lecture to miss for the semester…We set up a conference in Canvas (in about two minutes) and had her join the class remotely. ¬†Since she was ill, we had her mute her line and message in her questions. It was extremely successful!

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The Mindsweep: Emptying Your “Psychic RAM”

Digital Brain

I’ve been using the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology over the past 10 years as my personal productivity system.  I love GTD because it doesn’t just provide a way for me to keep on top of everything; it also provides a way for me to recover if – and when – when life gets out of control.

This recently happened as my family moved and my sense of order was completely eradicated.  My desk became a dumping ground for papers and mail until it was almost unusable, and my brain was overwhelmed with the next “to-do’s” or things to remember. Ever been there? I felt stressed and burned-out and it was hard to know where to start.

Sweeping out your mind

Enter one of my all-time favorite productivity tools:  the Mindsweep.  One of the core principles of the GTD methodology is to get things out of your head – fast – and store it in a trusted system. Our brain can do some wonderful things, but it can also be our worst enemy.  We can wake up in the middle of the night worrying about something we need to remember to do that we can’t do at that moment, or we go shopping and forget that one item we needed to buy.  Writing things down and processing it into a trusted system helps take the mental load off and allows us to stay focused on the task at hand.  We’re less stressed because we’re not spending our mental energy trying to remember everything.  At that point, we are working smarter, not harder and we are quickly approaching the point of “stress-free productivity”.

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How I Got Over Career Impostor Syndrome

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This morning an interesting article popped up in my feed entitled “6 Ways to Get Over Impostor Syndrome and Get the Job You Want”.  According to the author, Jillian Kramer, Impostor Syndrome is “”the feeling that we just don’t stack up to our coworkers and job competitors, that we sneaked in on pure luck, and that we just don’t belong.”  I certainly know what that feels like.  I had struggled with these feelings when I first started working as the Educational Technology Manager at The Master’s University.

My Problem

In early 2015, the University decided to expand the support of their Learning Management System (then Joule/Moodle) from a 10 hr/week support position to a full Educational Technology Department.  I was hired to head up that initiative.  Immediately feelings of inadequacy and fear came crashing in.  There was little documentation and even less training.  What if I wasn’t good enough? How can I possibly support users in a field I hadn’t studied? What if I let my employers down? What business did I really have being here anyway? 

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How an Impromptu Video Can Sometimes Be the Best Means of Communication

As a technology and training manager, I often create online training videos on a variety of topics, but recently I had an interesting problem to solve:

The problem

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A client is facing a pending software migration to Office 365 and they had to make some quick decisions to solve a particular issue his team has been facing.  We were asked to research potential solutions and our team drafted a 10-page report of qualified research listing the potential options.  The problem? The person who needed to make the decision was out of the office and would only return two days before the migration was scheduled.  This was a busy individual and we knew that it was very unlikely that he would have time to read the report, make a decision, and give us enough time to implement the solution.  At best, we would only have a few minutes of their time, so we decided to create a video to demonstrate our proposal in a concise and organized manner.

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