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In Uncertain Times, Prepare Yourself for New Opportunities

In Uncertain Times, Prepare Yourself for New Opportunities

Prepare Yourself for New Opportunities

    We live in uncertain times. Global financial collapse, rapid relocation of industries, emerging markets, political unrest, and just the fast pace of change in the Information Era in general all mea that things you take for granted today might be completely different tomorrow.

    Now is certainly not a time for rigidity. The career you’re working in this year might not even exist in 2010. And vice versa – the field you call home two years from now might not have even been thought up today. With financial markets so volatile and companies “hunkering down” for a long slog through a recession, there are few indicators of what’s coming up. Even strong companies are looking at cutbacks and layoffs to prepare themselves for whatever comes.

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    It’s a stressful time, and one in which long-term planning is becoming more and more difficult. It’s simply impossible to say whether you’ll have a job next month, whether your company will be able to get credit for expansion or even day-to-day expenses, whether your clientele will be able to afford you come January.

    Since you can’t possibly know what’s coming, it’s important that you keep your eyes open and be ready to grab hold of new opportunities. Or to create your own. And that means focusing on yourself, doubling up your own efforts to improve and promote yourself. Here are some ideas about how to do that.

    1. Take a professional inventory.

    “Know thyself” is always the first step towards improvement. Without adequate understanding of your own strengths (and weaknesses), you’re never going to be able to further your own development, let alone sell others on your positive qualities.

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    So it’s time to take a close look at where – and who – you are as a professional. Take some time to list your skills and talents. Add to that a list of your accomplishments and how each achievement made use of those skills and talents.

    Take your lead from copywriters and other marketing experts and list your “features” – the good things about you – and their “benefits”. For example, if one of your features is “writes well”, a benefit might be “helps minimize conflicts due to miscommunication”. The idea is twofold: one, you’re generating a list of positives you can draw on to describe yourself to potential employers, partners, or investors; two, you’re hopefully learning to see some of the unexplored potential you might be able to make use of as the world changes around you.

    2. Focus on relationship-building.

    Networking is always important, no matter what your field or goals, but now is the time to not only broaden your list of contacts but to deepen it – to strengthen the relationships you’ve established through networking. Start striking up conversations with people you get along with but have, so far, not really connected with. Share some of your specialized knowledge – or ask others to share some of theirs. Give people a chance to know you as a person, and get to know them the same way.

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    3. Level up.

    Make yourself more valuable – to yourself as well as to others – by investing in learning new skills or improving old ones. Look for areas where you have a strong-but-not-expert knowledge already and see how you can build yourself up in that area. Even if it’s not central to your current work, expanding your skill set will give you some flexibility to move beyond the boundaries of your existing field – and may offer a new perspective on the work you’re already doing.

    4. Ask lots of questions.

    Information is your most valuable asset right now, and asking questions, even painfully obvious ones, is the best way to get information. Also, asking questions is perhaps the most powerful tool in your relationship-building toolset – people like to talk about themselves and their work, and asking questions gives them the opportunity to do so. Make a point of asking at least one meaningful question in any interaction – you’d be surprised at what you can learn.

    5. Write your elevator pitch.

    An elevator pitch is a 2-3-minute speech summarizing a product, proposal, or project for a potential buyer or backer. The idea is that if you were in an elevator with someone, you could get the most important information about whatever you’re selling across to them in the couple of minutes before the elevator reaches their floor.

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    Right now, we’re thinking about marketing ourselves, and you should be able to explain to people who you are, what you do, and why you’re so darn good at it in a couple of minutes. So, write an elevator pitch pitching yourself and learn it, at least the tone and general thrust of it. Be ready to explain who you are at a moment’s notice – instead of fumbling for words when the opportunity of a lifetime comes within your grasp.

    6. Be creative.

    Once you have a good picture of who you are, be on the lookout for unusual ways that you can add value where you’d least have expected it. Economic downturns favor innovation – they present new problems, or at least problems that are new to most people, and those problems need solving. At the same time, old problems disappear or cease to seem so pressing – people and organizations left hawking solutions to old problems will rapidly find themselves extinct. Seek out those new problems, and set your mind free in search of new solutions.

    Nobody knows for sure what’s going to happen over the next year or so, but the least that’s going to happen is that things are going to get shaken up but good. At the least, being prepared for anything might put you at the forefront of the coming shakedown; but if the worst comes, it might become a matter of sheer survival. Make sure you’re ready, no matter what happens!

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    Last Updated on September 10, 2019

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    Do you know that prioritization is an art? It is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you.

    By prioritization, I’m not talking so much about assigning tasks, but deciding which will take chronological priority in your day—figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave to last.

    Effective Prioritization

    There are two approaches to “prioritizing” the tasks in your to-do list that I see fairly often:

    Approach #1 Tackling the Biggest Tasks First and Getting Them out of the Way

    The idea is that by tackling them first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method.[1]

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    Approach #2 Tackling the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily, with Minimal Effort

    Proponents of this method believe that by tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness.

    If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

    Figure out Your Approach for Prioritization

    My own approach is perhaps a mixture of the two.

    I’ll write out my daily task list and draw little priority stars next to the three items I need to get done that day. They don’t need to be big tasks, but nine times out of ten, they are.

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    Smaller tasks are rarely important enough to warrant a star in the first place; I can always get away without even checking my inbox until the next day if I’m swamped, and the people who need to get in touch with me super quickly know how.

    But I’m not recommending my system of prioritization to you. I’m also not saying that mine is better than Leo’s Big Rocks method, and I’m not saying it’s better than the “if it can be done quickly, do it first” method either.

    The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies very much on you and the way you work. Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus on and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed (personally, I recommend the Mark All As Read button—I use it most days!).

    I’m in between, because my own patterns can be all over the place. Some days I will be ready to rip into massive projects at 7AM. Other times I’ll feel the need to zero every inbox I have and clean up the papers on my desk before I can focus on anything serious. I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at 11AM or 3PM or some specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming on when and try to keep my schedule liquid enough that I can adapt.

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    That’s why I use a starred task list system rather than a scheduled task list. It allows me to trust myself (something that I suppose takes a certain amount of discipline) and achieve peak efficiency by blowing with the winds. If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

    You may not be able to trust yourself to that extent without falling into the busywork trap. You may not be able to tackle big tasks first thing in the morning without feeling like you’re pushing against an invisible brick wall that won’t budge. You might not be able to deal with small tasks before the big tasks without feeling pangs of guilt and urgency.

    My point is:

    The prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. They’re all pretty good for a group of people, not least of all to the people who espouse them because they use them and find them effective.

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    What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of dogma (and I’m not saying Leo Babauta or David Allen preach these things as dogma, but sometimes their proponents do) until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

    And if the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    In truth, this principle applies to all sorts of personal productivity issues, though it’s important to know which issues it applies to.

    If you thought multitasking worked well for you each day and I’d have to contend that you are wrong—multitasking is a universal myth in my books! But if you find yourself prioritizing tasks that never get done, you might need to reconsider which of the above approaches you’re using and change to a system that is more personally effective.

    More About Prioritization & Time Management

    Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

    Reference

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