Motivation, or why am I a really slow learner of Russian.

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Sandra in Sevastopol

I have decided to write on motivation as I am currently trying, not very successfully, to learn Russian. I have a good reason for learning this language – my daughter is currently living in Sevastopol in the Crimea and I want to visit her before the end of 2014. This, however, is currently not proving to be a strong enough motivation to work on the language more than a couple of times a week. So I thought I would muse on this following my discussions with my daughter on the subject, and been inspired by her own posts on learning Russian and see if I can create a stronger focus for myself as a result.

Having started this post and not developed it I have been linked to this blog post which is about why failing to learn a language over a year can still be of benefit to your mental health. Does this make a difference to my motivation? I have been going back to my Russian a little more since then and doing my Memrise Russian course reminder sessions more often since then, so maybe it has.

Hmm – maybe I should list the ways in which I am trying to learn Russian before I go on.

I started out with 3 Memrise courses on my I-phone and iPad – Beginner’s Russian first, then I added Cardinal numbers and finally Learn Basic Russian.  I have only completed one of the courses as far as learning new words – the Cardinal numbers one. I am now going onto this course most days to do the repeat learning, and I am starting to add new words too.

I have also used Quizlet  to practice some of the words I am learning – although I often find that the new lists my daughter posts as part of her learning are scary and off-putting as she is so much further on than I am.

I have just started using a BBC Learn Russian course which includes CD’s and I am planning to create my own Quizlet sets for the words I am learning.

So why am I not getting very far? The main reasons I can identify are fear and lack of confidence – which is to be expected when I am learning but I am not making allowances for this. When I talk to my customers about their book-keeping and administration processes it is often the same things that stop them from putting processes in place. I must make sure that I use the learning about my motivation in relation to learning a language to influence the way in which I work with my customers about the things they are finding hard to focus on.

I am now going to try doing at least 15 minutes a day and will see if that helps.

I will do an update about how I am doing as I am now planning on going to Sevastopol with my daughter when she goes back after her visit to the UK this month to get her new visa.

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Making Networking Work

Image-courtesy-of-jscreationzs-at-FreeDigitalPhotos.net_Having just moved areas from Wolverhampton to Towcester I have been reminded about the importance of networking. It is especially important when growing a new business – or an old business in a new area which is what I am doing.
I have been in my new area for a couple of months now and have restarted my networking activity in earnest in the last couple of weeks. I have already seen a benefit to my business with 2 referrals and 1 new customer. This is especially good as I know that the benefit of networking comes from the long term links you make with people and so quick wins are particularly precious.
I am enjoying meeting new people who I know will develop into friends and business colleagues in the future.
My note for the future is to remember that, even if you are not feeling like going out and talking to a lot of people get back into your networking as quickly as you can. Even if you only talk to one person you are starting the process of getting to know people in your new area. It has worked for me and I am already being greeted by people and welcomed into my new networking groups.

Silicon Bullet Forever

I am a keen networker, and have been for three years. It serves more than one purpose for me. Apart from the obvious advantage of finding new business leads, I have met and got to know other excellent local business people, I have made good  friends, and it gets me out of the office and gives me the social element that running your own business often lacks. In fact, most of our new customers over the last three years can be traced directly back to someone I originally got to know through a networking meeting.

Once you have met someone through networking, the best way to get to know them better is to have a follow-up meeting or a one-to-one, where you find out about each other’s business. I tend to meet people in a local coffee shop or for lunch. It is quite often a revelation how much you…

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Communication, communication, communication

This post has been inspired by my reflections on my experiences with a range of projects in the past which has confirmed to me the importance of communication in ensuring whether a project is successful or not. I thought it might be helpful to bring these together in a single summary as communication is so important.

When dealing with a major change programme it will be very rare to get all of the communication right – but it is extremely easy to get it completely wrong. My personal definitions of getting it wrong are:

  1. only sharing information with an ‘inner circle’ of the great and the good and then expecting the other people who are affected by the changes to just take it without complaint.
  2. giving out information only when there is something significant to say or a big change happening – the rumour mill will take over as communication will happen whether you want it to or not. People will always want to know what is happening so if you don’t tell them (even if all you are saying is ‘there is nothing to say’ they will fill the void.
  3. limiting the information that is given out to very bland or basic statements – it is important to be as open and honest as you can be (although there will always be sensitive items they need to be shared with the people affected as soon as possible, confidentially if necessary).
  4. giving out information on an irregular basis so people never know when they are likely to find out what is happening next.
  5. giving different messages to different people – so that when they compare what is said they do not believe any of what they have been told even if the messages are correct and have just been expressed in different ways.
  6. missing significant groups of people out of the whole communication process.
  7. only putting the information into a single format that not everyone can access (like the filing cabinet in the basement in “Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy” by Douglas Adams.

I have shared my reflections on better ways of communicating in a range of previous posts:

In summary the ways in which you can ensure that communication is a positive force in the work you do are to:

  1. have a clear communication plan which is agreed and signed up to by all partners
  2. include all of the people who are to be communicated with
  3. include all of the ways in which the communication will be handled
  4. make the dissemination routes for the information as wide and inclusive as possible
  5. have a clear timetable for communication – never less than once a month – and keep to it. It can change at different times in the project and may come down to once a day at significant points
  6. agree the wording that is going to be used – either in advance in the communication plan or, if it is something that has to be done quickly agree who will have the responsibility for composing the communication to be used.
  7. be consistent

What have I missed? I would be interested to hear your experiences of communication in your work life. If you would like to do a guest post please get in touch.

My views on the Arts Council England “The library of the future” report

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Dudley Library, West Midlands

I was very heartened when I started reading the ‘Library of the Future’ report that the consultation has shown that the Arts Council England (ACE) understand the importance of libraries in that:

They are much loved and expected to continue offering the same services as they have for many years, but they are also expected to respond to big changes in how people live their lives.

Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England.

The four priorities to sustain and develop a 21st century library service are not ones that anyone with a passion for libraries would argue with:

  1. Place the library as the hub of a community
  2. Make the most of digital technology and creative media
  3. Ensure that libraries are resilient and sustainable
  4. Deliver the right skills for those who work for libraries.

My concern is that, at the start of the 21st Century, the excellent library services  in the country are already doing most of this (including Dudley which I managed until march 2013)- so what do they have to aspire to? They can continue to improve and develop as they have in the past, but they will be developing their own challenges.

The challenges listed in the report under each of these headline priorities take things a little further – although again a lot of this is already happening.

The challenge with the biggest change from the current situation is in the development of some of the digital and virtual offers in libraries. These are the areas which could be part of a national virtual library service as there are major economies of scale. Although this is referred to in passing there is little information about how this will be achieved. With the current budget situation and the fact that a harder future is anticipated there will not be many library services who will have the resources to develop the resources if they do not work together effectively. Maybe that is a role for the Society of Chief Librarians to take up – developing digital and virtual national offers for individual library services to buy into?

I am concerned about the promotion of a document previously published by ACE on Community Libraries being referred to in the section on making libraries resilient and sustainable. This earlier document describes libraries at very early stages of developing community led models and so it is not  proved that they are sustainable yet. In addition, ACE need to be aware that good quality professional libraries need professional librarians to manage them working with communities, not just strong communities. The way this is section is laid out does not make this as clear as I would have expected it to be as I know this was raised as part of the consultation which has informed this report.

I know that this report is a mark in the sand for ACE as part of their managing their role in relation to libraries. In some ways the report is not the major issue as it does clearly state why libraries are important. What is more important is what happens now as budgets tighten and decisions are made which will influence the effectiveness  of library services for the rest of this century. Many library services need clear leadership and support to develop effective plans for the future, not just an active debate.

There are a lot of good statements about libraries and their importance – so I will watch with interest to see what is done with them in the future.

I hope that I, through my consultancy and mentoring, will be able to support and work with colleagues in keeping the good quality and professional library services in the coming years by developing innovative, sustainable solutions.

How have I started to develop my new businesses?

MP900390083As I was developing new businesses from a standing start I knew that I would be very lucky to get good, or even any, financial returns from the start. It was important, therefore, for me to measure what I was doing for my businesses each day so that I knew that I was moving them forward while developing a regular income stream.

This is a very different way of planning to the planning that I used to do in a local authority. There I would have plans with clear outcomes and which were SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. I have planned my outcomes for my new businesses, but the timing of them is difficult when I am still establishing myself, and how do I know if they are realistic? I have managed this by giving myself activity goals for every day – as I can measure the achievement of these which will help me to get a momentum going.mIt will also help me to review my successes by tracking them back to these activities to help improve my planning in the future. For example how many contacts did I have to make before I got a meeting, how many meetings before I got business? It is helping me to cope with the process as I am developing an understanding of how many ‘no’s’ or none responses I need to go through to get a ‘yes’.

How do I know what outcomes I should set myself?

I have talked to others who have gone through the same process and they have given me an idea of which activities I need to do, and for how long, before I start to see the desired outcomes that I want from my businesses. I have talked to as many people as I can as each person will have had a different experience, and mine will be different again. I am getting ideas that I will adapt and develop to suit me, although the information about how long it can take for business to develop has helped me to manage my expectations. Their experience is only an indicator about what could happen not an exact road map for my businesses.

The processes I have heard about so far are:

  • I need to develop a presence in the areas where people looking for my kind of businesses congregate – either online or face to face,
  • the number of calls I need to make to prospects, or contacts with prospective commissioners before I am successful
  • the type of information I need to have prepared when a prospect does respond positively.

I have also found it useful to look at the websites of others who have gone before me, and at their linked-in pages or any other online sites they have to see who they are linking to and the groups they are active in and then I join the groups I feel will be relevant to me as well. I have also read as many of the books that have been recommended to me as I can.

Two months into this process I am feeling very positive about what the future holds for me even though my businesses are in the early stages of development because of the information I have gained.

What has your journey been when you have made a career change?

I would be interested to hear your advice to people setting up their new businesses as we can always learn from others.

Is starting 2 new businesses at the same time a good idea?

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Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In my previous post Feel the Fear and do it anyway I explained about the big step I had made in deciding to take redundancy and try out a completely new way of living. I have worked in local authorities for over 30 years – and without a break for just over 26 years so this is a really big life change for me.

I decided that I did not want to focus on a single career any more, but that I would like to develop a portfolio to make sure I did not have all of my eggs in one basket. This was even more important as I was not going to have a regular pay cheque to rely on and would have to rely in the vagaries of the market – and my ability to market my own businesses.

Why did I chose the 2 businesses that I am now developing?

I chose them because they both build on my core values of helping other people to improve themselves and my desire to get back to working directly with, and helping, people. I also wanted to continue to use and develop the skills I have developed throughout my professional life as I had worked hard to learn and apply them and still have a lot to give back to all of the professions I embrace.

When developing new businesses from a standing start it is important to realise that you will be very lucky if you get good, or even any, financial returns from the start. It is important, though, to measure what you are doing for your businesses each day so that you know you are moving them forward a little bit. This is a very different way of planning to that I used to do in a local authority. There I would have plans with clear outcomes and which were SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. When starting a new business you also need clear outcomes, but the timing of them is difficult when you are still establishing yourself, and how do you know if they are realistic? Instead it is important to give yourself activity goals for every day – as you can measure your achievement if these and the more effective and positive activity you do the more likely it is your business venture will be successful.

How do you know what activity goals you need to set?

By talking to others who have gone through the same process and who can give you an idea of which activities you need to do, and for how long, before you start to see the desired outcomes that you want from your business. This can include developing a presence in the areas where people looking for your kind of business congregate – either online or face to face, the number of calls you need to make to prospects, the type of information you need to have prepared when a prospect does respond positively.

I cannot tell you yet if I have made the right choice – come back and see me again in December to see how I am doing with my 2 businesses Kate Millin Consulting and KMC Forever.

Do I manage myself effectively while working at home?

When I first started working from home the answer to this question is a definite no – I had so many things to think about and get used to as I have made such a major change in my life. I have enjoyed the freedom, but I now need to give myself some focus and manage myself more effectively. One of the reasons I made the change was to have a better work life balance so I feel I need something to give this some focus.

Inspired by Liz Broomfield’s post on how she managed herself when she first moved into full self employment this is my first attempt at some home working resolutions.  Thank you Liz for the inspiration, and the support you have given me in making this change.

So what are my resolutions?

  1. I will speak to someone else every day who is not living in the house with me – face to face will be the ideal, but by social media as a fall back.
  2. I will have 1 meal a day with the 3 main food types – carbohydrate, vegetables and protein.
  3. I will exercise for at least 30 minutes every day
  4. I will have lunch before 2pm every day
  5. I will do all of the washing up before I go to bed each night
  6. I will do no more work on my businesses after 9pm in the evening if I have done none work activities during the day and by 7pm if I have been working solidly all day.
  7. I will drink at least 2 litres of water a day
  8. I will spend time away from my computer screen for 5 minutes every hour as a minimum
  9. I will go to an event or social activity not related to my businesses at least once a week
  10. I will keep up with my friends and family

As recommended by Liz I will do a print out of the daily ones to tick off what I have done each day – at least to start off with while I am forming my new habits.

Wish me luck – and check back to see how I am doing.