Good Communication Starts with You

Humans love to talk, but not everything that comes out of someone’s mouth is considered communication, and not all communication comes from the mouth.  The words we speak only scratch the surface of how we communicate.  Voice tone and body language plays a much larger role than people realize.  So instead of thinking of what to say, concentrate on how to say it. Not only is effective communication vital for a healthy personal life, it is absolutely essential to succeed in the professional world. Communication shows up as one of the most sought-after skills employers want when interviewing prospective employees.

I used to be a poor communicator. I spat out my words as if people would just walk away if I couldn’t get my message out fast enough. I mumbled when I talked. I slouched with my hands stuffed comfortably in my pockets. Other than being told to “stand up straight”, I never really realized that these bad habits were adversely affecting the way people perceived and responded to me. Soon enough, I read up on communication and how body language and vocal tonality played a much more prominent role in getting my message across than I had realized. I also noted the signs of poor body language and made it a personal goal to correct these mistakes immediately.

It didn’t happen overnight, but after several months of paying attention and reprimanding myself, I started to get results. I noticed how people paid more attention and had greater interest in what I had to say. I also noticed everyone else and how I could tell what they were feeling based on their body language. It was almost like having a superpower! The confidence I gained helped to propel myself forward and talk to people I never thought I would have, and the best part is people are usually completely open to talking with strangers. It’s just up to you to make the first move.

There is a plethora of online resources on self-improvement, namely communication skills. Body Language shows eighteen ways to practice and improve positive body language. It also helps to recognize negative body language so you can avoid it and recognize how others feel. This Speaking site contains tips and exercises for all occasions. Even skimming some of the articles can have a profound impact. This Communication site links straight to an article on how others perceive you. It’s a great thing to think about in addition to the countless other helpful articles available.

People become at ease when they realize you are comfortable with yourself. It only takes one person to spread a positive vibe, and it’s catching. Be that person. Learn the truth. Be your best self. Look at yourself in the mirror, grab a tape recorder, or ask a friend for an honest opinion. You’ve got to do this sometime. It might as well be now.

-John

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Organize Your Life

Life becomes chaos.  As one task is finished, nine more pile up and the thought of never-ending work can lead to less-than-positive thoughts. Organization can help keep you sane. Rather than constantly juggling options, lists and deadlines in your head, write things down and watch as your personal power conquers the most complex of life’s obstacles.

There are many online applications and tools to help become organized. Zen Habits offers some great steps toward developing a better routine and lifestyle, DistanceLearningNet lists plenty of note-taking tools, and JournalingTools will help you master the art of self-reflection. Organization can be as simple as a pen and paper, but with a seemingly endless source of free applications, there is no reason not to get ahead.

The practice of journaling seems underrated, yet it is a powerful tool of self-exploration and evaluation. People feel better after talking to a counselor or psychologist because they get a chance to unleash all the thoughts and feelings they have been struggling to hold inside. Keeping a daily journal is a cheaper option to let out emotions and transfer them to a page. Reflecting on these daily thoughts and occurrences will instill a sense of progress as learning from mistakes and past events brings further development to the individual.

Journaling about things other people can relate to can translate into a blog that is shared with the world. Not only will it boost the awareness of the particular subject matter but may generate revenue as well. There’s nothing like people paying you for imparting thoughts on a subject of your interest.

College classes can be beasts and being prepared to conquer is half the battle.  Many people pay halfway attention in the classes they choose to attend and do not bother opening the book until the day before the test. It’s always possible to squeak by in the easier classes but the purpose of college is to prepare students for the professional world, so it would be easier to go ahead and start now. Just like staying healthy, doing well in school requires significant effort and most people know what they must do; it is just a matter of putting the first foot forward and start walking.

It is obvious to read the book before class and take notes on what was read, then attend class and take notes there. Compound all the notes and read them until they are known.  Simple in theory, yet going through requires effort. Once these practices become habits, the professional world will be a breeze, and the people that fluffed their way through college will struggle just to stay afloat.

-John


Balancing Is Key to Job Success

(Profile originally published in Texas State Technical College’s Taking Charge: Your Education, Your Career, Your Life)

It’s only been four years since James Brown graduated from Texas State Technical College; however, he’s already the lead graphic designer for The Dwyer Group in Waco, Texas. Brown said he got the job because he consistently produced quality work and had the longest tenure out of all the Dwyer Group graphic designers at the time the position became available.

Brown, who also paints, said he was always interested in the arts. “Graphic design is not the only medium I work in,” Brown said. Brown’s affinity for computers and graphic design made his decision to study Advertising Design & Print Technology at TSTC Waco a natural choice.

One of Brown’s former TSTC professors, Michael Steele, was hired on at the Dwyer Group’s marketing department as creative director in 2006. After Brown graduated from TSTC, Steele asked him to apply for a graphic design position at the company. Brown was hired and has worked for the Dwyer Group ever since. He said it pays to make good connections.

As lead graphic designer for the Dwyer Group, Brown’s workdays consist of responding to emails, addressing emergencies that arise, working on projects, and overseeing projects the other designers are working on. Presently, he manages a team of three designers. Brown is responsible for proofing their work for quality, determining what needs to change, and ensuring edits are made.

Brown and his team of graphic designers are responsible for developing the graphics’ standards and branding identities for the majority of the Dwyer Group’s seven franchise businesses on the corporate, company, and franchise levels. The team designs for the entire North American division of the internationally-operated Dwyer Group. One of Brown’s major projects for the company was designing vehicle wraps for the various Dwyer Group fleets.

In addition to his job at the Dwyer Group, Brown also does his own freelance graphic design for clients. “Designers balance several projects at a time,” he said. Brown stays at work longer or comes into the office earlier to finish any work for the Dwyer Group he needs to complete. By doing this, Brown’s time at home is freed for work on freelance projects. In order to complete projects and meet deadlines successfully, designers must make a schedule, he said. Brown estimates how many hours each project will take to complete and “plots [the hours] on a calendar” or timeline accordingly.  “You won’t survive if you can’t balance several projects, meetings, and emergencies,” he said.

The same time management strategy works for students as well. Students have “multiple classes going on” at a time, Brown said. Consequently, they cannot focus on just a single task one day and another task the next. Brown, who waited tables and did an internship while attending TSTC, said it’s “critical and crucial” for students to learn how to multitask. He suggests students also look at the size of a project or an assignment, determine how much time they’ll need to complete it, and budget their time.

Brown also advises students to complete an internship before they graduate.

“Employers look for internships,” he said. “They’re not critical, but are a good mark on a resume.” Brown also stressed the importance of a student’s portfolio. “It’s critical to landing your first job,” he said. He suggests students save all the work they’ve completed while in school. Doing extra work and picking up freelance jobs and clients will also add more pieces to a portfolio. “Design as much as you can before you get to the end,” Brown said.

Rachel McGinnis


A Healthy Body Leads to a Happy Mind

College.  The time and place to meet people, socialize, party, find yourself, and discover new ways of thinking.  Oh, and there’s that whole class part.  Some students devote their time intensely to either one of these endeavors.  The tricky part, which few have learned to master, is to balance school with the rest, while still maintaining a healthy and safe lifestyle.  A well-balanced lifestyle, which will lead to a happier and more fulfilling life, is not difficult to practice once the proper steps are taken

Taking Charge: Your Education, Your Career, Your Life devotes a chapter to health and safety.  The chapter covers all the basics including diet, exercise, sleep, sex, and campus and work safety. Helpful tips on mastering these health practices create a smooth transition into the healthy lifestyle. Quotes from experts drive home the importance of proper health and the long-term benefits of its use.

Most people cannot face the harsh truth about the consequences of ill health.  They fill their own heads with justifications about being too busy to prepare a healthy meal or too tired to exercise.  It becomes a vicious cycle, constantly growing until it is nearly impossible to pull out of the tailspin.  The good news is starting is the hardest part. After you take the initial leap, it’s smooth sailing from then on.

Discipline is hard.  If it were easy, everyone would be fit and successful.  The few who pull it off are not born special, but they have the determination to master themselves and the discipline to stick to their plan.  Most people know what they must do, but they refuse to do it or talk themselves out of it.  Sorry to break it to you, but there is no special pill.  A good diet, proper exercise, and plenty of sleep are the cornerstones of a healthy individual.

“Health must not be sacrificed for learning.  A strong body makes the strong mind.”  Thomas Jefferson was onto something.  Regular exercise releases endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemical.  It reduces stress, increases sleep quality, and makes you feel more powerful.  If there was ever a magic bullet, this is it.  The problem lies in the fact that it takes work to reap the reward.  In that way, exercise is a lot like life.  The idea seems difficult and its execution even more so, but once you have started, feelings of power overtake you, pushing you harder, making you work harder, and it goes on.  This is a better cycle.  This is the cycle of living.

Many people struggle to find the balance between what is easy and what is right.  Plenty of online resources exist to give ideas and motivate.  ConstantlyHealthy provides all around useful information, Tips on Healthy Living lives up to its name, as does tips4health.net.  The Taking Charge book contains heaps of information on bettering yourself, and the “Health and Safety” chapter provides plenty of tips to begin the journey to a healthier, better life.

-John


Mastering Time Gives Power Over Life

Time is constant, yet harnessing time for productive and personal use falls on the individual.  Everyone has the same amount of time, although the difference between success and failure rests on how time is utilized.  It is tough to juggle every event from all aspects of life, remember each one, and complete it promptly.  Sudden incidents arise, people can become flustered, and the weight of the world comes crashing down.  While it may be tempting to throw in the towel, step back, take a deep breath, do something relaxing for a bit, then dive back in.  You never lose unless you quit.

Taking Charge: Your Education, Your Career, Your Life explains the benefits of time management and tips on the most efficient ways of managing time.  The key of time management is to map out a daily timeline of tasks to be completed and stick to it. Every night before bed, make a list of things to be accomplished the next day and arrange them in order of importance.  When a task is done, cross it off.  The sense of accomplishment gained from physically deleting a difficult task will help feed the willpower to move on the next one.  This actually helps to free up time because it eliminates all the minutes spent worrying about what needs to be done and actually doing it.  Don’t think.  Don’t try.  Just do.

To effectively manage life, rise above the daily routines and plan for the big picture.  In addition to taking care of daily tasks, think about how these responsibilities relate to other areas of life and the future.  A monthly calendar provides a broader outlook on your timeline.  Knowing you have a test in two weeks helps to create better daily lists to break down the study time in blocks.  Cramming the day before will not only give less understanding of the material, but will throw off your routine since you must postpone the day’s tasks until tomorrow.

Because many people work from their computers, plenty of time management tools are available for free download.  Now Do This is a simple to-do list application that keeps your most important tasks at the forefront.  Evernote is a note-taking application that syncs to mobile devices so wherever you are, you can write and retrieve notes.  Toggl tracks time spent working on projects and helps you switch easily between different tasks.

The scenario is the same.  Everyone experiences it.  You sit staring at a blank word document watching the cursor blink and blink and blink.  You think about your task for a moment, and then wander into some far off place.  Your eyes dart back to the cursor.  Still blinking.  “Maybe I’ll go get some coffee,” you tell yourself.  When you sit down again, the cursor continues to taunt you.  “How about I check my email?”  This could go on for hours.  The best way to begin is just to start writing.  The entire paper doesn’t need to be finished, and you can always revise it later.  This works for anything.  If the house is a mess, start cleaning one room and chances are the momentum will build enough to complete the entire chore.  The more you dwell on the difficulty of a duty, the harder it becomes to start it.

-John