Learning to Say “NO”

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I have a colleague at work who we dubbed as “Mr. No”. Why? He would practically say “no” to all the incredulous demands even from our bosses. Knowing our company mantra of “making things possible”, saying “no” to our bosses really needs a lot of guts to do.

Declining a request however, does not necessarily mean a bad thing. Albeit, denying someone’s request or demand especially those in the upper level of the heirarchy in your organization or even your clients is very hard to do. In fact, it is an innate human nature to please and not create conflict or confrontation with others.

But learning to say “no” is one way of boosting your productivity. How? It allows you to screen out unnecessary things that may take you out of your focus from the important things that can add value to you and to your work. This is specifically handy when you feel that you are already loaded with work which in turn affects your performance and productivity.

But how do we say “no” without having the guilt feeling that you might have offended the other party? Here are three points that you might want to consider.

1. Have a solid reason of saying “no”. This is very important since you may need to do some explaining when you decline someone of their request or demand. Tell the other party why you honestly cannot accept the request or demand. This will help others understand why it is not possible for you to take on a certain task.

2. Propose a compromise. If the other party still negotiates with you to do the job even after you explain why you cannot do an extra load, suggest ways on how can he be able to pull through the task without compromising your own schedule. Either you help him find someone who can help him with his request or negotiate with him for you to do the task after you finish your priorities. If you choose the latter, be transparent on when can you actually accommodate him so he can weigh his options. In this way, it would lessen the hard feelings of being declined because (1) you are saying “no” while trying to be helpful and (2) the other party may come to his own realization (hopefully), that you really cannot do his request and may choose to find somebody else to do it.

3. Be wary of your tone. This is one of the keys to successfully turn down someone without sounding offensive. Oftentimes, even with our good reason and intention, people misunderstood our context just because of the way we deliver our message. If you sound to be argumentative or irritated to other party, he will dismiss your explanation as just just mere alibi to escape from the task even if you are telling the truth. On the other hand, people tend to accept your reason if you say it in a calm or even a little apologetic voice. Just don’t be too overly apologetic else they might see you as a scheming person.

If all else fail, you can always find someone to back you up to convince the other person to just let it go. 😊


How I Manage My Time and Maximize Productivity

If you believe in all the movies and novels that glamorize the corporate world as a place where you look chic every day and you get a hefty pay for working in an airconditioned office, a lot of insiders would tell you that corporate setup is a jungle. Corporate world is very fast-paced and will take a lot of your precious time. In fact, it is not for everybody. I particularly work in a very demanding industry with a very high customer expectation. As my colleagues would jokingly tell me, my day would not be complete if I did not eat stress for breakfast (and dinner too!).

Working corporate for ten years I would say that your the major enemy is TIME. Thus, you must learn to do time management so you can increase your productivity. And mind you, being busy is different from being productive. Rendering overtime almost every day doesn’t mean that your efficient. In fact it can be viewed otherwise.

Learning time management is a major feat. There are a lot of time management and productivity tools out there and you just have to choose what works for you best. Let me share to you the productivity tools that I am currently using.

Bullet Journal

Planning your task is one essential way to improve your productivity. Thus, a good planning system is a must. While I use digital calendar in my phone and my laptop to keep track of my appointments and tasks, I keep a planner handy in my bag or in the office. However, I prefer to use a bullet journal instead of a pre-made planner because of its flexibility. Since a bullet journal is basically a blank notebook, I can customize it according to my productivity needs. I am not limited to the layout of pages that most of the planners in the market has to offer. My bullet journal contains my calendars, to-do list, trackers, notes, brain dump for ideas, journal, etc. It is my one-stop shop planning system and this is the only planner that I really maintained.

Eisenhower Matrix

Have you ever experienced being drowned on your to-do list with no clue as to where to start? It always end to not doing anything at all right? One strategy I discover in tackling my enormous to do list is to use the Eisenhower Matrix or Eisenhower Box. It is basically a box divided into four quadrant which is then further classified by the Urgency and Importance. Take a look at the box below.

Photo from contactzilla.com

The quadrants on the left hand-side represents the things that are Urgent while the right hand side quadrants are for the Not Urgent tasks. In terms of importance, the upper half of the box is for the Important tasks while the bottom ones are for those Not Important.

To use the box for decision making label the Quadrants as follows: Q1 (Urgent & Important)- DO; Q2 (Not Urgent But Important) – DECIDE/ PLAN; Q3 (Urgent But Not Important) – DELEGATE; Q4 (Not Important & Not Urgent) – DELETE / DON’T DO.

Every morning I write down all my things to do in a piece of paper and then put each task in the quadrants base on the task’s urgency and importance. I make sure that I do the things under Q1 in the morning and do the tasks under Q2 afterwards or in the following day. I find persons who can help me out on the tasks under Q3 so it can also be done within the day. For things that will fall under Q4, they are immediately scratch off from the to-do list altogether. In that way, I can focus my day accomplishing tasks that has higher impact to my day and yield higher productivity.

Pomodoro Method

Photo from UKCAT Blog

Working on your daily tasks, however you divide them by priorities is exasperating especially if you are working on big requirements such as project presentations, project analysis and project updates that take a big chunk of your time and suck the energy out of you. It is important for me to have a balance between my work and some rest so even if I tackle a big task I don’t feel like losing too much energy in the work. So I use the Pomodoro method in my advantage.

How does it work? Before I start any task, I set my timer to 25 minutes. I do my work for the full 25 minutes without distraction- no checking of emails, sms messages and social media. After the full 25 minutes is over, I take 5 minutes break. On the fourth cycle of 25 minutes, I take a 10 minutes break. I find out that I am more productive in finishing my task using this method rather than beating myself into finishing the task straight without any small breaks.


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I am a visual person. In order for me to retain details in my memory or to make a good analysis of data, I like to arrange the information in a way that I can easily see the cause and effect. Thus, in doing crucial reports, I make a mindmap of the subject in question. Mindmapping is simply breaking down the subject matter into smaller, important information and arranging them in such a way that it can easily be understood. I use tree diagrams to create my mindmaps or a fishbone one if I need to do critical analysis.

Cornell Method

My usual work week is incomplete without any meetings. In fact, I have two scheduled recurrent meetings every week. So it is important for me to have a clear, concise notes of the minutes to reference decision points and important instructions for the project. For my note- taking, I still use the same method that works for me back in my university days- the Cornell Method. It is a simple yet very efficient way of note taking method to extract important information during meetings.

The method divides your notes into 3 parts: (1) Cue column in the left hand side of your paper where you put keywords, or questions, or reference names; (2) the main note taking area is the right hand side of your paper where you take down details; and (3) your bottom 3rd is your Summary area wherein you can summarize your minutes afterwards.

The reason why I like this method is that it enables me to write my MOM in telegraphic form then afterwards, I can review and summarize the details in full sentences. If there is any clarification on the data I have noted while I am writing down my summary, I can easily go to cue column and note my clarification question so I would remember them. In this way, I will remember to ask the question via email or on the next meeting.

So there you have it. I hope that these simple techniques that I have shared can help you boost your productivity and time management 😊.

How to make budgeting less stressful and more fun


Are you the type of person who sucks at budgeting? Well, most of us do. They say we are at the age where consumerism is a trend and the advent of technology (i.e., the internet) makes it easier for us to buy stuff even if we don’t really need it. But if this becomes a habit, it will really take a toll on you financially. 

Making a budget is admittedly one of the most difficult thing to do. In fact, it is dreadful for some to address financial issues that may arise relative to your budget. But, with a little practice and a little trick up on your sleeve, you can make budgeting less complicated and a bit fun. 

Set a goal. Whether you are simply saving up for a future investment or a dream vacation or just simply wanting to buy new things, having something to look forward to makes it easier for you to let go of some unwanted expenses. 

Think of something that you want to have and write it down. Know how much you need to get to your goal so you would initially know how much you need to set aside and for how long.

Make a list. List down all your usual expenses and break it down to two categories: (1) needs (food, rent, utilities, transportation, debt payments,etc) and (2) wants (entertainment, new clothes, gadgets, etc.). Review how much you spend on each category and compare it with how much you are earning. If your expenses are much lower than what you earned, that means you will only need little adjustments on your goal. However, if your expenses is way more than your income, then you need to re-assess.

 Carve out. Let’s face it. Deciding to cut on your expenses is a difficult thing. But to be realistic in achieving your goals, you need to learn how to spend less on some things. Cutting your lifestyle spending (i.e, buying trends, gadgets, dining out, etc.) and re-routing it to your savings will make a great impact in your budget. 

Celebrate your milestone. Create a savings milestone and celebrate this little success by treating yourself. Aside from the goal you have set, this little tokens will give you the motivation to stick to your budget. This will also prevent the thought that you are depriving yourself. 

Keep the faith. Just like any other things, you may encounter set backs in sticking to your budget. Never give up. When you have set back, just reset and go back to your track. 

It takes a lot of discipline for you to stick to your budget. But keep on going.  Once you completed your goal, enjoy the fruit of the hardship and then start again. 


A cup of tea

Well, it’s a chilly mid-week morning today. As I sit into my cubicle with my hot cup of Moroccan tea while browsing the net, I noticed that I haven’t visited my blog for EONS of years (hehe)! So, where have I been eh? No, definitely not visiting the Queen. 

Seriously, I was just busy on several projects that I neglected to write (sorry…). However, my hiatus has given me opportunities and more experiences that I will share here (promise). For starters, I have started two personal projects that have taken a lot of my time and effort for the last few months. 

Be Fit

Admittedly, I had neglected my health for several years that resulted to health complications and obesity. I started this year with a goal to lose at least 20 lbs this year. So I drag myself to the gym, started working out and choosing healthier food options. And I am so happy that I already achieved my goal in just 6 months! 

From 200 lbs in 2016 to a 180 lbs by June 2017 😉

 Be Ready for Rainy Days

I realized that I am not young anymore and that I need to be more disciplined with my finances if I want to retire in peace when I am in my senior years. That is why I have set up my financial goals this year and push myself very hard to save and invest. And that means learning to curb my spending and be more financially literate. So my first step is build my emergency fund by opening a savings account and take on the 52- week challenge. So far, I stick to my savings plan and now I am reviewing several policies for other investments such as VULs and mutual funds. ✌

Less spending, more savings 👌

In between these two things, I still have my 9am to 6pm regular jobs and family to take care of so my hands are really full. Nevertheless, I am back. 😉


Five Useful Hacks for the Busybees

Are you the type of person who easily gets overwhelmed by the tasks that you need to tackle? Or do you always forget the things that you need to do so you end up not doing your top priority? Maybe you lost track of time and you have to hurry to get into your appointments so you feel less prepared. 

If your busy schedule is already driving you nuts, here are some tips for you, busy bees, to save you from insanity because of tight schedules and gigantic task.

Plan Ahead

Nothing beats good planning everytime you have so much things in your hand. Set a side a time to sit down and write down all the things that you need to do for the whole week. Determine how much time you need for each task and decide for the best day to do them. Start from your top priorities to things that can wait. The best thing to keep track of your task is jotting them down in a planner. You will be surprised that after you’ve written down your plans, they are less daunting to tackle anymore. 😊

Put together a capsule wardrobe

(Image: http://www.decoist.com)

Half of the time, the reason why we are late for an appointment is that we cannot decide what are we going to wear. And this is true when you are faced with a closetful of clothes. The best thing to do is put together a capsule wardrobe in one part of your closet. This is a collection of a no brainer, classic and versatile pieces of clothing and accessories that you can throw on when you are running late. 

Keep your things in strategic place

(Image: http://www.thatgirlcathy.me)

Assign an area in your house or even your room to place the things that you almost always need to bring with you when you leave the house. This can be near your door or on your bedside table, wherever it is handy for you to grab and go if you are in a hurry. 

Invest in a bag organizer

Changing your bag when you are trying to keep up with your busy schedule may freak you out especially if you cannot find all the things that you need to bring with you. Buying a good size bag organizer that will fit most of your bags is definitely worth the investment. You can easily put everything you need to bring in all its compartments- wallets, keys, makeup kits and other essentials- and have your things easily transferred to another bag in no time if you need to change your purse.

Edit your makeup kit

Looking your best is one thing that you need to maintain even on a very hectic day. But lugging too much makeup can be so distracting as well. Keeping your makeup kit to a minimum is the best way to address your beauty needs without goig overboard. Use products that are multi-functional and can take your look from day to night so you can pare down the number of palettes and tubes in your kit. If you want to throw in some extras, you can keep a small stash in your office drawer or car compartment, just in case you need a little more. 😉

Learning a few tricks to lessen your prep time will definitely improve how you look into your busy schedules. Once you master these tricks, tackling your daily tasks will never be stressful again. 


How to avoid being trapped in a never ending meeting

Have you experienced being left in a middle of a maze and you cannot find your exit even if you’ve been searching for it for hours? Makes you want to cry, right? It is the same feeling that you can get every time you attend a meeting that seems to be a labyrinth of discussion. It is tiring, frustrating and seems to be wasting your precious time. So how can we avoid this? Here are some tips:

Have an agenda and stick to your topic

Meeting would be useless if you do not have a topic to discuss. In this case, planning your agenda or subject that you want to tackle during the meeting is important. However, planning alone would be useless if you will not stick to it during the meeting. Do not allow yourself or anyone else during the meeting to divert from the topic of the discussion to avoid long meetings. If someone raises an issue during the meeting that is not part of your agenda, take note of it in the minutes and inform the person that his concern will be discussed in another forum.

Make a topic outline to disseminate to attendees

 Create an outline for your agenda and determine how much time do you need to discuss each subject. It is ideal to breakdown your topic to not more than five subtopics to avoid clutterinv discussion. Send the outline to all participants so the can prepare ahead of time. 

Limit the number of attendees to key personnel only

When you meet to discuss something, it means that you need to decide on some concerns. So  make sure that you invite only those key personnel that can give decisions on issues that will be laid in the table. Limiting the number of participants to those that can decide is one way of ensuring that you can wrap up your meeting successfully.

Don’t forget the minutes

Taking notes on the discussion is essential so you have a documentation of what have been discussed and agreed to during the discussion. Take down all the essential points as well as the actions to be taken and the agreed timeline to resolve some issues. It is important to have these in your minutes so you can have something to refer to once you make follow ups. Make sure that you send it  out to all participants  immediately after the meeting.





Things Not to Say During Job Interviews

We all go through job hunting process at some point of our lives and we all know how difficult it is to secure a job this day.  But no matter how brilliant your scholastic record is or how skillful you are at your chosen field, your chance of getting hired depends on how you tackle the the interview questions that the recruiter may throw at you during the interview. 

Most of the job hunters are unconcious about some interview boo- boos that they are committing, thus killing their chances of getting the job.  Here are five interview mistakes that you need to avoid.

When asked why you are late you reply ” Traffic po kasi eh (traffic is horrible).”

First, it is a mortal sin to be late during job interviews as it leaves bad impression on your would be employer. But if you arrived late even if you did your best to be early, don’t simply say that you are late because traffic is horrible as it says more about your lack of planning skills. Tell the interviewer in your sincerest way how sorry you are for being late and mentioned a little how you prepared to come early but you were caught into horrible traffic. 

When asked about your accomplishments, you say ” I was an honor student/ recipient of xxx awards…”

It is right to be proud of your academic accomplishments since have worked hard for it. But just citing an award as your accomplishment won’t impress your interviewer. Instead, cite an example on what you did to get that particular award and how have you worked hard to overcome difficulties. This will give your interviewer a chance to see how well you deal with setbacks and hardships.

When ask why should we hire you, you say ” I want to gain experience.

Even if you are just an entry level employee, don’t simply tell your interviewer that you are applying for the job to gain experience. You don’t want your would- be employer to feel that you are just hoping to have a training ground to further your career. Instead, talk about how the job is aligned with your set skills and how can you contribute to the company’s growth. You may also mention how passionate you are about what the company does. Companies love to hear employees talk about sharing tje same ideals/ goals with the company and also keen to those that can contribute to their success.

When ask why did you left your previous job, you say “My boss/ the company is horrible”.

Whatever happened to you in your previous job, do not bad mouth a former employer as it tells more about your character than your previous boss. Saying bad things about your previous job signals that you are immature, unprofessional and potentially difficult to work with. 

When ask if you have any other questions, you say “No, I don’t have any questions”.

The interviewer does not expect you to know all about the company so they are anticipating questions to be thrown back at them during the interview process. Not asking even a single question at all during the interview, signals that you are not interested with the company at all. Thus, it is bettee to do your research about the company prior to interview and draft several questions that you may potentially ask your interviewer whenever he/she gives you a chance to do so. 

The next time you sit for a job interview, be mindful of how you answer the queries of your interviewer. As the saying goes, “everything you say may be used against you”.