Strategies for a Successful VISTA Year outline (DOC)

Strategies for a Successful VISTA Year
“It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is, ‘what are we busy about?’”
Myths versus realities
a) Myths:
i) External events control my life
ii) I must meet the needs and demands of everyone around me
iii) I should have no limits
iv) …
b) Realities:
i) Can’t save up time, only prioritize existing time
ii) Can complete a to do list of 10 items – don’t add any more; other people will do that for you
iii) Working late or long hours isn’t the key to productivity; knowing where to focus your energy is
iv) …
Imagine events in your life falling into one of these three columns. Which columns should you spend a lot of time in?
Column 1
Column 2
Column 3
No control or influence
Some control or influence
Total control or influence
a) Triggers:
i) Fear of failure
ii) Perfectionism
iii) Thing that seem not useful or a waste of time; things that are imposed on you
iv) Overwhelmed by enormity or difficulty
v) Lack of clear goals or guidelines
vi) … What are your personal triggers?
b) Overcoming:
i) Find or create a boost – sandwich unpleasant activities between tasks you enjoy to help drive you through
the unpleasant ones.
ii) Set a timer for doing an unpleasant task. “I only have to do this for the next 30 minutes.”
iii) Match your specific strategy to overcome your procrastination to what triggers your procrastination in the
first place
Prioritizing your time
a) It’s easy to be busy all the time and still procrastinating. 80% of our typical activities contribute less than 20% of
the value of our work. What are some examples of these 80% activities? How can we focus on the top-value
activities to make more effective use of our time?
b) imagine your tasks on this grid: Where should you spend most of your time?
Urgent and
Not Important
Not Urgent
Not Urgent
Not Important
c) Prioritizing system:
i) List tasks to complete
ii) Assign a number (1-3) that represents the importance of each task, with 1 being the most important.
iii) Assign a number 1-3 that represents the level of immediacy required.
iv) Add together importance and immediacy scores. Tasks with the lowest numbers thus have the highest
priority and should be completed first.
Importance Immediacy Priority
Block out the most productive time of your day and guard it with your life!
Time of day
DISC personality test
In each row, circle one adjective that most describes you. Only circle one word per row. After you are done, add up how
many in each column you have. The highest number is your time management style.
Raise your hands if you are D, I, S, C. Do you think this is true about yourself? Would you add anything else?
Why is this important, why do we do this? It’s important not only that you know yourself, but you know others. You may
not give your supervisor this test, but you can recognize elements of these styles in them. So if you know your style, and
you know their style, you can manage that relationship better.
Email etiquette:
Leave important, sensitive, personal, or bad news for in person conversations – be mindful of what you put in
writing, and don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in person
Take a breather. Be emotionally neutral. Avoid sarcasm.
Limit messages to one screen
Be aware that people read about the first 3 lines of an email before moving on. Be as brief as possible.
Make it easy for the recipient to respond – clearly identify what you’re asking of them
Use a conversational tone, but use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation
Make subject line as specific as possible. Use EOM when possible.
Reply all with care
Respond within 24 hours
Responding to critiques versus criticism:
Recognize when someone is giving you a critique and accept it graciously.
 defines goals
 sets deadlines
 offers positive feedback
 gives specific suggestions for improvement
 does not seek to understand
 accusatory
 no plan for change
 does not respect context
o identify goals, prepare elevator pitch, determine what appropriate dress is
arrive with enthusiasm
o smile, use body language, stand tall, look friendly
be positive and non-controversial
o ask non-controversial questions to open up. What do you do, how long have you been there, etc
name games
o repeat someone’s name when they introduce themselves; look for something memorable about them;
use their name in conversation
careful with food and drink
o limit your alcohol; don’t camp out at the buffet; avoid messy foods; hold drink with left hand so you
don’t shake with cold wet hand
Professional image
first impression: do you want to start from a hole or a platform?
o confident handshake; dress appropriately
current events
o stay on top of what’s happening in your city, state, country, world
o use proper grammar, avoid slang, learn jargon of your field
o don’t feel the need to throw out big words when short ones will do
o study positive role models: how do they dress, act, speak?
o Project confidence, poise, positivity – even if you don’t feel it on the inside
o Good body language, eye contact
appearance: hygiene, dress
o quality counts; dress the way your boss dresses. Err on the side of caution.
Communicating with colleagues
words, tone, and body language
o your words are only 7% of what you are communicating. Your voice and tone are 38%, and your body
language is 55%
encourage, restate, reflect, summarize
o these are the keys to active listening.
o Encouragement keeps them talking. “I see… yes… that’s interesting…”
o Restatement helps clarify “what you are saying is… so I understand your idea is…”
o Reflection shows that you understand “you feel that… it made you happy that…”
o Summarization shows you understand what is being said “so if I understand correctly, the issues are…”
don't criticize or vent in public
o people are listening. Keep it private.
return calls and emails promptly
o every time you don’t, consider it a ding
respect their time - be clear and concise
o no need to hem and haw
respect their space - don't hover or speak too loudly
o if someone’s on the phone or in a conversation, come back later. If you are on the phone in an open
office, recognize the distraction for others
Advocating for yourself and your professional development
How to say no
give short explanation
o ‘here’s the situation’ or ‘here’s what’s going on’
Use empathy
o ‘I really wish…’
Offer 2 alternatives
o ‘here’s what I can do’ – position what you want them to take last
Ask confirming question
o ‘which one of these would work for you’
If there’s pushback, ask what they would suggest, confirm trade-off
o ‘ok I can do this but I’ll need to put this other thing on hold’
Advocating for yourself
don’t play the victim
o take ownership, focus on the solution
lunch and learn with people from different departments
be proactive
o don’t just stick to your job description; take care of what needs to be done
keep an ear to the ground for opportunities. Sign up for newsletters, mailing lists.
keep a portfolio of your accomplishments/achievements
o if you don’t have time to do this, do you think anybody else does?
review your accomplishments and goals on a regular basis – monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, etc
share schedule with supervisor and colleagues so they now where you’re at
be coachable
o willing and eager to learn
o willing and open to listening
o open to guidance, asking for help
One of the benefits of VISTA service is that your year is what you make it. No one else can make it for you. You have to
be intentional and proactive – the clock is ticking.