Introducing...What We're Reading Wednesday!

Whether you're committed to reading more this year to improve a skill, enjoy personal relaxation time, escape into a fictional world, keep your mind sharp, or stay on-trend with your industry's best practices, we can all use a little inspiration and good recommendations. 

If you're not already on Goodreads, it's a great place to connect with your friends and see what they're reading, get recommendations, read reviews, set your goal for the year, and track your progress. I'd love to connect with you: www.goodreads.com/StacieSimpson

Starting next week, every Wednesday, I'll share the details of what I'm reading. It'll usually be a book - maybe one that I'm reading or that one of my friends or colleagues is reading. If I don't have a good book to share in the moment, I might stoop for a really, really good article that I'm loving that week. 

See ya next week? 

PS. If you need access to awesome books, grab a 30-day free trial of Kindle Unlimited or a 30-day free trial of Audible, including 2 free audiobooks. Or your local public library - also probably free.

You Are Fascinating

You probably know how you see the world. But do you know how the world sees YOU?

How can you make the best possible first impression? How is your personal brand most likely to be seen by others... at your best?

Sally Hogshead, the founder of How to Fascinate, just got a gift code that allows me to invite 100 people to take the Fascination Advantage® assessment for free.

I want to share mine with YOU, so that you can discover what makes your personal brand fascinating. The first 100 people who use it will get their fascination profile for free!

I was introduced to the Fascination model almost 2 years ago now, and I fell in love with it! It's more personal and MORE FUN than most personality assessments.

Curious about how the world sees me? I'm the Blue Chip: A combination of Prestige and Trust Advantages. That might sound jumbled for now, but just look at how the Prestige Advantage is described:


Now, is that so ME or what?!

I'd love for you to discover your own personal brand through the Fascination Assessment. And I'm dying to know your results!

So how do you take the assessment? Simple.

1. Sign up for one of my free codes here. You'll find the link to get started and the code after you click submit.
2. Take the assessment (it only takes about 3 minutes).
2. Get your fascinating results, and see what makes YOUR personal brand most captivating.

Plus, you’ll be invited to get your own gift code, to share with 100 of your friends and followers. 

Celebrating International Volunteer Managers Day!

In honor of International Volunteer Managers Day on November 5, I'm offering a FREE Ultimate 5-Day Productivity Challenge to all non-profit professionals as a THANK YOU for everything you do! #IVMDay16

We all wish we could squeeze more hours in the day, right?
But guess what! It ain't happenin'. We all just get 24.
So we really need to make the most of every hour, every minute that we have - whether it's in the office or on-the-go.

My teams, clients, and colleagues are always asking me how I balance it all: multiple work teams, projects, and constantly changing priorities. All while still making time for my family and taking care of myself. The truth is, my secrets aren't secrets at all! The tactics and tools I use are all available to you (and some are even common sense!), but it's all about 3 things:
1. Experimenting to find the system that's right for you.
2. Practicing and perfecting that system until it becomes habit.
3. Holding yourself accountable.

Here's how the challenge works:
--First, sign up here: bit.ly/5dayProChallenge for the official challenge.
--Each day, you'll receive the daily challenge in your email inbox. I'll send it early in the morning. You decide whether you want to tackle it first thing before breakfast, psych yourself up for it on your lunch break, or use it as "me time" in the evening.
--Join the facebook group (www.facebook.com/groups/5dayProChallenge) for daily updates, reminders, and a support group to hold you accountable. I want to see your progress. There will LOTS of virtual high-fives and encouragement. 
--Set aside at least one hour each day to commit to the daily challenges. I guarantee you won't feel a change if you don't put in the time.

So, are you ready to get organized and maximize your productivity?!

Surviving Post-Conference Overload

 

Nearly a thousand of us "camp people" returned home or back-to-camp on Saturday after a pretty darn epic Mid States Camp Conference, held at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL. I've been attending Mid States for almost 10 years now, and I can truly say that the people have become family and the place has become home. The energy, passion, love, and synergy is almost visible in the air.

There's no doubt that professional conferences of any kind provide a wealth of information, resources, and connections. If you're focused on getting your money's worth, you'll definitely come out rich on the other side. But, the experience can also leave you exhausted, overwhelmed, and with a really long to-do list, not to mention your email inbox which has been filling to the brim for the last 3 days.

How can you ensure that the benefits of the conference live on, while still returning to your daily routine? 

The 4 Laws to Surviving Post-Conference Overload

1. Sleep, eat, and drink for a day. Confession: I slept until 3 p.m. on Sunday. And it was glorious. At the conference, you're moving, learning, talking, and listening more than you usually do. You're focused on sponging in as much knowledge as possible, plus you're spending time with old and new friends in between and during late-nights. It's exhausting! Give yourself some time to recuperate. Get a good night's sleep, eat healthy foods and full meals, and drink water, juice, and other heathy liquids.

2. Connect with people. You met a ton of new friends, right?! Pull out those business cards, flip through your notes, and make a list of everyone you want to stay connected with. Add them on LinkedIn or Facebook, or send a quick email. Don't forget to follow any speakers that you really enjoyed learning from - they're bound to have great content on their social media, too. 

3. Make your to do list. This is the hardest one, because...you just want to do everything, right?! Reality check: you can't. It's completely unrealistic. But, you can still get the most out of your experience with a few actionable items.

Here's the fool-proof post-conference To Do List formula:

Identify Actionable: Go through all of your notes and circle, star, highlight (whatever system works for you) everything that is actionable. It can't be something you're going to think about. It has to be the things you'll actually do! 

Choose: Now you're only allowed to choose 3-5 of those action items. I'm not kidding. I know it's hard, but you can do hard things.*

Make 'Em Bite-Sized: You'll probably need to bust them down into bite-sized pieces because you need to accomplish these 3-5 actions this week (before Monday morning) . So, "Revamp the CIT program" is probably not a good choice, but "add role playing activity to CIT training outline" would be perfect.

Find a Buddy: This person is also known as an accountability partner. Share your 3-5 bite-sized action items with them, and share the background story of what you learned and why you're excited to put these things in motion. Ask if they'll please check in with you early next week to make sure you've done them. 

Get to Work: Ok, what are you waiting for? Now go ahead and get to work on your 3-5 bite-sized action items.

4. Dive into your inbox. There's no sense in putting off the things you missed. It's better to put in a little extra time and get caught up now, before things get too buried. Steps 1-3 might seem easy compared to this one...

 

If you're feeling pumped about your bite-sized 3-5, share them in the comments so we can all see your top takeaways from the conference. Plus, I can be another buddy/accountability partner to help you stay on track.  

PS. If you're looking for a way to procrastinate (not that I'm an enabler or anything), you can take a minute to write a note to the Conference Leadership Team and thank them for making a difference in your life and the lives of kids at camp. The conference is 100% planned and run by volunteers. How epic is THAT?!

 

*Shameless reference to Michael Brandwein's keynote presentation. 

 

Support Relay for Life by cheering on the Minnesota Twins

Cheer on the Twins & help raise funds for the American Cancer Society!

Saturday, April 30th, 2016 1:10 p.m.

*Each ticket holder may take part in a pre-game parade on the field and one lucky Relay For Life participant will get to throw a first pitch!*

Cost: $18 or $24 per person

($5 per ticket supports the American Cancer Society)

DEADLINE to Purchase tickets is: FRIDAY, April 15th, 2016

Click here for printable form.

Singletasking

In our day-to-day running from one thing to the next, it seems as if we're always multi-tasking. The more we can do, faster, the better. Right?! But, what if we all just slowed down a little bit...?

I currently have over 4,000 emails in my inbox. And I'm ashamed to say that several hundred of them are never-opened, "unread" messages. I'm constantly in meetings, and my staff or other departments need me to answer a question or approve an expense. It seems there's barely room to breathe, and I'm trying to fit it all in. Maybe you know the feeling?

On a particularly overwhelming day last week, I asked one of my colleagues (who has over 30 years experience in our organization), "Did you work here before there were computers in the office?" 

First she smiled. Then she said "yes." 

We spent the next 15 minutes or so daydreaming about what a workday would be like at a slower pace. There weren't any emails, but they had a folder or "inbox" for forms or correspondence that was sent by mail. There wasn't voicemail, but if a call came in while they were out, the secretary would leave a note. They hand-wrote meeting agendas and reports, and a secretary might type them up or you'd take your turn at the shared typewriter. There was a staff meeting at least once per month, and everyone knew their priorities and projects, and worked toward them diligently with few distractions. JUST IMAGINE?!

Giggling, we suggested things like #ThrowbackThursday or #NoTechTuesday where everyone in our organization would be directed to shut down their computers and either read something, do a little deep thinking about a strategic issue, reflect on their department's progress over the last quarter, etc. But could we really do something like that?

Two days ago, one of our offices was without power or internet access, and we couldn't function. We decided to close our office for the day: staff worked from home and department meetings were moved to a nearby bank. This was precisely what we longed for, but without preparation, it was pointless - all of our work "lives" online.

Maybe it's not realistic to think that all of my team will shut down their computers one day per week, and I probably can't either. But, here are my tips (for you and for myself) to preserving a little bit of low-tech time:

  1. Read a book. A REAL book. Not an audiobook or something on your kindle or your iPad, but real ink on paper. Read more about all the reasons you should do this.
  2. Block off "project time" on your calendar. My Outlook calendar is available for my staff or anyone I work with to view, so I actually block off chunks of time that I will be working on a specific project and label them appropriately. During this time, I don't check email or answer phone calls. [Or at least I try not to!]
  3. Go for a walk. And if it's less than 15 minutes, leave your phone at home. The world cannot fall apart in 15 minutes, I promise. Plus, walking while emailing is not safe. Safety first!
  4. Try out #TablessThursday. Watch this video. It will make your day.

Trying to do too many internet things at once makes it hard to get anything done at all. Tabless Thursday is a vacation from distraction.

So, what do you say?! #TablessThursday for everyone! I dare you to try it out tomorrow. 

"Yeah. I did."

Two weeks ago, I led a hike and some outdoor programming for our local multi-level Girl Scout troop. The girls were divided into three groups: Trailblazers, Plant Detectives, and Bug/Animal Detectives. And the adults generally hung to the back (good job!). The animal detectives were super pumped to find a deer skeleton: "what is it?! I don't know... A dinosaur?!" The trailblazers learned quickly that "when you walk in the front, you get covered in all the cobwebs across the trail. But that means your teammates don't." They also led us through some pretty intense terrain: steep, rocky, muddy, and wet/slippery.  

Photo credit: Amanda H., Troop 5103

Photo credit: Amanda H., Troop 5103

A couple hours later, as I passed by two moms walking and talking in the parking lot, I overheard the one mom say to the other, "We were just walking along and it was nice, and then we got to that stream! And then it started going uphill, and I was encouraging the girls...and then we got to the first BIG uphill, and I was like 'I don't think I can do this...'" 

Now, I could've just kept walking at this point, and continued to carry on to wherever I was going after the parking lot. But I stopped and spun around and said, "But you did it, didn't you?!" 

She stopped, looked at me, stood up a little straighter, smiled, and said... 

"Yeah. I did."  

And THAT'S how you foster growth mindset, ladies and gentlemen.   

Let me introduce you to the youth development catchphrase of the moment: GROWTH MINDSET! It's pretty good stuff.

If an individual has a growth mindset, they believe that they can grow, learn, and improve. They see failures as opportunities to learn and try again. They are resilient. 

I first learned about growth mindset while listening to the audiobook version of Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. (I listened to several similar books around the same time, so it might've also been covered in Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success and/or How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character - I seriously recommend all three!)

While I was recently attending the Girl Scouts' Girl Experience conference, our national staff presented a session on Growth Mindset and how it relates to our work in Girl Scouting and the Three Processes, which we already use to foster this kind of trial-and-error thinking and resiliency. This isn't a new concept, by any means, but Dweck's work and the term "growth mindset" has packaged it neatly for us to explore, discuss, and engage in. 

Once you start reading, listening, or talking about it, you can't stop thinking about it and seeing examples all around you. Just like my interaction with the mom in the parking lot. It's like a really catchy song stuck in your head (probably Carly Rae Jepsen, if your head is anything like mine). 

Once your become aware of these concepts, you start to spot the fixed mindset everywhere. Look at the way we praise our children: ‘You’re so smart!’ ‘You are so good at basketball!’ That’s fuel for the fixed mindset. A growth mindset compliment praises effort rather than natural skill: ‘I’m so proud of how hard you worked on that project!’ ‘I could tell you listened to your coach’s comments - you really had your elbow under those jump shots today.’
— Switch, pg 165

Here's how you can incorporate growth mindset language into how you interact with kids or colleagues:

1. Focus on Hard Work. Add the six little words "you must've worked hard on that" to almost any compliment you give. Even the pros who bring a natural ease to their craft worked hard to get to where they are. A colleague once told me that I was a "natural facilitator." I said thank you, but should've told her that it was probably the 100th training I've led, and the first one wasn't nearly this good. 

2. Praise the Process. Whenever you can, focus less on the outcome and more on the process to get there. It sounds like this: "I like how you considered all the possibilities before making a decision," "I noticed that you asked for help when you needed it," "I love that when it didn't work, you made a new plan and tried again."

3. Notice Improvements. Even a little bit of progress can be a big success. Take notice and make a comment or give a compliment when a project is going in the right direction. That little boost of confidence will help her to keep going.

4. Ask about Next Time. Whether the project, task, or challenge was a success or not, ask about what she'll do different next time. This gives the opportunity to reflect on the entire process and start to be proactive for when a similar challenge presents itself in the future.

 

How can you inspire growth mindset within your family, your community, or where you work? What other ways can you ask questions or give compliments to spark growth mindset in others?

 

24 Hours with my Apple Watch

Over the last 24 hours, I've gotten personal with Apple's "most personal device yet." Over the last 9 months, I've read countless articles, blogs, and rumor sites getting to know my new best friend and awaiting its arrival. Now that it's here, there are a few things I realize...I didn't know. Shhhh, come closer. I'll tell you all the secrets.


I had a dream on our first night together that my brand new Apple Watch was faulty (so...a nightmare!). The time on the watch face was 20 minutes different than any other clock in my life - including my iPhone! I called the number and explained the problem. Their reply: "Apple Watch is the most precise timekeeping device of the century. It's correct. Your other clocks are incorrect." Hmmm.

You can imagine my relief upon comparing all my clocks this morning and finding them all to show precisely the same time.

All the disappointment of the shopping/buying experience aside [see almost any tech or consumer blog on the internet for more on that], actually receiving the Apple Watch was super fun and fulfilling! My original ship date wasn't until June, so you should've seen the look on my face on Sunday, when I received an email saying it would arrive in TWO DAYS! The countdown began.

Are you thinking about getting an Apple Watch, or waiting patiently for yours to arrive? Here's what I've learned in our first 24 hours together, that I didn't know from reading blogs and articles:

1. Forget typing. I don't know why I didn't realize this before, but there's really no way to type. I've become so reliant on typing as a primary means of communication (email, text, and social media) that I felt a little lost at first: Wait. How do I communicate if I can't type? ...Oh yeah... talking....

[5 seconds later]

Or just pick up the iPhone, which is sitting right next to me and type on it.  On the Apple Watch though, you can selected from pre-loaded reply options, or you can use dictation to reply to texts, but no typing. 

2. Talking to your mom is SO. COOL. when you're talking into your wrist. I had a quick phone chat with my parents at the end of the night, and I cannot describe how cool and Inspector Gadget-esque it is to talk to your mom on your wrist. Especially when you know she's on a landline on the other end. She said she could hear me just as clearly as if I were holding the phone.

Only issue: I tried changing into my pajamas and accidentally ended the call when my tshirt sleeve brushed against the screen just right. Oops.

3. "Stand" doesn't mean what you think it does. And neither does "exercise." There are three rings that track your movement and physical activity. The way that Apple Watch translated my actual movement from the day was surprising and even a little frustrating.

  • The Move ring tracks your movement, how many steps you take, the distance you walk, etc. I was accustomed to this from previously wearing a FitBit. It worked the way I expected it to.
  • The Stand ring tracks how much you're in a standing position vs. a sitting position. Your goal is to stand for at least 1 minute out of every hour. It gives you a friendly reminder at 10 minutes to the hour if you haven't accomplished your goal yet. The Stand ring should really be called the "take-a-lap-around-the-block" ring. After I realized that just standing (waiting for the microwave to finish boiling water for my coffee) wasn't going to count toward my standing credit, I started trying other kinds of upright movement every hour. I basically had to jog around my living room, thrash about, or walk outside to the front of the house and back for it to count. 
  • The Exercise ring is meant to track your more strenuous activity, but includes anything equivalent to a brisk walk. I, however, received 3 minutes of credit in the Exercise ring for folding my laundry. Score!

4. Battery life is ok. I was a little worried about this, since it seems like one of my phones is always plugged in because the low battery indicator is popping up at me. And all indications from Apple were that it would be a day's-worth of battery life. I've been pretty active with it all day, and I'm at 29% remaining. We'll see how that might change over its lifetime.

5. It's strange to get notifications that you can't act on. Because the Apple Watch is linked to my iPhone, I receive notifications and taps when someone posts to my Facebook or LinkedIn, and I can see the notification and/or dismiss it. But since there's no Facebook or LinkedIn app (yet, anyway?) I can't do anything with the notification, which just seems...strange.

6. You can tweet! It took me the full 24 hours to figure this one out. I opened the twitter app (since Facebook is M.I.A.) last night and it appeared that you could view recent tweets, retweet, and favorite, plus view trending, but you couldn't actually compose a new tweet. Ah ha! But you can! I totally forgot about force touch. You can access additional menu options by physically pushing down on the screen - that's a motion that will take some getting used to. But, there it was. The option to compose a new tweet. I'm not sure how you add a #hashtag through dictation. I'll explore that tomorrow.

Any other Apple Watch owners out there? What surprised you in your first 24 hours?

 

Can Supermodels Wear Science Goggles?!

In a land far, far away…where science is cool and messiness is king…supermodels ALWAYS wear science goggles. Explore how you can incorporate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) into your program without having a PhD or spending millions of dollars on (boring) science equipment. Come make a mess, craft a guess (aka: hypothesis) and walk away with a recipe for success.