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January 3, 2017

Only the 1/11 session is available for sign up right now — but here you go.

total-audit-disaster

CPA Magazine and My Left Eyebrow

December 11, 2016

An impromptu interview by CPA magazine at a recent show.  I’m finding that my left eyebrow is the most expressive part of my face.

How Saving Mr. Banks Relates to Reconciliations

October 8, 2014

WhySo the movie came out almost a year ago, but I am a big fan of watching movies way after its run at the theatres. Watching movies on the couch is so much better – the blanket, the pause button and the bathroom are all within easy reach.

Saving Mr. Banks is about how P.L. Travers created Mary Poppins and the Banks family. It illustrated the author’s childhood events that may have influenced Mary Poppins’ story and character design.  I’ve seen Marry Poppins probably a dozen times.  But after watching Saving Mr. Banks and then watching Marry Poppins again, which of course I did right away, it was like watching a whole new movie.  Because only then was I able to notice the subtle details and understand why certain things were the way they were.

It’s the same with work.  When we understand WHY we do certain seemingly routine things, we can’t help but make our work more impactful.

For example:  Why do we have to produce balance sheet reconciliations every month?

If I don’t understand the significance behind this, I may be tempted to do a wishy washy job.  At the end of the day, it’s just a pile of signed paperwork anyway, so why does it matter how much effort I put into it?  Why bother chasing down open items? Why bother getting that supporting detail?

But for someone who understands how the reconciliation activity is intimately tied to prevention and detection of financial reporting error and fraud, he will be less tempted to rush through his work, because he knows what this means to the financial health of the organization.  He’ll also be better equipped to identify exceptions and issues that will be material to management, because he has the big picture in mind.

Not to switch gears on you, but let me tell you something about my bedroom.

I make my bed every morning.  My husband is not in the habit of making the bed, and I never ask him to do it.  But if he gets up later than I do, he will always make our bed.  It’s not something he does naturally, but he knows I love it so he doesn’t mind.

This is a man who knows the WHY behind bed-making.

Shortcut to Breaking Bad Habits

July 8, 2013

I’m quitting coffee, and it’s not easy.  But being a grown person means that you do what’s best for yourself and kick your own butt when necessary.

Habits are hard to break, whether good or bad, as we are all creatures of routine.  But what I didn’t realize until recently is that breaking habits is NOT about forcing ourselves to undo the action. That is a path to failure because there is simply not enough willpower to go around!  (I was so happy after finding this research.  The internet is truly a great feel-good tool.)

Rather, the secret to breaking a habit is to create a small and desirable alternative habit.  The key word here is small.  Why?  A small habit is easier to form and do not require extreme discipline.

Let’s take my example.  Stopping coffee cold turkey is hard.  But drinking a glass of water before reaching for the coffee is easy.  My small habit is to drink a glass of water in the morning.  Then I decide if I still want coffee.  If I do, then I take my coffee.  Most of the time, I don’t want any more liquids in my system after that glass of water.

Let’s take another example.  Sometimes the office chit-chat takes up too much time, and we end up staying late to finish our work.  We want to go home on time, but resisting office socializing is hard (unless you’re a grump).  So what’s the small habit?  Duck out and work somewhere more private during the hour when the office is most rambunctious.  Or, schedule your calls for when colleagues nearby are most chatty, so that you are out of the equation by default.

Small new habits become routine very quickly.  It provides an alternative to continuing on with the old habit, and lets you gracefully exit your “old ways” without having to summon up enormous personal strengths.

How to Pick Projects

March 26, 2013

Finding the right project to work on is just like getting a new boyfriend:  Choosing wisely is half the battle.

Sometimes you can’t say no because it’s an order from the boss, or because your mom already set up the date with that guy’s mom, and it’s imperative that you show up.  But other times you can pick who you want to meet, or what projects you want to take on.

The most visible assignments are not always the best ones to get involved in, and the most skilled individuals are not necessarily the ones you want to work with.  That’s the biggest lesson I learned in the last ten years of project work.

Instead, here is what really matters:

  • Personal Control and Contribution.  There is nothing more mind-numbing than working on something where you have little personal control over the outcome and few opportunities to contribute meaningfully.  Well-suited projects allow you to wield a certain level of judgment and decision-making freedom.
  • Length of Time.  Long-term projects invariably come with long-winded office politics and lots of folks to please.  If you’d like to leave work at a decent hour each day, best to avoid getting tangled up in this kind of administration.  Shorter assignments yield visible results faster.  They also don’t have time for scope changes and project management wizardry.
  • People.  Work with friends.  Research has shown that having just one friend in the workplace dramatically increases job satisfaction.  Same goes for projects.  Everyone at work will be fairly competent (we all passed the interview process, after all).  So, choosing your teammates based on skill set won’t matter as much as you think.  Seeing a friendly face every day, however, will make a big difference in your workday.

The time we spend at work should be, as much as possible, engaging and joyful.  Everyone has a certain amount of control over this by choose our commitments carefully.

Beauty and the Beast

February 11, 2013

Image

I’m in New York for work, and of course, so is the Blizzard. 

As 5,000 flights get cancelled, including mine, I narrowly escaped flight carnage by finagling this funky itinery that gets me out of the city before the weather kicks in full force, except that my travel time is now 18 hours. 

There’s a pile of work waiting for me; I can’t find an outlet to charge my devices at the airport; I’m walking around in sweat pants and bad hair; I start to feel sorry for myself. 

We all experience times of beauty, when everything goes our way.  We tackle work with gusto, get home in time for dinner, tell good jokes and feel in control.  Then there are the other times, when the beast invades our inner peace:  Procrastination, Frustration, Anger, Distress.  These sabotaging thoughts that get in the way of us doing our best work.  

These non-productive moments are part of us.  There is no way to prevent them from invading our minds.  But what gets us down doesn’t have to keep us down.  A good trick that I use to snap out of a funk is by taking a break to embrace my inner beast. 

Here’s my airport formula to wallow a bit and then get back on my feet:

  • Fast food value meal – Burger, Coke, fries, the works.  I don’t eat fast food except at airports.  It’s like eating a vat of delicious frying oil.  But I work out, so it’s OK.
  • Chocolate.  While I carefully deliberated between premium Dark Chocolate Truffle and Milk Chocolate with Almonds, I can’t help but feel good about my career.  I am even more selective about how I spend my time at work than I am about choosing candy bars.  I love candy bars.  So this must mean that I really enjoy my work.
  • A trashy gossip magazine, like People Magazine – the more vapid the better.  In this case, I took it from another passenger who left it on her seat when she boarded her flight.  At that moment, I felt a lot like the vagabonds in the city who smoke other people’s discarded cigarette butts.

I grab an empty table, kick up my feet and spread out my spoils.  I’m a mom to a toddler, so I eat fast.  The magazine reads even faster since today’s celebrities are all teenagers and I don’t recognize any of them. 

Once I feel properly indulged with bad food and celebrity news, the beast is placated.  I can then get back to my computer (with greasy fingers) and onto the business at hand.

Hey, we all do things we’re not proud of sometimes.  But if these moments can be used to get us back on track, then I say embrace it.

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