• Fri, Dec 23 2011

Bullish: Use The Holidays To Get Ahead (While Sitting On Your Mom’s Couch)

Decide there’s something so disgusting to you that you’ll never do it again

I have mixed opinions about New Year’s resolutions (see last week’s Bullish: Screw New Year’s Resolutions – Try Designing Your Career), especially since science has determined that willpower exists in limited quantities — you don’t want to spend it on something like “giving up gum.”

However, I do believe in the motivating power of disgust, which I wrote about in Bullish: How to Motivate Yourself to be Motivated. If you decide something is so disgusting that you’ll never do it again, you no longer have to expend willpower, the same way you don’t really consider peeing your pants, even when a bathroom is not in convenient proximity to you.

What’s gross? How about “eating breakfasts made of only carbs” or “going to sleep on a weeknight without planning my goals for the next day” or “showing up at a meeting unprepared to impress the boss.” Gross. Try to feel the disgust.

Once I realized how sugar sticks to your teeth, now I can’t un-think it — I haven’t eaten dessert in about five years because I’m literally grossed out by it. I’m not trying to be a superior bitch here — my four food groups are espresso, booze, fat, and salt (see Bullish Life: Gentlewomen Don’t Crash Diet). But, if I wanted to give up any of those four food groups, I’d use the same technique — do a little research on just what alcohol does to your liver or salt to your arteries, and then cultivate a healthy sense of disgust.

I’m quite an introvert, but I may have to cultivate a sense of disgust for not networking. Oh my god, I haven’t been to a networking event in four months — nasty!

Ask for something far, far in advance

Are you going to need recommendations for grad school? Do you want to take a two-month honeymoon? Do you want your coworkers to invest in your company?

I just discovered that, in June, I’m going to need a supervisor and a peer to each write a review of all the work I’ve done in my entire master’s degree program. That sounds like a lot of work. So, now — six months in advance — is a great time to ask.

Asking a big favor from someone two weeks in advance sounds like maybe you’re not clear on how big a favor it is — and therefore, maybe you won’t give appropriate gratitude, or pay the favor back appropriately later. If you ask very far in advance, you’re acknowledging the magnitude of what you’re asking.

Also, if your stab at lifestyle and career design involves a sabbatical in a foreign country, or some kind of crazy plan wherein you work from a treehouse you built with your own hands, you are more likely to get what you want the further in advance you ask. Read more about this in Bullish: Extreme Advance Planning for Very Smart Women.

Get your finances in order

I finally joined Mint.com. It’s easy, but you’ll probably spend two hours linking up all your accounts and categorizing your expenses.

Most immediate cool feature: all your purchases from all your different cards are aggregated, and you can assign them to various categories, and then you’ll get a pie chart of your spending. As I start various companies in the new year, I’ll be writing more about personal finance — for instance, when I think it’s smart to be frugal, and when it makes sense to hire a maid and use the time to optimize one’s Google ads.

The holidays are also a fine time to get your damn receipts in order (at least for those of us with freelance income). Organizing receipts is remarkably like gift-wrapping, actually. Kind of old-school. Easy to do while your mom is attaching ribbons to things.

Win at knowing more than your older and more experienced colleagues

Read a book that recently came out about whatever it is that you do. If you’re self-employed, blog about it. If you work for a boss, write up a short summary of the book, and end it with “actionable items” — a bulleted list of tips from the book that would actually help your company’s business.
Send this to the boss, who ideally will forward it to others, with your name on it. Don’t call it a summary — call it a “briefing.” Important people love to be “briefed” because then they feel like Kiefer Sutherland in 24.
You now look like someone who has an active intellectual and professional life outside of office hours. Your boss may start to see you are more of a peer, or at least as someone who has options outside of the company. The more of an outside professional life you have, the less you can be made to be someone’s bitch.
If this works out, you might end up in charge of some kind of company e-newsletter or something, or contributing to the company blog, or maintaining the Twitter account. Maybe busy executives become addicted to your concise and actionable briefings. Fabulous.
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