How to Make Any Criticism Constructive

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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Criticism is hard to hear, because no one wants to hear that they’re doing something wrong. But criticism can be a gift, if you know what to look for. 

We often hear about “constructive criticism,” which is meant to help us improve (that’s why it’s constructive). But even well-meaning criticism can feel bad, because it makes us believe negative things about ourselves.

How to Break the Criticism Cycle

Criticism makes us feel bad because we believe that if we were doing things right, there wouldn’t be anything to criticize. Therefore, criticism means we did poorly, and we believe it’s a sign of our failure.

Criticism does not mean failure.

Every final version of something you see has gone through the process of critique and editing. Sometimes we self-edit and critique, and sometimes we ask others to do it for us, like a proofreader, a workshop group, or sending it to a friend and asking for their thoughts. Sometimes we receive criticism we didn’t ask for, and when criticism comes as a surprise we often feel defensive and hurt.

Each time we receive criticism, whether it’s asked for or not, we have an opportunity to learn from it and turn it into something constructive and helpful.

Taking Constructive Criticism

When faced with a criticism, get curious instead of defensive. Ask yourself some questions about it, like: 

  1. Is this criticism true?
  2. Is this criticism something I need to change to improve myself or my work?
  3. Can I use this experience to learn something?

Is it true?

Sometimes people will criticize you and it’s something you should change to be a better version of yourself. But other times, criticism may not actually be relevant. 

When criticism hits us hardest, it’s usually because we already believe a negative thought about ourselves about a similar thing. If I feel like someone is criticizing my writing, it hurts more if I already believe I’m not a good enough writer and they’re echoing that negative belief.

But ask yourself, really deeply ask, if the criticism is true.

And also ask if your interpretation of the criticism is true.

They said I’m a bad parent. Did they say that? Or did they point out to you that your car seat wasn’t installed properly? Is your car seat installed properly?

They said I’m not qualified as an expert on the subject I talk about. Did they say that? Or did they make a broad statement about your field that you took personally? Are you qualified?

They said I’m not good at my job. Did they say that? Or did you get feedback in a review on areas that need improvement? Do you need to improve those areas of your performance?

But if it’s criticism that can help you improve, here’s how to sift out the constructive bits.

Is this something I need to change?

Once you determine if something is true or not, the next step is deciding if it’s something you need to change.

They said my carseat wasn’t installed properly. If this is true, do you need to change it? Absolutely, yes. It’s a safety concern. Go fix your carseat.

They said I’m not qualified. Is this true? Make a list of the reasons you’re qualified to do your work and if you actually are qualified, move along and get back to work. If you determine that you really aren’t qualified for something, then make a plan to get what you need in order to feel confident in your qualifications.

I got a negative review at work. Is the criticism of your work performance true? If so, make a plan with your supervisor to check in on your improvements over the next several months so your next review is outstanding.

Can I learn something?

Whether or not a criticism is true, can you learn from the experience?

They said my carseat wasn’t installed properly. In this example, you learned about proper carseat installation. This is great information to have for the safety of your kids.

They said I’m not qualified. In this situation, you learned about all the things that do qualify you and add evidence to your list of reasons to feel confident when you’re facing imposter syndrome. In your research of additional qualifications, you might have also learned some easy ways to up your credentials to feel even more confident.

I got a negative review at work. In this example, it’s a great time to commit to learning new things at work to take your performance to the next level in your career. The things you improve and learn will be great for your resume too.

Being Vulnerable to Criticism

Criticism feels so uncomfortable because it makes us feel vulnerable. Putting yourself out there into the world as a writer or artist can feel extra vulnerable and intimidating simply because it means people will critique our work.

Someone left a comment on a review of my book that I’m capitalizing on millennials’ insecurities. 

This commenter is criticizing me – but is a book that targets millennials’ insecurities something I need to change? Actually, no. Because my book helps people overcome those insecurities. 

This criticism gave me some clarity. I do hope to attract millennials with insecurities to my book. Because my book is here to help them. 

However, I also received criticism that I didn’t push far enough on certain topics in my book, and this is relevant criticism that I would change next time. I was too timid and didn’t want to make waves with divisive opinions. I value this criticism and will address it in my next book, or a later version of Gaslighting. 

Is There Non-Constructive Criticism?

Absolutely. Sometimes, people’s criticism truly is just bullshit that’s about them.

People who criticize you for not being part of their religion, not living up to their standards or expectations, or not trusting you to make your own choices are people who are criticizing you to control you.

This is not constructive criticism, this is a boundary violation and manipulation tactic. You’re free to simply ignore them and take distance from people who criticize to hurt you.

PS. You can buy my book here!

 

How to Work From Home for the First Time

A lot of us are working from home for the foreseeable future, some for the first time. It’s a big change to routine and it makes everything feel a little bit off. 

I’m used to working from home a couple days a week, but this feels different for me too.

Because it’s not really “working from home.” It’s being at home while big global events are happening and it’s not safe to do things you normally do…and trying to do your normal work.

It’s hard to focus, because you just want to go check the news all the time. But when it’s time for the show to go on, here are some tips for making work from home during this time feel a little more normal: 

  1. Shower and get dressed. It’s tempting to work all day in your PJs, but freshening up in the morning and getting some clean undies on will help you start the day in a good mood. This does not mean uncomfortable work clothes, just something clean and fresh. Stay comfy!
  2. Make a ritual. Normally we have a commute to mark the transition into and out of “work mode.” Create a morning and evening ritual to mark the start and end to your work day. This could mean making a cup of coffee and listening to your usual morning podcast or audiobook on the couch, taking an evening walk, or anything that helps you separate your day for work life balance when you work from home.
  3. Turn off your email. Just because you work from home and you’re home 24/7 doesn’t mean work is now 24/7. Separate work time and personal time by turning off your work computer or email program when it’s quitting time.
  4. Take breaks. Take your full lunch break and go outside if the weather is nice. Walk around the block for some fresh air. Take regular water and bathroom breaks, and give your eyes a break from screens at least once an hour for a few minutes.
  5. Make a shiny object list. When you’re working from home, you might be tempted to put in a load of laundry, quickly do the dishes, or take out the trash. These are fine to work into your breaks, but if you try to keep them in your brain you’ll get distracted. Keep a notepad nearby so you can write down the things you want to handle during break times. It’s also perfectly fine to save the household stuff for after the workday is complete; you don’t have to be the world’s most efficient person.
  6. Downtime is sacred. When you work from home, all the days can run together and Saturday might not feel any different. Make sure to plan relaxing, restorative, and creative time for your downtime so that you aren’t stressing over being productive all the time.

Any other advice for our work from home friends? Drop it in the comments. 

PS. I’m teaching folks how to improve their boundaries after trauma in a six week class. We start April 13, so there’s still time to reserve your spot. Shoot me an email and we’ll get you on the list.

How to Be the Best at What You Do

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Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

What if you could wake up and live life as if you’re one of the best at what you do?

One of the best teachers, writers, parents? One of the best vet techs? One of the best coaches? One of the best gardeners?

It’s hard at first, because it’s so common to downplay our accomplishments and dreams. We want to be humble. 

Stop being humble. Be one of the best.

The Top Ten Percent

If you were in the top 10% of what you do, whether it’s your day job, your life’s work, a hobby, or just showing up in your life, what would you do differently?

How would you show up? How would you manage your time? What would you let go of and what would you focus on? 

If I was in the top 10% of content marketers, I’d be regularly learning new things about marketing – because that field is always changing. So I’ve started taking online courses to support the work I do in my day job, and it’s paying off. I’ve been able to hire someone new for my content team because I’m driving a great strategy.

If I was in the top 10% of authors, I’d never stop talking about my book. I’d be talking to local bookstores about putting on events (when we can gather again) and I’d be on podcasts and doing interviews for other blogs and magazines. I started putting myself out there even though it’s scary, but I’ve sold my book at a convention, been featured as a source in a magazine, been booked to speak at my local library, and I’ve started booking podcast interviews.

But I still hesitate sometimes. 

What’s holding me back?

Fighting Imposter Syndrome

I’m scared people will think badly of me for speaking highly of myself and my work. Imposter syndrome is so noisy sometimes. I see other writers and think they’re the real deal and I must just be pretending. 

But if I want to be a top 10% author, I need to act like one. 

To beat imposter syndrome, try these tips:

  • Find the evidence that you’re already the best
    • What are the super cool “unbelievable” successes you dance about in the moment and then conveniently forget when you’re trying to think about them? Make a real list on real paper.
  • Keep a record of positive feedback
    • Copy and paste your positive reviews, client testimonials, and anything else that makes you feel amazing about the work you do
  • Use negative feedback to find constructive criticism
    • If someone’s just being a jerk, ignore/block them, but if a negative opinion of your work has the potential to improve your work, use it as an opportunity to become better, closer to that top 10%

I’m the real deal, even when I don’t feel like it. And so are you!

PS. If you’re tired of the ways society tells you you’re part of the problem, please buy my book (it’s less than the cost of a pizza) and leave a five star review so others can find it. It’s definitely one of my top ten accomplishments and I’d love for you to read it. 

How to create a healthy work-life balance

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Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

Finding the right balance between work, rest, and play can be difficult to master. While success at work is important, so is your mental and physical health. Here are some tips to help you maximize your personal time so you can be your best self in and out of the workplace.

Work smarter, not harder

Your time is a precious resource, and making sure that you are always making the best use of it can be tricky. One of the ways that many people do this is by delegating tasks when appropriate. Knowing when and how to delegate is a very difficult skill, but when done correctly, it not only helps give you some time back, but also shows others that you trust them. Delegating work can help bring a team together, and in the end, create a better overall product.

Some companies have even started delegating tasks to robots. These robots help companies remove repetitive tasks, and make sure that the employees can spend their time on more interesting and important jobs.

If it’s within your means, you can also find a way to delegate housekeeping and home tasks as well, such as using a grocery delivery service (tip well, and in cash!) or hiring an occasional housekeeper so you can maximize your home time.

Find interests outside of the office

We are a society of tired people. To help break that working for the weekend mentality, finding ways to bring downtime and fun into your regular routine can make a big difference. Making sure that you have something to focus on outside of the office can help you mentally de-stress from all the pressures a workday brings.

Personal activities and hobbies can range from anything like learning how to knit, reading a book, or even just binge-watching a new series of your favorite TV show. While the main purpose of these activities is to get your mind off of work, having a hobby can actually help you in the office too.

Taking a little vacation time is also a great way to stop worrying about work. A nice change of scenery can do wonders, and it doesn’t even have to be across the country. Go explore anything within driving distance, make a day out of it. Get out of the office and go find something fun to do.

Pay attention to you

Many people get overwhelmed with stress and forget to take the time to check on themselves. If you’re starting to feel a little too much pressure at work, saying “no” to people isn’t something you should feel badly about

Make sure your self care routine is solid. This isn’t all about bubble baths — make sure you schedule time to shower and wash your hair, go to bed on time, and prepare meals that make you feel good. When we’re overwhelmed, these basics are often easy to overlook. Living off granola bars and dry shampoo is okay in a pinch but you’ll feel better if you can get the basics handled.

Physical exercise is also a great way to reduce stress. This doesn’t mean you have to spend 3 hours in the gym every day, but find a good way to get out and get moving in a joyful way that feels good. There’s always an interesting way to get your body moving, and you’ll find that it helps deal with some of that mental stress.

Use your time effectively

One of the best ways to make sure that you are staying on track is by setting goals. Similar to New Year’s resolutions, goals are very easy to set and then simply forget about. When creating goals, try and create SMART goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

SMART goals can greatly help with your time management skills, and make sure that you always have something to strive for. Break down your long-term goals into 90 day goals with monthly or even weekly tasks to keep moving forward.

Utilizing your workday hours to prioritize and focus your work means you can leave work at work and not be glued to your email or computer after-hours. Bringing your job into your personal time is never good for your mental health.

Take a break from technology (every now and then)

Avoiding technology can feel like an impossible feat, but making sure that you aren’t surrounded by it at all times is important, especially before going to sleep. Technology can affect the way you sleep, so try and have at least 30 minutes of technology-free time before going to bed. It will help you get a better night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go.

 According to a study by Udemy, 36% of millennial and Gen Z say they spend 2 or more hours per workday looking at their phones for personal activities. While this isn’t always a bad thing, make sure that you are aware of how much time you spend on technology at work, and make sure that you’re getting enough work done at the same time.

Work-life balance is often a mystery to most people, and it’s ok to not have all the answers. Trying a few of these tips might be able to help you or someone else, and as long as you’re always trying to move forward personally or at your job, that’s progress in itself.

Nine Reasons Spring is the Best Time of Year for Job Hunting

Spring Clean Your Job Search

If you started 2020 with “new year, new job” vibes but haven’t had luck yet, stay the course! Now that warmer weather is upon us and you’re airing out your home, you can bring those spring cleaning vibes into your job search as well. 

Many companies are finalizing a fiscal year budget for the upcoming year beginning July 1, so spring is when they’re getting approvals for new hires.

Here are some key reasons why this is the time of year you should really be focusing on your job hunt and tips to make the most of your search.

 

Business Events

 

As the weather gets warmer, spring is a time for families and friends, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s also the time for businesses to get together with all employees, enjoy food and drinks, and share each other’s company.

Even if it’s not hiring time, it’s a great way to start networking. Businesses tend to host a lot more events during this chilled-out season, so attend things like fundraisers, open houses, and whatever opportunities you can to mingle with the right people that can help with job openings. 

 

Spring Parties

 

A spring party at a friend’s house can even be a good chance to network. You never know who might be there, so it’s always important to make a good first impression with everyone you meet. Get to know the other attendees and if someone has a job related to what you’re interested in, ask them if there are any other positions available and mention your search. 

 

Be Casual

 

As per Fran Healey, a career writer at 1Day2Write and Next Coursework, “the important thing here is approaching the event the right way, so you’re not too business formal or desperate. Let the information about your job search come up in organic conversation.”

New Graduates

If you’re going to be graduating from college in May, you can start looking already for entry-level positions to secure an offer for after graduation. It’s worth mentioning in your cover letter that you’re about to graduate and you’ll be ready to start as soon as the semester ends.

 

Limited Competition

 

Most people who are job searching, regardless of whether they’re employed or not, will take a break during this relaxed season. They hear the myth that job hunts aren’t as successful toward the end of a fiscal year.

That means the numbers are in your favor. There are still job openings and employers are hiring, so put your name forward while there are limited candidates. 

 

What About July?

 

It’s certainly possible to get hired in May and June because a lot of managers want to check that off their to-do list before their vacation. If you don’t hear back immediately, it’s nothing to worry about. A lot of employers want to review the resumes and set up holiday season interviews but will ultimately offer the job in July. This trend happens often enough that it’s worth continuing to apply for positions.

 

Seasonal Jobs

 

Companies will also be looking to hire someone for additional help over the sometimes-busy spring season, depending on the industry. That means there are a lot of seasonal job openings. These are a great way to earn a little extra money, but they can also lead to a full-time position, lasting long after the season. Your position is almost like an interview on the job. You can show your worth to employers by making yourself invaluable. 

 

Go Above and Beyond

 

If you land a seasonal springtime job, you want to do your best, and show your employers why they need to get you a permanent position to keep you on after this relaxed season. Dan Doyle, a journalist at Brit Student and Write My X, says to “talk to the boss and get to know your management team well. Let them know in time that you’re interested in staying on with the company. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about your career goals.” 

 

Avoid Delays

 

There’s no reason to take a break over spring, because there’s no time like now. Don’t make waiting for the main working year an excuse; although you should still be able to enjoy warmer weather and planned vacations, it doesn’t mean you can’t keep looking for your dream job at the same time. During any scheduled downtime, take a few moments each day to submit your resume to a position or two. 

Make this job search a routine that you continue through your vacation schedule, and you’ll find that you can still enjoy them to the fullest. You might get a bonus vacation gift of a new position.

 

Bethany Tate, a content marketing professional at Academic Brits and PhD Kingdom, loves to help her readers with their professional and career development. She is dedicated to finding ways for people to apply successfully to their dream positions and make positive impacts at their new companies. She also writes for Origin Writings.