Categories
Inspiration

Counting the Shifts

Having experienced freedom in the past I am likely more spoiled than most. I know the pleasure that comes from waking up when you like and having the freedom to arrange your schedule as desired.

That is why on some days I dread going to work. Even as much as I enjoy my job I watch the clock tick closer to my shift with dismay.

I’ve figured out a way to handle that. I count the shifts until my next day off.

“Two more shifts,” I’ll tell myself as I groggily sip my coffee in the morning. “Two more shifts and I’m free for a day. I can do this. I can do anything I set my mind to. These next two shifts will take me closer to freedom. I can work a measly two shifts.”

When the going gets rough at work I remind myself that every penny I earn takes me that much closer to re-attaining my freedom. I want my freedom, don’t I? I can stick it out a shift or two in order to achieve my goal.

I don’t worry about the long view. I don’t allow myself to think about how long this might take. I focus on the shifts in front of me and keep moving forward.

Every single day I take one baby step closer to my goal. Before I leave for work I do a little bit on this website and work on my next book so when I become frustrated I can remind myself that I’m a little bit closer. Every single shift I remind myself that I will earn X amount of money in exchange for my time; if I guard my finances accordingly I’ll have that much more to invest so I’ll grow even closer.

Sometimes I even count the days until I can invest again or until the next round of dividends will hit my account.

I thought those little mental games were silly until this morning, when I awoke to find a text from a friend.

<Three more shifts,> the text read. <I can do three more shifts. This is going to be a good day for both of us.>

She signed it with a smiley at the end.

When you can’t find the motivation to continue, count the days until your next day off. Remind yourself of the little things you do that take you closer to your goal. You are the Turtle. Each day you may not make a lot of progress but that progress adds up with time.

One day you will wake up and realize that you’ve made it. Just by taking one step at a time, one day at a time you made it to the very end.

You can do this. I know you can, because I have faith in you.

Hang in there, my friend.

Categories
Business Happiness

Employee Motivation

Once upon a time I worked in a restaurant. On this particular day, the owner was leaning against the wall as the store crew navigated the lunch rush.

I was manning the front counter that day, taking orders as fast as I could for the crowd when one of my regulars stepped forward.

“Hey, Mrs. R!” I called out happily. “You want your usual? How’s work?”

The woman smiled, nodding as she shared a slice of her day while I punched in her order.

“Annie, come here,” the owner called out when I finished. Expecting trouble, the manager motioned for one of the other workers to replace me while I obeyed the request.

“Was that lady a friend of yours?” the owner asked.

“No, sir,” I replied cautiously.

“But you not only knew her name, you entered her order without her even telling you what she wanted,” he persisted.

I brightened. “Yes, sir! Mrs. R comes in every weekday for lunch. She always orders the exact same thing so I’ve got it memorized.”

The owner of the store frowned. “But how do you know her name?” he persisted.

I blinked. “She wears a nametag. I always call people by name when I can work out what it is. Nametags make it easy,” I replied.

He asked a few more questions about the practice. I explained the tips and tricks about using names to cultivate rapport in response.

Then I stood there for several long moments as he gave me a long look. Did I do something wrong? I wondered at the unusual examination.

The man motioned for the general manager to approach.

“GM, give Annie here a five-cent raise on her next paycheck,” he informed the woman. “Annie, let me know if it’s not there. I want to show you that I appreciate the effort you go to in order to make the customers happy. Thank you.”

Five cents isn’t much for a part-time employee. It translated to a mere dollar a week, less than that after taxes. That wasn’t the important part, however. The important part was that he’d noticed me and had rewarded my efforts in some small way.

I worked even harder after that.

Employers, Take Note

It doesn’t take much effort to say that you appreciate the efforts of an employee. It doesn’t take but a moment to pat someone on the back and say “well done.” It barely affects the bottom line when you toss someone an incremental raise.

Yet those tiny things mean so much to us workers.

It encourages us. It shows us that we are noticed. It demonstrates that we are appreciated.

And it benefits your bottom line because it motivates us to work even harder.

You think about that. Happy workers translates into loyal workers. Loyal workers are the ones that will bust their ass for you when you need it. They are the ones that will come in when you call on their day off. They are the ones who will look out for you and prevent shrinkage when they catch it. They are the ones who will show up, each and every shift, determined to do the best they can to make your business grow.

Remember that the next time you catch one of your workers doing something awesome.

***

Readers, share this post with your friends. Share this post in a place where your boss can see it because I suspect that many small employers don’t realize just how important the little things are to us, and how tiny little efforts can motivate us to work even harder and increase employee retention.

It will benefit all of us to increase awareness.

Categories
Inspiration Investments

The Art of Staying Motivated

The other night I came home after an exhausting shift at work. I plopped down in front of my computer to check my emails before engaging in my nightly habit of reading a bit before I went to bed.

As I sat there I thought “what’s the point?” What was the point in reading more when I was so drained? It’s going to take years for me to achieve my goal, so what would be the harm in skipping a single night?

That’s when I realized I had a problem. I was losing my motivation.

It’s easy to lose motivation when all you can make are baby steps. When you have to wait days and weeks before you can take another step forward. But that is the reality of my life. I can’t afford to plunk down thousands of dollars and then wait to reap the profits. I have to invest in stages while working to increase my knowledge during my downtime. While I know that every few months I will receive a small payoff in dividends it is a cold hard fact that this project is going to take a while to really begin to pay off.

So how do I stay motivated? What can I do to encourage myself to move forward on the nights when I’m too tired to think, much less move?

With a heavy heart as I considered this I skipped my nightly reading and went to bed. I’d have to find a solution soon or risk giving up.

A few days later I walked to the store to purchase supplies. On a whim I headed to the school supplies section, thinking that a new pencil or ink pen would be a treat. I didn’t need one but sometimes it’s the little things that encourage us to continue moving forward. I found this:

Meet my new Goal Journal. I photographed it with the little piece of inspiration I carry with me daily, one of the silver rounds from my very first investment.

On the very first page I wrote down my goal. I wanted to see it every single time I opened the notebook.

Once that was completed I was stumped. Do I use the journal to chronicle all of my thoughts or to keep track of specifics? I decided to dedicate a single page each month to a cold, hard summary of my progress. I’ve decided to share it with you now.

I didn’t tell you at the time but I began this journey on my birthday earlier this year. I was hesitant to share because the idea sounded stupid even to me. Seriously, an old woman working part time for minimum wage who wants to enter the financial ring with the Big Dogs? The idea was laughable! Who the hell do I think I am, even considering this? Because of my inner demons I kept quiet until I became comfortable enough with the idea to have the courage to share.

The next month I decided to jump in with both feet. I scraped together every single penny I could spare from my book royalties and my income tax refund, took a deep breath, and kissed that money goodbye. I knew that I didn’t know much; I could very well lose it all, but I had to at least try, you know? Wishing wasn’t going to get me anywhere without definite action:

I managed to score free trading from my brokerage until August 8th. Sometimes it pays to ask plenty of questions. I took advantage of the blessing to make a few experimental trades so that I could figure out just how this stock market thing worked. I was completely clueless and I knew it. To my surprise I did pretty well. Not only did I manage to profit from my trades, I even received my very first round of dividends. I was chuffed!

July was the last full month that I qualified for free trading. I’m sure I drove the workers at my brokerage batty with all of my questions that month! I discovered the difference between exchanges, the fact that my brokerage will not allow anyone with a balance of less than $25,000 to trade on certain exchanges “to protect them,” and lodged a formal complaint about not being allowed to invest in the real “penny stocks” — those whose shares trade for literal pennies. A worker there actually called me to apologize personally for the limitation after that stunt and he helped me figure out exactly what I was allowed to invest in through the brokerage. I modified my search criteria appropriately, albeit grudgingly. As I explained, the five or ten bucks I’d planned to toss towards those particular purchases would not be near enough to budge the stock prices and I was well aware of the risk I was taking. By this point I was literally kissing my money goodbye as I transferred it to my brokerage account, and I STILL feel that my brokerage should eliminate that limitation.

When August is over I’ll add another page to my journal as I continue to chronicle my adventure. This will allow me to look back and see a visual reminder of just how far I’ve come. Due to the fact that I don’t require much to live on I’ve managed to accomplish quite a bit over these past few months. When you add the money I invested in early August I’ve managed to top $1,500 invested in the stock market–most of which came from my minimum-wage day job.

I’m not sure if I should be proud or terrified at the fact that I’ve hit it so hard. Fifteen hundred dollars isn’t exactly chump change for me. That’s three months’ worth of living expenses in my world. I guess time will tell as I continue this journey. In the meantime I have a physical reminder of my progress for those nights when I wonder why I’m even trying.

In addition to my goal notebook I carry that silver round in my pocket as I move through my day. Whenever things get tough at work I dig it out, turn it over in my hands, and repeat my goal:

I will do whatever it takes to invest $60,000 in the stock market.

I hope it’s enough.

What do you do to keep motivated about your goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.