Alyssa Gelbard is a leading career consultant/personal branding expert, and also the Founder and President of Resume Strategists, a career consulting firm that is so much more than just resumes. RS helps clients take the next steps in their careers by providing the tools and guidance on how to present themselves as ideal candidates for the positions they seek. Alyssa’s personalized, strategic approach has enabled clients to confidently market themselves in an increasingly competitive job environment for over 14 years. She has a background in strategic marketing, branding and communications and has held senior positions in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, including technology consulting, research/higher education and sports marketing. You can learn more about Alyssa here and get in touch with her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Distracted Executive: What would you say is your biggest distraction when you are working these days?
Alyssa Gelbard: Like many people, I receive a large volume of emails every day. I make an effort not to constantly check email and interrupt what I’m doing. I have developed the self control to wait and read/respond at a designated time so I don’t take the focus away from the task at hand. It’s a challenge to do this (I’m a supreme multi-tasker), especially if I see an email that I’ve been anticipating… but it has helped me to stay focused.
TDE: What has become your greatest challenge around managing time? Or even better, what do you notice as far as your clients' challenges around managing time these days?
AG: My schedule is jammed-packed every day. If I do spend more time than anticipated on something, I try to figure out why it happened so in the future, I can allot more time for it or adjust my process so I can be more efficient.
The greatest time-challenge our clients face is effectively managing the time required for a strong job search. I advise them to create short, weekly lists with realistic and achievable tasks (vs. one long list with vague time frames). If a seemingly overwhelming to-do list is broken down into doable chunks with reasonable time requirements, then clients are more likely to accomplish the important things that are essential for their job search.
TDE: What is your very best practice for being as efficient as you are?
AG: In addition to the obvious to-do lists, I live by my calendar and schedule all important deadline-driven things in it… and each item has a pop-up reminder, which I don’t close until the task is complete.
TDE: Everything seems important or urgent these days. How do you efficiently navigate your to-do list without hindering your success?
AG: I actually have two primary to-do lists – one is for client work and one is for running/growing the business. Client work always comes first because without clients, there is no Resume Strategists. Both lists have a priority section for what really needs to get done today. I also go over each list at the end of every day because priorities change and I need to make sure that my lists reflect that.
TDE: You manage people and work with some people who are all over the place. How do you deal with someone who is very distracted and not giving you what you need in a timely manner?
AG: If someone on my team is not meeting a deadline and seems distracted, I check in to make sure that both the task and the priority are clear. If that person has a lot on their plate, clarifying priorities and task strategies can be immensely helpful. Sometimes, if I think there might be something else going on, I take a moment to talk to them to find out what’s happening in their life. It’s easy to forget we are people with complicated lives and there might be something going on that’s causing a distraction. Just talking about it, even briefly, can clear the mind and help them to better focus on what needs to get done.
TDE: What is your #1 tip for dealing with interruptions during the day?
AG: My day is always filled with interruptions, and I’ve learned that my initial reaction to them can impact how they affect me. I used to get annoyed by interruptions and it had a negative effect on my efficiency. I then shifted my mindset and realized that interruptions are part of daily life and I can’t prevent them from happening, so now they don’t impact my ability to accomplish things throughout the day. I’ve also created some structure to avoid interruptions when I’m working on something important – I block out time in my calendar as if I were meeting with a client, so I can focus. During this time, I don’t check email or answer the phone, and this has been incredibly helpful.