Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Productivity Q&A with Jennifer Fox
(a.k.a. Productivity Ninja)

Occupation: Productivity Ninja
Company: Think Productive North America
Location: New York
Other job titles in life: Coach, Consultant, Facilitator, HR Visionary, L&D Leader, Entrepreneur, Writer, Photographer, Athlete, Life-Long-Learner, Wife-extraordinaire, Super-Mom-of-3 
Q: What’s important about your workspace?
A; My most productive workspace is at a large coffee retailer with a certain green logo. I love the background noise, which ironically allows me great focus, the chance for frequent people-watching breaks and the feel of warm coffee in my hand as I unleash my creativity on my latest projects.
Q: Which ninja characteristic have you got nailed?
A: Unorthodoxy - my life and career path has been anything but conventional. I love the freedom that comes from knowing that there is rarely a “right” solution to a problem. Some former colleagues and I coined the phrase, “blow it up”, as our way of creating excitement and energy around looking for new ways to approach a problem.
Q: Which ninja characteristic are you still working on the most?
A: Mindfulness & Human, not Superhero. I wear many hats, the most important of which are serving those whom I love. In my effort to please and have everything taken care of, I juggle too many balls, and the one that gets dropped most is self-care. Recently, I’ve established a meditation practice and am a die-hard fitbit tracker, so Zen-Like Calm Ninja would be proud.
Q: Which five apps could you not live without?
A: I admit to having to pick up my phone to answer this question. OmniFocus for all task and project management, WhatsApp to communicate with my tribe of friends, AmazonMusic to keep a song in my heart, Instagram for my social media fix and Starbucks for my coffee addiction. (see workspace answer above!)
Q: What’s your favorite piece of stationery?
A: Much to the chagrin of my 8-year old who thinks I am “SO boring”, I only use Black and Red Spiral bound notebooks. There is nothing like starting a new one, creating to-do lists with check boxes next to them and doodling with my mechanical pencil (never a pen). I also love journals and have more than I care to admit that have months or years in between entries.
Q: When in the day do you have the most proactive attention?
A: Mid-morning, after the kids have been taken care of and my house is (mostly) in order.
Q: What’s your trick for when you’re tired or struggling with attention in the day?
A: Taking a break to clean something, or do a menial task that I can complete. Checking a box brings great satisfaction and gives me momentum to focus again. Also, changing my work environment. I’ve even been known to drive to a different Starbucks down the street to change my office space!
Q: What’s your best advice for reducing stress?
A: Find humor and insights everywhere. Luckily, I have 3 amazing little people who provide non-stop entertainment. I also try to be on the lookout for things that make me think, smile, wonder. I can presence myself in the middle of Manhattan just by focusing on something that peaks my curiosity. The Breathe app provides me with frequent reminders to do just that, and I love Insight Timer for guided meditation to unwind at the end of the day, though I rarely make it past the 5-minute mark.
Q: What’s your email regime?
A: Confession: prior to becoming a Productivity Ninja my regime was to keep everything, and hope that Google continued to raise the inbox limit. Having been introduced to Inbox Zero, I’ll never look back. It’s not easy to break old habits, but seeing the whitespace on my screen is the equivalent to a clear desk.
Q: What’s your favorite way to take a break in the middle of the day?
A: I would be lying if I didn’t say coffee, but I’ll add connecting with someone in a casual way: friends, family, co-workers, even the cashier at Chipotle can give me the energy I need.
Q: What’s the secret to your productivity?
A: I started using the hashtag #GSD when I discovered hashtags were no longer pound signs (dating myself, but I know many of you can relate). It stands for Get S*§% Done, and it’s my M.O. at work, home and life. I am results-driven, sometimes to a fault, but have found that it has allowed me to raise my game in every area of life. Sometimes it’s just taking the first step towards a big project, other times it’s going all-in to complete a project all at once. Being productive makes me feel great and inspires others around me to achieve their own potential.
About the Author: Jennifer Fox is a Productivity Ninja in the Greater New York area. Meet her in person at the 2018 TSCPA Women’s Career Summit or follow her on Twitter at @ThinkProdUSA. Register for the TSCPA Women's Career Summit  at www.tscpa.com/women2018

Monday, September 10, 2018

Development 101: YP Edition

By Summer Brooks, CPA

As young professionals, many of us have set goals for ourselves and are looking for ways to grow both personally and professionally. The goal setting itself is easy, but the difficult part is putting the goals in motion. However, there are small steps you can take each day to help achieve your goals and build a solid foundation for growth. 
  1. Focus on one goal at a time. Don’t try to tackle all 15 of your goals at once. I would suggest prioritizing your goals by order of importance to you, and go down the list one by one. Once you’ve accomplished the first most important, move on to the second, and so on. This will keep you from getting overwhelmed and center your concentration so goals can be achieved.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Many of us feel nervous at the thought of this, fearing that we will be shunned or the answer will always be no. However, you would often be surprised by the results. I would suggest expressing your notions in a direct and concise manner and expand on how they are important to your growth. The key thing to remember here is that people are rooting for your success and want to help you. They are simply waiting for you to take the initiative to ask.
  3. Collaborate and use technology to your advantage. Although technology can be a blessing and a curse, young professionals are fortunate to live in times where the world is essentially “at our fingertips.” With social media on the rise, explore many outlets for networking opportunities and knowledge growth. Identify networks that allow you to expand your scope and get outside your comfort zone. Explore topics and events you are interested in and take part in something that is important to you. The possibilities are endless with this one, so don’t be afraid to get creative!
  4. Network, network, network. This one coincides with point #3 to a certain extent; however, it is important enough to note separately. Networking is a great way to link up with other like-minded young professionals. Who knows, you may even find someone who has similar aspirations as you and can share experiences and advice! Although networking is often seen as a nuisance, it is an integral part of personal and professional growth and can lead to very beneficial results. My advice would be to start small. Get involved with your firm’s YP group or your college alumni association. Attend county chamber and TSCPA events for young professionals.
In closing, I encourage you to stay optimistic and don’t get discouraged. Remember the old saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.” Growth doesn’t happen overnight, and some goals may take more time to achieve than others. Hopefully by incorporating these simple steps into your routine, you will be able to keep your eye on the prize and see long-term advancement.    

About the Author: Summer Brooks, CPA is a Senior Accountant in LBMC's Brentwood office. She can be reached at sbrooks@lbmc.com.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Contracts Intern: Sounds Boring, Right?

By Collin Peace, Appalachian Chapter Student Ambassador

This past summer I secured an internship position in the accounting department of Republic Parking System in downtown Chattanooga. RPS, one of the preeminent parking management companies in the US, hired me to be a part of a team tasked with creating, designing and implementing the new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) accounting system that will take place of the old AS400 accounting system. To be honest, I was not very thrilled about the internship upon first hearing my title would be “Contracts Intern,” as I thought it would primarily consist of pouring through parking contract agreements, identifying particular terms and performing menial data entry. However, my expectations were soon shattered within the first two weeks I started working there.

I did much more than basic data entry and other low-level tasks like scanning, copying and going on coffee/breakfast runs (though I did do a fair bit of those things). Instead, I was exposed to a wide array of different things which I had not run into thus far, such as performing bank reconciliations, entering and checking revenue, researching expense patterns, and compiling databases by which we interpreted trends and made conclusions. Even beyond the plethora of work-related tasks and responsibilities I was exposed to, through the internship I was able to take part in numerous networking opportunities. I was not only able to network with my fellow co-workers, but I was also invited on several occasions to accompany our office executives to lunches and meetings with employees and personnel from other RPS branches. In addition to networking opportunities, I got to take part in fun outings with my fellow employees, the most recent of which was a Friday Fun-day where the entire accounting department took the day to go volunteer at a local charity, followed by lunch at a nearby pizzeria and then a few games of bowling.

I learned an incredible amount while taking part in this internship, and I have found truth in the saying, “70 percent of learning is experiential” because of how much I learned through the hands-on experience I received. The knowledge I had learned in my accounting classes in school certainly came in handy in terms of having a rough idea of what was going on and what was being discussed, but a great deal of my internship was simply “on-the-job learning,” and I had to pick up things rather quickly in order to keep up with the rest of the accounting department. As stressful at times as it may have been, I am very grateful to have had this opportunity because of how much I learned in an actual, real-world business environment which taught me things you simply can’t learn from a textbook.

The most important and valuable thing I believe I got out of this internship was the connections and relationships I established while I was there. It’s an over-used statement, but it holds truth: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This truth has become quite clear to me as I have seen that it is in making connections that one is best able to get a job and advance their career. I met numerous CPAs who willingly and cheerfully passed along their advice and knowledge. I met and had sit-down discussions with top executives from the Senior Payroll Manager to the Corporate Controller to the Chief Financial Officer. All of them were willing to mentor me and offer suggestions on what I should consider and what I should focus on working towards in order to be a more effective and successful accountant and businessman, and for that I am extremely grateful. I have established relationships with them and hopefully in the future I might continue my career under their leadership and guidance. Furthermore, to anyone considering accounting as their field of study and as their eventual occupation, I cannot emphasize enough how valuable it is to take part in an internship while you are in school. You will not only bolster your knowledge base of accounting and business in general, but you will also allow yourself the opportunity for networking, relationships and maybe even a future job.