Every once in a while, I invite cool people who have written books to share their knowledge with my readers. Jenny is awesome, and her research and detailed templates will help you navigate the perils of daily life. I think you’ll enjoy her personal notes on the key ideas in Life After College. – Josh
About Jenny Blake
Jenny Blake is an author, blogger, life coach and sought-after speaker who helps others “Wake up, live big! and love the journey.” She has been featured on Forbes.com, US News & World Report, CNN.com and was recognized by Suze Orman as a leader among Gen Y.
Jenny started her blog, LifeAfterCollege.org, in 2005 and recently translated it into a popular book, Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want, which serves as a portable life coach for 20-somethings. Jenny recently took her own great leap by leaving Google after five and a half years at the company (on the Training, Career Development and Authors@Google teams) to pursue her passions full-time. Follow her on twitter @Jenny_Blake.
Here are ten big ideas from Jenny Blake’s Life After College:
1. Life: Your Big Picture
Don’t get bogged down by the “Tyranny of the Hows” for your biggest goals – get clear on your vision and values first. Your vision and values are your foundation – they will give you purpose and help you turn things around in your lowest, darkest moments.
Your vision and values give you wings when you’re laid out at the bottom of a dip, and your vision keeps you focused and clear when you have big decisions to make.
- Tip-toeing around a big goal? 10 Questions to Help you Stop Thinking and Start DOING
- Take an overall temperature check of your life with the Wheel of Life template
2. Career/Work: If you are not (actively learning), you are obsolete.
We all know the old adage, “You learn something new every day.” Well, that’s not enough to get ahead. If you learn something new every day, it means you’re keeping up with everyone else. Looking for career security? Learn new skills. Become an expert in an area related to your field.
Companies must constantly evolve and innovate to stay ahead and continue making a profit. Just as the world and its technologies get more complex every day, you’ve got to actively learn and challenge yourself to stay ahead of the curve.
- Set career goals by creating a Professional Development Strategy
3. Money: Stop Clogging Your Financial Arteries
How conscious are you when it comes to spending money? How are your short-term habits contributing to your long-term goals? Are you clogging your financial arteries for the sake of fleeting indulgences? Make sure you have a clear understanding of exactly how much money is coming in and going out each month.
Detailed budgets are too cumbersome to be useful — focus on these three numbers instead: income, must-have expenses (groceries, rent, savings), and monthly nice-to-have expenses (going out to eat). Subtract the expenses from your income and you’ll get a “monthly allowance” for you to spend on discretionary items as you’d like, with the peace of mind of knowing that your main expenses are taken care of.
- Get your finances under control with the ever-so-simple Four-Step Budget Template
4. Home: Shine your sink & clear your clutter
Flylady.net encourages her readers to do just one thing on a regular basis: shine your sinks. If you shine your sink (I suggest disposable disinfectant wipes), you’ll have a feeling of cleanliness, even if you don’t have time to spend the whole day scrubbing and vacuuming every crevice.
Beyond your sinks, what area of your house collects the most clutter? Feng shui experts say the state of order (or chaos) in our home often reflects our state of mind. Choose one area that needs the most work and dedicate two hours to giving it a complete overhaul. Watch as your mind follows suit after freeing up your space!
- Clean house, clear mind! Identify your most troublesome area so you can Clear Your Clutter
5. Systems and Organization: Let your systems (not your memory) do the heavy lifting to keep you organized.
True to David Allen’s advice in Getting Things Done, your brain is not an effective place to store information. Focus on creating systems that will help you automate (ex: bill-paying), store (ex: creating an idea file), file (ex: common labeling system across paper and electronic folders), and remind you of important dates or events (ex: email reminders and a calendaring system).
- Set-up a system for managing appointments with the Simple Appointment Tracking Spreadsheet
- Stay organized around big goals or tasks with the Project Plan Template
6. Friends & Family: You can’t make everybody happy. So stop trying and start LIVING.
You can either go (emotionally) broke running around trying to please everyone, or you can spend your time creating, living and being authentic to your own needs and desires. The universe rewards backbone.
It pays off to stick up for yourself, to say the hard truth, and to make the hard choices about where to spend your time and attention. It pays off in sanity. Ease. Lightness. Sense of self. Confidence. Clarity. And cajones. You are no good to anyone if you run yourself ragged trying to please everyone.
Start with yourself so that you can give back (with gusto!) to those in your life who are worthy of your precious time, love and attention.
- Just graduated or living in a new area? Brainstorm ways to make new friends with the Meet Market template
7. Dating & Relationships: Stop auditioning for other people’s lives.
Life is like Tetris: You may be a “Z” when the other party is looking for an “I” — whether it comes to dating, job interviewing or business partnerships. No one is perfect, and life is a matching process. Look for situations in which you and the other party, given that you are both imperfect, bring something to the table. The matching process requires honesty to be successful, which involves taking risks.
It can be scary to put yourself out there and say “This is who I am. Take me or leave me, as I am.” It is scary because you are putting the real you out there to be accepted or rejected by the other party (and them by you). But it’s worth it – because when two parties are a fit, it works.
- Dealing with a broken heart? Work through your emotions with the break-up processing template
8. Health: Something is better than nothing.
Do you ever get that paralyzed feeling when you’re overwhelmed by so much to do that you freeze and don’t do anything? Perfection or bust? All or nothing? When you catch yourself falling prey to the perfectionist’s curse – the all or nothing, gung-ho or bust mentality – remember that SOMETHING is better than NOTHING.
Even if you only work out for 15 minutes a day, you will train your body to make fitness a part of your normal routine. Heck, even if all you did was put your workout clothes on, that’s a start!
- Hold yourself accountable for strong health habits with the Fitness & Activity Weekly Tracker
- Train for a big event with the Marathon / half-marathon / triathlon training tracker
9. Fun and Relaxation: If you can dream it, you can do it!
A life coach once told me that — if you can dream it, you can do it. The same goes for your ideal day and your ideal life — sometimes we get so caught in the weeds reacting to errands and emails, that we forget to focus on what we really want to create in life.
Spend some time mapping out your ideal day (no limits!) and when you’re done, reflect on ways that you can start closing the gap between your current days and your ideal. It might start with 15 minutes tomorrow, or it might mean scheduling a long-overdue weekend getaway.
- Have some fun! Dream big by creating a Life Checklist (to see an example of my life checklist, click here)
10. Personal Growth: Identify who is on the committee in your brain.
This might be too woo woo for you, but many of us have a committee of voices contributing to any big decision. I recently made the difficult decision to quit Google after 5 years there to try my hand at solopreneurship, and it was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made. The big discussion was between my Creative Director (the one concerned with me doing my best work) and my CFO (the one concerned with making financially sound decisions).
The bottom line: neither voice is right or wrong – they represent various concerns we have about different aspects of a decision. In the end, you — the CEO — have the final say, but you might feel better to ask each of your “committee members” what they need in order to feel comfortable moving forward.
- Wrestling with a big decision or paralyzed by fear? Document and work-through your concerns with the Decision-Making Template
About Life After College by Jenny Blake
An avid reader and information gopher, Jenny Blake has read over 150 business and personal development books, and have distilled their wisdom in a way that will leave you feeling inspired and ready to take action toward creating the life you really want. Instead of spending your money buying numerous books about setting goals, managing your finances and navigating your career, Jenny offers a “one stop shop” book, with short but powerful advice and exercises for every area of your life after college.
Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want is an essential manual for every graduating college student and twenty-something looking for direction. It provides practical, actionable advice and helps you focus on the big picture of your life – on your values and aspirations – all in a rapid-fire format. Chapter categories include life (values, goals), work, money, organization, home, friends & family, dating & relationships, health, fun & relaxation, and personal growth.