Using Spreadsheets for Self Improvement

I've always been a fan of spreadsheets. Years ago, I worked as a Report Specialist where I used Microsoft Excel for 10 or more hours each day at work, but that wasn't enough as I would then go home and continue to use spreadsheets for personal projects and pleasure during my evenings. I admit that sometimes my zeal for spreadsheets led to me using them in odd ways, but the sheet I'll share with you today is not one of those times.

Although I've created and used tracking spreadsheets over the years, reading this post by Sebastian Marshall, helped remind me how great such tools can be for finding patterns in one's effectiveness for meeting goals and self improvement as well as providing a motivational push.

Feeling energetic and determined to focus on being more productive with creative pursuits, I created this spreadsheet which I'm sharing with you in the hopes that it may inspire you to use it, modify it, or create your own: The goal of this spreadsheet isn't to track To Do List items, but to instead help ensure that each day one focuses on those things which help them be most successful -- the items are of course individual and can be modified to match your own life priorities. 

  1. Save the spreadsheet to your Google Drive (or save it as an Excel sheet*)
  2. Open it and edit the categories to match your own priorities.
  3. For each day: put a 'y' for goals met, a 'p' for goals partially met, and otherwise leave it blank for goals you didn't work on that day.
*This sheet is a Google drive spreadsheet, but if you would prefer an Excel version then after clicking the link, click the File Menu, click Download As, and select Microsoft Excel. Please let me know if you have any difficulties downloading it in your desired format or if you have questions on how to modify it to your needs. Also, please share your tips and experiences as you work towards improving yourself.

Finally, it's important to note that it's not helpful to consider any day with less than 100% of goals met as being a failure. Our motivation, energy, health, circumstances, and priorities may change; we may have days where we tear through the list and other days 'wasted' instead. For me, this is a tool for motivating and providing insights and not for providing reasons for one to beat themselves up. Whether one is motivated by streaks of consistent activity, of seeing how sleep (or lack of) affects one's other goals, or of being motivated by the act of checking something off a list, I hope this sheet will inspire you to identify and focus on your priorities.

Update on Current Projects

The Stewardship Group

After four years of serving as the Co-Chair of Communications for the Stewardship Group, I'm happy to say that we've fulfilled our mandate and will soon disband. The certification model we spent years of research, conducting surveys, networking with peers in the field, etc., to create and then conducting two Expressions of Interests processes to choose the organization to launch it, has fully come to fruition. 

This is the longest project I've ever served on and it was a pleasure to work with such wonderfully knowledgeable and talented people, but it's also a huge sense of accomplishment. I'm happy that we continue to cross paths as we each continue to work towards improving the profession.

Career Development Practitioners' Certification Board of Ontario (CDPCBO)

Having already volunteered for four years for the cause of certification, I wanted to continue to help our profession. So, in March, I contacted the three Directors with a proposal and since then I have been working as their Registrar as well as helping out with the technical details as well as social media and presentations.

After a successful pilot, as of April 1st, 2015, CDPCBO launched the new certification after having conducted a successful pilot phase. We're excited and thrilled with the feedback we've received and continue to receive from newly certified members of CDPCBO about how they found the application and process.

Recently we created LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts, along with a LinkedIn subgroup specifically created as a forum for certified members to provide advice and answer questions regarding the application process for those who aim to apply. 

We have also been busy with conducting presentations for many organizations in Ontario. If you'd like to learn more about the certification process, please visit us at


I started Karate in January and in addition to attending classes 3-5 times a week, I've also competed twice (both times in sparring and kata) and have also earned my yellow belt. Especially to capture the first few weeks of this journey, I created a blog: I also have some updates planned for the near future as my journey progresses.

Esperanto and French

I've been passionate about learning Esperanto especially since Duolingo launched a course:

To learn more about Esperanto and why almost 50,000 people are learning it through Duolingo alone, I suggest this wonderful Ted Talk about the benefits by Tim Morely

And, as it's in my nature, I of course created an Esperanto blog to share resources for new learners and also for practice.

Regarding French, my husband and I both took it in high school, but were never able to use it. Now, with our daughter in partial French immersion since September, we are learning it together through Duolingo for our own interest and to help our daughter.

There of course continue to be other projects as four projects are never enough for me. ;) But there's nothing substantial to report on at this time.

Ridiculously small goals for habit formation

Although embarrassing, I'll admit it took me 39 years to get to the point where I've flossed and brushed daily for two months straight. So why share this with you? I'll take a bit of discomfort if it helps you meet your own goals.

Backing up, for over a year I'd been reading Leo Babauta's blog, zen habits. Although I respect his work greatly, I just couldn't wrap my head around lowering the bar for new habits like mentioned here. For example, while preparing to run 5K he might say to just jog for one minute and then call it a day which would have felt silly to me. 

Now I always saw jogging as something super healthy people did, not people like me. With it initially seeming unattainable, imagine how I felt when I was able to run 5K (awesome!), but then couldn't hack flossing daily? Yikes. What was wrong with me?

I learned there was quite a difference in how I prepared for each goal. For jogging, I did some things well:
  • Confidence (used a proven Couch to 5K program, Get Running)
  • Start small (week 1: run 1 min, walk 1.5, repeat 8 times) 
  • Cues (run upon waking, shoes by my bed, sometimes sleep in exercise clothes)
  • Preparation (set an alarm and go to bed early)
  • Accountability (posted progress to friends)
  • Anticipate barriers (bought better socks, stretched more, drank more water)
  • Bypass excuses (Be out the door before my brain was awake enough to complain)
  • Awareness of benefits (Greater productivity: after slaying the jogging beast each morning, it was much easier to do work that I might otherwise have wanted to procrastinate on)
Let's compare that to the failed attempts with flossing where I started with the end goal of flossing all teeth and with less motivation in general. I was doing it because I felt I should, but, as I always had excellent teeth in spite of irregular care, I wasn't really sold on it. I ended up realizing that, although it may seem distant, I really would like to have teeth in 40+ years. Also, I decided to do it just because it's kind of gross that I wasn't previously. 

Leo to the rescue! The main reason I succeeded is due to making one small change: I set my bar low by making the minimum goal of just flossing one tooth per night. Now unlike Leo's advice, I didn't start the first week just flossing one tooth, but what I found was by having the commitment to just do one tooth it saved me on a night when I awoke at 3 a.m. realizing I had forgotten. There's no way I would have gotten out of bed if I felt like I had to do all my teeth or be deemed a failure. And I also learned that flossing half my teeth each night isn't painful and is easily sustainable for me. What? You mean it's possible to go part way and still have a positive outcome? Yes it is. Or rather, I'll see at the next dentist appointment.

Now, I share all of this because we all have things we know we should be doing, but aren't. The kinds of things that we may bang our heads against walls wondering how we could possibly struggle with them. I want to show you that you're not alone and that by setting the bar low, you can create positive habits in your life.

Hey and speaking of other habits and other slight embarrassments, I've stopped biting my nails. This time I'm confident I'm done for good as my nails survived unscathed even in spite of challenging Python courses through MIT. A different technique I found helpful is: habit replacement. In this example, if I was in danger of biting my nails (did I mention the exams were stressful?) I played some relaxing music and had some crispy celery to chomp on. It did the trick. I also visualized how I felt at interviews with disgusting chewed up fingers and going to shake someone's hand or all the germs I was putting in my mouth. Eww.

Looking forward to this month, I'm excited about the next habits I'm working on. I'm starting karate next week! It's been over 15 years since I've done martial arts and, as I'm approaching 40 and am not in great shape, I'm both excited and afraid. Second, any time I stuff food in my face, there now needs to be a vegetable included (for now that means lots of celery --> lowering the bar, right?). Related to that, I'm trying a veggie box service so I can support local farmers while trying new vegetables and recipes to expand my palate. Recipes are welcome! : )

Image Credit: Martijn Nijenhuis - Simba Picture 61

Facing Fears Accelerates Growth

Last September to December I got to live my dream: I became a College Professor. Yet, if I had listened to any number of my fears, I could have talked myself out of even applying for the position let alone actually meeting this challenge.

For 20 years I've been passionate about teaching and this course seemed like a perfect fit as it would incorporate both career coaching and student success strategies, two topics near and dear to me. Add to that this goal was suddenly in reach years before I expected as normally one needs a Master’s degree (which I don't have). I learned firsthand how much fear can be generated when your highest dream for yourself is within reach. 

What if I failed? I had never previously taught full semester courses on my own having instead focused on workshops, guest speaking, video tutorials, or helping people one-on-one. If I failed this wouldn't just impact me, but my students as well.

Also, I had no experience with grading papers. How would I do this fairly? And what about creating three hours of content every week? When I applied and accepted the position I didn't know if I'd be given resources or if I'd need to create the course from scratch.

Even logistical matters were a source of fear. After a lifetime of being fearful of driving I had previously faced that fear and got my full G driver's license just two months earlier. As a new driver, how would I handle commuting the notoriously scary 401 each day, 1.25+ hours each way? What about when the weather turned colder in November and December? 

I share all these fears so that you can identify with some of this. In short, I was scared. 

Thankfully, I also had a past history of finding fears and meeting them head on. In high school I was terrified of public speaking so I joined the Debating Team. In college I was so scared of 'donorcycles' so I took a motorcycle safety course. The fear was so strong that I was affected physically with shaking and other things that are gross. 

Another example is when I was approached to make 30 video tutorials on Google Docs/Drive. Once again, it was not easy for me. I had made and published tutorials in the past but it was one thing to do them for me (and take the safe route and call them ‘for fun’) and quite another to know that it would be a paid contract and they'd be reviewed, judged, and published widely. 

These are just a few of many examples, but in all of them I could have taken the safe way out and not met these challenges. Meeting one's fears is hard. It's scary. It ups the risk of failing. And, yet, if the alternative is to stagnate, I choose to grow. To learn. To become more self-reliant. To know that I'm stronger than my fears. And you are too.

You are stronger than your fears and, from many years of experience, I can say it’s worth facing them too.

I not only ended up teaching last semester three sections to 92 students but concurrently completed a five course program in Teaching Effectiveness where I was able to apply the knowledge immediately for my students' benefit. Teaching was a dream come true and yet I also got to see the reality of just how much marking is required -- a potential 1288 assignments in my case. If you see a teacher, thank them for all the work they do not just in front of the class but also behind the scenes.

And now onto my next fear and challenge. 

Image Credit: Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha - Fear - Graffiti

Lov'In LinkedIn

Today I'll be presenting Lov'In LinkedIn to the graduating students of Conestoga College's Business Administration - Management program.

I normally teach twice a semester for Conestoga's Career Development Practitioner students via webinar and so it will be wonderfully fun to present today in person. And with over 15 years' experience in many business-related roles, I look forward to connecting with students and sharing experiences and suggestions.

Those who know me know of my great enthusiasm for technology and passion for teaching others how to leverage it for their careers and/or businesses. 
The slides below are what I'll be presenting today and are a subset of my usual presentation, "LinkedIn and Social Media Efficiency". 

Interested in having me speak? Please contact me. "Lov'In LinkedIn" runs about 20 minutes (see the slides below) not including questions. The full "LinkedIn and Social Media Efficiency" presentation can run from anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour as I'll talk about Twitter, Google+, Facebook Pages, when to use them, and how to do so efficiently. 

Surpassing Fear and Ego

I recently discovered Karol Gajda and finding his posts inspiring and motivating (and his honesty refreshing), I wanted to make sure you know of him too.

After reading his essay, Be The Idiot, I felt drawn to comment but soon realized my comment was morphing into something more. Karol asked, "What’s an example of ego getting in your way? And better than that, what’s an example of you dropping your ego and progressing on something quicker than normal?". This post is the result.

I certainly have suffered thinking about what I feared others must think of me. For example, years ago when temping, the more junior the position, the more I felt the need to tell coworkers that I used to be a computer programmer. I defined myself by my job title and cared too much what other people thought of me. I've been there.

This post, however, is about times where I've gotten over a fear of seeming stupid to others or sucking and what I've accomplished as a result. These lessons are personal, but perhaps you may identify with some of them -- if so, please share your stories and insights in the comments.

1) As a student my desire to help my peers outweighed my fears of sucking so I created, for the first time ever, a few how to videos and posted them. Result: a company in California discovered me, liked how I wasn't formal/perfect (boring), and paid me to design a 30+ video course for them--a reminder that Volunteering is Good for You

Action is more important than perfection.  Video recording is like writing -- do it publicly and do it lots and you'll improve

2) Before I graduated, my mentor asked me to guest speak in my program and also suggested I get elected to a group to create a provincial certification. "But I'm just a student with zero experience in this field!", I thought. Result: students ranked my presentation higher than an expert he also had speak. And the group I got elected to highly values my intellect and transferable skills. (And I specifically got elected because I sold my skills rather than focused on my lack of experience/what I couldn't do.)

If I had let fear of seeming stupid rule -- I wouldn't have been able to be myself; they wouldn't have seen my gifts.

3) One of the greatest lessons I had was from working with a fellow student over Skype when she said, "I didn't know you could be so fun". My ego hurt at that but I took the pain and took a closer look. Up until then she had only known me through my writing for school and I learned of the huge discrepancy between how I write versus how I am in real life or on video. As such, I am working hard to try and be more authentically me with my writing.

Don't let ego get in the way of learning something important about yourself.

How have you learned from or in spite of your ego? Please share in the comments.

Image Credit: silviadinatale - ZERO

Milestone Reached: Draft Model for Ontario Certification

Career Development Professionals: 
A milestone has been reached. The first draft model for Certification for CDPs in Ontario has been published along with a slideshow indicating how the survey results impacted the model design. 

It will be an exciting year ahead as we work towards getting feedback and refining this model in preparation for a vote to implement it.

Presenting at Conestoga - Nov 26, 2012

There's nothing I love more than teaching and so it is an honour to be presenting again to CDP students at Conestoga College.  

As the Co-Chair of Communications for The Stewardship Group, the talk will mostly focus on what we've accomplished so far towards creating a certification model for Ontario Career Development Practitioners.  Time permitting, I will also discuss suggestions on securing a practicum (and later a job) and what life is like after graduation.

Feel free to contact me with any questions regarding Conestoga's Career Development Practitioner program or CDP Certification in Ontario

Volunteering is Good for You

Anyone who has heard me speak knows I strongly suggest spending at least some of your weekly hours living your passion even if it's for no monetary compensation. Volunteering whether for your own projects or for another organization can lead to experience and networking in your chosen field. I didn't realize that I'd soon have a personal story to tell.

While a student in Conestoga's CDP program it became apparent that some students weren't comfortable with technology such as LinkedIn and Google Docs. With a passion for teaching, technology, and helping, I quickly put together a few video tutorials.

Well last August I got 'discovered' by a company in California,, through my videos. They asked me to design a course for them on Google Drive, paid me, and after months of work and collaboration my course of 30+ videos has been published.  

None of this would have happened if I hadn't seen a way to use my talents and help others. Did they contact me because my videos were top of the line? No, they were pretty amateur as they were the first videos I created and I had only intended them to help fellow students. They hired me because they could hear my passion as that is what they wanted in their own videos.  

And so, what are your talents?  What are the fears stopping you?  Where are you holding yourself back from making a difference in this world?

And if you're interested in learning about Google Drive, I suggest you start with this video to best learn about it's benefits:

Presenting at Conestoga - July 30, 2012

As an elected volunteer of the Stewardship Group for creating an Ontario Career Development Practitioner (CDP) certification, I just presented to Conestoga CDP students about certification in Ontario. My philosophy has always been that teaching is a way of learning and I was not disappointed -- attendees stumped me with a couple of great questions.

If you are a Career Development Professional, a student in a CDP program, or train/hire CDPs, we at the Stewardship Group need your input. We're creating a draft certification model for you -- please let us know your hopes, fears, and opinions and subscribe to our list for updates.

Presenting at Conestoga - Mar. 6, 2012

I'm looking forward to presenting "LinkedIn and Social Media Efficiency" (45 mins) tonight for Conestoga College's Career Development Practitioner Program.  My second time guest speaking for the program, it's a nice way to give back to future generations of students and quite fun as well.

Are you curious to know more about this topic but are not enrolled in the class? See part of a similar presentation for free on my YouTube channel: Social Media Efficiency LinkedIn - Top Features.

3 New Video Tutorials

I posted three new video tutorials on the JenniferDaviesOnline YouTube channel: Prezi Tutorial, Social Media Efficiency, and LinkedIn - Top Features.

If you have any suggestions for future tutorials, please comment below or contact me.

Presenting at Conestoga - Nov. 1, 2011

Tonight, for the first time, I guest spoke for Conestoga College's Career Development Practitioner Program.  The topic was on LinkedIn and Social Media Efficiency (45 mins) and it was wonderfully fun and a great learning experience as well.

As I'm passionate about teaching and the CDP program, I hope to do more guest speaking in the future.

The 3 A's of Awesome and TEDTalks

My vision involves inspiring people to live lives of passion while providing them with the tools to do so. As such, I'm always on the lookout for ways people can increase enjoyment in their lives whether it involves life coaching, career coaching, motivational speaking, or technology.

It was with great interest that I watched Neil Pasricha's presentation on "The 3 A's of Awesome". His 3 A's of awesome are: attitude, awareness and authenticity. Not wanting to spoil anything, I'll leave it to you to learn more by watching his 18 minute presentation.

Presentation YouTube link:
I also recommend his blog for inspiration:

About TEDTalks
TEDTalks has "the goal of giving everyone on-demand access to the world's most inspiring voices" and does this through posting presentations from TED conferences on both their website ( and through their YouTube channel ( The presentations are by remarkable people on diverse topics mainly on Technology, Entertainment, and Design and there's something for everyone.