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13 posts from March 2011

March 31, 2011

You are not alone: fitness guru struggles with work life balance

Have you ever felt that sickening feeling that you have so much to do and can't possibly get it all done? I thought it might be interesting to share an email I received this week from someone who experienced that feeling and wrote to me. the quest for work life balance touches so many people in so many ways.

Here's my email exchange:

It’s 8:30 pm Toronto time and I’m stressed.  As a overworked mom/professional in the fitness industry a with large family, circle of friends, demanding clients in a hectic workplace setting, self-imposed -high expectations to produce, act, look, feel and preach only the best.
I’m stressed.
Crunched for time, I found your article while researching info for a panel I’m sitting on in a few days on the topic none only than – fitness & stress!
The irony.
Everything seems to be crashing in on me and yet from an outsider looking in- they would say I have the “perfect life.

How can this be?
I’m skeptical on having balance.  If I get more sleep, workout – the chores don’t get done, work can pile up, “quality time with hubby” (what is that actually?) I see my mid 30’s flashing by and being an overweight 50 year old GM of a fitness club as a complete “has been.”
I just don’t think balance is possible without something slipping away. Any thoughts on where to begin?
-          The unbalanced gal

My reply:

You need to start by taking out a sheet of paper. On one side, write down everything you have on your plate. Put a check by those that are most critical. Next, use another color to put a check by those things you most enjoy doing. See what's leftover on your list. Can any of those things be dropped or delegated? Be realistic...some of us think there are things no one else can do but when we scrutinize a little further, we realize someone else can do them...(our moms, our kids, our friends, our spouse?)
Your goal should be to aim for at least eight hours of sleep a day. Don't give that up. You will need the energy you get from sleeping to conquer all those other things on your to do list. Some things aren't going to get done but the trick to feeling less overwhelmed is to make sure you are getting to the things you consider a priority and making peace with yourself about those things that don't get done. 
Let me know how these suggestions work out for you.  I agreed to do too many speaking engagements in January. I started feeling run down. In February, I turned down all requests. The lesson is that balance is a process. It requires constant adjustments.

Readers weigh in if you have suggestions to share.

March 30, 2011

Messy desks and work life balance

Messydesk I've seen some pretty messy desks in the newsrooms I have worked in. I admit, I've never been a part of the clean desk club. I can work perfectly fine with some papers piled up on my desk. But I try to regain order at least once a week, mostly because I know the amount of mess on your desk can affect your work life balance and your image?

In an Office Team survey, 83 percentof human resources managers said the appearance of an employee’s desk at least somewhat affects their perception of that person’s professionalism. Even more, I'm convinced you feel more balanced, more in control, and more productive when you clean up your desk and know where everything is on it.

But what if it's your co-worker who is the slob? I stumbled across an article in Ladies Home Journal...a question from a worker who shares workspace with a Messy Marvin. It offers two approaches for anyone who wants to nudge their co-worker to tidy up. The first:  "I know you're going to think I'm crazy, but we've got to neaten up or I'll never get any work done. I'll wash the mugs and you work on these piles." The second: Clean up when your co-worker is not around but avoid drastically reorganizing her stuff. If she says something, tell her you can't work in the chaos.

For those of you who need it, OfficeTeam polled members of the International Association of Administrative Professionals for desk organization advice. Here are seven tips provided by survey respondents:

  1. Sit in your visitor chair to get a perspective on what others see when entering your cubicle or office. Clean your workspace so it's visually appealing not only to you but also to your guests.
  2. From the start, establish an organization system that suits your style. You can always rearrange items later, but this will prevent things from getting out of hand early on.
  3. File, don't pile. Eliminate clutter by organizing paperwork in vertical or tickler files. Clearly label or color-code documents so you can find them more easily.
  4. Don't touch the same piece of paper more than once without filing, recycling or tossing it, or passing it along to the next person.
  5. Keep only the materials needed for your current project on your desk, and clear these items after the assignment is completed. Store supplies you need close at hand, and move things that are used less frequently out of the way.  
  6. Print documents only when necessary and go paperless. Electronic calendars, task lists or e-mail alerts can help you remember deadlines, appointments and meetings.
  7. Take a few minutes before lunch and again just before leaving the office to clear your workspace. At the end of each day, prioritize the tasks on your to-do list so you can hit the ground running the next morning.


March 25, 2011

Time Management: the #1 work life balance challenge and what to do about it

Feeling Overwhelmed? Do you need to get a big project done pronto, but you also need to respond to an email as soon as possible? Most of us are struggling with time management.

In a new poll from Robert Half Management Resources, executives ranked achieving work-life balance last among their greatest challenges; time management came in first.

Clock Nearly one-third (32 per cent) of chief financial officers interviewed by Robert Half cited time management due to competing priorities as their biggest work challenge. CFOs were asked, "In your opinion, which one of the following is the greatest challenge for financial executives today?" Their responses:



Time management given competing work priorities......  32%
 Keeping up with technology...........................  24%
 Achieving work/life balance .........................  19%
 Staying current with accounting regulations..........  16%
 Don't know ..........................................   9%

I asked Dan DeNisco, Vice President of Robert Half Management Resourceswhat he thinks about the results.

"Most people are trying to figure out what’s the best use of their time,” Dan says “It's hard to figure out how to say no to your boss. There are so many new initiatives coming out, people are overworked and they’re trying to figure out how to prioritize.”
It wasn’t long ago that companies and employees were stressing the importance of work-life balance.  But given the economic challenges of the last few years, has the need for balance been abandoned?

“Over  the last couplke years, work/life balance went out the window. Now, people are starting to ask, ‘How do I get back to that point.’  If I can focus on managing and prioritizing what needs to get done and use technology  to my advantage, now I might have a shot at achieving work life balance,” Dan says.
He emphasized not to be afraid of asking your boss what the priority is or figuring out what gets you the most return on your time investment.  “Maybe you don’t say no to the boss but you ask who else on team might have the skill set that we could delegate to and still get results we want.”
Of course, if you’re the one who work is being delegated to, you have much less control.  Dan advises:  “Your number one priority is deciding what’s mission critical.”

Here are a few time management tips from Robert Half:
1. Identify the "mosts." When every project seems to be top priority, focus efforts on those that will save the most money, grow the most revenue, or open doors to the most new business.
2. Be realistic about internal resources. Delegating another major project to your staff may bring already overloaded employees to the breaking point. Understand their limitations.
3. Avoid micro-managing. Set milestones and regular check-ins, but otherwise let staff run the initiative.
4. Practice the golden rule. Show respect for others' time. Avoid scheduling meetings that, on closer inspection, aren't really necessary.



March 23, 2011

Canyon Ranch founder Mel Zuckerman speaks out on work life balance

When I met Mel Zuckerman, founder of the famous Canyon Ranch Resort & Spa, I immediately wanted his secret formula to aging. Mel looks decades younger than his age. But he told me he once looked decades older. He's a reformed workaholic who constantly has to fight the urge to slip back into his old ways. The key to aging gracefully is to exercise he told me. Check out my article below for more of Mel's tips.


The Miami Herald

Canyon Ranch founder practices what he preaches


   Founders of Canyon Ranch Jerry Cohen and Mel Zuckerman at the gym of their Miami Beach property.
Alexia Fodere / For the Miami Herald
Founders of Canyon Ranch Jerry Cohen and Mel Zuckerman at the gym of their Miami Beach property.
Mel Zuckerman and I are seated on the deck of Canyon Ranch Miami Beach while an ocean breeze tussles our hair and a turquoise ocean taunts us. Zuckerman’s glowing skin and trim upper body make him look much younger than 83. It’s obvious he has embraced the lifestyle he envisioned when he transformed the fitness and spa industry with his posh Canyon Ranch retreats.

I ask Zuckerman about the wellness revolution, figuring he would be thrilled about his role in kick-starting it a few decades ago. His answer surprises me.

“There’s still a disconnect between what we know we should do and putting it into action,” he says.

True, I admit to him. Most of us know we should be exercising and focusing on prevention, but we claim we’re too busy. Then, we plunk ourselves in front of our television sets and snack on junk food while we boost the ratings of reality TV. Many Americans resolve each January to eat healthier, exercise more or get regular check-ups in the new year. Nearly 60 percent of people drop their resolutions by the six-month mark, according to studies by University of Scranton psychology professor John Norcross.

How, then, do you convince a workaholic that work/life balance is critical or an overworked mother that embracing wellness is a necessity, not a luxury? I ask Zuckerman. His frame of reference is own personal transformation, which he documents in his new book, The Restless Visionary. When Zuckerman opened the now famous Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Ariz., in 1979, he was an overweight homebuilder and recovering workaholic whose health and marriage had taken a beating. “I had high blood pressure, ulcers, diverticulitis, and a hernia. I lived a sedentary life, and I was 50 pounds overweight,” he tells me.

“There has to be readiness for a life change. Usually it’s fear,” he says

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/03/22/v-print/2128608/canyon-ranch-founder-practices.html#ixzz1HSnXMkxx

March 22, 2011

Working parents too tired for sex?

Obviously our work life balance is completely out of whack. A new study says the majority of working parents are too tired for sex. Yes, 70 percent of us working parents are sex-deprived. True?

This morning, CBS's The Early Show, devoted a segment to the study's findings.

How often are couples having sex?

"This is the scary thing," Psychotherapist and relationship expert Heide Banks remarked to co-anchor Chris Wragge. "Under 30, or in the honeymoon phase of the relationship, two-to-three times a week. Over 30, 59 times a year. So that's a little bit more than once a week. When you get to be about 60 or 70, once a month. So anywhere in there," Banks explains. "But you can't compare yourself. You can't get in to a numbers game. It's about connecting in a relationship."

Banks suggests getting up a half hour earlier before the kids wake up and break the pattern.

"We always think of sex in the evening and we're exhausted. Wake up a little early and start your day that way," she stresses. "Again, re-prioritize your relationship, make connecting a priority."

Do you think this survey is accurate? I once read about a couple with kids who made a pact to have sex every night for 101 days, no matter how tired they were. The wrote a book about it. I found an article on the book from 2008. Click here to read more.

What are  your thoughts about the anti-sex trend? Is our work schedule to blame? Our addiction to technology? 

March 21, 2011

The Boss's Daughter and your work life balance

Dad_daughter(3) Most of us working mothers still hold out hope that our boss will be understanding of the pull between work and family and that they will pay us as well as our male counterparts. If you have a male boss, you are going to want to check out the family photos in his office, notes blogger Vivia Chen.

A new study found men's attitudes about working women are affected by the gender of their kids.

A report by the Columbia Business School (hat tip: The Juggle at The Wall Street Journal), about a study that looked at the salaries of over 700,000 workers at 6,230 firms in Denmark. It found  male CEOs with daughters tend to treat female employees more fairly. (The research was conducted by David Gaddis Ross of Columbia, Michael Dahl of Aalborg University in Denmark, and Cristian Dezsö of the University of Maryland.) Denmark is a gold mine for this type of study, because it maintains detailed demographic statistics about its workforce.

The study found a short time after male CEOs had daughters, women’s wages rose relative to men’s, shrinking the gender wage gap at their firms. The birth of a son, in contrast, had no effect on the wage gap. Researcher Ross says: "It follows that CEOs may be more apt to see their more educated women employees as resembling a possible future incarnation of their daughters."

Chen, whose blog, The Careerist ,runs on the lawjobs.com site, says several women lawyers she spoke with aren't convinced that men with daughters are more sympathetic to female employees. "It should be true in theory, but I don't see it in my experience,"  one New York associate told her, adding that partners who have adult daughters in the workforce might be a bit more sensitive toward female employees.

Another associate told Chen the real focus should be on the wives, not the daughters. "[Male partners] whose wives work [outside the home] make better supervisors than men whose wives don't," she says.

Personally, I've had male boss's with kids, without kids and I had a male boss with four daughters. I'm not convinced the daughter thing made a difference. But I do think the most fair and understanding male bosses are those whose wives work in demanding jobs.  

Readers, do you find that male bosses with daughters treat women more equitably? What's your experience?

March 16, 2011

Using Spring Break for Work Life Balance

It's time I practice what I preach about work life balance. Instead of trying to negotiate deadlines and kids, I'm kicking back this week and enjoying Spring Break with my kids. It's been hard to resist checking email, blogging, checking in on Twitter and worrying about upcoming deadlines . But so far, I've kept work to a minimum. Now that my daughter is in high school, I'm realizing I have fewer Spring Breaks left when my kids want to hang out with mom.

So, those of you on Spring Break, too, enjoy! Those of you hard at work this week, make your weekend count!


March 11, 2011

Drawing line between personal and work when it comes to social media

Where is the line? It's a question we ask ourselves about so many topics these days. When I read Donna Ballman's post on MonsterThinking.com about social media and employment law, I felt like I had a much clearer understanding of the line between our personal lives and our work lives when it comes to social media. I just had to share the post with you. (Thanks to Monster and Donna for permission!)

DonnaWhether you’re an occasional Facebooker, a Twitter fanatic, or a well-known blogger, you need to understand the risks you face every time you post or click at work and at home, says Ballman, an attorney, book author and writer of the popular blog, Screw You Guys, I’m Going Home.

If you think what you post is private, or that you can click without consequences, think again, Donna writes and points out:  If you make a mistake with your social media, it can cost you your job. 

 Here are six things you need to know about social media and employment law before you post or click: 

 1.  Social Media At Work: Your employer can, and very probably will, monitor your internet usage at work. Assume that every single page you look at will be reviewed by someone in the company. You probably don’t have any right to privacy for sites you view on your office computer. Many employers prohibit personal use of their computers. So do your blogging, Facebook, and Twitter on your home computer.

Before you click on a link, be sure of the source. Even if you open something from a friend without knowing its contents, if it contains pornography or something inappropriate, you can be fired for having it on a company computer. 

2. Posts Aren’t Private: If you blog, or have a Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter or other social networking account, assume that your employer or a potential employer will see what you’ve written. This is not the place to post pictures of yourself partying in the Caymans when you’re supposed to be out sick. It’s also not the place to post racy photos.

Remember that you’ve probably friended at least one coworker, and that person might run to the boss with your posts. And potential employers do check out your social media before they hire you. Think before you post. Don’t put it up if you don’t want it on the front page of the company newsletter, in your personnel file or attached to your employment application.

3. Disabilities and Genetic Information: If your employer or potential employer finds out about a disability or genetic information by looking at your social networking, they aren’t supposed to use it against you for hiring, promotions, or discipline.

Still, be careful what you put out there in the world. If you don’t want the boss to see it, don’t post it. And for goodness sake, if you claim you need light duty or accommodations for a disability, don’t post photos of yourself doing heavy lifting or physical activities.

4. Business Events: If you attend an office party, seminar or convention, be careful what photos you post or allow others to post online. If you are photographed sitting on a coworker’s lap drunk, you might be slapped with sexual harassment charges. Photos of you in a public place are probably fair game for the internet.

5. Insulting the Boss or Company: Before you write anything, assume your boss will see it and word it carefully. You’ve probably heard about the case the National Labor Relations Board brought against a company for disciplining an employee based on insults she posted on her Facebook page about her boss. That does not give you free reign to insult your boss online.

If you’re complaining about working conditions, not just your own but also those of your coworkers, you’re possibly protected from retaliation. Does that mean you should rush to post what an incompetent fool your boss is? No. Not unless you want to be fired. If you really want more details, check out my post about the case here.

6. No Free Speech: Only government employees have free speech protections, and those are very limited. You can be fired for your speech in the workplace or outside the workplace if you work for a private employer. The First Amendment doesn’t protect you at work.

So before you post that rant, your political views, religious beliefs or your opinions about your company’s products, think about what will happen if your boss, the CEO, and all your coworkers read it.

MORE ABOUT DONNA: Donna Ballman has been practicing employment law in Florida since 1986. Her firm, Donna M. Ballman, P.A., focuses on representing employees and former employees.

Now it's your turn for input on this topic. Do you think employer's are going to far when they discipline workers for something they post on social network sites?


March 09, 2011

Goodbye to my editor: adapting to and surviving change at work

Yesterday, as I put the final touches on my weekly Balancing Act column, I started to get choked up. It would be the last one edited by Terence Shepherd. Terence has been my editor and partner in producing my Balancing Act column since it first appeared in print in 2003.  We work together to brainstorm ideas and shape the content. He balances me and brings a different perspective to work life topics. I'm not sure who will become my new editor but I realized that saying goodbye to Terence means embracing change at work. It's something most of us have experienced during the recent tumultuous years of recession.

For a look at how I plan to cope and suggestions for experts, see my column below:


In today’s economy, change needs to be embraced

When a co-worker leaves, those left behind find themselves grieving in the workplace loss. Change, whether it is human departure, new technology or a complete overhaul of how things are done, can throw your whole work life balance into a tailspin.

I was going about my chaotic day, rushing from one place to the next when I received news that shook me up: My longtime editor had taken a new job at another company.

It was one of those announcements that are tricky to process. You’re thrilled for the person who deserves great career rewards, and that’s why you feel cruddy for engaging in a pity party.

Saying goodbye to colleagues unfortunately has become too common at many workplaces. Employees are being forced to adapt and survive, even as our bosses quit, our co-workers are downsized, our companies are sold or corporate strategy heads in a new direction. Forget that we are attached to the way thing were. The change can be traumatic.

Post recession, “no one will emerge the same as they did coming in,” says Mark Royal , a senior principal with Hay Group, a global management consulting firm.

Stepping into change takes a huge shift in thinking. Most people admit that they don’t know a good way to handle unsettling events and businesses typically don’t prepare workers to adapt.

Click here to read more.

March 08, 2011

Congrats to Me! I won a NAWBO Bravo Award

I really don't like to toot my own horn. It's not my style. But I am really honored to have received an award last night from the National Assocation of Women Business Owners as their Media Honoree. I felt like I had won an Oscar (minus the expensive designer gown)

As a writer, it's been exciting to shine a spotlight through the written word on entrepreneurial women who have become such a viable force in the business world. In my 25-year writing career, this recognition meant a great deal to me. I am blessed to have a passion for what I do for a living and to know so many great women who have the same passion for what they do.

Thank you, NAWBO.

Nawbo award Nawbo award group
Nawbo award 

NAWBO BRAVO Winners: (LtoR: Padmini Pandya, Nicole Granet,

Patti van Tonder, Delilah Bartolome, Cindy Krischer Goodman)



Nawbo cin                                                       

(me getting my award)