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7 posts from December 2011

December 23, 2011

2011, A Year of Overwork or Underwork?

This was one of the strangest years I've experienced when writing about work life balance. Either people were COMPLETELY STRESS OUT with too much work or they were FRUSTRATED from having no job or too little work. I made an attempt to sum it all up in my Miami Herald column.

 

The Miami Herald

For most Americans, 2011 was the year of overwork or underwork.Almost universally, stress hit an all-time high as American workers tried to cope with the new reality that work now follows them wherever they go with their mobile devices. Attorney Fred Karlinsky described his resistance to putting down his BlackBerry — regardless of whether it’s 10 a.m. or 10 p.m. “I owe it to clients to respond when they need an answer,” he told me

.Add that to the do-more-with-less attitude and obsession with productivity adopted by today’s bosses and that makes work/life balance even more difficult to achieve.

Earlier this year, I dared to put the question out there: Can you control after-hours work demands without getting fired or losing a customer?

My favorite response came from Wayne A. Hochwarter, a professor of management at Florida State University. It’s all about communication, he said. Maybe you’re answering emails at 10 p.m., but your manager doesn’t expect you to be on call at all hours. You may have inadvertently communicated the wrong message: that you don’t mind the infringement on your personal time. It’s possible to pull back — if you are clear about how you plan to handle their needs during the workday, he said.Around mid-year, I saw the trend toward overwork intensifying and affecting relationships.

 People were making less time for spouses and some were even feeling too exhausted for sex. How crazy is it that iPhone glare has replaced candlelight as the backdrop for bedroom romance?

Read more here:

December 15, 2011

Ease Holiday Stress, boost work life balance

Holiday stress
Like most of you, I'm trying to stay merry. I still have holiday cards and packages to mail. Next week, my kids will be off school, I will still have shopping to so and I'll be finishing up year-end articles. But I will NOT become stressed. I will try to slowly sip hot chocolate, listen to the cheery deck-the-halls music on store speakers and enjoy the fa-la-la of the season.

For those of you like me, trying to rise above the chaos, I decided to offer up some tips in my Miami Herald column for finding that work life balance over the next few weeks. I called on some experts to pitch in with ideas. If you have more to add, feel free to chime in.

 

 

The Miami Herald

Tips to control holiday season stress

By Cindy Krischer Goodman
balancegal@gmail.com

Last weekend, I maneuvered my cart through Home Depot searching for a holiday gift for my brother. On one aisle, a shopper screeched at the store assistant, irate over customers blocking her path. On another, a woman grabbed at an extension cord as I put it in my cart. I pondered over how I could have made the disastrous decision to visit this store on a Saturday during the chaotic holiday season.

The experience made me think about the advice shared by MyCorporation CEO Deborah Sweeney

Think Teamwork: “Usually people in the holiday spirit are willing to pick up some slack for others who need an hour or two here or there,” she says. “Sometimes people want to attend their child’s holiday party or show, or just get a couple hours of less busy shopping time in.”

She has found co-workers are willing to take on a few extra calls to give each other a longer lunch. “It can be a win-win because it comes full circle when you need that extra time yourself.”

Priortize invitations: Holiday parties be ideal for meeting new people, making potential work contacts and reuniting with previous co-workers, particularly if you spent most of the year focused inward. But overdoing it can zap your energy — fast.

You are going to need to make some decisions. Erbi Blanco-True participates in numerous community groups in addition to her job as director of community development for Great Florida Bank in Miami. That means loads of invitations to holiday cocktail parties. In the past, Blanco-True would dash from one event to the next each night, trying not to disappoint the host. On the weekends, she found herself too exhausted to get her holiday shopping done. This year, she has limited herself to one party a night. “I’ve realized that so many people go to the events that unless you are key to the organization, if you don’t go it’s not a big deal.”

Modify shopping habits: Many of us run ourselves ragged coming up with presents for people we don’t care that much about. Even more, we get upset when we don’t get the reaction we had expected when we give a gift. If you want to find some balance during the holidays, buy or make presents only for the people you really care about, and the heck with sending out 1,000 cards or mailing gifts to relatives you rarely speak with during the year.

This year, you might consider tracking your shopping and receipts in one place, either in a notepad or using some of the new tech devices. By making use of lightweight scanners and mobile apps you can automatically collect your online shopping receipts so you don’t lose track of your spending or the record of what you bought. An additional bonus is that keeping electronic receipts could save you time when tax time rolls around.

Look for short cuts: Hundreds of new time saving apps are popping up to help manage holiday-related stress. One such app is GrubHub, which makes it easier to leave work, hit the mall and then order dinner from a local restaurant and pick it up or have it delivered. Another useful app is Shop Savvy Barcode Scanner, which cuts out driving from store to store to find bargains. The app allows you to scan an item and see where the better deals are in other stores. It also goes a step further and gives you a map showing you exactly how to get there.

Leticia Barr, founder of TechSavvyMama.com, says a couple of key devices that she added to her home office make a big difference this time of year. First, a good printer is crucial. “You can use it to make a last-minute greeting card or a gift tag.” She also recommends a business card scanner, which will come in handy when you return from a holiday networker. For example, CardScan by Dymo allows you to scan both sides of the business cards at the same time and drag and drop, import and manage contacts.

Learn to unplug: All around me, people are planning their holiday time off or gearing up to use the last of their vacation days. We all know it’s increasingly challenging to take a real break from the office. If you are committed to enjoying time off before the new year, Yahoo! Web Life Expert Heather Cabot advises taking some deliberate steps with email.

First, craft a clever out of office message for your email account with specifics about when you should be contacted. Next, suspend your social media alerts and e-newsletters. Most importantly, think before you send email, particularly the day before you take off on vacation. (For every email you send, you can expect double the responses in return). Lastly, unsubscribe from email you opted to receive but don’t read.

December 12, 2011

Sleep deprivation, the new norm?

Sleep deprevation
On Friday, I was having a conversation with a female partner at a major law firm in Florida. She talked about the expectations from clients and her firm and I asked her whether she would encourage her daughter to enter the legal profession and seek partnership. She brought to my attention that regardless of what profession females enter today, if they want to reach the pinnacle of success, they will have to work hard, put in long hours, expect to get back on their computers after dinner, and most likely sacrifice sleep.

Yes, sleep is the activity that most women are giving up to get it all done. Men are cutting back on sleep, too, but women do it more often to achieve work life balance.

Some experts are comparing it to cigarette smoking : "Not getting enough sleep is as pervasive in today's culture as was consuming two or three packs per day of Lucky Strikes in the 1940s, 50s and 60s," says Dr. Jeff Dietz on a Huffpost Healthy Living blog.

These same experts say sleep deprivation leads to preventable mistakes.  The worst part of this trend is that we're turning into horrible role models for our kids. As I stay up later at night, I find my teenagers right alongside me. When I tell them to go to bed, they see me on my computer and think it's okay to be up at midnight, getting stuff done.

Dr. Dietz says we all need an attitude change with respect to sleep behavior. "Facing sleep deprivation head-on means that the adults in charge of our teenagers acknowledge and deal with their own sleeping habits, including maladaptive sleep behaviors like the widespread use and abuse of sleeping pills and alcohol at bedtime; like stimulant and caffeine dependence and abuse during the day; like snoring and obstructive sleep apnea and the toll snoring takes on sleep-partners and relationships; like arguing at bedtime, as well as a host of unattended mental and physical disorders -- depression, obesity and diabetes for instance -- that disrupt sleep patterns."

Dietz thinks the answer for teens is to move back the start time of high school, allowing them to sleep later in the mornings.

But what's the answer for adults? Is sleep deprivation just a requirement of getting to the top echelon of a big company or large law firm or succeeding as an entrepreneur? 

I just don't see how working mothers can make it into the executive offices of companies or become partners at law firms and spend time with their kids unless they dash home from work by dinner time and then respond to emails late at night -- and that means cutting back on sleep!

Readers, do you think working mothers can be super successful in their careers and get eight or more hours of sleep a night? What about working fathers? Is sleep deprivation the new requirement for achieving work life balance?

 

December 08, 2011

How to work a room during the holidays

Holiday-party-jacobbotter-flickr
Tonight I'm going to a business-related holiday party. It means leaving my house and family at one of the busiest times of the day, dinner time. When most of us strive for work life balance, we know there are some instances when we have to give up family time for work events, particularly around the holidays.

But if I'm making the trade-off, why not work the holiday scene efficiently.

Here are some tips for working the room -- a combination of my own thoughts and ideas from Men's Health:

Do your homework: Walk into the room prepared. Have an idea who is going to be at the event and have a few talking points to get the conversation started. You also may want to think ahead about who will be at the event that can introduce you to a person you want to meet. Don't be rude and look over the shoulder of someone you are in a conversation to scope out the location of someone on your must-talk-to list.

Don't wait to be introduced: Most people are in a good mood when they're at holiday parties and more approachable than at other times of the year. Take the risk and reach out to someone with whom you might not have opportunity to mingle.

Go easy: Start with light chat about the event or group, then segue into the specifics of your talking points. Even if that never happens or the person steers the conversation back to light banter, don't sweat it. You can follow up with email. You might use the opportunity to find out something personal about the person, their favorite holiday food or drink. You can use that detail in the follow up.

Organize yourself: Keep your own business cards in one pocket and reserve the other for the cards you'll receive.

Be on time: If you're one of the first guests, you'll adopt a hostlike mentality, meeting and greeting rather than taking cues from others.

Infiltrate a group: This is a critical skill. Find the most animated group in the room and join in. Start by quickly making eye contact with someone from the periphery of the group, and then introduce yourself with a firm handshake. Ask an open-ended question such as "What's your connection here?"

Reconnect with new contacts: Before you leave, double back to key people. A second meeting even on the same night makes them more likely to remember you. Wish them happy holidays or tell them you look forward to seeing them again.

Don't overbook: It's unrealistic to think you can really make it to two or three holiday parties in one night and work the room well. Pare it down to one event and make it time well spent.

December 07, 2011

Career reinvention, career transition can be done again and again


It can be scary to face the end of 2011 thinking about what direction to go in with our career. We want a job. We want work life balance. But we're a little unsure or afraid about taking a leap in a new direction.

What you may not realize is that today, more workers are discovering that taking a new direction might just be the first step in a series of career changes. Today, a few years into this economic downturn, career reinvention isn’t just about finding a new path. It’s about trying a path, and then trying another.

One example is Mario Dubovoy. He has been through a series of reinventions, bringing him to his latest career — Internet entrepreneur. These days, he works the phones and surfs the Web on the hunt for companies that want to post their discounts and promotions on his website and mobile app, Couponmat.com. His new occupation represents his third career shift in the last five years. “I have had to assess the situation and adapt to circumstances.”

His advice for you: Try something, and learn from it: . “From everything you do, you learn something. I try not to make the same mistakes.”

Career expert Katharine Brooks says:  “If you can plan out the next five to 10 years, that’s great. But bright people wander in the job process and that’s a good strategy sometimes.”

Some people make initial career transitions out of necessity rather than choice. But that doesn’t mean you are stuck.

When South Florida real estate appraiser George Campbell, 43, saw the bottom drop out of the market, he realized he needed a new career with stability. Campbell opted for a low-pressure occupation — bridge tender. It paid a salary and had benefits. But after two years opening and closing a bridge in Lake Worth, Campbell was bored. “I realized I was too young to do this forever,” he said.

When the receptionist left at his wife’s hair salon, Campbell began contemplating taking the job and expanding the responsibilities. “I looked at what I could make the job into,” he said. Since then, Campbell has become the salon manager at The Spot Salon for Hair in Palm Beach Gardens. He has launched an email marketing campaign for the salon, created a Facebook page, taken over the payroll and accounting tasks and he books appointments. “I’m finding it very enjoyable,” he said.

_RebootYourCareer-coverReinvention expert, Peter Fogel said people often are eager to jump into a profession that looks exciting or different and fail to look at where it’s headed. “You have to look at where the industry is going to be in next five years,” Fogel, a comedian who reinvented himself as a copy writer, speaker and author of Reboot Your Career. “Get beyond the sizzle and learn what is at stake.” He says information is just a mouse click away. He also advises talking to people in the career you want to pursue.

Also, consider easing into a new career and figure out how to parlay it into something bigger. That’s what Jean Newell did.

Newell, 64, had sold homes in Broward County for 35 years. A few years ago, while showing homes, she found herself constantly looking for her mobile device, calling her cellphone to track it down. Finding other agents had the same problem, she created a business tool belt for professionals, the beginning of her new career as an inventor.

JEAN Newell with PUP bagsNewell successfully self–marketed her product to gift catalogs, retail chains and even to QVC. As sales picked up, the housing market collapsed and after 35 years as a real estate agent, Newell made the scary transition to become a full-time entrepreneur, founder of Newell Enterprises. She used that to springboard into another career — reinvention consultant. She authored Turn Your Pink Slip into a Red Hot Business and recently was hired by NASA to advise its aerospace engineers in Florida on a career transition into entrepreneurship.

Her advice: “Don’t spend a lot of money to make a career transition. Get creative; solve a problem.

Click here to read my Miami Herald article on making career transitions.

Here are a few more tips for reinventing yourself:

  • Ask yourself: What gives you energy? How might you apply that to a new career?
  • Have you ever been so lost in an activity you lost track of time? What were you doing? Think about ways that you could apply those skills/interests in other settings.
  • Describe your transferable skills to fit the language of other fields. For example, a professor might reframe lecturing as public speaking.
  • Ask others what they feel are your strong points and in what careers they feel you would do well.
  • Make the move from image to action. It’s easy to get caught in thinking about what you might do. Are you networking and reaching out to people in your new field of interest?
  • Keep a learner’s mindset: Constantly seek new information and think about what you’ve learned. This mindset will serve you well in the transition. Strive to be interested in and curious about what you might find. The antithesis of this is the judging mindset, the one that says ‘this won’t work.’
  • Learn to develop an appreciative eye for the opportunities you find.
  • Look for opportunities that take little or no funding to get started.

 

December 06, 2011

Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg on how she finds work life balance

Do you think it's impossible for both spouses to have high profile, demanding jobs and still raise normal kids?

There are a lot of people out there who would answer yes.

I really like what Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has to say on this topic. She told Business Insider that she feels that if both spouses pitch in equally at home it makes a huge difference toward balancing work and raising kids. She says men assume they can have it all, while women assume they can not.

"That is largely true because we don't have an even split in the home," Sandberg told the Business Insider. "We've made much more progress in the workplace in the last 30 years than in the home." (I have to agree with her on that!)

Sandberg cites the statistics: Women do two times the amount of home work and three times the amount of child care. "If we would get to a more equal division of labor at home, more women can have it all."

Sheryl also points out this food for thought: We (Corporate America) don't make it easy for men to choose to do more at home. Most of the time, men aren't given leave after having a child, nor are they encouraged to leave work timely to pick kids up from daycare.

She says she has an awesome husband who shares the work at home. She and her husband (David Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey) have split their responsibilities at the home equally."We are at 50-50. It's hard to get there. We had to work at it." For example, the couple syncs their calendars and divides up who takes the kids to school or who goes to parent-teacher conferences.

Sandberg advises young women, "the most important career decision you are going to make is who your life partner is."

I noticed that the comments below the Sandberg's interview on the Business Insider page. Many of them were debating quality vs. quantity -- whether a parent like Sandberg who works long hours can make up for the lack of quantity of time spent with her children.

I say quality can make up for quantity when raising kids. But giving them your full attention -- real quality time -- is EXTREMELY challenging these days, especially when you're in management at a big company and technology keeps you tied to the office. Businesses need women at the top and families need men who are involved and pitching in. It sounds like Sandberg and her husband have figured out how to make it work for their family.

Readers, what do you think about the quality vs. quantity argument in parenting? And, do you agree with Sandberg that as more men take on home and childcare responsibilities, work life balance will get easier for all? 

 

December 01, 2011

Heading into the holidays: feeling cheerful or stressed?

Tonight I drove through the neighborhood and noticed most of my neighbors already have their Christmas lights up. It made me tense. I should feel festive seeing Rudolph and his twinkling nose on my neighbor's lawn. But no, I'm thinking about the holiday parties ahead, gift wrapping and shopping, charitable donations, and my childcare needs during winter break. Does anyone else feel stressed? 

HeatherCabot_YahooTo curb your stress and find a healthy work life balance heading into the holidays,  Yahoo! Web Life Expert Heather Cabot suggests you use technology efficiently and allow yourself to unplug. (According to a recent Yahoo! survey, 40 percent don’t think they could get through the holiday season without technology)Here are some tips Heather shares for better work life balance.

 

I'm going to try tip #3. Which will you try?

       

  1. Craft a Clever Auto-Message: If you take time off from work, set up an auto- reply and be very specific about when you should be contacted.  Take a cue from this message that went viral because it was so blunt .http://gizmo.do/p93gu3!
  2. Suspend Your Subscriptions: Just like you used to cancel the newspaper delivery before you went away on vacation, do the same thing with social media alerts and e-newsletters.
  3. Track Your Holiday Shopping In One Place:Make use of tools that automatically collect your online shopping receipts so you don’t lose track of your spending OR the record of what you bought Aunt Hilda this year (so you won’t buy her the same scarf next year!). 
  4. Crowd Source Your Scrapbook: While you are uploading all those photos of merry making, give special family members and friends access to your albums so they can pick and choose the photos they want for themselves.
  5. Think Before You Send, Especially on December 23rd:Avoid the temptation to tackle your inbox by responding or sending a lot of email. Typically for every email you send, you can expect double the responses in return (thank you, FW, RE, CC and BCC). 
  6. Prune your Inbox - Un-subscribe from bacon. This is not SPAM. Bacon is email you opted to receive (maybe inadvertently), including deal offers, news about products, coupons, etc. If you don't read it, take your name off the mailing list.  If you do, create a folder for it.
  7. Clear Your Screen - If you have apps on your smart phone that you haven't used in months, delete them.  Start the new year with a less cluttered screen. Do the same with your desktop or laptop. File documents, apps and photos away.  
  8. Transfer Photos - Don't let all of those precious holiday shots you take with your smart phone or digital camera get lost in the archives. Take the time to transfer your old photos to your computer and/or upload them to a photo sharing site like Flickr. Don't forget to label as you go.