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6 posts from June 2014

June 30, 2014

Should you break unwritten rules in the workplace?

In my previous newsroom, there was an unwritten rule that no one could park in the covered parking area unless they were an top level executive. Yet, the parking spots there were plentiful. One day, a friend of mine decided to break the unwritten rule and park there. No one said a word and she enjoyed getting into her nice cool car after work.

It's odd how unwritten workplace rules get started.

This morning, I read an article in The Denver Post about unwritten workplace rules. It noted that some have been universally followed for generations - things like pay your dues, don't go over your boss' head and stay off the executive elevator.

The article went on to say that Millennials, the generation currently entering the workforce in large numbers, are seriously upsetting those conventions: They have taken a confidence into their jobs because they are digital natives and are used to knowing more about technology than their teachers and parents. 

"The workforce of the future doesn't get the unwritten rules of hierarchy," said Seth Mattison, founder of FutureSight Labs.

Mattison offered an anecdote shared by the chief executive of a distribution company with $4 billion a year in sales after a new crop of interns started. He was deluged by a steady stream of 22-year-olds rolling into his office asking to meet for coffee.

Reading that made me wonder if all of us, regardless of our generation, should break some of the unwritten rules. The only reason I began writing about work life balance was because I broke the unwritten rule of staying in the newsroom hierarchy and brought the idea of a work life balance column more than a decade ago to the publisher of the newspaper.

Sometimes, breaking unwritten rules pays off. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the risk is worth taking the chance. Millennials, more often, are taking that chance. For example, they believe age isn't a factor in who generates great ideas. They are willing to break unwritten rules to make their ideas heard, often going right to the top to get their ideas recognized quickly. 

That attitude should be embraced by all of us. 

Mattison says breaking unwritten rules successfully comes from earning small wins that build credibility. In other words, prove yourself first.

I've found the key to fulfilling work life balance often comes from proposing ideas that may seem, on the surface, to break the rules. In my experience, breaking unwritten rules can be a good thing --- if done smartly after you've earned some respect.

June 26, 2014

How to love your job



Most of us are taught that if we want work life balance, we must be super efficient at work so that we can spend more time doing the things we love outside our workplaces. That implies that work is a chore that we need to slog through as quickly as possible to enjoy life outside the office.

But that doesn't have to be true.

My guest blogger today, Jim Buchanan, looks at work life balance from a different perspective. Buchanan, who has 40 years of global business experience,  is author of a new guide “Winning Customer Love.” In it, he presents business principles based on the Universal Law of Attraction that help leaders instill positive feelings amongst their diverse employees.


Jim-009-225x300Here Jim Buchanan's take on work life balance:

Many of us think about work-life balance as simply managing the hours we spend at each.  I think this is important and worthy of our attention, but I actually have a different question to consider: Don’t we need to give much more attention to the quality of the hours spent at our work? 

I believe that if the quality of the time spent at work were more fulfilling for us, we would at least feel a greater sense of accomplishment and “time well spent”.  This would reduce some of the pressure to simply find ways to work less, and live more.  Why can’t “working” and “living” be a much more seamless continuum, rather than two opposing forces? 

Call me a dreamer, but here is how I believe it can be done, by anyone:

1. We should love our work, our job, and our employer.  If we don’t, we should move on to something we do love.  Doing what we love will bring out the best in us every day and will position us to make a big, positive impact on others and the world.  I wish that I had done this years ago, and at various turning points in my, mostly corporate, career, which spanned nearly forty years.  Don’t focus on the money, or the prestige, or the “stuff” you can get by advancing in your career.  Focus on doing what you love, on what you are really passionate about.  You’ll be surprised at how often everything else falls into place.


2. We should give love to our colleagues and co-workers in the form of help, support, caring, compassion and encouragement.  This will help them perform at their best, and perhaps love what they do as well.  It will also help to create a work environment that is filled with love and caring for one another.  I know this may be difficult when we work with disagreeable people who do not demonstrate these behaviors.  But, as you know, we get back what we give out to others so would you like to receive help and support and caring or anger, selfishness and criticism?  It is your choice.

3. No matter the role we play in our job, we should give love to our customers and to the community at large.  Love to customers in the form of beautiful products and services; great value for their money; empathy before, during and after the sale; sincere gratitude for every visit and purchase; and an everlasting commitment to doing it all better and better each day.  Love to the community in the form of volunteer time and resources supported by your employer.  Giving love outside of your business or company will cause love to come back and help make the business more successful, and the world a better place.


So, I see the challenge of attaining work, life balance as twofold.  Certainly, we need to manage the hours we spend at each.  But we also need to balance the quality of the time spent at each.  Since we so highly value love in our lives, don’t we need love in our work to achieve true balance?

June 25, 2014

The Challenge of Returning from Summer Vacation


Return from vacationThis week, I returned from a two-week vacation. I know that's a luxury for many workers and I feel fortunate. But what I didn't count on is how difficult it would be to return. 

Yes, I feel refreshed as most experts say workers will be after time off. Vacation regularly is touted as the key to work life balance.  I completely agree.

But I put a lot of small things off as I prepared for my vacation. And, because of the difficultly getting WiFi abroad, I also put off responding to email during my vacation. So now, I return to hundreds of emails and other work responsibilities and I long to be in the carefree vacation mindset.

Not only did I put off work tasks. I put off home tasks too. My son needs a haircut. The fish tank needs to be cleaned.

And here I am...longing to be at a hotel relishing a buffet breakfast.

Has the return from vacation ever been this difficult for you?

Jet lag hasn't made the situation any better for me. Yesterday, I feel asleep face down on my laptop.

I know the answer to my return from vacation blues would have been to get more done before I left and tend to my emails during my vacation. Instead, I thoroughly enjoyed my vacation, stayed in complete vacation mindset, and I'm paying for it now.

Life is always a trade off.

As of today, I'm looking forward....no more pining for my carefree days of vacationing abroad. In the work life balance equation, I'm going to focus on work now. However, I just may reward myself with a night swim if I have a productive day.

How have you handled returning from a longer vacation? Is there anything that made the transition back to work easier for you? 

June 09, 2014

What's killing your productivity and what to do about it?

We all know that the key to work life balance is to be super productive at work. Getting more done in less time means more free time. 

So what's killing your productivity? Texting? Surfing the Web? Chatting with co-workers around the water cooler?

New research from CareerBuilder identifies behaviors that employers say are the biggest productivity killers in the workplace. 

As expected, use of technology is one of the leading culprits behind unproductive activity at work. One in four workers (24 percent) admitted that, during a typical workday, they will spend at least one hour a day on personal calls, emails or texts. Twenty-one percent estimate that they spend one hour or more during a typical workday searching the Internet for non-work-related information, photos, etc.  While they might not seem like an efficient use of time, I understand why people do these things at work.

When asked what they consider to be the primary productivity stoppers in the workplace, employers pointed to:

  1. Cell phone/texting – 50 percent
  2. Gossip – 42 percent
  3. The Internet – 39 percent
  4. Social media – 38 percent
  5. Snack breaks or smoke breaks – 27 percent
  6. Noisy co-workers – 24 percent
  7. Meetings – 23 percent
  8. Email – 23 percent
  9. Co-workers dropping by – 23 percent
  10. Co-workers putting calls on speaker phone – 10 percent


Okay, I admit to getting caught up in several of the productivity killers listed above. Here's what Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder, suggests we do to be more productive:

1) Organize and prioritize – De-clutter your workspace and clearly lay out your game plan for the week. What do you need to accomplish each day? How much time will each project take? Which projects have the highest priority?

2) Limit interruptions – Incoming calls and co-workers dropping by to chat about their weekend can break your concentration and eat up time. Block off a conference room to work on a project to avoid distractions at your desk. Read your email at intervals instead of opening each one as soon as it comes in. Consider telecommuting on certain days.

3) Avoid unnecessary meetings – Don’t set aside an hour to meet about an issue or initiative that can be addressed with a quick phone call. Politely decline the meeting invitation and follow up with the organizer.

4) Get personal on your own time – Whether you want to call a friend, take advantage of an online sale or post a picture of your dog on your social profile, do it during your lunch hour or break time or after work.

5) Communicate wisely – Don’t spend 20 minutes crafting an email to the person sitting in the next cubicle. Save time by picking up the phone or walking over to your colleague’s desk.

6) Don’t delay the inevitable – Finding other things to do so you can put off a less preferred project will only end up wasting more time. Don’t procrastinate. Dive in and tackle the task at hand.

When it comes to work life balance, it's getting more difficult to keep work and our outside lives seperate. It may be a productivity killer to take a personal call at the office, but sometimes you just have to do it. 

So, what do you think are your productivity killers? Could you survive being all business, all day while at the office?


June 05, 2014

Learning to Juggle Work Life Balance While Still In College

W-l college



Today my guest blogger is a senior at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania pursuing concentrations in Finance & Management and top contributor to WallStreetOasis.com, Wall Street Oasis is one of the largest and most entertaining finance communities online. This Ivy Leaguer has a lot to say on the topic of work life balance even though he hasn't even graduated college. He didn't want me to print his name because he's in the proccess of applying for full time positions. He says he plans to pursue a career in investment banking after graduation because he finds the field of work fast-paced and exciting. 


Here is his take on work life balance: 

In the spring of 2011, I was accepted into my dream college. After meticulously double-checking (no, triple-checking) the word “Congratulations” on my acceptance letter, I broke into tears of joy and relief. As I cried like a baby, I recalled the years of leadership activities that I hoped would make my candidacy stand out compared to that of my peers, successful and failed SATs & AP exams, varsity sports, and the amount of studying I had to do while balancing the other aspects of my life. I thanked my parents for their Draconian teachings and God for standing by my side. Like any other immature high school student, I thought my life was set.

As I glance back now in retrospect as a junior in college (still immature), I realize I was so wrong.


Since coming to college, I have felt like an ant in a world overrun by giants, a soldier in a war-torn battlefield, and David standing in front of Goliath. Every peer was intelligent, cunning, and built for success in the field of finance. As a prospective student interested in pursuing a career in investment banking, I had to stand out once more against my colleagues. In order to do so, this past fall I decided to pick up a an investment banking internship in addition to juggling my academics, on-campus activities, and my social life. Quite frankly speaking, the work/life balance was difficult at first.


My typical day started with classes at 9AM that concluded at around 2PM. Afterwards, I ran back to my apartment to switch into my suit, pick up a banana or a yogurt for a quick snack, and left to catch a subway that would take me to a train transit station. After a brief train ride, I would walk twenty minutes or so to my office that was located in suburbs outside of my city. All in all, the commute took approximately an hour. In between my train rides, I would study for my classes or brush up on my outstanding work for my firm. On Friday’s when I did not have any classes, I would spend the whole day at the office from morning to evening.


Unfortunately, the work of investment banking varies quite frequently, making the work/life balance all the more difficult to maintain. At times, I would get off work on time at around 7PM, but if the office were flooded with transactions, I would have to stay until much later to finish the work. Once I left the office, I went straight home to change, and try to pick up dinner with my friends. If not, I did whatever I could to study with my friends in order to make sure my social life was still intact and separate from the work itself. Of course, I would miss weekday lunch/dinner reservations at times because of work, but that naturally made my weekends more valuable and time for friends.


In regards to my academics, I knew falling behind would be so easy. In hindsight, this aspect was the most difficult one to maintain in my work/life balance during this period. I made sure to attend every one of my classes, put in my utmost effort to stay awake through every single one of them, and write copious amount of notes for review. After I had dinner with my friends, the remaining amount of time was left for study. Even then, I did not perform well on certain exams at times. However, once I got accustomed to the schedule, my grades did not fluctuate.


Within this strict routine, I still kept one hour of each day for myself to watch my favorite TV shows, workout, nap, cook, or even just bum around as a couch potato. The hour was no one else’s, but mine. It was truly a time that allowed me to get away from everything and focus on myself. In a way, it was a sanity check.

Throughout the three months, I questioned myself frequently why I am putting myself through the routine. Of course, I completely understand that many professionals or full-time parents who are reading this post may feel that I am just a fragile college student complaining of another day at school. However, at least for myself, the three months were difficult and rigorous.

Nevertheless, I do not regret them at all.

While I may have complained back then, in retrospect, I really enjoyed the work, the people I was with, and the routine that I set for myself. Again and again, through the experience, I matured and grew. Everyday was a challenge, and overcoming it in and of itself was exciting. As I gear myself ready for my full-time summer investment banking internship, I am not worried because I am going to do the same thing I did for the three-month work: live everyday to the fullest, but not forget to recount each and every moment.



June 04, 2014

A working mom's thoughts at her daughter's high school graduation

Last night was my daughter's high school graduation. It was surreal sitting in the auditorium watching her walk across the stage. The weeks leading up to last night have been emotional for me. Peers have told me that the years go by fast but you get so caught up in the moment it doesn't feel possible. Then, you find yourself in an auditorium wondering how graduation day came so quickly.

Here's a column I wrote for today's Miami Herald about on thoughts as a working mother who has sought work life balance and realized I did okay as my daughter leaves the nest...


Carly and cindy

Years ago, I was driving home from work late at night and tears came to my eyes. A late-breaking news story had kept me in the office and I had missed the entire day with my baby daughter. As the sitter filled me in by phone on my baby’s day, I was overcome with guilt.

Eighteen years later: My daughter, wearing a cap and gown, enters the auditorium to the strains ofPomp and Circumstance to say goodbye to high school. That one day I missed with my baby long ago has become far less important, overtaken by a series of bigger moments that became the basis of our close relationship.

Around me, other parents also silently marvel at the swiftness of time and wonder if we have properly prepared our kids for their journey into the real world.

As mothers, our parenting “jobs’’ perhaps have been more complicated than those of generations past. Today, 68 percent of married mothers work outside the home (and among single, divorced or separated moms, it’s 75 percent). In a recent article, Carol Evans of Working Mother Media. said, “We have taken responsibility for our children to new heights of parenting, even as we have conquered every type of career known to men.”

Almost all working mothers and fathers, including myself, harbor some regret with our kids — a recital or tournament we missed, a day we sent our child to school with sniffles, that time we lost our temper after a difficult day at work. I regret field trips I couldn’t chaperone because of deadlines and car rides I spent on my cellphone with work instead of talking with my children.

As I surveyed fellow parents of graduates, I found that I wasn’t alone. The biggest regrets came from those who felt they shortchanged themselves by working too many hours, or sharing too little down time with their kids. Yet those at the other end of the spectrum who had devoted most of their time to kids also expressed angst; what will they do now?

If we have been good role-models, our success at combining work and family will inspire our children.

Fighting back tears, Donna Milfort told me that when her daughter gets her diploma this week, she will be especially proud that she has encouraged her to be independent and focused. Her daughter, Ashley, hasn’t had it easy. Milfort, a single mom, worked odd shifts at Wendy’s when her daughter was younger; now she works the night shift for the Transportation Security Administration at Miami International Airport. Ashley will be the first in her family to go to college; her older brother is a part-time security guard, while her older sister works as a hotel clerk.

Milfort says she tried to make herself available to her kids, but Ashley, in particular, was always self directed. “I wish I had taken time to do more things with her, to travel to another city or take more family outings to the park or museums,” Milfort said. “But that part of our life is over. I can’t change that. This is the hard part … I’m going to miss her.”

Last week, Randee Godofsky Breiter watched her daughter receive her diploma and wondered, “How did we get here so quickly?” It was in that moment that Breiter made a vow. “I decided to soak in the moment. I don’t often do that often because I’m usually scattered between work and kids, and it’s hard to give all my energy to one thing, to one child. But I did my best to focus just on her.”

Over the past 18 years, Breiter, assistant director at FIU law school’s career planning and placement center, has gone from full time to part time. Now, she works both full-time with the university and as a part-time Kaplan University instructor, simply because she loves it. Her two children have become their own chauffeurs and rise for school to their own alarm clocks. While Breiter was never class mom, she believes her work ethic set a good example. “My daughter realizes that you spend more time with the people you work with than your family, so you have to like what you do,” she said

Dads like my husband, who balance work and coaching their children's sports teams, face their teens’ graduation day with similar introspection. More fathers today want to be more involved with their children than in past generations, but they struggle to break free of the constant electronic communication that keeps them tied to their work. On this day, they tuck away their devices to relish the seemingly-fleeting time with their children.

I think about the candy sales, the mad dash to sports practice and the parent-teacher conferences that have been so much a part of my life in years past. As some of those activities fall off my calendar, I realize that my daughter and I are both moving on to new adventures and adjustments.

As she flips her tassel and heads off to college, I hope she remembers not to accept what other people expect of her, to explore all options and do what she finds fulfilling. I’ve impressed upon her that hard work will beat out talent, that life never goes exactly as planned, and that it’s okay to make unpopular choices if she thinks they are right for her.

We all walk away from graduation with something. For some, it’s the lessons learned from juggling parenthood and careers. For me, it is motivation to appreciate the career and life choices I made and look ahead. The ultimate reward of working motherhood will be to watch my daughter pursue her passions — as I have mine — and to marvel at where the journey takes her.