November 03, 2015

Improve work life balance and fight cancer at the same time

As October came to a close, I began to miss the month when pink was everywhere. Still, it's great that at least one month a year, there is a focus on preventing and curing breast cancer. 

But now that November is here, there is no reason we should stop talking about cancer prevention, particularly when there are some easy things we can do to reduce the risk of cancer and improve our work life balance at the same time.

Dr. Pedro Serrano-Ojeda headshotDr. Pedro Serrano-Ojeda (CEO and Chief Radiation Oncologist of Caribbean Radiation Oncology Center in Doral) offers some suggestions that seem pretty doable:

Cut the sugar and exercise Obesity has surpassed the use of tobacco as a cancer causing factor. Making exercise a part of a daily routine can help minimize stress – make sure to leave the cell phone behind – and it makes for a healthy body.  Even just a brisk walk or light jog for 20 minutes a day will all help towards reducing the risk of cancer. 

Shop smart There are many household products – including certain shampoos – that contain parabens, such as sulfate, that could increase the risk of breast cancer.  There are many online resources that can help with finding products that do not have these elements, just a little bit of research before hitting the grocery store goes a long, long way. 

Read the label Using containers that are not suitable for the microwave can be a cancer-inducing practice. Cancer is an ancient and formidable enemy, yet there are some things we need to avoid in the modern world that will assist us in preventing the disease. Looking carefully at how we are using everyday products can make a difference.

Take Vitamin D– Women with breast cancer often have low levels of vitamin D so it is important to have a regular vitamin D check

Chill out Stress has a great impact on the body and predisposes it to cancer. It’s inevitable that sometimes situations will arise that will lead to stress, but if we stop and ask, “Is this item we are stressing over worth risking cancer for?” then I really think we wouldn’t sweat the small stuff.  

Live with purpose- As Einstein used to say, “Only a life lived for others is a life worth living.” And, as I say, “People do not die from old age, but people die when they stop dreaming.” So keep dreaming and keep living with purpose.

October 22, 2015

What to do when you hate your job

KatlynKatlyn Grasso loves her job as CEO of GenHERation. She talks excitedly about empowering high school girls and has the passion for what she does that all of us want to experience.

When I spoke with Katlyn for a recent Miami Herald column on pursuing your passion, she said something that stuck with me.

Grasso, 22, says she often encounters peers who hold jobs in which they are not fulfilled and offers this advice: “If you are not in a financial position where you can pursue your passion right away, find ways to incorporate it into your schedule — whether volunteering, working on a business idea on weekends, becoming an intern. You have to keep working at it.”

The reality is that fewer than half of American workers are satisfied with their jobs, according to a 2014 survey from the Conference Board, a not-for-profit economic research institute. But just because you're in a job you're not passionate about, doesn't mean you can't eventually segue into doing something you love. 
Let's say you're a window washer and you aren't exactly finding your job fulfilling. Instead of walking around complaining that you hate your job, think differently about the big picture. In a TEDx talk in Kansas City, branding expert Terri Trespicio said try doing something -- anything -- in your off hours and be open to where it takes you. 

"Sometimes you don’t know what going to do next and that’s okay not to know. If are waiting to find your passion to take you there, you will be waiting a long time. Instead, spend your time and attention solving your favorite problems. Be useful and people will pay you for it. Success is when your energy and effort meets someone’s needs," she said. 

At a time when people are desperate to figure out what they are passionate about and turn it into their life's work, Terri insists:  "You don’t follow your passion, your passion follows you."

She's not the only one that believes that to be true. This morning I watched an interview with legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola (known best for his film The Godfather). Coppola opened his third winery this month. Okay, I realize few of us have the financial means to launch a wine company but Francis said something that makes a lot of sense: "The things you do out of trying to enjoy life are the things that make business sense."
The bottom line is that you may not be super thrilled in your current job. You may even be miserable, longing to quit, yet desperate to keep a paycheck coming in or hold onto your benefits. If you find yourself venting or complaining about work all the time, remember you're never stuck. Look for opportunities in and out of your workplace to parlay into your next job or career.  
Sometimes you don't have to look far for a solution. You might explore different departments or teams at your office where you can learn something new or find a project that excites you. Maybe you've lost interest in what you're doing, or maybe you never were interested, but it's pretty safe to bet there is something that interests you. 

My friend, a lawyer, loves jewelry. She doesn't love her job as a lawyer. On the weekends, she started helping a friend with her jewelry business. Six months later, it's almost like my friend has become completely different person. When I talk to her, she enthusiastic and -- happy! She hasn't given up practicing law, she just added something into her life that she enjoys.

You, too, can improve your work situation and find your passion, you just need to shift your mindset and take a leap! Life's too short to be miserable!

October 09, 2015

The crazy chores we find relaxing




I'm clearing the dinner table and urging my son to hurry up and get changed for Lacrosse practice. At the same time, I'm telling my husband that if he hurries he will have just enough time to shed his suit, put on shorts and get our son to the field. Meanwhile, I now have all the dishes in the kitchen sink and something happens next that takes me by surprise.

I'm pouring soap on the sponge, scraping food off the plates  and I feel  -- dare I say it -- a little more relaxed. 

When I read a recent article on that said washing dishes can significantly lower your stress level—if you do it mindfully, I was taken aback. Really, chores are relaxing???? They must be kidding!

Yet, with most of us trying to do a million things at once to achieve work life balance, I have to admit that mundane household tasks do give me a chance to slow my life down. 

In a recent study quoted by Time,  researchers found that people who washed dishes mindfully (they focused on smelling the soap, feeling the water temperature and touching the dishes) upped their feelings of inspiration by 25% and lowered their nervousness levels by 27%. “It appears that an everyday activity approached with intentionality and awareness may enhance the state of mindfulness,” the study authors conclude.

Do you know what other chore relaxes me? (Please don't think I'm insane!) Making my kids' lunches. I have a formula for packing lunch that I follow every night. I usually make lunches when everyone is asleep and the house is quiet and I put thought into kids preferences and giving them variety. I guess you could say I do the task mindfully. So, I agree there is something to the notion that doing a mundane task mindfully can be relaxing.



But I guess the bigger issue is that we're all so stressed by doing so much at once that simple chores are the new stress relievers. Look at the other things we're latching onto to relieve our stress -- aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, mindfulness. Stress relief has become a giant business. And still, we're suffering from tension headaches, weight gain and burn out. What a sad state of affairs!

Of course, now that I'm aware of the ultimate stress reliever, I'm going to volunteer to do the dishes more often. Who needs a massage when I can scrub a plate clean and restore harmony to my life?

Be honest, do you find dishwashing relaxing? Is there another chore that relaxes you more? 

September 21, 2015

Better boss, or pay raise?



One day, all three of my kids had the stomach flu. It was the same day I needed to turn in a article to appear in our Business Monday section. Being late would mean more work for my editor.But he didn't hesitate when I told him what was going on in my home. "Don't worry," he said. "Just do what you need to do at home." I ended up turning the story in on time. And, I think my editor knew I would. But having him say that to me made me appreciate where I worked and for whom I worked. 

We all know a boss can make or break your ability to balance work and family. He or she can also make or break whether you like your job. 

A new study produced by HR consulting firm Randstad U.S. shows that workers in the U.S. would trade salary increases for a better boss. More than a quarter of respondents (28%) to the survey said they would rather have a better boss manage them than have a $5,000 raise. 

Because most of us spend more of our valuable waking hours at work than anywhere else, having a boss who respects your life outside of work is worth more than $5,000 as far as I'm concerned.

Jim Link, chief HR officer for Randstad North America. "41% of employees don't believe their employees help them achieve work-life balance and 39% don't feel their managers encourage them to utilize vacation time. Therefore, bosses who proactively encourage workers to unplug, unwind and truly leave work behind to enjoy time off will be looked upon as workplace heroes."

Just last week a friend called me, exasperated. Her boss had called a mandatory staff meeting at 7:30 a.m. (An awful time for parents of young children) At the meeting, her boss rambled without a set agenda and no real point. "I love what I do but I can't take working for this woman anymore," my friend said. 

How do you deal with a horrible boss? How do you know when it's time to quit? For me, it's time when you absolutely dread going to work. Here are more Telltale Signs It's Time To Quit Your Job.

Yes, there are ways to handle a bad boss. As Forbes points out: "However fixed in their ways your boss may be, you can always learn ways to better manage him or her."  Of course, it is not easy and the process might not seem worth the effort.

So when you put it out there...better boss, or pay raise? I'd take the better boss. How about you?


September 02, 2015

Always busy? It's time to reclaim your work life balance

Last night I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned thinking about everything I needed to get done. While my husband snored, I grabbed my iPad and piled tasks on my digital to-do list. Now, I am starting my day tired and if anyone dares to ask me how life is going, I will respond: BUSY!

 Are you busy, too?  By that, I mean are you juggling, cramming, rushing and feeling exhausted?

 We are all busy because that's life today. But maybe there's something else going on. Maybe we just haven’t figured out a better way to work and live.   

I just finished reading How To Thrive In A World of Too Much Busy by Tony Crabbe and found myself thinking differently about my struggle with work life balance and our society’s addiction to being busy.

Crabbe says we are busy because we're not making the tough choices. We choose skimming email rather than grappling with a complex project because it's the easy, busy activity. We steal attention from real relationships while we keep ourselves busy on social networks. Beating busy is simple, he says. It's about focusing on the things that matter.

 Here are some suggestion Crabbe gives to gain control over our lives and find a better work life balance. 

1. Say no to a request or ask permission to delay a deadline by using the word “because.” If you use "because" in your request, your argument will be seen as more rational and acceptable.


2. Be deliberate when you check email. Set specific times and do it in a focused way rather than grazing.


3. Identify at least one meeting that you can cancel or simply not attend.


4. Next time you are asked to do something, assess how much spare time you have and half it. Then assess how long you think the new task will take and double it.  Now you can make a better informed judgment whether to take it on.


5. Get better at making good choices. If we choose to fill our calendar with more, more, more, we are choosing not to have time to think -- and that isn't effective. Resist feeling you have to fill up all your time at work or home.


6. Make intentional choices. The primary driver for choosing activities at work and home should be internal "what do I want to achieve?"


7. Over-invest your time and attention in the 15 most important people in your life.


Here are some great questions to ask yourself:

What could I do less of to enjoy life more?

What is the “I’m too busy” excuse stopping me from doing?

What is one small step I could take to go from being frenetically busy to being happy?


Making behavior changes is hard. It’s much easier to walk around thinking we have to do more and convince ourselves we need to be more productive. By being busy, we actually get to feel productive while procrastinating.

Have you ever really thought about whether you are addicted to being busy? Have you ever stopped to look at whether you're getting it wrong?


August 31, 2015

Do you check email on weekends?


Last weekend, my husband was about to check his email when he hesitated. He wanted to see if anything major needed his attention at work. But then again, he really didn't. Instead of checking in, he spent the next hour enjoying our bicycle ride. Had he checked, I'm sure he would have been thinking about work while we were pedaling through the park. Still, I had to convince him that he had made the right call.

I think the days are gone when we make a clean break from work on Friday and return on Monday morning. Today, there are very few people in positions of responsibility who don't check their email on the weekends. That's not exactly a recipe for a good work life balance but it's a reality of the new "always on" world we live in. 

Almost every top executive surveyed by The Miami Herald for its CEO Roundtable feature admitted to checking email on the weekends. Some said they set aside allocated time for checking, while others check in on and off all weekend long. I fear the feeling that we must check in is only going to get worse. 

Here is how some of South Florida's CEOs responded when asked if they check work email on weekends:

"I am always checking my emails and often use weekends as a time to catch up on any pending responses or issues I need to address. With a 24/7 hotel operation, I need to be available at all times." -- Julie Grimes, managing partner, Hilton Bentley Hotel

"I check email both days but not constantly. As a business owner, I believe that it is a moral obligation to be prepared for an employee or client emergency. However, if there is really an emergency, someone calls. This is clearly my own character flaw." - - Ann Machado, founder and president, Creative Staffing

"I do check emails over the weekend because my work and personal lives are very closely intertwined. However, I try to check it only at allocated times during the weekend so I’m not distracted during my family time." -- Nitin Motwani, managing principal, Miami Worldcenter Associates

"I like to be accessible to any business where I am an investor, operator or adviser 100 percent of the time, but my family comes first. Most things can wait, and we are not involved in life-or-death situations. I generally check emails any time my daughter is sleeping." -- Todd Oretsky, co-founder, Pipeline Brickell

Do you think it is possible to go the entire weekend without checking email? Is there a system you use to refrain from thinking about work 24/7 on the weekends?


August 13, 2015

How to return from vacation and stay relaxed


You are on your way back from vacation feeling rejuvenated, but after a few days, you feel like you need another vacation. The tsunami of work comes flooding back with a vengeance. Projects and deadlines you had sidelined now are front and center, and dirty clothes still await your attention.

Is this just the inevitable evil of vacationing from work, or is there a way to return from time off without stress?

The good news is that it is possible to make a smooth transition. This week, I returned from a 10-day vacation feeling great. I followed some of these tips and my return to reality was easier than after prior summer vacations. 

Here are some suggestions for how to return from vacation and stay relaxed:
Start before you leave. Get into the mindset that work may pile up, but you will be going forward with a fresh outlook and a better state of mind. Executive coach Eric Rogell advises you create a “first day back” plan before you leave. “It’s easy to get sucked into emails and phone calls, but those are time and energy drains. Hold off on those and do the important things first. Stick to your plan.”
Delegate. While you're on vacation, if someone else can do it, make sure someone else is doing it. During her vacation this summer in Napa Valley, Kathryn Orosz, a Miami insurance broker and winery investor, designated an associate to cover for her at work. She forwarded email messages that need handling to that person: “They copied me back so I could stay in the loop on how it was being handled. I had to remind myself not to answer anything, just to move the email along.” By delegating, Orosz said she avoided a backlog of correspondence and could jump back in on transactions when she returned, without much stress: “I was just responding on the end of the continuum rather than going back in time.”
Decide upfront how you will handle email. Your decision will make all the difference in your level of post-vacation stress. Rogell said if you’ve created an out-of-office message for your vacation, include directions for whom to contact while you are out and keep the message on for an extra workday. An extra day gives you space to get things sorted out without new expectations piling on. “Use that day to get to the priorities you want to get done,” he said. Even with an out-of-office message, most people check their emails, even if only sporadically. If your emails have piled up, consider making a quick scan, flagging priority messages and deleting all others. Chances are, if it’s important, someone will follow up with you.

Create a buffer.  Professional organizer Diane Hatcher says giving yourself a day or two buffer between vacation and work makes the return much easier. Some people try to maximize their vacation by returning the night before they return to work. They sit on the plane or in the car dreading the next morning and the harsh return to reality it represents. Hatcher advises against that approach. Give yourself at least a day to unpack, wash clothes and open mail, she said. “Sure, unpacking signifies the end of vacation,” she concedes, “but there are consequences of not emptying your suitcase right way.” An unpacked suitcase becomes another thing piled up to tackle while readjusting back to work. “Get it over with, close the door, get dirty clothes into wash, clean clothes put away so you don’t have it hanging over your head,” she said. Instead, you can return to the office ready to take on the workweek.

Schedule properly. Rogell, who loves to take adventure vacations, plans something relaxing the last day of vacation and something fun to look forward to the first post-work evening. He also cautions against packing your work schedule your first day back. Be OK with giving only 70 percent, and don’t force yourself into a 10-hour day, he advises. The goal should be to hang on to that vacation recharge as long as possible.


April 16, 2015

Take a pause, Get in flow, Learn to play




Have you ever heard of flow? Let me describe it to you....

Picture yourself on a surfboard, riding a wave. You are living in the moment, utterly absorbed in the feel of the board on the water, the sound of the wave and the splash of the ocean on your face.  Time seems to fall away. You are tired, but you barely notice. According to Steven Kotler, what you are experiencing in that moment is known as flow, a state of complete immersion in an activity. 

When you're in flow, your attention is focused and you are capable of amazing things,  every action flows effortlessly and innovation gets amplified. 

Flow experiences can occur in different ways for different people. A writer might experience this when working on a novel and the pages seem to write themselves. A basketball player might experience it when he gets into the zone, undergoes a loss of self-consciousness and focuses only on his shot from center court.

Flow states are now known to optimize performance, enhance creativity, drive innovation, accelerate learning and amplify memory.

The happiest people have flow. I don't have flow. I have stress. I am walking around with a to-do list that never gets shorter and I'm always thinking about ten things at the same time.

But I can get flow and so can you.

I bet you're thinking, "How in the world would I do that?" That's what I was thinking when I heard Steven Kotler speak about flow earlier this week at Human Capital Media's  Chief Learning Officer Symposium in Miami. Steven wrote  the book "The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance and says we can tap flow at work, home, or skiing down a mountain.

Here are a few of Steven's suggestions for triggering flow: Choose your own challenges, Put yourself in an unpredictable environment, stretch yourself just slightly greater than your skill set, embrace solitude, be aware of your senses, engage in serious concentration.

After hearing Kotler speak, I wandered into a nearby room at the conference to hear Yogi Roth talk about finding your inner grit. Roth, calls himself an Aventure-preneur (don't you love that title!) From Roth, I learned that I don't pause enough to think about my personal style, my vision, my theme and my philosophy.  I want to pause more, and think about these things. I want inner grit.

To get it, Roth says I must make sure how I describe myself, how my best friend describes me and how my mentor describe me are the same. I will start working on that...

Thanks Yogi, good stuff to know.

Most important, from Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time and the final speaker at the conference, I learned that I don't take enough time to play. When is the last time you jumped on a trampoline, glided through air on a swing or climbed a tree? For me, it's been way too long ago. So, if I want work life balance and a less stressful life, I must learn to play. I like the idea of playing more, don't you? At Patagonia,  managers have their meetings while hiking mountains and people take time in the afternoons to surf with co-workers. I love that concept -- play at work.

Do you know that in some parts of the country  there are women's play groups? Yes, these women get together weekly for playdates for a fun activity -- they trapeze, rock climb and bike ride. How cool is that!

Clearly, I have a few things to work on if I want to up my game. 

What are your thoughts on flow, grit, and play? If you have tapped into flow or found a way to fit play into your day, I want to hear from you. How do you make these concepts a reality? 

January 26, 2015

Is stress contagious?


Some days when I feel stressed about work deadlines, I complain to my husband about everything on my to do list. After a few minutes of listening to me vent, he tells me I'm stressing him out. 

He may not be experiencing stress to the degree I am, but it doesn't surprise me that new research has found stress is contagious. It's pitiful but there's just so much to be stressed about these days -- demanding clients,  never ending streams of incoming email, huge bills from the vet or daycare provider, a parent that's showing signs failing health. Work life balance issues are a huge source of stress.

While we may not even realize it, we experience stress and then pass it on to others through what we say, the facial expressions we make and the way we physically show tension. 

Research found when we become aware of stress of others, it sends a signal to our brain and our bodies release the stress hormone cortisol. It doesn't matter what's causing stress for our spouse, co-worker or best friend, it only matters that we observed the other person in a stressful situation. How strange is it that our bodies actually process other people's stress?

It's no wonder we're seeing shorter tempers and higher levels of impatience! 

Of course, if it isn't stressful enough that we pass along stress through personal interaction, now, there's a new way to expose others to our stress -- social media. 

Just today, I saw on Facebook that my friend's adorable dog Charley, has cancer. It worried me because I know she lives alone and has a close bond with her dog.

Pew Researchers are calling the heightened stress we're feeling from learning on social media about undesirable events affecting our friends or relatives "the cost of caring." They say this is adding to a growing pool of evidence suggesting stress is contagious.

So while we might be venting on social media to make ourselves feel better, our posts about rough patches that we've hit or disappointing life events are stressing out the people near and dear to us who read what we write. 

In other words, while increased levels of stress have us searching for ways to blow off steam, we're blowing it right on to the people we count on to prop us up. Pathetic, right?

Think about how much stress we would save from multiplying if we just learned how to manage our stress through simple activities like breathing, walking or visualizing calm.

Or am I fooling myself by thinking the solution is that simple? 

November 18, 2014

Never bring your boss a work life balance problem

This morning, a male friend called me with a management issue. He wanted my thoughts on how to handle a situation with one of his female employees who is struggling with a work and family conflict. 

The problem is that each member of his staff takes a turn with a task that requires they stay late at the office one night a week. This one employee, a mom, has a young child at daycare and finds it impossible to rely on her husband or a family member to pick the child up when it is her turn to stay late.  She approached her boss and told him she couldn't continue to stay late once a week. 

"She's a good employee," my friend explained. "I don't want her to quit. But we are making everyone else take a turn at staying late."

My immediate response was to rattle off questions. 

First, why is this just this woman's problem? If there's a father in the picture, why isn't he working to find a solution, too?

Second, if she knows in advance she needs to stay late once a week, why can't she plan for it?

Last, and most important, why did she approach her boss with a problem, rather than a solution?

The number one rule in negotiation of a work life accommodation is bring a solution to the table.

I advised my friend to tell his employee to come back with a proposed solution to this dilemma. Then, she and her boss can negotiate from there.

If I were the frustrated mom, I might have asked my boss if there's a task I could take on early in the day in order to skip my turn on the late night rotation.

Long ago, I learned that bosses respond best to proposed solutions rather than problems. Because this woman's co-workers are single or have no kids, there is a possibility of resentment. As a manager, my friend needs to make sure whatever accommodation he makes for this working mom comes off as fair to all. 

We work in an era when the needs of the 21st Century workforce must be considered. In two-job families, men and women may both confront work life balance challenges. No one wants to lose his or her job over a child care issue. And, a good boss wants to keep a good employee. 

As I hung up with my friend, he said: "Let's see what she comes up with. I really want this to work out."

I pretty sure most bosses feel that way.