May 11, 2015

Working Mothers' Biggest Challenges

One day last week, I was interviewing someone for an article while in the waiting room at my son's orthodontist. My son came out and was trying to get my attention. I was trying to signal that I needed a few more minutes of phone time. He was aggravated. I was aggravated. This is the kind of craziness that working mothers go through trying to achieve work life balance.

As working mothers our work life balance challenges are similar to those of fathers, but yet, so different.

In celebrating mothers this month, TheLadders.com sent me info on a survey they previously conducted to find out how working mothers feel about their work life balance. Want to know how they feel?

Overwhelmed and guilty.

Working mothers walk around with massive guilt --  Guilt that we are not spending enough time with our kids, coupled with guilt that our work may be suffering from not having our undivided attention 24 hours a day.

The Ladders surveyed 250 women and found balancing a career and a family is a huge struggle for 87% of of them, with 55% admitting that “excelling at both is overwhelming.”

On the phone with Nichole Barnes Marshall, I asked her about her work life challenges. Nichole is Global NicholeHead of Diversity and Inclusion for Aon, a job that has her traveling and connecting with thousands of Aon professionals. Nichole is also a married, working mother with three children ages, 4, 7 and 9. 

She told me her big challenge is prioritizing work in way that she can be operating at high performing level and be available to go to her kids activities like the recent school Cinco de Mayo festival.  "I wish I could be there for all the activities."

"The challenge for me is how I can be my best at work and be the best mother," she says. "I try to manage that by focusing on quality, not the quantity."

Nichole, like many other mothers, works to contribute to the household income but also enjoys her work. "I’m getting lot of satisfaction out of what I do, which makes  it (the balancing act) worthwhile. But, that doesn’t take away the twange when I get sad eyes from my kids for leaving for another business trip."

Not only do us working mothers feel challenged by and guilty about work conflicts causing us to miss events in our kids' lives, most of us feel guilty about any detail of our kids' lives that falls through the cracks.

I found myself nodding in agreement with every word of this op-ed piece in the New York Times titled Mom: The Designated Worrier.

Here's the gist of it:

Sociologists sometimes call the management of familial duties “worry work,” and the person who does it the “designated worrier,” because you need large reserves of emotional energy to stay on top of it all. I wish I could say that fathers and mothers worry in equal measure. But they don’t.

While fathers are helping more with household work and child care, women still keep track of the kind of nonroutine details of taking care of children — when they have to go to the doctor, when they need a permission slip for school, what they will eat for dinner."

So, in addition to our job demands there is tons of pressure on mothers to be the right kind of mother who keeps all the details straight and our families organized. That's our big challenge.

No wonder we walk around worried, overwhelmed and feeling guilty!

To all you sleep deprived, overwhelmed working mothers, you are awesome.  Lose the guilt, stop worrying and realize that whether or not you miss an event or forget to sign a permission slip, your children still love you.

 

 

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April 27, 2015

The ideal worker is ruining our lives

                                                 Ideal

 

 

The idea worker is not me and it likely isn't you.

The ideal worker doesn't take parental leave when a child is born. He or she has no need for family-friendly policies like flexible schedule, part-time work or telecommuting. The ideal worker doesn't need to find babysitters, deal with school closures or worry about child-care responsibilities.

The ideal worker, freed from all home duties, devotes himself completely to the workplace. He or she is a face-time warrior, the first one in in the morning and the last to leave at night. He or she is rarely sick, doesn't take vacation and is willing to hop on a plane whenever needed. The ideal worker will answer email at 3 a.m. or pull an all nighter if asked. He is the guy who works endless hours, even if it cost him or her their health or family. 

In her book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play when No One Has Time, Brigid Schulte brilliantly points Overwhelmed-TPBookshot-250x372out that the notion of the ideal worker wields immense power in the American workplace. "We are  programmed to emulate him at all costs, or at least feel the sting of not measuring up," she notes.

Here we are in the 21st Century, one in which most women and men work and most have some kind of home responsibilities. Yet, as Brigid points out in her book ( a must read!) most of us are being penalized because we can't meet the expectations of the ideal worker. 

This outdated notion of the ideal worker is a big reason why some education mothers disappear from the workplace and why some men hate their jobs. "Fathers are stigmatized when they seek to deviate from the ideal worker," Brigid writes. That leaves men with children faced with a sharp choice -- either they choose not to be equal partners at home or they choose to be equal partners and hurt their careers, she writes. 

What's it going to take to zap this longtime definition of the ideal worker?

That's a loaded question because with fast emerging technologies, the ideal worker is now expected to be on call and ready to roll all day, every day, all the time. Even worse, people who work for ideal worker managers sleep less than those who have flexible managers and are at great risk for heart disease, Brigid points out.

"No matter how much you do, how hard you work, how much you sacrifice, how devoted you are, you can never attain the ideal," Brigid convincingly argues.

So, here we are raising our kids, trying to please our customers and bosses, working crazy hours, and still, the workplace demands more. We are stressed. We are exhausted. We are on an unfulfilling search for happiness and we need a new definition of the ideal worker. NOW.

My definition of the ideal worker is someone who gives work his or her full attention while at the office and refuels once he or she leaves. My definition includes working parents who take their vacations, fathers who take their children to school or meet with their teachers, and singles who take time to do activities they find enjoyable. Under my definition, the ideal worker doesn't necessarily work less, he workers smarter and more innovatively.

If the outdated notion of the ideal worker is ruining your life, causing you to be overwhelmed and unsure of whether you can ever please everyone on the job and at home, it's time to work toward change. We can make the new definition stick, we just need to acknowledge it needs changing and get the movement started. 

February 13, 2015

When your friend experiences heartbreak

This morning, I am in shock. My friend's son killed himself. He was only 20.

What do you say to a mother or father who gets that news? There are no words. 

As we run around, worrying about answering an email or returning a phone call, we forget that the routine tasks on our plates mean little when it comes to losing someone you love. There is nothing that can replace that hole.

Some days, it's really hard to disconnect from work. Some days, we're tired of our commute, our boss, our customers, our lack of work life balance. It is those days that make the quality time we spend with our children, our partners, our parents more valuable.

My friend may never understand why this tragedy occurred. But she will always wish she could have done more. She will think of every time she hugged her child, every moment she spent with him and wish there were more.

So, for all of us who have more time with our loved ones, let's disconnect this weekend. Let's not worry about the customer or supervisor who is giving us aggravation or the emails we need to answer. Let's put our mobile devices in our pockets and leave them there. It's Valentine's weekend and the best time ever to show love to those you care about by giving them what most of us want the most -- our undivided attention.

My heart aches for my friend who has been clutching her son's photo since learning of the news. She has experienced the kind of perspective no one should have to endure. I know there is nothing I can do for her right now. It's a helpless feeling. So, for her and the other parents who have been in her shoes, let's make the most of our Valentine's Day and be present. Single or married, kids or no kids, we all have people in our lives we love  - let's show them through our actions. As my grieving friend as learned, roses and chocolates are nice but they pale in comparison to real conversation and a big hug.

 

February 05, 2015

Could you do business only by email?

Last week, I called Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of AudienceBloom in Seattle to talk to him about an opinion piece he wrote on overwork and work life balance. Jayson didn't want to speak to me on the phone and asked me to send my questions by email. He told me he does business almost completely by email and reference this Forbes article he wrote:  Email Only: 10 Reasons Why Phone Calls Are a Waste of Time

For a journalist, corresponding by email is tricky. It's way too easy for email responses to sound stiff when they appear in the paper and it's really difficult to ask follow up questions. At this point, I became fascinated by how Jayson manages to do all his business by email. I read Jayson's thoughts on why considers phone calls a waste of time and went ahead and sent Jayson my questions. I  waited about a day and a half for his response. Here are my questions and his answers:

  JaysonIf you rely mostly on email, doesn’t that make it more difficult to disconnect? Will you really be willing to pause your inbox?

(Jayson) For me, it's easy to disconnect -- all emails are work-related (nobody non-work related sends me email; they text me or call me). So when the workday is over, I simply pause my inbox, turn off my computer, and walk out of the office. It's simple, easy, and effective.

 When you haven’t responded to an email, or expect an answer through email, are you able to go home and not think about work?

(Jayson) It depends on the situation, but major problems or obstacles do tend to follow me home after work. However, that's life for an entrepreneur (and just about any professional who takes their work very seriously). There are ways to get your mind off work, such as video games, watching TV, playing with your dog, or spending quality time with your friends and family. 

 Have you ever sent an email that was misinterpretted?

(Jayson) Yes; I send and receive around 2,000 emails every week, and some are misinterpreted. 

In regards to small talk, isn’t it small talk that builds relationships, collaboration and even problem resolution? How do you accomplish that through email?

Small talk can certainly build relationships. As for collaboration, I often find that small talk doesn't advance a collaborative effort; it hinders it. Email, for me, is much more effective for problem resolution than any other method. It allows each party to be thorough, detailed, and clear. It also creates an archive of the conversation for later reference for each party. Phone calls often require one or both parties to send a "summary" email of the things that were discussed on the call; so why not just start with an email?

 Do you ever feel like people send out a bunch of back and forth emails when a matter can be quickly resolved by a phone conversation ?

Yes, that can happen.

Do you ever get frustrated when you send an email and don’t get a response? How do you handle that?

I wouldn't say I get frustrated, but I never let it fall through the cracks. I use a plugin for Gmail called Boomerang for Gmail which reminds you after a set amount of time if the recipient fails to reply to your email. 

 How much of your business would you say you do by email?

99%

 

I found Jayson's "Email Only" business philosophy so fascinating that I asked Alex Funkhouser, an tech recruiter and owner of SherlockTalent, for his thoughts. He said he could see email for some purposes, but he tries to steer away from email for important conversations: “People often make business decisions through emotions, email is a poor communicator of emotion.”

Soon after, Alex's friend, Bernie Cronin, called me to tell me he had a strong opinion on "email only" for business. Bernie, a longtime sales professional and sales management trainer, is a big phone guy. He wrote an article called Pick Up The Telephone (PUTT). 

Bernie says the telephone is more effective today than it has ever been because so few people know how to use it effectively.

Writes Bernie: Remember, 38% of our communication is our tonality, how we speak and how we sound. In fact, when you PUTT and get someone’s Voice Mail that can be a friend. Why? Because their message and it’s tonality can tell you a great deal about that person’s speech pattern. Do they speak fast, slow, soft, loud, are they Bernie or Bernard etc. Wouldn’t you like to be 38% more effective than you are today?.....then Pick Up The Telephone. In golf, they say “Drive for show and Putt for dough.” I say, in business, “email for show and PUTT (pick up the telephone) for dough.” 

What are your thoughts on doing business by email only? Do you agree more with Jayson or Bernie? Do you think doing most of your business by email would make you more or less effective? Would it help with work life balance or make it more challenging to disconnect from the office?

 

February 03, 2015

How a beauty queen handles work life balance

It might seem glamorous being a beauty pageant winner. But once that sash goes on, it's a title and a job. There are responsibilities involved and charity events to attend that often conflict with raising a family. My guest blogger today has been involved in beauty pageants since age 12 and gives us a glimpse into what her life is like as Mrs. South Florida International. 

 

Lindsey


By Lindsey Berman (www.lindseyberman.com

One word comes to mind when I look at my day-to-day obligations and responsibilities to my husband, three small children and carrying the title of Mrs. South Florida International  --  priorities. I am lucky to have a steadfast support system and have no problem having my kids in tow for appropriate charitable commitments.

I’m happy to say that when it comes to my personal life my husband and I run a pretty tight ship. We keep our life simple and focus on the good. It may seem like a lot for one person to juggle, but I like to keep my demeanor cool, personality agile and simply roll with the punches. By nature I am a very organized person, have always enjoyed multi-tasking. I don’t mind asking for help when I need it and at the end of the day, I realize I am only human.

You will most likely see me on the fields during the weekends, with my oldest two children being quite active in youth sports. “There’s nothing better than cheering your child on and seeing their face full of excitement as they score a goal or hit a home run!” 

I fully acknowledge that only so much can get done in one day and that helps me from feeling overwhelmed from time to time. I am not going to say there aren’t those moments where I am rushing around trying to figure out how I am going to get it all done.

However, I have found that keeping a clear perspective about what’s important and knowing that I get to participate in making a difference in the lives of people actually keeps me going.  I feel honored to be chosen to carry handle this task. Some days it feels like work, but most days I know how lucky I am. I feel gratitude from every aspect of my life. This is what I do and it’s something I pursue with genuine dedication and earnest passion. 

 

Here are a few questions I asked Lindsey:

(Cindy) What are the requirements as Mrs. South Florida International?

(Lindsey)  As Mrs. South Florida International I will be competing for the Mrs. Florida International pageant May 29-31, when all the state finalists will be judged on Interview, Fitness Wear, Evening Wear and our ability to eloquently answer On-Stage Questions.
 
(Cindy) Has it been more time consuming than expected?
 
(Lindsey) When I decided to represent South Florida in the Mrs. Florida International pageant, I made a commitment to truly make a difference in my community and ultimately throughout the state. It was a decision I did not make lightly because I knew how time consuming it would be. Although my community involvement and charity work is time consuming, for me it is more of a way of life. I am passionate about keeping kids safe through education to decrease preventable injuries. I truly enjoy being able to make a difference in the community. The more you give back, the more rewarding it is.
 
(Cindy) For how long do you hold the title?
 
(Lindsey) If I am fortunate enough to win the Mrs. Florida International title, I will hold it for a full year and ultimately compete for the Mrs. International title in July 2015.
 
(Cindy)How many years have you been involved in pageants?
 
(Lindsey) I started doing pageants in high school and held the titles of Miss Florida Junior Teen and Miss Florida Teen for the American Co-ed pageant system. Pageant weekends were a special time for my mom and I to spend quality time together and go on trips that truly made us the best friends we are today! I not only enjoy pageants as a contestant, but had a wonderful experience as Producer of the Miss Florida Gator and Miss University of Florida for two years while I was in college. I believe in everything that pageants have to offer girls and women of all ages, and I am the accomplished and confident woman I am today because of my involvement.
 
(Cindy) What don’t people know about being a pageant winner?
 
(Lindsey) I believe there is a big misconception about pageant winners with most people looking at them as just a pretty face that won a competition. In reality, titleholders are inspiring women working to make a difference. For me personally, pageants are not about winning a beautiful crown and holding a prestigious title, but about being a role model for others and making a positive impact in the community. I work tirelessly to give back to the community and be a voice for many worthy causes.
 
(Cindy) What do you want your kids to know about charity work?
 
(Lindsey) I strive to teach my children the importance of community involvement. Not only is giving back to your community simply the right thing to do, but it touches and changes your life along with the lives of others. My children are very involved in my charitable work, often making appearances with me. They even host their own fundraisers. We have made it a family tradition that instead of having traditional birthday parties, they host a children’s party where we collect items in need and donate them to local charities.

January 13, 2015

One theory on dealing with email overload

Over the winter break, I spend two deals cleaning out my personal and work Inboxes.  It took more two days and just to get my three Inboxes to a total of 60,000 emails. I realize I'm still doing something wrong. Email is my biggest work life balance challenge! I hate deleting because I use my Inbox for story and blog ideas. I guess there is a way to organize email better but I haven't made the time commitment to do it.

Last week, I was telling tech recruiter Alex Funkhouser, founder of Sherlock Talent, my email woes and he told me he has a completely different approach. He NEVER deletes email. He considers it a waste of time. Instead he flags important email and stores everything else on the cloud. Alex told me this approach is the key to his work life balance because it saves time he would spend in his Inbox and makes that time available for more productive tasks.

My friend Jessica Kizorek, co-founder of Two Parrot Productions, has told me that she keeps a VERY slimmed down Inbox by voraciously deleting email as it arrives. She swears staying uncluttered is the key to better work life balance.

Alex's approach is interesting to me but I haven't adopted it. I get too many junk emails to be okay with never deleting. Still, it works for him and saves him time.

What are your thoughts on Alex's approach to email overload? Are you a deleter, a saver, or do you have another approach?

Email overload

 

January 06, 2015

Getting What You Want in 2015

Startswithyou

 

 

For me, January feels so much less exciting than December, but it’s actually an important month for planning. It is the month to look ahead and figure out what we want from our jobs and our personal lives and how to get what we want.

Over the years, I have made some mistakes in getting what I want at work, such as more money, more flexibility, more vacation time, better assignments. I have made some mistakes getting what I want at home, too, such as more quality time with my husband or some help with the dishes at night. My biggest mistake was waiting for what I wanted to come to me, without asking for it.

With the benefit of hindsight, and advice from experts, I’m going to share ideas for asking for -- and getting -- what you want in 2015.

Come to the negotiating table prepared. Raises, promotions, even flexible work arrangements are driven by the value you bring the organization. If you have demonstrated the drive to stand out from the crowd and delivered more than expected, speak to your boss and come prepared with the data to prove it. At home, if you want more help from your spouse, come prepared with how and why giving you help will result in an improvement in household morale for all. 

Know the market. If you want a raise at work, find out what the going salary is for your position in your geographic area and what the standard raises have been for the last few years. There are lots of websites to help with research. PayScale.com is one of them. On the home front, if you want to go on weekly or monthly date nights, research the cost of babysitters and websites where to find them before you bring the idea up with your spouse. 

Rehearse. It pays to practice with a trusted friend or mentor how you will ask for what you want. Look for someone who can help you think through potential objections and take the emotion out of the negotiation. 

Don’t make it personal. A boss doesn’t care that you need more money to pay for your divorce attorney or your child’s school tuition.  Higher personal expenses are not a legitimate reason to ask for a raise or receive one. Outside the office, your close friend or gym partner doesn't care why you keep backing out on plans. He or she just wants you to stick to a commitment. If you want a closer friendship or a better physique, go get it. Convince your buddy you want another chance and this time, make it happen. 

Don’t compare. If you find out your co-worker earns more than you, make your request about your value to the company. Sell your boss on why you should earn more, or seek out an internal mentor who will advocate on your behalf. Outside the office, stop convincing yourself everyone has a more incredible life than you.   Map out one or two things that will bring you more happiness in 2015 and your plan to achieve them.

Highlight your contribution. If you have done something outstanding and believe you deserve a raise or promotion, bring it to your boss’ attention – even if it’s not time for your annual review. At home, if you've done something outstanding, bring it to your spouse's attention or your child's. Waiting around for a pat on the back only leads to disappointment. If you want more appreciation in 2015, be proactive in seeking it. 

Be strategic. If you are struggling financially or having a rought time balancing work and family, ask your employer how you can increase your value to the company in order to earn more money, or more time off.

Research shows most people who ask and make their case, get what they seek. Wishing you success in negotiating what you want in 2015!

December 26, 2014

How to return holiday gifts without wasting tons of time (and money)

Returns


I'm heading to the mall today but I must confess: I go nuts from the chaos involved in returning holiday gifts!

What seems like a simple exchange for size often becomes my biggest nightmare when I have to face crowds, encounter a grumpy sales associate or dole out reasons why I should NOT have to pay more for the same item in a different size.

I've been scanning the web for the best tips of holiday returns.

When I saw this article on the Time website it had a lot of good information to share:

Here is what Time says about returns. 

First off, if you know you don’t want the gift you’ve received—perhaps you already have one, or it’s not remotely in your taste—don’t open it. You have the best chance getting a refund or the full value in store credit for packages that are unopened and in brand-new condition. Next, check if the gift was accompanied by a gift or regular receipt. If yes, the person who bought the gift saved you some potentially big hassles, because without a receipt you may have no right whatsoever to a return or exchange. (Note to self: Always include gift receipts with presents.)

If there is no receipt, you could ask the giver—nicely, cautiously, graciously—where the gift was purchased and if he or she still had a copy of the receipt. This could be quite tricky, and if you’re going there it would be wise to mention how deeply you appreciate the thought behind the gift, but that there was a reason you wanted something slightly different; it could be as simple as needing a different size. Then again, there are reasons to steer way clear of this route. Not only could the giver wind up being offended, the situation could make an extremely awkward turn if, say, the giver didn’t want to reveal that the present was purchased at 85% off.

Assuming there is a receipt, look up the store’s return and exchange policy online, and then be sure to bring the item back to the store before the period expires. As the comprehensive holiday return report from the site Consumer World notes, around the holidays many major retailers institute policies that sensibly make it easy for recipients to bring items back after Christmas. Walmart, for instance, normally has return policies of 14, 15, or 30 days, depending on the item, but for purchases made between November 1 and December 24, the return period countdown doesn’t commence until December 26. In other words, if the item was normally subject to a 30-day return limit, the recipient would have to return it within 30 days of December 26, even if it was purchased in early November. What with the crush of crowds hitting the malls in the days right after Christmas, you might consider waiting for a bit before handling the return. 

Time says if you don’t have the receipt but you know where the item was purchased, go ahead and bring it back to the store. It’s likely the item was purchased with a credit card or was otherwise tracked by the retailer, so there will be a record of it on file, and you should be offered store credit or the right to exchange. (An outright cash refund is extremely unlikely, and pretty much impossible unless the original transaction was in cash, but it can’t hurt to ask.)

When bringing the item back, bring ID. One way retailers try to curtail abuse (and arguably, cut down on returns in general) is by requiring ID during returns and exchanges. Victoria’s Secret wound up on Consumer Reports “Naughty” list this year for its rigid requirement that customers present a government-issued ID for all returns and exchanges. Beyond having ID at the ready, be polite and patient. Store managers are more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt on a return if they perceive you as a potentially good customer down the road.

Here is what Time says about Regifting


If you think that regifting is a no-no, you’re in the minority. An American Express survey revealed that 42% of Americans repurposed presents they received by passing them along as gifts to someone else, while 76% of respondents deem regifting as “acceptable.”

But as with hand-picked and purchased gifts themselves, there are thoughtful and thoughtless ways to go about regifting. For example, it’s bad form to regift an item within a circle of friends who socialize regularly because it’s easy to see how word could spread and everyone could find out where the gift originated. It’s also the opposite of generous to pass along a gift to someone else when you found it hideous. Check out our five-step guide to regifting to repurpose presents in a way that won’t offend anyone, and that (hopefully) won’t get you branded as a crass, thoughtless regifter—which is even worse than being a thoughtless giver.

The National Retail Federation offers these tips:

• Check return policies before you head to the store.  Many retailers have their return policies posted online.  Some stores charge a "restocking fee" for returns.

•Know your online store policies, too. Though millions of gift-givers are in-store shoppers, many purchase gifts online. When making an online return, it's important to know who pays for shipping (the customer or retailer) and the exact location that returned items should be sent. Some online retailers have made hassle-free returns a key part of their business model. Others are less generous.

 

CNBC published this list of six retailers have the worst return policies. It's worth a read before you head to the mall and find yourself aggravated. Those retailers who made the list are Sears, American Apparel, GameStop, Barnes & Noble, ThinkGeek.com, Rakuten.com.

Here's a 2011 article from LifeHacker.com on how to turn your unwanted gifts into cash or something better. I figured at least some of these suggestions might still be valid.

Happy Returns!

 

December 12, 2014

Why a task expands to fill the time you allow it

Calendar

 

 

Planning to write an end-of-year holiday letter? How much time will you spend on that? 

Planning to shop for a new wreath?  How much time will you spend on that?

If you haven't thought about those tasks from a time perspective, you should because if you haven't noticed, our to-dos expand to the amount of time we allot them.

In my line of work, everything is about deadlines. Sometimes, when the deadline is way in the future, an article takes me much longer to write than if I had to get it done in an hour.

Organization gurus tell us to put almost everything on our calendars and give ourselves a set amount of time to complete each task. Reading email is a great example.  If we don't set a specific amount of time aside for it, clearing email can fill many more hours of your work day than it should. One productivity expert told me that limiting the amount of time we give ourselves to complete a work project increases our productivity and quality.

But we don't just need to work smart, we need to play smart, too.

Yesterday, I looked at a friend's calendar and thought she was insane. It's color-coded and jam packed. She has allotted herself three hours on Saturday to run errands. As she explained why, I had an a-ha moment.

By allotting herself only three hours for errands, my friend has prevented chores from filling up her entire day off work. That's pretty smart because we all know that running to the grocery store and the dry cleaner and the drug stores can expand into an all day event if we allow it.

In her blog post, Jennifer Lea, The Energized Mom, asks: Does having more (free) time lead to greater fulfillment?

The answer is not necessarily.

How you use your free time is critical to work life balance. No one wants to have to follow a minute by minute schedule. But without slotting set amounts of time for certain tasks, you can easily find yourself reading email for hours instead of taking a bike ride with your spouse. Maximizing your time at work by confining tasks to time slots can mean the difference between leaving at a reasonable hour and staying late unnecessarily.

Life is so much more than spending hours doing something unfulfilling that could have taken just 15 minutes.  So, take some time on the front end to identify your high and low priority work and home tasks and decide in advance how much time and energy you want to invest in them. Nothing is too small to allot a set amount of time, even picking a restaurant for a date or browsing Facebook. 

It is so worth creating more time for those activities you most enjoy!

 

December 09, 2014

How to cut holiday stress

 

Holiday_stress_medium

 

This morning,  I woke up early thinking about what teachers I need to buy gifts and which of my business contacts I should send holiday cards. Already, the season has become stressful.

Lately, my inbox is stuffed with emails that provide practical ways to make the holidays more joyful and less stressful. I have compiled what I consider the best tips and decided to share them with you. Let's hope all of us can get through the holiday season feeling joyful, grateful and as relaxed as possible.

Here are two tips from Glass Hammer that I found helpful:

Give with Your Heart
Many people find that gift shopping is the single most problematic “chore” associated with the holidays. If gift-giving is part of your holiday tradition, here’s an easy way to make it less burdensome. Close your eyes and think about each person for a moment. What pops into your mind? Try to come up with a gift that’s personal and from your heart–something that’s thoughtful and fits the person. Non-material gifts are sometimes the best and most memorable of all. For example: a hand-drawn card with a message, or a short video of you reciting 10 reasons you appreciate this person. Gifts from the heart increase feelings of joy, in you and in the recipient.

Make a Holiday Spreadsheet
You’re organized at work, so use those same smarts to prepare for the onslaught of holiday chores and appointments. Make a list of everything that needs to be done so you minimize anxiety and the feeling that there’s just too much to do and not enough time. This could include card writing, party organizing, shopping, cooking, work deadlines, travel/lodging arrangements, and family/friend communications. Schedule your to-dos on specific days so they don’t pile up close to the holiday. Once you start ticking off tasks one by one, you won’t feel so agitated as the holidays approach.

This tip is from Working Mother and I plan to follow it:

Create Holiday Boundaries

The reality is that during this time of the year there will mostly likely be more demands on your time than what you can give. If we try to meet all these demands, or others expectations it sets us up for feeling not “good enough” or like we have failed in some way. The key is to set boundaries and be confident in saying “no.” 

 

This tip is from Julie Cole is one of the founding mompreneurs of Mabel's Labels Inc (mabel.ca). You can find her on Twitter @juliecole, as well as her company @mabelhood:

Don't be a martyr

You may say you love entertaining and doing it all yourself, but if you find that you’re barking orders at your husband and getting grumpy with the kids, I’ve got news for you – you’re not having fun anymore. There is no “Holiday Martyr Hall of Fame” so you might as well ask your relatives to each bring a veggie dish or dessert. Heck, I delegate the actual turkey out to a family member!

• Put those kids to work. There is no reason for you to do it all. Have your kids set the table, for example. I know the settings won’t be perfect, but get over it. Kids should contribute and the holidays are about being together, not perfection. The more relaxed you are, the more fun everyone will have.

• If you MUST do everything yourself, stress can be reduced by doing things in advance – have the table set the week before, prepare and freeze suitable food. Keep things simple and easy to prepare. 

 

Here's are two tips from my pal Luly B who never fails to come up with great advice for us working moms.

Accept help.

 Say "yes" to the guests that are asking if they can do anything to help. Delegate tasks like picking up ice on their way to the get-together, bringing dessert or even setting the table. Similar to the work environment, determine what ONLY you can do and delegate everything else as much as possible...you'll thank me later for that reminder!

Caution against making it all Pinterest-worthy. 

At a recent speaking engagement, a participant confessed to me that she wished she could be a "Pinterest Mom." She was feeling the pressure of making the homemade cupcakes and cute crafts for her kindergartner. The challenge is that if that's not who you are and you don't enjoy any of that, it will show...I promise. So if you're not a Pinterest-y kind of person, Thanksgiving isn't the time to try. Stick with the regular ol' selfies or family shots instead.

 

This one comes from Harlan Spiva at the San Jose Examiner

Show Gratitute

Make a short gratitude list. It doesn't have to be deep, contemplative, or profound. Perhaps start with time away from work and with those you love. Think of the resources you now have compared to years past. If others have a significant positive impact on the season, be grateful for the skills they possess and use to make it so.

Try making an effort to show genuine gratitude through conversation, notes, small gifts, and by sharing positive experiences with others. By simply recognizing the efforts of others, you have an opportunity for a significant impact. Especially celebrate those who create something for you to enjoy. They put much of themselves into it.

Lastly, this one is from the Carol Blog called Five Things To Do Less of This Holiday Season:

Let Go of Complaining.

When we lack personal boundaries and insight to what we really want, we often feel we have to make decisions to please others.This might look like agreeing to host family dinner if we don’t want to, baking six dozen cookies for your kids’ classroom celebrations or shopping with a friend at a busy mall. When we make decisions that dishonor our choices, we feel powerless. As a by-product, we start complaining about things we’re doing that we never wanted to do to in the first place!

 

I hope these tips help you. I know I'm going to try as many as possible. If you have any tips you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them!