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!

December 03, 2014

Shopping online at work: The key to work life balance

At 3 p.m. on Cyber Monday, I nabbed the boots for my daughter wants for the holidays for a bargain price. Coming off the high of snagging a great deal, I plunged forward into completing an article that I had been working on for weeks. Rather that distracting me, my online holiday shopping left me energized and ready to focus.

I say go ahead and shop at work. It's convenient and your boss is probably doing it too.

A new survey by CareerBuilder found bosses, and not the rank and file, are more likely to spend time on the company computer shopping this holiday season.

One senior executive told me she shops for almost everything online from holiday gifts to pantyhose to deodorant. She shops from home, work, airplanes and even during conference calls. She doesn't see shopping online at work as an intrusion but rather as a necessity. She wants to spend her free time with her kids, not searching for a parking spot and waiting in long lines.

With all of us squeezed for free time, online shopping has become the key to juggling work and a personal demands. A few clicks on the computer can help you reclaim your lunch hour for eating rather than battling crowds to buy a gift. Right now, most retailers are offering free shipping. You just can't beat the convenience!

“So long as productivity and customer service meet expectations, many employers are lenient in regards to a small amount of holiday shopping at work,” said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder.

It does surprise me though that some employers still don't get where this trend is going. 

Some employers are adamant about putting a halt to holiday shopping on work hours. In the 2014 survey 53 percent of employers said their organization blocks employees from accessing certain websites from work, and 32 percent said they monitor the sites employees visit. Some companies flat out forbid employees from shopping online at the office.

What they may not realize is that employees don't need to use our work computers to shop online. We have all we need in our pockets or our purses.  CareerBuilder found more than 1 in 4 (27 percent) of employees they use their personal smart phones or tablets to shop at work.

The key to shopping online at work is be discreet and reasonable.  Limit yourself to a few minutes during lunch or a break, and refrain from having large packages delivered to yourself at the office. Most important, use common sense: don't neglect a customer or work project just to take advantage of the deal of the hour. 

A few abusers can ruin the privilege for the rest of the office, so don't be that person. Know the rules of your workplace.

Eric Younkin, Cleveland branch manager for Robert Half Technology, told Cleveland.com that online holiday shopping done at work - within reason - could be a win-win for both employer and employee. Employees get to cross-off items on their holiday shopping lists and take advantage of cyber specials that may only be available during work hours. Employers don't have to worry about an employee taking a long lunch break to shop at a brick-and-mortar store. As long as an employee isn't spending hours of the workday surfing the Internet for holiday bargains, the minutes spent making an online purchase pale in comparison to a trip to the mall or the local shopping district, he said.

I agree that online shopping can be a win-win for all.

My motto this season: Shop smart. Work smart. And don't push the limits of your employer's trust.  

November 26, 2014

How to bring your idea to reality

 

 

When I ushered in the new year, I came up with an idea for a book I wanted to write, a business I wanted to start and an app I wanted to launch. Now, I am eating a turkey feast and realizing I have not focused on turning any of them into reality.

This Thanksgiving, I’m going to step back, look at all I am grateful for, and ponder the ideas I had wanted to pursue in 2014. With one month left in the year, I plan to ask myself some tough questions about where I have gotten stuck and what I can do to move at least one idea into action.

A friend of mine says she, too, has stalled while trying to move an idea forward. She wants to add an ancillary service that could help her pet-sitting business become more profitable. But like me, she has become bogged down in the daily struggle of balancing work and family.

Recognizing we all need help bringing our ideas to reality, I have turned to experts to share their best methods for follow through. These tips appeared today in my Miami Herald column.

 

 

Missy #5

(Above: Anne Louise "Missy" Carricarte, author of Power Wishing: Visualization Technology for Manifesting, at her appearance at the Miami Book Fair International)

▪ Do your research. Wifredo Fernandez has seen dozens of ideas come to fruition as co-founder of The LAB Miami and now as founding director of CREATE Miami, a venture incubator and accelerator at Miami Dade College. Fernandez tells entrepreneurs to propose their idea to at least 100 potential customers and even ask for feedback on how to improve on it.

 Let passion drive the idea: The pivotal shift from idea to reality happens once you find yourself unable to think about anything else but solving the problem. “The specific idea may change, but if you’re passionate and focused, your drive to solve the problem will push you to execute,” Fernandez says. 

 

▪ Believe in the idea. Most people fail in pushing forward an idea because the unexpected challenges become more than they think they can handle. If you want to be successful, “stage the day,” says Anne Louise “Missy” Carricarte, entrepreneur and author of Power Wishing: Visualization Technology for Manifesting. Take a moment before you step out of bed to think about what you want to accomplish and plan your intention for how it will happen.

▪ Continue with what works. With a month left in 2014, consider what you have done already to move an idea forward, rather than what remains unfinished. “That can shift the outcome,” Carricarte says. If you have moved an idea forward 10 percent, look at how you accomplished it, rather than at the 90 percent you haven’t achieved. “Build on what’s working,” she says.

▪ Tap your network. Whether an idea involves starting something new or building on something that exists, look at who you know that can help you convert it to reality. When Kim Weiss got an idea to package her photos of sunsets into a book, she enlisted her boyfriend to write the accompanying haikus and a publisher friend helped to get it into print. “There are people you surround yourself with who can help you realize your dream,” says the author of Sunrise, Sunset: 52 Weeks of Awe and Gratitude. “Everyone has a network they can tap.”

▪ Stay strong, focused. Shark Tank fans know successfully converting an idea into a reality is a marathon, not a sprint. Real work life conflicts will arise, as will naysayers. “The only way to get over disappointment, frustration or distraction is to get to work on your idea,” says Janet Burrowayauthor of plays, poetry, children’s books, eight novels and two textbooks. “It’s easy to terrify yourself into inactivity.” Burroway believes the longer an idea rumbles around in your brain, the less likely you are to act on it. When she has an idea for a book, she says she puts anything that pops into her head down on paper. From there, she allows her creativity to expand.

▪ Do something now. Rather than wait for the next calendar year, or for when you have more time or money, “take some sort of action today towards making your idea happen,” says Dave Lorenzo, founder of Miami’s Valtimax Consulting. “Even if you proceed in the wrong direction and make a mistake, you can take quick corrective action.” As a business owner, Lorenzo says he carries a notebook and jots down ideas all the time. Some morph into newer ideas and go through twists and turns before he brings them to life. Remember, he says, “The idea is not dead until you decide it is.”

What stops you from moving forward with ideas? Money? Time? Fear? Do you see yourself taking the first step toward moving an idea to reality by year end?