April 07, 2016

Should You Hit "Send" at midnight? The unwritten rules of email

 

                                    Bed

 

It's close to midnight and I'm still awake. Not only that, but I've broken all my own rules about logging on late at night. The house is quiet, everyone but me is asleep and I'm feeling extremely productive. Maybe that coffee I drank after dinner wasn't decaf like I thought it was.

I have just composed a response to an email I was trying to get to all day. But now, I'm faced with a dilemma. Do I send it?  On one hand, if I do, I can go to sleep knowing it's off my plate. On the other hand, it may look odd to the receiver that I'm working at midnight. It may even look like I have no work life balance.

SendUgh....what to do? What are the rules, anyway?

Recently, I spoke on a panel to an audience of PR professionals (mostly women). The topic of late night email came up. Most of the audience admitted to getting back on their computers after dinner or after their kids are in bed -- at least a few nights a week. Some of them admitted, they too struggle with the etiquette of late night email.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, one in two workers in the information technology, financial services, sales, and professional and business services sectors — industries that historically keep traditional 9 to 5 work hours — check or respond to work emails outside of work. Let's add journalist and publicist to that list. Heck, let's add teachers, lawyers, doctors, business executives and most other professions.

However, there are people who don't believe in taking work home. Some get annoyed by late-night work email and look down on the sender. These people want clear boundaries between work and home and they don't appreciate others who break those boundaries. My husband believes sending late night emails creates an impression you're disorganized. 

I noticed working mothers tend to be okay with sending emails in the evening hours. They understand that "doing it all" might mean sending an email at 10, 11 or even midnight.

In a recent column, Sue Shellenbarger at the WSJ pointed out that your boundary style and tolerance for late night email may depend on the kind of job you hold or your life stage. She noted that some people celebrate the option to log on at night as freedom, a sign of success in balancing home and work. For others, it feels like the opposite of freedom—a burdensome intrusion on their home life.

A banking executive told me she often composes late night emails but waits until the morning to hit send. I think her approach may be the way to go. I see 11 p.m. as the cutoff time to hit send. After that time, I am going to take the banker's approach and wait until the morning.

To be clear, I don't think anyone should expect a response to an email sent after 7 p.m.  But others will disagree. Some clients, co-workers and bosses expect a quick response, regardless of the time the email is sent. Unfortunately, this "always on" attitude is the direction business is going.

What are your thoughts on late night email? Do you think there's a reason or hard stop time to hold back on hitting send? Are you put off when someone sends you a late night email?

 

March 14, 2016

My Birthday Work Life Balance Lesson

 

 

                                                Cake2

 

Today is my 51st birthday and I'm officially in the "Over 50" age bracket. That could be a little depressing but instead of looking at what's behind me, I'm looking at what's ahead. 

Fortunately, I read something this morning that inspired me in my quest for work life balance in a stage of life that depends less on taking care of my children (two who are now in college) and more about finding the right fulfillment from work and life. 

Life coach Martina E. Faulkner says two little words can make a big difference in how we live our lives. Do you want to know those two words?

Get ready because they are simple and complicated at the same time....

“What if..?”

For example, you can ask yourself, "What if I could..." or What if I did..."

Instead of feeling frantic, overwhelmed or unfulfilled ...What if we ask ourselves "What if?"

What if I wrote the book? What if I published it? or What if I took on a new position at work? What if I asked my boss for flexibility?

Martina says “What if..?” is a simple little phrase that belies its greatness. It is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used to manifest the greatest joys or undermine even the most assured confidence. It all depends on how you use it. 

What if I let go of the sad feeling I have that I don't have toddlers to tuck in bed at night and embrace the fact that I can talk to my kids about my work challenges or hear their thoughts about who should be President?

What if I allow myself to feel less stressed about the constant stream of information coming at me from every direction and make more effort to work productively and pursue new outside interests?

There are so many ways to strike a better balance if we ask ourselves "What if.."

I look forward to all the possibilities that those two words bring. Happy Birthday to Me!

February 29, 2016

How to Be Super Productive on Leap Day

                                     Leap


If you're like me, you feel like you never have enough time to tackle all the things you want to get done. So, Leap Day is like a big bonus for us who want a better work life balance  -- it's an additional 24 hours or 1,440 minutes that we don't have every year.

Wow! A whole extra day to get things done sounds awesome, right? 

Here are suggestions for what you can do with your bonus day:

  • Take time to make a list of the events you want to get to during the rest of the year. It can include play and work activities such as races, art festivals, conferences, webinars.
  • Book a spa day. Some spas are giving discounts if you book a treatment today. 
  • Have dinner somewhere exotic. It doesn't have to be expensive. Pack a picnic or bring pizza and wine to the beach to celebrate leap day.
  • Get moving. This doesn't mean you have to run a marathon. Just take a walk, or if you already walk, take a longer walk. You can spend the extra time because, well...why not? It's time you would not have had if it wasn't February 29th.
  • Spend time with someone you've been meaning to get together with for a while, even if it's only by phone.
  • Use the day for strategy. Sometimes we get so caught in the day to day, we don't have time for big picture thinking. Today's your day to do that....think big!

 

Whatever you do today, make it special. You won't get a leap day again for four more years. Wishing you a great day!

 

                              Leap day

 

February 11, 2016

How to multitask to find love (Your Valentine's Day Guide)

My friend works really long hours an attorney. She often tells me she has little free to date but wishes she could meet someone. While asking to bolt early to go to happy hour might be frowned on, her firm encourages her to sit on boards, join professional organizations and network for business.

The solution, of course, is to multitask. Why not network for business and love at the same time?

The great part of networking for business and love at the same time is that doing so removes the pressure of forcing a love connection. At business networking events, people are there to meet people and there's not that judgmental vibe or desperation that one might find at a singles event.

You might think that most people meet dates online but that's not true. Although 1 in 10 Americans now use online dating platforms, the vast majority of relationships still begin offline, according to Pew Research Center.

Fort Lauderdale publicist Kerry Phillips, a widow for four years, told me she wants to date again. She says going to a networking cocktail party to drum up business feels less stressful than going to a singles event: “I’m not going in thinking I’m there to find a date or a life partner. The pressure is not there. I’m going in to build business, and if I hit it off with someone, that’s a bonus.”

As workloads grow, time-pressed singles increasingly view relationship-building for business and social purposes as good time management. Sitting on a committee or organizing an event provides the opportunity to go beyond superficial conversations with someone you want to get to know better — and it may allow love to bloom.
 
Robert Goltz, President and CEO of the Miramar Pembroke Pines Regional Chamber of Commerce, offers a few tips.

* People looking to combine business and love should ask more personal questions when they meet someone of interest. It could be something like, “What do you enjoy doing outside of work?”

 * Call the chamber or business organization and ask about the age and type of people who attend their events: “If you tell me you want to meet mid-level professionals in their 30s to 40s, I would tell you which events draw that crowd.”

 Dan Silverman, founder of MatchmakingMiami.com, offers these tips.

* Start the flirtation and see whether you get feedback. If you do and it’s positive, then take it forward. If you’re not getting feedback, then shift gears and keep it business.

 * Steer clear of making anyone feel uncomfortable at a business function. (Watch out how much alcohol you drink!) But if you sense someone is interested, arrange a follow-up after the event.

* Hand someone of interest your business card and urge them to call. You can decide later what direction to take the connection.

Hope Plevy, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, met a man at a legal organization networking dinner who asked her out for dinner. After a few dates, the two didn’t see a romantic future, but they did start referring each other’s business.

If you find yourself alone this Valentine's Day, brainstorm what networking events you want to go to or business organizations you want to join. If you don't find love, at least you might drum up a new client.

January 26, 2016

How to Copy Lena Dunham's Year of No

                                  Lena

 

Today, Lena Dunham - creator of the HBO series Girls -- made a bold announcement. She confessed that she's a people pleaser and says yes way more than she should. Her announcement made me cringe because I could relate to it.

Lena explained her situation this way: "No" is a word that could have served me well many times, but I didn't ever feel I had the right to use it......

Can I be there at noon? Sure can! Will I bring three hundred bucks in foreign currency? Absolutely! Will I also promise to help a friend move, be late meeting them because I also agreed to babysit another friend's sick rabbit, then disappoint everyone in the process? I sure will!

Lena had convinced herself that saying yes at work and in her personal life was the key to her likeability. So she sprinkled it liberally until she began to build up resentment. 

Oh, how I know that routine way too well.

She points out that work is all about taking on the challenge and typically, a place of yes. Which is exactly what she was doing until one day, she missed a work deadline and began rattling off all the reasons why. Her work partner then explained to her that life didn't have to be an endless jog to accommodate all the Yes's.

Lena says it was a slow process but a polite "no" soon entered her vernacular. People responded well to her honesty. They understood. They may have been disappointed, but they understood. 

You may not have scripts to write or actors to meet with but within the last month, it's likely you said yes to something you really didn't want to do. I know I did. Now, it's time to change that. It's time take a cue from Lena, be realistic about what we can do and save ourselves stress and resentment. 

For the sake of work life balance and sanity, try one of these responses next time you're about to say yes:

"I can't do it realistically by Friday,"

"I wish I could help you on that project but my week is insane,"

"I can't be at that event. I have  conflict. "

 I don't want to go to go out after work.  I am exhausted."

Lena tells her friends and colleagues: Don't take it personally when I tell you no this year. I am using it on everyone."

That seems like a line all of us can spit out when we need to say it.  Are you ready for your Year of No!

 

                              No

 

 

January 20, 2016

5 ways to fit mentorship into your work life balance

When I saw a TV interview with Lydia Muniz from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami, something she said repulsed me. She told interviewer Helen Ferre that Miami is dead last out of 51 metro areas when it comes to its volunteer rate. Dead last.

Growing up in South Florida, I'm the first to admit that we tend to be self absorbed in the Sunshine State. We also consider ourselves very busy people with little time or money to donate to help others. 

I get it, people are busy. We work long hours.  We carry our smartphones on us all the time and can't get away from work calls and email. We have wives. We have kids. We have hobbies we want to pursue. Mentoring a child just doesn't seem like it should be something we sacrifice our free time to do.

But here's an interesting tidbit: 

A study by Wharton’s Cassie Mogilner, published in the Harvard Business Review, found spending time helping others left participants feeling as if they have more time, not less. Mogilner’s research shows that spending as few as 10 minutes helping others can make people not only feel less time-constrained but also feel capable, confident and useful.

If that's not motivation here's another tidbit:

Children who are mentored maintain better attitudes toward schools and are less likely to use drugs or start drinking, according to Mentoring.org, a nonprofit charged with expanding youth mentoring relationships.


With that as our motivation, we should be able to figure out how to mentor a child without it taking too much of our time. January is National Mentoring Month so this happens to be a great time to consider it. 
 
Natalie and Kriss 4.2015 II
(Natalie Parker, on left, mentors Kriss Reyes, right, in her workplace, The DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Miami)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here are some ways to fit mentoring into your schedule:
 
1. Have the children come to you. Big Brothers Big Sisters has a School to Work program that will bring students to your workplace once a month for four hours. The only requirement is that you have at least 10 volunteers.
 
2. Find a school near your office and pop in during your lunch hour or before work. Many schools encourage this type of mentoring as long as you are cleared by the county as a volunteer. 
 
3. Mentor as a couple or family. Forming a relationship with an at-risk youth can be easy when you include him or her in what you already are doing such as going to the beach, a football game or the park.
 
4. Mentor by phone. Some college students ( and high school seniors) are desperate for career advice. Young professional organization often are able to pair you with these type of students who are at risk for giving up. One of two phone calls and support as needed can set a young person on the right path.
 
5. Mentor occasionally by speaking on career day or at an afterschool club meeting. Schools are desperate to find speakers who are good role models. Organizations like Women of Tomorrow and Girl Power Rocks can facilitate this type of mentorship.
 
 I hope you will join me in making a difference in a young person's life!
 

SOME YOUTH MENTORING ORGANIZATIONS

▪ Stand Up for Kids (standupforkids.org)

▪ Big Brothers Big Sisters (bbbsmiami.org)

▪ Girl Power Rocks (girlpowerrocks.org)

▪ Honey Shine Mentoring Program (honeyshine.org)

▪ Women of Tomorrow (womenoftomorrow.org)

▪ Take Stock in Children (takestockinchildren.org)

 

Read more on this topic in today's Miami Herald.

 

January 19, 2016

Why are we afraid to take vacation?

Poolside


Ah, the thought of being on a lounge chair right now, reading a good novel and sipping on a margarita. Heaven!

But it looks like I might not have a lot of company in dreaming about a lazy day poolside. For some crazy reason, year after year, people leave paid vacation days on the table. Yes. You read that right. American workers are not taking PAID vacation days.

This morning, I woke up to read this perplexing finding: Approximately two in five Americans did not take a single vacation day in 2015, according to a recent Skift survey. Around 17 percent said they took less than five vacation days.
 
What is going on? Everyone is wired and tired, but we're not taking time off, and even we we do, we're still doing work. We deserve work life balance but we just won't let ourselves relax. 
 
The Skift survey found Americans living in rural areas were the largest group taking no vacations and women took less time off than men, though not by much.
 
The numbers force us to ask ourselves what's going on.
 
Are we afraid that we won't have a job when we get back? Yes, many of us are afraid.
 
Should bosses make using paid vacation days mandatory? They should but they probably won't.
 
Is it right for bosses to email you or call you when you're off the clock? No, it's not right. But it happens anyway.
 
Should you schedule your vacation time off now, at the beginning of the year to ensure it actually happens? Yes, you should.
 
Should you plan ahead so you don't have to work on vacation. Yes, you should. But will you?
 
The majority of people surveyed recently by travel service Expedia and its business-focused brand Egencia think their smartphone is the single most important travel tool. I understand that line of thinking if you want to use it for the camera function, or the map. However, if you plan to use it for staying connected to work, you will never really fully relax on your vacation. We can't' be afraid to power down.
 
Visualize the place right now that you feel most relaxed. Is is poolside or oceanside like me? Wherever it is, I hope you make it there in 2016! 
 
 

December 18, 2015

Close out the year the right way

List


Just about now, I find myself worrying a lot about what needs to get done and whether I made the most of 2015. I look at my goals and wishes for the year and I get mad at myself about what didn't get checked off the list.

But last night, I decided to approach the year end differently. I decided to look really hard at what I did get done this year -- big and small. It's a list I should have been keeping all along. 

On my list, I’ve decided to include the small accomplishments I might otherwise have considered no big deal. For example, this year, I combined my personal and work calendar and managed to create a clear picture of everything on my plate. I put reminders of important events on my mobile phone.  The system really helped keep me organized. Yet, I hadn’t given myself any credit for creating and following it.

This year, I had a few big work projects I wanted to launch and I didn't. Just as I began to feel disappointed in myself, I reexamined my year and my work life balance. I realized I pulled off some personal accomplishments I hadn't given myself credit for -- moving two children into their college dorms, transitioning my youngest child to high school, celebrating a 50th birthday. Careerwise, I also took on a few challenging writing projects.

Career goals and New Year’s resolutions are great to make each year, but when we fall short, we can’t beat ourselves up because day in and day out, most of us do more than we realize. (I even looked back at my daily to-do lists and reviewed all I had checked off.)

As you start to think about your resolutions for 2016, jot down your 2015 accomplishments at work and home. The small things count – challenges in your personal life that you powered through or changes you made that had a positive result. Taking pride in all you have done will help you realize all you are capable of achieving next calendar year. 

Using your holiday time off to recharge in the next few weeks counts as an accomplishment, too. Closing out the year right means moving into a more positive mindframe -- and giving ourselves the credit we deserve! 

October 13, 2015

It's the small work life balance victories that count

This morning I went to the grocery store at 7:30 a.m. That's a big deal for someone who hates mornings. I was surprised how good it felt to get something checked off my to do list so early in the day. The store was quiet and easy to navigate -- no wait at the deli or the check out line.

For me, that's a small victory in my struggle to get more done.

I don't know about you but I have a running to do list at all times. I have begun to keep it electronically on my mobile devices. Some days, I look at it and feel overwhelmed. I know I'm supposed to tackle items based on their priority level, but there is something really satisfying about a completing a task that just needs to get done.

So often, the discussion of work life balance centers on big issues-- disconnecting from the office, choosing between priorities, finding caregiving solutions and negotiating flexibility. These are important issues that affect how we fit our work and home lives together. They affect our career choices and our happiness. They are the reason people quit jobs, have fewer children, give up promotions and move closer to family. 

But sometimes work life balance is about a small change or tweak that brings harmony or zen to our overscheduled, busy lives. Maybe it's my imagination, but starting out today by feeling like I accomplished something has set my whole day in a positive direction. Sometimes, we just need to give ourselves a high five for the small fix or solution that eases our struggle to juggle the competing demands on our time.

Maybe we aim to reach the top of our organizations, maybe we don't. Maybe we want families, maybe we don't. Regardless, most of us want a life outside of our careers and we want to enjoy it. So let's celebrate the small victories on our path to happiness. Whatever you've done today to move in that direction, here's your high 5!

 

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?

Busy