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

August 26, 2015

How to Survive a Mommy Tsunami

Your babysitter quits because her class schedule has changed. Your boss tells you he needs to move up the due date on an project he wants finished. Your child calls you to tell you his bus didn't show up at the stop and he needs someone to pick him up. Of course all of these things happen simultaneously and it hits you like a giant mommy tsunami. Ugh!

Mommy tsunamis are common this time of year when school and business gear up at the same time, triggering new routines and bigger workloads.


Joanna_Schwartz__Forbes_089I wish I could say I came up with the phrase mommy tsunami myself, but I can't really take credit. I heard it used when Karen Rundle interviewed Joanna Schwartz, CEO of EarlyShares, for a WLRN Segment on Women in Business in the Sunshine Economy. EarlyShares is a major player in the “real estate crowdfunding” industry. This is how Joanna, mother of two daughters, described a mommy tsunami to Karen:

"A mommy tsunami usually comes a few times a year --  usually at beginning or end of the school year when there is some transition in the troop movement of our household. When it happens you just want to say, 'This is insane, what the heck am I doing?'  But it has happened enough times and you get through it. It doesn't last that long. You recognize it and say 'Okay I am in a mommy tsunami and it will last two or three weeks and I will power through it.' I talk to a lot moms who have similar positions and we all relate to that very much."

Today, Karen, who conducted the radio interview, told me she has just been hit with a mommy tsunami. As the mother of a young daughter, she  is dealing with a series of unfortunate events that has challenged her work life balance and that she is trying to power through. Having lived through many mommy tsunami's my advice to Karen was "hang in there!"

To me, mommy tsunami's make us realize that the romanticized version of what motherhood should be existed only in some alternate universe. The reality of modern motherhood can be stressful and exhausting.

When you are hit by a mommy tsunami, little things make a big difference. For example, flexibility is one of them. As Joanna explained to Karen, the real challenge for working mothers have is when they are trying to balance the not being (able to be ) in two places at once...when kids need time at school or need to go to the doctor and they are stuck chained to their desk. She believes companies need to understand that work and family are interconnected and "to extent that you support someone's  family life you are supporting someone being a terrific employee."

Along with flexibility (or an understanding boss)  you also need is a mommy network. When the mommy tsunami engulfs you, you need to tap your network to find someone to vent to, someone to pass along resources or someone who will take your turn picking up the carpool.

Lastly, you need to turn to your spouse and scream, HELP! As I wrote in my Miami Herald column today, when both parents work together to divvy up childcare responsibilities it makes balancing work and family much easier. The new school year and adjusting to a new routine can be stressful for parents and children. Today, more than 60 percent of two-parent households with children under age 18 have two working parents, according to Pew Research Center's 2013 Modern Parenthood Study. When dads exert the flexibility in their work schedules and pitch in with monitoring homework, driving to the pediatrician's office or attending a teacher conference it can make a huge difference in family harmony. 

As I noted in my article, many couples underestimate the sheer amount of coordination involved in modern parenthood — until their child is unprepared for a test or gets to football practice without his cleats. A little collaboration between parents can go a long way.

If you feel a mommy tsunami about to hit, brace yourself. You will get through it. Like Joanna says, mommy tsunamis are inevitable. You will never be fully prepared. Balancing work and family can be overwhelming, but it also has payoffs that are well worth finding the endurance you will need to survive.

July 09, 2015

Too connected? Why you need vacation rules

                         Vacation

Earlier this week, I left a message on an accountant's voicemail asking him to call me about an article I am working on. He called me back within a few hours. Well into our conversation, he mentioned he was on vacation. It was at that point that I could hear his wife in the background and she was noticeably agitated. I suggested he call me back when he returned from vacation. When we hung up, I had a feeling he was in big trouble.

Staying connected to work may make traveling less stressful for you, but it can become annoying to people who are with you on vacation. One of my friends recently told me it was while on vacation that she realized her marriage had hit rock bottom. She couldn't get her husband off his phone long enough to do anything romantic.

My suggestion for anyone traveling with a friend, spouse, or partner is to set vacation rules. My husband and I realized years ago setting rules was key to a better vacation. I agree to let my husband check in with his office every morning. He spends about an hour on his laptop checking email and returning calls. I usually check my email less often while on vacation but I tend to do it in the late afternoons when everyone is unwinding before dinner. We each get about an hour a day without guilt. The rule also is that we leave our phones behind when we do a family activity.

Today it has become increasingly easy to integrate work and travel -- regardless of where you are vacationing. There are more hotels and cafes that offer Wi-Fi, and more mobile devices with the same functionality as desktop PCs. But that ease of connection makes being on the same page of your travel companion more important than ever. 

When the goal of a vacation is to reconnect with friends or family, it can be frustrating when your travel partner sends a different message. Your stressful interaction with work can affect those who are traveling with you. My neighbor says while on his vacation, it completely unnerved him to watch his wife's reaction to an incoming work-related email as she lounged by the pool. "We're supposed to be on vacation relaxing, and I can see that something at the office didn't go her way. It not only stresses her out, it stressed me out, too."

Companions who are with someone who resists disconnecting say they find themselves torn between bringing their vacation partner in the present and coming across as a nag. Most of us only have a week a year when we can spend solid uninterrupted time with our spouse or kids. Don't they deserve to experience us enjoying time with them?

The solution may be agreeing upfront on how, when and where work check-ins will fit into a vacation schedule. Logging on and sending emails before others awake or during rest periods in the hotel room may be palatable. Missing a mid-day, zip-line excursion or interrupting pool time to make a work call may not be okay. Setting vacation rules may require respect for your companion’s work demands and it may take compromise.

Some business owners and professionals say checking in briefly allows them to relax more. It prevents them from a stressful return to work. That's understandable. But remember, the goal is to use your vacation to come back to the office and your home life happier than before you left. If setting vacation rules ahead of time is what it takes to make that happen, why not give it try?