September 22, 2016

How to help your child find balance

                                        Momandson

 

My son has taken on too much. I tried to warn him a month ago when school first started. Now, he is going to bed too late and waking up cranky. He's exhausted and knows something has to give.

At the beginning of the school year, he wanted to take difficult high school classes. He wanted to start clubs at his school. He wanted to play travel lacrosse. When he told me all he wanted to take on, I told him to reconsider. I explained to him that giving himself time to chill out is important, too.

Balance is a hard concept to explain, a difficult one to teach and an even more challenging one to master.

At some points in our lives, we may have too much on our plates. At other points, not enough.

But as the next generation of young people try to find their way in the world, their lessons on balance are starting early. They want to participate on sports teams, excel in music, perform in competitions, take honors classes and hold part-time jobs. They have tons of homework, and little time to unwind.

What can we teach them about when to say no and how to prioritize what's most important? Are we willing to explain how too much structured activity can contribute to anxiety and stress?

When I was young, my grandfather explained to me his job was a lawyer and my job was a student. He taught me to put school first and to be a reliable student and assured me that education pays off. When I signed up for afterschool clubs and extracurricular activities, I knew that they were secondary to my school work. I think the clear vision he created for me of my top priority helped me all the way through college and into my first job.

Today our children experience the pressure of competition early and they need our help to know when to push themselves and when to ease up. We are going to have to teach them trade offs for the sake of time management, help them recognize activities that are habits rather than passions, and encourage them to make choices that are good for the family. Those choices might require taking only one piano lesson a week instead of two, or giving up one after school activity for another. These are the same types of tradeoffs we need to get comfortable with ourselves.

As my son considers what to take off his plate, we have been going over what he needs to do and what he wants to do. He is learning how to prioritize, a skill that will serve him well the rest of his life. I'm pretty sure that by helping my son rework his schedule to create balance, I am helping myself work towards it, too.

When we find ourselves stressed, rushed, multitasking, and feeling overwhelmed on a regular basis, we are receiving a clear signal that something needs to give and the entire family may need to readjust priorities. As I explained to my son, it's okay to take a deep breath and acknowledge when our lives are out of balance. What's not okay is to ignore it.

 

 

September 16, 2016

How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Suggest We Make Work Life Balance Easier

RuthShould we be working at all hours all the time? Should any professional be at the beck and call of a supervisor or client after he or she leaves the office? These are questions we're going to be asking ourselves more often.

The answers aren't simple. In law or any profession, expectations for customer service usually mean an immediate response. Businesses will need to figure out how to give their professionals the work life balance they want and deserve, and please the customer.

When I saw this interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the National Law Journal, I thought she hit the work life balance concerns right on. She wants to see more action. Most of us do.

"Firms don't seem to be moving that fast to be flexible," Ginsburg said during a conversation with former U.S. solicitor general Theodore Olson before the D.C. chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

But instead of just complaining, Ginsburg gave solutions, which is why I truly admire this woman.

Despite major advances under the law, as well as new technology that facilitates remote work, law firms “don’t seem to be moving that fast” to allow new parents of both genders to balance work and home life, Justice Ginsburg said at an event on Wednesday in Northern Virginia hosted by the Association of Corporate Counsel.

Ginsburg said women and men at firms "should get together with each other and decide 'what we want' " in terms of workplace changes, and "make it known and illustrate by example that you can have a home life and a work life.Ginsburg gave a great example of how a firm can be flexible.

As an example, Ginsburg said a former law clerk of hers who now has three young children worked out an arrangement with an unnamed law firm to have a three-day work week. "They are delighted with her work," Ginsburg said.

While that's one example, there are others that include men and women. Yes, men and women need to discuss  'what we want' " in terms of workplace changes.  We need to see changes that help both genders be the lawyers or professionals they want to be and have a life outside the office, too.

Ginsburg has reminded us that the struggle for work life balance is real and needs to be addressed. Will firms heed her call to action?

 

September 02, 2016

How to find work life balance during Labor Day Weekend

                                               Chair

 

Here it is, the weekend we've been waiting for...three days of fun with friends, family or a romantic interest. 

Now, it's time for your confession....will you spend time this weekend looking at email, thinking about work or fretting about what awaits you on Tuesday morning?

Don't do it! 

Now, that's a lot easier for me to say than it is for you to do. Still, here are my 5 tips to find work life balance during the holiday weekend:

 

1. Stay present in the moment: If you respond to emails and texts while doing an activity with a friend, family member or boyfriend, you’re not really with them. Your divided attention works against you and forces you to be two places at once. Do one thing at a time, and stay mindful about that one thing. You will enjoy your weekend so much more!

2. Prioritize fun. Something you will try to tackle this weekend is probably not a real priority. Ask yourself which mundane tasks can wait so you can get to those that are more enjoyable.

3. Block off time for something special. What is something you've been putting off all year because you just were too busy? If that's a book you want to read, start it this weekend. If it's a movie you've wanted to watch, do it. If it's a television you want to binge, no harm in pulling an all nighter like you did when you were a kid. There's no better time than a long weekend to get to the task that will bring you joy.

4. Work toward a goal. If you have something big you want to accomplish, use the holiday weekend to take a small step to move forward. You don't have to run an entire marathon, but if that's your goal, run a mile and end the holiday weekend with a sense of accomplishment.

5. Be positive and worry free. Put your worries and negativity into a shoebox for the weekend. Agree with all those you come in contact with to be in vacation mode and think only positive thoughts. If you're used to working all the time, it can feel stressful to let go for a few days. Tell yourself everything will be okay and everyone else is powering down, too. 

For many of us, this weekend really is the end of summer. Enjoy all that it represents and don't feel guilty! Happy Labor Day!

 

Timetorelax
 

 

 

 

 

August 29, 2016

How to survive back-to-school as a working parent

Sommer davis
(Sommer Davis and her family/ Photo by Shannon Kaestle)

 

For years, I've heard people say it takes a village to raise a child. Most working parents will agree with that statement. But I haven't read much on how to build your village. So this week in my Miami Herald column, I set out to help working parents build a support team for a better work life balance.

If you're a mother or father trying to adapt to a new school routine, here is where you should look to build your support team:

Workplace: The least-stressed working parents have their employers on their team. In fact, at least 4-in-10 mothers and fathers say they cannot be successful as parents without a supportive boss, according to Bright Horizons’ Modern Family Index, a 2014 survey of 1,005 American parents who work at least part time.

When the boss is not understanding, try to find co-workers who you can rely on in a pinch. Barbara Baker, an assistant in a Cutler Ridge medical office, remembers the day she needed to attend an unscheduled parent-teacher conference but saw a line of patients waiting to be checked in. Her co-worker, another working mom, stepped up and filled in.

Community: Many working parents reach into the community to build their team by joining carpools, courting neighbors and trading favors with other parents and friends. A parent who travels often for work may ask for help driving their child to after-school activities in exchange for doing a weekend pickup from a “Sweet 16” party, for example.

 

Peggy Sapp, president and CEO of Informed Families, suggests take time now to build connections: “Some people think they are too busy, but it is worth it to take time at the beginning of school. Introduce yourself to other parents or offer to meet over coffee at Starbucks. Anything you can do to create a bond now is going to make it easier than a cold-call later when you need some help.”

Family: With nearly 70 percent of mothers in the workforce, you and your spouse need to work as a well-functioning team. Today more fathers are helping to make dinner, pick up kids from school, or even leave work early to handle emergencies. For others, family members such as grandparents or aunts are critical to their support team. Don't feel bad asking a family member for help, often they enjoy the time with their young family members.

Sommer Davis says her husband, Lawrence, a long-distance truck driver, is on the road for months at a time. For Davis, raising two daughters and succeeding as a public information officer for the Miami-Dade County Water & Sewer Department requires her parents’ involvement. "I am fortunate I am able to rely on them for assistance,” Davis says.

School: You might want to make your child's teacher part of your team, too.  On back-to-school night, put teachers’ contact information into your phone, along with contact information for after-school providers, bus drivers, coaches and any other school faculty who you can call for help. Some teachers will allow a helpful child (or teen) to stay in their classrooms after school for a short while.

As this school year kicks off, start now to assemble your team. You may need it sooner than you  think.

 

 

 

 

 

August 18, 2016

A Back-to-School Tip for Working Mothers (and Fathers)

 

                                           Mom on phone

 

Today, I was interviewing an expert for a back to school article, when she shared a piece of wisdom with me that I wish I had thought of years ago.

She suggests creating a file on your phone with the email or phone number of every person your child comes in contact with during the school day. For example, the file would have the bus driver's number, the transportation department's number, the mother who drives your child to school. It would also have the teacher's contact info and the school's contact info. If you child is in aftercare, it would have the aftercare director's number or one of the care providers. If you child is in extracurricular activities such as piano lessons, the file would have the piano teacher's number or another parent whose child takes lessons the same day with the same teacher. 

The key is ALL the numbers are in ONE place. No need to search around and wonder whether you filed someone's info by first or last name or by topic or some other way. 

If the bus doesn't show up or you need to reach someone to reach your child, NO NEED TO PANIC! Making contact with someone who can help becomes much easier when everything is in one place and at your fingertips.

As much as our phones draw our attention away from our kids if we let them, our phones can be our lifeline when our children need to reach us, or when we need to reach them. 

It's also good to collect phone numbers of your child's friends parents. That could be a separate file on your phone. If you don't know all the parents, use the new school year as the perfect time to get to know them. 

There will be days that unpredictable events with our kids turn our lives upside down. Inevitably those days will be the ones in which we have a big presentation at work or our boss is riding along with us on a sales call. Getting our safety net prepared ahead of time can make all the difference in a working parent's work life balance!

What tips can you share with other working parents who are trying to keep it all together during the school year?

 

August 04, 2016

Do we work as much as we think we do?

Keyboard

(Photo by Jay LaPrete AP)

 
 

 

If you're like me, you feel like you're working A LOT. But are you as overworked as you think you are?

According to the American Time Use Survey, full time workers only put in about 40 hours a week, and only five minutes more a week than a decade ago.

What it doesn't account for, though, is how we work.

In this hyper-connected age, working hours might still be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the hours to do work can stretch from midnight to midnight, with emails zipping through the ether at the convenience of the sender, but not necessarily the recipient, as noted by Nick Coltrain of the Coloradoan

I don't know about you, I tend to interval work, which means I switch from task to task at home and the office, taking care of personal responsibilities and work responsibilities as needed. If your workday is anything like mine, you might sit down in front of your computer screen to start a project and become distracted by a new email. Then, you might work for an hour, and take a quick break to check Facebook.

The switching between personal and business tasks at the workplace has become so habitual that some researchers believe Americans spend as much as two hours of an eight-hour workday doing non-work tasks, whether or not we realize it. Two hours is a lot isn't it? Of course, no one can work 8 hours straight without going crazy. We all need breaks!

I think what makes me feel like I'm working so much is that even when I am at home and not actually working, I still feel the tug of work on my brain. It's that always on feeling that researchers say creates chronic stress and emotional exhaustion.

In our desire for work/life balance, it's just as difficult to know how much time we spend on leisure activities as work tasks, in part because of the increase in smartphone use. The American Time Use Survey shows Americans spend about five hours a day doing leisure activity, with television watching accounting for more than half of that time. However, many people watch television with their mobile devices in hand and sporadically check work email.

When employers ask workers to manually track their work time, productivity improves, according to Fred Krieger, CEO of Scoro, a San Francisco productivity/project management software firm. If you really tracked the hours you work, how much do you think it would add up to? Do you consider multi-tasking -- watching television and checking email to be work or leisure time? It's kind of tricky, isn't it? But if we can improve our productivity by tracking our time, it might be worth doing.

What do you think your time diary would reveal?

 

 

 

August 01, 2016

Post vacation blues: Finding work life balance after your return

                                                         

 

                                                         Worker on vacation

I am boarding the plane home from summer vacation, a week of fun with my husband and kids, and I'm starting to get that familiar feeling. It's a sense of dread. On vacation, I spent every day for a week planning an adventure or enjoyable activity with my family and now I will return to laundry, email, deadlines and a daily routine that doesn't leave much quality family time.

I am fortunate I love my job as a writer. Lots of people I know hate their jobs, their bosses, their overall predicaments. I don't. Yet, I dread the post vacation blues, the reality of resuming a daily routine that imposes myriad demands on my time and a constant struggle for work life balance.

So lately, I've been reading up on how to avoid post vacation blues, or even just end-of-summer blues. I have figured out a few things to do differently this summer.

1. Know the benefit of a break. Whether you are job hunting, thinking of leaving your job or overwhelmed by your job, you need a break. Tell yourself it's okay to take a vacation and it's okay not to think about real life responsibilities for a short period of time. My new mantra: It's okay to chill out!

2. Make a game plan for the return. Spend some time coming up with a list of things that you can do after you return from vacation that will challenge you intellectually or physically. Those people who are constantly challenging themselves rarely appear to be depressed or negative, according to Andrew Griffiths and his blog on Inc.  I signed up for an online writing webinar a few days after my return from vacation this year. It gives me a learning opportunity to look forward to that I easily can fit into my work life balance.

3. Do more of the things you enjoy. Part of making that vacation high last is figuring out how to put more fun into your life. If it's spending time with your family you love, figure out how to make more time for them. If it's exercising you enjoy, get up early and go bike riding twice a week. If you enjoy working, that's a good thing, too. What aspects of your job do you like most and how can you do more of those things?  Some people have a hobby they enjoy like fishing or gardening but the last time they did it was 10 years ago.  As the summer comes to a close, plunge back into something you enjoy doing. For me, I love reading. I just created a library of books on my iPad waiting to be read on a lounge chair on the beach over the upcoming weekends after my return from vacation.

4. Ask someone "how can I help"? Commit to helping someone else either in your workplace, your business network,  your community, your children's school. If you want to feel uplifted, there is no better way.

5. Get in the right frame of mind.  Sometimes we focus on the piece of our lives that we find dull or difficult or exhausting. When you come back from vacation rested and happy, you can use that as motivation to re-examine your work life balance and your outlook. What are the things that made you happy on vacation -- sleeping in, touring museums, taking hikes, eating at new restaurants? All those things can be done wherever you live. You just have to make the effort to do them.

6. Change up your routine.  During your first week back from vacation, take a new route to work, sit in a different chair at the dinner table or eat lunch with a different crowd. Small changes often are enough to renew our zest for life and help us stay motivated.

Of course, if the post vacation blues are overwhelming, you may need more drastic measures. Vacations are fun because they offer a break from the tedium and familiarity of life, but if you're miserable being at work or at home, you may want to make big changes to feel happier. And, if it's any consolation, it's never too early to start planning your next vacation! 

July 13, 2016

Staying connected without ruining your vacation

A friend of mine just returned from vacation and complained her husband spent the entire trip on his smartphone checking email and making work calls. She was furious with him!

Summer vacation is crucial for work life balance. But there is a tendency to stay connected with work because no one wants to feel so buried in email when they return that they wish they had stayed home.

Which is why going on vacation requires a lot of planning, negotiation and compromise. With our smartphones tempting us to “check in,” jetting to an exotic location or exploring a state park is much more complicated than it was years ago when we truly took vacations without staying connected.

One of the tricky parts of vacationing today is doing so in a way that is compatible with your travel partner or your family. There is nothing more frustrating than sitting in a lounge chair trying to relax while your spouse is on his or her phone talking to a colleague about a work dilemma. If you’re the one who wants to stay connected while traveling, it can be stressful trying to hide it from a significant other, a friend, or children who find it disruptive to the flow of the vacation.

The key is deciding upfront how connected you want to be, planning for it with your fellow travelers and sticking to your plan.

 

 

Dana Brownlee, founder of Atlanta-based Professionalism Matters, a national corporate consulting company, has developed the '95% unplugged vacation model with tips for how to manage your time off for optimum success. She wants us all to strive to be only 5 percent plugged in. That's just enough to stay on top of things without being annoying or ruining your vacation. Here are her six tips: 
 
 1.  Get Your Significant Other On Board. Get agreement from your spouse/partner upfront that you will work (but only 5 percent) so that he or she is not glaring at you if you take a conference call while playing kickball on the beach.

 2.   Know When to Say No. Don't take a conference call while playing kickball on the beach! Remember, the plan is 5% business - just enough to keep your sanity, respond to emergencies, and keep operations flowing. Still set an out of office message indicating minimal access to email/voicemail
with appropriate back up information.

3. Set a specified amount of "check in time." No more than this amount
of time, and definitely less if you can manage it.

4.  Use Family Downtime Wisely. Only "check in" or conduct business activities during family downtime (e.g. kids are asleep or husband has taken the kids to get a pizza). Remember there is a difference between shooing the family away so that you can edit that document vs. scanning your emails
after they themselves have decided to go pick up a pizza.

5.  Don't bring laptops or other devices that might encourage work. The idea is that you shouldn't PLAN to do any work. Only allow yourself to respond to communications as absolutely needed to maintain your sanity and keep things afloat in your absence.

6.    Know when to pull back. If anyone in your family starts complaining, you're probably beyond the 5% mark so pull back and refocus.

Whether you go somewhere, or just stay home, downtime in the summer is pretty important to getting through the rest of the year more motivated and energized. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Bahamas 2014 002

Dana Brownlee on vacation with her family, enjoying herself and not plugged in!

 

 

July 06, 2016

Read for some fun? How to fit a hobby into your work life balance

 

With my kids getting older, I'd love to become a better cook or learn to paddleboard. At times, I'm envious of my teenagers who don't hesitate to pursue their hobbies along with their studies. Most of us are just trying to get by, living our life in the day to day struggle of balancing everything already on our plates. Today, my guest blogger is Marty Pomphrey, co-founder of Aulta, a direct to consumer, water-resistant watch company. Marty balances his hobbies and running a business and says doing so has improved his work life. Here is his perspective:

 

Marty

 

 

Growing up we had a small lake next to our house that held endless fascination for me. Every day I would speed through my homework so that I could go fishing or explore the creeks that rushed through the forest when the heavy rains came. I would stay out for hours until darkness or dinner finally forced me to come in. But somewhere along the way I grew up, went to college, started working, and life became unequivocally drier.

It wasn’t until I left a secure job ten years ago to start my first business that I even gave the loss a second thought. Lifestyle is an interesting word. By definition, it encompasses the daily manner in which a person lives but is often used in the context of a guilty pleasure, the weekend, or life after retirement. At my last job I was terrible at making time for myself during the week. Work was always the first priority. So when I struck out on my own, I vowed to do better. What I didn’t know then was that my lifestyle choices would actually create a new business. I just needed to get wet again.

 

Surfing is the common thread that connects me with my business partners at AULTA, a direct to customer watch brand that we launched in 2015.  Abe Allouche is a Miami native and founder of the surf apparel company Island Daze and Pancho Sullivan is a former pro surfer from Hawaii. I met Abe completely by accident seven years ago when I left work a couple hours early to wind down with nine holes of golf. It was Abe who taught me how to surf, and a year later I found myself flying with him to meet Pancho in Hawaii for my first surf trip at the tender age of 40. And it was sitting on our surfboards in the ocean during the trip that the idea for AULTA was born. An incredible chain reaction traced back to a two-hour lifestyle break.

Connecting back to my love of water through surfing had an immediate positive impact on me. I realized physical benefits for sure, but the mental and emotional changes were as important. When the waves come, I feel like a kid again and stay out in the water even after the sun sinks below the horizon.  What I didn’t expect was that fitting a hobby into my life and learning to surf in my forties would also teach me valuable business lessons. Here are my big three:

Get out of your comfort zone

I used to rely heavily on being the most prepared person in the room, but I wasn’t that great at improvising on the spot. Consequently, I didn’t step out of my comfort zone unless I had to, which meant that I wasn’t growing enough as a professional. There is no growth to be found in any endeavor worth pursuing without some measure of discomfort. Surfing made me confront this reality in a very physical way.  For any surfer, there are days when the waves are bigger than they are used to handling and this often results in being tossed around a bit, or even held down underwater. But this means you will have more confidence the next time out because of that experience. The hard days are always the best learning days.

 

Don’t panic. Assess and then react

My first surf trip to Hawaii was a massive learning experience. Winter on the North Shore of Oahu is the proving ground for the best surfers in the world in waves of consequence, and I was just a beginner. I asked Pancho what to do if a wave held me down, and he told me to just let my body go limp and the wave would eventually let me go. Struggling just uses up oxygen and everything goes downhill pretty quickly from there. Two days later I found myself being ragdolled underwater two hundred yards from shore and somehow remembered Pancho’s advice. And just like he said the wave let go when it was finished with me, not the other way around. Sometimes the best first course of action in life and in business is to do nothing.

 

When life slows down, amazing happens

AULTA simply wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t met Abe that day on the golf course, and that meeting was the result of a deliberate choice on my part. Whenever I find the seesaw of work/life balance tipping in the wrong direction I try to stop and remind myself of this important fact. A well-rounded lifestyle, including taking up a hobby, is a personal choice, and we all need some level of counterbalance to a hard day’s work. Burnout becomes a reality if you don’t refuel somehow. I love what I do but work exacts a daily toll, and work/life balance is a challenge for anyone.  The ocean is simply that place I go to recharge my engines. Each person has his or her own charging station; the trick is to make time to go there.

How do you plan to create time for a hobby you've always dreamed of pursuing? 

 

June 21, 2016

Tragic death shows why work life balance is important

As a beer lover, my attention was immediately drawn to the recent headline in The Miami Herald:

Founding brewer for MIA Beer Company killed in car crash

I continued on to read the article:

A well-known brewer in Miami’s craft beer scene was killed in a car crash over the weekend.

Piero Rodriguez, one of MIA Beer Company’s founding brewers, was killed in an accident early Sunday, owner Eddie Leon confirmed. He was 34.

“We are completely devastated,” Leon said.

And then, there it was, the paragraph that stood out to me as a warning for anyone who thinks excessive work can't kill you:
 
Rodriguez had been working double shifts, Leon said, brewing in the morning and often tending bar at the brewery at night to make extra money. Friends feared it might have been exhaustion that forced him to lose control of his late-model Acura on Northwest 33rd Street at the tight curve in the 8900 block, just minutes down the street from the brewery. He struck a light pole, wasn’t wearing his seat belt and was ejected, according to police. He was pronounced dead at Kendall Regional Medical Center at 2 a.m. Sunday.
 

Clearly, the ironic part is that Piero was doing a job he loved -- he was just doing it too much.

His friends and peers told The Miami Herald It was common to find him at the brewery doing the laborious, scrubbing tanks with punk rock blaring in the background while his son tagged along.

He was living the life he always wanted, his brother Ruy said, albeit cut far too short.

“People should be more positive,” Ruy said, “and pursue their dreams like he did.”


And there, right there, lies the fine line. While it is admirable to pursue your dream and do a job you love, everyone needs balance. Death by overwork is real and it can take your life in different ways. There are health reasons why work life balance is important and repercussions for thinking you can work a little longer or harder before taking time off. Over the years, I've written about people who have dropped dead of exhaustion right at their desks.

According to the Herald, the last thing Piero Rodriguez said as he left work late Saturday night was how much he was looking forward to spending Father’s Day with his young son.

He would never make it home.

That's a cautionary lesson for all of us. Sending my prayers to Piero's family....
 
 
 
Piero 1