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 19, 2015

Former lawyer says work life balance is not impossible

Today my guest blogger is Yuliya I. LaRoe, founder of Confident Entrepreneur Business & Leadership Coaching. LaRoe is originally from Vladivostok, Russia. She immigrated to the US in 1997 and quickly set her sights on becoming a lawyer. After graduating from the University of Southern California Law School, she spent about 8 years working as a business and international law attorney in a large law firm in Los Angeles. I found her perspective on work life balance interesting and wanted to share it with all of you.

 

YuliyaMy pursuit for the "perfect" balance between work and life started with my first job as a lawyer. The realization of how hard it was to juggle work assignments with family obligations and still wanting to spend time with friends, on hobbies and to travel (which I love) was a bit of shock to me. School was much easier in that sense - show up to classes, do your homework, and pass the exams. But work was much more demanding. It required long hours, work on the weekends, and at times felt all consuming. I spent about 8 years working as a business and international law attorney in a large law firm in Los Angeles. 

 

And then in 2011, I came to a (quite shocking!) realization that the practice of law was no longer satisfying. I decided to shift gears completely and become a business and leadership coach. I wanted to help women business owners and professionals grow their business or career, while becoming more focused and confident about they really wanted, connecting with their purpose, and infusing more balance, and happiness into their daily lives.

 

To be frank, it took me months to make the transition happen, during which I experienced my own version of "Eat, Prey, Love" (I spent 2 months volunteering in Costa Rica, traveled to South Korea and Russia, completed a 4-month yoga teacher certification course, back-packed around India for a month, and attended a 10-day SILENT meditation retreat). 

 

Recently, I bought Sharon Lechter's book "Think and Grow Rich for Women: Using Your Power to Create Success and Significance and found one particular passage to strike a cord with me. In it the author says:

 

"For years, women have been taught that they should be able to have it all. They should be able to choose to work full-time or part-time, or work from home while still getting married, having children, and managing a household. But there were no rules or guidebooks on how to have it all and keep your sanity in the process. 

 

Think and Grow Rich for Women debunks the work/ life balance guilt trip that women struggle with. I personally believe the word “balance” was created by a group of old male psychologists who saw the rise of women in the workplace and wanted to make sure they had a steady stream of female patients— women tormented with guilt and frustration with their inability to achieve the psychologists’ definition of balance.”

 

This resonated with me because many of my clients deal with this issue on a daily basis, and my own failed search for that proverbial "perfect balance" was one of the reasons I struggled in my past career as an attorney.

 

At some point, I had resigned myself to the idea that I couldn't "have it all" and that I just had to choose one thing, my work. But as we all know, all work and no play make anyone a dull person. Slowly I began to get that feeling that my soul was being crushed. Sounds dramatic, I know, but that's how it felt.

 

Now, years later, I realize that balance itself was not impossible. The secret that no one tells you about is in how we define "balance". Most of my clients, when we first begin working together, place such high demands on themselves - to be the perfect professional, the perfect spouse or partner, the perfect parent, the perfect friend, the perfect child, etc. All of that while achieving the "perfect balance." 

 

We drive ourselves into exhaustion by trying to achieve and overachieve. Plus, add the guilt that comes when we realize that we are "failing." I recently had one of my clients apologize to me for not creating and mailing her family photo Christmas card to me because she had so much on her plate that she "was going nuts" (hardly necessary to lose one's sanity over a postcard!).

 

What I tell my clients is what I had to tell myself: carve out some time and get clear on your true priorities in life. Start by asking these questions: "How much of what I am trying to accomplish is what I truly want and how much of it is driven by societal and cultural pressures? What would my life look like if I relaxed at least some of my standards? At what point does trying to "have it all" while having "the perfect balance" begin to work against me?" 

 

The answers will set you in the right direction.

 

Join Yuliya at Any of These Upcoming Events! 

  • January 22, 2015: Thelma Gibson Awards hosted by the Women's Chamber of Commerce of Miami-Dade County
  • January 29, 2015: SCORE Miami workshop – Featured Presenter, “'You Said What?' Boost Your Business Etiquette Skills to Ensure Success of Your Business" @ 2000 Ponce Business Center
  • February 4, 2015: WIFS (Women in Insurance & Financial Services) South Florida's Annual Kickoff Meeting  – Featured Presenter, "Plan to Win & Make It Happen! 3 Key Strategies For Success"

January 15, 2015

Where work life balance is headed in 2015

I recently had a conversation that enlightened me. I spoke with a 2014 college graduate working at an accounting firm, who is assigned to the Miami office. She told me she also works from other Florida offices or from home. She explained that her supervisors know when she is working because the company system shows her logged in, but they don’t know her exact location, which makes it easy to work from home. “I love that about this job,” she told me.

Yesterday in The Miami Herald, I outlined my predictions for workplace trends in 2015. One of the trends I feel most strongly about relates to flexibility and this conversation.

I believe in 2015, more employees, like this young accountant, will quietly use flexibility. While many companies are considering policies on flexible work arrangements, their workers are quietly working from outside the office whenever possible. Working where you want or when you want and is a perk employees will put a premium on in 2015.

Those workers who can work from home on occasion tell me they plan to stay in their jobs as long as possible, because not having that flexibility would cost them in commute time, babysitter fees or missed parenting opportunities. Most workers say they are more productive on the days they work from home.

Expect to see lifestyle choices over money when it comes to career decisions in 2015. Alex Funkhouser, CEO of Sherlock Talent, a Florida staffing firm for technology and marketing talent, says seven out of every 10 job candidates he encounters would make a move if he or she could work remotely at least two days a week. “They even would take a pay cut just so they wouldn’t have to commute into an office,” Funkhouser says. Smart employers will recognize and embrace that trend to attract and retain loyal employees, particularly now that their upgraded systems make it easier to work remotely.

 
I also believe America's workforce will struggle even more for work life balance. Google marketing experts are telling us our smartphones are the new remote control for our lives. They are where we go for finding movie times, answering work emails, playing games, communicating with our teens. The more data our smartphone has, the smarter it will be, and the more it will simplify our life — or tether us to the office and distract us from making face to face connections. In 2015 more of us must decide if we use mobile technology — even wearable mobile technology — as a new powerful tool to work and communicate, or if we let it dictate our lives.

“We have to define what’s important for us at which time of the day, the week and the year, and act consistently,” says Geoffroy de Lestrange, a marketing professional.

With our laptops and cell phones tempting us to bring work home, we are going to have to work harder this year to keep work at the office and protect our personal and family life from the demands of work. That will be a focus for my blog this year. I look forward to sharing my tips and hearing yours.

 
 

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 11, 2015

How to actually take vacation, time off in 2015

                                       Vacation

 

 

Close you eyes and for a moment imagine yourself relaxed, happy and at your best at work. When I do that, I envision myself about a week after I have returned from vacation, all caught up at work and in a much better mindset than before I left.

 

Being my best self at work affects how I lead, treat others, show compassion and patience, and exhibit creativity. Most of us need a break from routine, a chance to decompress, to be our best selves. But surveys show we are not taking that crucial opportunity.

 

Just less than 42% of Americans didn't take a single day of vacation in 2014, and women took fewer vacation days than men, according to Skift, a travel intelligence site. The findings show many full-time employed Americans have at least 10 days of allotted vacation. Because workplaces often have use it or lose it policies, not taking vacation is like leaving money on the table.

 

What's going on?

 

There are all kinds of reasons people gave. Some said they were reluctant to use their vacation time for fear of appearing replaceable or concern about their work piling up. Some didn't have money to go on vacation or believed there was no one who could cover for them if they took time off.

 

Right before my vacation this summer, I felt like any story ideas I came up with were stale. I felt tired and disengaged. Most of us recognize we are not at our best when we haven’t been able to disconnect from work physically and emotionally for a long stretch of time.

 

Vacations don’t have to be costly or long to be revitalizing. Now is the time to think ahead for 2015. Start by establishing expectations that you will take time off, guidelines for how you will disconnect and back up plans for when you are on vacation. Help your boss (or client) get into a routine of contacting others for some issues that he’d normally contact you about. Do this even when you are in the office to train those who will cover for you.  You want you boss to gain more confidence in them and allow you a real vacation from work.

 

Even in workplaces that don’t encourage time off, let others know that they will benefit from your post-vacation rejuvenation. I feel like taking vacation in 2015 is doable if you keep your “best self” vision in mind and plan for it now.

 

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 31, 2014

How Work Life Balance Evolved in 2014

Would you speak up if an employee or peer were working himself close to a hospital stay — or maybe even to death?

It’s a query I raised earlier this year, and one that drew lots of reader reaction. As I look over the workplace trends I wrote about in 2014, it is apparent that struggle for balance has become an increasing challenge.

Because we live in a culture that applauds overwork, stories of bosses or peers working themselves to death or collapsing of exhaustion force us to look at what has become the new normal.

In a Sept. 30 column, I noted that many of us hesitate to speak up when we see a bleary-eyed co-worker reach for another cup of coffee, looking every bit like he has slept at his desk for the past week. We resist saying something when we hear a fellow manager has postponed his vacation, again, to cater to client demands. When multiple 15-hour workdays get met with a pat on the back rather than a look of concern, we need to figure out our role in workplace well-being. Based on reader response, I foresee more intervention from those witnessing colleagues or loved ones working themselves to the brink.

Another column that drew feedback addressed men and workplace flexibility. For the past decade, men have been an afterthought in conversations about workplace flexibility. In my Nov. 4 column, I referenced a report commissioned by Working Mother that found men are exercising flexibility in their own informal way. Unlike working mothers who push for formal flexible work arrangements, working dads are using flexibility under the radar, working at home as needed to care for a sick child or shifting their hours to coach their child’s sports team.

Of the men surveyed for the Working Mother report, most said they prefer a mix of working from home and the office. With working dads taking on more childcare responsibilities, I think we will see the conversation around flexibility become broader and more relevant in most workplaces.

BLENDING WORK, LIFE

In our struggle to do it all, it looks like many of us have figured out a key strategy: blending our worlds. While we are logging on to work outside of traditional work hours — from our bed or a soccer practice — we are also taking time for our personal lives during our workday.

In a Sept. 23 column, I detailed how almost everyone, from the office secretary to the store manager, makes a personal digital escape thoughtlessly throughout the workday. We use our cellphones to text our kids from our cubicles or check Facebook from our lunchrooms. Work and home no longer are separate spheres.

Laura Demasi, a researcher at Ipsos, says technology has transformed work into something we do, rather than only a place we go: “More broadly, it has created a new kind of ‘life on demand’ culture, where we do what we want, when and where we want.”

TIME TO SLEEP

In these stressful times, sleep issues are an increasing problem. Laurie Sallarulo, CEO of the Leadership Broward Foundation in Fort Lauderdale, admits she doesn’t sleep much. After a full day’s work, she will eat dinner with her son and get back on her computer to work some more — often until 1:30 a.m. And then, it’s up early the next morning to start her day again. When exhaustion sets in at the office, Sallarulo turns to coffee for a boost.

And so it goes in America. We’re working, working some more, sleeping less and drinking coffee — or Red Bull — to keep us awake.

In an April 30 column, I noted that some high-profile business leaders want us to change our behavior because getting enough sleep can make us better thinkers and decision-makers. Donna Shalala, the high-energy president of the University of Miami, has become an outspoken advocate for a good night’s sleep, as has Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group.

WORKPLACE FAIRNESS

In March, my column that tackled the topic of workplace fairness drew a big response. In an effort to be family-friendly, some workplaces may be inadvertently penalizing childless workers. Jennifer Verdeja, a massage therapist at a South Florida spa, talks excitedly about her job until the conversation turns to the unfairness of her work schedule: “Just because I don’t have children doesn’t mean I should get the Saturday night shift every week.”

As businesses make more effort to accommodate working parents, the resentment from nonparents is rising. Early results of a new study of 25,000 workers shows two-thirds of nonparents say they carry an undue burden at the office and are expected to work longer hours than workers who have children. “There has to be an objective measure in place that applies rules equitably to everyone,” says Donna Flagg, the author ofSurviving Dreaded Conversations and founder of The Krysalis Group, a management consulting firm. “Only a handful of companies have achieved it, and most are a long way off.”

ONLINE GAMES, WATCHING TV

Even with multiple demands on our time, I discovered that American workers are indulging at least two guilty pleasures: online games and binge TV-watching. After a day of negotiating legal contracts, Gail Serota sinks into her couch with her iPad and immerses herself in playing Candy Crush. The Miami real-estate attorney finds that playing the mobile game relaxes her: “It’s a good stress relief.”

On July 22, I noted that whether for relaxation or diversion, full-time workers also are making time for marathon TV-viewing sessions. A new study by Harris Interactive on behalf of Netflix shows 61 percent of us binge-watch TV regularly, watching at least three episodes of a single series in one sitting.

“People are looking for refuge from the constant press of business,” says Grant McCracken, a cultural anthropologist who helped conduct the Netflix research. “At the same time, the stories are getting better than they used to be.” With a steady stream of new series debuting on TV and online, I expect this trend to continue.

MINDFULNESS

Mindfulness in the workplace is another trend I saw unfolding in 2014. In the rush to accomplish multiple tasks or respond to job pressures, people often lose connection with the present moment. They stop being attentive to what they’re doing or feeling and react from a place of stress. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing awareness on the present moment.

Teaching and encouraging mindfulness in the workplace has become a part of corporate efforts to reduce stress and prevent burnout. Miami attorney Paul Singerman said not only is he personally working on mastering mindfulness, but his law firm, Berger Singerman, has sponsored workshops for clients, employees and colleagues: “I really believe mindfulness can make you more effective and enhance your prospects for success.”

 

NEW YEAR

As 2014 closes out, it marks more than a decade of my columns on work/life issues. What has changed most is the widespread acknowledgment that work/life balance is not a problem just for women or a concern that is going to be solved: It’s an ongoing challenge. I look forward to another year of providing you discussion and solutions around your work/life challenges.

 

 

December 16, 2014

Parenting Do-Overs for 2015

Do over.

Two words that all of us think about at one time in our lives. If I could have a do over, I would stress a lot less when my kids were in elementary school about their homework, friends, and activities. I would approach parenting without guilt for being a working mom and realize that I'm teaching my kids responsibility rather than shirking my parental duty when I asked them to make their own lunch for school.

When I saw this guest blog post on the topic of do overs, I wanted to share it with all of you who may still have time to approach the juggle of work and family with new insight. Work life balance is a lofty goal and over our lifetime, we all have something we would have done differently.

The author of this guest blog post is Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.

 

10 Parent Do-Overs For 2015
Including "Embrace the Mess"

by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC
When my first daughter was six and my youngest was two, I came to a realization that helped me parent in a much different fashion. You see, I've always been a neat freak and I prefer structure and order in my home. Beds made, no dust, and I'm happy. No one told me I couldn't have that and kids too, but it wasn't long before I realized I would stress myself into a heart attack if I continued.
 
When you have kids, you should actually think of living in a barn because kids are hoarders; they're messy; they spill anything they carry; and they are curious and forgetful. They don't close doors, clean up toys, worry about mud, clean up art supplies or Cheerios. And, unless you pacify them with electronic gadgets (which don't stimulate their creative ingenuity as well as hands on manipulating things), your home will be full of rocks, leaves, sand and bugs.
Every parent I know who has a teenager or college-bound child reminisces about what they would do differently if they had a baby or small children now. Many of the things they say are enlightening and helpful when you are sure you're losing your mind with the little ones. I have come up with a list of ten things for parents to consider for 2015 as they continue raising their children.
I've found that hindsight gives you great insight, and if you hang in there a few more months, what drives you mad now will be gone with the next thing your child finds interesting. So, stay curious and take naps.
1. Play with your child every chance you get. Instead of putting them in front of the TV or iPad, get down on the floor and play with them. Your child's brain is developing at a speed you cannot understand. Every opportunity to play is an opportunity for your child to connect with you and their environment.

2. Work on your relationship with your spouse or partner.
Your child will be far better off if you keep your marriage intimate and close. They need your marriage more than they need you 24/7. Dads give children something moms cannot, and visa versa.

3. Power nap with your child. Instead of thinking about all the things you can get done at naptime, lay down and nap. Your power nap will give you more energy and clearer thinking, and both of those will benefit your child more than cleaning.

4. Forget the electronics until your child is in kindergarten.Coloring, gluing, and cutting are much more important for your child's motor and cognitive development than an electronic alphabet game. Being able to create new ideas with art supplies and blocks is not only a way for them to develop motor skills, but it also builds confidence and cognitive skills.

5. Go to the park any and all chances you get. Being outside and running, swinging, jumping, and observing is everything to your child. You playing with them helps them grow closer to you and the wonder of all they see. Talking on the phone or distracting yourself with work is not worth it when you are at the park with your child. Take the time...and be there.

6. Make lunches and cook with your child. Yes, it will be a mess, and yes, you will have to clean it up, but children who touch food and learn to make healthy food choices are also at an advantage as they grow older and become more independent.

7. Quit stressing over what is normal for your child. Kids grow at different rates and no two children are at the same height and weight at the same time. Relax. Use your intuition and parent sense to help guide you.

8. Your child is not going to go to prison because they won't share their toys. New parents make mountains out of molehills, and if their child is more stubborn or temperamental, they make the issue worse than it is. Staying structured with rules and following through with discipline is important, but don't stress over the little stuff.

9. Hug your child EVERY chance you get. Someday you will miss when they no longer want you to carry them, and they will grow out of wanting to sit in your lap during story time.

10. Never parent with guilt. Sometimes you have to be firm and that means teaching your child there are consequences for their actions. But, yelling or screaming at your child should never be done, and they are very forgiving; so always apologize. 
No one tells us how to parent, and kids don't come with an instruction manual. So, it is wisdom of hindsight that helps new parents feel comforted during the rough times...and there will be rough times. Kids get sick, they don't sleep, they like bugs and messes and spill water, milk and anything liquid. Love them anyway.