November 14, 2014

Admitting you don't have work life balance

Today I had a conversation that I found refreshing.

Typically, I speak with women and men and ask them how they achieve work life balance. Usually they give me an answer about something specific they do such as "make alone time" or "work out during lunch" or "make my family a priority."

But today, when I ask Cheryl Scully, chief financial officer of AutoNation, about how she achieves work
life balance, her answer was simple and honest: "I'm not good at it," she admitted to me. 

Finally, someone who openly admits to be okay with working more than playing. 

Cheryl said she regularly works seven days a week. She recently began trying to take off Friday Cheryl-Scully-3405381-220 afternoons. Cheryl did say that she has more flexibility as a company officer than she had on her climb up the corporate ladder. She can leave the office for a few hours during the day when needed. But when she does, she usually stays late at night.

Cheryl is recently engaged and planning a wedding. Because she doesn't have children, she told me she is not the best person to speak about work life balance. Yet, to me, she is ideal. It's refreshing to hear someone openly say they lack work life balance. As she settles into married life, Cheryl may want to reclaim some of her personal time. But for now, she holds a prestigious position at a robust public company and has made pockets of time to tend to her personal needs. She has chosen to put time into a career and I respect her choices.

Balance is not only about work and family. It's about spending time in ways that you find fulfilling. If Cheryl enjoys work and puts a priority on that, more power to her. Rather than pretending she is trying to find balance, I like that she admits her scale is tipped in one direction. 

Often, people believe they need better work/life balance because someone else had told them they need it. Cheryl didn't seem the least bit stressed to me. In fact, she seemed really happy.

What are your thoughts on admitting to not having balance and being okay with it? Have you found yourself struggling too hard to achieve it when you could give in and enjoy how you're spending your time?

October 29, 2014

The High Cost of Caregiving

My friend called me this morning to vent. She just learned her mother has an illness that needs ongoing treatment. She's worried she can't balance her demanding job, her kids and now her sick mom.

I've been there and it isn't easy. 

My friend is considering asking for a leave from her job as an inhouse recruiter at a big company. It's a job that requires face time and has little flexibility.  "What do you think I should do?" she asked me.

"That's a difficult and very personal decision," I replied.

I told her that experts say proceed with caution when pursuing this work life balance path. A few months off can turn into much longer and have serious impact on your finances.

Met Life found that for someone over 50 who leaves work temporarily to care for a loved one, the average lifetime setback is $303,880, including lost wages and retirement benefits.The total estimated aggregate lost wages, pension, and Social Security benefits of these caregivers of parents is nearly $3 trillion.That's a huge number!

Should you need to lean out for a while, it's possible to keep damage to a minimum with these smart moves published in Money Magazine

1. Plan ahead when possible and re-do your budget by setting aside funds for essential expenses first.

2. Check federal and state leave laws regarding paid and unpaid leave.

3. If you need to quit—but wish to return—make the case ahead of time for a comeback. 

Chances are that almost all of us will face what my friend is experiencing. The number of people who provide personal care and/or financial assistance to a parent has tripled over the past 15 years. MetLife's study found daughters are more likely to provide basic care and sons are more likely to provide financial assistance. (No surprise there!) Both scenarios, though, come with their own costs.

If you've confronted this scenario, what would you advise my friend? What are steps you've taken to minimize the financial and emotional toll of caregiving?

October 27, 2014

How to be less forgetful

I-lost-my-keys-joke-of-the-day

 

 

You regularly rack your brain to remember a book a friend recommended. You were on you way home from work and you can't remember the errand you were supposed run.  You suddenly can’t recall the name of your kid’s teacher. Sound familiar?

It does to me.

I feel like I have too much on my brain in my struggle for work life balance. Increasingly, I find I have to write even simple things to remember down them. And still....

Fear not: most forgetfulness isn’t anything serious, says Majid Fotuhi, MD, PhD, founder and chief medical officer of NeurExpand Brain Center in Luterville, MD and co-author of The Memory Cure.

Here are surprising things that impact your memory in not-so-good ways, according to an article in Time Magazine.

1. Thyroid. “People with high or low thyroid levels—which are very common in women—may have difficulty with memory and concentration,” he says. Ask your doctor for a simple thyroid test to determine if it’s the culprit behind your memory problems.

2. Hot flashes. “The more hot flashes a woman experiences during menopause, the worse her ability to remember names and stories,” says Dr. Fotuhi. “Fortunately, hot flashes don’t damage the brain in any way. Memory improves once the hot flashes subside.” 

3. Lack of Sleep. “Individuals with sleep deprivation a. Don’t stop taking your (potentially life-saving) medications, but talk to your doc if you believe any drug you’re on may be messing with your memory.nd sleep disorders not only suffer from impaired memory but also daytime fatigue, impaired attention, and reduced reaction time.” The standard recommendation of eight hours of sleep a night doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.

4. Stress. Do you worry  -- a lot? Worrying can affect your memory, several studies show. Prolonged periods of everyday stress increase cortisol levels in the brain, which causes our brain cells to lose synapses (the bridges that connect our brain cells to one another), and make it more difficult to create and retrieve memories. Researchers found that repeated stress reduced receptors in the part of the brain that’s connected to thought processes.  Finding ways to relieve stress may help. 

5. Pharmaceuticals. Check your medicine cabinet: many common prescription drugs can make you feel forgetful. Don’t stop taking your (potentially life-saving) medications, but talk to your doctor if you believe any drug you’re on may be messing with your memory.

Here are things that can help with memory:

1. Green Tea. How much green tea has not yet been determined, Dr. Fotuhi says in Time Magazine. He recommends combining green tea with other healthy habits such as exercise for greatest memory improvement benefits.

2. Exercise.  Dr. Fotuhi recommends 45 minutes of aerobic exercise four days a week for the best memory boost.

3. Vitamin B12.  In addition to fatigue, loss of appetite, constipation, and weight loss, a B12 deficiency can also lead to memory problems. Your doctor can give you a blood test that determines whether you should be taking a vitamin B12 supplement.

4. Keep lists. Getting things off your brain and on to paper makes a huge difference in what I'm able to remember. Paula Rizzo is a master in helping people create lists that help them remember things. Her new book,  “Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed” is will be coming out in January and it's on my to do list to buy it.

5. Visualization. Need to memorize a list of terms or names? You'll have a better chance of being able to recall them if the words are associated with an image, according to The Huffington Post. For example, if you have to remember a meeting at 4:30 p.m., try remembering your favorite quartet (The Beatles?) and a 30th birthday cake. It may sound silly, but you'll be grateful when you're right on time.

6. Label. Franklin Roosevelt was known to have a memory that would put most of us to shame -- he could remember the name of someone he met just once, months ago, seemingly without difficulty. His secret? Roosevelt was able to remember the names of everyone on his staff (and everyone he met) by visualizing their names written across their foreheads after being introduced to them. This technique is even more effective when the name is imagined being written in your favorite color marker, CNN claims.

7. Pay attention. Perhaps the best (and arguably most difficult) memory boost of all is simply paying attention to the task, conversation or experience at hand. Distraction makes our memories weaker, and consequently we are more prone to forget things.

I'm confessing that over the weekend, I said "nice to meet you" to the mother of my son's friend. She sounded annoyed and told me we've met before. Being forgetful is so embarrassing!

Do you think we're getting more forgetful as a society? Do you think it has something to do with all the information coming at us? What's something you've forgotten recently and do you have any tricks for ensuring you don't forget the small stuff?

 

October 17, 2014

Lose the nerves and ask for a raise

Does asking for a pay raise make you nervous?

It does for most people, but it shouldn’t. The odds are in your favor.

Three out of four times women ask for a raise, they get it, according to a Glamour survey of 2,000 men and women. But that hasn’t stopped debate over whether there remains a need to ask.

Last week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella ignited controversy when he was asked at a computing conference about advice he would give women who don’t feel comfortable asking for a raise.

“It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along,” he answered. Not asking for a raise, he added, was “good karma” that would help a boss realize the employee could be trusted and should have more responsibility.

His comments set off a firestorm of outrage from women, and Nadella quickly back-pedaled and apologized.

Still, his comments brought pay inequity and women’s general reluctance to ask for raises to the forefront.

I asked a few CEOs for their thoughts on how to ask for more money. Here's what they said:
 
Watch your language. Neena Newberry, a leadership expert with Newberry Solutions, says in today’s workplace, few people   are offered sizable raises unless they negotiate it. When asking, she says to consider tone and language. You don't want it to sound like you're giving an ultimatum. You do want to tie the conversation to the value you bring the company and they value they get in giving you a raise.
 
* Come prepared. Sandra Finn, president of Cross Country Home Services in Sunrise, says compensation adjustments are driven by the value you bring to the organization. “Have you demonstrated the drive and passion to stand out from the crowd and have you delivered more than what is expected?” If so, come prepared with the data, she says.

* Know that market. Maria Fregosi, Chief Capital Markets Officer at Hamilton Group Funding, says take calls from recruiters, not necessarily to leave your current position, but to know what is going on salary-wise outside your company. Know the prevailing salaries in your geographic area.

* Rehearse.  “It pays to practice the discussion with a trusted mentor who can help you think through potential objections,” Fregosi says. “I have found sticking to facts and working to take the emotion out of it to be most effective.”

* Don't make it personal. A boss doesn’t care that you need more money to pay for your divorce attorney or to make higher car payments. “I have had people ask for a raise because their personal expenses have gone up,” Fregosi says. “That is not a legitimate reason to ask for or to be given a raise.”

* Don't compare. Even if you find out your co-worker earns more than you, "make it about you, not Joe. Sell your boss on why you should earn more,” says Victoria Usherenko, a recruiter and founder of ITWomen. She also suggests identifying an internal mentor who will advocate a raise on your behalf, too.

* Start the conversation in advance. In most workplaces, salaries are reviewed annually. Start talking to your boss about getting a raise three to four months in advance of your review. Usherenko believes performance reviews are not the only time to negotiate salary. “If six months pass and you’ve done something outstanding, there’s no reason not to ask for a raise if you feel your contribution warrants it." 

* Be strategic. Peggy Nordeen, co-founder and CEO of Starmark International in Fort Lauderdale, suggests asking your employer how you can increase your value to the company in order to earn more money. 

Experts say the research shows most people who ask and make their case, get the raise. Of course, receiving a raise may have a caveat. You may have to take on more responsibilities. Think ahead about whether you are willing to do that and how it will affect your work life balance.

 


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-columns-blogs/cindy-krischer-goodman/article2768366.html#storylink=cpy

 


 

October 15, 2014

How to give our girls confidence

Bus6

 

Yesterday, a big pink and white bus pulled onto the campus of University of Miami. It is known as the “Confidence Is Beautiful” Bus and it's on a mission to build confidence in women and young girls.

It's a cool concept and the message it is spreading is important. Shelley Zalis, the founder of the bus, known more formally as The Ipsos Girls’ Loungewants women to feel confident in the workplace and build connections with each other that will help them advance. Her  40 ft. pink and white bus is decked out with a ‘confidence signature’ selfie station, hair and makeup stations AND there's an area of the bus where women can go for work/life advice!

Shelley says the idea behind the bus is to provide a place for women to get pampered and talk in a fun setting about issues such as equal pay, flexibility, and workplace respect. The UM stop was the pink bus' first visit to a college campus. It is on a National Tour and usually goes to conferences as a hangout to connect and inspire women in various career stages. More than 3,000 women have visited the bus.

I spoke to Shelley and she described the bus with lots of enthusiasm: One side of it is covered with writing from women who have expressed what they think good life at work should look like. The other side is covered with confidence selfies. Shelley's Lounge also is sponsoring the Equal Payback Project, a new national awareness campaign aimed at eliminating the wage gap between men and women—which just came out with a great (and a bit risqué!) video featuring comedian Sarah Silverman (watch here!)

As UM students wandered inside the bus yesterday and listened to soundbites from women's real life experiences in the corporate world. "We want these young women to go into the working world with confidence," Shelley explained to me. "We want to inspire them to activate the changes we want to see."

I love the idea of building confidence in young women and keeping that confidence high throuhout the career cycle. For many of us, that confidence wanes the first time we negotiate salary. Today, I wrote a column in The Miami Herald about salary negotiation. While writing it, I learned how intimidated women are to negotiate for more money. 

Money is a key area where girls and women lack confidence and that has to change.

I was shocked when I read this:

Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of Girl Scouts USA  stated that while Girl Scouts earn $800 million a year selling cookies, only 12% feel confident about making simple money decisions.

Financial blogger Beth Kobliner notes that in a recent survey from T. Rowe Price, of the nearly 2,000 parents and kids surveyed, 58% of boys say that their parents discuss financial goals with them, whereas for girls that figure is just 50%.

This will make you cringe: Parents admit that they believe their boys are simply smarter than their girls when it comes to finance. A full 80% of parents who have a son think he understands the value of a dollar, compared with only 69% of parents who have a daughter.

Kobliner offers five critical lessons to impart to your daughters.

I think we all need to look carefully at the messages we're sending young girls and inspire them to be confident at work, with money management, and in relationships. While my generation of working women debate having it all, the next generation will be out there trying -- and hopefully succeeding!

October 09, 2014

Work Life Balance Can Be Small Moments

Mother-son-cuddle-alamy

 

This morning, my son woke me up, laptop in hand, and sat down on my bed. He had risen early to work on his essay for English. He wanted my help and figured that asking me early in the morning would be better than waiting until the evening when he was rushing off to lacrosse practice and I was distracted by email, phone calls, and getting dinner on the table.

I was bleary eyed but I gave my son a good 15 minutes of my undivided attention before the chaos of the day kicked in. It was the best 15 mintues I've had in a really long time. We worked together, uninterrupted by phone calls, and enjoyed creating sentences that read well. It was quality time that I haven't had with him in weeks. I've heard parents say how much they value quality time with their kids over quantity and this morning, that concept really kicked in for me.

I've listened as dozens of people have complained about long work hours, long commutes and not spending enough time with family. I understand the struggle for work life balance.

Most of the time work life balance is a big picture concept. But sometimes, just sometimes, it can be a small one, too. 

My lesson this morning was simple: Learn to value the quality of the time you spend doing something over quantity. You can feel immensely satisfied getting in one good workout or having special time with your kids where you are fully engaged.  

To most of us, work life balance is something we dream about.  Blogger Amy Duffin calls it: "As valuable as a winning lottery ticket." She says, "achieving work life balance means that we would actually have the time to meet the expectations of our career AND have enough quality time for ourselves, our families and our hobbies so that we feel balanced."

Don't beat yourself if you aren't exercising enough or spending as many hours with your child as you would like during the weekdays. What good is an hour at the gym anyway if you spend most of the time on a work call?

I am a big believer that we have a large role in our own happiness, balance and success. It's easy to spend lots of time doing something that really isn't meaningful. It takes conscious decision making to spend quality time doing something that without interruptions that will bring you satisfaction. Work to develop this highly valuable skill –you can do it! 

My nice interaction with my son set me up for a good mood all day. It almost made me want to wake up early again tomorrow. Almost.

Have you had a small moment lately when you realized that quality was more important than quantity in the work life balance equation?

 

October 01, 2014

Overwork in America: How to stay alive

When I read about someone dropping dead after intense periods of overwork, it makes me wonder -- did anyone try to step in?

In a society in which overwork has become the norm, and work life balance a constant struggle, is it our responsibility to prevent a co-worker, friend or employee from working himself sick.

It's tricky from a boss's perspective. A boss wants his employee to be superstar. It's a boss's  own best interest for someone to put in longer hours and get more work done. But at what expense?

As I wrote in my Miami Herald column today, on rare occasions, decisions to ignore or defy excessive work stress can reap unknowing consequences. There are a few horrific examples: 

-A Wall Street intern who worked through the night eight times in two weeks, including three consecutive nights, before he collapsed and died in his apartment in 2013

-A Skadden Arps associate who died in 2011 after months of intense pressure and rumored 100-hour work weeks,

- A copywriter for an ad agency who in 2013 suffered heart failure and slipped into a fatal coma just after sipping energy drinks and tweeting “30 hours of working and still going strooong.”

Because we live in a culture that applauds overwork, stories of people working themselves to death or collapsing of exhaustion force us to look at what has become the new normal. Employers are asking almost all workers to take on higher workloads. But 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.

The signs of burn out are rather easy to recognize — hair loss, weight loss or gain, fatigue, the popping of stimulants to combat anxiety or exhaustion and extreme over-reaction or irritability.
 
Intervention can be complex. For some workers, getting ahead is their priority. It is not only what they spend the majority of their days doing, it represents a core part of their identities. They choose to tip the work life balance scale in favor of work.
 
 
But there are ways to help. Here are a few approaches:
 
  • Push it. Leah Carpenter, CEO of Memorial Hospital Miramar says as the company leader, “you have to push it a little,” with those who may not realize they need work-life balance. I tell them, “We are no good to the patients we treat if we don’t take care of ourselves.”
     
  • Set an example. “I have to put myself in check so they won’t follow.” Carpenter says she won’t send out emails past 9 p.m. and she conscientiously takes vacation days: “I don’t want to send the wrong message about expectations.”

     
  • Show a general concern. If pointing out a lack of balance or extreme overwork leads to resistance, workplace expert David Torrance, CEO of Renaissance Executive Forums Dallas, recommends another approach: a more generic show of concern such as, “Hey, are you doing OK? I see you’re working long hours. I’m concerned for you. What’s going on?”

 

  • Use good judgment.  In most workplaces, co-workers are most tuned in to a peer’s exhaustion or anxiety and often reluctant to get involved. “At first blush, it’s no different from me going to a colleague and saying, ‘Not married yet, what’s going on with that?’” said Nikki Lewis Simon, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig in Miami. “Working around the clock is a personal decision, not unlike the decision to have kids, marry, be openly gay. Some people don’t know what to do without work. If you forced them to go home, they would be in a funk.”

 

  • Offer to pitch in.  Simon said she would show interest as a friendly overture: “I might say, is everything OK? I see you’re working hard, is there something I could do to help?”

 

  • Point out health concerns. Sometimes it takes a health practitioner to convey the message that changes behavior. While balance can be a struggle for all, Simon says people need to need to be told: “You must unplug and rejuvenate because your body will not forgive you forever.”


 

 

September 30, 2014

In Search of an Uncluttered Life

Has there ever been a time in your life when a message seems to come to you from every direction?

For me, that message is  "Clear the clutter!"

Over the weekend, I read William Zinsser's On Writing Well and the book spent an entire chapter on clutter. When I finished reading it, I became fixated on unneccesry words that clutter emails, articles and even recipes. I began eliminating clutter from my sentences and seeing the power that simplicity can produce.

Today, I woke up and noticed one of my favorite columnists, Ana Veciana-Suarez wrote an article about uncluttering her garage in an effort to simplify, simplify. "The older I get, the more I realize how little I need for a truly satisfying life." So true, Ana.

I think we all know, it's excrutiatingly difficult to live clutter free.  I've acquired way too many items that promise to help me do things better, faster, easier.  From apps to appliances, my screens and shelves overflow with things I really don't know how to use well enough that they make me more productive.

So, like Ana, I am going in search of a more simple, uncluttered life. 

Breda Stack, the Declutter Therapist, says: "Decluttering goes beyond cleaning, organizing, or putting broken items in the bin. Clutter is anything physical, mental or emotional that doesn't serve us. It's letting go of anything that doesn't enhance our life." She says decluttering makes us feel happier and in control.

When I tidy my desk, my inbox or my garage, I feel lighter, happier and more balanced.

Like Ana, I'm shifting priorities, shedding stuff I don't use, and opting for experiences, over items, as the cooler air begins to flow in and holiday season looms.

Here's to ending 2014 with much less clutter in my life. Will you be joining me in the quest for simplicity?

 

 

 

 

September 27, 2014

Fall: the right season to think about work life balance

Running-in-fall-season

 

Last week, we experienced the Fall Equinox, one of only two days in the year when day and night are of equal length.

From now until December 21, daylight hours are going to get shorter and our days are going to feel like they fly right by. It is the season when we have to be more cautious about work life balance.

Finding balance can be tricky when we awake in the dark and emerge from our workplaces in the dark. I hate the feeling that my entire day was all work. But that feeling motivates me to be more conscious of the lure of connectivity.

In fall, we need to keep checking, re-adjusting, and re-aligning our priorities. We need to be efficient and leisurely at the same time. Don't beat yourself up if you get a little out of balance this time of year, just catch yourself and make some changes before the craziness of the winter season.

If you are emerge from your workplace in the dark, think carefully about why. Research has suggested that employees lose their focus within seven hours of work. Are you sitting at your desk too long without real focus? Would you be better off coming in earlier and leaving earlier? Who do you need to consult to gain more control over your work schedule?

Now, take a bigger picture view. 

Look at your work/life blend up to this point in the year. How many times have you gotten away with family or friends? Were there particular weeks/months where you worked really, really long hours? Were there times you were less busy? You might find that, when viewed that way, you are having a balanced year. Or you might realize you need to make a change in the way you do things during the upcoming months to take time off around the holidays.

You might also want to think about what you want to add or eliminate from your daily routine.

A priority for everyone should be exercise. Research shows if you exercise regularly, you're less likely to feel a conflict between your working life and your home life. There isn't a perfect time to exercise, but exercise is a perfect way to release stress. If you've already given up your summer exercise routine, how can you integrate exercise into your day?

I tend to mourn the loss of the daylight hours that I would have used to ride my bike with the kids after dinner or enjoy an outdoor meal. But even with less daylight, we can still take advantage of the 24 hours in our day.

We might have to adjust our sleep schedule, our work schedule or our play schedule. Like most of you, I've discovered perfect balance is elusive. But the goal for any season should be squeezing joy and satisfaction from both work and life. 

 

September 24, 2014

The new work life balance: We're not working more, just differently

The longer I write about work/life balance, the more I hear and see that technology challenges are universal. From CEOs to sales persons, today’s workers are trying to build balanced lives by battling the impulse to stay connected 24/7. Checking work emails on our tablets or smartphones in bed or at a bar makes us feel like we’re working all the time.

The reality, though, is more complicated.

While we are logging onto 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. Almost everyone, from the office secretary to the store manager, makes a personal digital escape thoughtlessly throughout the day. We tell ourselves: “I’m just going to buy Beyoncé’s new single on iTunes and go right back to work.” The problem, however, is that it doesn’t end there.

While at work, we’re checking our fantasy football results, browsing our Facebook feeds, shopping on Amazon, playing Candy Crush, catching up on news, talking to friends on Twitter and texting constantly during the day.

Work and home no longer are separate spheres. Blurred lines are the new normal.

Researcher Laura Demasi says we aren’t working more, we’re working differently: “For every moment we give away to work outside of traditional work hours ... we claw back when we’re officially at work.”

Countless new apps and the roll-out of improved smartphones make the blending and blurring of our life roles increasingly challenging. Flexibility has become an integral part of daily life thanks to our devices.

We balance our personal demands by leaving early, arriving late, or slipping out of the office during the workday and then ironing out details of a business deal on our laptop once the dinner dishes are cleared.

Demasi says technology has transformed work into something we do, rather than only a place we go.

Miami Stonegate Bank executive Erin Knight feels empowered: “There are no more traditional business hours. I can keep deals moving along and take phone calls on the go, wherever I go.” At the same time, she can deal with family issues from her office. Through text messaging, she was able to get her mother an emergency doctor’s appointment with a client. “It took a few minutes to arrange, and she would have been suffering in pain.”

Of course, it has become more common than ever before to find yourself staying later at the office because you spent more time than expected on Facebook. Maybe we need to ask ourselves whether technology is to blame for overwork or our inability to set boundaries that's the problem.

Do you find that the blurring of lines has made your work life balance more stressful? Or do you think that being able to deal with work and personal issue both in the workplace and at home makes juggling life's demands easier?