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12 posts from June 2011

June 29, 2011

Getting more done by pretending to be on a plane

People on a plane

This morning, I was having breakfast with my friend Raquel when we came across a blog post that made both of us laugh. It was titled, How to Increase Productivity by Pretending You are on an Airplane. We both agreed that we love alone time on a plane. It's such a great opportunity to get stuff done -- whether it's for fun or work. When is the last time you read chapter after chapter of a book, only being interrupted once by someone offering you a beverage?

The blogger, Marc Cortez, writes:  "I can spend two hours on an airplane and accomplish almost as much as I can in an entire day in my office." He says there are four reasons: No internet, No email, No drop ins, Nowhere to go.

Marc goes on to describe the things that he's going to try implementing in his regular routine to make him as productive as he would be on a plane. 

1. Find my peak productivity place (maybe a coffee shop?)

2. Turn the wifi off.

3. Use “airplane mode.” ( if I’m going to get some good, focused work done, the cell phone must go. I could turn it off completely, but I don’t like waiting for it to start up again. So, “airplane mode” it is.)

4. Use a “distraction free” writing program. (they go full screen and prevent anything on the computer from interrupting your writing experience)

I think Marc makes a great case for changing work habits -- even if it's only for one afternoon. 

Raquel suggested we get a group of busy moms together, put them on an airplane and just have it circle around the airport. "We would all get tons done," she said."We could have some cocktails, tune out everyone, read, brainstorm new projects, and get done whatever we need to do -- without interruptions."

I suggested we advertise it as the productivity flight. Would you want a seat on the plane?



June 28, 2011

Office Depot firing has me furious

I'm mad at Office Depot. This morning I read a short article in The Miami Herald about how Office Depot plans to outsource 80 jobs in its finance department in Boca Raton to Guatemala and India. 

Office Depot said its finance team has been aware of the plan since January, and that the transition will be completed next summer.

“Office Depot must continually find ways to increase productivity and improve efficiency to stay competitive. This is, in part, a result of weakness in the office supplies sector (one of the hardest-hit retail sectors economically), where sales have been down for four consecutive years,” the company said in a statement.

I completely understand the pressure on a public company to produce financial results. But eliminating 80 white collar jobs will take a toll on the local economy. That's 80 people out of work who won't be able to spend money on Office Depot merchandise or afford the rising food prices. 

I can't stand to see jobs leave the United States. I can't stand to see more people unemployed. While most of us struggle to achieve work life balance, I can only imagine the stress in the homes of these 80 people forced to figure out how to find positions that pay anything close to the ones they previously held.

What kind of problems have we created for workers in America when companies feel forced to outsource jobs to workers in other countries to save money. 

Readers, what are your thoughts? Are you numb to these kind of financial decisions by companies or does this type of announcement make you as mad as I am?



June 27, 2011

New study: Men have a biological clock

If you're a guy who works hard, puts your career first, and figures you will find a suitable mate and have kids whenever you get around to it, think again.

It turns out men have a biological clock. Yes, you read that correctly. 

The evidence is mounting that men need to find work life balance earlier in life and get busy making babies if they want to up their chances of a healthy family. An article in the Wall Street Journal by Jennifer Vanderbes made a great case for the dangers of being a late-in-life father.

Ladies, if you dig older men, there are a few things you should know: When it comes to fathering healthy children, older men, it turns out, are just as much at the mercy of their biological clocks as women. According to researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. A man over 40 is six times as likely as a man under 30 to father an autistic child. The incidence of bipolarity, epilepsy, prostate cancer and breast cancer also increases in children born to men over 40. 

"As men get older, maybe there is some sperm available but a lot of that DNA may be abnormal," says Harry Fisch, author of "The Male Biological Clock."

Rod Fisch says men live in denial. Celebrities like Larry King and Rod Stewart have dazzled us with their late-in-life offspring but, he says, men need to make informed choices about when to reproduce.

Meanwhile, the dating websites all report consistent evidence that women go for older guys. They also report that there are many more men over 40 who are single than women.

If I was single and wanting kids, I'd now think twice about entering a relationship with a guy over 40.

Readers, what are your thoughts on these findings? Do you think it may give men some new incentive to make family a priority earlier in life? Do you think it may change a younger woman's outlook on who she dates?




June 23, 2011

Empty nesters are going a different route

Confession: sometimes, I think about the future and I'm scared to become an empty nester. My home right now is filled with kids most of the time. I love the commotion.

But this week, fresh off high school graduation season, I wrote about what it's like today to be an empty nester and the readjustment to a new work life balance. I was pretty inspired by those I spoke to for the article. They made me feel like there's a lot to look forward to when my kids leave home. 

Below is my article. Working parents, are you dreading the transition to empty nester or looking forward to it?


The Miami Herald

Empty-nest parents embrace new possibilities

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

   Bruce Katzen and daughter Alli, 18, have a playful tug-of-war with Alli's University of Michigan sweatshirt. When Alli leaves Miami Beach for Ann Arbor, Mich.,  this fall,. Bruce will be an empty-nester dad.
MARSHA HALPER / Miami Herald Staff
Bruce Katzen and daughter Alli, 18, have a playful tug-of-war with Alli's University of Michigan sweatshirt. When Alli leaves Miami Beach for Ann Arbor, Mich., this fall,. Bruce will be an empty-nester dad.
Sitting at his youngest daughter’s high school graduation, Bruce Katzen fought back the sting in his eyes. His thoughts raced from “Oh, my God, my baby is graduating” to “this is going to be an exciting time for my wife and I.”

“It’s a milestone,” Katzen said.

This month, parents of more than 3 million high school graduates are celebrating the transition to the next phase of their children’s lives. But where generations past fretted over the empty nest and the prospect of loneliness, today’s middle agers, are active in the workforce and see the transition as opportunity for better work life balance and new routines.

As a dad and lawyer at Kluger Kaplan in Miami, Katzen, 52, feels he can’t kick back yet at work. He has college tuition to pay. But he says he can stay late at the office without feeling guilty, exercise after work, eat dinner whenever he and his wife want. “We can have our own schedule, and it can be much more relaxed.”

The new generation of empty nesters are moms and dads who typically started their careers before marriage and parenthood. Now that their grown children are ready to move out, they confront the new household dynamic with the expected sadness but also with endless options for enriching their lives.

Some are asking for more hours at work or attending more networking events. Others are indulging in a new passion or hobby, traveling, dating, exercising, volunteering and mentoring.

Working mothers who spent years juggling job demands and kids needs, see a future without tough choices and parental guilt. “In some respects it’s liberating,” says Diane Katzen, a lawyer with Miami’s Richman Greer. “You don’t have the stress of dealing with the everyday type of responsibilities. If I want to stay late at the office and have dinner at 9:30 p.m., I don’t have to worry.”

Click here to read more.


June 21, 2011

Mom stalks her son's coach

Last summer, my youngest was on a recreational basketball league. The league didn't even keep score in its games. For some reason, the coach was mean to my little guy. He wouldn't put him in the games. I wasn't happy about it and I let him know it. There are a lot of crazy mothers out there. Dads too. Most parents have a little crazy in us, particularly when we think our child has been wronged.

But today I read an online story on parentdish about a mom who went way too far in making things right for her kid.

Janet Chiauzzi, an East Meadow, N.Y. mom, has been arrested and charged with stalking, falsely reporting an incident, endangering the welfare of a child and aggravated harassment, allegedly because her son did not make a summer baseball travel team. Chiauzzi allegedly threatened the Little League official she deemed responsible, sending letters that accused him of physical and verbal abuse.

She writes: "I know where your wife works ... I know where your daughter goes to school and your son's normal every day routine. ... Just tell your wife and kids to watch themselves, especially at night."

This may seem a bit insane, but in some ways, kids sports have become insane. I think we're breeding a generation of ultra-competitive kids, parents and coaches.

Readers, what do you think? Is this crazed mom one of many out there or does she typify the worst of the competitive world of parenting and sports? 

June 20, 2011

The best of Father's Day media coverage

In celebration of Father's Day, I read several really great articles that made me appreciate dads' contributions to the household. I also saw some interesting new research. I thought I would share the links that caught my attention.


Of course, I have to start with my own Father's Day column. My angle was based on a study by researchers at Boston College who surveyed nearly 1,000 dads. The study found a gap between what dads (white-collar dads in particular) want to do at home and what they actually do. Here's the link to my Work Life Balancing Act column


From the Huffington Post: Celebrating Working Dads, by Jeff Levick.

The Citizen offered some tips working dads can use to navigate through these difficult economic times.

The Careerist's Vivia Chen wonders in her Father's Day blog post whether lawyer dads even care about work life balance enough to put it on the front burner. 

And then there's the good news and bad reported in a CareerBuilder report for Father's Day. The good news: The majority (84 percent) of working fathers who were laid off in the last year report that they are now employed full-time. The bad news: work/ life balance is suffering. Many dads report working long hours, with 22 percent of respondents reporting that they work more than 50 hours per week. 

I loved reading Sun-Sentinel Columnist Michael Mayo's letter to his daughter following his recent divorce.

Luke russer And, most of all, I enjoyed Parade Magazine's piece written by Luke Russert about the lessons he learned from his father Tim Russert, the beloved newsman.

I hope all you dads had a great Father's Day. Keep up the good work raising your children and may you strive to always be a role model.



June 15, 2011

Lawyer turned stay-at-home mom tells her story

Today I welcome Shannon Frankel, a  lawyer, blogger, and stay at home mom.  She offers an interesting take on work life balance as one evolves in a career and life. Frankel lives in Bethesda, Maryland with her husband, two boys, and dog, Couscous.  You can contact at butidohavealawdegree@gmail.com.




My Revolving Door

I have found that the term “work life balance” has different meanings depending on my stage of life. At my first job at a research firm in London in 2001, it meant a 40 hour work week for a minuscule salary. Then I went to law school and spent my second summer at a large New York firm. Work and life blurred, my days were spent at work and my nights at lavish work events.

By the time I had graduated from law school in 2005 and moved to New York, I was engaged.  I wasn’t jet setting across Europe, and I had less and less interest in cocktails at the Zagat top 10.  Work life balance took on a new meaning. Time became my priority. 

When I entered the world of large law firms, I was naïve.  I accepted an offer at a firm that was described in a law publication as a “honeymoon canceller.”  While I laughed about this when I accepted, by the time I was working full time and simultaneously planning my own honeymoon, I didn’t find it so funny.  As my biological clock began to tick, I realized that prestige was not all that mattered.Though I was highly ambitious and making a six figure salary, I began planning an exit strategy.

After about a year and a half, I got out.  My husband and I left New York for the more family-friendly suburbs of DC.  I got a job at a smaller, but still high paying law firm, with much more manageable hours.   I had my first son soon thereafter, and the firm was very flexible in allowing me to return to work on a part time basis but my ambition got the best of me. I took on assignments that brought me to a near full time level, and soon the status quo was set. 

After having my second child, I was burning myself out at work and losing my battle with balance, despite the fact that I had a flexible employer, part-time schedule, and high paying salary.  The fact was, I didn’t want a part-time schedule.  I wanted to be home with my kids, all the time. 

So here I am, a stay at home mom.  This career break wasn’t in my original plan, and my professional status and bank account have taken a huge hit, but I am rolling with it.  I do plan to return to the workforce someday.  Until then, I am spending my days with my kids and trying my best to stay involved and connected.   I have joined a “Women Lawyers at Home” group that meets monthly.  I plan on trying to do some pro bono clinics. I still have lunch with my former supervisor from work.   And I’ve even started a blog (http://butidohavealawdegree.blogspot.com).   

Regardless of these small endeavors, I am painfully aware that I am creating a large gap on my resume which may have repercussions for my future career and job prospects. I have to believe that for better or worse, billable hours will always be somewhere, waiting for the taking.  

If I have any advice to offer others from my experience, it would be this:

-          Think ahead.  When you start a career, or enter a new industry, think about how flexible it will be in the long term.  Is it conducive to part time or flexible work arrangements?  What about maternity and paternity leave policies?  Or sabbaticals?

-          Look around.  What do the people in the workplace look like?  Are they happy?  Are they married?  Do they have kids?  Is there anyone you can look to as a role model?  Is there anyone who will be your advocate?

-          Be honest with your employer.  If your needs in life change, or you go on a part time schedule, have an open and honest conversation about your expectations and theirs.  And then stick to it. 

-          Be honest with yourself.   If you feel the need to take a break, it’s okay.  The working versus stay at home debate assumes such an all or nothing dichotomy.  But maybe there is something in the middle – a revolving door – in a more temporal sense.   As needs in life ebb and flow, one can throw themselves into work, into children, or into whatever else life may deal.  Because life evolves, needs evolve, and over time, things will balance out.  

June 13, 2011

How to have a fun summer at work

Today is the first official day of summer in my house and I just can't help but think: No fair!

I hate when my kids scream out "no fair" when I tell them they can't do something. Yet, here I am, watching them kick back, swim in the pool, play on the Xbox, and on behalf of all working adults, I want to scream out -- no fair! No fair that most of us worker bees, are way past the point where summer is time for hanging out with friends, going to the beach, heading off to camp or some other "break" from the normal routine of going to work.

In some countries, businesses close down for the entire month of August. Not here in America...no fair! Just the other day, a female accountant described to me the horrors of going outside in the South Florida summer heat in her business suit and having the pant legs stick to her skin. Yuck!

Instead of sinking into a pity party, I've decided to think about what I can do at while working to differentiate summer from the rest of the year.

One of the most important requirements for a fun summer is staying stimulated—making sure we experience new things all the time.  Penelope Trunk had a great blog post from The Friendly Anarchist on how to make life more interesting. My ideas for summer: 

1. Try a new restaurant for lunch. I know this suggestion isn't as great as taking off and heading to the beach for the day, but having the most delicious salad you've ever indulged in could be enough to get you through the afternoon.

2. Find a new role model. I just made Penelope my new role model. She lives on a farm, blogs about here life and seems to be having a create time combining work and family. She's actually given me a inspiration to rethink my blog design, post more photos and write a book.  Who's out there doing cool things that might inspire you?

3. Make a new work friend. I know this sounds a bit corny, but letting a new person onto your work team can make you change in unexpected ways. Is there someone in your office you don't know well, that with just a little bit of effort on your part, could turn into a friendship that would make your work day more interesting?

4. Re-use tools that have worked for you in the past. What have you done at work that you most enjoyed? I used to write about the business of law. There were facets of it I found interesting, but after 10 years it stopped being fun. I'm looking into writing a law article this summer and reconnecting with people I respected. 

5. Take a vacation day at work. For one day, ignore phone calls from annoying customers, ignore email that requires an action you don't want to bother doing and only do the tasks that you enjoy. The key here is not to feel guilty...it's just one day.


June 08, 2011

How to avoid being a weiner at work

I love the way everyone is jumping on this Weinergate scandal -- creating their own Weiner jokes and Weinder deals. If there's anything to learn from Representative Anthony Weiner’s actions ( he was caught sexting and then denied it), it's that poor judgment is rampant.

As a reporter, I can tell you that coming clean is usually the better path. Hide the truth and a good reporter will dig and dig and the outcome won't be pretty.

These tips just landed in my Inbox about how to fess up to mistakes at work and I wanted to share them with you. At issue – how should employees apologize for mistakes in a way that will restore their reputation and allow them to keep their job?

Joseph Grenny, BusinessWeek leadership columnist and co-author of the New York Times best-seller Crucial Conversations, gives this advice on how to recover from mistakes at work:

  • Admit to the mistake quickly. If your boss hears it from you rather than others, s/he will trust you more.
  • Go overboard in compensating for damage. If a customer was hurt, for example, surprise and delight them in how you respond to their concerns. And let your boss know as soon as possible what you’re doing to fix the problem so s/he recognizes you’re owning the problem you created.
  • Share what you learned. Tell the boss what you’ve learned and how things will be different in the future.
  • Ask for feedback. Ask the boss what other lessons you should draw from this experience.

Readers, have you ever had to come clean to the boss about a mistake? If so, did you get fired anyway?

June 07, 2011

This may be the summer of bizcations

It's the ideal scenario with gas prices sky-high: a bizcation.

 A new survey says the combining business travel with a mini-family vacation is this summer's ideal way to find work life balance.  Sixty-seven percent of frequent business travelers said that they sometimes or often combined a business and leisure trip. 

A lot of industry conferences are scheduled in the summer, so sometimes it just takes a little pre-planning to turn the trip into a bizcation. My husband and I had a great bizcation years ago when we extended his work trip in Europe by a week and turned it into a second honeymoon.

One lawyer told Atlanta Business News she often extends business trips through the weekend and brings her daughter along. At age 14, her daughter has seen Washington, New York City, Boston and Philadelphia while staying in some of the cities' nicest hotels. The lawyer's flight and hotel room are paid for by the firm; she has to pay only for her daughter’s flight and some food.

For single parents, taking the kids along on business trips can offer peace of mind and solve the problem of child care at home. Of course, not every trip is appropriate, particularly those where you know you won't have much free time.

My friend brought her kids with her on a business trip to Orlando, turning it into a weekend getaway to Disney. It cost her only the price of the park tickets.

You have to use caution, though. Not every company condones bizcations. And sometimes, having family along on a work trip can be distracting.

Readers, have you ever taken a bizcation? Do you think it's a good idea or a bad one?