Work-Life Sanity Blog

Uncategorized

28 November 2012

Coaching at the Massachusetts Conference for Women

Next week, on December 6, 2012, I’ll be coaching at the 8th annual Massachusetts Conference for Women, in Boston.  In partnership with the Conference, The New England Chapter of the International Coach Federation (ICF) selected 40 credentialed coaches to provide individual coaching sessions with Conference participants who want to schedule one.  I’m thrilled to be one of the chosen coaches, and I’m very much looking forward to the event.

Do you live in the Boston area?  Or can you get to the Boston area on 12/6?  If so, consider going to the Conference.  It promises to be an exciting day.  The expected 7000 participants will have the opportunity to hear from a wide-ranging and huge list of speakers.

If you get to the Conference, sign up for one of my coaching sessions, or come over to the location of the “Mentor Match” (what the coaching program is called) and say hello.

If you’ve been to other conferences, conventions, or seminars of this size, you probably know what to expect.  If you’re an extrovert, chances are you’ll have a great day, and you’ll come away energized, inspired, and happy.  If you’re an introvert, you too may come away energized, inspired, and happy, but you might also come away drained and exhausted in a way that your extrovert colleagues are not.

For many introverts, participating in a conference of this size and scope can be personally taxing.  Here are some suggestions for how to get the most from the day with the least amount of damage to your sanity or well-being — try one of two of them:

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.  Seriously.  It will keep you grounded.  (And yes, it will also keep you running to the ladies’ room, but hey, each time, it’s a couple of moments to yourself, right?)
  • Take a break from the Conference sometime during the day — just go off for 15 minutes and collect yourself.  Breathe, acknowledge yourself for getting to the Conference and for stretching out of your comfort zone.   You might call a friend or colleague and just check in.  Or you might call your work phone and check in with yourself (leave a message).
  • If (when?) you start to feel overwhelmed by all the high-energy input, know that in the days that follow, you will decompress.  Even more important, know that all that you are learning will unpack itself in the days ahead, and consciously or not, you will integrate what you need to integrate from this, and your next steps will emerge.
  • If you think of any next action steps you might want to take, write them down!  These ideas have a way of disappearing over the course of a high-stimulus day, so harvest them as soon as you’re conscious of them.  You can always discard later.
  • When you meet someone you think you might want to follow up with, ask their permission to contact them later.  In the cold light of the next couple of mornings, go through the names (or cards) of people you met and decide whether and how to follow up.  You don’t have to do everything on the fly.
  • Remember that you’re not the only introvert there.  We’re everywhere!

If you identify as an introvert and read this far, you might enjoy reading this post from earlier this year.

I hope to see you at the Conference!

26 November 2012

Enhancing The Creative Process

I recently emailed a client to ask how she was doing with her upcoming deadline.  She replied by sending the following image:

 

 

The source for this image and many other original graphics that reflect a similar sensibility and dark humor is http://www.ToothpasteForDinner.com.  This image is used with their permission.  I think the image brilliantly captures a very real experience.    

The creative process — whether invoked to write a grant, solve an engineering problem, or deal with a difficult person –  is an excitable beast.  It uses different parts of our brain than the usual task-list, taking-care-of-business mode does, and requires a different kind of care.  If you treat your orchid plant the same way you treat your schefflera, at least one of them will not flourish.  Same with the creative process — it needs to be handled in a way that’s specific to IT.  It’s much more of a diva than our workhorse routines are.  It’s  temperamental, easily dissed, and will shut itself down in a heartbeat if it’s mistreated.  But with proper care, it can flourish.  

ONE element of care that can enhance your creative process is to free up some bandwidth: make some space for it.  That means getting some things off your plate.  Here are some classic ways to get items off your to-do list:

  • DO.  Find the short and simple items and just get them done.  Get your car inspected, tell Ed you won’t be at his meeting, do your backup.
  • DELEGATE.  Outsource some of the tasks: find someone else to do them.  Cajole, beg, barter, influence, hire, call in favors, leverage your authority, whatever it takes.
  • DELAY.  Schedule the item into your calendar for a month from now, at which time you will consider doing it.  Note: this is not the same as procrastinating.
  • DITCH.  Admit that it’s not happening, get over it, and cross it off the list.  For example: re-organizing your PowerPoint slides.

The key thing in freeing up bandwidth is to not get so caught up in it that you never get around to addressing the original creative challenge!  I have learned this about myself: I’m much more in my comfort zone when I’m in work-horse mode: do do do do do.  I am easily hijacked by my all-important to-do list and my big bold brassy bossy executive function.  I have to remind myself that my working-dog mentality reports to me, not vice-versa — I am its boss!  Once I get some tasks off my list and some bandwidth freed up, it’s time to return to the creative process.

There are many other things you can do to support your creative process, but this is a crucial one.

Do you think Einstein did his own taxes?

As  life coach, I help professionals and entrepreneurs tap into their creativity and brilliance.  Curious?  Contact me and get your questions answered.

10 October 2012

A Word About Delegating

Delegating is not about thinking you’re too good for certain tasks.  It’s not about being a snob.  In fact it’s not about you at all.

It’s all about the work. If other people can take some things off your plate and that frees you up to do more of the work that only you can do, that moves everything forward in an efficient manner.

Most organizations housed in office buildings pay a cleaning company to handle the heavy housekeeping for the site.  Why?  So that the people who work there can focus on the mission of the organization and not have their time taken up with housekeeping tasks that are better handled by a cleaning company.  Meanwhile, the cleaning company has a valued, steady customer.  It’s a win-win.

That’s why delegation succeeds.  No matter what kind of work you do, you can’t also do everything else.  As you become more skilled and experienced, you become capable of higher level functions.  It’s a no-brainer, right?  But you can’t actually DO that higher level work if you’re still doing all your own collating.

Yes, the people more junior to you also have full plates, so you feel guilty.  But keep the focus ON THE WORK.  It’s not about you, and it’s not about them.  It’s about getting the job done.

And if there’s a staff shortage, then that needs to be addressed directly, for what it is.  And not buried under guilt and ambivalence.   

Need to delegate more effectively?  Need better guilt-management skills?  Consider getting some focused, customized coaching on this.   Coaching is what I do best.  Contact me.

10 October 2012

Work Life Balance and the Evening Rush

It might seem like the best way to get things done is to do them in quick succession and not stop until you’re finished.  But because we’re human beings and not machines, that’s simply not the case. We approach problems better when we’re well-rested.  We can think more clearly when we aren’t stressed or distracted by trying to do too many things at once. Taking a break, especially when shifting gears from “work-mode” to “home-mode” can improve the quality of your personal life and, though it might seem counter-productive, taking time for yourself will actually help you get things done more efficiently.

As soon as you set foot in the door, check in with yourself. Consider putting a post-it on the wall with the words “check in” as a reminder. How are you feeling? Are you stressed from the commute?  Do you feel swamped with too many things on your to-do list for tonight?  Was there a meeting or conversation at work that you’re still processing?  Do you need some diversion? Notice your physical state.   Are you tired, hungry, or thirsty?

This needs assessment can actually happen pretty instantaneously.  Once you’ve had a little practice, you can do it while you’re hanging up your coat.

Now you can set an intention for yourself for the evening.  Is it more important to relax and unwind, or is it a top priority to prepare for something important tomorrow?  What’s at the top of your priority list?

If you live with other people, get a read on how the others are doing.  Do the kids need to blow off steam?  How’s that homework coming along?  Is your spouse running late and stressed?  Determine the best course of action to help your family members.  Make quick and early assessments of what’s needed on the home front.

If at all possible, address your own needs before taking care of everyone else’s.   If your feet hurt but you simply don’t have time to sit down, at least change into comfortable clothes and slippers.   Consider for a moment how there are humorous podcasts that can be played while dinner is being prepared that could give everyone a good laugh.  Many people work themselves into stressed, unhappy states by trying to look after the needs of family members at the expense of their own. This can throw off what is sometimes a delicate work life balance.

If you would like to get a brief consultation and learn more about how you can improve your own happiness and productivity in your daily life, schedule a free consultation with me. I’ll be happy to answer your questions and give you an overview of whether or not life coaching would help you and, if so, what aspects of your life could be improved. The initial consultation can even be by phone if that’s more convenient for you.

28 July 2012

Vacation Primer

Here are some thoughts for a satisfying vacation.

Before you head off into your next vacation, write down for yourself answers to these questions:

1. What are your expectations for this vacation?

2. What do you most want to get from it?

3. How exactly do you see yourself getting it?

4. In order for you to get this, do you need anyone else’s buy-in or support?

If you’re vacationing with other people, ask them these questions too, and share your answers with each other.

Getting clear on and expressing your own needs, wants, and expectations can support you in getting what you need.  Similarly, hearing what your fellow-vacationers want and need can also be extremely useful.  Where these wants are aligned, great.  Where they are not, knowing and discussing this in advance can result in some agreements that are acceptable to everyone.

What’s helped you have a vacation that fed you what you were hungry for?

18 July 2012

A Cheering Section of One – Acknowledge Your Own Success

Athletes and stage performers are some of the few adults in our society who receive instant applause each time they succeed. For many of the rest of us, it has been a long time since our daily triumphs, let alone our competencies, were given much notice. Our families and coworkers expect us to be reliable and effective, and many of us don’t find room in our lives to give or receive a well-timed pat on the back.

And yet, we all need acknowledgement. We need it to see where we have been successful and to motivate our continued success. The good news is that the person best-positioned to acknowledge you is you.

I recommend routinely taking the time to acknowledge your growth, learning and success on four levels:

  1. Your accomplishments and results. These are the things that are visible to the outside world, and that our culture recognizes as worthy, such as: winning a grant, reaching your sales goals, getting an award, finishing a 5K run, being promoted, your film winning at Cannes, losing 5 pounds, etc.
  2. Your behaviors that you are proud of. Even if you didn’t meet your projections or your deadlines, you might still be proud of the way you worked, the way you led your team, or the way you handled the disappointment. These behaviors might represent profound and enormous growth for you, and it’s important to acknowledge all of that. And even if these are old behaviors that you’ve owned for years, it is still important to acknowledge yourself for them. Other behaviors that might fit into this category:
    1. you got better at leading meetings
    2. you kept your agreements with yourself and others more consistently
    3. you set clearer boundaries in one area (even if this only happened once)
    4. you yelled at your kids less
    5. you were more honest with someone than you might have been in the past
  3. Your personal qualities. These are elements of your personality that you may not even notice any more. You work hard. You are a reliable friend. You’re a good listener. You’re funny. You’re a caring person and you know what your limits are. You take good care of yourself considering how demanding your life is right now. You intuitively knew what was going on at the xyz meeting when no one else seemed to.  And so forth.
  4. Your learnings. What have you learned recently?  What have you gotten better at? How did you stretch? What do you understand now that you didn’t a year ago? What did you endure recently that would have previously done you in? Where else and how else did you become more seasoned, mature, wise, effective lately?

I can already hear you resisting this recommendation by saying, “I don’t have the time for this! My life is crazy.  I’m lucky if I can do all the stuff I’m already committed to doing. I don’t need another should, thank you.” But hear me out.

Yes, this exercise can be done in a formal written way, where you take time and sit with a pad of paper and a cup of hot tea, and really think about this in a focused and intensive way.  A little music would be nice.

But it can also be done in discrete segments, on the fly, whenever you happen to think about it or have a moment. While you’re sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, instead of checking your email, use your phone to write down some of your personal qualities that are strengths, and send it to yourself as an email.

When you’re in the checkout line at the supermarket, just mentally note some of the ways you’ve grown recently. Are you more effective in speaking up for your point of view at meetings? Do you weather your teenager’s withering looks and rolled eyes with more equanimity? Did you clean up a relationship that had gotten a little messy?

Just note these things to yourself: THAT IS the acknowledgement. No need to take out a full page ad in your local paper (if you still have one). No need to email these epiphanies to all your colleagues and acquaintances (bad idea). Just note it to yourself. Become your own, quiet, cheering section.

This is hugely, powerfully constructive. It will re-charge your batteries. It will upgrade your sense of yourself in an appropriate way. It will help you lead your life from a stronger place. It will offset some of the ways you are never satisfied with yourself.   Keep doing it.

If you need help identifying your wins or crediting yourself properly, contact me. A short round of success coaching can supply you with a fistful of gold stars and the courage to use them.

2 March 2010

The Yoga of Physical Therapy

Why is it so hard to do so many of the things that are GOOD for us?  Why is the fast-paced, adrenaline-laced life so much more fun than the slower-paced choices? 

I recently had a string of body mechanical problems, resulting in 3 different sets of physical therapy exercises I was supposed to do twice daily.  These are slow, boring moves.   I don’t do them during a class, with music pumping and a teacher urging me onward, a setting that feels, to me, more “fun.” 

In fact, one of the injuries happened during a class with the music pumping and a teacher urging me onward: I over-reached, lifted too much weight during a weight training class and injured a muscle or tendon in my upper arm.  No big surprise.

But PT felt like a punishment, at least at first.  I couldn’t go to class with the other boys and girls.  I had to be home alone in my living room with therabands, counting 30-second intervals.  Ida wanna hafta do this.   Poor me. 

But truly, as I learned the PT routines and began to see some results, I started doing the exercises the way I’m learning to do yoga with my excellent teacher, Victoria.   Instead of counting or timing thirty seconds, I could now just breathe deeply into the exercise for the right amount of time, which I had internalized.  And by just breathing into the moves,  being in the moment, I entered a more meditative space, good for my head.

Victoria tells us, ”Don’t get greedy on the mat.”  What she means is,  don’t be overly focused on the external look of the yoga pose at the expense of your well-being.   Don’t be so greedy that you don’t honor your body’s limits today.  Instead, she teaches, at some point, go for the inner pose, be ok with what is, be willing to stop fixing, perfecting, trying to make it perfect.

It was greediness in my weight training class that got me injured.  I was greedy for the achievement of  lifting more weight than I was really capable of lifting without injury.

I’ve healed two of the three injuries.  My challenge now is to stick with the exercises for the third one.   And to resist greed.

15 February 2010

Post Op

About 10 days ago I had day-surgery on my hand.   I was NPO after midnight and scheduled for a 3:00 pm surgery.  Doing without food or water was no big deal, but no morning coffee?  That was hard.

9 February 2010

Managing Discomfort

I’ve just returned from taking a few vacation days in New York.   A friend came up from DC and we spent a day together.  I stayed over with another friend and spent a day with her as well.  Very fun, and a perfect getaway for me. 

I’m back to a  very full plate, much to do in a very short time.  When I have a crunch like this, I need to work more quickly than I’m comfortable working.   If I’m not careful, I can get very stressed by it.  I think it’s the discomfort that stresses me, not the work itself or the volume.  So this time I’m going to try managing the discomfort a little better, and I’ll see if that makes a difference.

How will I do that?  Well, one thing I’ll try is this: when I start feeling stressed, I’ll ask myself, “Are you stressed by the discomfort of having to work more quickly than you want?”  If the answer is yes, I think knowing that will help me keep it in perspective: I can certainly handle my own discomfort — it’s all up to me.  

Meanwhile, I’m excited about all that’s going on, including a cluster of teleclasses coming up at the end of the month.

5 February 2010

Getting Help

One of the key skills I teach many of my clients is to recognize when they need help and how to get it.   

Being a coach keeps me honest: I really do have to walk the talk.  That means I have to recognize when I need help and then to get it.

My business is extremely busy right now.  Not so busy with clients that I am full, mind you – so don’t hesitate to contact me yourself about coaching or to refer someone else!   But extremely busy with the “back office” side of things.

My back office plate filled up incrementally with the following, probably TMI, which you should feel free to skip (go to “At some point,” below): 

·     I was interviewed for an internet radio show that’s airing next week, the publicity for which required that I create a Face Book page and bring on some fans.  

·     This blog, which had snoozed through the holidays, needed to become more active again. 

·     My trademark, the Getting Unstuck® Coach, was challenged by a company seeking my permission to use the same trademark for their training business, which overlaps with my corporate training work.  Some back and forth with them, a threatening email from their attorney, calls with my trademark attorney, etc. Yuck.

·     I’ve finished my ’09 bookkeeping, but the forms that go to my accountant need to be filled out, which inevitably requires going over my data one more time, making corrections, etc.

·     I’m down to the last 30 copies of my book, Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued: Restoring Work-Life Balance. So it’s either time for a run of another 300 of them, or time to migrate to a print-on-demand solution.  Investigating print-on-demand solutions means identifying the players, getting informed about each’s process and pricing, doing the compare and contrast, and making a decision.  Yuck.

·     Finish the profile of my business on Yelp.com and ask clients to write recommendations.  

·     Deal with my mouse, which intermittently stops highlighting. 

·     Write a formal proposal to lead a daylong work-life balance training for a tech company in FL.

·     Write an informal proposal for a keynote later this month.

·     Email the contacts I’ve been referred to at 2 magazines to inquire about writing a work-life column for them.

·     Send out an email to everyone I know to announce this blog and update people on my coaching niche: work life balance and productivity.

·     Schedule teleclasses for the end of February, and get the classes and registration info onto my website (now done) and into my February newsletter.

·     Write the Feb newsletter.  (You can subscribe here.)  

·     Update website: send requests to my web programmer and follow up.

·     Other stuff too.

At some point, I began to feel overwhelmed.  I worked longer hours, I tightened up my efficiency, I said no to non-work invitations.  I was barely making a dent in the list, and the overwhelm got bigger. 

And then I heard the bell ring and saw the light bulb turn on: I needed more help!  Duh. 

So I got help.   Lots of it.   Most of these items are still in process, and the list is ultimately my responsibility, but having other competent people working on some of the bigger jobs and getting back to me for input as needed is a HUGE RELIEF.   I am point person, not point-person-&-technician.  

If you’re at all like my clients or the people in my seminars, your initial response to “So I got help” may be something like, “Yeah, right, well maybe in YOUR life, but not in mine.”  Stay tuned for a subsequent post that addresses this.