Career woman to career woman, wife and mother, that is what happened to me – as I am sure it has happened to many. In 1998 I was going to college and working as a waitress/manager at a restaurant when given the opportunity to work for a newly developed woman-owned company. Jumping at the opportunity, I couldn’t imagine that I’d spend the next twenty years helping to develop the company and advancing my career. After getting married in 2008, things began to change. I had someone else to consider in what time I would get home from work, what we would have for dinner and quite literally every decision in my life. Luckily, my husband knew just what it means to have a career and love what you do as he owns his own business (as well as being a full-time Firefighter/EMT). This understanding between us made the transition from “me” to “us” pretty easy. In 2010, when we welcomed our first child, into the world, this transition was not as easy. Now I had a career and two people who depended on me, and one of whom especially needed a lot of attention - - no, not my husband. This was the crossroad: I knew I did not want to give up my career, so I had to figure out how to be a full-time wife, dedicated mother and still a dependable employee. After many months, maybe even a few years (and the addition of our second child) I finally figured out that I needed to run my family life just as I run my business life. It is important to keep in mind that balancing career and home applies to everyone, not just people who happen to have significant others and children. Everyone has lives, interests and responsibilities outside of the office and everyone has a desire to manage both successfully. Below are some tips to keep in mind when tackling the hurdle of balancing career and home: Leave it at the door. Wow, that seems like an easy one. Walk out of work – leave everything there; walk out of the house, leave everything there. Of course, it isn’t easy at all. If you make an honest attempt, however, the goal is attainable. When you achieve this, it allows you to focus your attention where it is needed. To assist you in doing this you may want to read 4 Ways to Leave Work at Work by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. Unplug to be present. If you don’t unplug, you can’t recharge. Interesting metaphor, right? This is so very true. The inability to unplug does not allow us to “leave it at the door.” As I mentioned above if you are always looking at emails, always answering the phone, looking at social media, etc., you are not giving your attention to what may be right in front of you and requiring your attention. I was taught about unplugging by my children – when they said, “Mommy, stop looking at your phone.” That was the wakeup call I needed to unplug and be present, especially during family time. Take time to re-refuel/re-energize. Over and over again you hear how important it is to take time to re-energize. Re-energizing is different for different people, but some of the most common ways to re-energize is to exercise, get a massage, turn in early for a good night’s sleep, or eat healthy. For me, it is calling an old friend and catching up or even coming up with a new routine to keep me focused. Just like a car, if you do not take the time to refuel, you end up running on empty! Use an app. I know there are a ton of applications out there for time management, managing sporting events, managing grocery lists, etc. As they say, “There’s an App for that.” My husband and I have been using a shared calendar. This allows us both to know where we and our children are or need to be by certain times. As I mentioned before, between the nighttime work required of his job and the busy days in mine, we sometimes go a few days without seeing each other. Working off the same calendar helps us stay connected. Develop a board of directors or a village. A board of directors is a group of people who you have identified as your biggest supporters – the people who have your back and are going to look out for you. Once I understood the function of a board of directors and how they could help my career, I started seating mine around the table. They have provided tremendous support in my career growth over the years and I realized a board of directors could help me at home too. In my home life, I have an amazing village that supports me and I can trust. The most supportive village will keep your best interests in mind, whether that’s family, health or anything else, pick a village who will help you see it through. My village is made up of the people who can come to my assistance when I’m feeling overwhelmed or need help with my children. If you don’t already have a personal support system, make this the first step in regaining control of that balance between career and home. Invest in your relationships. Have you ever had a rough day where you feel sensitive or prickly and you accidently offend others who you care about? The people in your life will forgive you- as long as you have built an emotional bank account with them. Stephen Covey refers to an emotional bank account as “an account of trust instead of money.” Just as with any account you begin with a zero balance and you make deposits and withdrawals. These deposits and withdrawals build or destroy trust in your relationships. When you have made lots of deposits with someone, your trust level with them is high and communications flow without effort. You can make a mistake or offend them, because you are able to withdraw from those deposits and maintain the relationship with minimal repercussions. The bottom-line: invest in your relationships. Protect your identify and reputation. Be mindful of what you post on social media. People are constantly looking at your social media and sometimes it isn’t the people you planned. Keep this idea in mind as you post. One idea for managing your online reputation is to use LinkedIn for business contacts and Facebook for family and friends. Juggling a thriving career and a busy personal life is a balancing act. With careful planning, a strong village and a willingness to take care of yourself during busy times you can have it all-- a successful career and a happy home! ASK A MENTOR As you begin to explore ways to successfully balance career and home, talk to your mentor about the good and bad experiences they’ve had and how they have been successful at both. Here are some questions to get you started: How do you balance career and home? Do you feel you are successful? If so, what tips or advice do you have? If not, what adjustments are you making to be successful? Are there any time management systems you use? What are your favorite apps? Time saver ideas? What steps do you take to leave your work at work and home at home? What do you do to “unplug”? How do you practice being present? Who makes up your village? How do these individuals help you balance career and home? How do you invest in your relationships? How do you make deposits? How do you recover from a withdrawal? How do you protect your reputation? Are you mindful of what you are posting? Will your posts offend others? How do you separate home from work?
The great philosopher Lao Tzu wrote, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Change can make us feel disoriented, unbalanced, anxious. Digging in heels and holding on to “the way it was” is often an attempt to control our circumstances even while things keep moving “in whatever way they like.” In this month’s newsletter, we will tackle strategies for grounding ourselves through transition without being obstructionist and being flexible without losing morale. Change versus Transition First, let’s make the distinction between change and transition. Change is something that happens to you. It could be something positive- such as purchasing a new house or being promoted- or even something painful like losing a loved one. Transition is what is going on in your head and your heart as you go through change. Change can happen quickly, while transition usually takes a while. Bridges’ Model for Managing Change Dr. William Bridges, author of Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, explains that the difference between change and transition is at the center the way people behave during organizational shifts. Based on Bridges’ model, once a change has occurred, people move through three stages of transition: Stage 1: The Ending – As Bridges points out, every change process begins with ending of the old way. Digging in and resisting change-sometimes to the point of emotional strain- is most likely to happen during the ending. Without letting go of the way things used to be, however, it is impossible to move onto the new. Stage 2: The Transition Zone – This is the critical space between the ending and the new beginning. People report feeling disconnected from the past, but not emotionally ready for the present either. Bridges urges that the best way to successfully navigate this phase is through self-awareness. Stage 3: New Beginning – By this stage, you have successfully embraced the changes that are occurring and begin to welcome the benefits the change has brought you personally and/or professionally. While you sort through the stages of transition, here are some strategies for conveying optimism and an open heart to the change: 1. Determine what is in your control and what is not. When you’re overwhelmed by change, make a list of the things that are in your control versus the things that are not. For example, when your favorite manager retires, who is hired to replace her is not in your control, but getting to know them better is. While you can’t control which new system or technology is brought in to replace an old one, you can control how much time you set aside to learn how to use it. Recognizing the difference will help you take ownership over the things in your control and make a plan. 2. Understand your reactions to change and transition. Your DISC style predisposes some behaviors during times of change. Self-awareness can be half the solution. Here’s how: These DISC four elements of human behavior are as follows:D: How one approaches problems and challenges.I: How one interacts and influences people.S: How one responds to change and levels of activity.C: How one responds to rules and regulations. High D: Appreciate changeFeel bored with things stay the sameCan change directions easilyGet frustrated when others aren’t comfortable High I:Embrace change with optimismCan see the benefits of the new directionAre able to communicate positivity to othersFeel frustrated with negativity High S:Need time to prepare for changeMight react negatively when change is unexpectedEven when stressed, might come across as non-emotional High C:Need to see data in order to accept the change is wiseGood at planning and designing change effortsPrefer to have a backup plan Have a healthy skepticism of “the unknown.” Using the DISC to better understand your reactions to change makes it easier to find opportunities to create positive outcomes. For example, if your natural tendency is to get frustrated or impatient over the way those around you are reacting or adjusting to change, take time to lift up your worried colleagues a bit. Listen to what bothers them most and offer emotional support. Conveying Competence During Times of Change Here are some tips for maintaining balance and expressing your dependability when things feel uncertain: 1. Think ahead, be a leader. Understanding the larger context of organizational changes will show that you care about the organization and remain passionate about its mission. Consider what your manager might ask you to do during a transitional period. Attend training and briefings so you are prepared on an emotional and intellectual level. Prepare notes on projects that are moving to a different department. Take initiative and prove your ability to lead. 2. Show positivity. Demonstrate optimism with your body language (mind your posture, smile), actions and words. Ask your manager if there is anything you can do to help facilitate the change. Reach out to colleagues who seem overwhelmed and provide mentoring and support. Staying positive and focused on your current (and future) workload will assure managers that you are someone upon whom they can count. 3. Take care of yourself. Even positive change can be draining. Research has shown that individuals who incorporate self-care into their lifestyle are able to maintain a positive attitude even in times of great stress. Get to sleep on time, maintain your exercise routine, and pack healthy snacks to keep you energized throughout the day. Once they understand and buy-in to a change, they are good at following through ASK A MENTOR Anyone who has earned a leadership position in the workforce has weathered change either as an employee or a manager. Talk to your mentor about their good and bad experiences with change. Here are some questions to get you started: What has been the most difficult professional change you’ve experienced in your career? What was most disappointing and disruptive about the change?What were the positive outcomes?How did your organization prepare you for the transition? Is there anything they could have done differently? Could they have made it easier? How did you adjust your working process to accommodate the change? Did you network? Look to others for advice? Organizational research? Rework your project files? What steps do you take to prepare your team for change?What behaviors best demonstrate that an employee is flexible and positive through transition?
Here at The Training Connection, we talk about the impact and value of mentoring – a LOT. This is the heart of what we do, of course! On a regular basis, mentors share with us how much they are gaining from their mentoring partnerships, often reporting they themselves feel they have benefitted more from the relationship than their mentees. How can that be? The word "Mentor” is analogous to the word "Parent” in that it is both a noun and a verb. To mentor another is an act of generosity, and highly altruistic. So, what do these mentors know that others don’t? We can all agree that coworkers who are kind and generous are more likeable than those who are not, but does kindness equate to professional success? Can being kind and generous be a prescription for career advancement? There is a plethora of research and articles that conclude that kindness and generosity of spirit can positively transform the workplace as well as give those who practice these virtues a competitive edge in the following ways: Kindness Helps Us Work With Others Whether you are new to your organization or a seasoned veteran, you’re likely going to work with many different personalities; co-workers, managers, supervisors, contractors, etc. The truth is, you aren’t always in sync with all of the people you interact with on a daily basis, but in a professional setting, you need to find ways to not only be cordial, but also work as a team to accomplish shared goals and objectives. The first step is always kindness. It costs nothing and even if the recipient of your generosity of spirit is not receptive, others will be inspired by the effort – and over time your continued kindness will be seen as a valuable strength. Kindness Draws Others In You can’t expect to be best friends with everyone, but you can still develop real, solid connections with coworkers and teammates. When you are kind and show you care about your peers and colleagues, it motivates them to make time for you when it comes to collaborating on a complex task, or simply lending a hand when you are feeling overwhelmed and need help. For example, in a previous position, some coworkers and I donated leave to a fellow coworker who was facing a medical crisis and just didn’t have accrued leave. The colleague was very well-like, in addition to being a conscientious and valuable team member. Kindness is Contagious You can choose not to sink to an unkind person’s level. Although it can be your first defensive reaction – it won’t pay off in the long run. People who demonstrate emotional intelligence elevate their reputations by being assertively kind. This reduces traction for a negative person to keep pushing against. In addition, when others witness acts of kindness, they also get a surge of well-being and will often feel encouraged to perform an act of kindness of their own. From a professional perspective: would you rather work with or promote someone who is disengaged or someone who is thoughtfully responsive? Kindness and generosity aren’t just good for individual success, they’re also beneficial to an organization: Kindness Improves Creativity Respectful engagement with individuals and teams enhances creativity – the engine of innovation. Respectful engagement, a fancy way of saying kindness, is conveying presence, communicating affirmation, effective listening and supportive communication. All foster a more positive work environment and a higher sense of worth and creativity! Kindness Fosters Loyalty According to a recent U.K. study, eight in ten workers would not accept a position, even if it paid more, if it meant working with people with whom they did not get along. The fact is, salary/compensation is pretty far down the list in terms of factors keeping employees loyal. The vast majority, according to the research, prioritize good relationships over concerns about money. If your boss, teammates or company acknowledged when you were out sick, lost a loved one or celebrated a life-event (e.g., the birth of a baby, wedding, birthday, etc.), then you know first-hand the impact kindness can have on your desire to stay. By being intentionally kind and generous, you inherently bring out positive qualities in others. Like ripples on the pond, kindness from one person can expand and positively affect others around you. This is one of the many reasons that mentors are so very remarkable – they not only recognize this concept, but also practice on a daily basis. They continuously plant the seeds for trees from which they might never enjoy the fruit – but they enjoy being kind and generous anyway.
I once worked for an organization that ran everything by meetings. We had meetings to plan meetings. We had stand-up meetings in our regional plants and sit-down meetings at headquarters. We huddled, we had "tag-ups," we aligned, and we conferenced, virtually or in person. If there was a way to meet or a topic to meet about, we did it. In the words of the trainer who facilitated our new employee orientation, "We make two things here: our product and meetings. So get used to it." In that type of culture, it's no surprise that people love to hate meetings. Meetings can feel like a giant time suck that pulls you away from "real work." Many leaders burn the candle at both ends-starting work in the early morning and continuing late into the night-because their working hours are consumed in meetings, and action items keep piling up. Some organizational cultures have tried to address this issue by replacing meetings with alternative ways of communicating. The problem there is that alternatives like texting and email are often no more effective than meeting in person. In fact, research shows that they can easily decrease efficiency and increase distraction. Despite their flaws, meetings are generally more effective than other forms of communication for fostering collaboration, breaking down cross-functional silos, completing projects requiring multiple sources of input, and building strong working relationships. While it might not make sense to eliminate your meetings, there are steps you can take to make them much less painful. If you search for ideas on how to make meetings more effective, you'll find thousands of potentially useful tips and techniques-including strategies for streamlining agendas, assigning roles, facilitating discussions, managing time, and so on. Today, I'll focus on a powerful technique called OPO (Objective, Process, Outcome). OPO is a proven method created by the consulting firm Corentus and used worldwide across a variety of organizations and industries. The Corentus OPO The purpose of the Corentus OPO is to design a better meeting by thoroughly planning all the individual work sessions within that meeting. What do I mean by work sessions? A work session typically shows up as a single topic on an agenda. Some brief meetings are dedicated to a single topic, and therefore have just one work session. Longer meetings often include multiple work sessions. For example, if I were planning a weekly project meeting in support of creating a formal mentoring program for my organization, the agenda might include four distinct work sessions: * Steering committee* Marketing* Scheduling* Funding Let's walk through the process of creating an OPO for Marketing. The first step is determining who owns the work session. In this example, although I own the overall meeting, I'm not the best person to lead a work session on marketing. I would assign ownership of this session to Pat, who is leading the marketing effort for our mentoring program. It then becomes Pat's responsibility to develop the work session OPO. Let's review the three key elements of the work session design one by one. Objective An objective articulates why the work session is needed and indicates the general direction the session will take. It should be aligned with the overall direction of the meeting. Typically, an objective will fit into one of six categories: 1. Information Sharing: presenting, informing, explaining, notifying, updating 2. Idea Generating: brainstorming, exploring, conceptualizing, visioning 3. Planning: forecasting, preparing, scheduling, organizing 4. Problem Solving: analyzing, assessing, evaluating, deciphering, resolving 5. Decision Making: selecting, approving, agreeing, committing 6. Producing: developing, producing, building, crafting For the marketing work session, Pat has two objectives: 1. Update the team on the results of the mentoring lunch and learns (Information Sharing)2. Approve the layout and content for the mentoring flyer (Decision Making) Outcome After identifying the work session objective(s), we move to the final O: Outcome. An outcome identifies what the work session will result in, including any deliverables. Outcomes should be as specific as possible and should be realistic to achieve in the time available. Here are some possible outcomes that correspond to the six categories of objectives. In the marketing work session, Pat may tie her objectives to the following outcomes: All too often, outcomes are absent from meeting agendas. Even when people set the general direction (objective) for a work session, they frequently fail to clarify exactly what outcomes they hope to achieve. If you find yourself in a work session where outcomes aren't clearly defined, it can be helpful to simply ask, "What outcomes are we aiming for in this discussion?" Getting that one thing clear, before any discussion starts, can make the meeting much more productive. Process The final step in the OPO is Process. Once you've identified an outcome, you can go back and define the process you'll use to achieve that outcome. This includes outlining the specific activities that will take place, the individuals who will engage in those activities, and how long you expect the activities to take. Here are a few examples of activities that correspond with the objectives and outcomes defined earlier: This list is far from exhaustive; there are countless different activities you can engage in during work sessions. Once you're clear on your objectives and outcomes, try doing a Google search for relevant options-e.g., various types of brainstorming methods, decision-making protocols, or creative problem-solving techniques. Without a clearly articulated process, many groups default to having loosely defined, unstructured discussions, which often aren't the best way to achieve results. Below is a full OPO for Pat's marketing work session, with the Process component completed: The next time you plan a meeting or an individual work session, I encourage you to try applying the OPO framework. See what happens to your effectiveness and efficiency when everyone in the room is clear, right from the beginning, about exactly why you're meeting, what the session will result in, and how you're going to get there. There's wisdom in the old saying that sometimes you need to slow down to speed up. By investing a little extra planning time up front, you can help make your meetings not only more productive, but a lot more satisfying and enjoyable as well.
How do you prioritize your work when everything is a priority? A few years ago, I attended a conference where the keynote speaker, Dan Thurmon, used a juggling routine to illustrate a very important lesson. Usually he juggles sharp objects and names them as he tosses them the air: Career, Health, Family, Education, etc. As he juggled, he taught us that we juggle in our day-to-day, trying to catch everything at once. At any given time, you can only manage (or have your hands on) maybe two big things at a time. When we try to catch it all together, we end up feeling what he called "off-balance” and "off-purpose.” The trick is to be intentional and throw some things higher than others so we can catch the important things—ending up off-balance, but on-purpose. As Steven Covey said, "don’t prioritize your schedule; schedule your priorities.” Using the juggling analogy, "how can you be deliberate about what you throw up into the air so you can be focused on the things that you are catching in your hands?” For example, at different points in life, you might decide that you have to focus on your career, so starting a family would have to wait; or you might decide that you need to go back to school, so you have to cut back on community work. You need to be purposeful about what you’re going to be off-balance about. Give yourself permission to throw some things up in the air. It will help reduce your stress levels. A proven method for prioritizing your workload is the ABCDE Prioritization Method, taught by Brian Tracey in his book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. The name of Brian Tracey’s book was inspired by this Mark Twain quote: "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Eating a live frog refers to completing a task that is challenging to get it out of the way so that the rest of the day can be more productive. With the ABCDE method, you prioritize your work according to the severity of the consequence for not doing the task: A - something important that you have to do that has serious consequences B - a task that you should do as it has some consequences C - a task that would be nice to do, has few, if any, consequences D - something that can be delegated E - something that can be eliminated If you get in the habit of evaluating your priorities and commitments with this method, figuring out your next step becomes easier. The ABCDE Method in Action When it comes to priorities, you are typically dealing with how long things take, who you have to work with or keep informed, and what tasks get your attention first. Here are some things to keep in mind as you apply the ABCDE method: Spend the appropriate amount of time in something according to its priority. Don’t give A-level attention to a C-level task. Create a daily list of A-level tasks and tackle those first. Each time an "emergency” or "urgent” request comes up, evaluate it against the A-level tasks on your list. Schedule time to begin working on the B-level tasks before they become urgent. Work them into your schedule before their deadlines. Look for things you can eliminate and get off your list. If a task keeps getting rated a C-level (nice to do/no consequence) task, consider if it’s worth your energy to keep it on your list. Leverage your team and delegate those tasks that don’t absolutely require your attention. Maybe you can assign a B-level task to someone to get the ball rolling. Or you can have them evaluate the C list and inform the decision on whether they should be dropped. Delegation will let you extend your efforts from what you can do to what you can control. Be sure to set aside time in your calendar for your A-level work by applying the 80/20 Rule. In the 80/20 Rule, 20% of your efforts produce 80% of your results. Set aside 20% of your day, roughly 90 minutes, and use that time to focus on your A-level priorities. Consider blocking a standing appointment on your calendar 3 times per week. There are times when what’s considered a priority is out of your control and you end up juggling more things than you’d like. Our brains like things easy. While we try to convince ourselves that we can handle multitasking efficiently (we really can’t), our brains are designed to seek completion. So if we keep a long priority list, we increase our stress by trying to keep track of all these things. Create a Someday/Maybe list and park all those C-level, "nice to do” tasks there so they are less of a distraction. As your priorities change, evaluate the risk level. Be intentional about when you’ll get the work done. How do you prioritize an overwhelming workload? Pick your biggest A-level task and eat that frog first!
Is finding the perfect mentor like finding a needle in haystack? It doesn’t have to be. Seeking out the right mentoring match may seem like a daunting task at first, but with a little time investment and self-reflection, the process can yield multiple options. Mentors are plentiful. They come in all shapes and sizes. Thinking through what you want to get out of a partnership before you begin your search usually results in the most rewarding and productive match. So, what type of mentor are you looking for? Technical mentors – People you turn to for professional advice. These mentors generally have a strong reputation for technical excellence. Consider – do you want to connect with a subject-matter expert? Or maybe you are looking for broad-based experience across a variety of skills and competencies. Relationship mentors – People you can turn to and learn how to develop strategic relationships and partnerships. Relationship mentors also provide a safe environment for you to learn how to deal with difficult people, manage conflict, influence others. Selecting a mentor with whom you can have authentic, honest conversations requires a certain level of chemistry and trust. Navigational mentors – People who can help you understand how to navigate the unwritten rules, corporate culture, and can help you strategize next steps for success within the organization. This mentor can decode the unspoken organizational culture – an agency Sherpa, if you will! It is important to remember that although you might originally have one type of partner in mind (for example, someone like you) being open to new perspectives often yields a perfect and powerful match. A recent study provided by The Training Connection, Inc. discovered that it is actually the differences that make the best matches: 84% responded favorable in response to differences in experience. Mentors are likely better able to offer mentorees a different point of view through their own experiences. 71% responded favorable in response to differences in behavioral style (DISC). Finding a partner who brings a different behavioral style to the partnership (not too similar, but not too far apart) is very beneficial to the growth and success of the partnership. (One obvious example - if you are quiet and shy to look for someone who is more outgoing and charming.) Differences in gender, cultural background, and generation have also made a positive difference. Below are some additional thoughts to keep in mind when beginning your search: Be proactive. Mentorees need to be proactive not just in their mentoring search, but in the partnership as well. In formal mentoring programs, the programs do not fail, the partnerships do. This occurs when parties are not committed up-front to the process, or clear with their partner if something has changed and they need to end the partnership. Look for someone outside of your chain of command. It goes without saying that your boss should always be your informal mentor, however in a formal mentoring partnership, the best matches are outside one’s chain of command. Mentorees are more likely to open up and feel comfortable confiding in someone who does not have input to their performance reviews. Mentorees need someone who can create a safe space to bounce ideas off of and a mentor who is outside of their immediate day to day work environment can provide that. Thoughtfully commit to the mentoring partnership. The most successful mentoring matches are ones in which both the mentoree and mentor are given a voice in the partnership - meaning the match is not forced and both are willing to give their full attention to the partnership. Be sure to thoroughly research the mentors background and availability. Don’t be discouraged if a mentor says they are unavailable. When requesting a mentor let them know you have others in mind if they are unavailable, this will allow a mentor the option to say no if they do not have time to dedicate to the partnership. You may find it helpful later on to see if they are available as a situational mentor to enhance a formal partnership. A situational mentor is the right help at the right time and is usually available to help solve a quick problem, uncover a hidden talent or learn a new skill or behavior. They can be the perfect enhancement to a formal mentoring partnership. As I mentioned earlier, finding a mentor doesn’t have to be like searching for a needle in a haystack - you simply need to do the homework. Carefully thinking through what it is you are looking for in your mentor is sure to result in a fruitful partnership for both you and the mentor.
Making a Great Day starts with turning your focus to your own personal well-being and how that plays out in your daily quest for (work/life) balance. When we challenge our balance by splitting ourselves in two or more directions, we tax our emotional and physical stability. With so many of us experiencing the high stress of life’s challenges and current events, it’s critical that we take time to make ourselves our first priority. Our personal health and careers depend on balance.When we experience balance, we find ourselves exclaiming, “What a great day!” But, on the other side is imbalance and you might notice that when you feel out of balance you state, “I am having a bad day.” There is a direct correlation between balance, feeling good, and being the best version of yourself. Balance is elusive. We often feel disappointed at our attempt to live a balanced life. But what I have come to know is that complete and constant balance is impossible to achieve. What is possible, however, is a balance on average, over time. Our lives are not steady, and work is constantly changing, so the reality is that some days will require you to focus more on work, and other days more on personal life. Fluctuations are to be expected. Having an awareness of where you are on the scales of balance will enable you to adjust.Through much trial and error, I have landed on six guiding principles (with accompanying exercises) to help you infuse balance into your life:1. Breathe: In times of stress, we can turn to our focusing on our breath for relief. It’s free, easy to access, and an effective antidote to the anxiety and physical symptoms of stress. Breathe control can be used when you feel stressed, upset at a co-worker, or wanting to hide under your desk. Exercise: Balloon Breathing: Raise your arms high from your sides up over your head as you take a deep breath. As you exhale, let all the air come out like a balloon as you drop your arms.Take a long breath in and as you exhale, say “ahhhh…”2. Challenge: Another helpful way to keep your work/life balance healthy is to handle issues as they come up instead of letting them simmer. For example, if you have a disagreement with a co-worker and don’t address it directly with them, chances are that you will take that frustration home and keep thinking about it. Exercise: 3 “P” Method for handling conflict: Step 1: Pause and notice your current emotions.Step 2: Pivot out of a negative spiral.Step 3: Consider positive possibilities. 3. Move: Movement is another way to care for your own well-being. When you are feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed or just blocked, take a moment to physically move away from the situation. Movement will free up creative space where solutions flow.Exercise: Take a few minutes movement break every hour. Stretch at your desk, take the stairs, or go for a walk.4. Nourish: Healthy and balanced food choices support a healthy mental state.Exercise: Pause before making an unhealthy food choice. Instead of eating sugar to reduce stress, reach for a glass of water with fresh lemon.5. Communicate: One of the most vital aspects of success in our personal and professional relationships is communication—the thread that connects us together. Poor communication causes unneeded stress. Exercise: Practice focused listening by giving your full attention to the individual speaking to you without interrupting them or offering your advice. Just listen.6. Routine: A daily routine that includes space for personal well-being will allow you to flourish. Taking time for yourself should be part of your routine. When you do something that inspires you throughout your day, you will be inspired.Exercise: Put well-being time on your schedule. Make a list of activities you love to do and keep it on your desk for easy access.If you are working too much, you will not have the energy to do things when you are not at work. If you play too hard outside of work, you will not have the energy for your job. It might seem like having to pay attention to your work/life balance is just one more thing to add to the list, but I can promise you it is worth adding. When your life is balanced between work and other activities, you will be more satisfied, more motivated, happier, and healthier.
With every new year comes the opportunity to reflect and anticipate what you want the next year (and beyond) to look like. You may even create a list of lofty goals and brace yourself for the looming sacrifices that will have to be made to achieve those milestones. This process can, however, be much more pleasant if you shift and redirect your thinking. Instead of thinking about what you have to give up, you should instead visualize those achievements actually coming to fruition. Envisioning can be a powerful tool in turning your dreams into reality. Sound silly? Not really. According to a study conducted by TD Bank, https://www.forbes.com/…/survey-shows-visualizing-success…/…visualizing success (often through a Vision Board) does in fact work. Imagining attainment of the things you want most in life will quickly turn into reality when it becomes a part of your awareness, and the best way to do that is to create a visual reminder that helps keep your eyes on the prize. Creating a Vision Board is one of the most effective (and fun) ways to manifest your vision as it serves as a constant reminder of the goals you want and plan to achieve. Meaningful images and mantras in your daily line of vision gradually become an energy source and ultimately evolve to become part of your subconscious awareness. When this happens, you will find yourself focusing on the specific things that you want to attract and will begin to take the actions needed to attain them. The trick of course is to stay positive as negative thoughts can often derail your plans. Your Vision Board is your creation and there is no “perfect” way to create one. There are a few steps however that can help you to design the one that is most meaningful to you. Start envisioning. Begin to list all of the things that you would most like to achieve and acquire in all areas of your life and keep in mind that the sky is the limit! For example, you may ask yourself, “What position do I want next in my career?” What does my dream home look like?” “What types of relationships do I want to nurture?” “How do I want my body to look and perform?” What places do I want to travel?” These are the first steps in the envisioning process. Be sure to focus on the things or places that you want most in your life – not on the things you don’t. You attract what you think so again, only positive thoughts please! Find your visual inspirations. This is the fun part. Refer to your vision list and find those images that best represent what you want. The sources can be from any medium. Pursue through magazines or online images and stock photos. Websites like Pinterest and Google images are loaded with ideas. Be sure to include meaningful words or inspiring quotes. Compile visual prompts that speak directly and powerfully to you. Create your own custom Vision Board. Decide the size of your board (some may like a giant easel of images while others may prefer a smaller 8x11 framed version.) Some may be ultra creative and turn theirs into their tablet’s wallpaper. This should be your personal preference and should include any aesthetic that will have you looking at it daily. Arrange the images in a way that is pleasing to your eyes. Be sure to add a mantra of your best self and place that squarely in the middle. For example, if you want to supervise your team, physically document the following affirmation: “I am managing my team with great success and positive energy.” Documenting these goals is the best way to affirm them as you are creating a contract with yourself to move toward these changes and outcomes. Formulate a plan of action. While envisioning is a great way to galvanize your goals, it is equally important to map out a plan that outlines the stages that will culminate toward your final goals. By strategically planning your next steps, you are in effect getting closer to making your goals a reality. For example, if your dream is to rise to the next level of management, you must first research what the prerequisites are to get you in the running. If it involves taking a class or working on a special project, then map out that plan and take the first steps to tackle it. Be in a state of constant gratitude. Always be grateful for the things that come your way. Every material and non-material success we achieve is a gift. Expressing gratitude for these gifts energizes the Universe and strengthens our vibrations to receive more of the same. Be sure to share your good fortune with others. It doesn’t need to be material and some of the most rewarding gifts are time, support and a listening ear. ASK A MENTOR Let this be the year of the positive promise! At your next mentoring meeting, share with your mentor the goals that you have for yourself and ask them what they envisioned for their own success and how they achieved their vision. You will also want to see if they have any ideas on how you canmove forward with yours. In the areas that you find yourself feeling stuck, ask your mentor if they have any strategies to help you stay positive and stay the course. Here a few questions to get you started but feel free to add to the list: What are my ultimate goals and/or vision? If I don’t already have a clear vision, am I working toward creating one? What would make me the most satisfied professionally? Personally? Financially? Do I have a clear sense of my ultimate goal? Do I run it through my mind on a continual basis? Do I actually envision myself living my dream? What am I doing to achieve my ultimate goals? Does it seem to be working? If not, how can I redirect? Do I seem to be moving in the right direction? Or do I experience reoccurring setbacks? What are some approaches to stay positive? How have I assisted others with their goals and dreams and how has this helped me? Am I grateful of where I am thus far? How do I express this gratitude?
As the year winds down, pause and reflect on your career goals. Think back to when you were first hired. What kinds of plans did you set? Have you made progress against them? Are you content? What might bring greater satisfaction? Through this lens, begin setting professional intentions for 2019. While you organize, commit to enhancing your networks by making new connections and taking an active role in your community. In this newsletter we will share some tips and strategies for getting out there and making the most of every chance to meet people who can widen your perspectives and make a difference in your work experience. Stay Open-Minded Remember that networking won’t bring instant gratification. In other words, don’t measure your success by whether you secure a promotion or a new job after a first encounter. Think of networking as relationship-building. You can’t possibly know by reading a nametag or email signature line who might be of help to you. Be open to people who work in different divisions or unrelated job functions. Take time to get to know them, asking questions about what they do and about broad pressing issues like juggling family commitments and managing busy travel schedules. The truth is, these are topics people generally like to chat about- more than the technical functions of their job- and your taking the time to ask questions will make them feel comfortable and ensure that their meeting with you is memorable. Plan Networking in Your Calendar Write it down as a commitment because, honestly, that’s the only way you will make time for it. Set even small steps as a firm event in your calendar. For example, "Research organizational charts on the intranet.” Or, "Send congratulatory notes on LinkedIn.” Maybe even, "Check in with former cubical mate.” Maintain your network on a monthly basis. Have a Canned Opener Make introductions easy. To avoid sounding like a bore or fumbling over an explanation, have a loosely prepared opening statement. And be interesting! For example, "Hi, I’m John. You’ll be surprised to know I work at the tech desk. People think I just eat over our keyboards and never leave our screens. But I’ve worked in computer support for a long time and actually started as a travel support technician before coming to this organization.” Don’t Just Take, Give Them Something Too Be a thoughtful networker. Ask your new connection: Is there anything I can do to help you? You might offer a different perspective on a project they’re handling or even forward to them one of your best sample meeting agendas. If you meet someone for coffee, bring a third person- even if it’s just your regular lunch buddy. They will both benefit from meeting someone else. Consider inviting people to things outside of work such as yoga classes and museum lectures. Share powerful articles and book recommendations. Networking- Even for Introverts If the word "networking” makes you cringe and shrink uncomfortably in your seat, we have some tips and strategies to help even the most blushing introvert to network like a boss. Be Genuine. When making a new connection, you don’t need to sound like you’re looking for a favor or a job. Ask about things you really want to know. Chances are, if you’re interested in it, people are likely interested in talking about it. Arrive early. If you’re shy in large social situations, your knee-jerk might be to arrive 15 minutes late to networking events and socials. Next time try something different. Be one of the first to arrive. You’ll have an easier time speaking and connecting with one or two people at a time as they trickle into the event. Be on. Each of us has certain times of the day when we’re "on” or more energetic than others. If you’re an early bird, try to connect with someone for coffee before work. If the end of the workday puts a spring in your step, meet for dinner. Listen well. Want to know one of the best ways to stand out at a networking event? Let your listening skills shine. Instead of clamoring to be heard above the chatter, show your ability to stay cool, listen, and ask meaningful questions. Follow-up. Following up after making a new connection is a critical part of networking. If the social, face-to-face aspect leaves you feeling anxious, then take comfort in the follow-up. Back in the comfort and tranquility of your own office compose a short, thoughtful email letting your new acquaintance know how much you enjoyed meeting them. This is an easy opportunity to make sure they don’t forget you. Quick Guide to Creating Your Own Networking Opportunities Take your networking skills out of the office, but don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Take a few minutes each month to research events in your area and organize them in your calendar. Here are some ideas: Attend an Agency Sponsored Event or Program. Make a connection in a variety of diverse environments: town halls, retirement luncheons, office picnics. Volunteer to lead a cross-functional team or project. Join an employer sponsored affinity group: Blacks in Government (BIG), Federally Employed Women (FEW), Veteran and Military Affinity Groups, etc. Around the office Plan a "brainstorming” session with a co-worker. Ask them about their career goals and share yours. Can you introduce them to anyone in your network who might be helpful to them? Can they do the same for you? Make a point to introduce yourself to new employees or maybe even invite them to lunch. Smile! Earn a reputation as a "friendly” colleague- not only will your positivity set you apart from others, you will get to know a lot of people too. Collegiate Alumni Association Visit their website and register as part of their online community. Search the list of alumni chapters. Find yours? Check out upcoming events such as monthly football watch parties, crab fests, and community service opportunities. Reach out to leadership team to introduce yourself and let them know you want to get involved. Neighborhood Association Reach out to the board members to ask about upcoming initiatives that might need extra hands. Consider your own gifts- like to entertain? Consider hosting the spring barbeque. Are you a baker? Deliver baked goods to new neighbors. Prefer working with your hands? Organize a spring grounds clean up. Professional Associations Research organizations that are relevant to your industry, read their FAQs, pay close attention to membership guidelines and fees before joining. Look for instructions on joining their discussion list and signing up for job list emails. Subscribe to the organization’s monthly newsletter or periodical and share valuable pieces with people in your network. Eventbrite Visit Eventbrite and sign up for events in your area. Check out the section called "Business, Get Connected” to find out about networking events and workshops. Peruse upcoming events for TED talks or lectures that are relevant to your industry and invite a work friend to join. Nurturing your networks will get you in shape to achieve your 2019 career goals. Cast a wide net, be thoughtful and show them your authentic self. Someone you meet today just might be able to help you down the road. ASK A MENTOR Brainstorm with your mentor on some ideas for expanding your network. As them about their experiences and how networking has helped them in their career. Some questions you might ask: Do you attend any regular networking events? How do you “check-in” or maintain your network? What is your favorite opener when you meet someone new? How do you describe your job function succinctly to a new encounter? What kinds of things can you offer to help someone else who is hoping to expand their network? Do you ever connect with people outside of your division? Outside of this organization? What community clubs or organizations have you joined outside of work? What connection have you made that proved to be the most powerful in your career?