Life/Work Balance

How do you balance things during the holidays?

Christmas_2I realize that it might have been appropriate to post about simplifying the holidays a few weeks ago, but I'm figuring that the peeps that REALLY need to hear the "SIMPLIFY" message... still have a lot left to do!

How 'bout you?  How are you doing?

I'll be the first to admit it.  I'm not done with my shopping.

It's okay though.  I'm determined to relax and enjoy the most important aspects of the season. 

How?  Well, as I've explained before, I'm a huge fan of asking questions. 

What questions am I asking of myself and others this time of year?  Well, I'll list a few.

Since my family celebrates Christmas... I'm asking:

  • What's really important as I celebrate Christmas with my family?
  • What can I do beyond freakishly cool gifts to make it a remarkable Christmas for my family?

For folks that don't celebrate Christmas... but still need to relax this time of year, I'll ask:

  • What would make it a really relaxing, memorable holiday season?
  • What are some of your favorite memories from this time of year? 
  • If you could reach out to anyone... who would you love to reconnect with before the end of the year?

How about you?  Did you already start to think of some responses to these questions?

I know I did.

For me, as I ponder these questions I realize that I don't tend to remember stories of elaborate gifts or expensive trips. 

Nope. The memories usually involve time with friends laughing or time with my family really relaxing.  You know, finding pockets of quiet within the busy schedule to really laugh, love and connect. 

How do you do it? 

How do you stay focused on the 'good stuff' and stay balanced during this time of year?

Lastly... in addition to giving you some questions to ponder... I also want to provide some 'brass tacks' advice to help navigate the last few days as well. 

So here are some great ideas to balance things, simplify your approach, and have some fun in the process.

Take Julie's advice over at the Cottage Crafts Blog and grab a Christmas Journal and keep things organized.

You can take Mary's advice over at the RelevantBlog and try her 5 Tips to Simplify Christmas.  My favorite?  She lists a number of questions to ponder with your family as you are making your decisions about gift buying... spending time... and what to focus on.

Lastly, check out Rod's recommendations on gift-giving to your adult friends at the Simplify Christmas blog. He has some great ideas whether you are shopping for friends, employees or clients.

Enjoy... and Happy Holidays!

Photo credit and kudos to Caterpillers

E-mail 101

Computer_stress I have been traveling quite a bit lately and I have to admit that it's tougher to keep up with e-mail when I'm on the road.  Can you identify?

There are some days when I feel so behind that I'd like to chuck the whole system and just go back to pens and paper... or maybe even smoke signals. 

Again... can you relate?

Well, even though I get frustrated from time to time... I love to hear about how people manage things like their e-mail. 

I love to hear about systems that work.

For example, I was working with a client yesterday. 

I know that she is very effective at managing her daily tasks so I asked her about her "system." 

She says that she follows a modified "Getting Things Done" system.  She says that she spends 2 hours each morning, clipping through her daily e-mails and to-do lists.  She swears by the system and says that everyone who e-mails her hears back within 24 hours and her in-box is always empty at the end of the morning session.

Read how the Brazen Careerist followed some of the same strategies to take her in-box to zero.

Sounding good?

Need more stories and specifics?  Click here to read one more example... just to keep you motivated.

So, how do you do it? 

Do you struggle too?

Do you have a system that works?

Share your successes or your challenges.

And... remember... we're in this together!

Click comments and join in the conversation.

Photo credit: Zniper 02

Would you please report to security?

Just as I was about to sit down at my gate at the airport this week, I heard my name over the intercom.

"Would Mitch Matthews please return to the ticket counter." 

That's not something you ever want to hear... especially when you're minutes away from needing to jump on a flight.Security

So I threw my bag over my shoulder and hoofed it back down to the United counter. 

The whole time I was wondering to myself... "What could it be?"

When I arrived, I knew the problem in an instant. 

My Dutch Boy Paint can was sitting on the counter with airport security hovering over it. 

Yup.  That's right.  I had a paint can in my luggage. 

Why? 

It's a prop for a talk that I give on the power of asking the right questions and innovation.  (By the way... have you seen how cool their paint can is?)

The reason they'd called me back down was that there was "paint residue" in the can. 

There wasn't much but it was enough to be considered hazardous material. 

I made an argument that I'd taken the can on 8 flights prior to this and it had not been seen as dangerous before. 

But that didn't hold any water with the security agent.  In fact, I think it made him more determined.  (Hindsight's always 20/20!)

In the end, they destroyed the paint can and I was almost late for my flight. 

PLUS... I'm told that I'll be receiving a letter from the FAA in the next few weeks explaining the new regulations on what can and can't be taken on a plane.  How about that?!?

Now you may be asking why I brought this up when I'm supposed to be talking about work-life balance?

Well, the reason is... I have to admit that deep down I knew that something like this could happen.

I'd thought about cleaning out the can numerous times.  But I never got around to it. 

I just never thought I had enough time to do it. 

Can you relate? 

But, at the least convenient time... it became a problem. 

The 5 minutes that it would have taken to clean out the can turned into 30 + minutes of stress, a dance with airport security... and a letter from the FAA!

My question to you is "What's your paint can?" 

No, I don't think your doing dorky things like hauling paint cans on airplanes. 

But I'd bet that you have something around you... in your business... at your desk... at home... that's your "5 minute task." 

Something you've been avoiding?

Something that you haven't wanted to take the time to do?

My guess is that it's also something that... like my paint can... could blow up on you if you don't take the time to address it.  (Figuratively speaking... of course.)

What is it for you?

What could you take 5 minutes to do today... that might save you hours of stress later?

How would it feel to have it done? 

What would getting it done save you from?

Join in the conversation and let us know.  Then... get 'er done!

Photo credit: ellesmele

Some schoolin' and retoolin' on work-life balance

Okay... so I took the red-eye back from a speaking gig in California on Thursday night so that I could walk my boys to school on Friday morning. 

Yup.  I made it home in time.  School_desk

Yup.  I took a stand for my priorities. 

Yup.  I crashed and burned out of total exhaustion later that day. 

Can you relate?

It's days like that that remind me that even though I coach people on work/life balance, I also need to take some refresher courses on the subject from time to time. 

Yes.  I need to go back to school on balancing my work priorities and my life priorities.  How about you?

So... today... I thought I'd share some of my most recent schooling on the matter. 

Sound good?

Class 1:  Wendy Piersall offered 20 work-life balance tips for the overworked entrepreneur.  I especially liked her reminders on asking for help, blocking out time, running hard and then relaxing hard and lastly... her recommendations for getting a coach.  (My bias might be coming out there!)

Class 2:  Erina Lee at eHarmony Labs (Yes... that eHarmony) posted about some recent studies looking at work-life balance in relationships.  It's a bit more clinical... but it's still some good food for thought.

Class 3:  Susan Bernstein dug into the types of questions we're asking ourselves... especially around the concept of work-life balance and living a fulfilling life.  It's simple but instantly applicable.  Check it out.

Okay... So how about you? 

What have you been learning about work-life balance?  What has life been teaching you?  What have you been learning from others?

Jump in the conversation and let us know! 

Photo credit and kudos to: soldeace

How can we have fun?

Before author Dav Pilkey hit it big with kid's books like Captain Underpants and Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot... he was working at Pizza Hut.Captainunderpants_logo

In fact, his real name is "Dave" but when the manager of his Pizza Hut went to make his name badge, he ran out of label-maker tape so his name tag came out as just "Dav." 

It stuck.

Well, as Dav was schleping pizzas he dreamed of writing and selling kid's books... lots of them.

But he didn't ask "How can I sell a bunch of books?" 

The question he asked himself was... "How can I have fun writing and selling kid's books?"

Good question.

[Now you might be thinking "It's kid's books.  How can you NOT have fun?"  But have you looked at the shelves of kid's books lately?  Let's just say that you can see numerous examples of authors that aren't having fun.]

Bottom line?  Dav's question paid off.

Dav has sold over 8 million copies of his books and he continues to add titles and games to his list of successes.

This gets me thinking.

What if we asked that question of ourselves today?

"How could I have fun as I ________________ today?"

I know... I know...  it might appear to be harder to ask this question of yourself, if you're in a job you don't love or if you know that it's going to be a stress-filled day of meetings or if your business is hurting. 

But, what if?

What if we asked that question of ourselves?

I recently spoke on this topic at a weekend conference and a person in the audience raised her hand and said, "I'm going to ask this question now."  She continued, "Mine will be 'How can I have fun while I search for a job?'" 

The thing I loved about her response was that she was smiling a BIG smile as she said it.  It was almost like she couldn't help herself.  She just had to smile.  Yup.  She understood the power of this question.  She got it.

How about you?  Where could you be asking this question today?

Why not give it a try... and let us know what happens?

Who can I be learning from?

We lived in Billings, Montana a few years ago. 

When we were there, we lived in an older established neighborhood and we had one of those neighbors.  You know -- the one with the perfectly manicured yard?  River_rock

One day as I drove by, I noticed that that neighbor had added some river rock to his perfectly sculpted landscaping.  I had to admit that it looked great. 

You know... rugged yet refined. 

My first instinct was to think: "I like that.  I'd like that for my yard."  My second instinct was to ponder, "How I could do it quick and cheap?"  (Can you identify?)

So that weekend, I decided to go get some rocks. 

I thought "Heck, I live in Montana.  Rocks are everywhere.  Why not?"

The result? 

I spent about 3 + hours loading rocks.  I spent $50 in gas not to mention $250 in repairs to the suspension on my truck.  And I spent $ 8 for a bottle of motrin to help my aching back! 

All of it... for a relatively small pile of rocks.

So, what did I do next?  Well, it's what I should have done first.

I went to the neighbor.  I asked him about his rocks.  I asked him how he'd done it.   

As it turned out, he was great.  He explained that there was a quarry outside of town and that they brought him a HUGE load of rocks for $50... in less than 24 hours! 

Yup... 50 bucks... and no heavy lifting!

What did I learn?  What was the lesson?

I learned that I need to always be asking the question: "Who could I be learning from?" 

Then... I need to seek out those people for help. 

I also learned that it sometimes helps to seek those people out BEFORE I try something new.

Again, can you identify?

A few weeks ago I challenged you to put together your "Love or Loathe" list.  How did it go?  Did you give it a try?

As a result, some of you might be thinking about making a change... or wondering whether you need to try something new.

  • Maybe you're thinking that you want to try a new hobby or sport.
  • Maybe some of you are thinking about a career change.
  • Maybe some are pondering the idea of buying a new business or selling an old one.
  • Maybe some of you were inspired to add something to the mix... a new challenge... a new idea.  You know... a new mountain to climb.

If that's the case why not take a next step and ask yourself the question: "Who could I learn from?"   

Why not look around and see if you can find someone doing what you think you might want to do? 

Then give them a call or buy them some coffee and pick their brain.   

I know, I know, it's almost too simple.  But if I had heeded this advice a little sooner it would have saved me some time, money, and... back pain!

What could it save you?

Think about it. Give it a try. And let me know how it goes!

What do you think?  Who are you going to call?

Photo credit: Cobalt123

Do you love it or loathe it?

Recently, Curt Rosegren pointed to a free e-book by Lori and Arnie Herz of Legal Sanity

It was about connecting more of what you do in work to what you are passionate about in life. 

In effect, they were asking the question: "What if your work... AND your life... flowed more out of your passions and sweet spot?  What could happen?  What would it be like?"

How does that sound?  Pretty good right?Journal_4

Now, shooting for a perfect utopia in the biz world with rainbow and butterflies isn't really realistic. 

But what if?

These authors make the point that if you know where your passions are and you align your work with those passions, it results in more meaningful work.  And I like their definition of "meaningful work:"

"Meaningful work is work that more often than not, fills us instead of depleting us."

Okay... so how do we get there?

The Herz's have some suggestions.  You can check them out in their e-book. 

I also like one of Marcus Buckingham's approaches to finding your passions and strengths.  He calls it a Love/Loathe list. 

You simply carry a notebook with you and draw a line down the middle of each page.  At the top of the first column, you write "LOVE."  On the top of the second column, you write "LOATHE."

Then, as you go about your daily activities you track each activity by putting it on the appropriate side.  You just keep asking yourself "Do I love this... or loathe it?"  And then write it down.  Don't judge it.  Don't even worry about how you'd get rid of it. 

At this point you just write it down.

After a week or so you'll have a pretty good list of the things you love to do and the things you... well... the things you don't love to do.

What activities would be on your list?  Which column would they go in?

Give it a try and next week we'll talk about some of the things that you can do with your list that might help you to move towards what the Herzs call "Meaningful work."

Sound good?  Let me know how it goes... as it goes!

Photo credit and kudos to: kat and aq

What if you could travel the world or have a personal assistant for free?

Seriously.  How would that help your work-life balance?

Well... LitLiberation.org is launching a unique viral marketing campaign... and they're offering these (and other fun prizes) in exchange for some help from you.

I found out about it while I was checking out Tim Ferriss's blog today. 

He'd posted a video about the challenge from LitLiberation.

Click on the following video and find out more...

There are a few steps that you need to take... but again... with things like global travel... and help from a free assistant on the line... it might be worth 5 minutes.   

You just need to help LitLiberation a little (with spreading literacy around the world) AND remember that you only have until October 30th to get it done!

That's it.

So join in.  Get yourself a much needed vacation or personal assistant to help with that work/life balance.

What do you think?  Pretty cool huh?

Check it out... and let us know how it goes. 

Oh... and when you win the trip around the world... send us some pictures!

Sometimes you just need to play the game...

This week, I attended my son's chess club orientation.  He's in 1st grade and it was his first experience with the game.Chess

Now... I'm not going to lie...  the thought of teaching a group of 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders how to play chess is a bit scary, but... a couple of brave parents took the job and started working with the kids to explain how it all worked.

One parent started by reviewing the rules

He did a great job of explaining how the various pieces moved.  He showed the kids how some moved forward, some moved to the side and some could go anywhere they darn well pleased. 

For a while, the kids stayed with him... grasping at the rules and logistics.  But then, you could tell... they started to get lost in everything there was to understand. 

So another parent came from the back of the room and simply said, "Maybe we should just have everybody try to play the game?" 

You could tell the first parent was relieved by the suggestion and the kids launched into experimenting with the various pieces. 

As you can imagine, they devoured the game. 

Some kids were laughing.  Some stared at the board with the intensity of a Russian Chess Champion. 

Most made mistakes as they played... but they were learning as they went.  It was fun.  It was an adventure.

Then it struck me.  Sometimes we are just like these kids.  Right?

We get a new idea or get struck by something we want to try and we dive into the rules and the regulations.  Right?  It's not a bad thing.  Many times, it's the smart thing to do.

Maybe it's an idea for a new product. 

It would make sense to research the rules around that.  It would also make sense to do some research and check out the markets, competitors and opportunities.  Right?

Or maybe you're thinking about a new job

It would be important to check into things before making a leap.  You know.  Read about the industry.  Talk to people who are doing it.  Find out more.  Dig in.

BUT... just like kids getting lost in the rules of chess... sometimes we get stuck there.  Don't we?  Our eyes glaze over and the idea dies on the vine. 

Sound familiar?

Well sometimes you may just need to "try to play the game." 

Maybe you shouldn't spend thousands on equipment for your new product right away, but maybe you could find someone to help you make a prototype to test with people.

Maybe you shouldn't march in and quit your job today, but maybe there's someone you could to spend time with that's doing exactly what you want to be doing.  Maybe you could spend a day shadowing them to experiment and see if you really connect.

What do you think?

Okay, so here's my suggestion after watching the kids learn how to play chess and after coaching hundreds of people over the past few years:  Figure out a way to "play" today. 

Try something.  Have some fun.  Limit the risks.  But get out there and play the game.

Sure... just like my 1st grader... you will make some mistakes.  But isn't that one of the best ways to really learn? 

So... What are you going to try today?

Click "comments" and join in the conversation.

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon

Don't Let 'ISM' Slow You Down

Feeling buried? Is bankruptcy an option? (E-mail bankruptcy... that is.)

Do you ever feel buried by your e-mail in-box?Email_2

Have you heard about the growing trend of declaring e-mail bankruptcy? 

No?  Well... Lawrence Lessig (Wired columnist) described this tactic after spending 80+ hours trying to dig out from under the weight of his log-jammed in-box.

He said, "Bankruptcy is now my only option," as he sent a mass e-mail to his "correspondence creditors."  (Click here to see how Lessig did it.)

The key was that not only did he come up with a strategic way to turn over a new leaf... but he also committed to staying on top of it from that point on.  That shift is important.

Well... now... this trend is continuing to set people free.  And it's even impacting the way some people read blogs.

Yes... that's right.  Blogger/Lawyer Julie Flemming-Brown is even promoting the declaration of "blog bankruptcy."

YIKES!?!  If you're an avid blogger... you might say... "What's that!?!"

In short... Julie had fallen way behind in reading her blog RSS feeds... and decided to draw a line and start fresh.  (Read how she did it.)

Now... I'll say that I'm not a huge fan of declaring bankruptcy when it comes to a person's finances... but when it comes to e-mail and RSS feeds... I might just be for it. 

Especially when you consider the fact that a task left undone wears a person down more than doing it.  And with 100's to 1000's of e-mails piling up... sometimes it's impossible for a person to get out from underneath the load. 

An option... it seems... might come in the form of a mass e-mail and a "delete all" function.

The key is changing the pattern of behavior that got you in the hole in the first place.  If you'd like some strategies on that... you can check out one of my previous posts.

How about you?  What do you think?  Is this an option?  Have you done it yourself? 

Or... are you offended at the thought of being on the receiving end of it?

Click "comments" and join in the conversation.

Photo credit: SweetPea87

Don't have time for reading? Let technology help.

I love to read.  But... I don't have much time for it.Experiment

With early morning meetings... my reading sessions at sunrise tend to get cut short.

And... even though I go to bed with a book... with good intentions of reading for a while...  I usually fall asleep after digging into just a paragraph or two.  (In fact, my wife doesn't let me read hefty-hardcover books in bed any more.  I was too prone to dropping them on my face as I zonked out!)

How about you?

Do you enjoy reading but wrestle with the clock on finding the time to do it?

Well... technology has launched some options to help the too-busy-not-to-read crowd!

One big announcement came from XM Radio this week.  On September 10th, they are launching The Big Read in which celebs like Robert Duvall, Sandra Day O'Connor and Colin Powell are going to read classic novels for 30 minutes at a time.  The broadcasts will air three times a day.  So... you can catch installments of Fahrenheit 451 or the Great Gatsby while you're in your office... your car... or at home making dinner.

Another option is the growing number of titles that are available on itunes.  You can grab an audio version of many of the current best sellers (as well as many lesser-known titles) for your ipod.  So, instead of listening to 30 minutes of bad news as you jog on the treadmill in the morning... you can get filled up on some great new ideas or go on an wild adventure with your favorite secret agent.

So... again... if you're short on reading time... maybe listening to a book might make it an option.

Lastly, I will say that my wife, Melissa, always says there's nothing better than cracking open an actual book and pouring over the pages one by one.  So... if you're in that camp... and the new technology isn't an option... then hearing from the author of the Harry Potter series... J.K. Rowling... on her strategy for making time to read might help.  (click here to check it out). 

Either way... grab a book (a paper and glue version or an electronic version)... dig in... refresh... and enjoy!

By the way... how do you find time?  What are your strategies for making time to read?  Click "comments" and join in the conversation.

Photo credit: sweet destin

Could you limit yourself to only checking e-mail twice a day?

Back in May... I blogged about the power of saying "No!"

That sparked some discussions around coming up with a list of things to say "No" to. 

Why?  Well... by saying "No" to some things... you might be freed up to say "Yes" to more of the really important things in your work-life and your life-life.

Well... Tim Ferriss (author of the book 4-Hour Workweek) recently blogged about his "Not-to-do" list.Email_3

He has some excellent... but at-times harsh... suggestions.  Here are a few examples:

1. Do not answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers.

4. Do not let people ramble

6. Do not over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers

(See them all by clicking here)

I have to say that I really like a lot of his suggestions but the one that stands out for me... is his tip on checking e-mail.

Tim suggests not constantly checking your e-mail... but instead he suggests "batching" it and checking it only at 1 or 2 set times during each day. 

I like this concept because even though you can get some immediate satisfaction from knocking out e-mails throughout your day... it can quickly become a distraction that can eat up vital time that needs to be used for more important to-do's.

So... what do you think?  How might limiting your yourself to only checking e-mail once or twice a day... help you to manage your time better throughout the rest of the day?

What do you think?  Is it realistic?  Would it be worth a try?

Would it allow you to say "Yes" to the good stuff more often?

Click "comments" and jump in the conversation. 

Photo credit: Joeri van Veen

How do you balance things... if your office is 3 feet from your kitchen?

I recently had a coaching client who was making the move from working in a corporate setting to working from home. 

She was excited about joining the growing number of biz people who are making the move to an office in the home.  But she was also a little concerned about balancing things. 

Feet_on_desk_2How about you? 

Have you made the switch? 

If so... let me ask you a question.

Has it become easier to balance work and life... or has it become harder?

There are pluses... sure. 

The commute from the bedroom to the office is measured in footsteps instead of miles.  You can do some laundry during coffee breaks.  You can even raid your own refrigerator instead of spending $8 at a local sandwich shop.

So... yes... some things might be easier.

But... is there a potential downside?  Sure.

Your computer can call to you at all hours of the day and night... beaconing you to check e-mail just one more time.  Studies have also shown that it's easier to feel isolated when your only interpersonal connection during the day comes via the phone lines and high-speed internet. 

Another BIG issue is balancing work-life... with life-life... when the two worlds are so close together.

So what's a person to do?  How do you balance things?  How do you draw clear lines and set up effective boundaries? 

Those are the questions my client was asking.  They might be the questions you're asking too. 

For my client, we started to set up strategies for planning her day... so that she could end each day with a clear sense of accomplishment and with a clear expectation for the next day.

One solution was that she decided to set aside 30 minutes at the end of each day.  (She actually made an appointment with herself in her outlook calender.)  During that time she looked at her schedule for the next day along with her to-do list.

She would do some simple math to figure out how much time she had to work on her list of "to-do's" the following day. 

Her equation?  Total hours in work day - planned meetings = actual work time for "to-do's."

For example... let's say that Tuesday she was planning on working from 8 to 4:30.  She would look at her calendar and see that she had three one-hour teleconferences.  She also had a one hour lunch meeting with 30 minutes of commute time.  Plus, she had her 30 minutes of planning time.

So... 8.5 hours - 5 hours for meetings and planning = 3.5 hours for to-do's.

Then... she would look at her to-do's and decide on what she could realistically accomplish with that time. 

Lastly, she would build her to-do list for the next day based on the actual amount of work time she had.

This helped her come up with realistic goals for the next day.  Plus, it helped her to accomplish more in the time that she actually had.

She told me, "I feel more peace of mind by being able to close my lap top at the end of the day and know that even though there's a lot to do... I got everything done that I could.  AND that I know that I can come back tomorrow and go after it again.  It makes it easier to not feel like I have to be working all the time!"

Clear goals... and clear boundaries... that sounds pretty good to me!

How about you? 

How do you balance working from home?  Join in the conversation and share some of your strategies!

If you'd like a few more suggestions... check out Scott Young's 20 tips for working from home.

Photo credit: Cynner SF

Does the early bird get the shaft?

So... are you an early riser?

Do you love to get to work early... so that you can leave early?

You know... get in a few hours before everyone else... so you can get things done without anyone else around.At_work_early

Mmmmm.  Does the thought of a sunrise, a hot cup of coffee on the desk and a quite office make your heart sing?

Then go for it.

BUT when you do... be strategic. 

Why? 

Well... as you know... many offices have an unwritten rule.  It's "The last one to leave is the MVP." 

Heck... forget leaving early... in some cases... just leaving on time can sometimes lead to a perception that you must not have enough to do. 

Sound familiar?

So... what's an early riser to do?

Well... Laura Stack, a productivity guru, lists some excellent insights on helping the early bird get the worm... not the shaft.

Maybe Laura's post on getting in early... and getting out early... will grab your attention, but you might push back because of having trouble with getting up in the wee hours of the morning to take advantage of the quiet early-morning moments in the office.

Well, then check out Dave Cheong's 15 tips on getting out of bed early!  It'll help you get going... with or without double doses of super-high-octane caffeine!

Okay... now I'm off for another cup o' coffee and a few more quite hours in the office.

How about you?  What are some of your strategies for going in early... and getting out on time? 

Photo credit: marklein

Does your cell phone help or hurt your work life balance?

After wrapping up some meetings this morning, I jumped in my car to drive back to my office. 

I started my car.  I pulled out of my parking space.  What do you think I did next?

Yup.  Without even thinking... I grabbed my phone to check my voice mail and my e-mail.  (Sound familiar?)

But... for some reason... this morning... I stopped. Text_1

I just looked at my phone, almost like I wondered how it got in my hand.  Can you relate?

I mean... I didn't even remember grabbing the thing.  But... there it was. 

It was like urban-jungle instinct.  I didn't have to think about it.  I just did it.

Get in car... check voice mail.  Stop at a stop light... check e-mail. 

It's almost like there is an unwritten mantra that says "Spare time = check in."

Is this a bad thing?  Maybe... maybe not. 

I'm just wondering if it becomes bad when it becomes habit.  You know?

I don't mean to wax poetic here.  I don't want to just point back to simpler times while playing the theme song to the Andy Griffith show

But... in that moment this morning... it struck me.  I have a new habit.  Grabbing that phone and "checking things" is just what I do several times a day. 

And I'll admit that sometimes... it's when I need to... but many times... it's when I don't.  Can you relate?

I will even admit that I can be tempted by my "habit" after hours or when I'm with my family. 

Oh... you know... that quick check of e-mail just to make sure there isn't a crisis or a tidal wave to deal with. 

But it's easy to get sucked in... isn't it?  And then... you're distracted for a few minutes... or sometimes... a few hours. 

And the "habit" causes you to miss stuff.  Sometimes it's a morning sunrise and sometimes it's a conversation with someone important.

So... have I sworn off checking voice mail or e-mail?  Nope.

But... here's what I came up with.

Before I dive into my handy technology... I'm going to ask myself a simple question.

"Am I doing this because I need to?  Or am I doing this out of habit?"

It may not be a perfect system... but I'm betting that it'll help me see a few more sunrises and have a few more conversations about super heroes with my kids.  And today... that's good enough for me. 

How about you? 

Does technology help you balance your life... or does it get in the way?  What boundaries work for you?

Click comments and join in the conversation.

If you want to find out more about the subject of work/life balance and mobile phones, check out Peter Suciu's recent post. Click here.

Photo Credit: dewayne

We Need New Heroes

Stoops When it comes to life/work balance... we need new heroes. 

To that I say... "what about Bob?"  Bob Stoops that is.

By college football coaching standards, Bob Stoops is all screwed up.  By work/life balance standards... he's right-side up.

College football coaches are supposed to have horrible schedules with travel and watching game tapes until 3 AM.  They're supposed to demand the same of their staff... with team meetings at 6 AM after spending the night on the office couch.  They're supposed to squeeze their family in on Sunday afternoons before heading to one last meeting to review the weekend's game.

Well... nobody told Bob Stoops.

Instead of staying at the office until late... he's usually home by dinner.  He holds Wednesday-night "family-meetings" that allow his coaches spouses and their kids to turn the Sooner's football offices into a gymnasium.  Oh... and he doesn't start his day until 8:45 AM, so that his staff can participate in their family's various morning activities.

The world might think that his approach would damage his effectiveness.  But... his record would suggest otherwise.  (Stoops has a combined record of 86-18 -- the second most wins by any Division 1-A school and the best record of any BCS school during that stretch.)

Plus... the announcement about his salary last week also helps to prove that this work/life balance can be done and that it can be done... and done well.

Is it possible in your industry? 

Is this kind of balance possible in your life?  Maybe.  I don't know.

But... it's important to know that people are doing it.  It gives us hope.

Yup. 

It's important to have heroes.  And even though I'm not even a college football fan... I've got a new hero in Bob Stoops

How about you?  Who are some of your heroes when it comes to work/life balance?

More importantly... what's something you do... could do... or want to try to do to become better at this work/life balance thing?   

Photo on Flickr by BillyA

Stressed? Well... don't think about the purple cow!

I recently had a coaching client say, "I'm so stressed out.  I just can't help thinking about all the bad things that might happen at work right now.  I can't get anything done... and I can't stop thinking about work when I get home."

I said, "Don't think about the purple cow."Purple_cow

She was a little rattled.  Then she responded with a weak "what?"

I explained that I once had a high school psychology teacher who tried an experiment with us. 

He started the class by saying, "Today... I have a simple request.  I don't want you to think about purple cows."

I think my response at the time was something close to my coaching client's.  I said, "What?"

He said, "It's simple.  I don't want you to think about purple cows.  I don't want you to think about whether purple cows have horns.  I don't want you to think about whether purple cows have purple spots.  I don't want you to think about purple cows eating grass.  Just don't think about purple cows."

Then... he did the unthinkable.  He started to ask everyone questions about what was on their minds.

"Tim.  What are YOU thinking about?" 

Tim's response, "Purple cows."

He continued already in a huff.  "Margaret.  What are YOU thinking about?"

Margaret's voice cracked as she said "purple cows." 

He said... "But I clearly instructed you to NOT think about purple cows!" 

He continued around the room until he got to Debbie.  Debbie's response finally brought a smile to the teacher's weary face.

What did Debbie say? She simply responded with..."A pink gorilla."

Yup.  Debbie had figured out how to beat the purple cow that was staring everybody else in the face. 

She knew that instead of trying to not think about something... she needed to replace it with something better... something more vivid.  She needed to think of something new that would replace the old.

So, what does this have to do with being stressed out?

Well... my client was trying to not think about her negative thoughts and predictions, but it wasn't working.  She was trying to NOT think about purple cows. 

So... instead, we worked on a set of questions that would help her to replace those negative images with a more positive thoughts.

Some of here favorites were:

  • What's one positive thing that I'm learning right now... that will help me in the future?
  • This might not work, but then again it might.  So, what's one positive thing that could result from this project?
  • What are 5 things that I can be grateful about... right now?

So... what are some questions that you could ask yourself to replace the purple cow with the pink gorilla.  Or in other words... what would help you move from the negative thoughts causing you stress and worry... to more positive thoughts... that free you up to relax... and become solution oriented?

Click "comments" and join in the conversation.  Let me know some of the things you could think about to replace your own purple cows.

Photo credit: juliaf

A Perfectionist with a Cluttered House? Is that Possible?

When I'm teaching a seminar on perfectionism... I usually have some fun in the beginning of the day by having the group profile a "typical" perfectionist.

They will shout out things like... "Type A personality!"  "A driver!"  "Controlling!"  "A hard worker!" 

And almost always... someone will say something like... "Their house looks like a museum!  Clean.  Polished.  Perfectly maintained." 

And yes... all of these things can be true.  300905712_b6565adeb8

BUT... can a person have a cluttered home... a cluttered desk... a cluttered life... and still be a perfectionist? 

Yup.

It's true.

In fact, more often than not... a person who is dealing with perfectionism... will have a lot of clutter in their life.

Why?

Well... many times... a perfectionist will look at a task like cleaning their home and they'll want to do it perfectly.  So they'll start to list all of the things they need to do in their head.  Scrub the floors.  Fold the laundry.  Pick up the toys in the kid's room.  Wash the windows.  Dust.  Mow the lawn. 

The list grows and grows because they want to do it perfectly.  Right?

Then they might look at the clock and see that they only have an hour.  And... that's when they realize that they can't get it all done... perfectly.

So... many times... the person dealing with perfectionism... just won't do it.  They stop.  They say to themselves... either consciously or subconsciously... "If I can't get it done perfectly... why even start?" 

Sound familiar?

For you... maybe this happens at work.  Maybe it's research for a new service that you'd like to offer.  Or... maybe it's getting around to hiring that new person you know that you need.  Or maybe it's looking at your benefits package.

You just don't start... because you can't do it perfectly.  It would take too long.  It's overwhelming. 

And maybe... like many people... you didn't even know that you were dealing with perfectionism.

At this point, some might suggest a mantra like "It doesn't have to be perfect.  It just has to be done."  And this can work.  But... as business owners... the risk of this type of statement is that we might produce work that falls short of the  level of excellence we want for our organization. 

So... here's a suggestion. 

When you come up against this challenge.  Break your project down into manageable parts.  Recognize that you can't get all of it done perfectly, right now.  But, you can do one part really really well. 

So decide on that one thing and go after it.

Then commit to scheduling a time to take the next step.

This can help you to break through the stalemate that perfectionism can cause.  And it can help you to get the things done that you need to get done.  Whether it's getting rid of the clutter at home... or getting that BIG project at work... done.

Want to find out more... Check out Rodger Constandse's post on Avoiding Perfectionism without getting sloppy!

What other strategies have helped you to break through perfectionism?  Let us know.  Share your wisdom.  Just click on "comments" and let the rest of us know how YOU do it!

Photo credit: florriebassingbourn

Just say no.

Today, we're going to talk about the power of "no."No

Now... just so you know... I'm a recovering perfectionist, so I know the thrill of saying "yes."

You perfectionists out there know what I'm talking about.

Here's a scenario:  Someone comes to you with a task and they really need help.  Maybe it's a volunteer position... a side project at work... or even a position on their softball team.  They let you know that they really really need you.

You already have too much on your plate... but you say "yes."

And... for a moment... it feels really good.  Doesn't it?  The person really appreciates the help.  You get to be the "go-to person."  As they walk away... they might even say, "I knew I could count on you.  You're the person everybody can always count on." 

Ahhh yes... it feels good.

But then... maybe 5 days... 5 hours... or 5 seconds later... the weight of your "yes" sets in.  It becomes one more thing piled on a growing stack of tasks.  One more thing on a mile-long to do list.

So... as a perfectionist... what do you do?  You work to get the job done.  Right?

The problem is... when we say "yes" to the wrong things, we have to say "no" to a lot of the right things. 

You have to sacrifice time on other important roles or time with important people... to get the job done... right?  Or... you have to call the person or send a painful e-mail to let them know you just can't get it done. 

And then, the thrill of the "yes" becomes the the pain of the "late no."  Have you felt it?

Okay... so let me ask a question.  What if you said "no" more often? 

I know.  I know.  It might be painful at first.  And... you may not get to always be seen as the "go-to" person all the time. 

But... let me ask a second question.  What would you get to say "yes" to, if you said "no" more often?

Maybe you'd be able to do a better job on a more important project.  Maybe you would even enjoy your work more.  Or... maybe you'd be able to have a relaxed dinner with your friends or family at the end of the day... because you'd know that you'd gotten the right things done in the right way.

Is it worth a try?  Author and speaker,Tim Sanders thinks so.  Check out his post on the power of no.

So... what is something you're going to say "no" to today?  Seriously... click on "comment" below... and let the world know about one thing that you'll say "no" to.

Photo credit: righteye

Fill up the tank...

A few weeks ago I asked you to think about what makes you run out of gas. 

You know... what wears you out... what dries you up... what makes you poop out? 

Okay... you've got the picture.  (check out the post.)

Now that you have some things in mind... I'm going to ask a different question. 

What fills you up?

Seriously... think about it.  If you're worn down... what do you do? 

When your mental... spiritual... emotional... tank is on "E" and your internal warning light's blinking... what do you do to fill back up?

Does anything come to mind?

Maybe you escape by listening to some of your favorite music.  Maybe its reading from a favorite book.  Maybe you journal.  Maybe it's time with your favorite people.

Heck... maybe you play a video game. Yes... I even said video games.  (Read a post from SHARP BRAINS about how aging Japanese are using video games to re-energize!)

What is it for you?

I have a friend who swears by what he calls "encouragement calls." 

When he starts to get a little down... or if he's feeling the need for some mental juice or encouragement... he just calls somebody else to pump them up. 

He explains that he'll call and leave a voice mail to let that person know how great they are... or to remind them of something they've done that's made an impact on his life.

Full_tank He's told me that it seems like reverse logic to give away what you need.  But... he says it always comes back to him... seven fold. 

Plus... he's shared the strategy with a number of people... and they've started to do the same thing. 

Now... people have started to call him with an "encouragement call" out of the blue... and he said... "they usually come at just the perfect time."

How about you? 

What do you do to fill up? 

What do you do to re-energize?  Go ahead and comment... and let us know.

Oh... why not try out an "encouragement call?"  Let us know how it goes.

Enjoy.

Photo credit: Carl M.

What's on your "fun list?"

Okay... so... did you take the challenge from last week?  What was on your list? 

Grow_up_3Where you surprised by anything?  Did it make you think about things you hadn't thought about doing for a while?  Did you run out and do something on your list that you hadn't done for a while?  (I hope so!)

Now... you might be wondering how the "fun list" helped my client who was thinking about a career change... and wondering what she wanted to do with her life.

Well, first of all... it's just a fun thing to do.  (Sometimes... that's enough.)

But second... we dug into her list.

One of the things that came up was that she loved to do puzzles. 

When I asked her about it... she said that she had loved to do puzzles since she was a little kid.  She said she used to spend hours on puzzles.

Then... it hit her.  Puzzles were the reason why she'd gotten into computer programing.  She explained that she loved figuring out the puzzle of fixing or improving a program. 

She said... "I loved to dig in... and you know... solve the puzzle."

As we explored that... she realized that over the past 2 years... she had started to move away from programing... and more into managing people and projects.  And... we noted that neither of those things (managing people or projects) were on her fun list.

So... we started to brainstorm on how she might be able to get back to solving puzzles more... at work. 

Over time, she was able to take on more projects where she could get involved with the actual programing.  This allowed her to get back to what she loved.

Yes... she continued to manage people and projects... but since she had more of her "fun list" and puzzles in her daily life... she got back to the heart of what she loved doing.

Her performance improved... and she stayed in her position.

It was a small shift.  But... it helped to change everything for her.

Lastly... she also made the commitment to do something from "fun list" weekly.  AND... she commited to adding to her fun list often.

How about you? What's on your list? 

More importantly... how might you infuse your daily life with more of those things?  How might that impact the way you live... work... and relate with others?

Give it a try... and let us know what happens.

Photo credit:lonatic

"I'm 42 and I'm still not sure what I want to be when I grow up!"

I recently had a business owner say this in a coaching session. 

JournalShe continued, "I don't know. I used to really enjoy what I do... but now... well... it's just not fun anymore.  I'm thinking that I need to make a change.  I'm just not sure it's what I want to do anymore."

Can you relate?  Maybe you used to love what you do... and now... well... now it's just a "job."  Maybe you're even feeling the "itch" to make a change.

Well... if you can identify... you might benefit from the same homework I gave my coaching client. 

My assignment: Write down your "fun list."

You might be saying, "What's a fun list?"  Well... my coaching client asked the same question.

There are 4 simple steps to the "fun list" assignment.

  1. Grab a journal to write in.  (My coaching client chose a $8 journal from Borders.)
  2. Go some place where your mojo really flows.  You know... a place where you can really relax... feel good and not be interrupted.(My coaching client chose her favorite coffee shop.)
  3. Write down 100 things that you love to do. 
    • Think about it... if it brings you joy... write it down. 
    • If it's fun... write it down. 
    • Don't filter.  Don't judge.  Just write 'em down.
    • NOTE: Anything is fair game.  I've seen "burping" show up on these lists.  I've seen "Eating Ben and Jerry's at 2 AM" on the list.  Again... don't filter... just write down whatever comes to mind.
  4. Stay there... until you're done.
    • NOTE: This might be tough... but it's worth it. 

To some... this might seem trivial, but my client tried it and we wound up uncovering some things that changed the way she lived.  But... I don't want to go there yet.  We'll talk about those discoveries soon.

Are you up to the challenge?  What would be on your list?  Take some time.  Write down your 100. 

It's fun... and whether you're 20, 30, 50 or 80... it might help you to figure out what you want to do when you grow up!

Oh... and in the meantime... comment and let us know a couple of the things on your list!

Photo credit: ronin beav

Are You On Empty?

Gas We recently purchased a new vehicle and I've been having fun with some of the gadgets. 

One of my favorites is a counter that ticks downwards as you drive. It tells you how many more miles you can go before you run out of gas.  I just love that. 

Why? 

Well... I tend to be one of those people who goes and goes until I'm almost on empty. 

Now... I know that as Coach... I probably shouldn't admit that.  But... it's just in my nature.  I'm getting better... but as a recovering perfectionist... it's something I have to work on daily.  How about you?  Can you identify?

As I was driving the other day... watching the miles tick away... I started to wonder, "what if we had one of those "tickers" internally?"  You know... something we could watch to see if we're almost on empty... emotionally... physically... mentally.

The more I thought about it... the more I realized we do.  Okay... we might not have a digital ticker thingy... but we do have warning signs.  Right?

What are some of yours? 

For me... you can tell that I'm close to empty when my creativity starts to dry up.  It's also when I'm quicker to see the obsticles instead of the opportunties.  Another clue is when I'm quicker to get mad at a situation (or myself) instead of laugh. 

When I start to see those warning signs... I know that it's time to stop and fill up. (Next week... we're going to talk about how to fill up.)

This week... I'm just going to ask you how you know your tank is getting empty?  What are some of your signs?

I know... I know... this might seem like kind of a negative question.  But... it's important to think about it.  I'd even suggest you journal about it.  That way... when you start to see the "signs," you'll know to slow it down... and fill 'er up.

So... what are some of your signals that your tank's getting low?

Oh... and if you can't wait until next week for some suggestions on filling up... check out this great post at lifehack.org.  (Click here to check it out.)

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