Life/Work Balance

From Frantic to Fabulous: Finding Balance by Kicking Stress to the Curb

Suitcases #2

Rita Perea is President of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully establish executive presence, lead high-performing teams, engage employees, manage change and create work/life balance.

Are you feeling frantic? Overwhelmed by responsibilities on the job and at home? Do you feel like a hamster running on a wheel without a way to stop and jump off? Are you feeling exhausted but don’t know where to begin to feel better and more in control of work and life?

One way to move the needle from feeling frantic to feeling fabulous- shiny, sparkly and having it all together- is to take a good, honest look at the stressors in your life and at work. And then do something about it! Most people find that targeting and minimizing one or two areas of stress feels doable and empowering. Trying to tackle all areas of stress at one time can feel, well, even more stressful and overwhelming. That’s not what we are going for here.

These five stress-reduction tips can help you feel at the top of your game again:

  1. Give yourself a break. When you find yourself in a stressful situation, it is important to remove yourself and take a time out, even if it is only for a few minutes. Do you have a supervisor at work who is unpleasant and relentless? After an interaction with him/her, take a short walk outside for a little fresh air to gain your perspective again.
  2. Do it now. Procrastination, putting things off and telling yourself that you will get to these tasks later, causes stress that we may not even be aware of. Think of each task that you procrastinate about as a new little sticky note attached to your brain. Too many of these distractions hanging there waiting for attention can cause the a person to feel overwhelmed and to not be able to think clearly. If you adopt the mantra of “Do it now!” you can minimize stress-producing procrastination and decrease your to do list.
  3. Change your thinking, change your life. Stress is a way of reacting to events and problems, and you can lock yourself into one way of viewing your situation. If you can take a few minutes to try to view a situation from different angles and change our thinking about the situation, you can choose to react differently. You can seek an outside perspective of the situation by talking with a trusted friend, coach or counselor, and then compare it to yours. A change in attitude can unlock your stress- filled condition.
  4. Do something for others. We can find ourselves stuck in the cycle of negative thinking which can lead to fear, anxiety and despair. Our focus can get locked on ourselves and how miserable we are. If we do something for another person, especially someone less fortunate than ourselves, we can can mentally and emotionally move from having our own little pity-party to feeling gratitude that our situation is so much better than we thought. Spreading love and cheer is a wonderful way to support others as well as ourselves.
  5. Be present in the moment. Focusing on the future or the past can cause fear, anxiety and stress. When we are mindful and present in each moment, we are not worrying about what the future holds or regretting the past. The negativity is sometimes called “stinking thinking” and we can get stuck in this unproductive mental loop. When we are present in the moment we are not standing in fear. We are simply noticing and aware of our thinking and our feelings moment by moment by moment. When you find your mind wandering off to the past or the future, you can simply notice what your thoughts are and return your attention to the present moment. Being mindful will slow you down, reduce your stress and help you feel focused and relaxed to complete the task at hand. You can take this a step farther and incorporate mindfulness meditation into your day. This is a supercharged way to get work and life feeling balanced again. Visit the Succeed! blog on my website to find out more about mindfulness meditation and taking a time out from stress.

We all have stress in our lives, but too much can make us feel sick, overwhelmed, irritated, angry, distracted and frantic. By kicking the excess stress out of our lives and to the curb we can feel fabulous, relaxed, in control and balanced.


Rita Perea can be reached at:
Website and blog:
Phone: 515-577-5666
Connect with Rita on LinkedIn
Be Rita's friend on Facebook
Follow Rita on Twitter

Escaping email overload

Fingers on keyboard photo- Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders and managers to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.   

     In these times, we’re all being called upon to do more with less — less time, less money and fewer people. This pressure can create a hamster-on-a-wheel feeling as we scramble to get everything done. Although the rules of business have changed, many people haven’t received updated skills training on how to manage the flow of information into their lives, especially through email.

    Recently I conducted a leadership institute with a group of directors from various organizations. During our group sessions and individual coaching meetings, I asked about their biggest source of stress in their jobs. Almost every single person said the amount of email they received and responded to each day topped their list. This overload caused them to develop unhealthy habits surrounding email, including working tremendously long hours and a life without balance.

    Effectively overcoming this time crunch and email overload requires developing new habits. But before you, or anyone else, can change, you need to know exactly what you’re already doing. That’s why I ask clients to do a time audit. During this process, you look at how you use your time over the course of three days. By logging your activities in 15-minute increments from the time you get up in the morning until the time you go to bed at night, you can pinpoint where your time is going and why you feel like you don’t have enough.

    Although many people don’t see it this way, spending time is like spending money. Just like you have a certain amount of money in the bank that you can use to achieve your goals and enjoy life, you have a certain amount of time each day that you can spend on your personal and professional activities. When you overdraw from your banking account, you run into problems. The same is true when you try to take too much out of your time account. It doesn’t work, and you feel stressed. That’s why you need to make sure you’re spending your time effectively and efficiently to accomplish your objectives for the day.

    After you complete your time audit, you can identify where you’re “overspending,” and clearly define the ideal life that you’re trying to create. As you ponder your balanced lifestyle, think about activities such as exercise, vacation or simply getting work projects done on time. Once you’ve envisioned your ideal, you can create a plan for how to build that lifestyle within the constraints of your responsibilities at work and at home.

    At work, one of the biggest keys to achieving this balance involves limiting the octopus-like control of email over your schedule. If you’re spending every spare minute answering messages, when can you move forward on projects?

    Another key to "work flow wow" is limiting the frequency and length of time you spend checking email. Many people feel like they need to respond immediately to all email, even if it’s not a priority. In brief, here’s my solution: Limit yourself to checking email three times a day. Preferably you’ll do this in 30-minute time blocks in the morning after your project time, before you go to lunch, and before you wrap up for the day.

    By breaking the control of email over your schedule, you will not only increase your productivity but also your inner peace. Before you implement the email skimming process described below, consider these keys to success:

  • Turn off any email alerts. Even if you don’t constantly check your email, alerts will create psychological distraction that can cause you to take up to 25 percent longer to complete tasks.
  • Don’t email when you should call. If you’re writing over five lines, picking up the phone can be more efficient than using email.
  • Email doesn’t stand for immediate response. You need to get out of the habit of feeling that you must respond immediately to others or expecting them to do the same for you.

    Now that we’ve covered some of the ground rules, here’s a guide to skimming your inbox. Each time you open up your inbox during your allotted time blocks, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is answering this email going to bring me closer to achieving one of my goals?
  • Can this email wait until tomorrow?
  • Will delaying my response keep someone from accomplishing his or her work?
  • Could I respond to multiple emails in a single email reply?
  • Can I delete or ignore this email without serious repercussions?

    As you begin this process, you’ll find that very few of these messages actually get you closer to your goals and even fewer require immediate responses. I highly encourage you to try out this method and start to experience workflow wow!

© Rita Perea, 2016

Feeling overwhelmed? Try letting go

Peace begins when expectations end photo- Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Just let go! The advice sounds so counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Your mind may be screaming back, “Oh, no! How can I possibly let go? There is so much to do and not enough time to do it all. I can’t let go! What if I miss a deadline? What if the kids don’t get dinner? What if the laundry is not done? What if? What if? What if?”

Yet research clearly shows us that if things are piling up and we are feeling overwhelmed, the precise prescription to feel better is to walk away for a bit. Or better yet, take a day off. You will return with a renewed attitude and uplifted spirits. By letting go, if only for a few minutes, you will also be able to think more clearly and be more productive when you return to your projects.

Another way to remove yourself from the feeling of being overwhelmed is to take an honest look at the expectations you have of yourself and others. Decide which expectations are inconsequential and then let them go.

Are you a perfectionist? I was too and it was literally killing me. Through a series of unpleasant events I got the message that not everything I am doing has equal weight. My business projects need to be a priority and need to be done very well. I hold myself to high standards for those. But other things in my life are simply not as important.

We humans think in patterns and love to categorize. To help me sift and sort the importance of each task and project, I created a little mantra for myself: “How Good is Good Enough?”

When I begin to work on something I quietly ask myself, “How good IS good enough?” This simple question allows me to choose how much time and energy needs to be put into the task at hand. Or if I will do it at all. My mantra also creates a huge sense of freedom as I let go of unrealistic expectations. The weight of feeling overwhelmed is lifted from my shoulders when I determine how good “good enough” really needs to be. Then I simply let go of the rest of the expectation.

Let’s try this out. Does it really matter if there are dirty dishes in my kitchen sink? How good is good enough? Since the morning is my most productive time, is it good enough to leave the dirty dishes in the sink right now and to spend my time writing instead. Really, will anyone die if there are dirty dishes in the sink? I release the expectation that in order to be a good person my kitchen sink has to always be clear of dirty dishes. (Where did that unconscious programmed belief even come from? How preposterous!) And then I say to myself, “No one is going to die because there are dirty dishes in the sink. Who cares? Let that go!” Then I take a deep breath and walk away from the dishes. The beauty is that this entire conversation with myself happens in a split second. My choices about where to spend my time and energy all come from asking “How good IS good enough?”

Now you try it. Will anyone die because the shoes by the doorway are in disarray? How good is good enough? Will anyone die because you chose not to look at your email on Sunday afternoon and to focus on family time instead? How good IS good enough? The mantra is a great stress reduction and work-life balance strategy.

In my garden greenhouse I have a rock that has a saying etched on it, “Peace begins when expectations end.” When I figure out which expectations I can put an end to and then release them, I sink into the most delicious feeling of peace and serenity. This is what balance feels like. Feeling overwhelmed is a thing of the past. At those moments I welcome the ease. Everything feels right with the world. My intention is to let go, release expectations and to create more of these Zen moments in my life. Ahhhhh!

Feeling stressed, tired and rushed?

Stressed out office worker photo for IowaBiz  (1)Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Are you juggling work and family commitments and feeling as though you are not doing either well? It turns out that you are not alone.

Welcome to a social problem that is plaguing American workers. Some researchers call it ‘work-life balance’, some call it ‘work-family effectiveness’. Whatever we call it we should take heart that if we work and have family commitments for children, aging parents or just making time to take good care of ourselves, this is not an individual problem. The feelings of inadequacy that juggling responsibilities creates is a social problem. It is an issue that most of us need to think about and address to break the cycle of feeling overwhelmed.

In 1989 a book called “The Second Shift” rocked our worlds when sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild described the double burden employed mothers face because they are also responsible for housework and child care after returning home from a long day at work. In 2014, she said that despite some changes in society, the workplace had not changed enough to alleviate these stressors and problems.

Research study after research study indicates that the tension caused by juggling commitments is affecting American family life. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the White House Council of Economic Advisors shows us that working parents are the new norm. Sixtyt percent of children now live in households where all of the parents in the home work at least part time. In 1965 the number was only 40 percent.

The Pew research group found that 56 percent of all working parents say that the balancing act is difficult. These folks are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful; they are less likely to find it enjoyable and rewarding. Even if the children are grown you may find that you are still carrying the responsibility for a portion of their support and their living arrangements on top of your demanding job.

Sixty-five percent of parents with college degrees in the Pew study said they found it difficult to balance job and family. Professional workers are more likely than hourly workers to be expected to work, even after they leave the office, creating more work after the housework and family care responsibilities of “the second shift’.

The expectations of modern parenthood, care taking for elderly parents and the post-recession workplace, where working longer hours with less support is common, have all collided. We all lose.

How is a person in the new American workforce supposed to deal with these issues? The suggestions here are just a beginning list as I will be sharing more strategies in future articles:

  1. Engage other family members to take responsibility. Attend the Lift IOWA and Business Record event “Sharing the Second Shift” on May 4, 2016, to learn more about how gender equity in the home results in better outcomes for mothers, fathers, children and business. My business, Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, is a proud sponsor of this important event. Register at
  2. Become a lean family machine. Whether you are a single parent, an uncoupled person caring for an aging parent, or part of a partnership caring for children or pets, to alleviate our stressors we need to strategically create an efficient lifestyle given the realities of our work and family situations. A good first step is to take stock and list all of the commitments you have. Then pare down. Jettison anything that is a non-essential activity in your family and use that extra time to spend quality time together as a family.
  3. Be creative with your time. Would your employer consider a flexible work schedule where you arrive and leave early each day? Can you do any work from home or off site during the work week, minimizing the need for child care? Can you swing by the gym on your way to work and stay a bit later at the office that evening? Can you create a family game of getting the housework done each weekend, complete with rewards? Can you hire someone to do the things you don’t like to do or have the energy to do, freeing you up to feel more fulfilled about where you are putting your time.
  4. Have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself. Are your expectations to “be, do and have it all” unrealistic at this time in your life? Take the pressure off yourself and learn to say these magic words: “How good is good enough?” No, I am not advocating mediocrity here. I am suggesting prioritizing which tasks or activities make the most sense to spend time on. Do the children’s shoes have to be arranged perfectly next to the doorway? Is it worth 10 minutes of your day to rearrange them or can you live with them in disarray and instead spend the 10 minutes to read a story to your kids. How good IS good enough?
  5. Have a heart-to-heart talk with your family. Sit them down and brainstorm solutions to the problem of having too much to do and too little time to do it in. Who is willing and capable of feeding the dog each day? Is your partner willing to commit to cooking or providing take-out four days a week? My husband tells the story of when his mother, at the age of 52, decided to finish her bachelor’s degree and pursue a master’s degree with the dream of becoming a teacher. She held a family meeting to announce that her education would be her top priority and that the family would all need to work together to figure out a plan to put meals on the table each night. She was not going to be providing that service to them anymore. The beautiful part of this story is that the family collaborated, Ruth attained her college degrees and the lives of the students she taught were positively influenced. By having the strength and courage to speak her truth and let go, she created a win-win for everyone.

Balancing your professional life and your personal life does not have to be elusive. Using these suggestions, we can all take one small step today to slow down, become aware and make a deliberate small but mighty change. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, stressed and tired, we can feel a bit of peacefulness and enjoy our work and family situations again.

Why delegate?

Iowa Biz blog delegation photo puzzle pieceRita Perea is president of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders and managers to successfully establish executive presence, lead high-performing teams, engage employees, manage change and create work/life balance.

One of the most important, but unfortunately overlooked, leadership skills to develop for career success is delegation. Some people define it as “letting go.” I believe that it is really a matter of streamlining your workload to increase your available time to manage people and projects more effectively. Better delegation ultimately results in a more motivated, involved staff, less stress and enhanced work-life balance.

American businesswoman Jessica Jackley, who co-founded Kiva micro-loans, believes that, “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” She credits much of her success to the art of successful delegation.

In the past, delegation was typically a top-down activity with the work load flowing from the top of the organization downward. Today with our flatter organizational structures and remote work teams, there are many more opportunities to delegate: up to managers, down to subordinates and horizontally to peers and workmates. Often overlooked is the fact that delegation requires a high level of trust to work well. You want to find those people in your organization where you have a relationship based on trustworthiness, mutual respect and mutual purpose. That is the natural place for successful delegation to occur.

As I consult with executives to sharpen their leadership skills, I share these seven essential keys for successful delegation:

1. Plan it out: Consider how you will manage a project before you delegate it. If you can’t manage it, maybe you should rethink delegating it.

2. Decide on the intended results and the level of responsibility: What are the goals that you need this project to achieve? What is the level of decision-making responsibility that you are willing to delegate along with the project? Are you giving the other person free rein to make project decisions or do they need to check in with you or someone else at every turn?

3. Select the right person for the job: Remember, delegation is built on the foundation of a relationship built on trust, mutual respect and mutual purpose. Be sure that the person you are delegating to has the skills needed to accomplish the project, has the organization’s best interest in mind and will support you in your endeavors.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Do you wish that people could read your mind? Maybe it is a good thing that they can't. Write out the pertinent details of the project for the person you are delegating to. Provide some structure or a visual model of what you are seeking as an end result. Provide clarity in the goals, controls and agreed upon check points to discuss the project's progress.

5. Write it down: This is a little trick that I learned when I was managing a large team and delegating frequently. I kept a delegation notebook to help me track key details and checkpoints in projects. I would capture notes in my notebook in front of the person I delegated to. This let my direct report know that I was not going to forget what I was delegating to them. It was a visual clue that I had a tool for tracking the details and holding them accountable. It was easy for me to point out that we had a discussion and agreed upon key details when I had it documented in my delegation notebook.

6. Hold the other person accountable: Sure, there are times when deadlines are missed, mistakes are made, and we might want to extend the benefit of the doubt to the person we delegated an important project to. Before you get sucked into some sob story about why a project is not farther along in the timeline, realize that being held accountable is a professional development opportunity for your co-worker. Think twice before you accept their excuses. It might be better to get them back on track and manage the project a bit more closely with weekly meetings or updates in a constructive, positive way.

7. Create a motivating work environment: A recent Gallup poll indicated that 61 percent of all American workers did not receive praise for their work last year and believe that they are disengaged employees. To create a more motivating culture, say the magic words  “please” and “thank you”. Show people that you value their contributions. Give praise to co-workers for a job well-done. People who feel genuinely appreciated will want to work with you on projects and will put their best efforts forward.

Delegation is a powerful tool for empowering others to shine at doing their best work. If done well, it allows you to spend focused time at work doing your best work, too, which decreases stress. Decreased stress increases positive work-life balance. And who doesn’t want to feel more balanced and in control of their time and their life?

Where does the time go?

Rita Perea is celebrating her 15th year as president and CEO of ImagesRita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting. She specializes in working with senior leaders and managers to successfully establish executive presence, lead high-performing teams, engage employees, manage change and create work/life balance.

Do you ever end the work day and, in a befuddled sort of way, ask yourself where your time went? If your answer is yes, you are not alone. One of the biggest challenges to creating wellbeing in our work and in our lives is our habit of letting time slip away without really knowing where it is being spent. The old saying is true: “The more you do of what you are doing, the more you’ll get of what you are getting”.

Think about this: everything you do, all day long, either will help you move toward your goal or will hinder you from reaching your goal. If you want better results, you’ve got to change the way you are using your time. The way to move closer to balancing work and life is to analyze your choices about what you are using your time for.

A great place to begin analyzing where our time is going is to look at our daily habits. Habits determine what we do every day. Some habits are helpful and others are not. Habitual behavior uses a great deal of our time. Some habits we are aware of. Others we are, unfortunately, clueless about. Drinking a cup of coffee every morning is a habit for me. If I am totally honest about it, one cup of coffee can take up 30 minutes or more of my time, especially if I am ordering it at my favorite coffee shop. When looking at spending more time with important activities, this could be one area to explore.

A second area to examine are time choices. What are the choices that you control about how to use your time? If you are an entrepreneur you may get many time-choice opportunities each day. If you work for someone else your time choices may be limited to evening and weekend activities. You may spend six hours each Saturday playing golf. Is that a good way to spend your time?

An excellent way to take a closer look at time patterns is to keep a time log. A time log is a journal of every daily activity and the amount of time you spent on each. Use your time log to track what you do, when you do it and why you do it for one week and then review it. The results can be quite eye-opening and may lead you to make necessary time changes.

I was involved as a volunteer board member and knew that I was giving this organization too much time. However, once I looked at my time log I was shocked to see just how much time the board position and all of the internal communications were eating. The evidence suggested that I needed to make a change.

A wise person once said, “It is not enough to know; you must act. Knowledge without action is powerless.” Recognize your habits and how you spend your discretionary time. Then create and execute a plan to bring balance into your work and life. Your return on invested time will be well worth it.

Balancing life and work: It’s all about energy management

Burn out image for Iowa Biz

Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Consulting Associates, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life. 

I wonder if you’ve ever felt like you’ve hit a wall? Could you just sleep for months? Are you tired of being tired? Feel like you don’t have the time or the energy to do one more thing or take on one more project at work or at home?

You may be heading toward burnout. In the e-book series I’ve written, From Frantic to Fabulous: Transforming Your Work and Your World, I share that burnout is a form of being mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. When a person is burned-out and exhausted, they lack  joy, enthusiasm and motivation. There may also be deep feelings of ineffectiveness and frustration. Burnout can be caused by extreme stressors at home, at work, or both, which may be causing us to do too much, over-function and expend more energy than we have. 

At increased risk of feeling burned out are those in the “sandwich generation” -- still working demanding jobs, having elderly parents whose needs for care may be increasing, and having children or teenagers at home. With so many demands on their time and energy, these folks feel as though all of the responsibility falls on their shoulders and there is nowhere to turn for relief. They are constantly wondering when will things get back to normal again, not realizing that this is their “new normal” and they need new strategies to navigate through the exhaustion they feel. 

One of those strategies is something I call Energy Management or “EM.”  A bit different from time management, energy management recognizes the physical reality that a person really does have only so much physical, emotional and mental energy, called personal energy, to expend before they need to recharge their internal batteries through rest, sleep and alone time.

Think of it this way: your personal energy is like that cup of coffee you enjoy so much every morning. Once you drink all of the coffee in the cup, you have to refill the cup to enjoy more coffee. Likewise with your personal energy; once your energy is depleted you need to rest and recharge to restore yourself to maximum efficiency again. As with the batteries on our smartphones, if we don’t recharge the batteries, our device does not work. If we do not take the time to recharge our personal energy battery, we don’t perform the best in our work and our world. 

An EM strategy is on Sunday or first thing Monday morning, take a look ahead at your week. Ask yourself what are your goals and what do you want to achieve for the week.  Then begin to make thoughtful choices about the activities you will participate in and the actions you will take based on a projection of the amount of energy those activities or actions will use. The idea is to pace yourself each day so that your energy coffee cup lasts the entire day and you are not crawling home from work exhausted each night. 

 A real life example might be:

  1. Your goal is to get one sale closer to reaching your year-end numbers.  
  2. Looking at the week ahead, you know that you need to travel out of state for sales appointments on Tuesday and will return late on Wednesday evening.  On Thursday you have the opportunity to attend a power-packed breakfast event and on Thursday evening a community networking reception. Friday is a business as usual day with a gathering of friends after work.   
  3. Because you see that Tuesday and Wednesday will be long travel days, and your energy coffee cup will likely be empty both nights, you may zero in on Thursday’s schedule with the goal of conserving your energy. This is where making those important energy management choices comes in to keep your energy cup as full as possible.  
  4. You ask yourself- Is it crucial to reach my goals that I attend both an early morning event and an evening event on Thursday? Maybe the smartest choice is to call the event host (on Monday morning because a few days notice is polite) and extend your kindest regrets to acknowledge that you will be unable to attend the event.  
  5. Or, maybe you manage to attend both events on Thursday, because they are critical to your success, and then arrange for a day off on Friday so you can rest and recharge.  

By making thoughtful EM choices you aren’t “burning the candle at both ends.”  Instead you are wisely conserving the energy in your energy coffee cup while attending to your goals. Managing your energy leads to being more engaged and present, happy and healthy.   

And, just maybe, will have the energy to have a really fun weekend again! 


Inbox out of control?

- Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Consulting Associates, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.  Stressed man at desk

I am not sure about you, but when I have email that I have not processed in a timely manner it feels like a huge weight around my neck. Unprocessed email causes me stress, anxiety and sleepless nights worrying about what is in my inbox that I am not attending to. Does this sound familiar?

What is email? Webster defines this as “messages that are sent electronically from one computer to another.” It sounds pretty benign, doesn’t it?  Even kind of fun -- getting and receiving... just like Christmas.  Ha! 

Nothing shatters our illusion of balancing work and life quite like the state of panic that comes with feeling that you are buried under a pile of email messages. Its a stress-producing product of our modern age.  

The problem with email is that too many people are trying to communicate with you since it is such a cheap and easy way to do so. This creates mental clutter in your mind and physical clutter on your computer desktop. This clutter is a bunch of loose ends -- each email is a loose end hanging out there in cyberspace waiting for your response.

And, if we are honest about it, we contribute to piles of email in other people’s inboxes, too. All of these little innocent-looking pieces of clutter create physical and mental energy drains as your attention bounces around from one person’s communication and train of thought to the next. Too many email messages can steal time away from your other projects and can create chaos, both in your inbox and in your mind.

There are a few tricks to tame your inbox. Here are seven of my favorites: 

  • Email is not a substitute for actually meeting with people. Schedule a meeting!
  • Respond today to the emails you received in your inbox yesterday (not immediately as they enter your inbox). Decide that you will not respond to emails until the following day. This will slow down your temptation to watch your inbox.  This also gives you a bit of breathing space and allows you to focus your attention on project completion rather than answering email. Don't worry, most people are not critical of one-day delays in email replies. If something needs to be handled quickly, the person who needs it should call you. 
  • When you respond the next day, reply to people quickly but respectfully by: Reading the email and Responding with;
  1. A greeting
  2. Less than five sentences; Three lines are optimal
  3. A cordial closing
  4. Finish by placing the new item on your calendar or a new “to do” in your task management system. 
  • Use only one topic in the subject line. When the topic changes, change the subject line, too. Send separate emails for separate topics or separate questions. Your emails will feel less overwhelming to the recipient and will be easier to search later. 
  • One of my favorite tricks is to indicate the action requested in the subject line.  This will help the email recipient understand what you need before they read the email. For example, a subject line of “Conference Meeting- question” lets the reader know that there is a question about the conference meeting that you will be holding.  This simple step really helps the other person act upon what you are asking for. 
  • Use your “Out of Office” reply tool so people do not expect responses while you are away. In my auto-responder I thank the sender for their inquiry; tell them how long I will be gone; and suggest that if they need immediate assistance that they can reach me on my mobile phone number, which I include. This works well for me and the people who are trying to reach me.  
  • My very favorite tip is to NOT respond if I am only on the CC line. I avoid jamming up anyone else’s email inbox by NOT selecting “Reply All”. Does everyone on the list really need to see that you’ve said “Thanks” to the sender?  

Taming your inbox and getting dangling issues under control is crucial for your sense of accomplishment, well-being and stress reduction.

Maybe you have a favorite email tip or trick that you would like to share with IowaBiz readers? Just place it in the comment section below. Cheers to working toward a zero inbox and more free time for fun. 


Powering down: Take the technology detox challenge

Technology and coffee photo for Iowa Biz July 2015Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Consulting Associates, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

It has become fashionable in our American culture of sanctioned and celebrated workaholism to tell people how busy we are.  How many times a week does this conversation happen... Person #1 asks, “Hi! How are you?”  Person #2 responds with, “OMG!  I am SOOOO busy, you just cannot believe it!”  Unfortunately Person #2 is displaying their busyness like a badge of honor. Sadly, most of us are in this same camp of feeling overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time to do it either at work or at home. 

Busyness is often confused with our 24/7 connectedness -- the control that electronic devices have over our lives -- which can wreak havoc on any semblance of work-life balance we may be trying to find. Research shows us that at the very moment we feel we are at the height of overwhelming busyness and that we simply cannot add one more project or detail, this is the very time that it’s beneficial to power down and take a technology diet.

The reason is simple: all of the information we are receiving can overload our brain circuitry making us feel distracted, scattered and ineffective. If we take a break for 24 or 48 or 72 hours we allow our brains to rest and hit the “reset” button. When we return to our busyness we feel much more focused and efficient and not so overwhelmed. 

You may be thinking, “Give up my phone and email for 24 hours?  Are you CRAZY?”  

No, I’m not crazy. I am concerned about people’s mental, emotional and physical health, though. I am concerned about the health of our society. I actually know people who regularly implement a technology detox as part of their work-life balance routines.  Many people in senior leadership positions are simply and routinely unavailable. Research aside, they swear by the benefit of feeling more peaceful and less stressed during and after their technology-free time. 

Personally, I power down my computer every Friday at 4 p.m. and do not power up again until 8 a.m. on Monday morning. I put my email auto-responder on to alert important senders that I am unavailable. My executive coaching clients know how to contact me on the weekends if an issue cannot wait until Monday morning but in 15 years of business this has only happened once.

I do leave my mobile phone on during weekend daytime hours but do not use it for social media updates, to search the web or sneak a peek at email. I love creating the time on the weekend to read a book, putter in my garden or socialize in person with family and friends without the interference of being distracted by technology. When I return to business on Monday morning, I do so with enthusiasm, clarity, focus and renewed energy. Weekend detoxing from the technological drain has made such a difference in my life.  I am confident that it can bring some balance back to yours too.

Give it a try! Take the technology diet challenge this weekend. Make a commitment to power down for only 24 hours. Only 24 hours!  You can do it! When you emerge from the device detox you will feel vibrant, focused and balanced like a brand-new person. And you will have reclaimed some much needed time for yourself and your family.  What could be better than that? 


The magic 30

Clock photo- Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Consulting Associates, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life. 

    Readers of my recent blog posts have sent some great questions and I have been asked to share more about a specific work-life balance technique in a previous post. Today's post responds to those questions. 

    Has this ever happened to you? You are driving home after work wondering what the heck you accomplished that day and feeling overwhelmed that your projects are now a full day further behind than they were yesterday. You panic. Then you let out a heavy sigh, knowing that you will not enjoy your evening because your mind will be focused on the work waiting for you in the morning. This makes you even more anxious and focused on the projects waiting on your desk. Pretty soon you realize that your thoughts are in a downward spiral and you begin to wonder what you can do differently to be sure that the work drama and interruptions do not gobble up your day. 

    Enter the “magic 30”...  Creating 30 minutes of uninterrupted and distraction-free time  in your schedule each morning. This six-step strategy can work incredibly well to help you regain the feeling of accomplishment each day, which leads to less work anxiety and better work-life balance.  

    Step One: When you arrive at work, do not automatically turn on your computer to scan your email or pick up your phone to check for voice messages.  (I can hear the gasps and objections right now. Stay with me, here. It will be well worth it, I promise!)  Instead, and this is important, close your office door.  If you are in an open space sharing situation, politely let those  seated next to you know that you are working on a critical project and need 30 minutes of uninterrupted time.  

    Step Two: Take out your highest priority project and place it on your desk.  Or open your computer to print out your highest priority project. (Caution- Do not sneak a peek at your email while printing out your project!) 

    Step Three: Set the alarm on your mobile phone to ring in 30 minutes. (Caution- Do not sneak a look at your email while setting your phone alarm!)

    Step Four: Work on your project for 30 blissful, uninterrupted minutes until your phone alarm signals that you can stop. 

    Step Five: Decide if you want to continue to work on your priority project for a few more minutes or not. Once you get started it is easy to keep going. If you want to keep working, set your alarm for an additional 15 minutes or more. 

    Step Six: When your alarm signals the end of your uninterrupted time, move away from your desk. Open your office door. Signal to your space sharing friends that you are at a stopping point on your critical project. Bask (really bask) in the feeling of accomplishment you now have from making progress on that priority project.  

    When you emerge from your 30-minute cocoon of uninterrupted time, give yourself permission to turn on your computer, check your email, check your voice mail.  Finally, the addictive itch to see what’ s up with others can be scratched. 

    Revel in the fact that no matter which fires you are tasked with putting out, you will leave work with the feeling that you have accomplished something today. You can enjoy your evening participating in activities that you enjoy instead of being anxious about unfinished work projects.  

    Make a promise to yourself to repeat the “magic 30” again tomorrow, and then for the rest of the week. You are developing a new habit. Keep it going. 

    There now, doesn’t that deep sense of accomplishment feel amazing? You bet it does!


Mindfulness instead of multi-tasking

Rita Perea is President and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Consulting Associates, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Balance wheel imageA five-week trip to Australia a few years ago left a lasting impact on my life in so many unpredictable ways. 

During the adventure, which was funded as a cultural exchange by Rotary International, I was fortunate to stay in 11 different homes to experience life as an Aussie.  One of my most important takeaways from the sojourn was to learn how different the Australian relationship with time and with work are compared to ours in the U.S.

Research has shown us that when we multi-task it takes us 25 percent longer to accomplish a task. That’s right... instead of getting more done in a short period of time, multi-takings, doing two or more things at once, actually lengthens the time that it takes to complete something.  

Think about it. You are working away on an email when you remember that you forgot to pull the file for your next meeting. So, you stop working on the email, go over to the filing cabinet, find the file, return with the file to your desk, only to sit down and say to yourself, “What was I doing?  Oh, yeah, I remember now.”  You now have to re-read your half-composed email before finishing and sending it. You know in your gut that you aren’t accomplishing as much as you could.  You secretly wonder what is wrong with you and why you can’t get all of this work finished. 

The Aussies would say, “No worries, Mate!” and invite you slow down and do one thing at a time. Also called mindfulness, it is focusing on being present, really, really present, with the one task that you are trying to complete or the one thing that you are doing.

Have you ever had the experience of being so fully engaged and present in a project that you lost all track of time? This is the opposite of multi-tasking- that crazy randomness of doing several things at once. 

I learned from my Australian friends that they do what they can do at this moment and they do not worry about the rest. And they do this moment-by-moment.  This results in a more relaxed and easy going demeanor. They experience less stress. 

The Australians also know and understand the value of “taking a break, Mate.” 

I witnessed their practice of arriving at work around 9 AM and taking a coffee break around 10 AM.  Working a bit more until lunch time and then repeating the ritualistic break time in the afternoon.

The workday ended around 4 PM with a retreat home that would include a glass of white wine while preparing the evening meal.

This was followed by a glass of red wine while eating the evening meal. With few people eating at restaurants during the week, cooking dinner and eating it was viewed as a break from the work day.  It may feel counter-intuitive but the result is more mindful, focused and productive work time in between breaks.  

Work-life balance research supports taking breaks. It shows us that when we are most overwhelmed and feeling like we are buried in work, that is the time to loosen our death grip and take a break. We can go for a walk, or schedule a few days off. Whatever we need to do to let go, rejuvenate and return with a fresh pair of eyes and a new outlook.  That short break helps us be so much more productive but in an effortless, not effort-filled, way.

Let’s stop taking ourselves so darned seriously and, like our friends down under, begin to enjoy our workdays. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain- including a more efficient and fun way to live.

Cheers to better work-life balance!


Find balance by taking a time out

Rita Perea is President and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Consulting Associates, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Let’s face it. Executives, business owners, managers and directors are busy, busy people. Some days life can be a blur of meetings, commitments and fires to put out. With email, voice mail and snail mail all vying for our attention, things can pile up quickly until we feel like our personal and work lives are out of control.

Man meditating with computer

What can we do to get our lives under control again? To feel productive again? To feel less stressed and harried? Try taking a time out, also called meditation, during your day - every day.

More people than ever are doing some form of this stress-busting meditation, and researchers are discovering it has some quite extraordinary effects on the brains of those who do it regularly.

Time outs can last as little as five minutes or as long as an hour. The focus of a time out is to quiet your breathing, relax and rejuvenate your overworked mind and body.

I have been meditating regularly for over ten years with great results. I like to begin my day gently with an hour of meditation. The result that I’ve had with regular time to quiet my mind is that my days flow smoother, I am more creative and productive. I have found that if I do not make the time to meditate each day I feel frazzled, scattered and unorganized. I feel forgetful and distracted. Life presents speed bumps, not the open super highway. 

Neuroscience has now proven that just a few hours of quiet reflection each week can lead to an intriguing range of mental and physical effects. Consider that meditation is now accepted as a useful therapy for anxiety and depression.  

It’s being explored by schools, pro sports teams and military units to enhance performance, and is showing promise as a way of helping sufferers of chronic pain, too. 

So, now that we know why we should consider taking time for ourselves, and what the benefits could be, let’s talk about how to weave this into our already busy days to make this happen.

There are many different types of meditation postures a busy person can use. Depending on how you posture your body during your time out, you’ll be able to access different qualities of your inner guidance system- your subconscious mind.   recommend three different meditations and body postures that you can do in the office or at home.

 Sitting: The purpose of a sitting meditation is to call upon one’s inner wisdom. This posture is best used when you are grappling with a tough problem that you need guidance for. During this time out, sit comfortably either on the floor with your legs crossed, or in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. If your office is not very private, you could even sit in your car. Allow you arms to rest with your hands palms up on your thighs. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Notice your breath coming in and going out at that spot near the tip of your nose. Ask for inner guidance and wisdom to solve the problem or to find a creative solution. If you have a thought, simply notice it and return to focusing on your breathing. Stay in this position for five minutes. Over time work your way up to 15 minutes.  

Standing: If you’re getting ready for a tough meeting and need to access your inner authority, then a standing meditation could be very helpful. This posture can assist you in dealing with things from a place of self-respect and self-confidence, setting limits without guilt. During this time out, simply stand with your arms and legs uncrossed, your feet flat on the floor and your eyes wide open. Focus on your breathing. Notice your breath coming in and going out. Ask for your inner strength and personal power to show itself in your tasks today. If you have a thought, simply notice it. Continue to focus on your breath. Stay in this position for five minutes. Work your way up to 15 minutes.

Moving: Sometimes we need some help getting our "creative juices" flowing. A moving meditation can do just that. During a moving time out you could be walking, jogging, biking, dancing, or taking part in any other activity that you choose to help you listen to your inner voice. My personal favorite is gardening.  During this time out, keep your body open and uncrossed. Focus on your breathing. Notice your breath coming in and going out. Ask for the ability to be more creative. Continue to focus on your breath. You’ll notice some intuitive insights and creative solutions that begin to appear spontaneously. Stay in this moving meditation for five minutes. Work your way up to 15 minutes.

So, what are you waiting for? Make the choice to begin to get up five minutes earlier tomorrow morning and just breathe. A happier, healthier, more productive life is waiting for you. All you have to do is take a time out.

Balance begins with taking stock

Rita Perea is President and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Consulting Associates, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Taking stock blog post photo

The coffee shop conversation started when I asked my friend to share her biggest work-life balance challenge with me. I wanted to find out what this incredibly successful executive saw as a barrier to having a healthy, happy, fulfilling personal and professional life.

After setting down her mocha latte, my friend sighed heavily, rolled her eyes and dramatically slumped forward on the coffee shop couch.  “Oh, where do I begin????”

The question about perceived barriers to work-life balance hung in the air as I waited for her to gather her thoughts. The pregnant pause lasted for a long time. She finally straightened up, squared her shoulders and set her jaw. I knew that she was getting into “warrior princess” mode and would be sharing the good stuff with me momentarily. 

My longtime friend looked me in the eye and started, “I think that I do really well to keep things moving forward at home and at work. In both worlds I find that I am continually managing people and projects to not just meet, but to exceed, expectations. It might seem a bit funny to others to think about the task of being sure that the dog gets fed every morning as part of a project, but if you take a 30,000 foot view of it, the project becomes keeping the dog healthy for a long time. That involves the action step of feeding him each day, right? And someone has to step up or be assigned to do that task. For me, chunking things, even my personal life things, out into projects with goals and an informal action plan really helps me keep it all straight and organized. So I use the same sort of project management strategies at home and at work. I feel more balanced when I can be the same person with the same dynamic style at home and at work.”

I nodded as I listened intently and told her that I completely understood. I use the project approach myself with success. I think of all of my personal and professional projects as pieces of a puzzle. The puzzle is my life in totality, both at work and outside of work.  When all of the puzzle pieces fit together well and are aligned, life works well for me.

When a piece is not fitting in, becomes too massive or out of control with too many sub-pieces to manage, life can become seriously unbalanced. Research supports this and informs us that over time an out-of-balance life can lead to exhaustion, irritability, obesity, mental fogginess and, ultimately, the medical condition of adrenal gland fatigue, for both men and women. 

My female executive friend continued, “The thing that throws me off track and makes me crazy is when I get to the tipping point with too many projects that I am managing at home, at work, and in the community. Look, I need to be visible and involved in the community for my job. That is a given and I embrace that. I sit on several community boards and volunteer my personal time to do so. It is hard when a person who is being paid as an employee of the board does not respect that as a volunteer I only have so much time and energy to give to the cause. These community commitments can be fulfilling but they can also add an additional layer of projects to manage in my life. Sometimes I need to take stock of my commitments in a very honest way and make some decisions about if I am the best person for that position on that Board or committee. When I am feeling over committed, I find that it is a good idea to do some soul searching to determine if my time is being used to the best for all concerned, including my family. I am also occasionally assessing if I am robbing someone else of a leadership opportunity that may enhance their career or be a meaningful in their life. If so, it may be time for me to graciously move out of the way.”  

My training as a work-life balance specialist supports this “taking stock” of time commitments strategy that my friend uses. I like to suggest that people begin employing this technique annually, and then incrementally move to a monthly review of both personal and professional time commitments.

Just the very act of reviewing how you are spending your time and seeing where you can add or shave some off will help you feel as though you have some breathing space.  

My friend concluded our coffee meeting by saying, “At the end of the day, I am my biggest champion or my biggest hinderance to my own work-life balance. It comes back to me.  I am the only one who can do the diligent work of making healthy choices to support this balancing act we call life everyday.  Some days I do it better than other days.  Recognizing this and being gentle with myself is also part of finding that balance.”

If you find yourself continually feeling rushed, stressed, like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it, take my friend’s advice. Honestly take stock, assess, analyze and then take action to create more work-life balance in your personal and professional life.

Dismantling the distractions in your work day

Rita Perea is President and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Consulting Associates, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Has this ever happened to get to the end of your work day and wonder if you've achieved anything? Where did the time go?  Maybe you start to think about the projects you didn’t get accomplished and ask yourself why?

Life hacker photo- labeled for reuseChances are that you are being distracted at work. 

It happens to us all in small ways: the bell on your personal cell phone signaling a text message; the little banner which flashes across your computer screen to announce the arrival of a new email; the co-worker who stops by your office to commiserate at length about his inability to work on the new project because he doesn't have enough time.

Taken separately these are all just tiny incidents. We can handle one item and then get back to the task at hand. Together, however, they become a raging river of distractions which take us careening off course and leave us feeling depleted and exhausted. An overload of continuous distractions can cause us to become low performers, which can potentially impact our job negatively.

Let’s look at the story of Sally (of course, not her real name). Sally was an exceptional supervisor managing an award-winning marketing team. She had an open door policy with her team members and would invite anyone to discuss anything with her at anytime.   Sally’s office was like a revolving door- people coming in and going out all day long. 

During the holidays Sally’s children got their own cell phones. Everyday after school the kids would send oodles of text messages to her seeking her attention as a referee in their disputes. Sally began to avoid marketing calls with clients during that “magical” after school time to be available if the children sent a text. This cut Sally’s productivity down substantially. She started to work later and later, which eroded what little work-life balance she had. 

To make matters worse, Sally’s husband also got a new iPhone 6 and began sending emails and text messages to her throughout the day about meaningless dribble such as, “Let’s remember to pick up cat food on Saturday!” The dings, the dongs, the bells and the whistles were distracting not only to Sally but to her team as well. Sally’s unfinished projects were stacking up and she was at the breaking point. Her distractions were insidious. She did not really know why she was being so unproductive, only that she was not the high-performer she once was. 

Fearing that she was going to receive a terrible performance review, Sally wisely sought some advice for this complicated problem. 

Sally’s mentor suggested that she begin to take control of the situation by completing a daily time log. Sally agreed to document which project she was working on every 30 minutes. If she was interrupted, she would log it by noting who interrupted her and what the interruption was about.

Sally kept track of her time and was shocked after reviewing just the first three days. She clearly saw some patterns that needed to be changed. She knew that she had to take action to dismantle her daily distractions and to get her work life back on track again. 

Sally focused on changing several behaviors that made all of the difference in the world: 

  1. Start the day with uninterrupted time.  Sally arrived at work, went into her office, closed the door and started her day by working on one high-priority project for 30 minutes. She did not check her email. She did not check voice messages. Instead she immediately dug into her most pressing project. After 30 minutes of uninterrupted and focused time, she opened her door and emerged, feeling as though she had already accomplished something important for the day.
  2. Build time into the schedule to check and respond to email, voice and text messages. Sally decided that she would check her devices and respond only during three windows of time each day: After her uninterrupted 30 minutes of morning work time; after lunch; and for an hour before she left the office for the day. She also instructed her family to not send text messages or call her during the work day unless it was an emergency. Sally had to remind herself over and over again that she did not have to quickly react to each message she was receiving. She felt comfortable responding within 24 hours. She gave herself permission to take her time and to be purposeful about her responses to other people’s inquiries.
  3. Scheduling team time and one-on-one time with her employees. Sally subtly changed her open door policy to the proactive model of scheduling time each week to speak with people. Of course, Sally will help with problem solving in emergency situations, but if she thinks that a problem can wait she will ask the employee to put it on their “Meeting with Sally” list.
  4. Use Friday afternoons for unfinished business and planning the week ahead.   Sally deliberately schedules time in the office and at her desk on Fridays to finish those projects which can be wrapped up before the weekend. She also finds it useful to review upcoming projects for the week ahead. When Sally leaves the office on Fridays, she knows that she can enjoy her time with her family during the weekend because she left things in a good place at work.  

We all need to be ever-vigilant in minimizing our own work distractions and interruptions to maximize the balance between our personal and our professional lives.

Pushing past procrastination

Rita Perea is President and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Consulting Associates. delivers cutting-edge content written by local business and thought-leaders.  I am honored to begin sharing my 25-plus years of leadership experience and future-forward thinking to inform and inspire IowaBiz readers in the area of Life-Work Balance. 

Being at the top of your game day after day, and living your life to its fullest, requires the development of successful time mastery habits. “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” carries the classic wisdom from a very accomplished Benjamin Franklin. 

As an executive coach and a certified work-life balance specialist, I have had many clients who express a feeling of being overwhelmed with “too much to do and not enough time to do it.”  This feeling of not knowing where to begin can lead to inertia, being weighed down and unable to move. They find themselves in a full-blown habit of procrastination - putting things off until tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day. 

At one time or another we have all fallen prey to the self-sabotaging behavior of putting important tasks aside until “some other time”.   Unfortunately for some who are stuck in the avoidance cycle, another time never magically appears.  This is the opposite of the Nike tag line “Just Do It”.  In our culture winners achieve results and losers just do nothing.  To be self-actualized at work and in our personal lives, we need to overcome the behaviors that shoot us in the foot, often making us feel badly about ourselves. 

The first step in breaking the procrastination habit is to take some spacious, mindful time and list all of your projects, committees and activities in both your professional and personal life.  Put everything that you spend your time doing on the professional or personal list. 

 Once you have looked over your list, the second step is to be honest with yourself.  This can be difficult but it is important. Have you said “yes” to projects or activities that you could have said “No” to and find that you have overcommitted your time?  If so, are there any areas on your list that aren’t aligned with your goals which you could gracefully exit from? Maybe its time to give another person the opportunity to lead a committee or be the PTA president.  This honest appraisal will help you release those things that are stressing you out.  It will also help you reclaim more of your 24-hour day to execute the tasks that you have been putting off.   That will feel so good!

After you have done some self-examination, maybe you have discovered the problem you have is that, honestly, you are just making excuses.  A great technique to break this procrastination habit is to ask your personal coach, or a friend whom you trust, to be your very own “accountability buddy.”  It works like this: you identify the one, two or three tasks, activities or projects that you want to accomplish and when you want to get them completed by. Then, on a set day and time, you report out to the other person about your progress towards your goal.

Not wanting to let the other person down, this technique is a motivator to help you begin to create the “Just Do It” habit.  Research from Brown University has shown that the use of a “weight loss buddy” can help a person lose twice as much weight. Having an accountability buddy is fun and it really works. 

I was having lunch with a friend a few weeks ago and she mentioned that she has been putting off making a doctor’s appointment for the past six months. She was not afraid or concerned about anything, she was just procrastinating.  Unfortunately, she was beating herself up each week for not making the time to make the call. My response was that all too often we procrastinate about our self care, but that really it is one of the most important things to accomplish in our quest for life-work balance. If we don’t make the time to take care of ourselves, who will?  I told my friend that I was going to help her out by being her “accountability buddy.”  I told her that I would  call her the following Friday to have her share with me that she made the call to schedule the appointment.  Her face lit up as she affirmed that this was a great idea and was just the kick in the pants that she needed to take a small action.  

I am happy to report that my friend received a gold star from me that week.  She went above and beyond expectations and scheduled three appointments that she had been procrastinating about.  A bonus is that taking just one small baby step, one micro-action, toward completing an important task feels insanely good. It releases well-being chemicals in our brain. This helps to break the self-defeating cycle and inspires us to want to accomplish more.  

So come on... what are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present to take one small step in the right direction and away from the self-sabotage of procrastination. 


The whitewaters of work and life

I recently had the joy of creating live visuals for an event organized by Mike Kleis of Executive Forums Iowa. Mike invited renown author and experienced business advisor Les McKeown to speak about his two books, “Predictable Success,” and, “The Synergist.”
As I sketched away on my iPad to visually synthesize the essence of his talk, I was blown away by what McKeown described.

My Two Takeaways:

  1. There are seven stages of growth and decline in a business life cycle: Early Struggle, Fun, White-Water, Predictable Success, Treadmill, Big Rut, and Death Rattle.
  2. Decisions are made and executed at different rates of speed according to the stage of growth or decline. Click here for my live visual of a decide-implement matrix.

The third stage, also called the “White-Water” stage of business growth, was especially intriguing to me. Here’s how McKeown explains it:

  • The business is running you, instead of you running it.
  • Your schedule is so full, you no longer have time for relationship building.
  • Firefighting isn’t just for the guys with the cool red trucks.

So, what does Mr. McKeown encourage us to do?

The book, Predictable Success, shares relevant advice for business leaders on how to move out of White-Water and into Predictable Success.

Chapters four and nine brought the following points to the surface for me:

  • Cover of "Predictable Success: Getting Yo...Cover via Amazon

    If you want to grow, recognize and implement the right balance of systems and processes.
  • Shift the way you make decisions so that you can better manage the complexity you face. Take a little more time to decide, so that you can execute on the right decisions more quickly (and avoid the wrong ones too).
  • If you don’t want to grow, do less and reduce complexity. There is nothing wrong with that.

This pinged my thinking. The stresses of the White-Water stage and the author’s advice on how to move out of it -- well, these apply to our personal lives, too.

What new systems and processes will you create in life and in work? Will you tweak the method and rate at which decisions are made and implemented, so that you can get out of White-Water, and move into Predictable Success?

- Jocelyn Wallace

Related Links:

Carol Roth Interviews Les McKeown

Gini Dietrich of Interviews Les McKeown

Enhanced by Zemanta

Three tips to clarify your vision

Business owners. Leaders. Entrepreneurs. Intrapreneurs. Domestic Executives. Gas-guzzling SUVs. We all have something in common. Drain Gain by jocelynwallace

We are a bit drained these days!

I consult for companies who drive in the fast lane of marketplace change. As they adapt and innovate, business leaders want to clearly communicate their vision, both internally to their teams and externally through sales and marketing channels.

But if a business owner assumes everyone sees what she sees, she is driving an “SUV gas guzzler” -- burning a lot of resources and moving the needle from full to empty quickly.

To avoid this, I help management teams clarify and communicate their vision through the use of visual strategies. Interestingly, the same basic principles and processes work for clarifying and communicating a vision for life too.

3 Tips for Clarifying Your Vision for Work and Life

  1. Discover or Redefine Your Core Values. I created a VISUAL HOMEWORK tool to help with this, so click here for the tool and instructional guide.
  2. Get your vision down on paper. Most people have a vision in their heads of who they are, what they want to do and where they want to go. Move it from your head and get it down on paper.
  3. Draw the vision. If you want more people to be on the same page, you’ve got to make it visual. If you are like most, you think you can’t draw. No worries! Use stick people, circles, squares, arrows and clouds. It makes a difference!

When we have a clear vision we get focused (internally). When we make it visual, it becomes the anchor for communicating it clearly (externally). And that, my friend, moves the needle from drain to gain!

Give it a try. And then tell me how you did in the comments. Did it help to clarify your vision?

-- Jocelyn Wallace

Related & Helpful Articles:

Is Your Vision Shared by All? ( blog)
If Everything is Important...Nothing Is (Patrick Lencioni’s blog)
Overwhelmed? Fill Your Tank ( blog)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Five powers of clear purpose

Have you ever noticed how much positive power there is when we are clear on our purpose?
Superhero-by JocelynWallace
This seems to be the secret sauce for any super hero, ninja, jedi -- and successful business person or organization.
There are several patterns I see when clarity is present, and I see them not only in the superheros on TV and in movies, but also in the people around me. Here is a short list...
5 Powers of Clear Purpose in Your Life and Work

1) You say 'yes' to the things that align with your purpose, and 'no' to anything that weakens it, as my friend Mitch Matthews would say.
Jedi-by JocelynWallace
2) When you fail, you dust yourself off and get up quickly. You learn to fail faster and succeed faster, as my friend Adam Carroll would say.
3) You do not blame situations or other people when disappointments pop up. You shut your pie hole and get on the treadmill, as my friend Chad Carden would say.
4) You grow your mind, set out to be of service to others, and lead creatively, as my friend Mike Wagner would say.
Ninja by JocelynWallace 5) Relationships rule. Period. People will want to work with you if they know you, like you and trust you, as my friend Bob Burg would say.
Unfortunately, the reverse is true as well. When we are not clear, it causes profound setbacks financially, mentally, spiritually, relationally, and even physically. Lack of clarity makes us vulnerable, especially when life knocks us down or demands an important decision.
The good news? Getting clear about your purpose is within reach. As a business coach, my favorite gift to help others find clarity is to start with a book called, "Ignite! A Little Book to Spark Your Big Dreams." IGNITE cover graphic_250px
Mitch Matthews and I co-authored this project, and because we had clarity, we experienced these five powers of purpose. Now we have the joy of watching the book help other people get clear on their big dreams, so they can experience the power of purpose too.

What patterns or consistencies do you notice about people who have a clear purpose? What do they seem to have in common, and what can we learn from clear-purposed people in life and work?

--Jocelyn Wallace

Enhanced by Zemanta

3 Ways to Find Focus

I like to meet busy people and ask them how they do it all. So I spoke with Alexander Grgurich, director of Foundry Coworking.

Interesting fellow and wise beyond his years.

I asked Alexander: When you know you’ve taken on too much, how do you decide what to de-commit?

This challenge comes up often when I’m coaching business owners who want more balance in their work and life. So I was excited to hear Alexander’s perspective.

And you know I love all things visual, so I created this visual infographic that summarizes the conversation along with my thoughts and these three tips.


3 Ways to Find Focus When You Are Overcommitted:

  1. Know your strengths. This one can be tricky, because most strengths are developed over time. They don’t start out as strengths, do they? We are not born with bulging biceps -- they are the product of hard work and taking on new challenges.
  2. Know your passion. There is a fire inside you, a burning desire to persevere and keep going. As we move down the infographic, notice we have fewer blue arrows. This means that if an activity is not both a strength and your passion, it might be something to de-commit.
  3. Focus on what brings the most impact. Perhaps it’s the most impact for your business, clients, family, friends, community... or an impact you could make on the world. If you are doing something that is your strength and your passion, but it has little impact -- the activity probably has a short lifespan.

When your strengths and passion intersect with impact, the decision on where to focus your time becomes clearer. Have you found this to be true? Did the infographic help you think in a way you hadn’t before? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear about it!

~ Jocelyn Wallace

Related Books:

  • On Finding Your Strengths, the Book “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton (
  • On Finding Your Passion, the Book “The Element” by Ken Robinson (
  • On Who You Could Impact, the Book “Ignite” by Mitch Matthews with Visual Author Jocelyn Wallace (


Enhanced by Zemanta

Doctor’s Orders: Invest Your Time, Gain Their Trust

Let’s face it. It can be difficult to build and grow relationships while managing a busy schedule. I want to have a meaningful connection with everyone I meet. But with limited time, how do I accomplish it?

To tackle the “time versus relationship building” challenge, I interviewed the doctors at Ballenger Chiropractic in West Des Moines.

As I listened and later thought more about what they shared, I created the following visual model to reflect our conversation:

  CLIENT Relationship MODEL_590px

  • Initially, the client may be hesitant or reserved (blue). The business spends a greater amount of time connecting (green), to help build trust.
  • Further around the cycle, time invested emphasizes teaching and sharing (brown), with the aim to add long-term value. Trust increases and the relationship grows.
  • The time invested results in a strong, trust relationship (blue is thicker now!). This leads to satisfaction, loyalty, and referrals.

I love it!

From my chat with Dr. Luke and Dr. Alex, I also gleaned five simple tips to help balance the importance of client relationships and limited time.

  1. Learn to read people. Some clients want to talk. Some want a little quiet in their day. Both are fine.
  2. Eliminate the “dead space” in your workflow. It’s not about being a mill or manufacturing plant, but there is something to be said for efficiency and productivity. Every business can find ways to improve, with a little creative thinking and willingness to try new things.
  3. Serve as many people as you can, without letting the quality of their experience falter. Find creative ways to serve more people, and do it really well.
  4. Have a clear purpose when you connect. Avoid asking a question that isn’t meaningful, such as, “How is the weather?" Instead, take an interest in your clients' activities, families or professions.
  5. Maximize the time you have. Sometimes this means learning how to connect with people while you work. Yes, multitask, but do so without impeding quality.

What might you add to the list? Did the visual model resonate with you? If so, why? I look forward to your comments!

-- Jocelyn Wallace
Ballenger Chiropractic & Acupuncture is owned and operated by Dr. Lucas Ballenger and Dr. Alexandria Ballenger. It is located near Jordan Creek Mall at 165 S. Jordan Creek Pkwy, Suite 110 in West Des Moines.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Connect with humans or be abducted by aliens

Though time management has been a focus for the past few posts on the AlienSpaceShip_300px Life-Work Balance page here at, I’d like to segue into a study and discussion about the importance of relationships and human connections.

We all have a need to connect with people in our personal and professional roles. It is core to the human race -- and what separates mankind from alien.

There are several reasons most of us earthlings fall short in connecting with others:

  1. Lack of time. Connecting takes time! We don’t have “beam me up, Scotty” kinds of technology to get us from A to B... yet.
  2. Selectiveness and Authenticity. With whom should we be connecting, and how do we maintain authenticity? “Take me to your leader!” isn’t the most effective approach for human connections.
  3. Methods to expand networks. The extraterrestrial method is greedy and seeks to steal natural resources. The human method is the go-giver kind.
  4. Online overwhelm. With no social media strategy or discipline in place, one can be captured by the online alien space ship, never to return to planet earth.
  5. Contact management tools and habits. There are so many gadgets to organize our contacts! And plenty of advice to increase the habits necessary for keeping relationships healthy.

This blog series will explore these challenges from three different perspectives:

  • the large corporation
  • the small business and entrepreneur
  • the individual

In what ways do you struggle to grow and maintain relationships, given your limited time? I’m counting on you to share your challenges and contribute online and offline resources for this discussion and continuing blog series. Then, together we can live long and prosper!

-Jocelyn Wallace

Enhanced by Zemanta

Are You a Robot? 3 Tips to Prioritize Your Work-Life

I have a confession to make.
I love to work hard. I love to make things the best they can be. I love to chase after dreams and goals and help others do it, too. I never have a shortage of ideas and I can’t wait to try ALL of them. And I love to say yes, even when I should say no or wait.

These are not the traits of a Time Management Super Hero. And such habits, if left unchecked, won’t lead to Keeping My Head Above Water. In fact, it leads to robot-like thinking, feeling and doing. Beep!

For the past two weeks, I allowed myself to become a working machine. Driven and laser-focused on my goals, I was willing to sacrifice the important things to get it all done. I neglected my health, my mind and my relationships. And I sat in my office chair so long without breaks that my robot hinges got stuck. It's a good thing I know a great human mechanic.

I need a can of WD-40, and I’m ready to be human again. If you’ve become a robot, too, these three tips will help us set our priorities back to human-mode:

  1. Take care of your body. Eat right, exercise, sleep, take vitamins and drink lots of water.
  2. Take care of your mind and soul. Pray or meditate or journal. Read books that feed your brain good things.
  3. Take care of your relationships. Without family, friends and coworkers - or business allies - there is no feeling or meaning to life.

I know what you’re thinking. All of this takes time. Yep, it sure does. But if we neglect these three, we become robots and then no amount of success matters.

Need some additional inspiration? These movies have a similar message:

For Love of the Game, starring Kevin Costner
The Incredibles, a Disney-Pixar Animation
Up, a Disney-Pixar Animation
Rocky, starring Sylvester Stallone
Walk the Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon

What other movies or tips do you recommend? Post them in the comments and save the human race! Beep!

-Jocelyn Wallace

Enhanced by Zemanta

Keep Your Head Above Water With These Time Management Tools

Are you drowning in tasks, calendars, and projects to manage? Need a life preserver?
Me too.

I grew up in Northwest Iowa on the shores of Twin Lakes, near the small towns of Pomeroy, Manson and Rockwell City. Being a lake kid meant that I could race you to the buoy and back doing my wicked-fast back stroke. My doggie paddle was pretty decent too. 

But on weekends, when the ski boats came out in droves, I didn’t try to stay afloat on skill alone.

I had some TOOLS.

That’s right. Inner tubes. Life jackets. Inflatable rafts. Boogie boards. You just gotta love the tools!

We can have time management skills, but if we try to tread water all day among the speed boat-filled waters, we will eventually need to call for a life guard rescue. And all life guards use tools.

Before I bust out the links to tools, a few warnings:

  1. Be on the lookout for tools disguised as sharks that will eat up your time. Tools are cool, but make sure they have purpose that suits your needs.

  2. Don’t throw time saver skills and strategies overboard just because you have a cool tool. It only works if you focus on getting the right things done within the time available. Figure out what floats your boat and then heave those oars!

Here are a few time management tools that could make the difference between a sink or swim day.


Task Management Tools: this link compares features

Document Collaboration Tools: this blog post covers the biggies

Read It/Do It Later:
Read It Later


Track Your Time Tools:
This blog post covers 6 more cool tools to track your time

If you have questions, opinions or other tools to share, please post them in the comments section. Share your life preserver!

- Jocelyn Wallace

Related Links:
Life Hacker Blog:
Guilt Free Productivity
Mashable Blog:
18 Online Productivity Tools for Your Business

3 Tips to Become a Time Management Superhero

EVA_superhero_270px Time management these days often means we have to get more done in less time, with fewer people and a $0 budget. Unless you are a superhero, this can seem like a daunting task. Try as we might, our efforts never quite cut it.

Villains enter the scene of our well-planned day: Captain Super Urgent, Shiny Object Man and The Guilt Tripper. They show up with an evil laugh and a dastardly scheme to thwart us from being effective. These villains don't want us to focus on an important fact:

Success is not about getting a lot of things done, IT'S ABOUT GETTING THE RIGHT THINGS DONE.

If you've got too many villains lurking in the shadows, pick up the bat phone and call the superhero within you!

3 Tips to Find Your Superhero-ness:

  1. Know WHAT you want. Define it, or you won't reach it. Figure out the musts, the wants and their importance. When Captain Super Urgent shows up, use your "I know what I want" laser beam vision to determine if it's the right thing for YOU to do.
  2. Know WHY you want it. Let the "why" drive the choices you make in your day. If Shiny Object Man tempts you with a distraction, use your "I know WHY I want what I want" super strength to resist him.
  3. Know HOW you will get it done. Everyone is given the same amount of time -- it's finite, not infinite. If you tend to overestimate what you can get done in a day, and The Guilt Tripper cackles at you, take a step back and adapt. Use your superhero power of elasticity and decide what will get done -- and when -- within the time you have.

Speaking of elasticity, my favorite superhero is Elastigirl. She faces setbacks but she adapts, twists, bends, and stretches… all because she knows what she wants and why. You can do it too!

What superhero powers have you gained to battle the time drain villains? Do you have a favorite time management superhero? Post your comment to the community and share!

Here are some links to my favorite Time Management Super Heroes:
Book: "The Effective Executive" by Peter F. Druckers (recommended to me by Iowa Business Owner Mike Wagner of the White Rabbit Group)
Book: "The Truth About Getting More Done" by Mark Fritz
Blog: "Getting Things Done (GTD)" by David Allen
Blog & Author: Julie Morgenstern on "Time Management Mistakes"
Photo: The Secret to Getting Things Done by Problogger, Darren Rowse

- Jocelyn Wallace

Enhanced by Zemanta

Something I learned about work-life balance from Monsters vs. Aliens!

I took our boys to Monsters vs. Aliens this weekend.

Loved it.

It was a lot of fun... but it also offered an important lesson for me.

I will get to lesson in a second... but first... let me offer some M.v.A. background (without a plot spoiler) that might help...

There's a secret government agency that has collected and held "monsters" over the past 50 or so years.

When an alien invasion threatens earth... they enlist the help of these monsters to beat the four-eyed, multiple-legged intergalactic scourge!

The problem is that the monsters haven't really spent the last 50 or so years preparing for this.

They just get thrown into the middle of the situation and have to sink or swim.

It makes for a hilarious storyline, but it also helps to paint a picture of what happens when we try to come up with a plan in the middle of a crisis! 

Even though we know we can't plan for everything, we also know that the best time to come up with an evacuation strategy isn't in the middle of a fire. Right?

This is true when you are fighting evil aliens and it's true when it comes to work-life balance... isn't it?

For example, I had a recent coaching client who knew his life situation would be changing soon. 

He knew his next season with his business was going to call for him to travel more.  He also knew that his son was getting ready to head to college.  Yup... things were shifting. 

While he was looking forward to much of the changes, he also knew they might also cause some stress... at least initially.

So, we started to plan for them. 

Yup... even though the shifts were a year away, we started to put a strategy together... now. 

We started to look at his business and talk about his weekly schedule. 

  • How could he get his staff ready for him to be out of the office more often? 
  • How could we increase his ability to work remotely, without it taking over his life outside of work? 
  • How could we start scheduling his week, in order to better prioritize the types of meetings he was going to engage in, here... and on the road?

We also looked for ways for him to make time for his family and protect time for his family.  We experimented with ways that this could help now... and for ways this could work when he was traveling more and when his son was away at college.

Yes... even though these life changes are a ways out, he's putting his plan together... now.  And he's already seeing the benefits.

Now, some of you may read this and be encouraged to put together a plan for future "shifts" in your own life... and that's great.  I encourage you to do that!

But, some of you may read this and say, "Well... GREAT!  I'm already in the middle of a crisis!  How can I plan now?  I don't have time to think, let alone... plan!"

Hey... I totally understand.  But you can take a lesson from Monsters vs. Aliens on this front too!

Because, even when the monsters found themselves in middle of the crisis, they didn't give up!  They simply started to "experiment" with solutions. 

Some worked... and some didn't (cue our 8-year old's belly laughter!)!

We can "experiment" too!

Look for shifts that you can make that are small but significant.  Don't try for 180 degree changes... look for 1 and 2 degree changes.  These will be easier to try and implement.  Plus, they will be easier to maintain!

Maybe it's as simple as looking for one way to change your planning this week. 

  • Maybe instead of putting your daily to-do list on the back of an envelope, you try writing it in a binder that you carry with you all the time.
  • Maybe instead of writing your to-do list, as you go.  You take 5 minutes later this afternoon to plan your day for tomorrow.
  • Maybe, you say "no" to one meeting this week that you don't really need to attend.
  • Maybe, you get up 15 minutes earlier one morning to take a walk.

Need some more ideas on making some small but significant steps? 

Check out for some things you can do to simplify things at home

Then, for work, check out these 10 steps towards better work-life balance that Fortune magazine recently featured. 

Okay... so those are a few lessons I learned from Monsters vs. Aliens. 

  • Plan before the crisis. 
  • AND... when you are in the middle of a crisis... don't give up!  Instead... "experiment" with some small but significant changes!

How about you? 

What did you learn?

More importantly, what have you been learning about your own work-life balance? 

Jump in the conversation.  Click on comments below and let us know!

Lastly, I wanted to just say thank you to all the IOWABIZ readers!  Due to some fun "shifts" with my own business, this is my last post here.  You can continue to follow some of our developments at and keep me in the loop on what's happening with you! 

Again, thanks!  It's been a honor!

Keep dreamin' BIG!


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

How about a little "cleaning out" of the schedule?

My wife helped me clean out and organize my office this past weekend.

We went way past that "illusion of clean" that I some times shoot for, and got down to some deep-cleaning and organizing

So, that meant we spent some time cleaning out "that closet." 

You know the one...

    • That get-done-with-a-meeting-and-bring-home-a-three-ring-binder-full-of-information-that-you-paid-for-but-won't-probably-use-throw-it-in-the-closet-closet
    • That all-sorts-of-different-specialty-paper-from-different-projects-long-forgotten-keep-them-in-the-closet-closet
    • The-fun-trinket-like-items-that-you-get-that-are-fun-but-quickly-loose-their-usefulness-throw-them-in-the-closet-closet

Yeah... you know the one.

Well, my wife went through "that closet" more as an "accountability partner" than an organizer.  She kindly but directly asked questions like:

    • What do you use this for?
    • Do you still need this?  How would you use it?
    • How often do you need this?
    • Could we put this in a better place?
    • Could someone else use this more than you?Calendar_1

At first, it was a bit tough, but once I settled in, it was a huge relief.  Plus, I started the week with an organized and well thought out office... including "that closet!"  That made me feel more on top of things... and helped me to focus.

So, then I started to think about what else needed "cleaning out." 

I started to wonder what else I could "clean out."  Then I started to look towards my schedule.

It's amazing how our schedules can get filled up like "that closet."  Isn't it? 

The calender starts to get things put in it.  Some things are really needed.  But, let's face it, some things are there because they got put there once.  Then they got left there.

For example, I recently talked to a leader in an organization.  She explained that during a time when she was short staffed, she started to do a number of extra things.  Later, she added staff but didn't wind up giving up some of the added workload because she had become accustomed to doing the work.  It had gotten shoved into "that closet" within her schedule and she had forgotten to get rid of them. 

She needed some of my wife's questions to "clean out" her schedule...

    • Do you still need to do this?
    • Could someone else do it better?  Could someone else be more efficient at it?
    • How often do you really need to this?
    • Could someone else do this?  Would that free you up to do more of what you need to do?

Another example, was a friend of mine who was a sport fanatic.  He spent a lot of his time digging into the sports page.  A night didn't go by without Sports Center.  He knew the stats behind the stats.  But, he recently told me that he'd done some mental house cleaning too.

Don't get me wrong, he's still a sports fan.  But he started to ask himself questions like:

    • How much do I really need to know?
    • How much of my interest is more out of habit than true interest?
    • How could I use some of my time for new priorities?

Did he eliminate all sports?  Nope, but he did decide to cut back.  To his surprise, it wound up freeing up time for new things in his life.  AND he found he could still keep up with most trash-talking sports conversations.

So... what needs cleaned out for you?

Your closet? 

Your schedule? 

Ask some questions... clean it out... and let us know how it goes!

Photo credit: pinkcoffee photoart

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

"E" is for Pruning!

Wine grapes on a vineImage via Wikipedia

So, we're wrapping up our series on the D.D.A.E. Equation

That's asking what you need to Do, Delegate, Automate or Eliminate... so your schedule has a better balance between work and life.

So... yes... "E" is for the "Eliminate" step! 

This is a HUGE step... and for some... it's the most difficult of the 4 steps.

This is the step in which we look at our schedules and to-do lists and decide on a few things that could/should be eliminated, in order to have more time and energy to do more of what we want/need to do.

And, the hardest part, is sometimes this actually involves cutting out some "good" and even "really good" things in order to move into the "Great" things we are called to walk out.


I know... that can feel scary!  Can't it?

Plus, eliminating "good" and "really good" things can almost seem irresponsible! 

But... I offer the grape vine as the ultimate illustration of the need to "eliminate" some things.

That's right, the grape vine.

Many of you know that pruning a grape vine is one of the most important elements of producing a robust crop of luscious grapes.


That means pruning old wood from the plant.  But it also means pruning some perfectly good buds too.


Well, grape experts tell us that removing a percentage of good buds from each vine allows the remaining buds to thrive. 

It allows the plant to shift more nutrients to the those buds enabling them to grow into rich bunches of juicy grapes. 

In fact, one expert from stated, "If you don’t prune your plant, you can be assured it will produce less fruit and in a couple years, stop bearing fruit all together."

Can you identify?

Have you ever felt some dead wood in your schedule?

Or maybe you've been overwhelmed by the number of "budding" activities in your planner?

Well, it's time to prune. 

It's time to eliminate some things. 

And yes, this might even involve cutting away some "good" or "really good" things.

Here are a couple of questions to guide you in this pruning process:

  • If I quit ______________, what would I do with that time?  (Does your answer outweigh the value of the item you would quit?)
  • Am I wanting to quit ______________ because I am not moving forward or because I'm not moving forward as fast as I'd like to?  (If it's the later, you may want to stick it out a little longer.  Sorry to mix metaphors, but if it's the former, you may want to cut bait and fish in another hole!)

Give it some thought.  Your answers may surprise you.

Then, take a good grape grower's advice and snip a few buds and some old wood.

Oh, and let us know how it goes by clicking on comments and telling us your story!

Lastly, I wanted to give you an example of this from my life...

After blogging for for over year, I've decided to step down as an author.  (This will be official at the end of April.) 

This has been an incredible experience and I have been honored to blog alongside such great authors and biz leaders!  Plus, it's been fantastic to get to work with the great people at the Des Moines Business Record!

But, after pondering these questions (and some others) I realized that I needed to "prune" this opportunity, so that I could devote more of my resources to some of the other "buds" on my vine. 

So, I'll be with you here one more month, but after that I'll be simplifying and dreaming BIG!

Thanks for being in this adventure with me and thanks for all the support along the way!

Need some additional motivation on your pruning? 

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

What can an assembly line teach us about work/life balance?

Okay... so we are getting close to wrapping up our series on creating your "D.D.A.E. Equation."

That's figuring out what to Do, Delegate, Automate and/or Eliminate to improve your work/life balance.  

Today... we're talking about "Automation."

It's funny, because whenever I hear that word, I am immediately taken back to my childhood.  

That's right.  I grew up In Newton.  And if you grew up in Newton in the 70s and 80s, then you wound up going on numerous tours of Maytag's manufacturing plants.  

I remember my first tour.  I was blown away by the systems.  
There was a quite hum of activity.  Everyone seemed to know their place.  Everything was in order.  If there was a bolt, then there was someone to put a nut on it and send it on it's way. There was no chaos.  There were no distractions.  Everything was automated... controlled... predictable.

I have to admit that when it comes to work/life balance, it's tempting to want this kind of order.  Everything in its place. Every need met.  No surprises.   

But we know that life happens... right?  And life can be messy and unpredictable.

So, when it comes to applying the concept of "Automation" to work/life balance, we can't always shoot for assembly-line precision...  BUT we can use automation to help us create time and to simplify our lives.

Here are some sample areas...


An example of "Automation" that a number of you have already taken advantage of is automating your bill paying.  If you haven't, check out zen habit's post on making your finances automagical!  


Since many of you blog, this is another potential "target zone" for automation.  You know... ways to streamline the process of finding content and potential links.  For example, Drew McLellan pointed me to zemanta.  It's been a huge help because it works with most blog platforms and automatically finds pictures and links to support your content.  Plus, it does it while you type!  It's cut the time it takes for me to post dramatically.  

Mike Sansone has also helped me on the front with his teaching about RSS feeds, but he also pointed me to an online tool to help me find videos for my posts.  It's called  It's a simple but powerful tool!


With technology surpassing the speed of life, we obviously have some options our parents didn't have.

Here are some fun examples to check out.

I have a entrepreneur friend who's entire family uses google calendars to help to organize and automate their family's life.  They have their own individual calendars, but then they also have a shared calendar.  All family events go on that shared calendar (i.e. school programs, soccer games, family reunions, church activities), and everyone must check that calendar before making commitments.  They admit that they aren't at 100 percent, but they have eliminated a majority of the scheduling surprises that used to bury them.

Need a personal concierge?  Check out Tech Scoop's post on HeyCosmo, which is a new on-line and mobile tool that can help you with everything from finding dinner reservations to calling friends to organize where everyone wants to meet for dinner after work.

How about shopping for groceries from your home?  If you have an iPhone,  there's an app for that.  But if you don't, that's okay too.  You can just use services like the one being offered by Hy-Vee.  Tell them what you want on-line, and they'll do the shopping for you.  You can either pick it up or have it delivered. Of course, there's a fee for the extra service, but what would it be worth to you to not have to hit the grocery store after a long day? 

Okay, and I did it subtly, but the perceptive mac lovers already picked up on the mention of the beloved iPhone.  You knew it had to be coming.  Yes, that's right.  Mac has made great leaps forward in automating many of life's basic (and not so basic tasks) with the iPhone.  Just check out iPhone your life to see the unlimited options on this front.

Okay, these are just a few areas where you can automate your life.

What have you tried?

What's worked?

What's simplified your life?  What's seemed to complicate it?

Click on comments and join in the conversation!

Who could you delegate to? (D.D.A.E. part III)

Charlotte gray seatsImage by umbexvia Flickr

Okay... as a review... over the past few weeks, we've been talking about schedules and digging into our D.D.A.E. equation

That's deciding what we need to Do, Delegate, Automate and/or Eliminate.

Today... we're looking at creative ways to delegate.

Yes, that's right.  Delegate.

Now, some of you may already be saying... "Hey, I'm a solo-entrepreneur!  The only time I get to delegate is my copies at Kinkos and my coffee order at Starbucks!"

Or maybe, you have a small staff and EVERYONE seems to be stretched right now!

Well... hang in there because we're going to explore the concept of hiring a Virtual Assistant.

Have you been toying with the idea?  I know I have. 

If so, here are some tips from the experts...

Start with something small.  Something that is pretty easy to define... such as a research project. 

For example, I know a local entrepreneur who is working on a web/book idea.  He's tapped into a virtual assistant that he found via to do some of his background research.  He was able to clearly define what he was looking for, how he wanted the information cataloged and the types of sources he wanted to be used. 

By the way, his VA did the work for him in the fraction of the time that it would have taken him and for a fraction of the cost that he expected to pay. Plus, it gave him an opportunity to check out this VA's quality of work and decide whether he wanted to work with them again.

Look for tasks that need to be repeated... daily... weekly... monthly. 

An example of this is a local real estate broker who used a virtual assistant to help with some weekly and monthly marketing activities.  These were tasks that he was only able to do sporadically due to a busy and unpredictable schedule.  When he decided to go with a VA, he was able to hand off his e-newsletter and weekly e-mail updates.  He gave some specific guidance and pointed the VA to his on-line newsletter service.  Then, his VA plugged in updates and sent out the newsletter on a consistent basis.  She just checked in with him for updates on content and took care of the rest!   

This move to hiring a Virtual Assistant has helped this broker to be more consistent and it's enabled him to have more time to work on the the day to day tasks that tend to bring more immediate ROI.  

According to experts... its best to start on specific projects like this, but after working with a VA for a while, you can start to delegate more tasks. 

For example, Josh Kaufman at virtualMBA even uses a VA to sort through his e-mail and respond on his behalf. 

Stay realistic! 

You may have dreams of handing off all of the work you don't like and moving into a Tim Ferris inspired 4-hour work week, but experts say that using a VA effectively can take some time. 

You need to get accustomed to delegating and you need to be ready to put in some work to get your VA up to speed. has some specific recommendations to help on this front.

How about you?

Are you willing to jump in and give it a try?  

Josh Kaufman recommends services like Ask Sunday and Longer Days which both offer free trials. 

It might be easier than you think to get started!

Why not check them out and experiment with the "Delegation" part of your D.D.A.E. equation? 

So... How about you? 

  • Are you going to give it a try?
  • Or... Have you already tried a VA? 
  • How did it go? 
  • Who do you recommend? 
  • What are some of the pitfalls or successes that you experienced?

Click comments and join in the conversation!

Keep kickin' and keep dreaming BIG!

Mitch Matthews

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Figuring out your D.D.A.E. equation! (part II)

Day 092/366 - To Do ListImage by Great Beyondvia Flickr

Okay... so... we are continuing our conversation about budgeting our time.

We're wanting to figure out your unique "D.D.A.E. equation." 

(That's deciding what you need to DO, DELEGATE, AUTOMATE or ELIMINATE.)

In my last post, I suggested starting this process with taking a "snap shot" of how you are currently spending your time.  I even included a tracking grid to help in the process.

Today, we are going to start by looking at the first "D" in the equation. 

Yup, that's right.  We're going to talk about what you actually need to be "DOING."

This sounds simple enough... doesn't it?  But whether you are a stay-at-home-parent, an entrepreneur or a high-level executive, we all seem to have a lot of stuff to do!

Some of this "stuff" represents things that we need to be doing... but some of it is stuff that we don't need to be doing anymore... right? 

How about you? 

After tracking your time for a week, did you figure out you were doing some things that you didn't need to be doing? 

Maybe, if you're like me, you found things slipping into the daily schedule due of bad habits, old habits or maybe because nobody else will do it!

Now, there are a lot of places to turn to get help on deciding what to do and not do. 

You can look to Covey's Four Quadrants.  (Click here to check out the quadrants represented in fun cartoon format!)  You can look to gurus like David Allen and read Getting Things Done.

Yup, these are great tools!

But I'm going to challenge you to think BIG PICTURE for a minute. 


Well, a lot of times we wind up doing things that we don't need to be doing because we don't REALLY know where we want to go. 

So, it's as Epictetus said, "First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do." 

This is what Tim Ferris did in his pursuit of the 4-Hour Work Week.  He got clear on what he wanted life to look like... and what he'd need to do to get there.  Then he started to align his daily tasks with that vision.

So... here are some questions to ponder:

  • What are some of things I want to achieve in the next five years? (Or how about 10 to 25 years?)
  • Who do I want to be?  Who do I feel called to be?  What do I want life to look like?

Then... as you are looking through your daily task lists... ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Can I link this task to these goals?
  • Will this help me to achieve these goals?
  • How could this task help me in the pursuit of these goals and dreams?

Now, I'll admit that 100 percent of your to-dos won't pass this test.  They won't all clearly link to these big goals and dreams.

But what if you held yourself to a higher standard? 

What if you simply agreed to take a look at this? 

What if you were willing to at least consider these questions and hold yourself to a greater number of your daily tasks lining up with your bigger vision and goals? 

How might that help you move towards these goals and dreams?

Then... as you find tasks that align with your goals... you can start to think about ways to do more of those things.

And for the things that don't pass the test, you can agree to at least consider putting some of them in one of the upcoming categories in the D.D.A.E. equation!  (Delegate, Automate or Eliminate)

Stay tuned... because we'll be getting you specific strategies for these categories in the coming weeks!

Go ahead... take the challenge... think BIG picture... set up some targets to shoot for... and start aligning your day to these goals and dreams.

Give your schedule a kick in the pants!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

What do you and Warren Buffett have in common?

TEFFEN, ISRAEL - SEPTEMBER 18: American billio...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Your calendar and your clock.

That's right. 

Warren's calendar and clock are exactly the same as yours.

Even with billions... Warren can't buy more months in a year or more hours in a day.

Yup... Time is the world's even playing field.

And although we all get the same amount, everyone seems to want more.

But since we can't get more... the key is to spend it more effectively.

Now, in today's world, there are some options to help with this.

As some of us think about becoming more effective with our time... we dream of hiring help... maybe a real or virtual assistant (ala Tim Ferris's 4-hour Work Week).  Some of us want to automate.  You know... go high tech with a new electronic gadget or new freaky cool scheduling software.

All of that is fine, but I suggest starting this process with a taking a "snap shot."

That's right. 

Start by figuring out where your time is currently going.  That will enable you to figure out how to improve.

Get started by downloading this simple time tracking grid that I use with some of my coaching clientsDownload Kick Coaching - Time Tracking Sheet

Now... I can imagine that some of you are saying... "Hold on.  I have my planner.  I know where I am spending my time."

Yes, you do.  However, if you are like most people, your daily calendar shows you where you were supposed to spend your time, or where you wanted to spend your time, but it won't give you the full picture. 

This grid allows you to go deeper.

It allows you to figure out EXACTLY where you are spending your time... minute by minute.

It will help you to track the scheduled meetings as well as the impromptu chats interruptions and Internet surfs.

Yup, this grid will give you a more accurate snap shot of how you spend each day.

I know... I know... this is a scary thought for some... but this is the only way for you to come up with a more effective plan to move towards the D.D.A.E. of more effective time management!  (That's figuring out what you can DO, DELEGATE, AUTOMATE or ELIMINATE!)

Give it a try. 

And as you do, don't filter.  Don't try to pretty it up.  If you lose track of time and spend 15 minutes talking to a friend... write it down.  If you wind up doing something off task... track it. 

(NOTE: You'll need to come up with abbreviations for things.  There's not a lot of space to write and that's intentional.  Just develop a key that will allow you to jot things down and record them, without feeling like you need to write a novel each time!)

Then, in my next post, I'll offer some solutions that will help you spend that time more effectively by figuring out your "D.D.A.E. Equation!"

Okay... start tracking that time... and then... next time... we'll figure out how to do more of what you want and need to do... and less of the rest!

By the way, it probably took you about three minutes to read this... and I'm hoping you thought it was time well spent!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

What LEGO taught me about time management!

LEGO GroupImage via Wikipedia

Our boys received a number of gifts this Christmas that had that familiar red "LEGO" on the box.

So, over the past few weeks, I've been helping them to build those different feats of engineering and design.

And... during that time... I've been noticing that LEGO has been teaching me some things about time management.

Lesson One: Start with a plan.

Have you put any LEGOs together lately?  WOW! Some of the kits that our boys received this year came with... not one... but TWO instruction manuals.  That's right!  In fact, the one my youngest son and I were working on last night had over 150 steps needed to complete the model.

At first, I thought this might be overwhelming.  Honestly, when I first saw the two volumes of instructions fall out of the box... my heart raced.  But I found that as long as we just took it one step at a time, it was completely doable. 

As long as we took it step by step, we did just fine. 

Plus, we had a lot of fun and put it together much faster than I expected.

How does this play out with our time?  Well, I bet you already know where I'm headed. 

Start each day with a plan.  Know what you need to accomplish in the day and put those "to-dos" in order, so you can go from one to another... just like our LEGO model.  That way... even the most overwhelming tasks can be tackled... one step at a time.

Now... I'll be the first one to admit that life isn't as simple as LEGO, but I have noticed that if you start your day with a plan, you'll get a lot more accomplished than if you don't have one.

Lesson Two: Group the Pieces.

When we first dumped out the box on the table, it was chaos.  It was a jumbled mess of blocks, tubes, planks and LEGO people. 

We found that as all the various pieces of LEGO sat on the table, it made sense to group some things before we got started.  So wheels would go into one pile.  Square pieces would go into another.  Long narrow rectangles would get their own pile, too.  That helped us to find the pieces we needed quickly.

How does this play out with time management? 

Well... recently, I was meeting with an entrepreneur.  He was trying to bring some order to his week and give each of his business entities the time it needed.  As he looked at his schedule, it felt like a big pile of LEGO pieces piled up on a table.  There wasn't a lot of order and there was sense of chaos. 

So, we spent some time "grouping" things.  Instead of trying to squeeze everything in... every day, we started to say one day could be for entity A, and the rest of the week could be for entity B. 

That "grouping" allowed him the ability to focus on the things he needed to do and not get overwhelmed.  It also allowed him to be more in the moment and know that everything had more order.

What could you "group" your pieces? 

Are there certain tasks that you need to do each day or each week that you could "group?"  You know... do them all together... and do it with some specific and protected time?

What could that do to your ability to focus?  How might that save some time? 

Lesson Three: Play when you are done!

That's the beauty of LEGO.  When you are done with all the steps, you have a TOY to play with. 

I know this may seem simple but since it takes some work to put it together, it's easy... even for the kids... to sometimes forget to play when it's done.

Can you identify?

Have you ever told yourself that once a big project is done... you'll finally relax or go do something fun?  But then, when that project is complete, you find yourself jumping into the next big task or duty!

Well... take a lesson from LEGO. 

Plan for some times to PLAY.  That's right!  Schedule some times in your day or week to play a bit.  Whether that's taking a 15 minute walk or calling a friend or... you fill in the blank. 

Schedule some time to play when you are done with a task... even five or 10 minutes.  And just see what it does for your overall productivity!

That's it for now. 

Those are some of the lessons I learned from those blocks... wheels... and planks.

So... I say... thanks LEGO for the reminders! 

I should have expected no less from such a great company and from such amazing toys!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

I'll admit it. I'm going back to paper.

two pencils grade hbImage via Wikipedia

Okay... confession time.

I have a Mac.  I love it. 

I dig technology even though it doesn't always dig me.

I will also admit that the latter part of this year has been an "experiment" with technology. 

It's been an experiment to automate and to use technology to improve my work-life balance and my productivity.  I wanted to try new strategies to help juggle, prioritize and clarify.

So... I shifted from my paper-based Franklin Covey system.  That's right.  I closed that seven-ring binder.  Put it on a book shelf and walked away.

I went smart phone.

I started running most of my life through my Mac.  Schedule.  To-dos.  Projects.  Et cetera.

At first, it felt clunky... just like any new habit feels. Then I started to get the hang of it. 

Entering things.  Syncing.  Entering to-do's with their due dates, et cetera.  Color coding.  Categories.

Yup.  It almost started to feel right.

But... as I progressed in my little experiment...  I had to admit that I missed that feeling of paper.  That pencil.  That moving things from day-to-day with an eraser instead of a mouse.  And... the biggest thing... was that feeling of checking off a "to-do" with pen to paper instead of a cursor to electronic box. 

Yeah... sorry... the e-version of that feeling didn't compare.

So... call me an old-school dork... but I'm going back to paper in 2009.

That's right.  I may still carry around a cool phone and have a Mac in my bag... but I'll have my little ol' seven-ring day planner with me too.

Now, as I wrap this up, I'm not going to advocate for going paper or high-tech in your pursuit of better work-life balance.  Nope.  Neither.

What I'm going to ask you to do... is... as you are wrapping up your year... run a little experiment for yourself.

Try some new things for organizing your life.  See what works for you and what doesn't.

And... once you've tried some new things... make a decision.  Commit to improving at two to three things for your work-life balance systems for the new year... whether it involves pencil and paper or something you have to plug in!

Oh... and join in the conversation. 

Leave a comment on whether your organizational toolbox is high-tech or low-tech... AND what's something new you are going to try in 2009 to better balance your life!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Holiday Stress Avoidance 101

I just spent some time with some entrepreneurs and the discussion boiled down to schedules.

That's right.  Schedules.

Everyone was busy. 

Everyone seemed to have different ways to manage that busyness. 

And everyone was also feeling the increased pressure coming from the hyper-scheduling of the holidays.

So... I thought a quick refresher course on holiday time management might be in order!Holiday stress 

You could check out Jim's post at  He offers a robust list of time saving strategies... including a way to increase your brain's productivity speed by 5 to 20%!  This can apply to your next teleconference or for when you are catching up with Aunt Gladys!

Or you can check out Laura Stack's approach to scoring a year-end tax deduction while also decluttering your office.  So, you increase your efficiency and lower your taxes.  This way you can clean out your office... increase your productivity... decrease your stress levels... and score a break on your taxes... Yeah, that sounds like a win-win. 

I also like Hueina Su's strategy for thinking through your holiday to-do list.  She suggests a 3-D approach.  Make the the list of things that you need to do... and then think through whether you need to DO them, DELEGATE them or DUMP them.  Yup.  I like that! 

Or you can learn from Susan Ward's post.  She offers five solid tips, but the best reminder for me was that we can't do EVERYTHING.  Check it out and see if it sets you free from some expectations as you look at your packed holiday schedule!

Okay... lastly... I'll admit that at the end of my discussion with my fellow entrepreneurs... we realized that we hadn't come up with anything we didn't already know about time management. 

BUT we also had to admit that it was important to think about all of these things again... and start to apply a few of them... especially over the next few weeks.

It's the same with these posts.  These are basic... simple... and common sense.

But they could make the difference between a restful and fun holiday season where you are able to focus on the right things... and a stress-filled disaster where you are pulled in multiple directions and wiped out at the end.  Right?

How about you? 

What do you do to stay sane over the holiday season? 

How do you keep focused on what's important?

Click comments and join in the conversation! 

Let us know...


Photo credit and kudos to: eye capture

Keep it short.

Hemingway's shortest story was only six words.  You may have read it...

"For sale: baby shoes, never used."

Short.  But unbelievably powerful.Blah_blah_blah

This week, Seth Godin begs us to keep it short and cut out the blah blah blah.

He says...

"No audience member, in the history of presentations (written or live) has ever said, "it was exciting, useful and insightful, but far too short."

So where could you save time by cutting out the blah blah blah today?

Shorten up a letter... a memo... an e-mail... a meeting... a presentation?

Think about it.

Do it.

Let us know.

Photo credit: theskywatcher

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Can your BRAND help you with work-life balance?

I recently went through a process with Branding Guru and fellow IowaBiz blogger Drew McLellan. 

He was helping me to figure out what my "BRAND" really is.Brand

It was an amazing experience that produced a surprising byproduct... it actually helped me with my work-life balance.

Yup, that's right.  The process of clarifying my brand for my various business endeavors helped me to clarify what I do... and just as importantly... what I DON'T do.

Drew hit me with questions like...

  • What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
  • What do you want to do more of?
  • What don't you do?
  • What do you want/need to do less of?
  • How do people describe you?
  • How would you want people to describe you?

We went deep and Drew continued to ask clarifying questions that pushed me. 

We boiled things down to a sentence... a phrase... that described what I do. 

What was interesting was that this process started to help me to be 100 percent clear on what to say "yes" to, and what to say "no" to.

Isn't that a key to effective work-life balance too?

I'll give you an example.  Just this past week, I was approached about an opportunity to participate in a project.  It looked like fun and there were some great people involved.  BUT... when I lined the opportunity up against what I'd discovered as my core "brand," (what I do) it didn't connect.  It didn't line up. 

In the past, I probably would have said yes, but then been overloaded by the additional commitment AND wilted because it didn't fully line up with who I am and what I do. 

Plus, there's a high chance that the weight of that "bad-fit" obligation would have carried over into my life outside of work.  It would have taken away from my time with my family and other important aspects of my life. 

So, in this case, I was able to respectfully decline, encourage them and suggest some additional people to consider.  Plus, I was able to do it with clarity and no guilt! 

Yeah... that felt good.

This concept is even more important right now as things are a little tougher financially for some.  If a business starts to experience a tightening of the belt... there is a temptation to try to become everything to everybody.  But, as I found through this BRANDING process, it's more important to focus on what you do... and do that with excellence... than try to be everything to everyone! 

That will help you to know what to say "yes" to and what to say "no" to.

So... how about you?

How about asking yourself some of Drew's questions?

They may help you with your brand... and they may... help you with your work-life balance too!

Give it a try... and let us know what you come up with!

Photo credit and kudos to: mleak

Stressed out? Take the "O.T.W. Challenge."


You are at your desk.  You hear someone yell "FIRE!"  You begin to smell smoke.  The fire alarm sounds.

All of a sudden your heart starts to pump.  Your adrenaline does too.  You are able to run like Lolo Jones... hurdling waste baskets... rounding corners.  You make it out of the building in record time!

That's the fear that allows your body to respond in that way.  Fear is good.  It's your body's natural defense system.  Fear is what allows people to survive in scary and dangerous places.  Yup.  Fear is good.

Now... imagine a new situation.Worry

You are sitting at your desk and your boss walks by with an angry look on their face.  You start to wonder what would cause that "look."  You wonder if you might be part of the problem.  Your mind starts to race... filling in possible scenarios of possible mistakes you've made... or things that you've said in the past few days that could be misconstrued.  Within minutes your heart is pumping, imagining possible punishment.  You feel a bead of sweat as you ponder loosing your job.  That's worry. 

Worry isn't good.  It's what zaps your energy.  Worry is when your imagination races and paints pictures of negative outcomes.  Worry is when your creative mind works against you by creating nasty predictions.  Worry is a killer.  It's bad.

It shifts your creativity to produce negative results instead of positive solutions.

And, let's face it, with today's headlines there are A LOT of people worrying.  Aren't there?

Worry zaps your energy.  It zaps your joy.  It also causes you to over-analyze, so you get stuck.  And this can happen at work and at home.

What if you were able to break away from worry... at the office... at home?

Here's a challenge for you. 

I call it the "O.T.W. Challenge."

List out 10 times that you worried about something.  Then think about how many times the things you worried about really played out. 

Then, with each situation, ask yourself...

  • What if you hadn't worried in the situation? 
  • What would that have done for your creativity? 
  • What would that have done for your energy? 
  • What would that have done for your ability to enjoy what you were doing?

Then... in one situation over the next week... when you have the opportunity to worry... make a commitment to your self to identify it as, simply, an "O.T.W. (an Opportunity to Worry).

And then choose to not worry. 

Yup.  That's right. 

Identify it for what it is:  An "O.T.W." 

And then just say, "I'm not going to take that opportunity right now." 

See what happens.

Invite a friend to take the challenge with you.

Check with each other.  Share your results.  Encourage each other.  See if what it does for your creativity... your enjoyment... your peace of mind.

Then, click "comments" and let us know how it goes!

Photo credit and kudos to: tishay

Is it time to give telecommuting another look?

As I brainstorm with individuals and organizations on ways to improve work-life balance, one of the options that comes up is telecommuting.

The thought makes some employers bristle, for sure... the possibility of lost hours of production due to the distractions of home...  the laundry calling... the dog barking in the hopes of a walk...  phone calls from friends.

But many leaders and companies are giving it a second look, for a number of reasons beyond work-life balance.

Interestingly enough, studies have shown that creating flexibility through strategies like telecommuting can have a positive impact on loyalty AND productivity. 

I'll post more on these in the future, but for today I wanted to look as some other timely reasons companies are making the switch.

Going green is one reason. As many companies are trying to become more environmentally friendly, they look to telecommuting to help. In fact, one study found that telecommuting cut gas consumption in the U.S. by 840 million gallons last year.Telecommute

Another reason is higher gas prices.  In fact, the recent increases at the pump has pushed telecommuting out of its "Just for the Young Employees" category, and made it a perk that appeals to all ages and all levels of management. One recent study of IT executives showed that 33% of the execs studied had increased the days they telecommuted last year.

Improvements in technology are opening up these possibilities as well. 

For example, I was recently conducting some generational training with a client and the issue of telecommuting came up. 

One executive quickly dismissed it by saying "That's something we tried last year, but it didn't work."

But another exec in the room quickly responded by bringing up the fact that some of their recent software upgrades would allow for a lot more flexibility and remote access.

So, they are going to give it another look.

How about you? Is it time to give it a try?

If so, here are a few tips to consider:

  • Start slow
    • Find certain groups or projects to test it with
    • Set specific parameters and measure impact on performance and productivity (Many companies have seen an increase in production!)
    • Pick projects or jobs that allow for clear benchmarks for productivity
  • Another tip is to offer it as a reward
    • Offer telecommuting as an option for employees that have proven themselves
    • Let it be a carrot for consistently providing excellent work and for working well independently

What do you think?

Where have you tried it?

How could it work for you? How has it worked for you? What tips would you offer?

Click "comments" below and jump in the conversation!

For some additional ideas, check out Telework Coalition.

photo credit: sean dreilinger

Rest 101

The last time I had to post on a Sunday, I asked you the question: When's your "Sabbath?"

Rest_and_be_thankful If you remember, I challenged you... not on whether you agreed with the guidance of the Biblical command to rest on the seventh day or not... but on the concept of rest, itself.

We as a society... aren't resting much. Are we?

Our world has moved from a 9-to-5 economy, to a world-is-flat... 24/7... 365... global economy.  Haven't we?

Plus, when the markets have a roller coaster week like this past week... it's a little more difficult for some to rest.

And that's just work... right? 

Now, our kids schedules seem to be as packed as our own.  There's homework in 1st grade, piano lessons, travel teams and Tae Kwon Do.  When... in the heck... did that all happen?

Okay... so I posed this question... this challenge... back in January: "What's something you could do today... to intentionally rest?"

In all my boldness... I even took it a step further and asked... how could you do it... rest... without feeling guilty?

Well... I heard from many of you... that you started to take that challenge.  And it sounds like you... like me... have had weeks where you've gotten better at it.  And then some weeks... where you've gotten hit by the FREAKISHLY-BUSY freight train!

So, I thought that it might be good to offer a bit of a "Rest 101" course for you...

Maybe, we can take a tip from the Director of Work Leisure International, Peter Nicholls, and change our terminology of "work-life balance" to "work life harmony."  Ol' Pete says this mindset could help us achieve better balance and possibly lead to more rest.

I like the simplification concepts offered by CC Holland.  One was her suggestions to achieve better work-life balance... and be able to rest more is:

"Focus on frugality.  Hermes Aleman shares the advice to keep your needs and wants manageable, so you have some financial freedom and aren't a slave to work.  As you earn more, fight the temptation to spend more."

The glass hammer offered some great suggestions to those who are single and "Walking the Wire" of work-life balance.  One of their suggestions was to build strong relationships outside of work... and when they interviewed business women who were single... they overwhelming responded with the suggestion:

"That no matter how little time they were left with outside of the office, they had to have something else outside of work, to be passionate about.  Many of the women who responded to the survey said that a key thing for them was to make friends or get involved in an activity that had nothing to do with their job.  By doing so, they end up with a clear line separating the two, making it easier to stick with outside commitments."

Or maybe, we take a tip from a story out of Hollywood this week.  It's how the "$50-million-dollar man," Toby Maguire, took a stand for making time for family.  It was an unprecedented move in the movie industry.  He said he wouldn't step back into the Spidey costume if he didn't have time for his two leading ladies... his wife and his new baby daughter.  (Although some might balk at the fact that Ol' Toby made this move to score a bigger paycheck... I like the fact that he was ready to walk away from Spider-man 4 and 5 (and that BIG paycheck), if he didn't have time for his family.)  What could we learn from this one?

Okay... so... these writers and examples offer a few ideas on how to rest... and balance things a little better in today's busy world.

What do you have to say? 

What do you do to rest? 

More importantly, what do you do to rest without guilt?

Join in the conversation and let us know.

Photo credit and kudos to: Krasny Fotoapparat

Who are YOU running with?

Are you glad the Democratic and Republican National Conventions are behind us?Obama

Did you get your fill of banner waving... speeches... and confetti cannons?

I'll admit that although I enjoy certain aspects of these fanfare-fests, I'm glad they are done.  However, this year, something struck me. 

Although most of us are not running for the oval office, we are running!

We're running at work.  We're running at home.  We're running to sports.  We're running to volunteer. 

Yup.  We are running.  Right?Mccain_2

So, I started to think about how we might take some tips from the presidential candidates... on "running."

Tip 1: Think about WHO you are running with.

A presidential candidate needs to think long and hard about who they want to run with. 

They know that they will be scrutinized for this decision.  They know that they need to pick someone (or a group of 'someones' for their cabinet positions) who will make up for their weaknesses and capitalize on their strengths.

What if we were more intentional about picking our "running" partners?

Take a challenge and ask yourself some questions that could help you to "shape" your team over time. Maybe... help you to find the best people to "run" with.  

Ask questions like:

  • What type of people would I love to work with?
  • What types of people would help me to stay in my 'sweet spot' more?
  • What types of people could help me by doing the things I don't do well?
  • What kinds of people inspire, encourage and push me?

It may seem silly, because you may not feel like you have a lot of control over the people you work with.  But getting a vision of your "ideal" team members can help you to navigate towards the right types of people and opportunities... over time.

Tip 2: Praise the people you are "running" with!

Now, I can't always say that the praise offered by political candidates is genuine, but they do tend to say wonderful things about each other. 

They point out the things their running mates do well.  They highlight their achievements.  They brag about 'em.  And they do it in front of big crowds.

What could happen if we did that for the people we work with?  What if we sang their praises?  What if we shouted it from the roof tops?  And...what if we really meant it?

What would it do for one of your team members if you just figured out a way to brag about them to the rest of the group? 

How would it make them feel to receive a BIG compliment in front of the group?  Do you think it would make their day?  Would it make their year?

Or what about at home? 

What if you just called your spouse or a friend and praised them for something they've done... or for being the person they are? 

How would that make them feel?  (Why not do it right now?)

Okay, as I wrap this up, I'll be the first to admit that we shouldn't take all of our understanding on how to live our lives from our political candidates. 

BUT... these are two tips that I'm going to try to be more intentional about. 

And that's a promise... at least for the next 4 years!

Photo credit and kudos: cq.swat and Yan Zhang

This site is intended for informational and conversational purposes, not to provide specific legal, investment, or tax advice.  Articles and opinions posted here are those of the author(s). Links to and from other sites are for informational purposes and are not an endorsement by this site’s sponsor.