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How to Love Your Career on the Days You Don’t (Guest Blog by Sarah Pike)

The following post comes to us from returning guest blogger, Sarah Pike. Sarah is a freelancer and teacher with a passion for sharing innovative ideas about entrepreneurship, productivity and company culture. Be sure to visit her author’s bio below to learn more and connect!

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How to Love Your Career on the Days You Don’t

love my jobYou went into public relations because you loved it – the challenge, the juggling of projects, the deadlines, and the satisfaction of pulling off a mind-blowing coup in the nick of time. But the reasons you love it might overlap with the reasons PR was named one of the top 10 most stressful jobs for two years running.

And where there’s stress, there’s bound to be days when thefeeling of dissatisfaction rears its ugly head and has you wondering if you made a huge mistake. But just because you’re having an off day – or week – doesn’t mean it’s time to switch careers. Here are eight strategies to help you love your job again, even on days when that feels impossible.

1. Walk Down Memory Lane

Remember why you chose this career in the first place. Picture your first big win and remember how that felt. Think about the last time you felt really excited at work, and identify what the difference between that day and today is. By re-engaging with positive feelings about your work and looking for what might have changed, you can turn your day around for the better.

2. Look at the Bigger Picture

There’s a reason you work, and a big part of that reason has nothing at all to do with the office. You work so you can have everything else in your life. Reminding yourself that your career is why you are able to take fabulous vacations or live in a neighborhood you love can help take the sting out of career disillusionment. Virtually no job will give you 100% satisfaction each and every day. Take the good with the bad and remember that work is sometimes (more like often) “work” but it helps support other things in life you love.

3. Take up a Hobby

Sometimes you’re just overloaded and burned out. If there’s no immediate way to change your current workload or the project you’re working on, look outside the office for a sense of fulfillment. If you’ve always wanted to take a cooking class or learn a language, get started. Give yourself something else to look forward to and, once you start feeling accomplished after work, the nine-to-five will likely become more bearable.

4. Dress to Impress

It may seem too simple, but putting on that power suit or your favorite pair of strappy heels can totally turn your day around. You’ll instantly hold your head a little higher, walk with a little more purpose, and all those compliments you’re bound to get won’t hurt either.

5. Tell Someone

It may seem counter-intuitive to your career ambitions to let your boss know that you’re less than thrilled about your current position or tasks, but he or she might actually be the best person to help. Chances are your boss has felt exactly the same way, been able to fight through it, and not only stay in the field – but progress. And your boss may even be able to help mix up your current assignments to help you get over the hump and back to a place where you look forward to coming in every day. Connecting with a personal career coach is another way to help you identify actionable (and proactive!) strategies to turn your career around.

6. Connect with Colleagues

Even if you don’t feel connected to your current list of to-dos, you can still enjoy the workday by fostering supportive, fun relationships at work. Having a friend to look forward to seeing at the office is the next best thing to loving that pile of work on your desk.

7. Give Yourself a Break

Sometimes we need to unchain ourselves from our desk, computer, or tablet. Build regular breaks into your day where you can stand up, stretch, and take a breath of fresh air. If you have some flexibility in your schedule, keep heavy meetings for the middle of the day so you don’t start or end your day on a stressful note.

8. Reignite Your Passion

Look at people in your industry who are on fire. Study them, and if you have someone in your company or city that exudes love for their job, ask if they’d be willing to mentor you. Enthusiasm is contagious, and just being around someone full of passion for PR can get your career fires burning again.

No matter why you’ve hit a slump, there’s nothing worse than feeling miserable eight (or ten) hours a day. There’s a reason you jumped into the PR world with both feet, and you can reconnect with that initial excitement. All it takes is a little perspective and a healthy dose of compassion for yourself – we all go through tough times. Just don’t let one bad day ruin the rest of a rewarding, promising career!

What do you do to get through a tough day (or week) at work? Share your tips by commenting below!

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About the Author: Sarah Pike is a freelancer and teacher, with a slight productivity app obsession. When she’s not writing or teaching, she’s probably reading about career-pathing and wellness. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.

 

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What Building a Home Has Taught Me About Project Management

Right before we broke ground after a long and cold winter.

Right before we broke ground after a long and cold winter.

I feel fortunate and excited to announce that we are just two months out from the completion of our new home. Building a custom home has been a long-time dream that was made possible only through sacrifices and hard work from both my husband and me as well as through many generous and talented people in our lives.

It’s been quite a process that I can only describe as thrilling, overwhelming, humbling and surreal. It required meeting at least once per week with our project managers to make countless decisions and to attempt to balance a budget that was expanding faster than our toddler during a growth spurt.

Although each home our builder creates is custom from start to finish, there is a clear process in place that keeps things moving while allowing for adjustments to be continually made as needed. It’s quite impressive! My husband’s background is in civil engineering, so he had a better understanding of how this whole “construction thing” worked. Still, it was an equal learning experience for both of us.

And I learned a lot.

As a Public Relations consultant, I often play the role of “project manager” for my clients. I scope the project, divide tasks, manage budgets and meet deadlines. While the soft skills of PR are different than the hard skills of the subcontractors working on our home, I found many similarities as to how they effectively approached each project.

Through our personal home building process, I developed a deeper understanding of what it takes to be a good project manager and how to advocate for your client’s best interests. Of course I want to take this knowledge and use it to benefit my own clients. Here are the most valuable lessons I now plan to further incorporate into my own business:

The decision to start a project is only the first of countless decisions

When we made the decision to build a custom home, we took a deep sigh of relief that this variable was now a known. However, it’s foolish to praise yourself too much for this major life decision. It’s merely the first of countless others you must make to complete the project. The best piece of advice I gained from this experience was to stay committed to (and interested in) the project – even when there are setbacks and standstills.

This applies to my clients, whether we are working on new website content, implementing a social media strategy or creating marketing materials, remember that all of these projects will require many, many decisions. If you are not in a position to give the project the attention it requires, consider whether now is a smart time to begin the project altogether.

A picture of the stone in progress.

A picture of the stone in progress.

Know Your Critical Path

In construction, there is a clearly outlined critical path of smaller tasks that must be completed in a specific order and meet specific deadlines in order to keep the project as a whole on track. The importance of knowing your critical path applies far beyond construction alone.

I now have a renewed appreciation for beginning each project with a shared understanding of its critical path so that the client and any outside vendors are aware of the valuable role they play and how their deadlines affect so many others.

Be prepared for setbacks – and to hustle to make up time

So often the phrase that runs through my mind on projects is “I’m hurrying up only to wait.” What I mean is I often feel like other people involved in the project delay critical pieces and then when they finally deliver, they expect an immediate turnaround from me. You can surely see how this would be frustrating.

Through home building, I have learned that this is far from a unique problem. Whether it’s Mother Nature or another subcontractors holding up the show, inevitably other workers will be expected to expedite their results to make up for lost time. And sometimes this rush is for nothing as other factors hold up the next piece of the project anyways. Frustration – yes this is a shared feeling across all projects regardless of size or industry!

“Now” is always the best time to voice a concern

One day on site, my husband was walking through our home and had an idea to make the opening to our dining room even more “open concept.” This would, however, require cutting down the existing framing that had been put into place not a day or so sooner. We hesitated, considering the small inconvenience this would cause a worker; however, our project manager quickly spoke up. Within the next few minutes, the wood was cut back and repositioned to create the larger opening. That’s all it took at this point in the project.

What I learned was had we waited until there was drywall in place before voicing our concern, the fix would have required far more time and manpower. Worse, we may have chosen to live with the wall as it originally was and always wondered “what if.” From this example, I gained the lesson that right now will always be the best time to voice a concern. Waiting until you send the project to print or hit send on the email is too late. Speak up now – and don’t worry, people will be sure to weigh the pros and cons for you if the request is going to require more than just a few minutes to correct.

These blueprints show both the bare bones of the project as well as some special details we hand selected.

These blueprints show both the bare bones of the project as well as some special details we hand selected.

The framework provides structure, but the details provide character

Finally, the process of building a custom home gave me an appreciation for both the framework and the finishing details. While I was happy to finally break ground, I wasn’t overly excited about a big cement hole. Nor was I particularly excited to select an HVAC system or frame out our low voltage wiring. When I finally got enthusiastic with the project was when I was able to select things like the marble for our kitchen or the style of our built-ins.

I realize now, more than ever, that these less than exciting details will be the ones that keep me comfortable in our home throughout the years. I may not always see them, but I will certainly appreciate the value they add. The framework and more technical details to any project may not be artistic, but they are necessary for achieving the end result. The details are where you truly define character and add personality. Regardless of what gets you excited, both must work in unison to deliver a functional and attractive finished product.

What other pieces of advice on project management could you add to this list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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5 Ways to Create a Culture of Empowerment (Guest Blog by Sarah Pike)

The following post comes to us from returning guest blogger, Sarah Pike. Sarah is a freelancer and teacher with a passion for sharing innovative ideas about entrepreneurship, productivity and company culture. Be sure to visit her author’s bio below to learn more and connect!

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5 Ways to Create a Culture of Empowerment

Empowerment

If you’re tired of obscure strategies about more meetings and holding monthly birthday parties, try out some of our ideas to help your team feel empowered (and maybe even a little inspired). While communication and making sure employees feel heard are important, they are hard to quantify. The five tips listed below can help you take empowerment out of theory and put it into practice.

Give Snaps

This idea is a twist on the usual public acknowledgement idea – and it was inspired (without any shame) from the movie “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde.” Everyone on the team writes down something positive about another member of the team and puts it into the “snap cup.” In my former office, it was a pineapple bowl.

Then the facilitator of the activity reads each compliment out loud, and everyone gives snaps (literally snapping their fingers) for the person being acknowledged. I sometimes ran entire snap meetings centering on just one team member. It may seem like a silly idea, but I saw my team start looking for positive things in one another – and then expecting great things. It was a simple, non-threatening way to create an environment of positivity and to form a stronger team.

Pass the Mic

As the leader or manager, it’s easy to monopolize meetings with all the important things you have to say. But when your team only hears one voice, they become stagnant and can start to feel disengaged. There’s no better way to get them engaged than to give them the floor. You can either ask for volunteers or make assignments, but every team meeting should include some kind of training from at least one team member.

You can outline parameters for the kinds of training you’re looking for, but if you really want employees to take ownership, leave it as open-ended as possible. I’ve seen employees read “The Giving Tree” or turn the culminating battle scene in “Braveheart” into an inspiring message about taking risks and going for it. And the best part of this practice is that you, who are usually the one filling everyone else’s cup, get a chance to be inspired as well.

Give Feedback on the Spot

Employee surveys are just fine, but if you want to see immediate results and truly empower employees you need to speak up when you see something happening. If a team member just went out of their way to make a customer happy, go out of your way to make sure they get acknowledged for their efforts. If someone found a creative way to resolve a recurring problem, give them props and ask them to put together a training to share at a team meeting so everyone can benefit from their resourcefulness.

And encourage everyone in the office to do the same. You shouldn’t be the only one giving feedback. This is a discipline, though – it doesn’t simply happen. Set alerts on your calendar to remind yourself to look for on-the-spot opportunities. Once you start looking every day, it will become a habit. And this habit puts that open communication you’ve been striving for into practice.

Use an App

When it comes to employee empowerment, there’s an app for that. Motivosity is a program designed to automate, track, and facilitate employee engagement and acknowledgment. To have a truly collaborative workplace, you need to have a culture of empowerment and creating or transforming a culture takes discipline. Motivosity helps you get there.

From birthday and work anniversary acknowledgments to peer-to-peer rewards, this website/app combo streamlines your empowerment program and reminds everyone to give props to their coworkers. Motivosity also provides a fun, engaging way to capitalize on the competitiveness of your team by turning company and team goals into a game. And the program tracks everything that happens, which helps you identify which strategies are working and which ones are a waste of time.

Give Them Some Control

One of the best ways to help an employee feel empowered is to give them control over some aspects of their professional life. Whether it’s letting them decide how to transform the office break room or giving them the option to work from home part of the time, a sense of control can be more powerful than a raise.

Letting employees have input – especially in regard to their work schedule – shows you trust them and value their contribution. Remote work is becoming more common, especially for PR-related roles like social media managers and bloggers who rely solely on the Internet. And the benefits in regard to employee satisfaction and productivity definitely outweigh any perceived risks.

Whatever you decide to do to create a more inclusive, empowered workplace, make sure to be consistent and keep it going. Stopping and starting random initiatives only erodes trust and enthusiasm. While there isn’t one magic answer for helping your employees feel appreciated, you can start making a positive difference by implementing simple, concrete strategies that get everyone involved.

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About the Author: Sarah Pike is a freelancer and teacher, with a slight productivity app obsession. When she’s not writing or teaching, she’s probably reading about career-pathing and wellness. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.

 

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9 Quick and Effective Ways to Relieve Stress During the Workday

stress

One area of my life which is a constant work in progress is managing stress. As an entrepreneur, wife and mother, you simply cannot avoid all the triggers that can cause you to worry or feel anxious. I will also admit that my desire to have things fit into pretty little boxes in life doesn’t help in this effort one bit.

Throughout my workday, I can feel subtle signs of stress creeping in. My shoulders get tense, I hold my breath and I get easily distracted. This is something I can’t – and shouldn’t – push through. I need to address the root of the problem and take action to relieve my stress. It’s the only way I can change this mindset and get back to working effectively.

Can you relate? If you have ever experienced stress at work (or even at home), here are nine techniques you can put into action quickly and discreetly to let go of this tension and get on with your day.

Take one minute to simply breathe

When tension sets in, one of the most common reactions is to hold our breath. Do you remember the last time you took a deep, conscious breath? Try it right now. Breathe in and out slowly three times. Not only will this drive oxygen to your brain, it will also give you a brief moment to collect your thoughts and reflect on what’s really weighing on you. I personally tend to carry stress long after that stressful moment has ended, leaving me feeling anxious and “off” for the rest of the day. A few deep breaths can do wonders for restoring a peaceful mindset.

Do a quick stretch

Even at your desk, you can get in a discrete but effective stretch that won’t draw too much attention to you (and make your co-workers wonder why you’re in a full on yoga pose in your cubicle). Lift your arms over your head, look side to side and pull your arms forward while looking down. Focus on whatever seems tight and tense. Stretching, combined with breathing, will get your blood moving and help you to feel more alert. It will also relieve stress.

Get outside

If you work in an office space that lacks windows or natural light, make getting outside for a few minutes throughout the day a priority! Sunlight, fresh air and new scenery are all great stress relievers. This will also boost your mood. If you are feeling particular stressed or tired, get outside and take a few minutes to reflect on how you can improve what’s getting you down.

Mentally list a few things for which you are grateful today

When we’re stressed, we tend to only focus on the problems of our day, but forget about everything that’s actually going right. Make a mental list of all of the positive things you’re taking for granted and appreciate the little blessings of the day. Most of what we’re stressed about are first-world problems anyways.

Browse a collection of inspirational quotes

Over the years, I have compiled a folder on my computer that consists on inspirational quotes. These cover all topics imaginable and are from authors old, new, famous and unknown. Whenever I’m feeling stressed or uninspired, I turn to these quotes. In just a few minutes, my mind is no longer on whatever was bothering me and I have a renewed positive outlook. I highly recommend trying this!

Make positive small talk with a co-worker

As an introvert, I have never been fond of small talk, but I promise it can do wonders for relieving stress. Talk to a co-worker, friend or complete stranger and keep the conversation light. Talk about the weather, plans for the weekend or a funny show you recently watched. When I’m stressed, I love talking to someone who knows nothing about my problem and is simply happy to see me. Realizing there are other, wonderful things in life aside from we are I’m worrying about is a refreshing reminder to not overlook the good all around us.

Look at photos of happy memories

Similar to keeping a folder of inspirational quotes on your computer, keep a folder of some of the best memories – family vacations, weddings, holidays and birthdays. When you are feeling stressed during the workday, take your mind to a positive place and reflect upon happy memories. This will give you a brief distraction while reminding you that the big things in life are really the small things. Tip: Limit each folder to no more than 20 or so photos so that you don’t risk browsing photos for hours as a means of procrastination.

Enjoy a healthy treat

People respond to stress differently when it comes to appetite. Some have no desire to eat at all, which can leave you tired and weak. Others crave junk foods as a coping mechanism, which is equally as detrimental. No matter what camp you’re in, you could benefit from eating a healthy snack when you need a stress relief. Why? These nutrients will provide your body with fuel to combat stress, grant you a break from whatever task you’re working on and give you the peace of mind that you did something good for yourself.

Get off social media

Finally, resist the temptation to turn to social media for distraction. Social media is a great platform for personally connecting with people, but it can also be a stress and anxiety inducer. Have you ever been casually browsing social media and feel your mood worsen? You are not alone. Many people experience this effect as they see the “highlight reel” of everyone else’s life and compare it to their own. Combine this with already being stressed out about other things going on in your life and you have a recipe for disaster.

Stay away from social media and anything that might tempt you to compare yourself to someone else. Everyone’s journey is unique. Instead, relieve your stress by practicing any of the techniques mentioned about (or combine two or three for added effect)!

How do you relieve stress during the workday? Share your tips and tricks by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2015 in Business & Success, Life

 

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5 Lessons My Cat Has Taught Me About Entrepreneurship

pinot life lessons 1If you’ve read enough posts on the Bennis Inc blog, you’ve likely stumbled upon the mention of my Russian Blue cat, Pinot. She has been a key member of my staff since before I made the entrepreneurial leap to take my business fulltime. I’ve kept a sense of humor as to how Miss Pinot “assists” in my business, but let’s be honest, she’s more of a figurehead than a worker bee.

As I approach the fourth anniversary of quitting my 9-5 and pursuing my dream of running my own business, it’s only fitting that I also reflect upon what my snarky mascot has taught me about maintaining a work-life balance, making tough decisions and keeping a sense of humor about it all.

Enjoy these five lessons that my cat has taught me about entrepreneurship!

Know when to spring into action and know when to lay low.

Pinot has two settings: rocket ship and ancient sloth. When there is a task on her to-do list, she tackles it with urgency. Anything else that is not deemed as necessary of her attention, she barely opens an eye. Certainly this is an extreme lesson for any business owner to fully embrace, so let’s water it down a bit.

I apply this Pinot philosophy by jumping on any task I can complete that day. I’ve made a conscious effort to “eat my frogsand clear my bandwidth early and often. In contrast, I’ve also learned to not rush to complete those tasks that are awaiting important details from other people, are not deemed urgent or could potentially cost me time without the guarantee of payment. Thanks to Pinot, I know how to choose when I spring into action or lay low to remain efficient with my time.

Make time to care for yourself daily.

Pinot can often be caught leg in air, in the middle of a very intense bathing routine. She prioritizes the hours she spends grooming her coat and sharpening her claws. While 6+ hours out of anyone’s day is far too much time to devote exclusively to maintaining yourself, there is a lesson to be learned here.

pinot life lessons 2

Thanks to Pinot, I’ve embraced the habit of treating my body to some sort of exercise daily. I also make time for life’s little luxuries like a haircut, trip to the nail salon or browsing a store so long as my other work tasks for the day are complete. It’s my reward for efficiency and my motivation to push through challenging tasks.

Manage your own agenda…unless you really, really need something.

Pinot is like that roommate that you never really run into, yet you know they still live with you because of the random items they leave scattered around. In Pinot’s case, this is mostly litter and fur. Pinot manages her own agenda and rarely comes to me unless she really, really needs something – i.e. food or belly scratches.

I perceive the value of this lesson to be the importance of working independently, yet not being shy about asking for something when you need it. I aim to make my clients’ lives easier by not having to micromanage me. When producing content, I do need their initial input. But all I ask for is simple bullet points or fragments of ideas. From there, I work independently to weave this into a final product they’re proud to share with the media, on their website or with their social networks.

If you’re not getting the attention you need, insert yourself until you can’t be ignored.

To add to the point I just made above, when you do really, really need something from a client in order to do your job, be assertive and follow-up with them until you get the answers you need. Pinot has the skill refined into an art form. Anyone who owns a cat, or has even been around a cat, you know how they insert themselves into your space until you can no longer choose to ignore their presence.

Pinot has laid across my laptop as I type, waved her tail in front of my eyes and tucked herself tight up against my arm so I cannot do anything but breathe without acknowledging her (I think she’s working on a tactic for that breathing part, too). Sometimes what Pinot wants (i.e. treats) I can’t give her or she doesn’t need at that time. I verbally or non-verbally tell her no and she moves on. This is an incredibly valuable lesson in business.

I’ve written about how a no is as good as a yes. As a business owner, we need answers to move forward. Even if that answer is a no, it is still better than no answer at all. With Pinot as inspiration I (more tactfully) follow-up with contacts until I receive an answer and the ability to move forward

Prioritize and capitalize on any opportunity to nap.

If there is one thing cats are good for, it’s napping. I believe the average cat racks up about 17 hours per day of Zzzz’s. That’s no joke! Personally, not only does that much sleep sound terrible, but I’d have no time to accomplish anything else. Instead, this is another Pinot lesson I take with a grain of salt.

I have learned the value of a good power nap in the afternoon when the opportunity presents itself. So often, my energy wanes as my mind is burnt out from the morning’s writing, conference calls and networking meetings. Rather than guzzling caffeine and pushing through the wall, I devote no more than an hour (often less) to shutting down completely. Everyone responds to napping differently, but for me, and many other effective leaders throughout history, a nap breathes a fresh breath of air into the day. I am able to do far more quality work when I awake compared to the unenergized and unfocused work I would have accomplished without napping.

Which one of Pinot’s lessons is your favorite? Share how you will or already do apply this wisdom to your career by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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Finding Balance as a Work at Home Mom

balance

Life is like riding a bicycle.. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

A while back, I used the term “Hybrid Mom” to describe my work-life scenario since my son Holden entered the world in May 2013. Now just over two years since I adjusted to this new (and wonderful) role as a Work at Home Mom (WAHM), I’ve learned quite a few things about maintaining, as well as losing, the balance between personal life and professional life.

Because of some smart and strategic adjustments I made in recent months, I feel like I have been better able to balance my “mompreneur” responsibilities as well as dedicate some time just for myself – which is so very important for an introvert.

In reflecting on what has contributed to this positive change, I pulled together some key pieces of advice I would offer any fellow mom (whether you work at home, from home or outside the home). In fact, it’s not limited to just moms at all! For anyone who is looking to improve their time management, organization and work-life balance, I offer you these tips that have personally made a difference in my life.

Wake up early

I’ve always been a morning person (who also prefers afternoon naps), but that doesn’t mean I choose to get up at a crazy hour to get a jump start on my day. I’ve found that unless I have a special project or deadline, waking up just a half hour before the rest of my family is all the time I need to get organized and acclimated with my to-do list.

How do I use this time? It’s a well-rehearsed routine that makes me efficient, focused and energized. I begin with a big glass of water (it wakes me up mentally and physically). I then organize the items I need to make my breakfast and Holden’s breakfast so it flows like an assembly line. Finally, I dedicate the rest of my time to cleaning up my inbox, completing reoccurring tasks and prioritizing the other tasks that must get done today. Then, when the rest of the family begins to stir, I am alert, relaxed and ready to give them my full attention.

Be fully present in each moment

This piece of advice is so critical and one that I have to consciously follow every day. Before I found a good sense of balance between work life and family life, I never felt full present in either scenario. I was either haphazardly checking emails while “pretending” to be engaged with my son. Or I was using his nap time to tackle household chores when really I should be focusing on work tasks during these quiet hours.

Now, on the days when I have the pleasure of having Holden at home, we spend the mornings at the YMCA or at the park where my cell phone remains out of sight. Trust me, I dive right into work tasks as soon as he’s tucked in for his nap, but during those precious moments when his attention is all mine, I try and do a much better job of returning the favor.

On the days when Holden is happily playing at Grandma’s or at daycare, I remain focused and efficient so that I clear as much off my to-do list as I can. This also allows me to be more present when I am with my family. And while I enjoy working from home, rarely do I turn on the TV or surf social media during this undivided work time. I remain present in this moment as well.

Grow your relationship through your hobbies

Each and every day, I like to be active in some way. This can range from a challenging long-distance run to simply checking in with Mother Nature on a walk to the park. I also prioritize spending quality time with my husband to catch up on what is going on in each of our lives. I’m fortunate to have a spouse who shares my love for physical activity as this allows us to do both of these things simultaneously.

Every Sunday we take a family run (Holden gets to cruise along in the jogging stroller) which is when we talk about anything and everything. At the end of 45 minutes or so, we have accomplished a killer workout and caught up on things that have been weighing on our minds and hearts. During the week, we take a walk in evenings and when weather isn’t in our favor, we utilize the YMCA’s free childcare while we engage in some friendly competition in the gym. I’m extremely grateful for this shared hobby for it strengthens us emotionally as much as it does physically.

Ask for help

Out of all the pieces of advice, this one seems to be the hardest for mothers to put into practice – myself included. For 12 months, I balanced caring for Holden fulltime, 7-days a week while steadily growing my Public Relations business. I managed to get everything done in a day, but it was a house of cards waiting to blow over. I was more stressed than I realized and forgot how to relax, unwind and do something for myself.

In September, I finally had the realization that I could ask for help! I found a great in-home day care center that Holden absolutely loves. He started with going just two days a week and now he goes three days a week while my mother-in-law watches him another day. This gives me four dedicated work days! On those days, I feel like a true entrepreneur running her own fulltime business and conducting client meetings. On the one day a week (plus weekends) that Holden is home with me, we fully enjoy our time together far more than when I was striving to “do it all.” Asking for help is something to be proud of, not ashamed. It’s been a huge part of restoring my balance between work and family.

Outsource when you can

Similarly to asking for help, I have learned the value of outsourcing tasks when it makes sense to do so. It’s become my personal policy that when something does not bring me joy, make me money or improve my physical/mental/spiritual health, it’s acceptable to consider outsourcing it (there will be exceptions to the rule, but you get the gist). I cannot describe how happy I was the first time I outsourced cleaning my house. In two hours, my house was cleaner than it has been in my three years of attempting this feat. I used these same two hours to take on some new client work which actually earned more than what I paid to outsource the cleaning. Why did I wait so long to do this?!

My husband and I still keep up with light housekeeping on a regularly basis, but we agree that outsourcing the deep cleaning once a quarter to someone who does a better job, in less time and for less money than what we could is a no-brainer. Additionally, I’m happy to provide this income opportunity to for someone else (who doesn’t despise housework as much as I do).

Clear your slate every night

I don’t let clutter – whether this be actual physical clutter, email clutter or mental clutter – build up beyond the end of the day. Every night before bed, I put away my toddler’s toys, fold the laundry, clean and put away the dishes and clear out my inbox. Inevitable emails will come in after I shut down for the day and there will be new household tasks awaiting me in the morning, but by not letting anything slide over from the day prior, I significantly reduce the stress with the start of the day.

Just like anything in life, if you keep up with the little tasks as they present themselves, you prevent them from piling up into bigger, seemingly unsurmountable tasks later on. This applies to chores, work tasks, errands and of course bills. If it can be done now, do it now.

Always go to bed together

Finally and most importantly, my husband and I try our hardest to “go to bed together” each and every night that we can. There are many nights where my husband, in particular, will need to stay up late to catch up on work, but when I turn in for the night he comes and lays with me until I fall asleep. This still provides us with important bonding time and we have some of our best conversations during these moments. Ending our day together helps keep us on the same page and in touch with each other’s lives.

Between juggling work, family, hobbies, sleep and relaxation, how do you maintain balance in your own life? Share your tips and secrets by commenting below!

 
 

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5 Tips for Running a Productive Business Meeting

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The dreaded business meeting. So often it starts with chitchat about the weather and then spins off into random discussions where no resolutions or courses of action are identified. Inevitably the meeting runs over its allotted time and all attendees leave wondering what was accomplished. There’s no follow-up and trying to find a date for the next meeting that suits everyone’s schedule is an impossible feat – if you want it to happen this year.

Does this sound familiar? It’s a scenario that is all too common – and completely avoidable if only the right organizational methods were applied. The changes we need to make to revamp an unproductive business meeting are quite simple, too. Having led countless business meetings on behalf of clients, I have identified five very simple, yet very effective tools for running a productive meeting.

If you’re ready to stop wasting hours of your life that result in nothing more than the need for another meeting, I urge you to implement the following suggestions today!

  1. Come with an agenda

Set yourself up for success by developing an agenda in advance of your meeting and having enough copies for all attendees. This will help guide everyone through the meeting’s core discussion points and quite literally, keep everyone on the same page.

As you develop your agenda, you’ll also be able to capture all of your thoughts so that you’re not struggling to remember them during the meeting. You can help move things along quickly by researching statistics, options or prices that may come up as a point of discussion. Anticipate what some attendees might ask and have the answer already provided.

  1. Bring your laptop or tablet

Be sure to bring your laptop or tablet with you! For the longest time, I wanted to travel light so I would carry only paper and a pen into a meeting. This changed when I realized how much more efficient I could be (whether leading the meeting or simply attending) when I had full access to documents, emails, etc.

If people need to see a document or reference an email, everything is right at your fingertips. I also take notes directly on the agenda on my laptop and am ready to send out the summary as soon as the meeting wraps up. This saves me the time of coming back to my office and having to transcribe and organize my notes.

Additionally, encourage other attendees to also bring their devices. Select a meeting space that at least has WiFi – even better would be a meeting space with a TV or projector that allows attendees to share their screen for everyone to see, as needed.

  1. Have a point person in charge

We have all likely attended a meeting where there appears to be no single person leading the discussion. Or, there is the meeting where everyone appears to be the leader and even more confusion ensues. The person who leads the meeting doesn’t have to be (and likely shouldn’t be) the highest position within the organization. Foremost, you want someone who is reliable and who has good organizational skills.

I have led many business meetings and it really requires only a small amount of time before and after the meeting to take on this responsibility. My favorite part is that I often get to delegate tasks to other attendees as we move through the agenda. It’s amazing how people will begin to chip in more when they know someone else has already taken the lead of organizing the meetings.

  1. Set the next meeting(s) during this meeting

When you are trying to get any more than 2 people together to meet, you need to schedule all future meetings out well in advance. Accommodating 3+ schedules can seem harder than rocket science (and maybe it is). You can avoid the slew of “Reply All” emails by scheduling the next meeting before you adjourn.

People can immediately pull out their calendars and in real-time tell you what will work and what won’t. If you know you’ll need many more meetings in the future, go ahead and schedule them all! The best method is to set a recurring day and time (i.e. the first Monday of the month at Noon). And if you’re still struggling to coordinate schedules, check out www.doodle.com – it’s a free tool and a lifesaver for scheduling meetings, especially with other busy people.

  1. Send out a summary of notes, highlighting action items

Finally, even the most organized business meeting can still fail to be productive if there is not some sort of follow-up with the attendees to remind them who is responsible for what. The person leading the meeting (or another designated note taker) should summarize the notes and send them out to all attendees within 1-2 days of the meeting.

These notes should outline important discussion points, decisions that were made and outstanding action items that need resolved before the next meeting. I like to develop a system that makes this visually easy to digest. For example, I color code people’s names and highlight that task in the appropriate color to show who is responsible. I also bold and underline any questions that need input from the group so they are easy to pick out. The more organized you are, the more responsive people will be. Most importantly, remind people of the next meeting!

Business meetings are a necessary evil. For as many times as we have all sat through a boring or unproductive meeting, there are just as many opportunities to take the lead and make your time together worth so much more. Try practicing these five tips at your next meeting – I am confident they will make a big difference!

What other tips have helped you run a productive business meeting? Share your expertise by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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