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How to Gear Up for Your Busy Season

How to Gear Up for Your Busy SeasonIt pains me to admit that my favorite season, summer, is coming to a close. As we look toward September and beyond, this can often appear to be a black hole of project deadlines, obligations and even more juggling of family activities. Somehow we need all of these things to fit into the same 24 hours in a day we expected so much less out of throughout the summer. It’s a recipe for stress, overwhelm and depression if we are not careful.

The good news is there are a ton of good things that come from your busy season – greater productivity, achievement and organization just to name a few. It’s a great opportunity to wake up and show what we’re truly capable of, but we must be careful to also be realistic with the expectations we have for our schedules and to strategically plan out moments of happiness and relaxation as well.

Take a look at these top tips I highly recommend taking to heart if you hope to make this your most successful – and most manageable – busy season yet!

Start with the big things

Looking at a laundry list of to-items that have to all make it to your calendar can be overwhelming to say the least. But remember that not all of these tasks share the same urgency and importance as one another. Some may simply not even need to be addressed during your busy season at all. Others can be delegated to another staff member or outsourced.

Start by populating your calendar with the “big” events or deadlines that are firmly set. Once you are able to see how these shake out, you can fill in your next level of important items, strategically scheduling them on days and weeks that another big event does not land. If you take care of the big things first, the little things will more easily fall into place.

Map it out long-term

Next, look at the big picture. If you know your busy season runs approximately three months, look at these three months side by side. Based upon your list of priority to-do’s, looking at just one month at a time may tempt you to overload that first month with as many tasks as possible, when that simply isn’t necessary. If a meeting or event can be pushed a month or two down the road with no major repercussions – push it! Just because you can get something done this week or this month, doesn’t mean it has to get done this week or this month. Stretch out your busy season…and maximize your sanity.

Gear up slowly

“Diving in head first” is a phrase we commonly hear in business. Sure, there are some occasions that call for you to jump right in without hesitation or second guessing. But for your busy season, which you can reasonably see boiling to a peak on your calendar, ease into your new schedule gradually.

If you know you will need to get up (a lot) earlier in the mornings to fit in some extra work time, transition your body by getting up just 15 minutes or a half hour early a few days at a time. If you can remember the agony of the sound of your alarm on the first day of school, avoid this by conditioning your body slowly to the “joy” of functioning early in the morning. Apply this theory to working through your lunch hour or getting in a few extra hours before bed. See what works best for you and stick to it!

Say “No”

The activities you enjoyed during your “slower” months, like social coffee meetings or writing daily posts on your personal blog, may need to be moved to your back burner as you gear up for your busy season. These are worthy time commitments when you aren’t overloaded with other client work, but when you hit that crazy time of the year, pull back on these items and focus foremost on the things that are directly making you money. Learning to say “no” now will save you stress and overwhelm in the coming weeks.

Avoid busyness

There is a big difference between being productive and being busy. The first means you’re tackling priorities, making money and delivering results to clients. Busyness means you’re filling your schedule with tasks that simply aren’t priority or don’t need you immediate attention. This relates back to the advice of “just say no.” Be ruthless with your schedule and only take on tasks that are a productive use of your time.

Schedule time for relaxation, personal development and social activities

Having just mentioned everything I did about prioritizing your time with big, important, money-making tasks, I’m also going to stress the importance of strategically scheduling downtime. How is both possible, you say? Put it on your calendar like any other appointment that’s filling your time that week. Make planned relaxation, personal development and social activities part of your busy season, too. Yes, you may need to scale back from what you would normally get to do during your slower months, but personal time is so important for keeping your sanity and preserving your happiness.

Give yourself “carrots” along the way

Speaking of happiness, I strongly suggest dangling some “carrots” in front of yourself to keep you motivated and engaged in your work. Busy seasons are a welcome change because they often result in greater cash flow, but no amount of increased income is worth burning yourself out for months on end. Once you achieve a certain deadline, celebrate with a dedicated afternoon off. Or reward yourself with a rerun of your favorite TV show if you work hard to knock off your biggest task before noon. Too many rewards will undermine your hard work and self-control, but the right balance will keep you refreshed and focused.

Be realistic with your expectations!

Finally, get real with what you’re expecting of yourself over the coming months. The most spectacularly color-coded calendar, planned out by the hour means nothing if it’s completely unreasonable for a human to achieve. We are not robots and even when we need to be functioning on all cylinders, we still need to ease up on ourselves when the mood calls for it. Get honest with your personality type, work style and capabilities – remember to also extend the same consideration to those helping you through your busy season.

Are you preparing to enter a busy season this fall? Share how you plan to prepare yourself to successfully manage this new schedule by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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Taking a Cue from Mother Nature

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu

Taking a Cue from Mother NatureSo often in life, nature is something we first try to change and then try equally as hard to replicate. I might be among the worst offenders of this. I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient with my time, cut-out the waste and cram in just one more hour’s worth of work somewhere, somehow. But time and time again, this haste has led me to mistakes, accidents and set-backs that in the end required more of my time than if I had just tried to do things right in the first place. Just a few days ago I was inspired by the Lao Tzu quote, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Ancient philosophers have quite a knack for making the most obvious statements while lining them with an intensely deep meaning that changes your world in a matter of seconds. And with this quote, I began to reexamine the perceived benefit of rushing through life’s tasks.

I can recall countless instances where rushing has cost me valuable time and caused unnecessary frustration. In the morning, I always feel like I’m saving time by multi tasking while brushing my teeth, but when toothpaste ends up on clothes and carpets, I spend more time cleaning up a mess that would otherwise have not been created. One specific morning, I was reaching for a canister of oatmeal with one hand and opening a drawer to grab a spoon with the other, when the entire canister came crashing to the floor. I lost about 20 minutes that day sweeping up oatmeal all for the possibility of saving a few extra seconds. Aside from a few messes here and there, rushing while driving to a meeting, proof-reading an important document or balancing my finances could lead to consequences far more severe. I suppose the underlying point is – how much time could I really be gaining by overloading myself with unnecessary multi-tasking?

In looking to nature for examples, I realized far more important tasks are accomplished every day, moving at the exact same pace they have been for all time. There’s something to be said for steady and consistent progress. Flowers bloom, animals migrate and weather changes just as it should to keep everything else moving in harmony. Could you imagine if just one piece of this puzzle were to rush its role? Everything else would be thrown off to create repercussions almost unimaginable. Most interesting of all is that we might be the only species inclined to rush. Where does this pressure come from? Why do we feel like what we accomplish in the time we’re given is never enough? I’m sure we can each answer this based upon different reflections, but what’s important is that we stop rushing long enough to at least ask.

In my own life, I can easily pick out the almost comical examples of how I try to change nature, just to replicate it. Our natural state is what we first try to improve upon, but ultimately use as our model for perfection. Just last week I spent a day rushing through my to-do list, feeling overwhelmed by everything I needed to get done. My reason for the rush? I wanted to have time to do yoga that afternoon so I could “unwind and de-stress.”  My new goal is to take a cue from Mother Nature and find a pace at which I’m making steady and consistent progress. For a serial multi-tasker this will be hard habit to break, but if it allows me to find more moments of clarity and contentment to appreciate the natural perfection of the world around me, it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept.

One of my favorite photos of Scott and me in front of Penn State’s Old Main Building. Every year, these flowers bloom in perfect harmony with spring and summer on campus.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2015 in Life, Wisdom

 

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True Test of Entrepreneurship: Are You Interested or Committed?

True Test of Entrepreneurship Are You Interested or CommittedThis month will mark the four year anniversary of the day I decided to make a hard right turn on a promising career to pursue the vast and unknown journey of an entrepreneur. I took the leap and landed on my feet – not out of luck, but out of a fiery commitment to do everything within my power to make this work.

That’s not to say I haven’t had to jump into survival mode when life threw curve balls, but I’m sitting here, typing this reflection today to tell you that there is a stark contrast between being interested in entrepreneurship and being fully committed to it.

Throughout the many lessons I’ve learned about entrepreneurship over these past four years, one of the most reoccurring was the difference between interest and commitment. I believe the quote by Kenneth Blanchard says it best, “…When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it is convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.”

If you happen to find yourself at a crossroads of whether you’re interested in or committed to becoming an entrepreneur, consider the words that best describe your motivation and what category they fall into below:

When you are merely interested in something, you do it because it is…

Fun – Of course something that is fun will capture your interest and ignite a spark of excitement. When the task brings you joy, it’s natural to want to spend as much time as possible doing it. Unfortunately, many aspects of entrepreneurship are not fun, and are actually quite stressful.

New – The thrill of something new is always an intoxicating feeling. The unchartered territory and unlimited opportunities of entrepreneurship are some of the most common reasons why people are drawn to this lifestyle. But like anything that was once new, it will lose its shine and as a result, lose the attention of someone who was only “interested” in the venture for its newness.

Easy – One of the biggest determinants between whether you are interested in something or committed to something is whether you will still pursue the task once it is no longer easy. When we are interested in something, like entrepreneurship, it’s attractive when it’s obvious, easy and straightforward. As soon as the road begins to bend and a few tree trunks fall across your path, those who are merely “interested” will usually find a clear path to get the heck out of there!

Popular – Peer pressure is a very real force even long after we’ve left high school. In society, the career choices that seem “cool,” glamorous, interesting and trendy are attractive paths to follow. But what happens when that once popular idea loses the limelight – or worse yet, becomes criticized? Commitment means continuing to do what you said you were going to do, long after the popularity has worn off. A person who is merely interested in becoming an entrepreneur will move on to the next shiny object time and time again.

When you are fully committed to something, you ALSO do it because it is…

Fulfilling – Commitment is often accompanied by long hours and tough decisions. Some people may not understand or like what you are doing and boldly make this opinion known. But when you are committed to becoming an entrepreneur, it’s for reasons much deeper than those listed in the “interested” section above. One of these reasons is that the work is fulfilling to you. It’s a labor of love. You aren’t dependent upon popularity and publicity to keep you motivated; rather, the motivation comes from personal fulfillment.

Meaningful – In addition to pursuing a passion or filling void in your life, commitment is often connected to doing something that has a deep, personal meaning to you. In the case of entrepreneurship, we can find everyday examples of people who have started a business or non-profit to solve a problem that has impacted them personally. Helping other people, who have experienced your same problem, live better lives adds meaning to our own.

Worth the effort – We’ve all heard the notion, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” When you are committed to an entrepreneurial career, you don’t look for the shortcuts or easy ways out. You don’t want a “get rich quick” plan and you know that the words rich and quick rarely work together. It takes a lot of effort, but your commitment comes from believing it is worth it. You are prepared to invest a lot of hours into this venture – and you’re not looking for a quick return.

Your calling – Finally, and likely the best way to determine whether you are merely interested in entrepreneurship or whether you are fully committed to pursuing this unique career is deciding whether it is your calling in life. The most successful entrepreneurs didn’t just stumble upon this path, they were drawn to it, usually from as early as they can remember. While every journey has twists and turns, committed entrepreneurs will agree that all signs pointed them toward this type of career. Even amidst setbacks, you will not feel like a failure if you are going after what you are called to do.

Have you ever had to decipher between whether you were merely interested in something or fully committed to it? Share your personal experience by commenting below.

 

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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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9 Quick and Effective Ways to Relieve Stress During the Workday

9 Quick and Effective Ways to Relieve Stress During the WorkdayOne 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

Finding Balance as a Work at Home MomA 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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