Category: Wellness and Balance

Why Engagement is the Wrong Word

Posted on December 3rd, by Bonni Titgemeyer in On My Mind, Wellness and Balance. 13 comments

I was engaged once.  It was 1988 and in between a course of sweetbreads and lamb at the Millcroft Inn in Alton, Ontario, the blue-eyed guy across from me popped the question.  I looked at the ring, and I looked at him, and I said, “yes”.  In other words, I said (on the inside), “I find you very attractive, I have no idea how this story might end, but yes, I think there are good odds here and I’m game to give it a shot”.  After all, we were very young, we had no money, but we had high hopes for the future. We set a date.

That’s engagement.

During engagement, you buy an expensive dress you’ll never wear again, and you fuss over the strange details of a hopefully once-in-a-lifetime ceremony.  You drive your friends and family crazy.  Then once the engagement is over and you’ve settled in, you find true happiness.

I’ve thought about this as it relates to the workplace.

Do we need engagement?  Or do we need that sense of settling in and happiness?

I think it is the latter.

I’m not sure we are at our best during the engagement.  There are reasons why there are TV shows about bridezillas. There is frenzied anticipation and many, many details.  There are a lot of things to balance, with time always seeming to be at a premium. Our goal is to have a lovely wedding. We fret at not being able to see much beyond that day.  It is when the engagement is over that we have a routine and new goals and a longer-term outlook.  We fall more deeply in love with our spouse. That’s happiness.

I fully realize that not everyone on the engagement bandwagon agrees with me.  They argue that an engaged employee is not necessarily a happy employee and they argue that a happy employee may be happy because their work isn’t challenging, which doesn’t benefit the business.  Ok, fair enough.  That said, perhaps I’m being overly technical but the definition of engagement does not include the word motivation (in fact, appointment is a synonym for engagement).  Ultimately, motivation is another positive side effect of being settled in to a role where you have confidence. Again, during engagement you are not settled in yet.

So how can you achieve a workplace full of happy people?  Try these strategies:

  1. Find ways to include your employees in long-term planning.  So often we set short-term goals in our planning without thinking about how this contributes to the big picture.  The more employees can see themselves in your organization 3, 5, 7 years down the road, the more likely they will contribute in ways that will ensure the organization is sustainable.
  2. Love your organization.  Love your employees. I’m talking to you HR. Some of the best organizations out there have amazing programs not only for current employees but also alums.  Make it a family atmosphere full of positivity and mutual respect by focusing on programs designed to be supportive of the whole employee, at 24 and 64.  The workplace should feel safe and a place to find your centre.  This can’t happen in a place where there isn’t an environment of mutual trust.
  3. Lessen the distractions. People focus best when they aren’t surrounded by a myriad of distractions.  They’re happy when the details are set.  If that means organizing central pick up for dry cleaning, providing access to a concierge service or being more flexible about work arrangements, go for it.

If you think of your employees after the engagement, the onboarding, all that preliminary stuff, and make the workplace feel like an extension of home, you’re well on your way to achieving workplace happiness.

 

Photo Credit

 

About the author: Bonni Titgemeyer is the Managing Director of The Employers’ Choice Inc. She has been in human resources for 20+ years and works in the international HR arena. She is the recipient of the 2012 Toronto Star HR Professional of the Year Award.  You can connect with Bonni on Twitter as @BonniToronto, often at the hashtag #TEPHR.


The Dangers of Snoozing Through Breakfast

Posted on September 26th, by a Guest Contributor in Wellness and Balance. No Comments

How many times did you hit the snooze button this morning before you finally dragged yourself out from under the covers? C’mon, be honest. But let yourself snooze just one time and it quickly becomes a habit. Next thing you know, you’re sleeping so late that you have to skip breakfast. And then, the rest of your day is off track. I know it sounds cliché at this point, but breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Let’s explore the reasons why.

 

Having breakfast may lower your risk of developing chronic disease.

Listen up, ladies! Skipping your morning oatmeal could induce insulin resistance according to a University of Colorado School of Medicine study (presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society). Insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes. Now, this doesn’t mean that men get a free pass; it just means that the study was only done with women.

This seems to support the findings from an earlier study presented in 2003 at the American Heart Association’s annual conference. According to this study, though, not only did breakfast eaters have good blood sugar levels, but they were also less likely to be obese and less likely to feel hungry later in the day.

 

Breakfast can energize you and keep you focused throughout the day.

A 1999 study found that a breakfast that is high in fiber and carbohydrates could help you feel less tired throughout the day. Think about that before you hit the snooze. You might think you’re energizing your body with a few minutes of much-needed rest, but snoozing in lieu of breakfast may actually make you feel more tired later in the day.

A 2012 study published in the journal Appetite found that students who ate breakfast showed greater speed and accuracy on cognitive and memory tests than students who skipped breakfast. This study found that a lack of a morning meal affected both genders, but it was more detrimental to girls than boys.

 

How about a bowl of granola to calm your nerves?

Think that extra five or 10 minutes of sleep will help you cope with stress better throughout the day? According to the results of a 2002 Nutritional Neuroscience study, that’s simply not the case. This study specifically tested the relationship between breakfast cereal consumption and cortisol levels. The body releases cortisol as part of its natural response to stress. So, when we’re stressed out, our cortisol levels are high. But this study found that people who ate breakfast cereal in the morning had lower cortisol levels than those who didn’t. That’s not to say that cereal is the best possible breakfast, but according to this study, it’s better than no breakfast at all.

Stress is a very serious problem in our fast-paced society. One of the biggest problems is that the things that stress us out don’t go away. Your boss is on your case; bills are unpaid; a loved one is ill. These things tend to add up and lead to chronic stress, and chronic stress tends to lead to other health issues. Having a good breakfast is one of the best stress-management tools in your toolkit.

Hitting the snooze button in the morning may be what feels good in the moment, but having breakfast is what is going to keep you feeling good throughout the day, and possibly, for years to come. So next time your body is fighting to stay asleep, give some thought to what you would be giving up for an extra 10 minutes of not-so-restful sleep.

 

About the Author: Deborah Enos, CN, also known as “The One-Minute Wellness Coach,” is The Health Coach for busy, working people.  Deborah regularly speaks to corporations, nationwide, paring her good-health messages down to simple and fast bullet points that can impact corporate employees’ lives in 60 seconds or less.  Deborah has authored two books, “Weight A Minute” and “What’s In My Suitcase?”. Deborah regularly makes appearances on NBC, FOX13, and has been featured in  The Costco Connection, Parade Magazine and  Self Magazine, sharing her quick approach to a healthier lifestyle.  Read more about Deborah Enos at www.DeborahEnos.com or follow her on Twitter @deborahenos

 

Photo credit iStockphoto


Daughter Dreams For Us All

I love to watch my little girls sleep.  They are calm, full of possibility, and not asking me to change them for the 4th time that hour into another fairy, princess, or pirate costume.  As I watch, I imagine what dramas, adventures, heartbreak, and careers (I am a career coach after all!) lie ahead for both of them and it’s hard to discern what my hopes are for them and what my actual expectations are.

My free-spirited head-strong 4. 5 year old has always had a mind of her own and her attitude taught me early on that she was her own girl, with a unique personality; wonderful,  and not at all a clone of her mom.  This helped me pull away the layers of hopes I had dreamt up when she was 20 weeks in utero and I found out a little girl was in our future.   As she took on the world through her independence, I worked hard to stop putting my aspirations or assumptions of who she would become onto her tiny little shoulders.  By the time my younger daughter was born I felt that I was doing a pretty decent job of embracing the individual personalities each girl would have.  That being said, I still do catch myself making offhand comments about “when Josie is CEO of a company” or “when she opens her own restaurant.”  After years of watching their personalities form, I come up with careers that I think they will definitely master.  Of course, these career predictions change as fast as the whims of precocious preschoolers change.  So what exactly do I hope for when it comes to the lives my girls create and why do I bother to write about it?

I hope they have choices.  I hope they never have to stay in situations that aren’t working for them, that aren’t helping them grow, and thrive, and laugh, and play.  I hope they work  (I do, I can’t help it) but I also hope they have the choice to create the work schedule and environment that brings out their best and matches the priorities they hold at any given moment.  So what does this mean for me, and how I mother them?  How do I help them achieve a life full of choice?  I’m not quite sure but I think it involves helping them develop a love of learning so they have the education to back up their goals.  I am also pretty sure it involves showing them what love is and how it never means giving up who you are, what you like, or who your friends are.  I want them to choose wisely if and when they do decide to marry.

I have read countless books geared towards us working mom set, and most of them are written from the perspective of a fairly privileged, educated woman who does have the choice to either work or not, be married or not, have more children or not,  schedule housecleaners, nannies, gardeners, date night etc. or not.   One of the themes that seems to come through is a hint of complaint about the fact that there just are too many choices.  As if moms are paralyzed by choice and opportunity, a burden the generation before us didn’t have.

Can I be candid? To me this is nonsense.   Instead of lamenting the various choices we have and the way it makes us feel afraid to move, how about buck up and spend some time figuring what you want and who you are, and have the courage to be that person and pursue that goal?  Take choice by the horns and run with it.  You want to work part-time to have more time with your family?  Figure out a way to make it work.  Talk to your employer, talk to other moms who do it, create a situation that makes it possible.  You want to start your own business?  There is no easier time then now.  Truly it will only get harder.   Trust me, I work with MBA students and I have heard every counter to this argument including “ I have a newborn” to which my response is, “Do you think it will be easier when you have a full schedule of t-ball and ballet classes to take your kids too?”  You want a meaningful career that involves decision making?  Pursue another degree, ask for management opportunities, apply for a new job, seek out a mentor that has that role.  Take proactive steps so you are creating a life that includes endless choices and a plethora of paths to venture down.

I hope this for my daughters, I seek this for myself, and I encourage it of you.

 

About the author: Maggie Tomas works at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as Associate Director and Career Coach in the Graduate Business Career Services office. Her background includes teaching and career counseling at the college level, namely at the University of St. Thomas, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), and  Brooks Institute, a well-known film, photography, and design school where she served as Director of Career and Student Services.  She is a contributing writer to several blogs and publications including Opus Magnum, Women of HR, and Job Dig.

 

Photo credit iStockphoto


This is How a Leader Takes a Vacation

Posted on September 3rd, by a Guest Contributor in Personal & Professional Development, Wellness and Balance. 1 Comment

Days, weeks, and months of leading a team can prove to be very exhausting.  People are always asking things of you and while you love to give, the cycle of take-take-take can leave your well running dry.

 

A vacation is a great way to break out of that cycle and refresh your attitude.  Think back to your last vacation.  Did you feel relaxed, joyful, fulfilled?  Did you gain a fresh perspective and perhaps return to work with an ignited flame of creativity?

 

Not only will you return from a vacation as a better version of yourself, relaxed and ready to reenergize your team, but your absence could also provide room for some serious growth.  Here’s how…

 

Organize and Tie Loose Ends

Have you ever left on a vacation with your house is disarray?  After days of relaxation you come home to a dizzying and depressing mess that literally pops your blissful bubble.  The same fundamentals apply to your work demands; the only way you can truly capitalize on the rejuvenating benefits of a vacation is if you prepare yourself for a clean and smooth return.

 

Accomplish this by tying up all loose ends.  Put in the extra time before your vacation to get ahead and push all formal follow-ups to a few days after your return.  Regardless of your vacation’s destination, plan for a return jet-lag day where you don’t necessarily have to dive into anything, instead you can lightly skim over the week ahead, acclimate yourself, and organize some more.  In short: work through your lunch breaks and put in the late nights pre-vacation, so that your Zen feelings can keep lasting upon your return to work.

 

Delegate Deadlines, Duties and Follow Ups

It is a good idea to formally notify your team of your planned time out-of the-office.  Reemphasize their duties on ongoing projects and understand that it’s OK for deadlines to take place while you are way.  It will be your team’s responsibility to follow-up with you however you see fit.  The whole point of a vacation is to take a break from work, so consider a suggestion as simple as a Friday follow-up email.  This way each team member can still feel accountable while giving you some quick updates on their progress.

 

If you want to savor your time away, then comfort yourself by appointing a person who can answer questions and make real-time decisions in your place.  Obviously pick a person who is trustworthy and, almost more important, pick someone who displays your similar style of leadership and execution.  Give this single person your emergency contact information (only after describing what truly constitutes as an emergency).

 

Believe In Your Team

One of the main hesitations for a leader to take a vacation is that he or she thinks the team cannot function without them being there.  (Guard your egos, management: this is not true.)  While your unique leadership style and encouraging attributes keep your team organized, it also can stifle them into some stiff routines.

 

Allow your team some space to breathe while you are way.  Let them know that you consider this time as a chance for people to test out their own styles while proving themselves.  When you return, discuss with your team the differences they experienced in your absence.  Perhaps the freedom allowed them to discover a more productive approach to work that is both functional and inspired.  You never know the new directions your employees can surprise you with; utilize your vacation as a canvas for them to both breathe and explore.

 

Regardless of your overall approach, it is important for every leader to protect their right to live.  Whether you are hoping to reconnect with your family, save yourself from burnout, or maybe even make some unique and friendly business connections, a vacation serves multiple needs.

 

Life is short and work is long.  Commit to refreshing yourself and your efforts every now and then with a vacation that you not only deserve- but you really need!  When done correctly it can reconnect you with your work and creativity, all while affording your team time and space for professional growth.

 

 What other tips can ensure that leaders will have a great vacation?

About the author: Kelly Gregorio writes about leadership trends and tips while working at Advantage Capital Funds, a merchant cash advance provider. You can read her daily business blog here.

 

Photo credit iStockphoto

 

 


Approaching a Job Search after a Termination or Layoff

It’s usually easy to spot: the nervous jitters as he talks about his most recent position, the disdain he is clearly trying to hide about his supervisor or colleagues, the glossing over of the actual job conclusion.  By the time I ask, “ so what prompted you to leave” or “what brings you in today,” I can almost recite the words that always include “laid-off”, “let go”, “downsizing”,  “bad manager”, etc.  As a career coach, I encounter a myriad of clients who have a gap in their employment history.  Typically these clients address this issue with me in one of two ways.  They either shy away from the topic (think example above) to avoid mentioning it until half way through the appointment, after the resume review, or they bring it up immediately and we spend the better part of an hour talking about this event that has defined them for the past several months of the job search.

The whole “defining” aspect of a termination is the problem and the number one factor that gets in a job seeker’s way between knowing Ellen’s guest line-up on any given Tuesday and signing an offer letter.  Whether you actually introduce it at the forefront of every conversation that has a slight hint of a networking component OR you skirt away from this part of your past like you have a cousin in the mafia and are in witness protection, the emotion is the same – shame.  Shame seeps from every pore of your being if you let it.  It portrays a desperate need for any job and scares the heck out of any recruiter, hiring manager, or potential colleague.

So what is an innocent, talented, recently laid off employee to do?  Take a week off to sulk, lick your wounds, replay all of the unfair aspects surrounding the lay-off, and talk your nearest and dearest ears’ off about the numerous ways you saved the company X amount of dollars and are so much more talented than Ted in accounting, and then stop.  Stop venting.  Stop sulking.  Stop watching fluff TV all day.  Now follow these steps:

1.)    Wake up on Monday of week 2 post lay-off and go to a coffee shop.  Look around, watch the birds outside, read the business journals, and write down 10 jobs you want (in your field), and 10 companies you want to work for.  The key here is want.  This is your chance to choose where you want to and should be.  Don’t take this task lightly.

2.)    Then go on LinkedIn.  How does your profile look?  Is your most recent position up-to-date with the amazing achievements you accomplished?  How is your picture? Meaning: Is it professional (not a shot of you with your significant other cropped out from a high school reunion) and has it been taken in the past 5 years?

3.)    Now start reaching out.  Ask first degree contacts out to coffee.  Talk to them honestly and authentically about what happened, what you think you are good at, where you want to be, and ask for help.  People want to help.  Really they do.  Sometimes they just need permission to actually offer it.

4.)    Next do searches for contacts at companies you’re targeting.  Use LinkedIn groups as a resource to a whole new community of contacts and search those groups by job function or company. Then invite these potential contacts to coffee and do the same.  Be authentic, and give them the gist of the fact that your company had a downsizing and you are now focusing on these specific roles at companies like the one they work for.

5.)    Lastly explore the job aggregators.  What’s out there? What is trending?  Who seems to be hiring?  Apply appropriately and then circle back to step 4.

In a follow-up post I’ll advise on how to talk about a layoff to employers during an interview.  The main thing to remember about starting a job search after a termination is that this is an event that happened but you don’t have to let it keep happening to you every time you talk to someone.  Let the emotions that surrounded the event go and focus on all of the value you brought to your roles and the value you have to share with a future employer.  Surround yourself with people who remind you of your amazing attributes, read books and articles, and broaden your industry and business knowledge.  Oh yes, and by all means, turn off daytime television.

 

Photo credit iStockphoto

 

Maggie Tomas works at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as Associate Director and Career Coach in the Graduate Business Career Services office. Her background includes teaching and career counseling at the college level, namely at the University of St. Thomas, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), and  Brooks Institute, a well-known film, photography, and design school where she served as Director of Career and Student Services.  She is a contributing writer to several blogs and publications including Opus Magnum, Women of HR, and Job Dig.

 

 


A Career To Be Grateful For

Posted on May 2nd, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace, Wellness and Balance, Work/Life Balance. 2 comments

Being a stay at home mom has its perks – you don’t have to get dressed up, you can work out on your own schedule, and you don’t need to have the children’s lunch ready at 7 a.m. However, the most amazing and obvious benefit of being a stay at home mom is the opportunity to intimately know your children and to share all of the milestones of their young lives. No one can truly understand and love a child like their parent. Choosing to stay at home had its financial and career limiting consequences, but it’s a choice that I will never regret.

Being a stay at home mom however does not mean that you must put your brain or skills on hold. Especially in today’s modern world where there are countless ways for you to expand your horizons. And that’s exactly what I did. After driving many, many miles to practices, games, lessons and recitals, making sure that the homework was done and dinner was prepared, I spent countless late nights looking on the computer for ideas to sharpen my skills, and technology is what I came to love.

I am a problem solver. I love when I am given a challenge; know how to fix it, and how to fix it better. It started with setting up my own home wifi network. To most of my friends and co-workers, it’s probably no big deal, but in the stay at home mom arena – I was “big stuff”. Everyone wanted to know, ” how did I know how to do that?” Before I knew it, I was helping my neighbor, her friend, and then their elderly parents. And so began my journey, I became even more motivated to challenge myself. From school sports teams to the theatre department, the needs, as well as the expertise grew. I taught myself HTML, CSS, and how to create a Joomla site.

With each growing project a new skill such as Photoshop and Gimp emerged. I began to get noticed and was offered a position by my local principal in the Career Tech Department. The launching pad was perfect, it allowed me to further develop my skills and opened my eyes to the world of other opportunities out there. With my newly minted resume, an opportunity presented itself. The Global HR consulting firm, Exaserv, was looking for a Product Manager and the job description fit me perfectly. Some of the main requirements were organizational skills and the ability to prioritize, and all those years of being a stay at home mom had definitely helped to hone those skills. Not to mention my developed computer expertise!

It’s been over a year now since I’ve been back in the workforce and I have loved every day of employment. I am constantly learning and growing in my new role and enjoy all the “doors” that are opening for me. Staying at home to raise my children was the best decision I ever made, but taking that time to also sharpen my skills has given me the opportunity to go back to work and grow my career. It’s an experience for which I will forever be grateful.

About the author: Sophia Lidback is Product Manager at Exaserv, where her responsibilities include managing product development, writing and editing technical and functional user manuals and managing customer relations with respect to product implementation.  Sophia is a wife and mother of 4.


{Working Mom} Breaking Guilt's Grasp

Posted on February 21st, by Maggie Tomas in Wellness and Balance. Comments Off

I happen to have a propensity for guilt.  Although I am not sure of the origins of this tendency to own every hiccup in life, I battle it daily.  Add that I am a working mother of two small girls and this doesn’t help with my guilt ridden personality.

When it comes to being a working mom, I often cannot quite tell what exactly I feel so guilty about. Do I regret not having as much time as I would like with my girls?  Or am I feeling badly about the fact that I like my job,  that it satisfies a core part of my personality? If the latter, what kind of mother does that make me?

I would like to think that every mom feels just like I do but the fact is they don’t.  I have some amazing women in my life who are strong and confident in their choices to excel at work and raise really likable children.  These women are wonderful examples to me and their advice helps me curb the guilt.

Recently I had coffee with a girlfriend who is not only successful but is raising two adorable boys. I asked her to share insight on how she gets through the day without nagging bouts of self-reproach.

  • Stop apologizing for your choices. Yes you work. Yes you like it. Yes you love your kids. All of these things can go together without competing (well most of the time-perhaps not when you have to call in sick because your 2 year old caught some awful version of the stomach bug). Change your perspective and focus on what a great example you can be to your children by modeling work ethic, passion, and drive.  These are important traits to possess and who better to teach your children than you?
  • Be true to who you are. Follow your own path and not a prescribed path you think is correct.  There are so many ways to “mommy” children. Do it your way and you will feel better about it.  I spent the first year of my oldest daughter’s life trying to prescribe to every sleep ritual out there. None of them felt right to me and none of them worked well for my daughter. Once I accepted the fact that the

Why Working Moms Should Embrace Technology

Posted on November 27th, by Maggie Tomas in Wellness and Balance. 1 Comment

I was late in the game with technology.  While my friends and family were readily downloading apps and taking adorable vintage photos with Instagram, it took me years to embrace the smartphone. I also was slow to get excited by the DVR I nowadays swear by. How else can I have Elmo on hand for my 3-year-old and Modern Family ready and waiting for me when I have a free 30 minutes to spare?

I held firm to my stance that I wasn’t a tech girl and would much prefer to write down my schedule and leave email at work. . . blah, blah, blah.  That changed the day I actually succumbed and decided on a smartphone when upgrade time  rolled around. I declared my choice was solely based on the ability to take cute pictures of my daughters but secretly I wanted in on the club and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.  I told my husband a week later that the iPhone changed my life.  He smirked and had an “I told you so” look.

I am now leaning on technology more and more because as a working mom of 2 toddlers I will take all the help I can get.  Here are a few reasons why I encourage all of my mom clients to jump on the tech train and never look back:

  1. Branding:  Get involved online and build your presence this way by participating in LinkedIn, tweeting great articles and writing engaging blog posts. Nothing will shave time off of in-person networking like a great online presence.
  2. Ease Workday Load:  Family dinner is important to me.  I leave at 4:45 unless I have a class to teach. Period.  The only way this is possible for me is because I can pull out my laptop and get 2 hours of work done after my girls are cozily sleeping in bed.
  3. Scheduling: No need to waste time calling my husband to see if we can meet friends for dinner, volunteer with the youth group or schedule a play date on Saturday. I can simply check his calendar, compare it to mine and I have my answer. Total time saver. I have friends who take it a step further and register with an online family organizer and swear by it.  Remember the Milk and Cozi are 2 highly recommended apps.
  4. Connecting/Sharing:  My family lives in California.  I live in the Midwest.  Thank God for programs like Skype, Facebook and Instagram that enable me to quickly get a dose of home updates so I can then attend to my other responsibilities.  The connect

    ing aspect of technology is also helpful for moms who work at large corporations.  Many Fortune 500 companies have “mom boards” where employees can share tips ranging from best nursing locations in the building to offering up used baby goods.

  5. Kid Friendly: Those of us who have waited for food to arrive at a restaurant with a toddler, spent 2 plus hours on a flight with an 18 month old, or taken a preschooler to the DMV for a license renewal – all while armed with a smart phone or iPad – know the value in technology. It allows us to get through a boring task without a tantrum while our child is entertained with an educational game. I’m not encouraging letting your iPad babysit your child, but I am the first to admit that it is useful in certain scenarios.

This list could go on with relevant tips and suggestions on how turning to technology can actually ease a mom’s to-do list. There is one caveat though:

Technology can be a time zapper and a great way to lose focus of your #1  priority – your kids.

Something I have found that works for me and prevents me from answering my email on my smartphone while playing Candyland with my preschooler (which makes her feel like my last priority when all she wants is my undivided attention as she nabs the Queen Frostine card) is to put my phone and computer away until the kids are in bed. I often leave my smartphone in my purse when I come home from work and don’t take it out until they are tucked away sleeping.  This helps eliminate the chance of mom getting distracted and shows my girls that family time is first.

As with anything, balance is key but honestly, a life with technology and all the help it can provide, does ease many stressful situations and can make family planning much easier.

What types of technology do you find helps with your work/life balance?

Photo credit: iStockphoto

About the author: Maggie Tomas works at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as Associate Director and Career Coach in the Graduate Business Career Services office. Her background includes teaching and career counseling at the college level, namely at the University of St. Thomas, University of California Santa Barbara, and  Brooks Institute, where she served as Director of Career and Student Services.  She is a contributing writer to several blogs and publications including Opus Magnum, Women of HR and Job Dig.

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4 Ways To Keep Your Productivity Up

Posted on October 30th, by Heather Rose in Wellness and Balance. 1 Comment

As busy HR professionals we use the word focus in many ways, whether it be in terms of what project we need to focus on next, what the focus of our next meeting should be or where our overall focus should be to keep in line with strategy.

What if we find ourselves having trouble with focus in the more literal sense though?  We have very full schedules to maintain, and at some point we may lose sight of what is at the center of our day and miss a cue. Here are some tips that I employ to keep my productivity up when I find myself having trouble zeroing in on the task at hand:

Get organized.  If your mind is racing and all you can think about is everything else you need to accomplish it will be hard to give your full attention to what you need to work on right now.  Take a few minutes to organize your work area and update your to-do list.  Prioritize, update deadlines if necessary and cross off tasks you’ve completed.  When you have things in order it is easier to give your full attention to one specific item on the list so you can complete it and move on to the next.

Get a small project out of the way.  Now that you are organized look at your list and see if there is something simple you can cross off right away.  Perhaps there is an email that can be easily answered, a meeting quickly scheduled or some papers cluttering your desk that can be filed.  Knowing that you got something accomplished, no mat

ter how small it may be, will give you a boost of confidence to tackle something bigger.

Refuel and recharge.  Think back to your last meal; did you skip it altogether or was it not satisfying?  If your stomach is grumbling or you are feeling light-headed it will be tough to make progress in your work.  Take time to eat lunch or fit in a small snack.  With the proper nourishment we have the energy necessary to make it through the rest of the day.

Not hungry?  Get up and take a walk instead.  Move around the office to check in with co-workers or step outside for fresh air.  Either way, when you come back to your desk you’ll be reinvigorated and ready to tackle your inbox.

Turn on the music.  This may not work for those that require quiet to get their work completed, but I’ve always found that putting light music on in the background can drown out all of the other office noise and allow me to focus in on my work.

Everyone has a different approach to get back on track.  Find what works best for you and make your day as effective as possible.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

About the author: Heather Rose, PHR is an HR Professional with over 7 years experience supporting top organizations' HR functions. In addition to her career in HR, Heather enjoys writing about her life adventures, reading and traveling. You can connect with Heather on LinkedIn.

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Creating a Life That Works For The All of You

Posted on October 18th, by Maggie Tomas in Wellness and Balance. 1 Comment

For the first 30 years of my life I found it easy to describe myself.  That self could encompass any range of titles, labels, or feelings depending on my role in life, position or mood. In college I was a student-server-girlfriend-vegetarian for a year. When I started working in career coaching after grad school I was a listener-mentor-a single person-yogi novice.  All of these things were defined and controlled by me and I was comfortable balancing them all.

All of that flew out the window with motherhood.

The second the obstetrician placed my beautiful and loud (doctor’s first words were “she has lungs!”) daughter into my shaking arms, I was suddenly overcome with love and purpose.  But weeks and months later I was also unsure as to what do to with all of the parts of me that made me who I was prior to becoming mother to this amazing little girl.

Motherhood was something I yearned for and very much wanted.  I read books on parenting and felt very prepared and a bit overconfident for my new role – until I officially became a mother.  Suddenly, I was questioning myself on everything: cloth or disposable, cry it out or co-sleep, organic baby blender homemade creations or the jarred store bought variety, helicopter parent or tiger mom, and the list goes on and on.  Not only was I indecisive but I was so consumed with love for this little person that I thought in order to be the best mother possible I should give up everything that defined me pre-baby and focus on this new all important role of raising a human being.

This played out by turning me into a confused, sometimes bitter, and teetering between overt self-sacrificing/bewildered that I lost my “cool pre-baby” self.  For example, my personal priorities took a nosedive as I lamented this post-baby belly yet felt guilt-ridden at the thought of hitting the gym and leaving my newborn with a sitter.  Professionally, I tried to balance everything calmly and maintain these two separate roles effectively.  I had worked hard on my career but I also loved this little baby and didn’t want to miss all the milestones while I plugged away at my computer.  I tried to have conversations with mentors and supervisors and was basically given the advice of “this career is 60+ hours a week so find a way to make it work” or “I completely understand. I remember my wife struggling but ultimately she knew family was most important so she stayed home with the kids.”  All me

ssages implicit in their meanings and all sent me, the not-so-confident mom reeling and questioning my priorities.

In time I worked on creating a career that worked for me and all of my roles.  I said goodbye to the attitude of work first and focused on finding ways to prioritize.  Now, I encourage new moms and clients to think about being both women with a unique history and distinct passions and experiences as well as mothers in love with amazing children. Personally,  I now I try to weave both aspects into every decision I make and every encounter I face.  I no longer think that being a good mother means being only a mother.  I think about how I want my girls to know who their mom is in all of my flaws and idiosyncrasies.  I focus on teaching them the value of work ethic and the importance of loving what you do by modeling this for them.  After all my greatest achievement will be raising strong independent girls who will one day have fulfilling careers of their own – girls who have many roles, including mother, and who embrace their whole selves and will raise children who do the same.

New motherhood knocks you off your feet, not only with sleepless nights and mountains of dirty diapers and laundry but with a love and adoration that is consuming.  This all-consuming love for your child can take your breath away and ask you to question all that you thought was important pre-baby.  This is normal and often necessary in the bonding process.  It is imperative, however, to journey back to finding a new normal that does incorporate some of your pre-baby traits and passions.  For some that journey is easy and comfortable.  For others, like me, it can be riddled with confusion and guilt until one day you look at yourself and decide that you must find a way to be both.

What has worked for you?

Photo credit: iStockphoto

About the author: Maggie Tomas works at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as Associate Director and Career Coach in the Graduate Business Career Services office. Her background includes teaching and career counseling at the college level, namely at the University of St. Thomas, University of California Santa Barbara, and  Brooks Institute, where she served as Director of Career and Student Services.  She is a contributing writer to several blogs and publications including Opus Magnum, Women of HR and Job Dig.

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