Embrace the abundance that is you.

This audio post Bearing Your Abudance will show you how. To listen, click on the link, and you should automatically be able to hear it. If not, right click the link, then save to your desktop to listen on your own audio software.

Gazing at the picture of my thirty-year-old self with a baby in my arms, I had no idea what life had in store for me then. Soon after the picture was taken, I was confronted with the dilemma so many working women face today: dueling priorities of both work and home life. Having arranged a part-time position in the marketing department of a major investment firm, I managed to work a forty-hour job in thirty. There was no balance: just 5 a.m. wake-up times, baby fevers and early pick-ups at child care in the middle of the day.

It was a nightmare.

In the sage words of Vickie L. Milazzo in her 2011 release Wicked Success is Inside Every Woman, “[i]f you haven’t been reduced to your breaking point one or more times in your life, you’re either very young or probably not a woman.”

Forget what self-help gurus tell you. Work-life balance does not exist.

In my view, work-life balance is a media sound bite that tries to remedy the conflicts working parents face every day. It is a myth primarily because the image evokes the sense that work and life are on opposite spectrums of our existence. In fact, they are not.

Anyone with a smartphone will tell you work bleeds into life after hours. If you are an entrepreneur or freelancer, such as myself (I soon discovered Corporate America would not support mothers they way I needed it to), you find yourself working at odd hours. Partly, it’s because we are passionate about what we do. Partly, it’s because our global world demands it.

What is possible is aligning your life with your truest purpose. Everything else cascades from that centerpoint. If you know what you are passionate about, your focus will be laser-like and the extraneous distractions that tug at your attention will fall away.

I recently chat with CBS This Morning correspondent Lee Woodruff, who is doing the opening keynote address at the upcoming Women’s Leadership Conference in Las Vegas August 14-15, 2012. When she offered up her view of work-life balance, I sat up and listened because her priorities have really been put to the test in her life. For those of you who are familiar with her husband’s story, Bob Woodruff replaced Peter Jennings in the ABC news anchor chair. For 27 days. That is, until a bomb in Iraq struck him while reporting there in 2006. His amazing recovery has been recorded in various places. Here’s one.

For someone who has been to hell and back, Lee is a remarkably resilient personality whose sense of humor is certainly her recipe for success (just ask her about the power of flannel nightgowns). Spending a few minutes on the phone with her was enough to boost my spirits skyward. Her writing will do the same for you. She’s just penned her first novel entitled Those We Love Most, which will be released in September 2012.

According to Lee, “there isn’t a balance. It’s a myth that we’re chasing. And we’ve done women a big disservice to say they can have it all.” She referenced a recent Atlantic Monthly article by former director of policy planning at the State Department Annie-Marie Slaughter that claims the current workplace and society at large are not equipped to deal with family life as a holistic part of an employee’s existence. The personal and the professional are held separately and not valued equally. Slaughter suggests that someone who trains for a marathon and puts in the early and late hours to reach his goal is considered disciplined, committed and admirable. Someone who puts in the same hours caring for a family is not regarded the same way.

Glibly put, family life, should it interfere with work at all, is regarded as an unspeakable part of yourself, like gastrointestinal issues. In current times, it is unprofessional to mention you might have a life beyond your cubicle.

Society dictates that you are ‘less than’ when you show you have family commitments outside of work. You are somehow subpar to those who really ‘dig in’ and don’t let pesky distractions such as a sick child or school matters interfere with more noble pursuits such as the bottom line. In fact, I have been told to say I have an off-site meeting to clients when really I’m attending my child’s concert. I was instructed that it is unprofessional to speak of such matters because it would indicate my attention is not 100 percent on the client himself. No one places 100 percent of their attention anywhere. That, too, is a myth.

We need to redefine what professionalism means. We are not robots. We are social beings in a broader network with other social beings. When will family life be as hip as Facebook?

Lee admits that she cannot have it all and that, whilst on the speaking circuit, her children aren’t going to get that home-cooked meal. She says you can still be a great mother and miss a few sports games. The trick is self-forgiveness.

“We’re calibrated as working women to have an entire sense of guilt because we can’t chase it all. Once we become kinder to ourselves, the whole thing is a lot easier to manage,” she admits.

In those moments when she has her kids on the phone complaining that she’s not there for a special event, she gives herself a pep talk afterwards. She knows she is there for the big things in their lives. With twelve-year-old twins and two older children, Lee has come to realize they will survive without helicopter parenting. In fact, they will do better as a result.

“Stay the course,” Lee advises. “We are the best judge of what is going on with our children.” Mindful parenting does not mean you are a hovercraft.

It’s time to toss the balance beam out the window and get real. Alignment with self, family and work is where it’s at.

In Deep Water

July 14, 2012

The other day I read a great saying: “If you get into deep water, dive.”

That says it all.

Courtesy of Orlando Family Magazine

Sometimes we get into situations in which we feel we are over our heads. Last year I was commissioned to write a full-length statistics-laden report for a client. For those of you who know me, I’m a wordsmith, not a bean counter. So when it came to analyzing, dissecting and evaluating all that data, I felt like a fish out of water. Or a person in the deep. Waaaaaay too deep!

So I dove into it with everything I had, asking for help when I needed it and coming out alive at the end. It was, needless to say, one of the most intellectually stretching experiences of my life.

And I got to do it all over again this year. But because I had already been equipped with a level of experience, the deep dive felt a little less taxing. My lungs didn’t feel like they would burst as I scrubbed the ocean floor, mining for meaning in a sea of percentages. We altered the graphics to make it more appealing to readers and I built an overarching narrative to make it more readable (once a writer, always a writer. I couldn’t help myself!).

If you are confronted with a new situation that feels less than comfortable, put on your wet suit and plunge into it with eyes wide open. What do you see? What fears arise? Allow them to be there because they want to be heard. Love them to ease their pain, then let those fears go like water between your fingers.

If you are in deep water, you won’t sink unless you let panic take over. Trust that you have everything you need to make it through. The Universe offers us so many opportunities to grow. So dive right in and give it a try. You might just surprise yourself at what you are truly capable of!

Under pressure! That’s what many of us feel right before taking a vacation. Locking down the house, arranging for pet care, stopping all mail delivery, etc. It’s almost as if you need a vacation from your vacation planning before it’s even gotten started.

I don’t know about you, but renting a car at the airport after an international flight has to be a seamless experience, otherwise I am even more stressed. So when we got to Dulles International Airport two weeks ago, we were astounded at how fast the check-in service at Dollar Rent-a-Car went. Until we discovered they didn’t have any more economy cars available for another fifteen minutes. No big deal, I thought. I live in a time abundant state. We’ll have some snacks and wait. When the newly washed car was driven up, we were thrilled.

But what I didn’t know was the rental car agency had rushed through the detailing process such that the air tire pressure was uneven. A light indicator for the air tire pressure illuminated in my car about a week later. We even went to a tire center to have it checked. All but one had fifty pounds in it, but they couldn’t add the tire because the supervisor hadn’t turned the machine on yet (it was almost 10 am – you have to love slow country living!). We found an air machine at the local convenience store. Following the tire guy’s instructions, I added enough in the one tire to match the air pressure in the others.

That is, until my dad suggested I look at how much air pressure is SUPPOSED to be in the tires. It turns out the “lowest tire pressure” was actual the accurate one. So I went back to the rental agency and asked them to please check it. I wasn’t about to spend anymore money on it. Indeed, the tires had been overinflated by the agency itself. I suggested he let the detailers know to which he snippily replied, “I would if they spoke English!”

Hmmm…I was starting to feel less enamoured of Dollar by the minute.

So my slow travel tip to you is to ask that they check the air pressure for you before you leave, or travel with a gauge yourself. You can find the proper air pressure on the inside of the driver’s door. Apparently at Dollar, the buck stops with you.

 

Time is our friend, not our foe. So it goes in The Power of Slow. One great way to introduce your child (ages 4 and up) to the concept of time as friend is to get a fun alarm clock. Now I was approached by the folks at Nickelodeon, who gave me a SpongeBob Square Pants alarm clock to try out on my nine-year-old son. We tried all the alarm clock sounds, which were jolting until we found the volume dial to turn it down five notches. The clock itself looks like a giant wedge of cheese. The eyes only appear when the alarm goes off. We tried Seagull, which I envisioned to be a placid caw-cawing. If you’ve ever watched an episode of SpongeBob, you will know nothing is placid about the show. So of course the Seagull sounds was acerbic squawking instead.

The clock itself is digital, so telling time is less difficult for younger kids who know their numbers.

Luckily, my son understands the clock is going to his cousin instead as a full-blown fan of the Bobster. It’s a great way for kids to wake up in the morning, but parents beware. You may enjoy it as much as the show itself.

I’ll leave that one up to you!

Description of relations between Axial tilt (o...

Image via Wikipedia

Daylight Saving Time is a time of loss for some. Those who complain they ‘lose’ an hour in March should beware. We may have lost yet another 1.26 microseconds for good, too.

The massive earthquake in Japan was so fierce that it literally shifted the earth’s axis. As any lay physicist (or is is geologist?) knows, our days are measured by the earth’s rotation.

According to the Italian Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology, the 9.0 earthquake moved the Earth by ten centimeters. It is the largest shift reported in over fifty years. Last year, after the Chilean earthquake (8.8) we lost 1.26 microseconds. So the question during the lengthening of days for the Northern Hemisphere is, are our days really getting shorter?

If yes, how will you spend what time you have left?

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Where in time do we live?

November 8, 2010

A map of the time zones of the United States; ...
Image via Wikipedia

For those of you in North America, time may have been on your mind a bit more this weekend as you gained a clock hour. For a week the European continent (and much of the rest of the world) was one hour closer to the US time zones than usual since we changed our clocks at the end of October. The Star-Telegram and I had a chat about time zones a while back, which is published here.

USA Today recently came out with a snapshot graph of how the population is spread out amongst the United States’ six time zones. It’s no surprise that the East Coast wins out with 47.5% of the US population nestled between the Atlantic and somewhere before the Mississippi. In the Central time zone 28.9% hang out amongst the cornfields (and Chicago) while only 6.6% reside in Mountain time. A paltry 16.4% live in Pacific Time while Alaska has 0.2% of the population. Although much smaller geographically, Hawaii enjoys 0.4%.

Wherever you are in the world, remember that time is merely a construct. What’s most important is what you do with the time that you have!

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American families are undergoing a sea change as we rethink who works, who stays home to care for the kids and why we work. This power of slow reexamination of how we live comes at a time when women make up more than half of the people on American payrolls for the first time in our history, with moms the primary breadwinner in almost 40 percent of all families.

To understand how working moms see their shifting roles and how others see them, Working Mother magazine surveyed more than 4,600 people across the country, including working moms, stay-at-home moms, working dads and singles in the workplace. Among our findings: whether making $20,000 or $200,000, moms who view their jobs as a career—rather than just a paycheck—are more satisfied and feel more positive at work and at home. “What Moms Think: The Working Mother Report” offers surprising insights into the perceptions of both sexes.

“I meet women all the time who think of their jobs as careers, and it doesn’t matter if they’re answering phones in a call center or running a company,” said Carol Evans, President, Working Mother Media. “This research reveals that women who embrace the long-term commitment that a career implies feel more satisfied and positive about every marker that we measured, including being ‘in balance.’ These findings have huge implications for women and the companies who rely on them.”

Among the report’s top findings:

·         Moms who view their work as a career are happier in all aspects the survey measured—with their marriage, kids, friendships, salary, respect they command and choice to work—than women who work primarily for a paycheck;

·         Male managers are big supporters of working moms in the workplace (at least in the United States ~ Germany has a way to go on this aspect of working life);

·         Though moms value flex as a key benefit, men are more likely than women to have jobs that allow for flexibility;

·         Both men and women feel a deep ambivalence when wives out-earn their husbands (this substantiates the claim the Pew Research Center found in a January 2010 study about women outearning their husbands, as reported in the Washington Post).

What contributes to a woman labeling her work as a career versus a paycheck? It’s not her salary. What a power of slow idea! It has nothing, or less, to do with money.

 

Courtesy of Working Mother magazine and "What Moms Think: The Working Mother Report"

 

According to The Working Mother Report, women feel they have a career when they:

  • Have opportunities to develop skills and advance;
  • Feel supported and respected;
  • Believe their work fulfills a higher purpose than simply making money.

“The most exciting aspect of The Working Mother Report is how actionable this is,” Evans said. “Women can examine their attitudes and shift toward careerist thinking. Companies can support women in viewing their jobs as careers with training and advancement programs.”

The Working Mother Report coincides with the 25th anniversary of Working Mother 100 Best Companies. It was sponsored by three of the Working Mother 100 Best Companies—Ernst & Young, IBM and Procter & Gamble.

The Importance of a “Career”

Women who identify themselves as having a career are more likely than those who self-identify as working primarily for a paycheck to say that:

  • Their life is ‘in balance’; they are healthy and fulfilled;
  • They are supported in work responsibilities and respected at home;
  • Their spouses contribute more to caring for children and to at-home tasks;
  • Their work fulfills a higher or more meaningful purpose than ‘just making money.’

How Male Managers View Working Moms

The Working Mother Report reveals that male managers view working mothers highly favorably, seeing them in a better light than do working fathers and men without children. Male managers say that working moms are likely to:

  • Take on additional work;
  • Be committed to career advancement;
  • Travel for work;
  • Take stretch assignments;
  • Relocate.

“Male managers—regardless of whether they have kids themselves—are strong allies of working moms. They see how dedicated these women are to their careers,” said Suzanne Riss, Editor in Chief, Working Mother magazine. “Managers praise working moms for the quality of their work, their interest in advancing, and their willingness to take on extra work.”

Flexibility: Not Just for Working Moms Anymore

The moms surveyed said that a flexible schedule is trumped only by stability and security when they look for a new job. Yet The Working Mother Report revealed that men are more likely to have jobs that allow for flexibility, more likely to use flex without fear of retribution, and that they feel they can take time off when necessary.

Among those whose work does allow for flexibility, there is a large gap in the percentage of women (58%) and men (74%) who say flexibility has had a positive impact on their career advancement.  Working mothers are more likely than working fathers to say:

  • Part-time work is a viable option at their company (65% vs. 58% for fathers);
  • They would work part time if they could still have a meaningful career (70% vs. 63% for fathers);
  • Flexibility increases their commitment or loyalty to their organization (77% vs. 73% for fathers).

Mars vs. Venus

Women who earn more than their husbands are more likely to expect men to contribute to cooking, cleaning and caring for the kids (um, I kind of expect my husband to contribute no matter what his paycheck):

  • Women surveyed were significantly more likely than men to say that domestic chores should be split down the middle (92%). But fewer than half say their spouses do their fair share. Men, in contrast, reported that they feel they are doing their fair share (68%).

The Working Mother Report revealed a deep ambivalence among both men and women about women earning more.

  • When asked in theory about the idea of their spouse out-earning them, 73% of women and 59% of men said they were comfortable with the idea of their partner earning more.
  • When women actually are the breadwinners, the comfort level drops for men from 59% to 42%.

Read the full report, What Moms Think: The Working Mother Report.

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Being a transmeridian worker who never leaves her desk, I was impressed with attorney-at-law Matthew R. Kamula’s take on owning his time (okay, I get up to have lunch, hug the occasional tree and help the kids with homework, but there are days where I feel as planted to my chair as a Redwood is to the California soil).

But back to Matthew and his brilliant energy management technique. He calls it ‘time-zoning’. Because he literally manages three offices in different time zones, he has taught his team a particular technique, which he discusses in today’s podcast.

Matthew is the master of expectation management. While he admits he had to invest time on the front end, it has made his life a lot easier. Truth be told, he checks email only twice a day! So listen to Matthew speak about time, clocks and a management technique that’ll knock your socks off!

If you like what you hear, don’t forget to right-click, save, then place your Power of Slow badge of honor anywhere in your social media universe. We appreciate you spreading the word that slow is faster and that fast is merely exhausting!

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Our collective urgency, fear and yearning to stuff more into our day are merely symptoms of a much larger issue: how we relate to time itself.

Establishing a positive relationship with time is a lot like investing. You have to give something to get a return. Investing a little time on the front end can give you a surplus at the end. Here’s how.

Time suck #1: Juggling too many things at once.

Solution: Stop multitasking. In scientific terms, what you are really doing is task-switching. The brain cannot concentrate on two or more comparably difficult things at a time. The amount of time it takes to rev up to a new task, then rev down is anywhere between a few milliseconds to a few seconds. Over time you are spending hours transitioning from one task to the next. Furthermore, attempting to multitask is not only inefficient; it’s also exhausting. Estimated Time Savings (ETS): Depending on your level of multitasking, up to several hours a day.

Time suck #2: Unclear prioritization. You are reactive, instead of being proactive.

Solution: Set your priorities. Write down your top items each day. Classify them by priority. Be sure to complete the top five or so and move the rest to the next day’s list. Remain flexible in case your priorities shift (leaving a burning building, for instance, is more important than finishing that report on your desk). Working toward your ultimate goals a little bit each day will help you get there faster than if you dedicate irregular times to fulfill goal-related tasks. ETS: Weeks of all-nighters!

Time suck #3: Lack of self-care.

Solution: Exercise. Mental clarity can improve your focus, thereby increasing your productivity. Take a brisk mid-day walk to get some fresh air and a new perspective or eat a light meal (sitting down ~use utensils!) to fuel your mind for the afternoon. ETS: A twenty-minute investment can equal several more hours of productive thinking.

Time suck #4: Being a yes-woman.

Solution: Learn to say ‘no’ with kindness. Agreeing to edit your friend’s blog might be a nice idea, but if you are not in even exchange, it can be time-consuming over the long haul. Think of ways to realign your planning so she’s saving you time, too. Otherwise, politely decline. ETS: Depending on what you are saying ‘no’ to (are you saying ‘no’ to babysitting for an afternoon or to organizing the annual blood drive?), you could save yourself weeks’ worth of time to dedicate to something else.

Time suck #5: The morning rush.

Solution: Get up fifteen minutes early to meditate or write in your gratitude journal. Your mental positioning is as important as your physical one. Bring your mind and your body into alignment with a quiet routine before your day begins. Stretch your muscles and your mind. ETS: How you start your day is how you live it in its entirety. Getting off to the right start with a fifteen-minute investment in a centering activity (journaling, meditating, yoga poses) will expand the experience of your time horizon by hours.

Time suck #6: Sleep deprivation.

Solution: Get enough rest. Expanding your day by going to bed an hour later does not give you another hour over time. In fact, a non-rested thinker is a muddled one. ETS: Investing one hour can grant you at least three hours of more productivity.

Time suck #7: Miscommunication.

Solution: Manage expectations. Think you said something clearly and your partner heard it completely different? Clear communication and proper expectation management will save you hours of cleaning up the mess you could have prevented had you managed those expectations properly in the first place. ETS: A lifetime!

Time suck #8: Enslaved by your digital devices.

Solution. Designate times for information gathering. Email begets email. The more you send, the more you receive. Train yourself to check email periodically instead of constantly. Close out of your email system while working on other projects to avoid distraction. ETS: Up to ten hours. Trust me!

Time suck #9: Always on.

Solution: Unplug. Henny Penny may believe the sky is falling, but yours won’t if you go off-line for a few days. Most cell phones are equipped with personalized ring tones. Set it so you can identify who’s calling without having to even touch it. Or better yet. Turn it off altogether. ETS: Not only will you save your sanity, but you can potentially save hours of relentless data chatter by locating the ‘off’ button.

Time suck #10: Time starvation. The “I’m sooooo busy” syndrome

Solution: Embrace time-abundant thinking. Check how you talk about time? Do you never have enough of it? Are you constantly ‘just so busy’? Remember: activity does not necessarily equal productivity. When you realize you have more than enough time to do what is required to fulfill your ultimate purpose, the pressure is off. You stop engaging in activities that are not in alignment with that purpose. You spend more time on the things you love, thereby encasing you in even more joy and, yes, time! ETS: Your entire lifetime!

Stress recedes when you are present in the here and now.  As a matter of fact, now is all there really is.

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