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Flexibility and Rigidity: Finding the Right Balance

Ok, I am not sure if this is something others struggle with, but this is a top struggle for me.  How do I find a balance between flexibility and rigidity? Let me explain. I struggle with how much structure to have in my life, when to say yes and when to say no, when to be spontaneous and when to stick to the plan. Like in yoga and other exercise, there needs to be balance between a flexibility and strength (rigidity). If it is too flexible then it is hard to control movements and if it is too strong, it can be hard to move. As a coach, I try to help my clients create structure but also allow for fun and opportunities to go with the flow. But for me personally, I can be overly rigid or overly flexible, the magic is in the balance and I constantly struggle to find that magic.

I was just listening to a TED talk on the radio where the speaker was talking about the benefits of daydreaming. Daydreaming is the epitome of flexibility. It allows for the opportunity to be creative and let our mind wander. But we can’t daydream all day. Do we need to create a structure for daydreaming? Is that the answer, combining rigidity and flexibility?

My junior year of college I let rigidity get out of control and it has haunted me ever since.  I will do anything to avoid falling into that pit again. One could say I have rigidity PTSD. My eating bordered on disordered where I counted everything I put in my mouth and my weight was phenomenal! I had a strict studying schedule and I had my highest GPA ever! But I was no fun to be with and I was a walking stress case. I may have had great numbers on the scale and on my report card, but the reality is that was one of the worst years of my life.

But I also can go the other way where I am so flexible I lose my sense of self. As a middle child, I am used to being the diplomat. Balancing the extremes of my siblings out. My parents are balanced when they are combined. My dad is rigid and my mom is flexible and together they are balanced. But how do you find the balance in one person at one time?

I really don’t know, but I have put a few systems in place that are helping me work towards that balance. Please, if you see me being too rigid or too flexible do not throw this blog in my face. I am not claiming to have conquered this. I am a work in progress just like the rest of you.

Find a program that matches your personality

My husband and I are in the midst of our third round of the Whole30. If left to my own devices I would gain 20 pounds a year. Now that my metabolism has slowed, I need to be more rigid, but I have to be careful not be disordered. I have a daughter and my goal in life is to role model healthy eating without focusing on calories and the scale or the size of my clothes. Doing the Whole30, where you are not allowed to weigh yourself or count calories, is the perfect balance for me and I can do it whenever I need to be more mindful. And even better, my husband and I do it together, so it has been great for our relationship. Whenever I go too far on the “rigid” side, my husband reminds me that the founders of the Whole30 are divorced, so I should chill out for our marriage’s sake.

Create a balanced schedule

When I was studying positive psychology we learned about the idea of SPIRE. It stands for: Spirituality, Physical, Intelligence, Relational and Emotional. The idea is to make sure each of these five areas is accounted for in your life and to notice if they are out of balance. I use the color coding in my Google calendar to help me manage this: Yellow for workouts, green for work, blue for social, light purple for business development/learning, and then each of my kids have a color as well so I can keep track of their schedules. If I am in balance, my calendar should look like a rainbow. But here I must be flexible too—some weeks are more devoted to one area than another. I guess the goal is balance in these areas over the course of a month rather than over a day or a week.

Create spontaneous rituals

My daydreaming time is every morning. I wake up at 5:45 every single morning (even weekends) to sit with a cup of coffee and do my writing pages (see The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron to learn more). During these 45 minutes, I am free to write or not write whatever I want. Sometimes I write To Do lists. Sometimes I contemplate life. Sometimes I remember my dreams from the night before or I write my dreams for the future. THERE ARE NO RULES.  The only rule is that I sit and write. To me this is the perfect balance of flexibility and rigidity and it has been a life changing ritual for me. Not everyone likes the morning, not everyone likes to write. Find a spontaneous ritual that works for you.

Cater to your introversion/extroversion to a point

 Over my 47 years of life, I have become more and more aware of my introversion and it has made me so much happier. I know that I cannot have too much social in one week. In contrast, my husband, an extravert, needs a certain amount of social for his mental health. Determine what is right for you and figure out how rigid or flexible you need to be. Saying no to social engagements has been hugely empowering for me, but sometimes I need to chill out and go with the flow here. Again the magical balance sometimes eludes me, but I keep trying and improving.

Saying yes or no

A lot of people and animals rely on me. Sometimes I have planned to take the dog on a long walk and she is not in the mood. Or she wants to go for a long walk and I have only allotted time for a 15-minute walk. This can turn into an existential crisis for me. Do I force the dog to do my bidding or do I accommodate her? I am obsessed with my dog so this is not an easy decision.  I was recently asked to be on a committee that seemed interesting. Do I participate? Is now the time? What do I have to give up to participate? Will I feel FOMO (fear of missing out) if I say no?  I have got to think others don’t agonize like I do in these circumstances.  But if you do, I feel your pain. Life is determined by our choices and sometimes I find choices fraught with competing demands. I try to help my clients have self-compassion in these situations where there is no right answer but you have to just make the best choice for you in that moment.

Overall, I feel I am working towards finding my balance. I have started my own business and I have designed a schedule that works for my personality, energy and availability. I love having the balance between being a mom, a coach, a business owner and a writer. I make time for naps, exercise, volunteerism and reading as well as for my family. Finding balance is WORK.  But for me it is worth it. I would love to hear tricks you use to achieve balance in your life!

 

 

 

 

 

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Create Space in 2018

“Create the Space to Let Life Happen” is the motto on my 2018 planner designed by Ashley Staum, owner of “She Plans.” A planner, when used proactively, can be a tool for freedom. The freedom to grow, stretch and create is a goal for many of us and with a little planning we can create those opportunities in 2018. Growth requires empty space: time for spontaneity, time for rest, time for connection—to ourselves and to others. We cannot develop brilliant ideas without time. We cannot be true to ourselves without reflection. But we need to be intentional about these things. Before you fill your 2018 calendar with obligations, prioritize time to just daydream (remember the good ole days when we would do that?). Here are my tips:

 

Reserve time on your calendar

On my Google calendar I color code everything. I have a color for my work, for my play, for each child and for my workouts. This allows me to be sure I am making time for what is important to me and that no one color dominates my life. My daughter’s high school has a brilliant program. They reserve 2.5 hours for the students every Monday and they call it Genius Block. This is time students can pursue their dreams, take learning to the next level or just relax. We should all build Genius Blocks into our life and fill it however it makes sense. Pick a color and start to book time to do what you need/want and don’t even allow yourself to question it. You deserve it and our world can definitely use a few more geniuses.

Create space in your body

Lauren, my awesome personal trainer, has taught me that unless you have space in your body, you will not be able to build muscle safely. Stretching is an integral part of our sessions and is supposed to be an integral part of my daily schedule (I am working on that). Let me tell you, taking time to stretch and take care of my body has led to me being stronger than I have ever been. It turns out that not getting injured is an effective way to be healthier. Take time to develop space in your body through stretching, yoga, massage, whatever you can do to show your body some love. It will thank you for it.

Create Space in your mind:

  • David Allen, creator of Getting Things Done a work-life management system, says “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” Allen has a five step plan for getting things done and the very first one is called Capture, where you literally dump anything and everything out of your brain onto paper (or a computer organizing system). Once you have emptied everything out of your brain, you can begin to figure things out. Holding stuff in your brain to remember wastes precious resources and can cause unnecessary stress. So as you prep for 2018, begin to capture everything you hold in your brain into some sort of system either paper or digital.
  • Use mindfulness to single-task. The more we focus on one thing at a time the more space we have in our brain to dedicate to that one task. Think of a garden hose. When you spray the water in lots of directions, the pressure is distributed and diluted, but when you allow the hose to go in one direction only, it can be powerful. Our mind works the same way. When our mind is going into a million directions, it is diluted. Your life deserves your full attention. Engage your mindfulness skills to hone your attention on one thing and enhance the quality (and most probably the quantity) of your work.

Magically make more time appear

In the movie Sully about the Miracle on the Hudson, it is clear that one of the reasons the simulator could not accurately reflect what the human pilots did was because computer simulators do not need to take up time making decisions. Decision-making takes time and energy. One secret to creating extra time is to build in habits that you do without thinking. Imagine how much wasted time you would have if you had to decide to brush your teeth every day. If you create habits in your life, you gain that extra time to do things that actually make you happy. Just like you make your coffee without thinking (or at least I do), create other habits that keep you on track and free up some of that decision making time.

Create space in your physical environment

Rachel Jones, a joyful space specialist and founder of NourishingMinimalism.com, explains that clutter creates anxiety and wastes time. She offers a clearing clutter challenge to get rid of 2018 items in 2018 and she even offers a motivational chart to help us track. I plan to do this challenge. If it will help limit the amount of time I spend looking for my glasses every day, the happier everyone in my family will be!

These are just a few ideas about how to make space in 2018. Experiment and have fun with it. Simply being proactive rather than reactive is a great place to start. I would love to learn how you build more space into your life. Check out my worksheet to help you play with these ideas. To a happy, healthy and free 2018!

 

 

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Flywheel Breakthrough: Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes

I have been going to Flywheel religiously two days a week for several years. Flywheel is a spin class where you ride a stationary bike to music with an instructor leading the way. I love the dark space where I zone out and ride to the beat. The music fills me and I get taken away on a journey each class. During class you accrue a score based on your effort (a calculation based on resistance and speed). I somehow get the same score every… single… class. For a while I tried to increase my score by saying to myself before class: “work harder!” Not surprisingly that was ineffective. Finally, I took matters into my own hand and planned how to increase my score ahead of time. As they say “nothing changes if nothing changes.” So I decided to do things differently. I made a plan before class and implemented it and immediately got a score 15 points higher than my regular score (an increase of 6%). I used the same methods that I give my clients when they are working towards a goal and it worked. Below is an outline of my plan which can be applied to all of our goals:

Ask

I had the opportunity to chat with an instructor after class a few weeks ago and I finally revealed my frustration. Why couldn’t I increase my score? He suggested a technique to use. He explained that I should focus on my speed rather than my resistance. In other words when I ignore the teacher’s instruction, ignore the resistance, but follow the speed. Hmmm, this had never occurred to me. I guess there is a method to this madness!

Breathe

OK, I know I am a yoga instructor so you would think breathing would be obvious, but it wasn’t. I needed to use my breathing to help me. Sometimes I would panic and breathe too fast and shallow. I needed to take some deep breaths to help me along. By connecting with my breath, I was able to stabilize my mind and get back on track.

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway

As a student of the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I have learned that procrastination is just a form of fear. So I asked myself what I was afraid of? Why couldn’t I push past my number? What was holding me back? I uncovered the fear: the fear of being uncomfortable, the fear of getting hurt and the fear of pushing too hard. I knew I had to move past these fears if I wanted to progress.

Take it One Step at a Time

As a coach I tell my clients to create bite sized chunks when pursuing the goal. It can be intimidating to think about the big goal, so instead we should break it down into smaller goals. Spin classes include approximately a dozen songs per class. I decided to focus on one song at a time. I made a mini-goal for each song. I did not allow myself to think about three songs in the future; I just focused on the present song. How was I feeling right then? Could I add resistance, could I add speed? Was I working at the right pace for myself right now?

Self-Compassion

How was I talking to myself throughout class? Was I being kind or was I beating myself up? I promised myself I would say supportive things like “if you need a break after this song, you can take it.” This helped me not panic when I was giving it my all during a song and worrying about whether I would be able to keep up with this pace during the whole class. Knowing I would listen to my body and take care of myself, I was able to increase my productivity. Self-compassion helped reduce my fear.

Be Proactive

It took me a couple years, but I finally decided to be intentional about the class. I wasn’t ready to make a change until I was ready. For the first couple years maybe I was just trying to create a routine for myself where I actually showed up to class. But one day I was ready to take my workout to the next level and when that happened I made a plan. If we want to make a change in our life, we need to give it the respect it deserves by asking questions and making changes.

Lesson learned. When it is time to make a change, be intentional, methodical and kind. We don’t need to excel at everything we do, but when it is time to make a change, go for it!

 

 

 

 

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The Hero of Your Own Story

Much of my time as a coach is building my clients back up. I have had cancer survivors, spouses of cancer survivors, clients who have cared for sick parents and others who have cared for children with special needs. These are people who inspire me, yet when I tell them this, they look at me like I have six heads. They’re not so special, they tell me. Loo at all their failures. When I point out all the amazing things they have accomplished, they say, “Oh you had to say this because you are my coach.” No I don’t and honestly I could not pretend to be inspired even if I tried.  These are people who have suffered and survived. They should be strutting around tooting their horn, but instead they are stuck in self-doubt.

My job as a coach is to remind people that there are multiple ways to tell their story. There is no one right way. Our life is complicated and telling our story is complicated. Is the way you tell your story serving you?

When prepping for job interviews, I help my clients write their story. What are you proud life coachingof? What have you struggled with and survived? How have you grown as a person. How have your circumstances made you the person you are today? And how does this translate into you being successful in the future? You cannot convince a future employer that you are awesome if you are stuck in a mediocre story. Practice telling your new story until you believe it in your soul.

This is your truth. I am not asking my clients to lie or create something out of nothing. We all have things to be proud of. We have all survived in our own way. But we need to see it and believe it. And, most importantly, we need to tell it–to ourselves and to others.

In the book The Artists Way, Julia Cameron advises her readers to let their fear be their fuel. When writing your story, let your self-doubt fuel you. When you spiral downward by focusing on your perceived failures and your weaknesses, question your assumptions. Imagine I am sitting in front of you. How would I challenge you? What are you minimizing? What are you highlighting?  Why are you making those choices and do they serve your future? We all share a fear of failure as well as a fear of success. Use that fear to fuel you.

You get one life. Are you going to be the hero or the villain in your story? You are the hero… trust me. Not because you are perfect or because your life was easy, but precisely because it is not.

 

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A Key To Success for Working Moms: Create All-In Partnerships

Since I became a mother 16 years ago, I have experienced the challenges of being a working mother. Also, as a coach and a friend I have watched others struggle as working mothers. Being a working mother is fraught with guilt, exhaustion and moments of intense satisfaction. Tiffany Dufu author of Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less has a fresh look at the dilemma and a useful guide for us to follow.  The premise of the book is that women cannot “have it all” if they continue to “do it all”. It reminds me of the story of Cinderella, when her evil stepmother tells her she can go to Unknown-1the ball if she gets her enormous and impossible list of tasks done first. She has been set up for failure and so have we. How can women truly advance in their careers with these kinds of expectations? Dufu has given this a lot of thought, spoken with a lot of successful women and has experimented with her theories. Thankfully, she shares her well-researched strategies with us in her book.

Dufu explains that one way women can do less, is by creating “All-in Partnerships” with her husband (or partner or family member, etc.). All-In Partnerships mean that both parents are running the home. If you think about all the times we are disadvantaged in our career due to our home responsibilities, we need to ask ourselves, do we need to be doing it all? How can we share the wealth? The more we share our home responsibilities, the more time we will have to devote to our career. OK, don’t roll your eyes, because according to Dufu, we are as much on the hook as our spouses in our journey to create an All-in Partnership.

How do we create an All-in Partnership?

  1. Let Go of Home Control Disease (HCD)

First, Dufu explains, women must let go of Home Control Disorder or “HCD”. Come on, you know what she is talking about, right? By being the boss at home, we are limiting our potential of being the boss at work. Dufu talks about how she provided her husband with pages of notes the first time she left her son with him when she went on a business trip. She talks about how she was guilty of HCD and being a maternal gatekeeper. She bought into society’s expectation that her way was the right way when it came to the home. After hitting rock bottom after having her second child, she realized things had to change.

  1. Delegate with Joy

We have learned that “women acting like men” in the workplace is not preferable as it denies the workplace the benefits of a different way of seeing and doing things. Dufu career coachingargues that men confront the same bias at home. They can contribute at home, but they are asked to act like women in that domain. Women may delegate to their husbands, but then they micromanage what they delegate. For instance, how many times have you reorganized the dishwasher after your husband has filled it? “One UK study showed that women spend three hours every week re-doing chores that they think their men have done “badly”. So much time would be freed up if the job was accepted as complete, even if it wasn’t accomplished the same way we would have done it.” Women are slow to share their power in the home—the area that women have historically governed. But the key to work/life success and satisfaction is sharing the control of the home with your partner. We need to assume that our spouses can handle delegation, are capable of learning something new (they are!) and we need to let go of our own perfectionist standards of running a home.

  1. Leverage the unique skills of our spouse on the homefront

Once Dufu started letting her husband do things his way, she discovered that sometimes his way turned out to better than her way (go figure!). One of my favorite stories Dufu shares is the Career coachtime her husband was in charge of finding a babysitter at the last minute. As Dufu explains, when looking for a babysitter, she typically would send one text at a time, waiting for a response before reaching out to another sitter. Her husband’s efficient strategy was different. He sent one text out to 10 potential babysitters and charged them with responding first to get the job. They had a babysitter within minutes. Brilliant!

  1. Drop the Ball!

Dufu discusses her efforts to create an All-In-Partnership with her husband. They literally sat down and created an excel spreadsheet with every single task that they do (which was eye opening in and of itself) and then they decided who would do what based on their strengths, interests and availability. (There favorite column was the “no one does it” column-but this is for another blog.) They continued to use this spreadsheet with modifications when her husband “commuted” from NY to Dubai for work. She tells a fabulous story of how her husband was in charge of dealing with any apartment-related problems. When Dufu noticed she had a leaky faucet before leaving for work one morning, she texted her husband who was in Dubai so he could fix it. Amazingly, when she returned home from work a new, ugly, yet working, faucet was in place! He had bought the faucet online and worked with the super to install it. OK, the faucet was ugly, but Dufu had “delegated with joy” and was able to focus on other things at work knowing the faucet would be taken care of. And her husband could contribute to the house even when far away. Now she smiles with pride when she passes the ugly faucet knowing that this is the perfect representation of dropping the ball. Done is better than perfect—“one person’s ‘done’ can be another person’s ‘perfect’”.

Dufu reminds us that we are not the only ones who can run a home. Our partners are more than capable. Patience and gratitude are great tools as we build our All-In Partnerships and watch our career success grow.

Interested in exploring more tools and strategies for career growth as a Working Mom? Contact me to set up an initial consultation.

 

 

 

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The Why and How of Being an Approachable Manager

Happiness and success on the job are greatly affected by our relationship with our manager. The ability to communicate issues with our manager, ask questions, make requests and know that he or she will do what they can to assist you can matter more than supposed company policies. I was curious to learn from actual managers what creative ideas they have developed to ensure an approachable and supportive relationship with their employees. I am amazed by the amount of forethought, creativity and effort many managers put into their role.

Why should you be an approachable manager?

Employees are comfortable asking questions: Mistakes can be made because an employee is afraid to ask an important question for feCareer coachar of looking foolish. An approachable manager can communicate to her team that there are no dumb questions as well as demonstrate with kindness, openness and, most importantly, a clear answer to questions asked by employees.

Mistakes can be caught and dealt with early: If an employee does make a mistake, an approachable manager can potentially minimize the size and scope of that mistake for the company if dealt with early and immediately. If an employee feels comfortable approaching her manager immediately, the manager can do what is necessary to limit the negative impact. Being approachable allows you to deal with something before it escalates. You cannot fix something you do not know is broken.

Learn what motivates employees: Being approachable allows you to understand what motivates and drives your employees. Inya Chehade, CEO of The Bridge says that understanding an employee’s motivation is critical as a manager and what motivates one person can be very different from what motivates another.

Promotes a creative environment: An approachable manager means employees are more comfortable being creative, suggesting different ideas and thinking outside the box. In our fast paced world, we do not have time to overthink.  Moving forward without fear can contribute to the success of an organization.

Most importantly, being approachable can ensure your head is not in the sand. Ignorance is bliss but is not in your best interest long term as a manager. Being approachable requires courage to face the truth and deal with it.

How can you be an approachable manager?

Get a (well-rounded) life…  and flaunt it: A balanced life allows you better perspective and increased confidence when things go wrong at work. Managers with a full life have perspective and often more confidence, which allows them to feel less threatened by questions and concerns from their employees. In addition, a manager with responsibilities and interests outside of work is more likely to support employees with their whole life and encourage balance for them as well.

Let Your People Go: As often happens with good managers, their employees achieve great success due to the positive and enriching environment they have provided. The conundrum of this is that your fantastic employee whom you have nurtured and mentored is now ready to move on up to a higher position outside your group. As hard as it is, you must set them free to share their skills. As Lori Schuldiner Schor, Social Welfare Program Manager for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany noted, her support of employees within her group also motivates other staff members in knowing that she also has their back.

Spread the good news: Of course we know that you should document problems with an employee and keep HR informed. However, why can’t we keep HR informed of the good news as well?  Lori makes a habit of sending a compliment to an employee and copying Career coachHR so HR can put it in the employee’s file. Smiles all around!

Pay attention to your physical cues: You don’t need to walk around smiling, but you do need to be aware of how your stance and expression impact those around you. As Judy Summers, Director of the Montclair State University Red Hawk Math Learning Center notes, employees can be sensitive to the moods of their managers, so be aware of unintended messages you might be sending.

Meet Your Team: This could seem pretty obvious if your team is 10 people. But what if your team is almost 200? One successful manager shared that she took the time to meet with her almost 200 employees even though it took her six images-128months to do this. Several employees told her that they had never sat down and talked with a person at her level before. Meeting your team one-on-one can give you great insight into what is going on in the organization and help you identify problems before they start.

Request Feedback: Lori sends an email to her team every few months asking if they have the “resources they need to do their jobs and be able to feel satisfied.” These resources could be as small as a new headset to something more complicated like additional support for a project they are working on.

Say Thank you: As one manager states, “Thank your employees for their specific contributions and articulate how their work is contributing to achieving the team’s goals and the company’s visions. I get thank you notes for my thank you notes!”

Do you have thoughts about how to be an approachable manager due to your experience as an employee or a manager?  Please share! We can all learn from the creativity and experience of others. Also, I plan to write a blog about the challenges of being an approachable manager. I would love to hear your insights about this as well. As one of the managers mentioned, the mere exercise of thinking about her management habits allowed her to revisit her strategy and continue to improve upon it. Thinking about how we manage can enhance productivity and is worth our time and attention.

Interested in learning more?

 

 

Contact me to schedule a complimentary coaching session and/or subscribe to my mailing list


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6 Reasons Freelancing Could be Right for You

According to Freelancersunion.org, “nearly one in three working Americans is an independent worker. That’s almost 54 million people – and growing.”  A freelancer is usually self-employed, offering a service based on a skill or expertise he or she can offer. Services include many fields: marketing, legal, writing, admin support, sales, translation, design, engineering, human resources, accountants/bookkeepers, customer service, and much more.

Freelancing allows for autonomy, flexibility and variety. Depending on your personality, life responsibilities, skills and interests, this career path could be very beneficial.  So the question is whether freelancing makes sense for you and then if it does, how to go about it.

Is Freelancing the right career path for you?

1.  Interested in dabbling in something new?

Many of my clients are considering switching to a new career. Before making this leap, freelancicareer coachng can allow you to try something new without having to commit. You can sign onto a project, give it a whirl and see how it goes. Seeing all the different freelance projects on the freelancing websites is a great way to get a sense of the different types of work that is out there and can help you focus in on an area.

2.  Thinking about re-entering the workforce?

Have you been out of the workforce for a while caring for kids or elderly parents or other reasons you needed to take some time off? You may not want to go back to what you were doing or may find it difficult to re-enter that career. Freelancing is a great way to experiment with new options and dip your toe back into the working world.

3.  Looking for part-time work that will keep you on course with your career?

It is hard to find intellectually stimulating part-time work. If you search for part-time jobs on Indeed.com, you will find that there are a lot of part-time jobs that do not require education or experience. If you want a job that allows you to stay on your career path, freelancing is sometimes your best bet. When looking for freelancing jobs you can sort these jobs by job titles from all professional areas and job levels, including mid-level jobs and senior level jobs. No need to take a step back in your career just so you can work part time.

4.  Filling time between jobs?

Are you having a hard job landing a job that meets your standards? Freelancing may be the perfect thing to do while you are conducting your job search. Getting out and working on jobs related to your career is a productive way to continue to contribute, develop skills and grow your network. It is beneficial to be able to talk about current work you are doing while you are at an interview. In addition, having project work can help you feel more confident during a job search since job searches can often erode confidence.

5.  Do you want a career with autonomy or flexibility?

Not everyone wants to go the traditional route of working in one job with a boss. Becoming a freelancer may feel empowering and freeing. Yes, there is work with keepinglife coaching your business running and definitely more unpredictability, but you will rarely be bored! With freelancing you can figure out what hours you want to work, how much work you want and who you like working for. If you want extended time off to travel, write a book, or other long-term projects, freelancing could provide you with that flexibility as well.

6.  Interested in trying a side hustle to determine if you want to start your own business?

Thinking about creating a marketing consultant company? Then why not do some marketing freelance projects first to see how it goes and potentially foster some future client relationships. In the same way freelancing can help you dabble in a new career, it can also help you determine if you want to start your own business and perhaps reduce your risk when you are ready to launch.

Challenges to Freelancing

Of course there are challenges to freelancing. First, you often have to provide your own health benefits.  In addition, there is less predictability and security in this route, which can be stressful if you have bills to pay.  Finally, you need to continue to market yourself and find work, rather than keeping a stable job; although the truth of the matter is that job security is much less common these days and we should all see ourselves as freelancers whether we are employed or not.

Freelancing Resources

Check out these websites to find freelancing opportunities:

  • Linked In Profinder
  • Guru.com
  • Freelancer.com
  • Upwork.com
  • Freelancersunion.org

There are even opportunities to freelance with your volunteer work. If you want to share your expertise (or develop your expertise) while helping a cause you care about, check out Catchafire.org

I hope this blog helped you see the different benefits and challenges of freelancing. If you are interested in talking more about your career and the possibilities of freelancing, please feel free to contact me and schedule an initial free consultation.

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Parenting Sanity: Play to Your Strengths

After watching the movie Bad Moms and reading several articles about the ridiculous expectations that are placed on moms these days, I felt compelled to write about a different way to evaluate ourselves as parents. I laugh as I recall from my childhood my mom yelling sweetly from her bed “Have a nice day!”  as I ran off to catch the bus for school. She did not feel obligated to wake me up, make my breakfast and make sure I made it to the bus on time. But she did see it as her duty to bring me to all the latest movies and made sure that we watched 0aa3256e252a7450a676312f5d0187ccHappy Days together every Tuesday night. As she would explain, without guilt, she is simply not a morning person, but she is a night person. So we benefited from the nighttime activities and fended for ourselves in the morning. My mom played to her strengths and I think she was a much happier mom for it.

Today, we, like our children, are expected to be good at everything. I am here to argue that we should go back to that aspect of 1970s parenting (not the seatbelt-less and lack of rearview cameras 1970s). Let’s connect with our rebellious side and give ourselves a break.

The first step is to identify YOUR strengths. After all, you may hate to watch Happy Days and may really enjoy waking your kids up in the morning. And that is ok. I for one gave up doing arts and crafts with my kids years ago. I find it mind numbingly boring and I have absolutely no images-83artistic talent. Baking with my kids and eating our creations are strengths of mine and I have done tons of that with my kids. For me baking with my kids gives me the same happiness that arts and crafts may provide for a different mom.

We all can share our love for our kids in different ways. My husband has tons of inside jokes with the kids. He loves to make up nicknames and to get to know their friends. He also loves to talk about sports with my son – which is something I will never ever understand, and thankfully he can help my daughter with math. I, on the other hand, am amazing at helping my kids when they are anxious or worried. “Worried” is my middle name and runs in my family back to the dark ages, so throw any fear my way and I am ready to calm, soothe and empathize.

So what are your strengths and how can you play to them? Not easy to come up with right? As Mary Reckmeyer says in her book Strengths Based Parenting “Talents are so innate, so ever-present, that you might not even realize you have them. In fact, people typically think that whatever talents they have everybody has.” In contrast, what if I asked you what your weaknesses are? Of course that list is already embedded in your brain ready to roll off your tongue. Sadly, focusing on weaknesses is often a waste. We should only focus on our weaknesses to the extent they interfere with our pursuing our strengths. Focusing on our strengths provides much more bang for our buck.

I recently wrote a blog about Job Crafting, where I discussed current research on how people can craft their jobs to enhance their job satisfaction. The good news is that the same approach applies to our jobs as parents. If we design our parental roles with our strengths in mind, we will enjoy parenting more. For example, I love to read. During one road trip I read my family one of the books I was reading. Everyone got hooked. After that, I would tell my family about each book I was reading as I read it. I loved keeping them informed of the twists and turns in the plot and my secret hope is that they end up loving reading as much as I do. My sister-in-law shares her love of the ocean and hiking with her kids by spending hours in the ocean jumping the waves family-waves-20901345
with them or finding cool hikes wherever they go. My sister shares her fun and creative spirit with her kids by creating awesome family traditions and incredible birthday parties and sleepovers. My best friend shares her comedic timing with her kids and helps everyone laugh at themselves and not take life too seriously. Each family benefits from their parents being their authentic selves instead of mimicking some ridiculous ideal.

The village approach to parenting is essential for this idea of focusing on our strengths. Fortunately, I have a village of friends and family who can share their talents with my kids. We don’t have to be good at everything, but if we build rich and solid relationships in our lives, we can fill in the gaps.

Begin to pay attention to your strengths and what you enjoy to figure out how you can craft your job as a parent. Then, think about how you can utilize your village to help you with your lesser strengths (aka “weaknesses”). Parenting does not need to be so hard! Maybe we should all try yelling from our bed one morning “Have a nice day!” as our kids run out to catch their school bus.

Interested in learning more about strengths based parenting? Please contact me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com

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“Let the Sunshine In” – Job Crafting

You may have seen an interesting experiment where Joshua Bell, an internationally known violinist, anonymously played in a DC train station and only a handful of people stopped to notice.* While a large number of the people walking through that train station would have most likely gladly paid the $100 a ticket he typically charges to see him perform, these travelers neglected to notice the beauty of his music while rushing through the train station. One cannot blame these individuals who were rushing off to work or to appointments for not noticing the music; however, think about how lovely it would have been for those who did take a moment to stop and appreciate a bit of beauty in their day. As Positive Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson says “The negative screams at you, but the positive only whispers”. We need to look for the positive to counteract the negative.

Why is it so important to see the positive? Fredrickson has a wonderful theory called “Broaden and Build”.** Basically she says that positive moments can foster more positive moments. Positivity promotes an upward spiral of happiness, creativity and openness. Had the people in career coachingthe train station noticed the beautiful music and appreciated it for a moment, they may have been primed for more positive moments throughout the day. Intuitively, we all know how a negative interaction can set us off track for hours and a positive interaction can set our day on the right foot. The good news is that if we are intentional and pay attention to what makes us happy, we can increase these opportunities.

Increasing positivity on the job

As a career coach, I like to ask my clients the question “what do you enjoy about your job?” Sometimes this is tough for people who are miserable in their jobs, but usually you can find one bright spot in your day. Then we work together thinking of ways to increase those opportunities. Take a moment to think about what it is you like about your job (if you are not currently working think about a previous job or any volunteer work you are doing). Are there ways to increase those enjoyable moments?

Job Crafting

When you think about what you like about your job and how you can increase those opportunities, you are essentially thinking about how you can craft your job to make it fit you better. Psychologists Jane Dutton and Amy Wrzesniewski  define job crafting as an opportunity for employees to “redesign their own jobs in ways that can foster job satisfaction, as well as engagement, resilience and thriving at work.”***

Many of us neglect to notice what it is that brings us joy in our job in the same way people neglected to notice the beautiful music in the train station. We get sidetracked with our busy lives and we overlook moments of beauty in our day.

There are three ways to job craft. We can alter the tasks we do, the people we interact with or the way we perceive our tasks.

Task Crafting

Task crafting “consists of adding or dropping tasks, adjusting the time or effort spent on various tasks, and redesigning aspects of tasks (e.g., a teacher who spends time learning new classroom technology to fulfill his passion for IT)”. **** Are there tasks that you do in your job that you dislike? Can you automate those tasks? Delegate them? Reframe them?

One of my clients was life coachinginstructed to make cold calls as part of her sales role. She despised this piece of her job and dreaded doing it. She did however love other methods of marketing including blogging, social media and google ads. Therefore she researched the effectiveness of these sales modes in her industry and presented her findings to her boss. She now does much less cold calling and has increased the marketing strategies where she excels and enjoys.

Can you find ways to increase the amount of time you spend on job tasks you enjoy and decrease the amount of time you spend on tasks you don’t enjoy?

Relational Crafting

Clearly building strong relationships at work can make your job more pleasurable and contribute to productivity. As with all three of these modes of job crafting, sometimes changing one area changes another. For instance, if you want to introduce more technology into your job, you may need to increase your interactions with the technology group. Building relationships is a satisfying way to enhance your experience at work.

My husband Gideon is a good example of building relationships as a way to find pleasure in his job. A quintessential extravert, he has made numerous friends and acquaintances at every job where he has worked. Not only does he get to know his co-workers, he loves to have fun with them. Whenever he works from home and I overhear his conference calls, there is a ton of career coachinglaughing and joking—while also lots of work talk too (just in case his boss is reading this). His ability to create a social environment at work is incredibly beneficial not only for his own enjoyment of his job but also for encouraging collaboration throughout his group. Prioritizing this aspect of himself allows him to be authentic on the job and authenticity contributes to productivity and happiness.

Are there relationships at work that you can cultivate to increase your productivity and happiness at work?

Alter How We Perceive Tasks (Reframing our job)

We do not always need to change what we do at work, instead we can change the way we see things. IT specialists can see themselves as teachers, clothing sales people can see themselves as people whose job it is to help their customers feel beautiful and leave happier than they came, people in product design can think of themselves as innovators, and the list goes on…. What I love about this form of job crafting is that you can do this without your manager even knowing you are doing this, it is a lot about perception and reframing the way you see your role.

A wonderful piece of research was done back in 2000 where researchers interviewed hospital custodians at a hospital about their jobs*****. Researchers discovered a group of custodians career coachingwho saw their work as well beyond their job description. These custodians saw themselves as healers who contributed to the healthy environment of the hospital by keeping it clean and sanitary. They were members of the team committed to helping patients get better. As a result of this perception, they went out of their way to contribute to the patients healing in creative and loving ways. Job crafting in this way not only enhances your experience at work but also increases your productivity.

Are their parts of your job where you could alter your perception so you can increase the positive?

Increasing the positive in our life can have profound effects and focusing on the positive within our job is one way to do this. Take a moment to think if you have crafted your job. I would love to hear your stories, so please share with me anything you have learned in the process. Also, think of ways you can craft your job now. Happiness at work matters and luckily there are ways we can enhance our own happiness.

Interested in learning more about how to craft your job? Please contact me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com

 

*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM21gPmkDpI

**Fredrickson B.L., (2009). Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life Penguin Random House

***Berg J.M., Dutton J.E., Wrzesniewski, A (2007). What is Job Crafting and Why Does It Matter? Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship, University of Michigan Ross School of Business

****Wrzesniewski A, Berg, J.M., Dutton, J.E. (2010). Managing Yourself: Turn the Job you Have in the Job You Want Harvard Business Review

*****Dutton, J. E., Debebe, G., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2000). A social valuing perspective on relationship sensemaking. Working paper, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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Three “Rs” in Job Seeking: Reflect, Research and Relay

With one click, you can submit your resume and cover letter for a job opening. It is so simple when compared to the old days. For example, when I applied to my first job I needed to print out my resume (the printer was in the computer lab at my school) and then print out the envelope (making sure to put the envelope into the printer in just the right way), attach the stamp and then lick the envelope shut.

While the old way was tedious, the current way has a downside as well. The ability to apply to a job without much effort can result in a mindless approach to job seeking. When applying to a job took more effort, we made Life Coachingsure to only apply to places we really liked. Now things move much more quickly. However, slowing down and thinking about where you are applying not only increases your chance of getting noticed by the recruiter but it can increase your likelihood of landing a job you will actually like.

  1. Reflect

When looking for a job, it is important to seek the right environment and cultural fit. Take a moment to think about a few times where you were at your best. Ask yourself why you succeeded in those situations? Who were you working with? Where were you working? What were the surroundings like? Your work environment can impact your productivity, effectiveness and ultimately your overall happiness. Before you click “send” on a resume or cover letter, take the time to get to know the company you are applying to.

Luckily, there are websites that provide us with an opportunity to get the inside scoop on work environments – allowing you to mindfully choose where you want to apply.

  1. Research

Websites like The Muse, Glassdoor and WorkClear allow potential applicants to peek behind the curtain at a potential employer. These websites enrich your job search by providing insights into Life Coachthe environments where you will be working. Below are descriptions of three websites as a starting point for you. I encourage you to check out these websites to see if any of them would help you.

  • “WorkClear was founded to provide insight into the work-life balance cultures of employers around the world. Members of the WorkClear community anonymously post actual work hours, vacation time, and other work-life metrics.” (Quotation from WorkClear’s website)
  • Glassdoor offers a variety of career-oriented services including the opportunity to read reviews from employees where employees can tell you the real deal about the company.
  • The Muse allows you to learn more about a companies culture. As they state on their website “We think company culture is pretty important. We show you inside offices before you apply to make sure you’ll love working there.” While these summaries are not anonymous reviews like the other two websites, the descriptions are written in a very clear way focusing primarily on the working culture at the organization.

These websites support the idea that the culture in the company is a huge contributor to happiness. Posting actual work hours? That is fantastic! Seeing pictures of the physical space you will be working? Ideal! These websites are gifts for the job seeker.

Connect Your Reflections to Your Research

When you research potential employers, be sure they have some of the qualities you identified above when I asked you to reflect on where and how you do your best work. For instance, which of the descriptions below appeal to you:

-Is a down-to-earth environment a top requirement for you? Then this company that was reviewed on Glassdoor may be a match for you: “Incredibly supportive culture with an incredible focus on learning and mentoring, Highly intelligent, down-to-earth and fun people, Focused on making a real impact for our clients”

-Are you willing to work long hours but need flexibility? Then this company’s review on Workclear’s website may be of interest: “While my lunch break is non existent and days are long, I have the flexibility to work around my business commitments, including flexible work schedule. This flexibility allows me to start work early in the morning so I can step out for my daughter’s game / practice / etc., and this sometimes means I need to catch up on work over the weekend.”

-Do you like autonomy and the freedom to utilize and develop your expertise? Then this career coachcompany reviewed by an employee on the Muse website may be for you: “One of the best aspects of [our company’s] management style is that individuals hired are considered experts in their respective fields. We’re encouraged to do our own thing and really excel.” (Note that the Muse website is different from the two above. While this quote is by an actual employee it is not anonymous and is part of an overall work overview that was provided by the company itself.)

  1. Relay your Connections with Your Potential Employer

These pieces of information the websites offer, while not the complete story, can give you some insight about a company and determine if it is worth your time applying. If the reviews are exciting to you, you can address that in your cover letter, interview and beyond. Rather than sending dozens of resumes into a black hole, take the time to determine why you are applying to a particular job and customize your resume and cover letter accordingly. Show the emplCareer Coachingoyer that you take this process seriously, you have done your homework and you have SELECTED this particular company. Ensuring that the company where you work is the right fit for you is a benefit for everyone involved. The company benefits because you will do your best work there and you will benefit because prioritizing your happiness at work is a step in the right direction to cultivating your overall happiness.

 

If you are interested in speaking with me about career coaching, please contact me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com.