Lately I’ve been reading more blogs, paying attention to topical themes are making the rounds in our circles. Laurie Ruettimann’s blog has caught my eye a couple of times lately, most recently her December 20th post on working from home. This is not to be confused with ‘stay-at-home parents’ who are CEOs of their own households: she’s talking about actually working for pay from a home office. It’s an easy read and brings up a couple of really good points, not the least of which is how having a ‘non-remote’ work environment creates jobs.
I also work remote. It’s not been a hard-and-fast requirement of mine, but I concede I’m happier that way. My life functions better when I can get up and my commute is 15 steps from my kitchen/living-room. (1) I’m not lazy.. I’ve got kids. And I think they’d agree with this: when I worked “in an office” running HR? I rarely got to see them – which didn’t work for any of us. ”Flex time” is helpful, so I can run and shuffle them t0/from whereover or make their school events on time… but that wasn’t the kind of parent I ever wanted to be. Working from home meant I could make:
watch the track meets
pick my eldest up from swim – one of her high-school classes (2)
be able to fix my kids dinner regularly
get more face-time with them
More Face Time, Less Boundaries
Over 10% of our global working population now works at home, according to a 2009 study on virtual teams done by MIT (3). While Laurie’s point that the “onsite office environment” can help create jobs, there’s certainly no doubt of a big payoff when it comes to working virtual: it saves BIG money through real estate savings and increased worker productivity. While it provides workers like myself the scheduling flexibility and autonomy necessary to get the ‘face-time’ we’re looking for with our families? It wipes away the division of home/hearth & cubicle/office space. It’s frankly impossible not to take work home with you because work is always home with you. We’re more prone to be electronically tethered – which, for kids, isn’t easily understood even when accepted. My eldest stopped me in my tracks the other day when she made the comment that sometimes, even though I’m “there” with them, my mind is on work so to her? Doesn’t count. This is particularly true when we’re watching movies or TV because my ADD kicks in and I just rarely enjoy focusing in on television. To me? It’s a ‘remote work win’ because I’m doing something with my family while getting my job done. But to her? It’s like I’m not there at all.
How many more families are like mine in this respect? I’d hazard to guess a lot – and that number is expected to grow, not decrease. It’s enough of an issue that Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self wrote a book on it. “Shared Attention” presents a problem in that the parents self-identify as being present and the child reports that they’re not. ”Today’s parents might not even realize how their divided attention plays out with kids,” she says. ”That mother shows up in these surveys as being with the child, but is she actually, if she’s on the BlackBerry in the car?” Turkle says. “A mother putting laundry in while the child sits on the couch is not the same as a mother concentrating on this screen and going into this virtual space. Kids are totally attuned. They know … their parents are in la-la land.”
Ouch. I might not be in la-la land since I’m working… but I’m not exactly ‘present and accounted for,’ either. Maybe this weekend I should focus on my kids instead of work… after all, its not like it takes me long to get to the office when I do decide its time to check in.
(1) the epicenter of my home
(2) which she couldn’t do otherwise, there’s no bus home from the Natatorium for the kids
(3) 20% of the US working population, according to a 2011 Mashable article
(4) BTW, while I like the tips in the video? The “Training Your Husband?” SO RUDE. and I can’t put my work down at any time, and my kids will SO tell you that.
Every morning I wake up at somewhere between 3:30 and 4am. The very first thing I do is roll over and check my email on the iPhone. If there’s an issue -and there often is- that needs attention, then I fire up the laptop & shoot off replies. But my favorite hour of the day? Is the hour between 6 and 7am. It’s the most peaceful hour of my life each day. The house is quiet while I pick up from the day before, (1) it’s clean and lovely while I’m making my coffee, and then I sit with my laptop and listen to the news while I make “the list.” Even if I don’t have time to work out? I always have time for this hour because the list HAS to get done.
“The List” is my running ‘to-dos’ for the day & week. I practice the “urgent/important” matrix for making my list; many of you might be familiar with the 4 quadrants separated by a cross on a piece of paper – if not, see below.
Within each quadrant, I break it into 3 sections: work, home, and “just for me.” I’d like to say that I’m really balanced in making sure that all three of those sections are hit. But, the truth is? The “Just for Me” section most frequently gets thrown in the “Not Urgent, Not Important.”
But of course, that? Is not true. Nor does it have any ‘semblance’ of balance.
What Should Be Vs What Is (aka Reality)…
And here’s what tends to happen when I do that: I gain weight because I stop working out, so I feel frumpy. When I feel frumpy, I tend to go out less and drink more (diet) soda/eat poorly. It affects my work, too; although I might work more hour-wise? I tend to get really frazzled and overloaded.. and my ADD kicks into overdrive. That’s right, I’m one of the 8 million working adults in the United States with Attention Deficit Disorder. So striving for ”balance” is especially important to me. If I’m taking medication to help with focus (2), then it’s easy for me to “zone in” and can sit and work from 5am to 11pm without interruption.. if I’m not, then taking time for myself to do things like workout, step away from lists I use to keep me on track, and quiet the 1500 different trains of thought running around in my brain? Is fairly critical.
So why is it so easy to cast aside? I think it’s because we still segregate out the various sections of our life – even in “the lists” we make. Work here, Personal there, Family obligations somewhere else. We largely don’t talk about being ADD or the stuff we need to get done at work – and maybe there’s something prudent in that, depending on environment – because it can be perceived as a weakness, or lack of dedication to “the team.” In doing so, we create TWO teams: our “work team,” and our “family/personal” one. Since the work team pays the bills? It usually wins the game.
So What To Do? You Tell Me…
I don’t have a great answer for the integration of that; I also don’t believe “balance” is achievable. Just like there’s no equal partnership over the long-term, I think there’s no way to (successfully) dole out your time to each “section” of your life in equal parts. Sometimes, the “work team” is going to need more; otherwise, the kid(s)/significant other/pets/whatever will demand more of your time & attention. That’s probably okay.. but it’d be better if we could communicate why time is being allocated where it is with involved parties. Oh, and if you don’t lose yourself in the process.
And Now We Get to ‘The Big Bird’
And that’s really all about discernment & self-discipline, when you get down to it. Something that I couldn’t help but think about when I took time out last night to watch the Presidential Candidates’ Debate last night with my youngest. I’ll not opine as to who ‘won’ or ‘lost,’ but I did notice something that was interesting to me – Romney’s strategy shone through last night. After spending several weeks rather frustrated at the near complete lack of detail on practically every issue, last night? Romney finally shared some details (3). By being disciplined enough to have leaked nothing prior, he was able to catch the President [somewhat] off-guard… Obama had no chance to prepare solid rebuttals to much of what was said. Ergo, he appeared to some as floundering in some of his responses. It was interesting.
What was also interesting was the participation by the rest of the US during the debate, which has become the most “tweeted about” event in history. 10.3 million tweets in a 90-minute period showed America was watching – and had something to say. Of course, a lot of it (17k tweets/min, actually) was about Big Bird & Romney’s comment that he’d pull public funding from PBS. I couldn’t help but think that was a bad move to make a correlation between Big Bird and the moderator; he basically single-handedly created an emotional, nostalgic land-mine for his opponents to use with the uninformed masses. Don’t believe me? PBS has been trending at 10k tweets/minute since the comment was made and 21.9 million memes have been made.
Even though I get the psychology behind the “why” of the Big Bird social response, part of me is sad that out of all the issues, that’s the one we snagged onto. Beyond all that, though, I guess I’m glad that we had more interaction during this debate – not just from the candidates, but from the citizens… the voters. Those tweets, memes, and Facebook updates will help us start conversations & make (hopefully) more balanced decision when voting begins (4).
(1) something I started so I wouldn’t dread evenings and grump at my kids because I’m picking up their junk while exhausted.
(2) I don’t always – for me things like lists, exercise, strict diet, and routine work for me unless there’s just an overload of work or critical focus projects. Then? ADHD medication is my friend; the stimulants help me focus.
(3) Though not nearly enough and he still needs to keep ONE position on something… he has flip-flopped a bit. I also noticed he was a little bossy with the moderator, but so was Obama and they both made me giggle.
(4) October 18th is early voting. Rock Your Vote, folks.
The other day I was talking with a former co-worker & friend over coffee. She made the off-handed comment about our former co-workers, “We’re all jealous… you’re so lucky to get paid to play on Facebook all day. ”
*Sigh* They don’t get it.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard that comment & truth be told, I’ll joke that I get paid to be on Social Media … but there’s much more to what I do than playing around on Facebook & tweeting all day. In fact, the status updates & tweets that fly around under my handles don’t even make up 25% of what I need to accomplish as a Social HR professional. And I’m not alone…
While social media responsibilities have certainly made their way into the job descriptions of HR professionals, Recruiters, and Talent Marketing professionals; it’s certainly not a primary focus. We still have to do all of the things we did before; but now we need to work that in, too. In addition to the aforementioned roles, now we have “Digital Strategists” & “Social Community” professionals; who create/manage the online presence for their organizations, brands, products. For company & ‘profersonal’ purposes, it’s important we’re seen day in/day out on multiple social platforms; creating engaging environments for interests/relationships to flourish.
When it comes to creating engagement in recruiting, there’s a lot more than saying, “I have a job to fill” or “We’re hiring” or making off-handed comments about what everyone’s having for lunch. You have to inform, inspire, challenge at times, & have a genuine interest in the people you’re reaching out to. They’re more than just avatars or numbers; these “handles” you talk to represent real people with real goals that we have a responsibility to pay attention to. We have to understand organizational and consumer psychology; as well as often create digital marketing materials to entice them to have offline conversations with us. It’s part of our jobs.
To do this, we have to spend time paying attention to current trends, analyzing what’s going to be hot, culling content in blog/news articles, white papers & various research; sharing funny antidotes (that we first have to find), and creating our own content that our target audience will respond to. This? Takes a significant amount of time… and that doesn’t even count the time we need to spend responding to the people who reach out to us on various social platforms & proactively “reaching out” to our target audience on their social landing pages. Then we have to create schedules & themes to ensure cohesiveness with the overall internal & external brand objectives.initiatives we’re working with.
Inevitably, early on most of us have asked the question (usually in frustration) “Who has the time to get all of this done?” Even some veteran “Social Media Pros” complain that there’s ‘not enough time to do the activities required to sustain influence within our associated communities while actually working. Even those of us that are supposed to be providing solutions can perpetuate the perception problem that working in social media isn’t really work at all. Fortunately, though, there are a plethora of existing and emerging tools that help ease the time burden associated with consistency.
For those of us that find a personal assistant to handle the administrative/research side of our ‘#Social Work’ anything but reality; utilizing those tools becomes almost a productivity imperative. Personally, I’ve got a watchful eye on Social Media Content Management Systems such as BundlePost to help me not only schedule content for my applicable hash-tagged communities; but find the content on the net for me as well. TweetAdder, Hootsuite, and TweetDeck have long held a place in my world for making Twitter Chats happen & managing 8-12 different Social Media identities. Wordpress, Twitter, Facebook, & LinkedIn’s associated mobile applications have made it possible for me to be completely connected with my communities at all times; allowing for more ‘real-time’ responses & stable engagement levels.
For many like myself, we then have to take those online conversations offline & handle traditional ‘old school’ recruitment responsibilities of evaluating, matching, and recruitment life-cycle management. That, in and of itself, is a full-time job for many. When you add in the aforementioned? It’s about 10-12 hours a day of real, focused work; if the stars align & we’re really lucky. In a sense, I guess we ARE lucky in that most of the Social professionals I know are truly passionate about the work they do – which helps the massive amounts of it seem a little less overwhelming.
But make no mistake, it’s not playtime – Social Media professionals have to work … and unlike many others, ours never really turns off. #nowyouknow
Last night, I received a phone call from a rather distraught friend. Despite the fact that it was after midnight and I was asleep; of course I took it. (1) She went on to explain that despite trying her hardest, following all “the rules,” and working non-stop?? She couldn’t reach her destination: happiness. Despite all the aforementioned effort & achieving all of the goals/dreams she made for herself… she wasn’t happy.
After making some coffee & thinking for a bit; I told her that the way I saw it; she had two basic problems:
There isn’t a destination for “Happiness.” Happy is something we feel along the way – not the end of the journey.
From what I could hear, she was so focused on doing things “the right way” that she wasn’t doing it HER way. Are you really doing it ‘right’ if you lose yourself in the process??
Image Courtesy of: http://favim.com/image/122378/
Several months ago, while dealing with ‘THE break-up’ of 2011 (2); my friend Sam made the statement he didn’t think Happiness was a destination. That people lose ‘content’ in their search for ‘happy.’ I wrote about it in from a relationship perspective; but the impact that statement/related discussion had on me went much further & since then, I’ve focused on.. well, keeping focus on all that I have to be content about in life.
To some, that’s going to sound like a heightened awareness on staying in the present; my first & probably most impactful mentor, Jeff Wittenberg, told me back in 2004 that my biggest challenge was that I needed to BE present wherever I was… meaning at work, focus on that so that when you’re home? You can fully focus there. It’s great advice & extremely challenging. But I work towards that every day & it really does help with my contentedness… and cuts down on the distracted mentality that those of us who are ADD-tastic tend to suffer from. This ability to be fully present is happiness, of sorts, I think…
To others, the journey of focusing on being content instead of chasing happy is going to look more like a focus on gratitude. Which is fine, because it is. And that is happiness; or at least where/how I think we find it. For me, I try to load my day intentionally with little moments I’ll find gratitude in – from the first moments I wake up. That doesn’t always fit in with the “status quo” or “conventional wisdom” for things, either. For example, take my morning coffee – I love how, when you go to Starbucks, they put whip cream in it. However, I also love not being in double-digit clothing… so, I found an alternative that works for me: Sugar Free Redi-Whip. It’s 5 calories/serving; so 15 calories later? I’m in business; and grateful not only for my caffeine fix… but the little bit of fun I get to have with it as well.
My Morning Happiness
Which leads into the second point I made to my friend last night: be willing to be brave enough to dance to the beat of your own drum. (3) We’re conditioned that there are ‘right’ ways & ‘wrong’ ways to do nearly everything; but truly, there is no one right rhythm to happiness. Of course, that’s in direct conflict with the social education we receive in our primary years. Children, by and large, intrinsically crave the homogeneous. There’s comfort with things being similar. Unfortunately, the structure that ‘like kinds’ provided for us as children often stops being as fulfilling at some point in adulthood.
(http://youtu.be/i8StRAJCork is my preferred intro; but it wouldn’t embed)
This holds true for both “sides” of our life – personal & professional. My current theory is this: A lot of being content & discovering happy is finding your personal style & figuring out how to ‘work it,’ so to speak… it’s in our differences, as adults, we’re actually appreciated others & feel more content within ourselves. It’s funny to me that we teach embracing diversity in others; but not within ourselves. The checklist for discovering happiness within our own diversity is pretty similar, though:
We can translate the guideline of “respecting others” into ‘Respect Ourselves.’ Take the time to know who you are – and be okay with that. When it comes to the “song” that is your life? This is your bass line.
The universal translation: Be flexible. If you’ve always been part of the cookie-cutter assembly line; it’s going to take a bit for people to get used to it when your notes stand out like during an impromptu drum solo. Have patience; but be true to who you are.
Know & understand your surroundings – & how you ‘fit in, while still standing out.’ Ever notice how a lead singer will take a stanza of a song & tweak it to fit their voice? It still fits the song; but it’s different from what’s expected. When we are dancing to the beat of our own music; we do that, too. But, it’s important to understand how that affects the other people in the band & work within the same key.
Have a sense of humor. Sometimes life is just gets off-key. When you stop trying to move exactly like everyone else does; you’re bound to flub up now & again. That’s okay. There’s a serious sense of contentment that comes with being able to laugh at yourself & make the best of situations you find yourself in… in fact, like lead guitarist Slash? It just well might be the thing that wins over the crowd.
As I go for another Redi-Whipped cup of coffee this lazy Sunday; I present a challenge to all of us by asking for reflection on this question: Do we dance to the beat of our own band? Do we know how to find contentment or are we getting lost chasing “Happy Town??”
(1) As an aside, I’m always kind of surprised when friends call ME for life advice – I’m neither a guru, nor a picture of perfection in my own life… I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have it all figured out. Fortunately, it’s always easier to look at someone else’s life & hand out pointers than it is to perfect your own. :p
(2) I seriously think the end of the relationship/subsequent processing was more painful than my divorce. The whole thing was profoundly painful. I do not think this says anything good about my marriage; & probably highlights the emotional inequity in the relationship that ended last year – but whatever.. done now.
Can I just say I’m a huge Sarah Jessica Parker fan? Well, I am and have been since she broke loose in “Footloose.” Actually, that’s not totally true; I wasn’t old enough to see “Footloose” when it came out; so I fell in love with her when I saw it later on. Whatever, I’m sure that counts. She didn’t disappoint yet again in her new movie, “I Don’t Know How She Does It..” and honestly? Neither did the movie.
I went to the movie today feeling a little guilty, a little concerned and wholly stressed-out. You see, I really identify with Kate (1) in that I – along with what I’m sure is many other women – totally trade sleep for “The List.” I sometimes also:
trade school volleyball games for work,
trade work for Doctor’s appointments,
trade my social life for reports;
trade dating for networking/functions and
interchangeably trade lists and my sanity.
Lately I’ve been acutely aware that in an effort to balance what I need professionally and personally? A lot of life is a ‘trade-off’ and the movie addressed aloud the question a lot of us ask in making these ‘trade-offs’: ”How do you keep it all together… without losing it??” Which leads me back to this morning and why I was stressed-out when I went to see this movie. I was very excited to be included in a speaking panel for what is a great cause this morning. Unfortunately, I also had one kid that was sick, and another I’d promised could run our sale in our Community’s garage sale this weekend. She wasn’t quite old enough (2) to work it by herself; so, choices had to be made – who was getting disappointed? The panel/my work or my kid? We’re only allowed to do the garage sale 2 times a year and she’d worked hard to get everything set up.
I chose my kid and hoped the repercussions wouldn’t be too bad.
I was supposed to meet what is presumably a very nice man this evening who’s been trying to schedule time with me for the last.. goodness, I don’t even know how many weeks now. BUT, I promised my boss I’d get some admin stuff done, TalentCulture I’d get the ed cal reworked; and I desperately want to work out. And clean my house. (3) I know, I’m quite the exciting person; but I MISS my workouts and I’m too ADD to think straight when my house isn’t organized/cleaned up. I work out of my house – I found myself working out of Starbucks & Red Dog Right this week because my office was distracting me.
I know I’m not the only one that struggles with work-life balance. Barnes & Noble, along with my iPad Book Store, reassures me on a regular basis that millions of others must be struggling with it, too; given the amount of literature available on the subject. So, this week on my blog and for my submission to TalentCulture’s blog I’m going to be looking at “Work-Life” balance… both in my personal life & in training Leadership in an effort to #bethechange I wish to be & see in the world. And I’m going to use this movie to do it.
Next Up? ”The Momsters”
(1) SJP’s character in the movie
(2) Or comfortable enough with it
(3) Really want to reorganize my office and finish cleaning out my room… oh and swap out desks with Lindsey/move her computer desk out to be donated. And finish reorganizing my shoes since I took them all inside today so they wouldn’t get snagged during aforementioned community garage sale.