Archive for Work/Life Balance

Reaping the Benefits of Rewards

When you read the word “reward,” I am betting your mind immediately went to you rewarding employees, or rewards you might receive from your employer, or rewards you might give to a client for a referral. Did rewarding yourself jump into your brain? The perspective of rewarding yourself may be foreign to you. Maybe you grew up in a family that espoused making your bed, doing the dishes, or taking out the trash were chores you should either want to do or do because you were a member of the family.  Being rewarded for doing these things was not something your family valued. Regardless of the source, somehow you may have received the message that you do not deserve rewards, accomplishing the goal is all the reward you should need. In a utopian world, that might fly but you live in the real world in which changing habits and reaching goals can be tough! There exists a mountain of research for using rewards to reinforce positive behavior. You may long for kindergarten, where you a received a gold star for not eating paste! Rewards can be one of the most powerful gifts you give yourself and others. Today’s parents have used rewards with children very effectively and we can use them as a model for ourselves.  There are many parenting websites that focus on changing children’s behavior through rewards. The Verywell Family parenting site sums it up well:  https://www.verywellfamily.com/behaviors-that-respond-well-to-reward-systems-1094749. Adults can use the same concept. I have a client, who is a business owner, with some new sales goals for her business in 2022. The one major obstacle is getting to the paperwork she hates. That paperwork is necessary to keep the business running and to reaching those goals, but it is boring! She’s an extrovert who is excited and energized by others, being alone doing paperwork is drudgery. We have developed a reward system to get that necessary task done.

Every behavior you want to change, every new habit you want to develop, every goal that you seek can be reinforced by rewards. However, for this to work there may be beliefs you have to let go. You deserve to let go of the belief that to reward is juvenile and to reward is self-indulgent. Why fight what works? Here are components that are part of the system we have devised for her. She is not unique; I have created a similar type of system with many clients. Our first step was to identify what would feel like a reward to her. Then she identified that an hour of paperwork a day will be necessary. She plans to track that and at the end of the week she will assess how she has done. For each daily hour of paperwork, she will give herself a star. If she has five stars at the end of the week, she will go to T.J. Maxx and purchase an outfit; three stars and she’s off to purchase a desk accessory; one star earns her a new eyeliner.

Here are three components to remember when setting up a system like this:

  • The rewards must feel important to YOU! This is your plan, and you don’t have to justify it to anyone.
  • The rewards must be timely, the shorter the gap of time between the behavior and the reward the better.
  • The rewards must be consistent, skipping a reward will diminish the effect of the reinforcement.

This is something I do myself. I own a Michael Kors purse that was purchased as a reward. It is a constant reminder of reaching an important goal.

There are all sorts of challenges you have in the workplace. A toolbelt full of tools is an asset in overcoming those obstacles. Using rewards is one more tool at your disposal.

If you are facing many challenges in your career and not reaching your goals in the workplace, guidance is only a click or a phone call away.

Email Kay@highheeledsuccess.com or call (513) 561-4288 and we will set up a time for a complimentary 45-minute telephone consultation.

Making and Owning Choices That are YOURS

Doesn’t every aspect of your world, both personally and professionally, seem to be driven by the pandemic these days?  Considering that, a friend commented that she was struggling with holiday decorating.  She lives alone and will have no one in her home for the holidays due to the pandemic.  What to do?  Tradition, habit, and other people’s opinion of whether or how she should decorate appeared to be muddling the decision-making process. She really does have choices:  she could go full-out in decorating, just because she loves the way it looks.  She could choose just to decorate the rooms she will most frequent.  Holy cow, she could do nothing at all!  This is such a metaphor for choice and the age-old question, “Whose life is this, anyway?”  To truly “own” our decisions and choices may be one of the earmarks that we have reached adulthood, regardless of our age.  I’m not recommending ignoring the needs of others when they are impacted by your choices, but this may be a great time to reflect on how you make choices, personally and professionally. 

If you are being honest with yourself, you may find that decisions and choices are being run out of habit or “The way I’ve always done it.”  Life changes, you get divorced, you move out-of-state, you are terminated.  Seasons of life change, you get your master’s degree, you have a child, you near retirement age.  You don’t have to keep doing things the same way, especially if you have never really considered YOUR wants and needs.  Perhaps it is time to move out of rote and into intentionality.  The ability to choose differently at home may give you the skill and confidence to translate this into your career.  

I was an advocate for women to “lean in” to their career long before Sheryl Sandberg wrote the book Lean In and coined the phrase “lean in”.  With that said, we are all vastly different, with different skills, temperament, and aspirations.  Choosing for yourself can be tough, especially if you have spent your entire life pleasing others.  It’s time to ask, “WHY?”  Why am I making this choice?  Are you living the career your parents wanted for you?  Are you in the job that seems to be the usual for your circle of friends?  Have you chosen to step up into leadership because a professor or mentor saw that as an opportunity for you?  Have you succumbed to the influence of media as to what you should be aspiring? 

Perhaps you are considering a major choice like changing careers.  The Career Foundry identifies 5 reasons to make a career change:

  1. You need a new challenge
  2. Your values have changed
  3. You want to focus on other things
  4. Your passion lies elsewhere
  5. You’re not happy

I work with many women who are exploring this stage of choice.  However, your choices don’t have to be that dramatic.  One of my clients felt the “itch” to have a higher income and switch her focus from a customer service role to a sales role.  Another client, given the option of a promotion that would have put her in charge of a large team, turned it down.  With some guidance, she came to the realization that “herding cats”, her term for managing others, would make her life miserable.  She wanted to be responsible for HER work only.  She came to me with her husband’s comment, “Are you nuts?  Of course, you will say yes to a management position.”  She was finally able to remind him, he was not the one that would be “herding the cats”!  It isn’t easy bucking the perspective of others, even when they are well-meaning. 

Your choices may seem less dramatic than these but still will make a difference in your life.  Recently, I had a client say “No” to serving on a committee that would have an impact on the diversity and inclusion policies of her company.  Though she was passionate about the power of diversity and inclusion, with small children and the iffy nature of the pandemic and childcare, she declined.  It was all about the season of her life. 

Where in the world do you start with taking the reins of your own career?  A good first step will be to go through the steps in Kay’s Consulting Corner.  Perhaps that is not nearly enough assistance.  If you are struggling with career choices and need someone without a “dog in that fight” to guide you, I might just be the woman for you.  Call me at 513-561-4288 or email me at Kay@highheeledsuccess.com.  We can arrange a complimentary consultation to talk about your situation.

Alert: COVID-19 Could Derail Your Career Permanently, Unless…

COVID-19 may be the worst experience of your lifetime!  That is not lost on me, my business has been turned upside down and we are shattered to be unable to interact with our family as we normally would.  I am grateful that my husband and I have each other in our home, we haven’t driven each other crazy — yet!  In my business I have talked with women who live alone who have found it to be painful beyond words.  We look at our own adult children trying to work, cope with fears of the disease, economics, and now homeschooling their children, it’s so overwhelming.  My clients are struggling, too, with the same issues.

As you know, my mission in life is to enable women to reach their potential in the workplace and unlearn gender behaviors that put them at a disadvantage in the workplace.  Though equity in the workplace is an ongoing challenge, women have been making strides, then COVID hit.  Hit like a Tsunami!

Women have always had at least two jobs, the one in the workplace and the one at home.  Females have consistently done most of the housework, childcare, and eldercare.  Even with a spouse that contributes a great deal, women still have a disproportionate share of work at home.  NOW with the virus, mothers are spending more hours a week on housework and childcare.  Boston Consulting Group found women are spending 15 more hours a week on domestic labor during the pandemic than men.  Catalyst, a nonprofit focused on helping companies better serve women, report women are twice as likely than men to be responsible for homeschooling.  I know many of my clients, friends and family members are at their breaking point.  Heaven help the women who are healthcare workers or are teachers.  Perhaps YOU are at your breaking point!  As a result, many women who are not sole supporters of their families or themselves, are considering leaving the workplace.

Before you make the decision to leave, please slow down and consider the long-term ramifications.  In her article for CNBC, Courtney Connley reported, “1 in 4 women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to the coronavirus.”  An entire generation of women may never fully recover in economics or in career trajectory. 

Author Stephanie M.H. Moore, PhD., who is a Lecturer of Business Law and Ethics at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business suggests steps companies can take to prevent their female employees from leaving.

  • Survey your female employees and find out what they need
  • Give flexibility of remote work and avoid scheduling meetings during peak drop-off and pickup times for children for both fathers and mothers
  • Record meetings for those that can’t attend
  • Assist with subsidies for childcare
  • During the pandemic consider adjusting unrealistic productivity expectations

Remember, there is strength in numbers.  If you have employee resource groups within your company, harness the power of those numbers to make these and other recommendations to management.  Companies need their best and brightest women to thrive and stay.  These recommendations are just the beginning, start brainstorming and get the support you need.

Don’t miss Kay’s Corner for what YOU can do personally to avoid opting out and negatively effecting your career permanently.  If you need additional help in maximizing your career, please call me at (513) 561-4288 or email me at Kay@highheeledsuccess.com.

Taking Steps for Erasing Racism for Women in the Workplace

This article is not the one originally planned for this newsletter.  With the events that have unfolded over the last month regarding racism in America, I knew the plan needed to be changed.  This article is going to be more personal than most, while still focusing on women in the workplace.  I am a white woman and with that goes white privilege, that is not lost on me.  I was born in 1950, when in my hometown you would see water fountains, bathrooms and pools marked “colored” or “white”.  There were two black kids in my elementary school. That was my foundational environment. Fast forward twenty plus years later, I took a position as a Field and Camp Director with the Girl Scout Council in Southwest Georgia. Initially I met with black and white volunteers in my cities separately, because that was the way it had always been done.  It was my goal to change that, and that was accomplished.  It was also part of my mandate to have black girls and white girls occupy the same tents and cabins, without parents jerking their daughters out of camp.  That was also accomplished.  I have spent the last month asking myself what have I done lately, given it is 40 years later.  Yes, I participated in some diversity and inclusion committees in the 80’s and 90’s and have offered programming at Dress for Success and sponsored seats at my workshops to DFS participants, many of whom are black.  It is with a great deal of regret, shame and sadness that I can say, clearly, I have done nothing dramatic.  This article starts with the premise, too little, too late.

This article is focused on racism for women in the workplace, not systemic racism in America.  This is the focus because women in the workplace is my area of expertise and I do not see myself as qualified to address wider issues.  Let’s take a look at some of the current startling statistics.  We know women average 82 cents to a man’s dollar in wages in the workplace.  For Black women, that number plummets to an average of 62 cents compared to a man’s dollar.  In the 25 states with the largest numbers of Black women working full time, year-round, pay for Black women ranges from 47 to 67 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men in those states.  The disparity is shocking.

In times of turmoil and struggle I have always looked to my heroes for leadership.  As a proud graduate of the University of Tennessee, one of my heroes was legendary basketball coach, Pat Head Summitt.  She was an outspoken voice for Black athletes.  Recently, I read an article about what she did and would do if she were still alive.  Here is a quote from that article:

“As the women’s basketball world marks the four-year anniversary of Summitt’s death from Alzheimer’s disease on Sunday, Summitt’s former players believe her leadership would be valued now more than ever given the current climate of the country.”

You can read the article here.

What could your workplace be doing?  Here is a list of action areas your company could consider:

  • Create a statement of the company stance on racism, as the starting point.
  • Create safe spaces for difficult conversations by an objective facilitator.  It may be necessary to hire an outside consulting firm.
  • Advise managers to be careful about putting employees on the spot in a public setting, when asking how they are.  These types of intimate conversations must be private.
  • Watch out for retaliation toward employees for speaking out about racism at work.  It is hard enough to speak up, negative consequences are unacceptable. 
  • Give employees paid time off to take care of themselves, see a doctor or therapist during these very stressful times.
  • Review performance evaluations for bias and needed language change.
  • Review hiring practices for racial bias.
  • Review every level of the organization for racial equity.
  • Review the composition of the board of directors for racial equity.

When you see an area that is lacking: stand up, speak up, and band together!  The stronger your privilege, the heavier your burden for responsibility.  Do not miss Kay’s Corner for what you can do on a daily basis to combat racism in your workplace.  If you already have ideas of how you want to be part of the solution but are a little uneasy about how to proceed, please call me a (513) 561-4288 or email me  at Kay@highheeledsuccess.com

Shift Your Perspective, Make Yourself the Priority

It’s the middle of February.  The days are getting a bit longer, but not long enough.  Unfortunately, it’s too early for spring fever.  It’s at this time of year, we try even harder to maintain healthy habits and relationships to stay productive and keep from finding ourselves in a slump.

As we think about our self-care, let’s flip the script and make the workplace the first place you think about taking care of you.  Rather than self-care being something that happens outside of work in the evenings and on the weekends, self-care can become a natural part of your workday.

There’s always more that can be done and, even if you’re the CEO, work brings pressure and demands.  I’m here to help you remember that YOU COUNT and sometimes you need to put yourself first.

Setting boundaries at the office will help you avoid doing your colleague’s work.  Even if you have to practice saying the word “no” out loud, then practice and apply the skill at work.  Do not worry about whether you’re being nice or not.  You do not have to be a friend to everyone.

If you say “yes” to everything, the workload adds more stress.  This slippery slope could cause you to take work home at night.  For example, one client is so susceptible to not setting boundaries and taking work home, which then cuts into time with her daughter at home.  Her solution is to have a photo of her daughter right by her computer as a constant reminder.

There’s a clear line between wanting to be valuable and having positive work relationships vs. allowing others to take advantage of your good nature.  Think about where the line is and set parameters for yourself and your relationships with co-workers.

Always remember your own priorities.  If you allow others to derail you with their issues, you will allow someone else’s negative perspective to throw off your own game.  Even worse, if you allow other people’s priorities to take over, you will relinquish your own work goals and priorities.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
– Anne Lamott

As with so many issues and opportunities in life, you need to be your own advocate in the workplace.  If you need to put a post-it on your computer, do it.  Always be asking yourself what you want and need in the workplace.

As an example, conferences, continuing education and leadership training are vital to your growth and advancement on the job.  You don’t get to go, if you don’t ask.  Even if there have been budget cuts, ask and make the case for why you, why now.  Another example, I have a client who has back issues.  She has not yet asked for a better ergonomic chair, because she thinks it will “seem selfish.”

The problem with not speaking up for yourself is that you could be reducing your own productivity.  The last thing you need or want is for something so simple to keep you from being a good or even a great member of the work team.  There’s no skirting around this one – you have to be your own self advocate at work.

If you’re having trouble being the best you can be at work, you could be neglecting some of these basic self-care principles.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve your goals.

Obama vs. Sandburg: Embracing Both Perspectives

Following a recent interview with Michelle Obama regarding her new memoir, “Becoming,” there was a news cycle firestorm regarding her comments on the ‘Lean In’ movement that began when Sheryl Sandberg authored the book with the same title.

What struck me most about the controversy was the intense backlash surrounding who is right and who is wrong – Sheryl Sandberg or Michelle Obama.

Unfortunately, this is a reflection of the all or nothing thinking that typically permeates the human condition, yet is exacerbated by our polarization around every issue these days.  As politics becomes more polarized, we see the same intense approach to taking sides in every segment of our society.

Rather than thinking in terms of Either/Or, we need to move toward embracing the concept of Both/And.  For example, a very well known quote from Alcoholics Anonymous summarizes Both/And thinking beautifully:  Take what you need and leave the rest.”

Obama is recognizing the reality of the struggle.  Sometimes, it’s just not feasible to lean in.  There may be personal or family health issues, divorce or concerns with the kids – all are possible among the myriad of life crises that we endure.  On top of the additional stress these life issues manifest, it’s critical to reduce our own personal self-shaming during these periods.  It’s okay to say to yourself, “Right now, it’s just not realistic or feasible to be all-in for a promotion at work.”

Let me be clear, this does not mean that during the other times, when your personal life is chugging along smoothly, that we embrace some of the concepts that Sandburg addresses in her book, “Lean In.”  Once again, polarity causes us to think in terms of Either/Or, such as changes need to be made at a policy level OR we need to take personal responsibility and change our own actions.

“The most common way people give up their power is by believing they don’t have any.”

–Alice Walker

One of my favorite quotes by Alice Walker is very appropriate when talking about personal responsibility.  In other words, if we don’t assess our own behavior, possibly we have abdicated control of our own life.

The Lean In movement doesn’t promote that we can always have it all.  The reality is that we can’t have it all at the same time.  The myth of being a superwoman is not just unrealistic, it’s ridiculous.  Often, we can’t have it all; however, rather than shaming yourself, learn to recognize when now is not the time and don’t use bad timing as an excuse to tell yourself “I can’t.”

In other words, let’s figure out what you can do, when you can do it and have a plan.

Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve your goals.

 

Don’t Let Women’s Unique Vulnerabilities Get in Your Way

It’s February, the middle of winter…blah, blah, blah, am I right?!   While we’re plugging along at work and also juggling the many roles women have, we often struggle to take care of ourselves.  Valentine’s Day and Heart Health Month remind me that this is the most important time to be sure that we value and love ourselves first.  My mentor mantra for women is: Take care of yourself, so you can be the best version of yourself with your family and in the workplace.

Throughout my decades-long career of coaching women to achieve the next level of success, I have become very aware of the fact that women have their own unique vulnerabilities.  While we strive to achieve c-suite level careers and equal pay in both the corporate and non-profit sectors, along with increased opportunities to start our own businesses, we cannot ignore that women’s life stages and ever-changing roles are unique.

My High-Heeled Success® list of women’s unique vulnerabilities is below.  Please read the list and honestly assess which of these eight characterize you and don’t flip out if they all do.  That’s not uncommon.  Think of this as a self-assessment, and maybe pick one or two that you can work on right away.

Women’s Unique Vulnerabilities

  • Tendency to belittle and de-value themselves
  • Strong need for perfectionism
  • Allowing emotions and feelings to color their experiences
  • Doing more than one task at a time
  • Assuming much responsibility from role overload
  • Difficulty relinquishing control
  • Difficulty nurturing self
  • Taking stress everywhere they go

Now that you’ve taken time to focus on yourself, to assess yourself, you’ve taken a high-heeled step or a track shoe leap in the right direction.  The beautiful thing, the loving thing is to care for yourself this Valentine’s Day and every day.  When you take this time for yourself, hopefully doing for others – whether it’s volunteering at the local homeless shelter, helping a child with his or her class valentines, planning a night out or caring for parents or in-laws – will bring you more joy.  Without time for you, the caring can reap resentment.

As long as you acknowledge what our unique vulnerabilities are, note them and think about how you can manage them, you will be surprised by how the results will also impact your work-life balance and your career success.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

©Copyright 2018.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Fall Focus with New School Year Excitement

No matter what the season or the stage of your career, balancing work and life successfully can always be challenging.  With the start of the new school year and fall just around the corner, this can be the season to renew and refresh your career goals.  At the start of the summer, we focused on the need to find your high-heeled equilibrium during the summer months when attitudes relax.

As July and August come to a close, work, school, volunteer and really everything seems to rev up to get back to business.  This new attitude allows for a fresh start; however, you now have opportunity to hang onto the summer balance tools that may have worked especially well for you.

For example, if being in nature was something you discovered as restorative this summer, make it a priority to continue to enjoy the outdoors.  Maybe you found that being less tethered to your electronics was a new discovery that allowed you to switch gears, enjoy the moment and even sleep better.  If you found that worked for you, keep it up!  Summer often forces us to find ways to simplify.  If you managed to feel positive effects from simplification, keep doing whatever worked for you.

In short, let’s approach your career guide for fall, like you would approach the excitement of starting the school year.  Remember what it was like to go back to school in the fall – everything was fresh and new.  You might have been excited about your new school shoes or excited about making new friends, either way, remember what excited you about this time of year.

If you were like me, you would wonder what new information you might learn in the coming year.  Just writing this column, I’m reminded of that feeling.  I’m challenging myself and challenging you to think about what new, exciting opportunities and challenges might be facing you in your career and in your life.  Is there a new technology you want to learn?  Do you need to be more assertive in the workplace?

If new friends are something you looked forward to in the new school year, think about your workplace relationships, both internal and external.  Take this opportunity to focus on new goals with your relationships.  Maybe you’ll decide to take lunch with a work friend or set your sights on developing a new mentor.  Whatever the goal, fall can be the time to refresh your plans.

When I was a kid going back to school in the fall, my parents took me to St. Louis to go shopping for new school clothes.  The brief family trip was full of tradition.  We went to the zoo and a baseball game.  The ritual provided the reset I needed.

As an adult, you can decide that a fall refresh involves reinventing your image and/or your wardrobe, deciding you need to update your style or sharpen your focus.  As a professional woman, monitoring your body language and the signals you send could be the reset you need.  (Watch for a more extensive conversation about body language and what it transmits in a future issue.)

As the regular school/academic year calendar pace picks back up, whether you have children at home or not, take advantage of this opportunity to renew and refresh with the same excitement you had as the new school year started in the fall.  Whether you’re wearing your high-heels or your fuzzy slippers, take time to keep what worked for you in the summer and sharpen your career focus to best suit your own personal needs.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Finding Balance When You Want to Wear Flip-Flops

Successfully balancing work and life are always challenging, yet finding your equilibrium in high heels can be even more challenging as attitudes shift during the summer months.  The entire work world seems to redirect a certain amount of focus toward summer life style and vacation, and you might find you want to swap your high heels for your flip-flops.

There are unique circumstances to consider in the summer as you plan to take vacation, do more at work while someone else is on vacation and possibly juggle out-of-school children while maintaining your normal work schedule.  Let’s dig our toes into the sand and ponder how you can take advantage of this time to improve your work-life balance.

It’s summer, so the pace at work will likely slow down a bit.  At the same time, there will likely be fewer people pulling the weight at the office.  You and your co-workers will renegotiate the office work load to be sure everything is covered and your client needs are being met.

Nothing is more frustrating for a customer or client to find out that a deliverable is on hold while their primary contact is on vacation.  With planning, a team can cover for each other and allow everyone to go on vacation with peace of mind to enjoy a complete break from the office.

As the pace slows, take this time to assess how well you are balancing your busy work and home life.  Seriously take stock and ask yourself if you tend to overschedule, find it hard to ask for help or let go of control at work and at home.  Self-awareness will go a long way toward helping you find your work-life balance.

As the pace slows, you can also time to assess your own schedule, everything you do and why, and start to dream about the life design you want.  Life is too short to do something just because you were asked or you have a hard time saying no.  If everything seems important, you need to learn how to identify the real priorities and be satisfied with your achievements.

Your day-to-day mental health is paramount.  If you begin experiencing increased fatigue, headaches, stomach problems, anxiety, anger or insomnia, it’s time to make yourself the highest priority.  When it comes to taking care of yourself, you need to take time to connect with others.  Ask yourself if you’re spending time with people and doing the activities that provide support or that undermine support, then do what’s needed to invest in yourself and create more relationships and situations that support you.

To take more time for yourself, you will need to take something off your plate.  Realistically, ask yourself what would you be willing to take off your plate?  If you took that thing off your plate, what would you be willing to do for yourself?  This is the only way to take actionable steps toward assessing your work-life balance and creating change.

Finding equilibrium and knowing when to take off your high heels and put on your flip-flops is best achieved when you avoid being the martyr or sacrificing yourself when you need to be delegating and asking for help.  When you do for others that which they can rightly do for themselves, you rob them of opportunities to raise their self-esteem and sense of competence.

In addition to your colleagues at work, use this strategy at home with the kids.  Think about having a summer chore list – having a family plan for everyday household tasks will teach your children a great life lesson.  We all need to feel needed – even kids need to know that they are contributing.  By not doing everything for them and having them contribute in age appropriate ways, your children will have their own sense of accomplishment.

The regular school/academic year calendar has a faster pace for everyone, whether you have children at home or not, so take advantage of this opportunity to slow down your pace.  If you do have children at home, it’s beneficial for you to slow down the pace with them.  Remember work will always be there tomorrow.  In the meantime, life is waiting.  Whether you’re wearing your high heels or your flip-flops, take time to enjoy the summer — reflect, vacation and spend time with the people and doing the activities that give you pleasure.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Time Wasters – What’s Behind the Problem?

How long is your ‘To Do’ list?  More importantly, how long do the items on your ‘To Do’ list remain incomplete?  That’s a pretty tough question to answer honestly.  Our lists are only as useful as our ability to use them as an effective tool.  When we continue to add items to our list, rewrite them, categorize and recategorize them, but never accomplish our goals, it’s a problem.  As our list grows, stress and pressure tend to show up and take over; often unannounced and uninvited.  And that’s never a good thing.  As the tension mounts, we can become master procrastinators who have a very large chest of creative time wasters to avoid facing the stress.

If we dissect the actual word procrastinate, ‘pro’ means forward, and ‘crastinate’ means tomorrow.  It literally means favoring tomorrow as a better time for doing something.  When procrastinating getting to important responsibilities and tasks, we often fill our time with doing busy work.  An endless array of seemingly ‘urgent’ things need to ‘get done’ before we get to the work at hand.  Have you ever justified that something must be urgently done before beginning your ‘real’ work?  Things like cleaning a filing cabinet, desk drawers, running an important errand, going through email, or if you work from home, the endless call of housework can all produce the illusion of productivity.  We are deluded into thinking we are getting so much done because we are busy.  We try to convince ourselves that mindless activities and being busy equate to being industrious.  But, who are we kidding?  We can be very busy checking social media, but it is by no means productive.  So what keeps us ‘busy’ and procrastinating, instead of being truly productive?  There are some very strong underlying issues behind putting things off, and it’s important to identify and understand them in order to move beyond them.  In working with women who face procrastination issues, I’ve identified four recurring themes:  fear, indecision, boundary issues and feeling overwhelmed.  Let’s explore.

Fear is the most aggressive promoter of procrastination.  When a sizeable or high-profile project, presentation or campaign lies ahead, it can be daunting.  Fear creeps in our heads in the form of ‘what if’s’.  What if I don’t know how to do a certain part of the project and get stuck?  Some women fear that asking for help may be a sign of weakness, and poorly reflect on her leadership skills.  Fear also rears its ugly head when we can’t completely envision the finished product.  When the end game is out of focus, sometimes we fear we will miss something important, or make a lot of mistakes getting to the finish line.  The ultimate ‘what if’ fear is, ‘what if the job I do isn’t good enough?’  This is a fear of being ‘found out’ that we are really a fraud, or not quite the talented individual others believed us to be.

Together, these fears grip our psyche and can crush our spirit.  If we allow fear to overtake our thinking, the daunting feeling can paralyze us into oppressive procrastination.  The only thing that seems to shake people into action is a looming deadline or a worse fear of being perceived as incompetent.  However, these are negative motivators, and while they may force action, they also cause enormous stress.  Over time, that type of repetitive cycle can be harmful to our health, careers, and mental well-being.

Indecision often goes hand in hand with fear as an underlying reason for procrastination.  Every facet of our lives requires so many decisions, often on a daily basis, like ‘what am I going to make for dinner?’   Financial choices; spouse, family and children issues; health care; how we will spend our free time; and of course work and career decisions continually present themselves.  If the decision has potential life-changing implications, it can be a complex process to think through.  For example, if deciding between a career change, going back to school, or starting your own business; the decision factors and possible outcomes are almost innumerable. You could almost ‘what if’ yourself to death under the weight of the decision.  The ultimate ‘what if’ many people fear is ‘what if I make the wrong choice, and the outcome is less than perfect.  Then what?’  Some people think the wrong choice is almost worse than not making any change at all.  When the pain of our current only slightly uncomfortable, we can become complacent and rather than taking a risk, we remain indecisive.  The problem with indecision is that it can be a perpetual or very long term form of procrastination, and typically results in a fairly mediocre existence.  When you are inactive or stuck in an indecisive mode, you remain stagnant due to a lack of opportunities to grow.

Boundary issues can also really compound procrastination.  When we allow others to impose tasks upon us, or we feel obligated to help (when it’s not our job, or because we are a people pleaser), or we have trouble saying ‘no’; our to-do list can grow much bigger than our capacity.  Taking on others’ work is different from pushing ourselves to accomplish our own goals in that an outside force is now creating additional pressure.  Our own pressure, we can control to some degree.  However; when we take on the responsibility of others because of our own doormat-like behavior, the stress of it decreases both our capacity and our self-dignity.  Instead of holding our own, and owning our outcomes, not maintaining boundaries makes us beholding to others.  Being beholding is different than reporting to or answering to your manager, which is a relationship of give and take.  No, in a boundary-less situation where we are beholding to another, we give and give, but receive no benefit in return.  On the contrary, we receive only negatives; no affirmation, no formalized recognition, a decreased sense of self-worth, and less time for the things we need to accomplish.  This cycle lends itself perfectly to procrastinating doing the things on our own to do list or desk.

Lastly, the problem of feeling overwhelmed triggers one of two responses.  People either leap into action when their plate is full or feel paralyzed because they don’t know where to begin.  You’ve probably sat on each side of this table at one point or another.  People with organization or motivation issues frequently struggle with feelings of being overwhelmed.  The messages in their mind say “I don’t know where to begin,” or “I’m so far behind, I’ll never catch up. Why bother?”  This type of procrastination is one of the most difficult to overcome because it breeds anxiety.  The cycle can then become vicious; feeling overwhelmed – anxiety – depression – inaction and procrastination.

And to bring it full circle, when we procrastinate, we engage in time wasting activities that make us feel productive or busy, but which ultimately do not help us achieve our goals.  Granted many procrastination activities are not bad in and of themselves; it’s just that when they consistently take over as a top priority, it becomes a time waster and a problem.

In this issue of the newsletter, Kay’s Corner offers some actionable steps to assist in combating procrastination.  I have worked with many women on this issue.  If you feel you need to dig deeper on this issue, I’d be happy to work through it with you as well.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288  or connect with me via email at Kay@highheeledsuccess.com so we can make a plan to move from procrastination to productivity together!

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