Tag Archive for work/life balance

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.

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.

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!

Crafting and Assessing your Reputation

Everyone has a reputation.  Through our actions and interactions over time, we build a reputation that defines and eventually precedes us; whether for good or for bad.  Most people really don’t know what their own reputation is, and you may even doubt you have one.  Let me assure you – you do!

Spend a minute going through your mental Rolodex and think of one relative, one friend, and one colleague.  As you go through this exercise, jot down the first adjective that comes to mind that identifies their reputation.  You may characterize some acquaintances as having some fairly common reputations; perfectionist, cynic, unreliable, or even a risk-taker.  Many people have one defining reputation, and a few ancillary ones as well.

As easy as it probably was for you to quickly peg someone else’s reputation, you might find yourself equally stumped about your own.  Perhaps you think you couldn’t possibly have a reputation.  Think again.  You have a reputation that precedes you in the workplace, and others can identify it just as easily as you did in the above exercise.

The nuts and bolts of a good business or career reputation are not too difficult to surmise; being on time or early for work, a positive attitude, a strategic thinker, problem solver, a good work ethic, being a team player, even having someone’s back, doing ‘whatever it takes’, etc.  All the things that make us like others, or working with them, are qualities that build a good reputation.  Take a few minutes to inventory your strengths, and since you aren’t broadcasting your answers, be real about your gifts.  Are you a great public speaker, an analytical thinker, good deal maker, key negotiator, master task executer?

While that may have been easy, figuring out what blemishes may reside on your reputation is quite another endeavor.  People usually fall into three categories during this exercise.  Some people name their shortcomings with proficiency and ease, even adding disparaging qualities or inadequacies that are not merited.  The second group of people have some idea of where they lack skill, knowledge or savvy.  Then there is the group that thinks they are free and clear of any faults, blemishes or failings whatsoever.

A bad or blemished reputation is a mixture of actions, inactions and poorly reflecting behaviors.  The tough part is coming to grips with the reality that you may need to do some damage control.  So, what causes blemishes on a reputation?  Below is a list to get you thinking:

Unmet promises.  Examples include delivering an assignment late, not showing up for a meeting, poor contribution to a project, or consistently delivering low quality work.

Poor follow up.  Are you non-responsive to emails, voice mails or meeting requests?  Do you recap meetings or provide project updates with regularity and on time?  After submitting a proposal, do you follow up with your client to clarify questions or cost?  Follow up and follow through shows others that you can carry work through to a successful completion.

Lateness.  Are you on time for meetings and work in the morning?  Do you take a 1-hour lunch, or push the limit and take extra time more often than not?  Being late tells others that you value your time over their time, agendas or activities.

Excuses and Whining.  Shirking responsibility and pointing the finger will quickly degrade your reputation.  Complaining about your job responsibilities to others wastes both your time and theirs, and is completely unproductive.  It also labels you as high-maintenance and someone to stay away from.  Results speak louder than words of blame and excuses.

Being overwhelmed/Dropping the ball.   Are you consistently frazzled by your workload?  Do you respond with emotion and drama to your ‘to-do’ list versus handling it in a professional manner?  This type of behavior often leads to dropping the ball with responsibilities because so much effort is spent on swirl and reaction that it steals time from productivity.  If you fall into this category, come to my June 18 Equilibrium in High-Heels Workshop.  You will leave with a full toolbox of techniques to successfully balance work and life.   (See details and register here:  http://www.highheeledsuccess.com/events-20160618.html.)

Interrupting.  Whether in meetings, on the phone, one-on-one, or butting in on someone’s conversation, this pet peeve can create a huge black mark on your reputation.  Interrupting causes others to lose their train of thought, can convey a ‘know-it-all attitude’, and tells others that you are not listening.

Be a Leader, Not a Follower.  Do you merely carry out the plans and projects assigned to you, or do you truly think about your work?  The learning curve in a new role can be steep, and it’s perfectly acceptable to execute tasks as assigned during this period.  As you grow in your position, however, stagnating or doing the bare minimum will negatively affect your reputation.  Leaders truly thing about the work at hand, how it will impact other initiatives and the future of the business.  Leaders also anticipate outcomes, consequences, and new opportunities by looking at the big picture.  Acting on these types of leadership thoughts by crafting a plan or proposal for consideration is definitely thinking like a leader and will reflect positively on your reputation.

Social Media Errors.  Last, but definitely not least are social media faux pas.  Posting pictures or statuses about any of the following subjects should be done with the utmost discretion and prudence: alcohol, sex, religion, politics, dating, and opinions about your workplace.  A picture enjoying a craft beer with a friend is fine.  Posting pictures of heavy partying is not.  Uploading a picture of you and your date at dinner is suitable.  Posting about the private details of your dating life is not OK.  Positive remarks about your company or one of its initiatives is fine, ranting about your boss is not.  Hopefully, you get the idea.

Did some of these areas strike a chord with you, or create some self-awareness?  If you think you need to do some damage control in any of these categories, it’s time to put a plan together.  To uncover the truth about your own reputation, you’ll need to humbly enlist the help of others and be open to feedback and growth.  Check out Kay’s Corner (in the May 2016 newsletter) for a three-step action plan to rebuild or repair your reputation.