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Tag Archives: work-life balance

A peek behind the curtain: Blogging with a full-time gig

One of the great things about blogging is that your blog gives you a cathartic outlet. Have a bad day? Write about it on the blog. Shocked by something an employee said? Write about it on the blog. Remember something your boss did that made you roll your eyes so hard it gave you a migraine? You got it – write about it on the blog.

Funny thing is…that’s kind of hard to do when you’re a working girl. Well, not THAT kind of working girl. I bet they have the BEST blogs.

I’m talking about folks who have a full-time job in corporate America. You know, the people who work 9-to-5 (what a way to make a living). It’s not that we don’t have enough material. Goodness knows it’s not that.

The challenge lies in the fact once people at the office find out you write a blog, they tend want to read it. Which is actually pretty awesome. Until they start trying to figure out if the topic about which you’ve written is about them. Or the company. Or the CEO.

Here’s the thing. Yeah. I probably did write a blog post about you. But not specifically about you, more about the situation. Or you said something that triggered a thought about a scenario I read in another article that made me think, “Huh. I wonder if that’s a trend I should write about.”

Except for that one time. That was TOTALLY about you.

It’s a challenge to not translate everything at work into a blog post. I try to weigh the relevance for a wider audience and if it fits into the general leadership theme of my blog. I mean, it’s my blog so I’ll go off topic from time to time, but you get the idea. I also try to decide if it’s a lasting issue or if it’s a weird one-off that may never happen again.

Most of all, I have to weigh whether or not someone I know will try too hard to read between the lines and make assumptions about the topic and try to assign meaning that isn’t there. My views truly are my own. But it’s not that hard to figure out where I work (or have worked), and because of that, I try to be careful.

I suspect that many bloggers who have a corporate gig take the same care. In fact, there are several who use an alias because they are worried their content will anger the powers that be. The struggle is real, people.

So I wait months to bring up a “hot” topic. I change names. I allude to past organizations or use the time-honored “a colleague of mine.” I’m not above throwing in a “studies show” now and then, either. Sometimes I wait 3+ months to write about something because it is too raw and close to what reality is. Hence the occasional dry spell in content. Well, that and writer’s block.

If I do work with you and you read my blog, hi! And thank you. I think that’s cool. Just please don’t try to figure out if I’m talking about something at work, because by the time I write about it, it happened so long ago that it doesn’t even matter anymore.

If I don’t work with you and your read my blog, hi! And thank you. Feel free to make any wild conjecture that makes my blog more exciting to you. If it helps to picture bear juggling knives while balancing on a unicycle, I’m okay with that.

Ultimately, I write on this blog because I enjoy it and only when I feel like I have something to say that others may find interesting. Every once in awhile, I might take someone specific to task, but only when they deserve it and they’re a national story. (Or if there’s an in-joke that will make us both laugh.)

Would I write more freely if I didn’t work a corporate gig? Yes. Does it keep me from writing anyway? No.

And it never will.


You fail only if you stop writing. 

– Ray Bradbury

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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More than a conference – WorkHuman 2017

I know what you’re thinking: Ugh. ANOTHER ‘come to this conference because it’s so freaking great’ post. 

Well…yeah, it kind of is.

But it’s more than that! It’s a confession of sorts.

See, I usually end up going to conferences because either I’m speaking and they asked me to be there by paying my way, or because I know a bunch of cool people who are going to the conference and I really, really want to see them. I seldom go to a conference simply because it looks “interesting.”

WorkHuman was a little different.

I’ve been going to this conference since the very first one (you know…3 years ago). I had seen teasers about it and knew it was going to have some great speakers, including Shawn Achor, Nilofer Merchant, Ariana Huffington, and Adam Grant. I had seen Adam Grant speak in Denver and I just loved his book, so I thought, “Gee, what a cool looking conference. Oh well, no chance to go, I’ll just watch from afar.”

As fate would have it, I had a chance to attend because I knew people. (See? NETWORKING PAYS OFF. Go do it.) I got to see some friends I knew, but more importantly, I got to experience a conference that was unlike any other. The format was unique. The setting was far more intimate than most conferences. And more swanky. (Note to conference planners: you’ll never go wrong with choosing swanky.) And it felt more like a good conversation among friends because it wasn’t frenetic. Rather than piling on the concurrent sessions, WorkHuman had a keynote, then a few breakouts, and then another keynote, and a few more breakouts, etc. What resulted was a shared experience that allowed attendees to discuss the speakers, pay attention to the content, and not worry that they were missing something else in a session down the hall. I loved it.
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I got a chance to go back to the second one and write about it while I was there. This time, the conference was bigger with more sessions (but still swanky. Seriously…go for swank.). The venue was slightly less intimate, but the speakers were again top notch, and while there were more sessions, the conference let you sample several ideas with 15 minute power sessions, collaborative conversation spaces, and fascinating topics. And did I mention Michael J. Fox spoke? No? Well, he did. And it was fantastic.  (I also got called out to meet Globoforce CEO Eric Mosley because of something I tweeted during his session. Smart guy. Super nice. Good chat.)

And I get to go back this year – once again to write about the conference, but even better…I get to speak. YES. I am one of the 15 minute power sessions you can choose to avoid so you can see the other people talk about cool things! I’m incredibly honored and excited to be part of this conference. I love the concept. I love the theme. I love the swanky locales. (Clearly.)

But most importantly, I love the people. And I’m an introvert. So for me to say that after spending 3 days at a conference with so many people, that’s really saying something.

I got to meet some fabulous human beings at WorkHuman. I met John Baldino (who will be a fellow speaker this year) at the pool the day before the conference started. Of course, I had no idea that’s who he was (but the lack of hair probably should have been a clue), so I just talked to him like he was some random friendly guy at the pool. Thankfully, I didn’t say anything too embarrassing (I think), but he has seen me in a swimsuit, so I feel like that makes us family. I saw a bunch of people I don’t get to see nearly enough in real life (Tim Sackett, Kris Dunn, Kristen Harcourt, Robin Schooling, and so many more). I met the mind behind WorkHuman Robot. And because of the conference, I started following many of the speakers on Twitter…and they actually interact with you. Like people! (Amy Cuddy and Adam Grant are especially nice on Twitter. You guys are the best!) So I guess what I’m saying is…even though I went to that first WorkHuman thinking it was just another conference, I walked away with a new appreciation for how a conference that focuses on old topics a new way can really change the way you look at things.

So join us there and say a quick “hi.” Need help convincing your leadership it’s a good idea? Here’s a resource. In fact, since money runs the world, if you register and use the promo code WH17INF-MFA and you’ll save $200 on the registration fee!

WorkHuman helps you CONNECT – to your purpose, to your work, to other people, to new ideas. It’s fun. It’s fresh. It’s a good time.

Hope to see you there!

robot

We love you, WorkHuman Robot.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2017 in culture, Personal Development

 

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Finding sanity with a bit of sunshine

This week I will be attending the WorkHuman 2015 Conference in Orlando, Florida. The goal of this conference is to help companies find ways to create a community of support and positivity that brings greater meaning to everyone’s work lives. This conference is unique in that it’s not just about keynote speakers. The days start with yoga or a run, there are breaks during the day to connect with people, there are interactive discussions. It’s helping us practice what we preach. I’ll share what I learn here and on Twitter (@mkfaulkner43 #workhuman). 


We live and work in a world where there is no “off” switch. We come to work early, we leave late, we don’t take breaks, we eat lunch at our desk. And for this, we feel like we don’t get any work done.

When stress is high and achievement is low, it affects employees. People get stressed. People get fussy. When people get stressed AND fussy, there is no end to the drama. There’s a sour buzz in the air. People don’t want to give others the benefit of the doubt. Dumb mistakes get made. Fingers get pointed. All because we think we have to BE SEEN doing work – putting in the extra hours, toiling away at our desks so we can brag/complain about all the time we worked this week.

What the hell is wrong with us, people??!!!

First of all, we’re not solving the world’s problems by working that many hours. In fact, it makes us less productive. So good job, we’re costing the company money AND not getting good work done.

Second of all, we’re not the lone sufferers we seem to think we are. Research shows only 1 in 5 American workers take a lunch. Those people are blissful and happy and know what the weather is outside without having to check their weather app. Everyone else eats like crap at their desk because some how they think that they’ll get extra credit for being a fricking martyr.942472-work-holiday

I’m guilty of “eat at desk” syndrome. Most of the time it’s because my lunch hour is usually the only “free time” I have to catch up on emails or do actual work. But that’s no excuse. I know it impacts my creativity and ability to think critically. It also make me cranky if I’m inside all day when the sun is shining after weeks of non-stop rain. (Seriously. We’re done for now.)

And so, one day this week, I decided I didn’t want my sensible Progresso Light Soup (I’m partial to the Chicken Corn Chowder, in case you’re picking some up). I wanted fish and chips. And I wanted to eat it outside on a patio. So a group of us went and did exactly that. We got away from the office and sat in the fresh air and ate like crap (okay that part didn’t change). But what DID change is that we were able to reset for the rest of the day, and in same ways, for the rest of the week. It was like a mini-vacation. I even got a little sunburn. It was glorious.

So what did we learn from our impromptu luncheon adventure?

We learned that lunch breaks are there for a reason. That being an exempt employee does NOT mean being exempt from lunch breaks. And that eating fish and chips outside on a patio in the bright sunshine is an essential part of surviving the rat race.

The next time you find yourself approaching burnout, or snapping at your colleagues a little too easily, or struggle to write more than 4 words in a row that make sense – stop and think about the last time you had a lunch break. Then stand up and walk outside. You won’t get fired. You won’t get yelled at.

You earned that break, dammit.

So take it.

 

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2015 in Decision Making, Self-Awareness

 

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The power of downtime (or why it’s okay that I watched 3 hours of Chopped)

Feeling run down? Burned out? Too darn tired to think?

You’re not alone.

Americans work more hours than any other developed nation in the world. We take fewer vacations. We like to complain about how much we work…especially when we log in at night on our computers or smart phones to quickly check some emails so we can get a jump on our day tomorrow.

Oh, and those supposedly time-saving electronics? Those are seriously messing with our ability to get the rest we need. Which means when we get to work the next day, we will be too tired to focus, which may lead to feeling like we’re falling behind, thereby making us feel like we HAVE to check our emails right before we go to bed.

And so it goes.

It’s not just work that has us in its grip. We’re constantly pulled in several directions – family, pets, friends, church, grocery shopping (ugh) – it all erodes at our ability to feel centered and in some semblance of control. Even when you love what you are doing, it can wear on you.

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Do you think it’s not impacting your performance at work? Do you think it’s not impacting your relationships outside of work?

Let me know when you come back to reality, you incredibly misguided (yet blissfully hopeful) soul.

That’s why I’m making the case for Couch Night / Binge Watching / Vegging Out. Sometimes it’s perfectly okay to sit like a lump and let your brain take a rest. There are those who would probably advocate more for an evening picnic, or a walk with the family around the block. That’s fine. If you want to be all active and one with nature, more power to you. (Actually, exercise is really good for reducing stress. Go do that. But don’t be all #humblebrag about it, okay?)

Me? I watch Chopped. Like…a LOT of Chopped*.

Zero demands on my brain, zero stress, no concerns about SPOILERS (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones watchers), and I occasionally learn something about cooking. But that’s not important. What’s important is that it helps me decompress and step away from the day to day of work.

The 24/7 cycle of work, social media, and your “brand” puts so much pressure on people to be “on” all the time. We feel pressure to be perfect. We feel pressure to clever. We feel pressure to be productive.

We feel pressure.

I say screw that. Unplug. Watch too much TV for one night; eat some ice cream; build a Lego Death Star; whatever helps you chill out, renew, and refresh – and do it without feeling guilty.

You’ve earned that downtime, dammit.

Use it.

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.
– Chinese Proverb

*I also have an unhealthy love of Air Disasters and Engineering Disasters. I’m weird, okay?

 
 

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Finding balance in an unbalanced world

I struggle with the whole “work-life” thing.

I’ve never been good at moderation.  Typically, when I do something I go full-bore – if I’m focused, I’m VERY focused.  If I’m procrastinating, I am REALLY procrastinating. Seriously.  I rock at procrastination.

For many, this is a familiar feeling. We struggle with the demands of work.  We struggle with the demands of home. Hell, we struggle with the demands of a DVR backlog that just keeps growing.

It’s the little things that throw us off.

The only thing that really helps keep me sane is knowing that MOST people struggle with balance.

Leaders struggle to balance likability and accountability. Employees struggle to balance face time and results.

We all struggle with something.

Overwhelmed. Stressed. Frustrated. Burned out.

The stress of trying to maintain this balance impacts our health – so much so that sites like WebMD and the Mayo Clinic include tips on how to manage our lives.

The challenge with finding balance is that it is so specific to each person and where that person is in his/her life.barbwire-high-wire

Work-life balance for a single person just starting out might mean working long hours and never unplugging, answering emails at all hours of the night – even when on vacation. Work-life balance for a new parent might mean leaving right at 4:00pm every day, spending time with the kiddos, and then logging back in late at night to finish up…or even having the chance to work from home when possible.

You can switch those two scenarios and STILL be right. Because balance isn’t something you dictate to someone else – it’s something each person must find on their own.

As leaders, the best we can do is help our people find their balance while still achieving expected results (and results shouldn’t always require face time). This means setting realistic, adaptable goals; learning that setting all priorities to “high” is not practical; and accepting that life happens to us all.  Leaders should remove obstacles – not create them.

As employees, we can help ourselves by communicating our needs for balance, setting boundaries, and working with our leaders to find ways to ensure the work gets done without going insane. This means getting our work done in a timely fashion with high quality; being present when we are at work; and NOT taking advantage of our teammates who may have different definitions of work-life balance. Employees should provide suggestions – not excuses.

To illustrate the personal nature of finding balance, I want to share a few ideas I have for me.  Remember, these may or may not work for you – but hopefully it will get you thinking about how you can find your own balance:

  • Get moving: I am not what I would call an “exercise lover”, but I do notice lower stress and better energy when I have a regular exercise program.  So I do my best to run, work out, walk around, whatever it is. I’m hoping my new Up24 helps keep me on track in this respect.
  • Get organized: I’m pretty organized…but I don’t always act on that plan.  Because I can be so busy I end up doing nothing, I need to use my love of to do lists to my advantage.
  • Save my best for home: I’ve heard this from several colleagues – we give our all at work…to the point we are completely spent when we are with the people we love. Work will get what it needs to get done, but my “real life” deserves more.
  • Choose unbalance when it makes sense: As author Alain De Botton once said, “everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.” The operative word here is choose. Moving forward, innovation, change – all of these require some manner of unbalance, and I will decide when that’s the best path.
  • Do more stuff I enjoy: I like writing. I like reading. I like chatting with my network of online friends.  I like saving baby pandas on my iPad. I like going out to eat and having fun. I want to do more fun things, and fewer things I “have” to do. This is my motivation to do everything else on this list.

This isn’t everything I’m working on to find my balance, just a sample. But it’s a start.

Comparison is the thief of joy. ~Theodore Roosevelt

How are you finding balance in an unbalanced world? Share in the comments!

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2014 in Personal Development, Self-Awareness

 

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