I went away for a week-long business trip in mid-October and stand here today scratching my head at how I can still behind in work and life! Typically, business trips don’t wreak quite so much havoc! Since being back, I haven’t worked out, haven’t made the myriad of appointments I need to, not to mention the other items on the never-ending list. Hmmm, what’s going on?
I love the popular idea of blocking time for different activities, and keeping that time sacred, but I don’t think it’s realistic for most of us in corporate America. Do you? Even for those of us at the highest levels, with an admin standing guard over the calendar, there are still the unexpected meetings, revised deadlines, and new projects popping up every day.
So today I’ve been shifting my priorities around, and also blocked off a nice chunk of time to focus on the items that never seem to come off the list, even though they must get done. These are the things that are important, but not urgent. The things that actually need and deserve more attention, but are only dependant on me. They are not things that, if not done, would disappoint a manager, spouse, a child, or whoever. Just me. So, today is a good day. I’m regaining control over what I choose to tackle and by doing so, finishing the tasks that have been weighing on the back of my mind. By clearing that space, I’m feeling happier and more energetic to finish the rest of the list, and just get present to what’s really going on around me.
I know I’m not alone in this situation. What are your best time management techniques? How do you manage the never-ending to-do list?
There is a silver lining to business trips, even those you don’t want to go on – especially for working moms. Having just arrived in Singapore, I’ve been working on switching my mindset from “I really wish I was home” to “how do I enjoy every moment of this trip”. Here’s how my “vacation” is going so far:
The flight was very long, but with absolutely no hiccups. Thank you, Bose headphones and aisle seats!
The hotel is stunning. My view is spectacular and the service is optimal. The room service person today saw that I have a cold and came back, completely on her own accord, with a tea service for me. Now, if I could only figure out how to drink it! I’ve made a real mess of it, I must admit. There was loose tea in the tea pot, and another tea pot with hot water, and a strainer do-hickey. So I put the hot water in the teapot with the loose tea, then tried to pour that mixture through the strainer and into my tea cup. Apparently, that’s not how it’s done! Instead, the loose tea blocked up the tea pot’s spout and I got water all over the place.
Enjoyed a lunch of mushroom soup and a salad full of veggies, did a little yoga (www.exercisetv.tv is a great resource!) and am now I’m off to the Singapore zoo. Not bad for a first day. Tomorrow, the meetings begin.
I usually really like business trips. I like to go to new places, I love it when a trip allows me to meet an old friend or a family member that I don’t usually get to see, and I enjoy the time alone. While I know all too well the difficulties a trip can pose – both at home and at the office – I’ve always had a positive attitude about them. This helps not only me, but also my family.
But I have a trip coming up that I must admit, I’m not looking forward to. There’s a lot going on with my family right now and I don’t want to be far away from them, yet this trip is to Singapore and Indonesia. The thought of being more than a day away if I have to get back in a hurry is stabbing me in the heart – constantly.
So how do I wrap my head around this and leave my kids and officemates blissfully unaware of any emotional struggle I may be facing? It’s not easy. Here’s what I’ve done so far – any suggestion are more than welcome!
1. Establishing my support system – I’m flying my parents in from out of town to help my husband take care of the kids. My trip is a 10 day trip and we’re in a new town as of August and don’t have the babysitters lined up that I could confidently rely on. Most importantly, as one of my kids needs special care at the moment, I felt it was just too much to put all this on hubbie’s shoulders, even if he could handle it.
2. Researching activities that will be fun for the family to do while I’m gone. I’m also going ahead and purchasing the tickets, getting it on the Outlook calendar, even printing out directions so that getting to these activities will be easy, and more likely to happen. I know it’s a bit overboard, but it makes me feel good to do so.
3. Setting the expectation with the office that I will have limited availability. I’m not planning on working all day, having late night evenings with the team I’m visiting, and then getting back online at 11 PM or Midnight to answer emails. I’ve done that before, and it’s not pretty! Instead, I plan to use this time to work hard, but also rest as much as I can so I don’t get run down.
4. Shortly before the trip, I’ll share with my 7 yr old where I’m going and a little about the cultures of each place. My 3 year old will be confused, but I’ll do my best to stay connected to him while I’m gone. Here are some tips I’ll be utilizing to keep that connection close.
What else am I missing? While I think I’ve got most of my bases covered, if you have any additional ideas for how to prepare, or on how to get my head/heart in the game and not worry so much, please share!
Yesterday I had a chance to tell my 7 yr old the story of Dick and Rick Hoyt, the amazing Father/Son team that has been running Boston Marathon’s, among other races, for years. It’s a story that has always grabbed my attention and my heart. What I found, though, is that I got so choked up trying to tell my daughter the story that I couldn’t continue! Of course, all it went straight over her head and she just wrote it off as “mom being weird”. She sees this kind of emotion from me whenever a movie, or even a commercial, really hits at the core of what’s important to me. And believe me, there’s nothing more important to me than my kids. That’s why I am full of awe and admiration when it comes to the Hoyts. Would I do the same, if our situations were reversed? I would like to think to so. I hope so. But one can never know until faced with the same daunting challenges.
What about you? Are there other families, like the Hoyts, who you admire and can share their stories here? Or, more simply, do you find yourself amazed at how a movie, book, or even sappy commercial can sometimes move you to tears?
Check this out. A new book, blog, and challenge by Laura Vanderkam, the author of 168 hours: You have more time than you think. I shudder at the thought of taking on another thing to do, like a time log, yet the promised benefit is soooo compelling. Oh why must we have just 24 hours in a day?!
Her latest blog post (below) was particularly powerful for me as I realized last Sunday, as I was feeling a bit run down and asked my husband to take the kids out of the house for awhile, that I simply could not relax. In order to allow myself to sit on the couch and watch a movie, I had to sit and fold the laundry at the same time. Otherwise, I felt guilty that my husband was out with the kids and I was just sitting on my rear, not taking advantage of the time. I knew it was nonsense at the time, and yet, I couldn’t stop.
I am very inspired by the idea, below, of scheduling time to sit in a coffee shop. How I love to do that, yet never do. Can I actually make that happen?
…the reality is that if you want to enjoy hours of indolence as a parent, you’re going to have to understand your schedule very well, and then schedule them in. You are going to have to create space for indolence, because otherwise it will simply get buried under the joys and needs of small children, under the demands and triumphs of making a living, or it will steal away in the arms of (as Keats writes in his poem) “Love, Ambition and that demon Poesy.”
How do you create this space? For me, it’s a two step approach. This week, I’m keeping a log of my time. I find that by understanding exactly how I spend the 168 hours we all have each week, I can start to see where I do have space for daydreaming. And then, I can start to honor this time rather than just checking email, picking up the toy flotsam (loved that phrase from The Happiness Project) that floats through our living areas or reading the Pottery Barn catalog. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks of setting artist’s dates, and there’s something to this. I carved out an hour this morning to run outside (which I find relaxing). Some weekday afternoons, I block out an hour to sit in a coffee shop and jot down thoughts. If my husband takes the kids on a Saturday afternoon, I resist the urge to clean the house, and instead work on cleaning out the cobwebs in my head. I don’t think these activities are an unproductive use of my time, because I log my time and I know I’m spending plenty of hours interacting with my kids and working on more concrete projects.
But it is because I know where my time is going that I’m able to have lethargic, joyfully indolent hours. An “Ode to a Time Log” may not sound as enticing as an ode on indolence, but there is great freedom in logging time in our distracted age. Being aware of our time helps to create “evenings steep’d in honied indolence” to quote Keats, and time to lie “cool-bedded in the flowery grass.”
What do you think of time log idea? Are you going to do it? Do you have TIME to do it? It seems to me that we all better make that time, before we either go crazy, burn out, or get really, really sick. Your thoughts?
I read an interesting article, and slew of comments today, on workitmom.com (great site, BTW) regarding Dr. Laura’s new book, In Praise of Stay at Home Moms. At first, I felt all riled up. Another attack on Working Moms!! Can’t people leave these wonderful women in peace?!?!?! Then I viewed the Today Show interview where Dr. Laura talks about the book and read her book excerpt. Did that change my mind? No. But I did start to noticed how tired I felt. How it was hard to keep my attention from wandering. That’s when I realized that generating a huge outrage against Dr. Laura does nothing more than sell more copies of her book (and frankly, I’d rather just sell more copies of mine!). Further, if there was any piece of advice working moms could take away from Dr. Laura’s book – I haven’t read it, so I don’t know – they won’t. They won’t even buy the book, just like I don’t plan to buy it.
My biggest rule of thumb is that it’s senseless to talk if no one is listening. So shhhhh…… let’s just enjoy the silence for a moment, and then go back to our busy days wherever they are – at home or at the office.
I want to make sure all my readers are aware of an excellent site for women travelers, www.smartwomentravelers.com. As a result of my children’s book, My Mommy’s on a Business Trip, I often speak to women about the hidden silver linings of business travel, like a good night’s sleep, time for self, time to catch up with old friends, reading a book, etc. Instead of sitting around the hotel worried about what’s going on at home or at the office, I strongly recommend everyone take this time and make it really work for YOU. You’ll come back more rejuevenated and refreshed vs. even more stressed and tired than when you left! On the site is a great article on how to give yourself a facial with simple items you’ll find in the hotel – what a great idea!
Some of you may have read by now the article on the Motherhood Penalty on Business Week’s working parent’s blog. The article is about a research study that found working mothers were 100% less likely to get a job interview than women who did not present themselves as mothers on a resume. While the statistic is quite shocking, what’s really interesting are the sentiments expressed in the comments following the article.
Really, are the mommy wars still going strong? I am now in an enviroment full of momprenuers, so I rarely run across the non-mom these days. However, my life at a Fortune 50 company is not that far behind me, and I must admit, I never felt the mommy wars there, either. So the venom, and defensiveness, of some of the post really surprised me.
I found that once I was a parent, managing an employee became a piece of cake. Convincing a toddler to eat veggies or go to bed is just as challenging as motivating an employee or managing a crisis at work, and the two worlds – work and home – end up supporting each other very well. I also know that the year I had my first child was the year I received my highest performance rating at work and I continued to receive high ratings and big bonuses from then on - more than when I wasn’t a mom.
I also know that EVERYONE at my old company was working online after 9:00 PM, kiddos or not. There just wasn’t time for backstabbing and gossiping or the overall waste of energy that it takes to complain about a co-working leaving to take care of a sick kid. I attribute this to my former manager who created a very supportive culture. Frankly, one would look like a real jerk if he or she started griping about someone not pulling their weight. If you have a problem with someone in your office: First, look at yourself in the mirror – what bothers you about someone else is something that bothers you about yourself. Second – talk to them directly about it instead of feeding the rumor mill.
It’s that easy! I left my last employer to write a series of children’s books dedicated to explaining the world of work to kids (www.mommytrip.com). The intent is to help not only children understand what mom and dad do every day and why they can’t always be around, but also help the parents really ROCK their lives. If mom and dad can build a rich life at home and at the office, then our children are raised in happy homes and the world becomes a better place for everyone. It’s that simple.
I would love to hear if you think the mommy wars are alive and well in your world or not, and if they are, what are you doing to put a stop to them?
I got a big wakeup call today when I read Renee Trudeau’s post on creating an intentional summer on her blog, The Journey. She asks a simple question – what do you want your summer to be like?
That’s when it hit me. The summer? Is it summer already? Good grief! I am a business owner, master of my own destiny and manager of my own calendar… right? So what’s with all these hectic days and crammed schedules? Do I even have time to figure out what I want?
Luckily, for me, my kids, and my hubby, Renee’s post really hit me. I CAN decided what I want and create a summer of intent. I will be working on my list of things I want from this summer – not a to-do list, mind you, but what I want to create – this evening. It’s going to be filled with SLOW times with my kids, reconnecting with friends, and enjoying this wonderful place where I live. It will also consciously plan out what I need to do these next couple of months to make the rest of the year truly successful for my book, My Mommy’s on a Business Trip, and it’s soon-to-be-released partner, My Daddy’s on a Business Trip. What can I do in the next week to kick-start this summer of intention? I’ll let you know. What about you? How are you going to design your summer?