Setting yourself up to succeed at work and home

Some days it’s really hard to leave work behind at the end of the day. I’ve put together some of my tricks to walking away without feeling guilty about it. Because let’s be honest, some days you leave work and feel guilty about not getting something specific done or just more done in general. You leave wondering what you even accomplished that day. And some days you’re blessed with the gift of productivity and it’s really easy to leave the office. So here are the things that I’m trying to do to make it easier to leave at the end of the day.

WHAT I DO DURING THE DAY

  • Plan your day. As often as my schedule allows, I start the morning by looking at the things I have to get done and map out my day to make it a reality.
  • Be realistic about what you can get done in a day. I’ve failed a lot. It’s usually when I map out my day minute-by-minute. At one time I thought the definition of productive was having every minute assigned. I added in break times to run to the bathroom or get a snack. However, I quickly learned that a phone call, email, or drop-in can get you off track real fast. And then I felt like I had failed in my tasks for the day. Allow those unknowns to “disrupt” your day.
  • Take a break. Sometimes you need to refocus your brain on something non-work related to get back on track. Go talk to a friend. Walk around your office. Step outside for a few minutes.
  • Leave the office for lunch. On my really stressful days, I leave for lunch. When it’s nice out, I eat my lunch outside and soak up some vitamin D.
  • Give yourself a cutoff time. If you’re like me, the end of the workday is a guide and can easily be ignored. Follow your cutoff rules and you’ll start your night feeling successful about doing one thing. You may feel guilty about not getting something done, but it’s better about not getting it done and not following your cutoff time.

WHAT I DO AT NIGHT

  • Be realistic about what you can or can’t do that evening. I learned that bringing work home when I don’t have time to do it, only makes me feel more guilty and ruins my start to the next day.
  • Set limits to working at night or on the weekend. Sometimes you can’t help it, but don’t get into the routine of working every night. It’s hard to break. It also changes your attitude during the workday. Instead of “get it done now” you think, “I can always do it tonight.”
  • Be present at home. Play with your family or get your home life things done. It makes you feel better and helps you take a breath of something outside of work. In the end, making it easier to get back into work the next day.
  • Be active. I’ve found that a walk with my family can make me forget about all my stress or worries from the day.
  • Eat a healthy meal. The act of cooking or eating something healthy helps me reset my mind. {Because sometimes my husband makes the meals.}
  • Know yourself. Some nights, after the kids go to bed, I need to just be on the couch cruising social media. It’s a waste of a “productive” night, but I don’t let my brain get worked up about it. Sometimes I need the simple act of nothing to recharge.
  • Get more sleep. After a particularly stressful day or week, I go to bed 30 minutes earlier.
  • Get your work done! If you have to work at night, be quick and efficient. I’ve had a number of night working that has kept me up until midnight and then make me unmotivated the next day. Get in and out, no procrastinating!

Relaxing mother-son time

It’s hard to get the right work-life balance. Set yourself up for success so you can leave work with a guilt-free conscious.

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Another week, another trip

I’m sitting in the Des Moines Minneapolis airport. It feels like I’ve been in this place airports a lot over the past few months. When I picked Maximus up from preschool today, I told him I was going to Texas for a few days. He stuck his bottom lip out and quietly said, “Nooo. I’ll miss you.” The last trip I went on was a 7-day trip. {I was supposed to go on a three-day trip the following week. But. E.Coli.} The last trip Bryan went on was a 9-day trip. It makes sense that my kids are a little nervous that they’ll be with one parent for a long time. Heck, I feel a little nervous myself. We’ve all been gone a lot. Even when we’re both home, we’re gone.

When I told him that I’d miss him while I was gone, he cheered up. “I won’t miss you mommy. I’ll talk to you on the phone and then I won’t miss you! And I’ll tell daddy that I want to use the computer so I can see you better.” And just like that, he was over it. To ease his mind a little more, I told him the next time he went to school I’d be home. In his head it’s a long time between school days. But we all know the days pass pretty quick lately. After I get home, it’ll only be another two days until his Halloween party at school. That plus trick-or-treating will be a guaranteed good weekend!

And that’s how we lost the month of October in the blink of an eye.

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Nightly drum practice

Preparing – mentally and physically

I’m supposed to be taking you on this journey with me, right? I’m not sure how well I’ve expressed the feelings associated with pregnancy. I’ve done a lot of explaining about what’s happening to my body, but have I covered the mind? I’ll see what I can do to change that.

I’m a planner. I’ve told you before that I like to procrastinate just to feel like I have some form of control. But, even with the best procrastination methods, I’m still a planner. Imagine waiting for something that is completely out of your control. Imagine trying to plan a vacation around a day you think might be the right day. Imagine trying to prepare your career and personal life around a tentative date. And these plans aren’t just one or two days away. It’s TWELVE weeks away from your job. It’s preparing for anything and everything that could happen during those twelve weeks. It’s digging deep into the abyss of your semi-sharp pregnancy brain to summon the list of everything you’ve done in the past year that could come up while your gone. I’ve spent the majority of my time lately writing down processes. Given my educational and professional background, instructions shouldn’t be too hard. After all, my goal in life is to make things clear and concise. But, imagine that you are waiting for a life-changing event to happen. On top of that anxiousness, you need to tell someone how you do every aspect of your job. Like I said, I’m a planner. I hope that when my time comes to walk out this door, my office will reflect ease and organization. I’m no where near either of these things right now. In fact, I’m the exact opposite. I’ve got notes all over my desk for things I need to make sure I do before I leave. Before when? Exactly! Sometime before I leave. I’ve got files scattered around my office. Things that need to be filed. Things that have needed to be filed for MONTHS. I’ve got projects I need to finish up. I’ve got a lot left to do before this random date appears. This date that could be August 12 or this date that could be sometime in July. I can say with confidence that my communications are ready. All this planning has helped me draft about 15 emails that need to be sent out when I leave. It’s too early to send them out now (assuming I’m still here in August), but I’m eliminating any pain and forgetfulness when I do go on leave. Pushing the send button is a lot less work than drafting emails when I’m not in the right mindset.

I can say with ease and confidence that my home is ready. There wasn’t much to it. (Ha! That’s a blatant lie.) The office was cleared out, the walls painted, and the nursery furniture put in. Baby clothes, baby blankets, and baby bedding was washed and put away. The room was organized and decorations began to take shape. (No, there are no holes in the walls yet.) The pack ‘n play (also known as a play yard) has been sitting in my living room since the middle of June. The stroller system has been parked in the spare bedroom since the end of June. Sure, there are some things that I still need to get but I’m anxiously waiting for Babies ‘R Us to send me the coupon that I’m told you get four weeks before your due date. Well, the coupon department must not be very good at math, because we’re at three weeks! I’d really like that 20% coupon before I buy a baby monitor, swing, and breast pump. So, while the nursery sits unused and mentally we don’t really know what we’re getting into, we’re ready to bring LBL home. We’ve all got a lot to learn, but we’re all new at this so we’ll figure it out along the way.

I keep saying that I’m a procrastinator. With “three” weeks to go, I haven’t packed my hospital bag. You’d think a planner would have packed that thing months ago. Well, what am I going to put in it? The toiletries that I use every day? The clothes that I’m currently wearing because that’s all that fits? The books that I might read before I go to the hospital (because I don’t know when I’m going!)? The iPod that is probably sitting on the counter dead? (So why not use my husband’s, which is always charged and has many more songs. But he uses his every day.) The suitcase is sitting in my closet, ready to be packed at a moments notice. The planner in me decided if I wasn’t going to pack, I could have the list made so anyone could pack for me. Well, the list hasn’t been made either. Making that list requires energy. More importantly, it requires my body to be somewhere other than the couch. So, I leave it for another day.

Is the car seat in the car? Nope! If we put the car seat in, that means we should really be ready. Why fool ourselves in that sense? The diaper bag is packed. But, now that I say that I can think of a couple of items I need to clean before putting in there. Both items aren’t essential. I don’t plan on using a pacifier or bottle while I’m in the hospital, but I’m planning for the unknown. I’m planning for things that are outside of my control and may not follow the intended plan. So, I suppose I better get those cleaned so I can say with certainty that the diaper bag is packed (and sitting in the crib).  

Each night that goes by, I breathe a little easier knowing that I didn’t have to rush around and pack things up. I find comfort in one more day to get things done. I know I’m only fooling myself. Last I heard, babies don’t work off a 9-5 schedule. LBL could decide he wants to show up in the middle of the night so he can be here to see a sunrise. One of these days I’ll step out of my comfortable denial stage and start bringing my computer home so I can be prepared for the day he decides to show up. And maybe I’ll pack my bag, because who wants to drive 45 mins to a doctor appointment only to have the doctor tell you to check into the hospital? This girl doesn’t! But, until LBL starts showing me that he’s thinking about coming out, I have a hard time thinking I have anything less than three weeks.

One year!

I’ve been in my current position for 12 months. A year flies by quickly when you’re not watching. Days and months blend together, seasons come and go, and then you look back and realize how quickly it’s all gone. In the beginning, time seemed to be standing still. Almost everything was new and I spent a lot of time figuring out how to do it. The basics were there, but the specifics had never been seen. I tackled a budget for the first time ever. I learned what my predecessor had done before me. I figured out what worked best for me within my boundaries. I learned that for some things there were no boundaries. I organized a major grand opening event. I handled some difficult situations. I dealt with uncomfortable things. I made some tough decisions. I made changes that improved everyone’s daily lives. I created new expectations.

I’ve learned a lot in the last year. Most of all, I’ve learned that a year can pass by quickly. It’s easy to lose items to the task list, only to have them buried deeper and deeper. As another year begins, I’m armed with enough knowledge to keep digging away at that list. There’s still a lot more to learn and even more to improve upon, but I’ve got the supplies to get the job done. Just like most things in life, knowing that time is against me is half the battle. Knowing that we are all overworked helps me better align projects so we can ensure the right things get done. At the end of the day, we can only do so much. As long as we are giving it our best shot, we’ll come out better in the end. A career is a place to grow. It’s a thing to improve upon. It’s not a stagnant place, but an ever-changing world.

In the coming year, I have a lot of goals and aspirations. I have personal goals, manager goals, department goals, and career goals. With one year behind me, I’ve learned what it takes to whittle away at all of those goals. I’ve learned what it takes to improve all of those areas for the better of the company. I love where my career has gone. Even more so, I love enjoying what I do every day. Some days may hold a few hiccups, but the hiccups never stick around for too long. There may be painful days filled with frustrations, but something good always comes out of the bad. I look forward to another amazing year doing what I love best!

Something big is coming

I’m been pretty quiet about my work life lately. When someone is quiet, you know something is brewing. Actually, something really big is brewing and I’ve got just a couple of weeks left. With the days being crossed off my wall calendar, this special event is looming in the near distance. Inside these office walls, it’s no secret what this event is. I’m smack in the middle of planning a grand opening event for a new facility.

Imagine how much work goes into planning a wedding…that’s basically what I’m doing except we’re working around construction too. Be thankful your wedding didn’t involve multiple construction crews and weather. Ick! Luckily, I deal with the facility manager who is in charge of making sure the facility is complete. But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t spent many hours looking at carpet, checking paint colors, approving tile, picking out monitors, finding videos for monitors, and working on displays and signage. I call this work the “extra stuff” because that has nothing to do with the event itself. That’s the stuff to make sure the building is ready for the event.

I’ve spent the last seven months crafting messaging, dreaming up video concepts, calling caters, scheduling meetings, sending out emails, reserving restaurants, picking out menus, finding transportation, planning welcoming packets, editing text, approving gift ideas, reformatting memos, reserving photographers, keeping track of everyone’s action items, and trying to stay one step ahead.

If you’ve been involved in planning a wedding, you know it’s a lot of work and can be stressful. Planning an executive event can be overwhelming at times. It can suck up all of your time. It can be demanding and cut-throat. But, I’ve made sure that it’s never become stressful. Lots of planning and preparation has ensured that I’m ahead of the game and constantly moving forward. Come the morning of the event, I may be running (ok, waddling?) around a little faster than normal, but no one will notice the little details. It will be seamless in their eyes. And then it will be over before we know it. (Actually, no it won’t. Then we’ll do it all over again the next week for two days instead of one.)

After next month, I should be able to spend a couple of quiet months focusing on my wish list. During my first 12 months in this position, I’ve spent the majority of it planning this event. I’ve put all my dreams and goals on hold so we could make a big splash with this event. While my white board may reflect other projects that we’re doing during this time of planning, there’s so much left on that goals sheet tucked inside my desk drawer. I hope to spend the summer months crossing some of those things off and moving forward in direction. But, sometimes people have other ideas. I may not get the quiet time I’m anticipating, but I’ll continue to stay focused and whittle away at that list when I have a couple spare minutes.

I may be quiet on the career front, but I’m busier than I ever imagined I’d be!