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Posts Tagged ‘Work’

The book I mentioned in my last post, Overwhelmed, had some great points. I skipped a lot of the book because it seemed to overly focus on how stereotypes between men and women placed more pressure on women than men, and I wasn’t looking for an equality speech (can’t we women at some point take responsibility for ourselves instead of automatically blaming men?). But she did have some excellent points once I got past that. One of which, was the ideal worker.

The ideal worker basically is how there is a certain expectation that I think anyone who works in a career of any kind is familiar with – that, if you want to make it, you will dedicate more of yourself to your work than any other part of your life. The one who gets promoted, be it women or man, is the one who puts in the most hours, makes it the number one priority, never complains, etc., etc., etc. That is becoming, I feel, a little less of a problem in today’s society – more and more people and employers are finally realizing the benefits of a work life balance, but it is still hard to shake the old idealism even with the best intentions.

I can see it in my current job – both the new and the old ideals clashing together. All the managers put in long hours, are always traveling, always busy, and if they aren’t at work they are running off to a child’s sports game or something else. It doesn’t matter how much time they work, they are paid the same (they literally told us they don’t care what we put on our time sheet if we are salaried as long as we actually work/put in the minimum 40 hours). But, at the same time, they allow us to telework on a limited basis, give us tons of PTO, great benefits, and try to encourage team building events. Nonetheless, I am pretty sure those who actually use all the PTO they give don’t get promoted as fast as the ones who don’t.

But it is more than the expectations – it is almost as though, if you aren’t incredibly harried or busy, always late to the next meeting, and constantly working, you aren’t working hard enough. That is literally the impression you get at work. You must be busy enough to be harried if you are actually working as hard as you ought to. In addition, you must be good at multitasking. Preparing a report while answering emails within 5 minutes (I’ve literally had my manager come to me within one minute of sending an email to ask if I got it), and participating in a conference call where they are upset you couldn’t make it in person all at the same time.

I have three daily meetings, five weekly meetings, and five monthly meetings. Do you know what that means? ~85 meetings in ~20 workdays, not counting the quarterly meetings and one-time briefings. 90% of which is to give status updates on the work I barely have time to do. That demonstrates a world who is desperate to appear busy.

In all the reading I’ve done, I’ve come across multiple references to studies that say the more work/life balance you have, the better your actual work is. According to Overwhelmed, “Research shows that forcing long hours, face time for the sake of face time, and late nights actually kills creativity and good thinking and the ensuing stress, anxiety and depression eat up health care budgets. . . [A research study finds that] the team with [regular] time off increased learning, improved communication with their team, worked more efficiently, and were ultimately more productive than their ideal worker colleagues.”

The book later states that a person cannot be productive for more than 90 minutes at a time and after 90 minutes, they should take a break to refresh their mind before starting again. Another study I found awhile back introduced me to the Pomodoro Technique. It essentially says that you should work in 25-minute bursts. Set a time for 25 minutes and concentrate only on one thing – multitasking hurts both your work and your productivity – then take a 2-5 minute breather, and then start again on either the same task or the next one. After five “Pomodoros”, take a break of 15-30 minutes. I’ve been slowly implementing it and I really think my productivity has increased significantly. I am not as good at the longer break unless it is actually lunchtime, but even the short bursts of concentrated activity have been very helpful.

The other thing many articles talk about is e-mails. We get so freaking many emails, most of which interrupt our workflow. Every pop-up we get pulls us out of our concentration and then we have to refocus. The recommendation I’ve seen most is to turn off pop-ups and only check email at predetermined times. I’ve been trying to get better about that too by not looking every time I get a new e-mail until I reach a break in my work, and that has helped – until my manager comes over when I haven’t responded within a minute or two. But I think he is starting to get used to my response that I am in the middle of a project and haven’t looked at my e-mail. *crossing fingers*

All of these various things have been slowly working their way into my own life. I figured out work/life balance a while ago, I think, and finally decided I would rather be home half my life than climb the career ladder faster, and I’ve been much happier since. (I’ve also become a rather annoying advocate – anytime someone starts talking about working late or on weekends I tend to scold them) Since implementing the Pomodoro Technique, my productivity has increased significantly, and I have very recently begun only checking my email in between tasks, as previously mentioned (though I fail in that a lot, like today – I’m sorry, but I can’t bring myself to turn off the pop-ups, and it’s hard to ignore them!!).

But, all in all, I think that, though these are all valid points, I don’t think they are the biggest time suckers for me since I have actually been working on it. It was nice to get validation though for my continued quest for work/life balance.

The rest of the pointers outside of the ideal worker really struck a chord for me though, so more on those later.

work life balance

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So we went on a week-long cruise the week of February 18th. It was a very fun, very busy vacation what with islands, snorkeling, an excursion that was cancelled and replaced by a different one, and in general staying up until 2 AM every night playing games with my brother and sister-in-law. But for once I didn’t get sick ON vacation. No, my normal cold that loves to accompany me on time off arrived late the last day of the cruise, for which I was mostly grateful. The only reason I wasn’t grateful was that we had all of one day before my mom and her boss/friend arrived to stay at our house for the rest of the week because of training in DC.

So I spent the rest of the week being mildly entertaining, but mostly just abandoning everyone and going to bed early and getting up as late as I possibly could get away with to try and survive the dreaded, mind-clouding head cold as I prepared for three briefings at the end of the week.

Thankfully I could talk normally again by the time my first presentation happened Thursday, and Daniel and I had a brief but awesome weekend before I left at 5:00 AM Monday for a business trip. We made the most of the weekend by going to see Sleeping Beauty by the Washington Ballet company at the Kennedy Center. It was simply lovely. Sometimes, and as a writer and a romantic I am hesitant to admit it, the ballet sequences get a little long and I want them to move on in the story, but I guess that is bound to be the case in a world where we are used to fast-moving movies, internet, and even books in which writers are instructed to waste no time getting to the point. I really think we miss something of life by always being in a hurry to get to the point.

Anyway, life finally got somewhat back to normal Thursday morning and I got back on my 4:45 AM schedule and even wrote a little, which just felt so good! I stayed up until 4:00 AM last night (this morning?) reading. Which was both because it was hard to put the book down and just because I could. How I love weekends!

So that’s my update and though I certainly have more to say, I know this is going to be long enough that most of you probably won’t bother to read it. 😛

But briefly referencing my earlier comment about  missing stuff in life, here is an inspirational quote for you:

Rushing

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Apparently my previous post was a little too sobering for anyone to read/like/comment on – which is fine – I am still glad I pushed away my fear of confrontation enough to bring it up. It’s what so many introverts/writers struggle with, isn’t it? That fear someone is going to attack you for your beliefs, standards, work, you-name-it.

Anyway, that actually isn’t what I’m writing about today. The day before yesterday I had an epiphany. Well, okay, maybe not an epiphany, but God talked to me about some stuff that has [hopefully] helped with  . . . well, me.  As anyone who has been reading my posts know, I started a new schedule in January (as I do basically every year of my life) to ensure I had time to work out and write and still have a little bit of an evening – it involved getting up at 5:00 AM. I have been having an awful time with it.

My body has been refusing to adjust to this new time frame. I can barely make myself go to bed early as I internally argue that I am a night owl, and it is ridiculous to go to bed at 9 or 9:30, and that is like when the peak of my energy often happens. Which results in little sleep as I very crankily rise at 5:00, and rush through calisthenics/stretches, getting dressed, doing my hair, putting on makeup, finishing assembling my stuff, and rush out the door to beat HOV hours, grabbing lunch and breakfast on the way and feeling generally very disorganized and extremely upset that I have to do this. I usually calm down around 6:15 as I sit down in Starbucks to do my devotions, have a fairly good day, and become cranky again around late afternoon as I realize I have to do it all again the next day.

I felt like I was SERIOUSLY living for weekends, and told myself over and over again I could get sleep then and that that is when I could live, and around Saturday evening, inevitably becoming depressed that the rush and lack of sleep would start again in less than 48 hours. And then thinking ahead to when the next vacation/day off might be that I could be on a “normal” schedule for a day or so.

It hit a peak on Wednesday. Having gotten started on calisthenics about 5 minutes too late, I didn’t have time to even do makeup, and as I walked out, I looked at Daniel and said, “I can’t keep doing this.” I knew I had to figure out something that wouldn’t make me dread every day of every week.

As I sat down to devotions about 25 minutes later, I had a hard time concentrating, the frustrations still welling up inside me overwhelmingly and the obvious suddenly occurred to me – this was NOT temporary. Not if I planned to remain in this job, keep early hours, and wanted to work out and write. I would be doing this for the foreseeable future, and my heart sank like a rock. I just couldn’t. I rather distractedly finished devotions and went to work halfheartedly.

Now, my work has a wellness program – you get points that translate to money if you do things that they consider good for you. One of those things is watching weekly short videos on how to improve your health and your life in general. I began this week’s video as I scanned my e-mails and thought about how I didn’t want to work – and that is when God decided to use a secular means to hit me with a 2×4. This video has nothing to do with Christian life or ethics, but as I listened to their “pep talk” on being healthier, they asked, “What are your excuses in life? It can be anything that might convince you not to work out or eat healthy.” And that is when it occurred to me. My excuse was that I am a night owl. Therefore I shouldn’t be forced to get up early. I should be able to stay up late all I want. As I reluctantly conceded this internally, they continued, something along the lines of (significantly summarized):

Change is not fun. It is not easy. It takes sacrifice and courage to keep going. If it was easy everyone would do it. What type of attitude/emotional reaction do you have to your challenges? Negative reactions will elicit [insert multiple bad physical reactions]. But when you look at something as a challenge instead of an obstacle, you have a different reaction – your hormones rise to the challenge and seek to overtake it. So instead of letting excuses and negative emotions get in your way, look at it as a challenge and rise to meet that challenge.

It was a lot longer than that, obviously, but that was the essence of it. And as they talked, I recalled the verses I am currently memorizing in Philippians 4. Whatsoever things are [honest, true, just, lovely, of good report] . . . think on these things. And I realized that the same thing they were trying to teach – that you should look at challenges in life as a positive instead of as obstacles to get frustrated with – was essentially what God teaches us to do as well. In the same chapter we are instructed to be content in any state of life. So at that moment, I decided to change my thought pattern. I would view my weight loss, writing, and working goals as challenges to achieve –  challenges I would have to work hard for, sacrifice for, and in general act like one of those heroes and heroines I love so much from books who always (somehow in a few paragraphs or pages!) overcome physical difficulties through sacrifice and striving.

I recalculated and realized I would only need to rise 15 minutes earlier (yes, 4:45 AM) to still accomplish all I wanted to, get  home in a timely manner, and not be rushed. So, VERY long story shortened-a-tiny-bit, I have implemented that, along with a more joyful attitude, since Thursday morning (yay! Two days!) and what an incredible difference it has made already. While it is has been difficult to go to sleep early because my body is so used to later hours, I haven’t been chafing inside at the need to do so, and, it is probably partially God’s strength, but getting up at that insanely early hour really hasn’t been bad. I’ve even been cheerful. And I have the appropriate amount of time I need to accomplish everything I need. And when I start to feel that familiar dread, I remind myself that it is a challenge I am trying to overcome, not an obstacle.

Now, I totally realize it has been all of 2 days and next week I could be right back where I was before – but I pray I am not. I pray I take this to heart, because I am pretty sure God is firm on having a good attitude, no matter the situation, and especially when you are trying to be wise with your time and health. Being happy or unhappy is a choice. My choice. And I choose joy.

Joy

 

 

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It has been  long couple months of travel. From May 25 to date, I have traveled to Oklahoma, Florida, Kansas, New York, Minnesota, and Cleveland and have another trip to Orlando scheduled in 12 days. Needless to say, I am beginning to feel a little exhausted. Today, especially, having worked 23 hours in the last two days, I am feeling just plain weary as I try to work through 12 pages of meeting minutes, reports, documentation that has fallen behind due to my trips, and prepare for the next trip. Energy seeps out of me at every additional outing, however small. But, life goes on and I would rather try to enjoy it than live for a time when I can just sleep and not move for a week. Thank God for the staycation earlier this year, though. 🙂

I have not touched my writing since sending that simpering, weak romance out for people to review – and no one has said anything about it yet. Thankfully I’ve been too busy to dwell on that too much and when I do think about it, I rather easily convince myself that they are simply too busy to read it yet. I’ll give it another couple weeks and then send out follow-ups asking for feedback, dreading the response. But it is time to get back to it. I am sure some of my weariness is due to not having put a pen to paper and letting out some of my emotions in my stories. And my mind wanders back more and more to Picture of the Past. I am ready to be done with it – eager to be done with it – and more than that, almost looking forward to the rest of the process of tearing it apart to make it better.

There are so many stereotypes and lessons learned and suggestions and best practices for writers that, when one does enough research and reading on it, it is enough to make even a hardcore writer give up with hands in the air. I try to follow them – sometimes. I have yet to be able to complete a profile on a character – because I feel like I am still getting to know them myself while I write it. And, as you all know, I keep starting, stopping, and re-starting an alternate blog dedicated to writing, since that is what all the experts say to do to “make your social media footprint”. Have a blog dedicated to one subject. Keep your readers coming back. Keep a schedule. Make it something that benefits them. And on and on. Ugh. No wonder I can’t keep it up. It drains me just thinking about it. So, after talking it over with my friends, I have decided to give it up. I am going to throw caution and best practices to the wind and do what I want to do. I am going to just keep this blog, because this is the one I like. I like the server, I like the audience, I like being able to write about whatever I please in any format I please without worrying about making it beneficial for the reader.

So, instead of continuing my blog in blogger (Ha! Continuing – I don’t think I’ve touched it in months), I am going to break down some more of my shell – and post this link in my social media profiles for people to find if they so desire. Someday I may even advertise it. Maybe. But above all, I am going to enjoy myself. Because that is why I write in the first place. I love writing. And I write for myself and my God, not for my readers. Why should I keep a blog for my readers?

Although that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment I feel when my posts get “likes”. So don’t stop. 😛

forget-all-the-rules-forget-about-being-published-write-for-yourself-and-celebrate-writing-quote-1

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I know I don’t write as often as I have been recently, but I have been busy with editing my book, which I FINALLY titled God’s Masterpiece. I am still not sure I like it, but it is better than not having a title. I have sent it off to about five people to read over and edit which is a huge step for me. I am both terrified and hopeful at the same time.

I have been traveling a lot for work and even now am on a train ride back from New York City. There is a man, a client, in New York who intrigues me. Not in a romantic (as in consisting of or resembling a romance) way but in a romantic (as in marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealized) way. He has this aura of sorrow around him, but is still strong, gentle, and commanding all at once. I think I will base a character on him someday. In addition, there is nothing like a train ride to awaken one’s imagination.

So after forcing myself to work awhile, I finally took out my computer and jotted down random things, which I have decided to post below and may eventually use in a story.

Random #1:

She almost forgot the world around her when she looked at him. She forgot her own sorrows and background in the sudden desire of wiping out that morose expression that always lurked in the depth of his eyes, even if he was smiling. But the somber attitude that defined him did not stretch as far as his son. Just pictures of his son made his shoulders lift a little, his eyes open up, and the sadness disappeared. Talking about him made him almost a different man entirely. Still, she couldn’t help but wonder what it was that had caused the atmosphere of despair that otherwise encompassed his frame. She smiled up at him, hoping to erase some of that burden, hoping to make him relax enough to maybe let her in on what had so shaped his life.

Random #2

She danced with herself in the cold but soft rain. Oh, she knew how cliché it was, but she didn’t care. If they could do it in movies, she could do it too, especially when there was no one to see her. For just a moment she was a princess, long estranged from her family but to be reunited with them someday and restored to her rightful life. She was a damsel in distress, waiting for prince charming. She was an 18-year-old instead o fa 30-year-old, all her dreams still bright and cheery in front of her.

Random #3

The sweeping scenes passed by her like a fast-moving picture show as the train rumbled down the rough track. The rickety houses, green, swaying trees, multi-colored apartments, cars of every shape and size, abandoned and littered areas that had once probably held life and joy. There was nothing like a train ride to bring you all the aspects of different life – both the areas you avoided if you didn’t want to be jumped and the elite who likely never took this train because the Acela was better. And, of course, the in-betweens, who were neither rich nor poor, but lived their lives, hopefully happy and content, in the arms of someone they loved.

And then I also wrote a poem that in no way rhymes or has rhythmical qualities, but I like anyway.

Eyes wide, hands still, breath quiet

Moving pictures, brand new scenes

Trains hurtle on, worlds collide

 

Trees of green, grass that sways

Forests filled with dreams

Wires cross in between

 

Broken windows, broken dreams

Heartache, disaster, quiet scenes

Abandoned houses, littered streets

 

Glowing windows, brand new dreams

Lighted walks, hopes and schemes

Pretty houses, streets swept clean

 

Old bridges, unused roads

Broken cars, glittering streams

Dirty ditches, animals abound

 

Eyes wide, hands still, breath quiet

Moving pictures, brand new scenes

Trains hurtle on, worlds collide

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It has been so long since I have written any posts, that I am sure you all thought you were free of my ramblings. I cannot even believe it is January 2017 – I feel like it was just a couple months ago that I was writing the January 2016 post. I am too scared to even look at what my goals were over the last year, since I am certain I failed at all of them.

I did, however, finish Picture of the Past and got to a book length of Ethrill, even if I didn’t finish it, per se. I am now working on editing PoP, which I have this feeling is going to be a very long process. I can’t believe how much work has to be done on it, just reading back through it! I mean, part of me knew it, but I am struggling to not become overwhelmed now that I am actually reading through and taking notes on what has to be rewritten, what scenes are missing, huge parts that need to be taken out, and most of all, the research I need to do that I strategically skipped while I was writing it so it didn’t bog me down. I can’t decide whether that was a good strategy or not, but I guess I will figure it out as I continue writing. I didn’t get anything published last year, which is rather depressing to think about, so I am not going to dwell on that. Instead I am going to dwell on the thought that I write because I enjoy it, not to become famous or published.

I just got back from a work trip to Cocoa Beach, which was amazing. I loved being next to the ocean in January! And Daniel and I are taking a trip to Florida again next weekend, using the free tickets we got from JetBlue last year after our cancelled flights. So I am pretty delighted. I currently am assigned to exercises in Florida, Colorado, and, as of today, Washington. Oh, and an internal one that I don’t really count. So I am pretty delighted with the load so far, even if it will be busy.

Anyway, that is it for now, since I am back in the office for the first time in a week and there is actual work to be done.

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So, I know that I just turned 28. And I am supposed to be grown up and have it all figured out. Heck, if it was like the movies, I should currently be “the youngest CEO to ever run X company!”. But, it isn’t the movies. And life isn’t really like that. Inside, I still feel like an insecure 16 year old. I find it hard to believe that people look at me and see a grown woman instead of a young girl who is just learning to work in the professional world. I know compared to a lot of people, I am still just learning to work the professional world – but . . .well, I think you know what I am saying. I still have the impulse, when people ask me a question, to pretend I don’t know anything, because I can’t imagine that my input would be anything more than what they already know.

But this post wasn’t meant to go into all of that. What I was going to say, was, I am . . .on my first business trip ever! Okay, so it is only to New Jersey, and only one night, and my main function for the meeting tomorrow will be note-taking. But it doesn’t take away the fact that I get to charge everything, even the hotel and coffee and food, to the company! I feel grown up, and yet, still like a little girl since I am so excited to be on a business trip “just like the girls in those chick flicks!” And next week I am off to Boston!

And no one is allowed to comment and tell me that traveling for work isn’t all that it is cracked up to be, and that it gets old fast! I am allowed to be excited the first few times, until I get tired of it my own self! 🙂

And that is my grown-up moment for tonight.

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