For years I have felt guilty, indulgent and impractical because of my love for process efficiency, well run meetings, thoughtful performance evaluations and organizational learning. I’ve spent years wondering what to do with this nerdy passion and years letting it sit in the background of my professional life, as “a” thing but not “the” thing. And that changes today. My name is Simone and I’m a management geek. I read my first management book when I was about twelve years old. Having recently moved in with my mother and I, my stepdad was cleaning out some of his boxes. And there it was, “Training and Workshops” a 1980’s book on how to give effective presentations. I still use some of the skills that I learned in that book.
Over the years, my dad and I would sit and talk about management, training and development, organizational behavior and how to lead teams of people. His interest stemmed from his time working in training and development at Kodak, back when Kodak was essentially Google. His enthusiasm for people and for productivity definitely inspired my own.
Between his love of process and organizational engineering essentially, and my mother’s integrity and work ethic, I was bound to be a “work person”. But for a long time, it was unclear what to do with this passion.
I’ve always felt a quiet pressure to declare my love for content – for programmatic work --- for a specific issue. It’s natural. In the social impact sector your tribe is much more determined by what you care about rather than what skills you use to have an impact. And it’s a consistent engagement with a single issue area that inspires trust and advances your career.
That was never my path. I’ve worked on LGBT issues, mental health, criminal justice, gender equity and teen pregnancy prevention. What has tied my career together for me has been a voracious appetite for organizational evaluation. In each job that I’ve held my attention is most captivated by reflecting on what makes the company tick, what the culture is – the inadequacies and opportunities for improvements. I construct science experiments in my mind’s eye, hypothesis that I seek to test and solutions that I yearn to confirm.
And after nearly 10 years of hoping for a chance to think holistically about an organizations well-being and success, I finally have it. And it’s been great. I’ve decided to start writing again to share some of the things that I contemplate in hopes of discovering that I’m not the only one who wants to see the social impact workplace evolve and take its management and organizational wellness seriously
Cheers to finding my tribe.
Simone The Management Geek
The Four Day Blitz: How to Make the Most of Your 20s
I would never repeat my early twenties. As valuable and pivotal as they were, the first six years of my twenties were hard. And I know I’m not alone. Being caught in the abyss of older than teenager, but not full fledged adult was challenging, particularly when you add in developing a career. I had limited funds, was making all new-post college friends in a city I never lived in before, and was figuring out dating while being reminded all too often that it was important to get prepared to turn 30. I felt confused, overwhelmed, and, honestly, isolated.
I was perfectionistic, detail oriented, anxious, performance obsessed, and I didn’t have much of an on or off switch. I would just run fast, hit a wall, crash and repeat. I hadn’tperfected my workflow yet. My friends did the same and so friendships mostly consisted of celebrating a new opportunity with a Forever 21 shopping binge before a night of dancing at Nick’s Sneaky Pete’s.
Working towards excellence gives me great joy. It isn’t even the accomplishment that I derive pleasure from, rather, it’s the process. I know that if I’m not careful, I can over do it. I have therefore adopted what I call the four day blitz, a healthy compromise between hedonistic indulgence and self-tempered control, to make the most of your 20s.
The Four Day Blitz: How to Make the Most of Your 20s
1. Write down the things that you know would make your life awesome
For example, going to sleep on time, drinking green juice concoctions of kale, spinach, and chia seeds, meditating for five minutes in the morning, writing in a journal, reading The New York Times to stay up to date on current events, etc.
2. Admit your limits
Once in a while, you won’t be able to accomplish all of your tasks. As much as you try to be excellent every day, sometimes green juice doesn’t seem as appetizing as a tall caramel macchiato from Starbucks. And that’s ok.
3. Choose your blitz
Choose four (or five) consecutive days during the week when you will focus on high performance. In my case, I chose Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. On those four days, I’m an unstoppable efficiency machine. I am tapping the TeuxDuex App so fast that my fingers are a blur, my lunches are set up in the fridge in a line as if the lettuce and carrots are working assembly style when the light goes out, a collection of Nature Made packets are lined up next to the pen cup on my desk right next to a tall bottle of Fiji water, each meeting has notes, and I am ready to lead! During these four days, I am free to enjoy the Type A woman’s favorite activity; the pursuit of perfection.
For three days, from Friday morning through Sunday evening. I’m free to do as I please. I feared that these three days would end up with a sink full of dishes and my college sweatpants reappearing. I was wrong. After four days of being so together, I found that I’m protective of my hard work. Although I may go to the movies and have popcorn, sleep in late and watch a marathon of “Breaking Bad” on Netflix, I never actually jeopardize my efforts.
Although I started out the four day blitz to give myself space to get more done, it can actually help you make the most of your 20s. It has also helped me along my journey to be kinder, gentler, and more compassionate with the person who helps me along every day—me.
In our busy lives we are encouraged to put as much into each moment as possible. With a limited amount of hours in the day it is neither possible nor advisable to do it all. For many of us, that has meant a precious dance with a theory known as work-life balance. It is a preposterous notion that you can balance a 40 hour work week (if you’re lucky) with your family, friends, sleep, food, self care, school, etc. I believe that we need to release work-life balance as a goal and instead focus on work life integration.
The job of a museum curator is to find pieces that, when placed together, tell a story. Ideally the components will work together, each having different value and significance, all coexisting in harmony.
Managing your life by curating it’s content allows for flexibility and the maintenance of the integrity and value of each component of your life. This type of curating allows each of the various sectors of your life to be valued for what it is, not for what it is not. It takes work out of competition with life.
Interested in shifting your approach? Here are three ways to curate your life.
Taking control of the flow of your life and all that you get from your life is best done intentionally. When you are saying yes to a new commitment (a board position, volunteer opportunity, new job, weight loss goal, etc.), be sure that you have taken a moment to pause and carefully consider your motivation and also develop a clear personal understanding of what you hope to gain from the experience.
Respect each component’s individuality
Work is a valuable component of one’s life. For many of us, our work defines us. Create space for other areas of your life to exists in their own fullness. For example, when you’re on thebike at the gym, do not read work documents on your iPad. In order for your life to work, you must allow each component the chance to be appreciated and enjoyed purely.
Allow for fluidity
The content of your life changes, this is the only constant in all of our lives. You can curate your life best by being flexible. By allowing yourself a sense of nimbleness, don’t be taken off guard by unexpected alterations. If out of the blue your position at work changes, take a moment to consider it’s impact and then shift your collection as necessary.
The most important thing to remember when curating your life is that you always have final say. This is your masterpiece. Be joyful in your ownership.
First a short disclaimer: It's going to be okay. Okay is relative term, but the world won't end because you didn't finish a project on time and the best thing that you can do as soon as you finish reading this is manage your HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired). So, finish this blog post, make sure you have lunch, take a walk to calm down, text someone you love and get home early enough to go to bed at a reasonable hour.
No matter whether you are an intern or a CEO, all of us have moments where we feel overwhelmed at work. Whether weblame it on our cultural obsession with being"connected" or our collective inability to unplug, when we feel overwhelmed it can be paralyzing. The trick is to know what to do when you feel this way so that you can make smart decisions that are intentional and not based merely on alleviating your discomfort.
Have you ever found yourself sitting at your desk and it's 3 p.m. and you haven't had lunch yet and there are 68 emails that all claim to be urgent and your supervisor has a question that you need to answer and you find your breath getting shallow and your chest getting tight as you think about the projects due at the end of the week and all the exciting ideas you had are now just toxic thought clouds that you can't wait to get away from.
In this moment of dread, the answer isn't quit your job or throw your computer out the window. You aren't failing; you have simply reached a decision point, or more specifically a prioritization moment. Before doing anything else, you need to step away from your desk and grab a quick bite and a short walk. When you return, try the three steps below to ground yourself and get practical.
Step #1: Make the Invisible, Visible
Sometimes when we feel overwhelmed, taking the time to write down the tasks in front of us allows our minds to slow down. Writing down the projects that you need to complete takes your stress that exists in some amorphous shape in your mind and translates it into something that is literally visible. When things are tangible they are much easier to organize.
Step #2: Pile It
I'm an advocate what I call the "Post-It method." Write your projects down as single items on individual Post-Its. Once you have your stack of Post-Its create three distinct piles ("Today"/"This Week"/"The Future"). By creating time boundaries based on "must do" rather than "should do," you are one step closer to getting back in control.
Step #3: The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow
When you feel overwhelmed, it's because your mind is fatigued, and when you're fatigued, the answer is always rest. Your mind is attempting to manage a lot of information and having taken a moment to organize and prioritize, don't re-escalate your panic by plunging back into to work. Clean up your desk, set everything up for a successful tomorrow and log out of Outlook.
And remember, every project starts one step at a time.
Stop. Playing. Small.The world needs you to take up more space. Truthfully, I've been reluctant to read Sheryl Sandberg's new book, Lean In. Despite Oprah's heralding of the book as the new feminist manifesto, I have been most content to read reviews and listen to various sound bytes. As much as I proudly wave the flag of neo-feminist millennial professional enthusiasm, I am a natural cynic in certain ways.
That said, an unexpected and illuminating email exchange with a long-time friend and mentor this past weekend sparked my purchase of Lean In and catalyzed me to share critical leadership lessons that have transformed my own life. Her email simultaneously made me furious and melted my heart. With honesty and tenderness, she explained that what she wanted to learn at this moment in her life was something that I could only teach her: how to be bigger.
Let me be clear, the art of taking up space does not begin gracefully. What Lean In clearly articulates is the truth, that many women self-select out of extraordinary opportunities or as Sheryl Sandberg would say, "They ask which seat on the rocket ship." I can say, I've never been that woman. I'm quicker to sit in the driver's seat and ask someone to pass me a map. However, what comes with this type of boldness has been a road filled with small (and large) defeats, ungraceful exits and at times, humiliation. Despite all this, I continued along my path, because I believe that if you have a knowing about your purpose and who you are as a leader, you are obligated to embrace, pursue and master your potential.
Leadership skills are acquired over time, but they don't only exist in the hands of women of a certain age. They existing in the hearts of people who want to learn them. There are seven critical lessons you can use today to "Lean In", with impact.