In over my head…

It’s Saturday night (at least I think it is), and I find myself sitting in a corner at Los Angeles airport with tears streaming down my cheeks.  My jeans are ripped and my clothes smell…and I’m hungry…in short, I’m feeling incredibly sorry for myself.

How did I get here?

Well, it all started a few weeks back when I get a phone call from my boss asking if I was available to go to a workshop in New York.  Hmm…let me think about this, check my diary… HELLL YES PLEASE, I want to go!   Getting to New York has been a not so secret dream of mine for some time now.  It’s on the vision board for goodness sake…I was beginning to wonder when it would finally manifest itself after several close encounters over the last year that fizzled and died.

I don’t know why New York had suddenly become so important in my world but there was something about the opportunity to not only connect and work with some of the most respected people in my discipline, but to do so in such an iconic city (where, last time I visited was when I backpacked with my husband and we stayed at a hostel… which I figured out was 18years ago…ouch).

Of course, the timing wasn’t great.  I would need to fly out on the weekend, directly after my Sister arrived from overseas to visit our family.  Plus, my husband also had some work travel scheduled.  But after some creative juggling and yet again help from the parents (thank you!)…I was on my way.

New York was exactly as I imagined it might be.  I didn’t feel jetlag because I think I was flying on adrenalin for at least the first four days.   I felt like I belonged.  I felt like I had found “my people” at work and I spent joyously long days rabbiting about the things that confound me at work and getting their opinions on everything that we do.   I was amazed at the differences and the significant similarities between issues from country to country.  I even made time for some sightseeing and wander down the streets of New York pretending I was indeed, part of Sex in the City.

And then it was time to come home.  A tropical summer storm (in New York…yes…really) saw my plane to Dallas delayed and that is when things started going horribly wrong.   Suddenly I was waiting in a long queue for customer service in the airport, after I missed my connecting flight to Australia.   Around me, airport shops were shutting and they were rolling out rows of stretches with blankets in the corridors.   The service assistant (after 1 1/2hrs in the queue and well after midnight), tells me that there no more flights back to Australia until the next night, and I would have to fly to LA to get them.   She offered up a stretcher for me to have some rest.

As I sat contemplating my fate on the stretcher, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps work did not expect for me to sleep on the floor at the airport and I promptly found myself a hotel.  After a decent sleep at the hotel,  I was feeling a little more positive.  I could do this.  I had called my husband to tell him I was delayed by 24hrs,  which turned out to be rather a major problem because he had to fly out for another job himself, but he organised to ship the children to my sister in-law (thank you!) and we were back on track.

I decide that perhaps I should do some Yoga stretches in my hotel room, to help calm myself for the rest of my journey and after a few lovely vinyasa’s, I hear and feel a big rip as the inside thigh of my jeans rips across my leg.   Of course, I had no bags, as my bags were being held hostage at the airport…so I had no choice but to continue on as if nothing had happened and complete my trip with ripped trousers.  After all, surely I would be able to find something at the airport to buy (turns out not…actually).

After being on standby for several hours,  I somehow snatch a last minute pass onto a plane and I am finally on my way to LA.  And after some serious navigation issues,  also manage to find my way to the right gate at the international airport.   When I sit down with a thump and look up to the screen and realise with a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach… that my plane was….DELAYED.

This time, I broke.   Oh my goodness, it felt like I was never going to get home.  I had been wearing the same clothes for days, literally. My pants were ripped.  I was oh so tired.  I missed home.  I missed the kids.

What the hell was I thinking when I agreed to go overseas?  Why did I not realise that it would be too much.  That it would be the straw that broke the camels back.  The juggling work and home is so hard at the best of times.  Now this was just a cruel way for the universe to tell me that I was pushing my luck.  That I didn’t need to do this.  I could have been safe and comfortable at home, all this time. It isn’t worth it.

I finally boarded the plane and started to relax as I realised that I would…eventually…make it home.  And I was reading through some of the notes I had made on the trip and I found this quote.

“Get in over your head as often and as joyfully as possible” – Alexander Isley

It was written on the wall of one of our offices, and I had written it down because I think we have become very negative about trying to “have it all” that perhaps we’ve swung the pendulum the other way and now everyone is stressed that they are trying to do too much.

So it made me think.  Even though the end of my trip was a little bit of disaster(ok..a lot of a disaster)… wasn’t it worth it for all the experiences that I had?  We forget that maybe sometimes,  throwing yourself into life…ALL IN… can at least make life interesting.

And I’ve learnt something new…next time… take an extra pair of trousers in your check in baggage.   I have never been so happy as I when I saw my bag slide onto the baggage carousel at the other end, at least the airline got that bit right.

When was the last time that you got yourself in over your head?

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Just wait while I eat my playdough spaghetti

My current role requires me to work across global teams,  which means that sometimes I am on teleconferences at odd hours of the day (or video conference…which is so much more pressure because then I have to brush my hair instead of sitting in my pyjama’s with a cup of tea like I normally do).

Whilst clearly this is not always ideal because the lines between my personal time and work time sometimes get blurry.  Overall,  I love the way it forces our teams into a much more flexible culture and teaming environment…

Firstly…because we are on different time zones and in different offices…the whole concept of “being in the office” is less important.   Who knows if people are sitting at their desk all day or where they are working?   At first this seems like a  weird kind of freedom…what if someone in the team is just slacking off and going to the movies?  How do you know if everyone is working as hard as you are?    So…the only option is to focus on outcomes.  What work needs to be done? …Is the work getting done?  Well…then people are working.  And if they choose to go to movies in the middle of the day, I guess they can…as long as they get the work done that they need to.   Which sets a totally different vibe of trust and responsibility across the team.

Secondly…work/life integration becomes second nature.   When I first started joining some of these teleconferences,  it felt a little awkward and distracting when you could hear dogs barking or traffic in the background.   Since people are dialing in from all over the place, at all sorts of times,  there are lots of none typical noises that you hear.

So…. on a call this morning,  I had a huge smile on my face when I could hear a little girl singing in the background…and no one even blinked an eye (well..actually…maybe they did, because I couldn’t see them…but no one said anything…so I’m going just go with the presumption that they were all cool with it!).   And when our Senior Executive stopped mid-update to say “just hold on a moment I have to eat my play dough spaghetti”,  I realised how lovely it is when we accept that work and life sometimes overlap…it feels like a more “human” place to work.

Workplaces are changing….is yours?

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Making eating lunch special…

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My awesome Tupperware lunch bag…no, they don’t sponsor me… if only…maybe I would get my dream pantry #organisationbliss

Earlier this week I had such a lovely lunchbreak at work…

Hmm…doesn’t seem like something worthy of writing a blog post about does it.  But it really struck me today,  how important that little mini break in the middle of my day was.

It reminded me,  that back in the good old days…BC (before children)… a lunchbreak was something I did quite regularly.  Sure, I still spent many days shuffling food into my mouth whilst multi-tasking out an email or typing up a presentation.  But often I would also go and sit outside in our office garden,  or it would be someone or others birthday/farewell and we’d all be heading down to one of the local restaurants for a quick bite.   I even just had a flash back to taking walks in the forest behind our office…ahh, those were the days.

Yet, since I have had kids, those midday mini breaks have kind of gone out the window.

For me, I think partially the issue is working remotely.  No one to badger me away from my desk or to take on a little wander.

But more, I think it is because I have become a highly productive and streamlined machine since having children.   Taking time out of my day to simple eat, feels like time that has been wasted.  That could have been used to load the dishwasher,  watch a training video for work,  read my email.  Every minute, every hour counts.   Quite regularly I do walk the dog during the day (usually whilst listening to somekind of podcast…still loving my podcasts), which is a good little break from work…but it is still ticking off boxes on my never ending “to do” list.

So…earlier this week, I had arranged to meet a friend for lunch…god forbid…during my work day.  Not going to a restaurant, but just to eat our “packed lunch” together.   I headed out of the office on a beautiful sunny spring day.  The blue sky and sunshine instantly relaxed me.   I heard birds chirping (literally, where are these birds hanging, how come I never heard them before?) and start walking to our meeting spot.   I notice that there are a whole lot of people doing the same thing.  Released from the dark confines of their offices, they are spread out…soaking up sun, reading papers,  eating sandwiches.  There are even people playing a game of touch footy on the grass outside one building.  There is a great relaxed vibe in the air.

And we sat on a bench, chatting, laughing…eating… and by the time I headed back to the office, there was a lightness in my step.  I was truly refreshed and ready for my afternoon.

It is one of those things you hear all the time,  the importance of taking your breaks.  In some ways, it is hard to believe that such a simple step, can have such a big impact.  So it is easy to push it aside.

I feel like I’m always trying to make big changes in my life.  Learning and exploring new things,  looking for the “silver bullet” that is going to revolutionise who I am and what I achieve.   My mind is constantly buzzing (you’ve heard about my fun and games trying to meditate).

And yet usually, it is the little tiny, simple things that can have the biggest impact.   Like sitting in the sunshine and eating my lunch.   Which really isn’t that hard to do at all,  making me wonder why it has taken me so long to remember it.

When was the last time you had a lovely little lunch break?

claire2

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I want to inspire people…

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It has been a while since I wrote anything about my work in this blog.  My juggles with things outside of work seem to dominate my stories, and perhaps where I am falling apart the most!?

But I wanted to talk today about one of my favourite things to do, especially at work,  which is inspiring others to be their best (because it is one of the things on my Vision Board after all!).

I love it when I get the opportunity to bring someone out in the sunshine and help them shine.  My favourite roles at work have involved some kind of leadership or management.  Not because I want to run the world, but because I get such a kick out of watching other people succeed.

In the Corporate World, it is so easy to get wrapped up in your own ambitions.  Employees are pitted up against each other,  competing for the highest rankings, with bonuses, pay rises and promotions all being tied to how you compare to your colleagues.  It can be a little dog eat dog out there.

And sometimes I get caught in that world too.  Find myself getting frustrated when someone else takes a little credit for my work, or when I am given the dodgy project to work on when someone else gets the big shiny new apple.   And then I start the comparing game.  I look at my colleagues and I feel daunted, intimidated even.  They seem so confident (oh…I could totally write a whole post just about this, infact, i probably will…have been reading the Confidence Code.. really recommend it).  The self sabotage starts and I begin second guessing myself,  stumbling over my words.  I can’t compete in this world,  why am I even here?

Then I take a step back.  I think about what I want to achieve and I remember that I get more satisfaction from helping others to succeed than from my own success.   So instead of feeling like I am competing with my colleagues.  I approach our projects from a new angle.  How can I help them to shine.  How can my work, help them with their work.  And suddenly our work is progressing with incredible speed.   And my team,  well,  how can I help them to become even more amazing that they already are.  How can I help promote their good work,  what tips, ideas and suggestions can I give them to continue to build on their skills.  Where do their strengths fill in my weaknesses, and I can give them a new opportunity?

Working in this mindset, is so much more fruitful for me.  It takes away the jealous, the envy and the self criticism.  And, I guess not surprisingly,  a happy outcome is that usually when the people around me succeed…so do I.

How can you bring out someone elses sunshine today?

claire2

This week I’m obsessed with …podcasts…

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Ok…so this story all starts with my desire to get better at multi-tasking.   There are so many things that I am trying to squeeze into my days, I’m always looking for ways that I can kill two birds with one stone by mastering effective multi-tasking.

Now, I realise in a world where most of us are trying to slow down…to focus…to be mindful…trying to master multi-tasking is probably not my best bet.  But sometimes I feel like I am forced into this corner in order to get everything done that I need to.   But I’m pretty crap at it.  Infact, probably most of us are.   The amount of times I have been caught out on a teleconference, because I was trying to type an email and thus stopped listening.  Or when my husband is talking to me and I’m trying to watch TV at the same time, then realise I haven’t heard a word that he said.

However, I have found little sneaky ways of multi-tasking, that works really well for me.   I think the formula is to combine two tasks,  one that requires your brain,  and one that requires no brain contribution.   For example,  if I paint my nails while I am listening to a teleconference,  I actually find that I focus more intently on what people are saying because focusing on the mind numbing task of nail painting is helping me to focus.  Or even better,  unpacking the dishwasher and wiping down the kitchen while I listen (this doesn’t work if you need to actually talk on the teleconference).

In the mornings before school,  I used to like watching the morning shows to keep a finger on the pulse of what was going on.   But I realised it was taking my attention away from getting all the other morning tasks done…plus the children have a tendency to be drawn to the TV in some kind of weird trance and thus, they are also not getting ready.   So I switched over to turning the radio on.  Bang, i can keep updated with what is going on, and keep my hands (and eyes!) free for packing lunches, eating breakfasts and rounding up children.

And so through this little exploration of multi-tasking,  I uncovered Podcasts.   I know I am pretty late to this party.   We use podcasts quite a bit at work but I have never really “got it”.  I had a tendency to try to listen to podcasts and do work at the same time (two brain tasks in conjunction…fail).   So I was playing with my iPhone and realised I have a podcast app and randomly decided to download something to listen to while i took the dog for a walk.   I started with MamaMia outloud,  I realised how much more enjoyable my usual trip around the block was,  whilst listening to people chat about the latest current affairs and gossip.   They then recommended a podcast they were obsessed with called “StartUp“…which I also downloaded, and this is where I started to get obsessed.  I don’t work in a start up and I have no plans to open a start up,  but the story is so fascinating, I’m hooked.    He recommends another podcast called “Serial”…also amazing.  How I have not discovered this before. I download more podcasts that are about the work I do in Social Media.  I start listening while I do my exercise.  I listen on my walks.  I listen while I cook.  And it is made all the more satisfying because I feel like I am ticking boxes (and I LOVE ticking boxes).

I guess a lot of people uncover this medium because they have long commutes to work, so being able to listen to something while you drive or are on the bus, helps pass the time.  Since I a do not usually have a daily commute, I have not had that challenge.  Although I did drive into the office the other day and found myself hoping for a traffic jam , so I had time to finish the rest of the story!!

Now I’ve uncovered this world, I have realised there are also lots of books for work that I have been meaning to read but haven’t gotten around to.  And I realise that I could download audio versions and listen while I do other mundane tasks.  Awesome.

I understand and know that I need to work on finding space in my day for simply doing one task with focus,  or doing nothing at all.   But I also love it when I find ways to multi-task, squeezing more satisfying moments into one of my jam packed days.

Go on…download a podcast…I know you want to…

claire2

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I am successful BECAUSE I work part-time…not DESPITE it

parttimeAs the end of the year draws near, I’ve been reflecting on my work and pondering whether I should be considering increasing my working hours back to full time next year.  I’m really excited and inspired by all the work I am doing and I would love the opportunity to step up to some more leadership challenges,  to take that next step on the Executive ladder.   And I can’t do that and work part time…can I?

When I think about my full time colleagues,  it seems like perhaps they are more committed to work.  Because they are available Mon-Fri,  doesn’t that make them better candidates for leadership and clearly they can achieve more than me simply because they have more hours to get work done?

When I started to gather together my achievements recently for my annual performance review,  I was pretty proud of some of the things that I have been able to achieve this year.  Despite working part time, I have still delivered some amazing achievements and been able to move the business forward.

But wait a minute,  working part time has allowed me to more effectively juggle all the priorities I have and ensure I’m spending my time doing things that are important to me.  And this commitment, has actually made me uber productive. I know I only have a finite time, so I have become a master of wading through the work to find the big hitters, the things that really matter.   I’ve successfully managed to attend 95% of the critical meetings at work,  but I’ve also been there when my daughter got her merit certificate, I’ve been the driver on the walking School bus twice a week and I’ve carved out time to start doing more writing.

Usually, by the time my “day off” comes around, I’m starting to feel a little wound up and stressed about work,  those work deadlines feel daunting and ominous.   But then I take some time out,  focus on some of the other priorities in my life,  like spending time with the kids,  exercising and writing my blog.  These things inspire and excite me,  so then when I am back at work on Thurs,  I have re-energised, and I have a healthier perspective.  I know that work is important but it’s not everything, which ironically, makes me better at it…because it is easier to keep a calm and clear mind ( I know I know…there are many days which are nowhere near calm,  but just imagine what I would be like if that was my whole world, I would be going bananas)

When I stop and think about it.  My success at work is not DESPITE me being part time,  my success at work is BECAUSE I work part time.  By feeling more in control of where I spend my time and energy,  I’m BETTER and far more productive at work and I have managed to achieve great things.

So now I want to prove to the world (or maybe just myself!) that you can work part time, and be a successful leader in the corporate world.   To break the notion that the ideal worker is someone who works 9-5 Mon- Fri and maybe a couple of weekends and evenings every now and again.   That the ideal worker is 100% committed to work as their top priority above all else.    Maybe at some point in my future,  my priorities will shift and working more hours at my paid job will be the right thing to do.  But right now,  the balance is right,  and just because I have made that choice, doesn’t mean I don’t want to excel or go forward…so watch out work…here I come (except on Wednesdays…ha ha)

claire2

Are you really busy?

This morning I was running around like a headless chook (as usual),  I’ve managed to do my exercise (tick),  get the lunches ready (tick), tidy the house (tick) dropped the kids on the school walking bus (tick) and now I’m at work and my mind is buzzing.  I have about 20 screens open on my computer (literally), although I have two screens so surely that’s not too bad?  I have every social platform open, plus a few other websites and my personal email.  Then my work email, plus my work messaging system.  Powerpoint, Word and Excel are all open with a least one file on each (Excel has two), and the media player is on because i started to watch a video then got distracted.

There’s pinging and popping coming from several devices and my to do list is buried under a pile of…who knows what…

Phew…I’m exhausted just writing about it.

Suddenly I’m hearing little whisperings in my head….I think it’s Emma.  Yep,  its Emma.

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a seminar at work, led by Emma Grey from WorkLifeBliss on the 7 types of busy.   I loved it.  OK, so first confession is that I was already a fan of Emma’s,  I’ve been following her blog for a long time now and completed her 15min Challenge program.  So I was super excited when I had the opportunity to attend this session through my work.

Whilst there is so many things in today’s hyperdriven culture that we can’t control,  there are also a lot of things that we can…and sometimes we dig our own holes (well…she didn’t exactly say that but that’s totally what I do…I’m a great digger).

Anyway, since that call, “Emma” has been showing up quite a lot in my conscious, reminding me of some of the tips and tricks I should perhaps be following.   Like every “good conscious” does,  she’s sitting on my shoulder reminding me about the importance of being focused,  and not multi-tasking so much…because frankly, pretty much NO ONE is a good multi-tasker.

I remember a friend talking about going for a job interview as a Air Traffic Controller once.   And part of the preliminary testing was giving the candidates four different exams,  then each time the buzzer went, they had to change exams,  PLUS,  there were also some verbal questions which were randomly thrown over the loud speaker.  It is designed to test how well your brain can effectively multi-task, picking up exactly where you left off from an exam 10min earlier.   Needless to say, they failed that test, and I think most of us would.

Right now, Emma is telling me to shut down some of the apps on my computer.  To find that to-do list and change it to a “could do” list…and find those big hitter items which I really actually need to get done…So… now I’ve set myself a timer. 30min on the first task before I moved onto the next one.   Tick.   Next.   Oh my goodness,  i suddenly feel so much better.  All the overwhelm I had been feeling earlier has started dropping away.  I feel like I am back in the drivers seat and in control (and we all know how much I love control).

So, thank you mini Emma, for turning up again and getting me back on track with your little tips and tricks.  Of course, Evil Claire on my other shoulder (who shalt not be named) is now weeping because we haven’t checked facebook in over an hour…she’s not happy…but we’ll talk about her another day….

claire2