Stop making excuses…

parttimeThis morning I stopped myself mid sentence,  because I was about to break one of my golden rules.

You see… when I first started working part-time,  I felt really guilty when I was leaving the office before everyone else or when I couldn’t join a meeting because it was outside my agreed hours.   I had heard so many stories of other part time workers ending up working on their days off and late at night to catch up on commitments,  that I was determined to set good habits right from the start.   But I found myself constantly trying to explain myself and then feeling guilty (I swear I saw my full time colleagues rolling their eyes at me and I wanted to prove I wasn’t a slacker)

“I’m really so sorry I can’t get that work done,  I have to go pick the kids up from childcare, and then tonight my husband is away and I won’t be able able to get this done until Monday” 

“You’ve suggested a meeting on Wed, but I’m afraid I work part time and I don’t work on Wed,  I could do it if we really have to but in the morning I take my toddler to swimming, so I really can’t do that time”.  

I felt constantly guilty.

Then, someone gave me some great advice which I implemented immediately and it made the world of difference…stop giving unnecessary explanations.  Even when you work full time,  you can’t complete every job or attend every meeting, you have to make choices.   The discussion should not be about whether you work part time or full time, or what your commitments are outside of work,  it is about prioritising what needs to be done in the time that you have available.

And so I did.  Simply as that.  And it changed everything.

I’m not hiding or pretending to be someone I’m not.   And sometimes, I do have to pull out my family card and lay it on the table.   But mostly,  if I stop and think before I speak…I realise that what I’m doing outside of work is really not relevant or the point.  When work needs to be done by a deadline,  which I can’t achieve,  I work with stakeholders to re-arrange priorities or push out deadlines…not “because I work part time” but simply because the goal cannot be achieved in the timeframe provided.

Of course, I am fortunate enough to work in a flexible work environment where part time work is not uncommon.  But I think this one simple change helped not only to shape my perception, but also change the working culture around me.  Because when I’m not blaming part time work for not getting things done,  no-one else is either.

This one little tip I think has really helped me to drop some of the guilt around working part time,  which, quite frankly,  I carry enough of already…so this morning when I went to say  “unfortunately I can’t do the meeting on Wed because it is my day off”…I stopped myself midsentence and said instead ” unfortunately I can’t do the meeting on Wed….how does Thurs sound? or I’m free on Friday morning, what works for you?”.  Simple.

claire2

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I totally need a wife…

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I was lying in bed this morning reading a magazine and drinking my tea (I know…blissful, right!), and stumbled upon an article by Annabel Crabb in Marie Claire about women needing wives.   Now, I don’t get on my soap box very often about women’s issues and I really don’t want to start complaining (which incidentally was the other article I read about in the magazine, but hey we’ll talk about that another day) but geez did this hit a hot button for me.

Oh my goodness, how I could do with a wife!

It really is incredible when you think how much women in the workplace has changed over the last 50 years, yet men in the workplace has not shifted much at all.   Pretty much every woman I know is the one who has made some compromise on her work in order to juggle her children.   And I have never thought about it in the context that Crabb presented.     I do feel sometimes like I am working with one hand tied behind my back (literally, sometimes, like the day I presented a plan during a teleconference whilst simultaneously holding a bowl for my son to spew in…again, a story for another day).

When my husband needs to work late or travel overseas, it is one quick phone call to the household manager (e.g me) and so it is done. Yet, when I had to travel recently for work, it was a major production, there were spreadsheets, child co-ordination systems and incredible pre-planning (on my part).

No wonder women find it so hard to get ahead.

I can’t sit here and blame my husband. I do work slightly less hours and have an incredibly flexible workplace and boss. And at least in part, it is my fault. Yep, I confess, I’m a control freak and there is a part..deep down inside of me…that feels proud when I manage to successfully juggle it all.   Mission accomplished. I am woman hear me roar…all that!

But this morning I imagined a world where I came home to a beautiful clean house with food smells wafting from the oven. The washing done, folded and put away.  Where my children had been picked up from school and cared for by someone I love and trust.   Where if I needed to work late I could just do that, instead of mentally trying to work out when I might have an hour free that I could squeeze in that last bit of work (10pm perhaps?).   Would I be more successful at work?   Would I be happier?

Ok..time to wake up, ‘cause that ain’t happening.   However, perhaps it is time for us to revisit priorities in our house. Maybe it is time for me to let go on some things and push a bit harder on others, and not let the guilt eat at me. Maybe things have shifted a little too much out of my favour.

I don’t have a wife…but I have a husband and a family…who are pretty awesome, and capable and amazing (just like me!!)…so maybe they could do a little more to help even things out so that we are all capable of succeeding.

claire2

Being fair doesn’t mean being equal

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I was watching an interview on TV today about women working from home instead of in the office once they have had children (revolutionary topic!?!?).

It reminded me how fortunate I am working for a company which has provided a flexible working environment which has changed from working full time in the office, to full time at home and pretty much every combo of them both in between throughout my career. Whilst I have been afforded this luxury, I know that not every workplace can be this flexible and on the flip side, there are some employees who exploit the flexibility provided to them. Making it a very tricky subject.

In the interview today they also talked about how other workers often look unfavorably upon women with children being given flexibility that they don’t feel like they are afforded.  Like the non-smoker who curses the smokers who get extra breaks, there are always those who will strike out with “..that’s not fair”.  Infact, I remember watching some of my colleagues coming into work at 9.30am and leaving bang on 5pm while I slaved away into the evening,  thinking “i’m never going to be one of those people”.

There is a great sign up at my kids school is says “Being fair doesn’t mean being equal.  It means everyone is getting what they need to succeed“.   I love this statement and annoy my kids with it all the time now.  Because it is so true.

As a Manager,  you need to work with everyone in your team individually.  To understand what is important to them, what do they need to lift them up higher and make them fabulous?   And what one person needs, is not what everyone needs.  And those needs can change dramatically throughout someone’s career.  Great Managers execute on this for their team because they know they will reap the rewards ten fold.

Now I am that person who sometimes comes in at 9.30am and leaves by 5pm.  I work from home a lot and walk the dog in my lunch break.   And I am 100 times more productive than I ever was when I was sitting at my desk for long hours wasting time judging my co-workers.

We need to stop comparing ourselves with others.  It’s not whether you have children or don’t. whether your a woman or a man. If the person in the seat next to you (or working from their office at home), isn’t getting the same as you,  that’s OK…infact, that’s just how it should be.