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Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
Speaking Information at (727) 467-0202 or e-mail info@fawngermer.com

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Fast-tips for dealing with work-life balance

When You Have Too Much To Do and No Time To Do It

 

Prioritize and organize. Have a “to do” list for every day, and try to get through it. Make

tomorrow’s list at the end of your workday. Don’t over-schedule your life.

 

Focus. Know what your major goals are for the week and don’t get distracted.

 

Know when you are at your best. If you are most productive between 3 P.M. and 5 P.M.,

that’s when you should be doing the hardest work. Never fritter away your peak hours

on phone calls or other distractions.

 

Clean up your mess. Clutter makes it harder to do your job.

 

Quit procrastinating. Just do the hard or unpleasant tasks you have to do first and don’t

lose time worrying about them.

 

Set deadlines. Know how long each assignment should take, and try to complete it on

schedule.

 

Don’t get stuck in the mud. If things aren’t clicking with what you are doing, either take a

break or switch to another assignment and come back to it when your mind is

refreshed.

 

Use your commute to your advantage. Do work or read when you are on mass transit. If

you are in the car, listen to tapes. Have work with you when you are waiting for

meetings in other offices.

 

Schedule alone time. Clear your mind and focus on what you need to do and how you

intend to do it. Or do nothing. Let your mind and body rest.

 

Have smart meetings. Have an agenda, and send it around before the meeting. If you

have a choice, use it to decide which meetings you will attend. Handle what you can in

e-mails and conference calls, but when you meet, don’t let things drag on endlessly.

 

Delegate. Don’t be proud or stupid about doing what other people are able to do.You

don’t have to do it all, you just have to see that it gets done right.That goes for career

work and housework.

Return phone calls during lunch. Leave a voice message, that way you spend one minute

instead of ten connecting.

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Know what counts. Few people will ever remember which meetings you missed, but

your children and spouse will never forget.

Consider your timing. Maybe you would rather jump off the fast track while your

children are young.  

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Stop feeling selfish. All About Balance, Part VII


There is sometimes an assumption that women who climb to the highest reaches of the professional world have hardened into being selfish, not selfless, in their quest for power. The stereotype is that the professional woman thinks she can “have it all” – but can’t—and willingly swaps mommy time to keep moving up.

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But the stereotype is wrong. I am convinced of that because of the way everything stops when I bring up the subject of family in the interviews. If you wonder what matters most to these women, ask about their passion for their work. Then ask if they have children. The tone of voice always changes. It softens. The women open up. Maybe they can’t always be with their family in body, but they are always there in heart. They have felt their share of guilt for not being around every minute of the day, but you can just see that they really have been there, just the same.

I hope their children feel that.

These mothers function in a hard-driving, often-unforgiving level of the business world that constantly foists expectations on them. What is so interesting is that those expectations seem so insignificant when you contrast them to what these women expect of themselves—as mothers. They truly want to do right by their children.

Finally, these serious questions of balance don’t apply solely to women with family obligations. I interviewed  Sara Lee executive Kim Feil who showed how easy it is for those of us who don’t have children to become so consumed by work that all other signs of personal identity are lost. The demands that children and family make of mothers are so immediate that balance decisions are always right there in full view. But when you are not being pulled on by outside priorities that so obviously need and deserve your attention, it can be easy to slip into the self-neglect that Feil experienced. Life becomes work, work, work. You don’t have much else to talk about with outsiders. Or to think about when you go home. The good news is that you can wake up to the fact that there is a full, exciting, colorful world out there, just waiting for you to make the decision to embrace it.

I get perspective on this when I think of one of the newspapers where I worked as a reporter. I worked very hard as a reporter, but I noticed something about my job.

If I took a long lunch hour, the paper still came out. If I went on vacation, the paper still came out. If I switched jobs and moved away, the paper still came out. It came out every day, whether I was there—or not. So many of us delude ourselves into thinking we are so indispensable that we must make great personal sacrifice to save the institution. But there aren’t a lot of situations in which the business will sink because we take some time to ourselves.

And, forgive the heresy here, but it is only business. Life—in all of its glory—is far more important than the immediate task at hand.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books and speaks to corporations and organizations about courageous and creative leadership strategies.

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Making the tough choices. All About Balance, Part VI

The word “priorities” continually came up in interviews. You have to know yourself enough to know and honor what matters most to you in your heart. Find ways to allot your time accordingly, because you only get to live this life once.

I really liked Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes’ story of stepping down as CEO of PepsiCo North America. She wanted time with her growing-up-too-fast daughters, said she knew she was fortunate to be able to afford the seven-year time out she took from the corporate world. And, while she was out, her brain didn’t atrophy. She dove right back into the work world at Sara Lee. Or Vicki Escarra, who basically sacrificed promotion to chief operating officer of Delta Airlines by not going to a 13-week intensive program at Harvard because she knew her daughter was at a fragile moment in her life and would suffer if her mother left.

 I’ve interviewed many senior executive women who gave up or delayed relocation and promotion opportunities because of their family demands. There were stories of family-first decisions that stalled or even derailed careers. But you won’t see a lot of regrets about the choices that were made. You will see a lot of pride as parents.

Recently, I was at a networking event where about eighty senior executive women had come for dinner. This was personal time, where no one felt compelled to put on the success mask and swap egos. What did they talk about? Their kids. About how joyous they felt watching them grow up and get ready to go to college in the fall. One woman talked about her son struggling with juvenile diabetes and how she wants to devote the next phase of her career to fighting the disease when she retires in a couple of years. Another told of her reaction when her daughter accidentally revealed a tattoo of a four-leaf clover on her side while reaching for something in the kitchen. One mother proudly shows off a spray bottle of a cleaning product that her ten-year-old daughter developed by mixing pantry staples together. The bottle looks professionally labeled with the help of the home computer and printer, and the girl even made a promotional flier. Another mom ended a cell-phone call with her daughter who’d just checked in to report that she’d just sold a $675 pair of shoes on her summer job. Pictures start coming out of purses and are passed all over the room.

The atmosphere was light and personal. It was happy. The women were happy.

And they were proud.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books and speaks to corporations and organizations about courageous and creative leadership strategies.

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How do you do all of that AND raise a family? Argh! All About Balance Part V

I used to hate it when editors would have me ask women of power the question, “How do you do all of this and raise a family?” I thought the question was insulting, especially since I was never told to ask it of men. But, after talking with so many women who are trying to do it all, that remains the question. How do women do such extraordinary things without letting their home lives fall apart?

I speak to women at companies and organizations all over the country and I hear so much anxiety over this one issue. The guilt they feel over having to travel or work late or miss events is depleting, consuming and powerful. They feel like they are missing so much. Like their children will resent them. Like others will judge them. Like they are doing things all wrong.

I am constantly asked about balance issues. The reality is that there is no issue of balance. It’s all about imbalance. It’s about making the imbalance work so you succeed professionally, raising children who are not juvenile delinquents — and not losing your mind in the process.
Women always are running to keep up with the demands. Despite their efforts to do it all, they are tortured by guilt because, let’s face it: They can never do enough.

Is it selfish to want a career? Is it selfish to want to be with your children? Is it selfish to want ten minutes to yourself? Is it selfish to want a little bit of everything?

So many of the young mothers I meet describe a frenetic cadence they have to sustain as parents and professionals. I just flew back from a speech in Chicago and was almost mowed down at the newsstand counter by a woman who pleaded with the clerk, “Where is there a store that sells children’s toys?” I hear about that so much – that when a woman leaves town for work, the guilt is so immense that she has to desperately find something to bring back in her suitcase.

Do men feel as guilty? Are they compelled to do that?
I recently interviewed more than 50 of the most successful women in American business. Nearly two thirds of the women who are mothers have husbands who are stay-at-home dads. Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that just one in five fathers are stay-at-home dads, so these numbers of senior executive women with Mr. Mom at home are startling.

What does it mean when these senior women choose this option? Does it prove that the old model was right? That the senior executive needs someone at home running the household and taking care of the kids in order to make everything work?

I think that it suggests that running a household and raising a family are such demanding challenges that every parent needs all the help she or he can get. And that those who make it to senior leadership are in a better position to pay for that option because they have the bigger paychecks.

What would happen to those national statistics if every family could afford financially to choose that option? Senior leadership is a demanding world, but is it any more demanding than a world where a woman works two back-breaking jobs to meet her family’s bills? I think there are a lot of women who would just love to have that kind of support at home.

Can’t we all just get along?

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Set boundaries about private time. All About Balance, Part IV

I got an e-mail from an executive’s Blackberry yesterday, inquiring about me speaking at an event she was hosting. Get this: She was sending that e-mail while she was getting a root canal. I am not kidding. Janet Johnston now wins the Oscar for Best Performance by a Type-A Personality.

It gets better. In the middle of all that, she was summoned to talk to some state official for the routine meeting about her au pair. She had to get out of the oral surgeon’s chair, cotton in mouth, and make the appearance.

Janet!

I love her. Love her energy, love her vibe, love her indomitable ways. But, Sister has got to chill. In this balance dilemma, it is so important that you build up the personal firewall that will protect you and your time. It is way too easy for work to intrude on personal and family time because a) companies are more demanding than ever b) it is so easy for work contact us to reach us at all times c) we often feel a need to demonstrate unlimited loyalty in the line of duty d) we get a little too wrapped up in what we are doing.

Knock it off, or you will go crazy. You have the right to reserve time for your self and your family. If you feel that pressure is on you to be available 24/7, talk to your boss about making some adjustments. Employers are sensitive to the balance issue these days because it is costing them money when employees leave.

Make it clear that your job is important to you and that you are committed to succeeding with the company. But, you need to have a firewall that gives you time with your family so that you don’t raise a bunch of drug addicts and juvenile delinquents, or wind up e-mailing people from your Blackberry when you are getting a root canal.

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The firewall between your time and theirs. All About Balance, Part IV

I got an e-mail from an executive’s Blackberry yesterday, inquiring about me speaking at an event she was hosting. Get this: She was sending that e-mail while she was getting a root canal. I am not kidding. Janet Johnston now wins the Oscar for Best Performance by a Type-A Personality.

It gets better. In the middle of all that, she was summoned to talk to some state official for the routine meeting about her au pair. She had to get out of the oral surgeon’s chair, cotton in mouth, and make the appearance.

Janet!

I love her. Love her energy, love her vibe, love her indomitable ways. But, Sister has got to chill. In this balance dilemma, it is so important that you build up the personal firewall that will protect you and your time. It is way too easy for work to intrude on personal and family time because a) companies are more demanding than ever b) it is so easy for work contact us to reach us at all times c) we often feel a need to demonstrate unlimited loyalty in the line of duty d) we get a little too wrapped up in what we are doing.

Knock it off, or you will go crazy. You have the right to reserve time for your self and your family. If you feel that pressure is on you to be available 24/7, talk to your boss about making some adjustments. Employers are sensitive to the balance issue these days because it is costing them money when employees leave.

Make it clear that your job is important to you and that you are committed to succeeding with the company. But, you need to have a firewall that gives you time with your family so that you don’t raise a bunch of drug addicts and juvenile delinquents, or wind up e-mailing people from your Blackberry when you are getting a root canal.

Drop the ball. All About Balance, Part III

Soon after Hard Won Wisdom was released, my insurance agent asked me to save her a signed copy. When I dropped it by her office, she thumbed through it and said, “Maybe this will show me how to juggle all these balls I have in the air.”

I looked at her and said, “The secret to juggling is to let some of the balls drop.”

Simple enough. In my last posting for this series, I talked about how important it is to know what matters most in your life. Once you have that list of what really counts, you will see that you are wasting time on activities and “pulls” that keep you from the things that really move your soul.

First, look at your calendar. How are you spending your time? How much time are you handing over to tasks and people that don’t hold value to you? It is really easy to hand over your time to obligations that are rather meaningless to your life.

I know that, because there was a time when I spent almost every lunch hour networking and trying to build my business. I thought it was necessary. A part of the job. But, I learned something. Time is too precious to hand over to people you don’t especially like or to waste on things you don’t especially want to do. I know how important it is to network. But, I got much, much smarter at it. Instead of doing five lunches a week, I devoted one-half of a day to it. I didn’t waste time driving downtown for lunch every day. I’d meet someone for breakfast, then someone for coffee, then drop by someone’s office, then do lunch. I would do a week’s worth of networking at once. And after awhile, I became much more discriminating about who I would even network. It is amazing how much time I had once I took control over that.

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You also have to be an expert at organizing yourself because there are a million distractions and “pulls” that will keep you from doing the things you really want or need to do. E-mail is a great example. What a great idea that was when it was first invented. Now, we get hundreds of them every day and have no time for our real work. It is absurdity. And then the cell phone. We used to have lives. Now we can be reached anytime, anywhere. We feel compelled to constantly check in to see what is happening. We don’t fully engage in conversations because we are trying to check the Blackberry or Treo out of the corners of our eyes.

We used to worry about balancing work and family demands. Now we can’t even balance ourselves.

It is because we have not realized that we have the power to set good boundaries that give us room to live and breathe. Who is more balanced, the person who checks e-mail while driving in traffic or the person who only checks e-mail once a day? The once-a-day person has set boundaries that create a healthy life.

Then there are those periods when everything is happening and there truly is no time to stop and take stock of anything. I know about this because the speaking industry has some peak seasons that can really exhaust me. One time, I was so stretched that I hadn’t had a day off in six weeks. I was tired and grumpy and one-dimensional. I took out my PDA and opened up my calendar. Two weeks out, there was a Friday with nothing scheduled. I wrote in the word “OFF.” And that is when I learned the secret that, if you block a day off like that, it does not exist. All of my appointments had to flow around it.

I do that all the time now — just keep a day for myself. It is healthy.

So, as you juggle so many balls in the air, realize that you are the one who decides what you are going to keep juggling and what you are going to drop. Stop killing yourself.

Vincent J. Marcus Germer, 1998-2008 RIP

I can mark each era of my life in dog years. The Honey years. The Honey/Buster years. The Buster/Vinny years. The Vinny/Reggie years.

Vinny has been at my side through four books, two houses, a coupla relationships, a career change, a lightning strike and a lot of really good times.

He’s been there. Right with his mama.

Yesterday was a good day. Playful. Normal. Happy. Today, we woke up and I filled his bowl with Moist & Meaty, the food I’ve been spoiling him with since he was diagnosed with lung cancer and no longer had to worry about his waistline. He has always, always loved Moist & Meaty. Just not today. I coaxed him to his bowl, but he was not interested.I sat on the floor and put some in my hand and held it out to him, and he took a nibble — for my sake.

Then, he gave me the look.

He gave me the look and then it was my job to keep my end of my bargain with him. I would give him a good death because he’d given me so much good life. I called the vet and asked him to come out to the house after the clinic closed. Vinny would be in his home and he would not be afraid.

All day, I watched his labored breathing and knew this was really the day he had to go. I dropped my Golden off at my friend’s house so I could have my last day with Vinny and so Reggie wouldn’t continue to try to steal the attention away from his sick brother. And I gave Vinny a bunch of toys and got him to eat a little beef jerky and I cried. All day, on and off, because a world without this dog doesn’t seem possible to me. I have loved him so much for so long, and now I don’t know where I will put that love. Or get the love he gave to me. I have no idea how I will fill the void in my heart.

But I said goodbye to him knowing he had been the sweetest gift God ever sent me. He was just for me. My special boy, who made me laugh every single day.

Now I embark on the Reggie years, sad because Reg is my old man — almost thirteen, and sad because I know he won’t t live forever either — no matter how much I love him.

With his Billy Idol Mohawk. I re-colored it brown a week later.

With his Billy Idol Mohawk. I re-colored it brown a week later.

Thank you, Vinny G-r-r-r-r-mer. For every last little thing.

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