Why Your Cell Phone Might Be Hindering Work-Life Balance

I updated my iPhone several weeks ago and received an alert. Without much thought I clicked on the link and received a shocking dose of reality: I had used four glorious, precious hours of my life on my cell phone alone last week. What?! Four hours?! I couldn’t believe it. Four hours is half a work day. It’s an 8-mile hike. It’s the four hours I’ve been needing to finish one of my work projects.

This reality brought a hefty-dose of awareness to how often I was using my phone and the purpose I was using it.

Cellphones control our priorities. 

There was the time I was sitting on Metro on my way to meet some friends. I checked my cell and noticed several work emails. “Better respond quickly,” I thought. So instead of using the ride to decompress, I elected to respond to emails.

Instead of meeting my friends excited and ready to engage, I was completely preoccupied with logistics and work. By choosing to be on the phone, I was unknowingly letting technology dictate my priorities (work over relaxation) and ultimately put myself in a stressful mindset.

The habit of checking cellphones creates more work. 

I’m so thankful to my wonderful clients who respect my time and have reasonable expectations. However,  I recognize that not everyone is so fortunate. I’ve seen too many people who feel pressured to respond immediately to a work email, ultimately sending the message that they are now available 24/7.  An email leads to a phone call, which spirals into a sleepless night attempting to resolve a work issue. The reality is that oftentimes putting up boundaries and deciding not to respond in the first place might have led to resolving the issue the following day.

The constant connection reinforces limiting beliefs.

We all have some type of limiting belief about ourselves. “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t have enough,” “Others are better than me,” etc. etc. Our constant connection to our emails and social media reinforces these limiting beliefs.

How many times have you felt frustrated after checking your email after you’ve left work for the day? Perhaps it reinforced that the feeling you don’t work hard enough or that you did something wrong. Think about all the times you’ve compared yourself to someone else on Instagram, reinforcing the feeling that you’re not happy as someone else or lacking what they have.

And what’s the fallout from telling  yourself negative messages all day? Do you overeat that evening? Binge watch television to escape from reality? Get frustrated when someone is trying to talk to you? The domino effect is not worth it.

At the end of the day, we need a break from our overactive minds.

Constantly checking our cell phones is pushing our minds into overdrive. Between the brainpower needed to solve a problem, or the thoughts that come from the comparison and judgement over social media, we need to give our minds a break.

We must allow ourselves permission to spend time alone or with loved ones.
Imagine your partner, friends, and children associating memories of you spending time with them, not your cellphone.

Imagine enjoying a vacation- fully unplugging and engaging in each beautiful moment of the holiday you worked so hard for.

Imagine a life where you are okay with turning off, being unproductive, and choosing to be fully present.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

What you can do about it.

  1. Turn off Notifications- I turned off all notifications from my emails, text messages and apps. The exception is inbound calls and calendar alerts. I find when I choose to check my apps, it’s about making a conscious choice instead of feeling to the need to react.
  2. Setting Sacred Time-  I no longer check my phone before meeting with loved ones and during my time with them. It allows me to stay present and not get distracted with work. It also allows for me to take a break and truly connect. I’ve also set sacred time during walks, meditation, and even movie watching.
  3. Permission to Take Vacations- During my last vacation, I disabled my work email and put limits on my phone use.  Because I’m self-employed and rely on new clients, I gave myself permission to work for two hours in the morning. After those two hours, I gave myself permission to turn everything off.
  4. Finding Other Things to Fill the Time- Since I’ve put my cell phone down , I’ve been able to enjoy listening to music as I drive, breathing in air as I walk, and watching people as I ride the train. I’ve also been writing, drawing, and painting.

By no means have I mastered my compulsion to check my phone. That said, I can report a newfound sense of freedom. My mind feels less stressed and more open. I’m feeling more balanced than ever before.

8 Tips to Help You Thrive Through Winter

Winter days are shorter, and winter nights are longer, so we find ourselves waking up in the morning and coming home from work in the dark. In colder climates we may find ourselves outside less and indoors more. Fortunately, we just have to survive a few more months before the flowers come into bloom. As a career coach and licensed clinical social worker, I notice a big difference in my clients’ moods between the winter and summer months. My clients report a decrease in work satisfaction during the winter, and they are more likely to struggle with paying attention to work tasks, getting through the workday, and feeling bluesy when they come home.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs when signs of depression begin and end at the same time every year. Symptoms include increased anxiety, mood changes, overeating, sleepiness and more.  Sometimes it is called “winter blues.”  According to Mental Health America, four out of five people who have seasonal depression are women. Whether or not you suffer from SAD, it is important to take care of yourself in the winter months both at work and at home so that your personal and professional situations do not suffer. Try these tips to help get through the winter months and thrive.

At work:

  • Take walks. With the limited hours of sunlight, getting outside is important. Ask coworkers to take walks with you. If your work requires a lot of networking, such as owning your own business, ask colleagues to walk with you instead of going to a coffee shop. Walking is a good way to socialize, to get to know your colleagues, and to enjoy the benefits of the vitamin D that sunlight provides.
  • Socialize. During the winter months many people work through lunches and limit social time. If you enjoy connecting with supervisors and coworkers, and you have good relationships with them, schedule lunch time or other opportunities to connect. The benefit of social time at work is that it allows you to focus attention and energy on something other than work. Additionally, another benefit of setting times to connect is that you can build stronger relationships.
  • Take breaks. We live in a society that values overworking and grinding through the day. We often lose touch with ourselves because we are in action all day. When you take a break, even just for five minutes, do something to get in touch with yourself. Meditate, listen to music, stretch, or just breathe. We often focus on things outside ourselves and fail to develop a relationship with ourselves, so this could be perhaps the most important thing you do throughout the day. We often think breaks will take time away from work, but often with a break we come back refreshed and more productive.

Outside of work:

  • Schedule personal time and keep it sacred. We often put other’s time, especially if we have children, ahead of our own. In the winter months we also tend to use downtime to binge watch Netflix and favorite television shows instead of pursuing activities that we would during the spring and summer months. Instead, schedule personal time and honor it as much as you would your professional obligations. When scheduling that time, plan things that you enjoy other than watching television. If you enjoy crafting, go craft. If you enjoy reading, go read. This will help bring more work/life balance into your life and change things up when they are getting stale.
  • Set aside time with loved ones. Like the advice of scheduling personal time and keeping it sacred, do this with loved ones as well. Make sure this time is separate from going to the movies and watching Netflix. Whether the time is spent playing board games or going to a museum, make sure the time is interactive and focuses on connection.
  • Dress yourself beautifully. You may put on the same clothing every week because it does not constrain and feels more comfortable, and you may start associating this clothing with feeling down during the winter. Get rid of clothing that you associate with not feeling good about yourself. Even if you have gained a few pounds and want to lose it, purchase a few items or attend a clothing swap to get things that make you feel beautiful. When you wear things that make you feel beautiful, it helps increase your confidence both inside and outside the work setting. You are amazing and have so much to offer, and you should show it both in your confidence and in your outward appearance. This approach also helps boost positive attitude during the winter months.
  • Move your body. During the winter, we may stop working out and doing the activities that excite us during the summer. Do things to move your body, like working out, stretching, walking around a mall or museum, dancing in your living room, getting a massage, or anything else. The idea is to provide moments to allow yourself to feel you and not disassociate from your body. Activity helps you get out of negative thoughts and focus on how you feel, as opposed to what you think.
  • Seek support. Talk to loved ones and friends. Winter can be long, but you do not have to get through it alone. Make sure you ask for help because often you are not alone in your thoughts and feelings. Be sure to reciprocate and listen to others since that will help you move outside yourself and not wallow. Of course, if you need more intervention such as therapeutic or medial support, seek out a licensed therapist or medical doctor/nurse practitioner.

More than anything, the way to get out of the winter blues is to bring acts of intention, connection with yourself and others, and mindfulness into your day.  These actions can help you get out of negative thoughts and turn your attention towards yourself and others. If you already feel yourself in a grind, or if your head is overwhelmed with negative thoughts at the moment, refocus yourself. Every moment is a moment that you can make a new choice.

Tips for Setting Strong Goals for the New Year

Tips for Setting Strong Goals for the New Year  

Published on SharpHeels: http://sharpheels.com/2017/01/setting-strong-goals/

As we move into the New Year, we often write goals and resolutions hoping to make changes, and about two months into the New Year, they may be thrown to the wayside. Many articles about comprehensive goal setting miss a key aspect of why it is so difficult to accomplish goals — change is hard! Certain things are not discussed when it comes to goal planning. Here are a few key considerations in setting appropriate goals for the new year.

  • Are the sacrifices and discomfort in achieving your goals worth it? Many of my clients want a new job, yet when it comes to getting one, they do not want to experience the discomfort that comes with the process — from the introspection that is required in evaluating yourself and your career options to the rejection experienced in being turned down after an interview. Part of the career change process is experiencing pain and discomfort and persevering through it. It means sacrificing free time and other activities to achieve the long-term outcome. The process is much like losing weight — you have to actually sit with the cravings and push through the workouts in order to drop the pounds.
  • What if the grass is not greener? We often think that if we achieve a career goal, we will hit a pinnacle of happiness, money, and work-life balance. Of course, this is not true. How many times have you achieved a goal only to be happy for a short period before reality sinks in again. I often hear job seekers say, “What if I get a new career and I don’t like it?” or “What if I get my dream career, and I don’t have work-life balance?” A change in careers may not mean a change in our emotional state. Even if we get what we want, we may have to continue to do the internal work to change to a more positive emotional state. Going back to the analogy of losing weight, often women who lose significant weight do not like the attention it brings to them. Now they have to do the emotional work of the weight loss and the changes it brings.
  • What if you achieve your goals? That means you must live with the outcomes. Remember,change is hard. If you actually achieve your goals, it means you have to experience and live with new outcomes — new thought and behavior patterns, emotions, people, and much more. Sometimes these changes are embraced, but that does not mean they are not difficult or even overwhelming. Your life could look different, even for the better, but you still have to deal with that change. Once again to reference the weight-loss analogy, once someone loses weight, he or she has to maintain it, which takes a lot of effort as well. 

Once we consider these points, how do we move past these emotional hurdles to achieve our goals?

  • Learn to accept and embrace discomfort. I always suggest trying something small and moving up in your discomfort level. We are a pain-avoidant society, and we have created an entire economy to make us feel more comfortable and pain-free, so this process takes time. Try one thing at a time to push yourself out of your comfort zone. If networking feels uncomfortable, then start networking with someone you know and eventually move to someone you do not know. Use this opportunity to get to know and push yourself. You’ll be surprised how amazing the experience can be and how it builds your grit.
  • Evaluate how your goals will fulfill your deepest desires. Look at what the outcomes will bring you and the deepest desires it will fulfill. This includes really detailing what outcomes you would like, why you want them at a deep level, how they will make you feel, and how they will change your life. For example, if you have a gift to offer to the world, and you cannot do it through your current career, making a career change will fulfill that deep desire. Your new career may not be perfect, but it will fulfill you on a deeper level. The book The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte can assist with this process. I also use journaling and honestly evaluating several areas — the reasons I want to set the goals, my fears and worries, as well as all the reasons I may not want to set and/or achieve the goals. Sometimes being brutally honest with myself on why I may or may not want something allows me to work through my hurdles.
  • Shift your perspective about the concept of reaching a pinnacle. When we drop the dream or concept of reaching a pinnacle, whatever that means to you, we take a great weight off our shoulders. We also set ourselves up for more realistic expectations of our lives knowing that we will always evolve and that the journey is more important than the endpoint. Our goals become about fulfilling our deep desires opposed to thinking we are going to reach a peak. For this New Year, I suggest when creating your goals to evaluate them at a deeper level.  If you waver about a goal, perhaps it is not the right time and maybe you should hold off. If you are ready, set the goal and prepare to be uncomfortable, to break old patterns, and to live with the outcomes of your change. Most importantly, shift your perspective from the concept of reaching a pinnacle to enjoying the journey.  This allows for the process to become more gentle and self-loving.

Moving into the new year, may this be a year of personal growth, evolution, and learning!

4 Things You Can Do If You’re Burned Out From a Job Transition

4 Things You Can Do If You’re Burned Out From a Job Transition  

Published on SharpHeels: http://sharpheels.com/2016/12/making-a-career-change/

Have you been spending hours contemplating your career direction, applying to hundreds of jobs online, and talking about your next career steps? Are you sick of the pressure of everyone asking you “What’s next?” Are you at the point where thinking about your career for one more moment makes you feel like you are going to go mad? If you have answered yes to one or all of these questions, you are probably experiencing career transition burnout.

We are not properly taught how to handle career transition. Most career services teach us that we need to take career tests and network to make a transition. This is great advice when we are in the proper frame of mind. However, if we aren’t, this advice can be counterproductive and lead to compulsive job searching, eventual disillusionment, and burnout. It seems counterintuitive, but if we give ourselves the permission, time, and space to be introspective and reflect on what we really want, we can more easily pinpoint what is next. We need to take a break from the career transition process.

If you are burned out from your career transition, these four steps can help you re-energize so you can return to the process with more motivation and clarity.

  • Give yourself permission to not think about your future career. This is easier said than done, but if you focus on giving yourself enough time and space, your next steps will become clear. We very rarely have epiphanies when we overthink, so limit how much time you allow yourself to ponder your next career next steps. Spend quality time with loved ones to distract yourself or think about other things that are important to you, redirecting your thoughts if your mind starts to wander.  Even if you’ve already taken time off, if that time was filled with anxiety and pressure, it really was not time off. You will be amazed at all the “aha moments” that come when you give yourself permission to not think about your future career–usually when you least expect them.
  • Cease all career research and job applications. It is amazing how addicted we can become to applying to jobs online. With access to job websites at the touch of a finger, it can be hard to take a break, but it is important to do so. When we are burned out, we are more likely to make mistakes on our applications and apply for roles that are not a good fit. Even a few days’ break will make you more mentally clear. You’ll be able to make better decisions about the type of jobs to target, less likely to make mistakes, and have more energy for the process. If you are really strapped for cash, you’ll be better prepared to evaluate, search, and take contract work to make some extra money.
  • Schedule personal time and keep that commitment. It is okay to watch a little television, but make sure to fill your time playing, having fun, and doing the things you love. Having fun lets you re-energize and reconnect with your true self, providing tremendous insight to what you like and dislike. You’ll be more likely to identify careers that are a good fit and able to articulate to others what you are looking for.
  • Do things and wear clothes that make you feel beautiful. When we go through stressful transitions, our eating habits often become irregular and we don’t dress as fashionably. Employers like to hire confident employees, and the way you dress expresses how you feel about yourself. Get rid of clothing that doesn’t make you feel good, and find ways to get outfits that make you feel beautiful, whether you purchase them or host a clothing swap with your friends. And do things that make you feel confident to reinforce your inner strength and beauty, because when you go back to your career transition, you’ll want to look as beautiful and self-assured on the outside as you feel on the inside.

Taking a break will motivate you and give you the clarity to pursue your next steps. There will always be jobs to apply for, careers to research, and people to meet, but after your break, you will be able get back to your career transition with the positive energy that will get you hired.

Having a Hard Time Being Productive Today?

productiveI have to admit, I’m having a hard time being productive today. How about you?

This election cycle has been unlike what many of us have ever seen. The use of fear-based messages about the past, present and future of our country during this campaign has been non-stop.

I’m upset and shaken to my core. I had a laundry list of items to get done today and I can’t seem to get through them.

So here’s what I’m doing instead. I’m reaching out and connecting. I’m emailing former clients to check in, calling colleagues to set meetings, and reaching out to friends to share my love.

We know that our relationships are instrumental to our career success. The more we cultivate them, the easier it is to tap the hidden job market and make transitions when we are ready to make a change. In a time in which our country is divided, there is no better time to reach out and connect.

I wanted to send positive thoughts your way. And if you can’t get anything done today, perhaps just reach out and connect.