7 Takeaways on Living Better with Only 24 Hours in a Day

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One of my favorite reads is Inc. magazine (no compensation for this post), whether in hard copy or online.  The content is relevant, entertaining, and realistic.  Even my husband, who is more science-focused than business-oriented, enjoys when the issues arrive each month. In a recent issue, there was an article that highlighted eight entrepreneurs and how they spend their days.  Time management and energy management are subjects that intrigue me because there are only so many hours in a day, and much I would like to accomplish.

The visuals provided great comparison between CEOs, and it was interesting assessing similarities and differences.  I had a few takeaways from reading this article:

  1. If all of these high-powered entrepreneurs have time to dedicate to an hour of exercise each day, then it must become a priority for me! I always sleep better when I exercise, and it helps me to fuel better during the day as well as provide additional and better energy than too many cups of coffee.  My mood is also always positive – the pride of completing a challenging workout, the endorphins flowing, and leading to better interaction with my colleagues.   
  2. Commuting can take away more time than we realize in a day. It also saps important energy needed for other endeavors, whether it is for physical activity or family or pets or even pet projects. At one point in my career I was commuting, door-to-door, about three and a half hours each day.  I was lonely because I had no time for friends, hated work because of the amount of time it took to get there and home, and was constantly exhausted.  Life was not what I wanted it to be, or what I was capable of living out.  Moving to Boston to be closer to work made a world of difference.
  3. Michelle Phan (Youtube star and Ipsy founder) leaves time for creative endeavors in her day. This is a reminder to keep that time in my schedule sacred. When the creativity comes to me in the day, I should keep a separate notebook to quickly scratch down the concept to spend more time exploring later. Sometimes my creativity is not art or writing, but “crazy ideas” I get excited about – my husband and two of my other best friends often have the pleasure of hearing them out.   My enthusiasm for the ideas leads me to sharing them with these three, forcing me to better develop the concepts and address some questions they have.  This dedicated time would allow me to explore more deeply my creative thoughts and how I can actually execute and implement.
  4. Cal Henderson’s (CEO of Slack) strategy of keeping a half hour open between meetings to stay on schedule is genius. I’ve sometimes had to do this myself, but to prevent someone from taking time for myself as time for their meeting (since we have viewable calendars throughout the company) I tend to block it off as busy.  If I have work that needs a large chunk of time to work on, I’ll always block off a window as busy. It isn’t false because I will be busy, in a meeting with myself and my work!
  5. Most of the featured entrepreneurs, including the real estate expert Barbara Corcoran, have their own take on what I call ruthless prioritization. Like Ms. Corcoran, I love the satisfaction of crossing out my to-do list items on paper.  I type my to do list and organize by project and who I am waiting on or responsible to.  It is easy to move around and saves time against re-writing by hand each day.
  6. The criticism to the schedule of Warby Parker’s Neil Blumenthal was the phone addiction.  While I bristle at any accusation of being addicted to my phone, since I can go hours without touching it, I am guilty of the check-email-immediately-upon-waking-syndrome. This is a bad habit I’ve become more conscious of and working (most days) successfully holding off on reading email or Twitter or Pinterest until I am on the train.
  7. Rebecca Minkoff’s (leader of the self-titled brand) schedule gained kudos for taking advantage of lunch time for personal needs, like a hair or nail appointment. I like this concept of “taking back lunch” as a pleasurable break.  Getting away from the desk, and the office, can be refreshing.  I’ve started carrying socks and sneakers to work each day in case my shoe choice is not conducive to walking Boston’s brick and cobblestone sidewalks. This action makes it easier to get away from my desk and out of the building for an energizing activity with exposure to sunshine and good vibes. Trips to Macy’s and DSW for needed errands also have occurred at lunch, and reduce my stress during limited evening times.  

I’m fortunate to have employment and a boss that allow me some of the opportunities above – the focus on maintaining a balance and staying stress free help me to produce work that is valuable to my colleagues and organization.  The little hacks above allow me opportunity to work smarter instead of longer. I like working with intensity – my FitBit reminds me every hour to take some steps, and it is an opportunity to refresh instead of grinding to exhaustion. Who can ever produce good work while exhausted?!

What are your tips and tricks for staying productive? How do you make having only 24 hours in a day work for you?

Changing the World in a Weekend (Or At Least Starting!)

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Early in April I had the opportunity to attend the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Women’s Impact Network (WIN) weekend with university President Dr. Laurie Leshin, several members of the WPI staff, and about three dozen esteemed alumnae and friends of WPI, all women. These alumnae, spanning the 70s, 80s, 90s, and myself in the 00s, and friends rallied around a shared purpose to further the opportunities and possibilities for women students, faculty, staff, and alumnae.  The philanthropic efforts would be geared toward the creativity of those interested in making an impact and meeting the greatest needs, identified by those experiencing the needs and eagerly wanting to solve them.

The VP of Talent Development and Chief Diversity Officer at WPI, Ms. Michelle Jones-Johnson,  raised the point that any effort to promote women generally should also include women of color specifically. If we are supporting opportunities for all women, it needs to be clear that we include ALL women.  Women, and my own experience supports this, tend not to put themselves forward for an opportunity, despite great interest and qualification, because we may not feel like we belong or are worthy. During the weekend discussions we learned of the need for women to stay in the STE(A)M pipeline (and some other fun analogies that resonated), and if a certain barrier exists for a woman, there may be additional barriers for a woman of color to stay engaged.  Though we did not specifically talk about women who are gay or transexual or immigrants or foreign students or those of varying faiths (or no faith), the barriers these women face were on my mind also.  

With Silicon Valley is roiling over diversity hiring and retention, pay gaps, sexual harassment, and a myriad of other maladies, media sensationalizes every story, forgetting that people experience these issues every day.  So how can we help solve the problem? I’m not a believer in awareness – while it does bring attention to the topic, it doesn’t extend to action.  I recently finished reading Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett and loved the message.  It was both heart-felt and comedic, hitting the key points hard with direction for steps to take to respond to sexist situations. Let’s lift the other ladies up as we each rise – take someone with us for the ride. Hopefully, we can provide the means for opportunity that may not be found elsewhere, or as accessible, or be a better fit for funds and investment.  One of my comments that weekend is that the WPI WIN group is able to create a new table to sit at, rather than fighting for the same number of chairs.  We aren’t reducing opportunities available to others, just increasing the presently perceived limited opportunity for women, and doing so at WPI.

Clearly, the women in this room were committed to making the world a better place for other women associated with WPI, an institute in which we all shared a passion and love. If a dedicated group can come together with shared purpose, the hope is that women associated with WPI are able to act on their purpose to better the world around them.  It may be campus, the community, the country, or beyond.  Their dream may affect middle school girls thinking about math and science, or it may affect the end of a career, or change a trajectory for a faculty or staff member.

What struck me beyond the mission of the group and the weekend was the sense of selfless and servant leadership in the room. Though formal leaderships roles were in place organizationally, the stereotypes of being “bossy” or “mean girls” were absent.  Women in the room inspired each other, supported points, and gave credit. No one was there to take over the room, but more to play their part in shaping future outcomes, that maybe someday her daughter or granddaughter or some student she will never meet has an experience that opens the doors of opportunity. This was a room of women who wanted to be hands on – to mentor potential recipients, to provide support to each other, to dig deeper into root causes.  These women with incredible titles and careers and friends and family were emboldened to give back in any possible way they could, and they knew the power of multiplication of many coming together for one cause.  

A set of small conference rooms on the third floor of a boutique hotel in Boston doesn’t seem inspiring at first, but when you think about the intellect and dedication and prestige and accomplishments of everyone in the room, there for a working weekend away from home when they could be relaxing, how can it not fill your body with excitement for what is to come?

It is my hope that in coming years I can maintain the time to be a part of this WPI WIN group to play my role, and fulfill my dreams, of making things better for women in STEM.  While it doesn’t affect every woman in STEM, we have to start somewhere, and we are starting now.  Women at WPI, encompassing students, faculty, staff, and alumnae, are changing the world, and if we can, why don’t we give them every edge and advantage we can to help them go even further?