How Slowing Down is Improving Life

20170910 - How Slowing Down is Improving Life

One thing my dad always jokingly reminded me about with my “athletic skill” (or lack thereof) was how slow I am. It wasn’t mean, only a reminder of the facts and that I needed to work harder than the competition to be able to play. I’m just not built for speed, no matter how hard I worked at it.  My all time best mile time is 7 minutes, flat. I don’t ever recall timing a 100 yard dash, or I’ve forgotten the times and buried them deep in a place where I don’t want to be reminded. In sports and in business it is all about speed. But earlier this month I finished Carl Honore’s book about embracing a different pace of life, In Praise of Slowness. This book was captivating from the start, and the author enhanced the academic and medical arguments for slowing down with his own experiences and the anecdotes of those he meets on his journey to study the slow movement.

The book takes compartmentalized adventures through different areas of our lives and environment, but ultimately all connect back to why slowing down creates benefits for each and for all who embrace the concept. While I won’t be starting campaigns to turn my city into a “Slow City”, there were a number of practices to take away and try in my life. At the same time I was reading this book, I began exploring meditation. My director at work had recommended an app called HeadSpace, and the recommendation combined with the convincing storytelling by Carl Honore compelled me to try the app also. While I have only used the guided meditation app four times, I’ve realized it is a critical tool not just for stress management, but life and health management.

In addition to the mind/body inclusion of meditation, at least irregularly for now, I began looking differently about how I approach everything. While I was near finishing the book, my husband Tom and I went out for a brunch in Boston. We had no plans for the day and took our time ordering. Either despite or because the restaurant was quiet with Bostonians and weekend brunchers escaping the city for Labor Day weekend, drink and food came quickly. With Massachusetts barring liquor sales on a Sunday before 10am, we did have to wait to order a cocktail.

Now before I continue, I have to point out that Tom is generally and perfectly a relaxed and low-key person – practically my foil to those who have known my intensity. To take in a brunch without being rushed is more in his nature than mine. I kept commenting to Tom how nice it was to relax and enjoy and not feel rushed. His reaction was less in awe than mine, to the effect of, of course, this is brunch, it is supposed to be relaxing!

And what were the results of my slow brunch? I tasted the flavors more intensely than I usually do. I ate less and only what I wanted (you know, the crispiest of the home fries are the only ones worth having!), resulting in a feeling of being satiated but not overfull. There was time for conversation with Tom, to notice the interior architectural details, and to wallow in the smells of coffee and toast. I was more aware of my surroundings and more immersed in the moment and where I was. And this is just brunch! And inspired by a book I wasn’t even done reading yet! The descriptions of the four to five hour dinners in Italy sounded confusing at first, but lounging through a 90 minute brunch when breakfast during the week is scarfing down some eggs and coffee started to change my view. Slowness is not about time, but about experience. Forget time. Being slow allows more ways to enjoy life and those we love and spend time with.

The “slow way” spilled over to work this week. With the approach in mind and meditation on my side from the night before, I focused singularly on tasks, ignored phone calls until I was in a mentally productive place to take them (not interrupting my task, and then wasting time – for both people – orienting to the needs of the caller), and took time out to properly plan the day and days ahead. My to do list was ambitious for the week, but I accomplished or made significant progress on almost everything. I was calm. Relaxed. Cool under pressure, even! Wow – what a change from stressed, harried, exhausted, and ragged. When I took my scheduled vacation day on Friday, there was little to worry about in escaping the office.

A good book, and especially the great ones, can be powerful motivators and influencers. When the topic influences the way you live almost immediately and with what seems to be (or I hope) long lasting behaviors, you know it is a good one. I would highly recommend this book, and even gave it 5 stars on Amazon. I’m usually not a five star person unless I am blown away, and In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore certainly made an impact. Because there is so much good reading to be done, I rarely re-read books, but anticipate referring back to some areas of this book as a reminder to slow down and take in life more fully.

I’m surprised, and shouldn’t be upon reflection, that slowing down is helping me achieve and accomplish more. While I may take breaks from work or side projects, I’m more refreshed and thoughtful during those breaks. Less TV, more walking. Social media is meant to educate and enlighten and share what piques my interest rather than get lost and be envious of others’ lives. I’m more motivated to execute on the workouts I’ve planned for myself, because I’m not worried about other things I could be doing. Instead, I’m focused on how great I feel during and after, filled with maybe an inappropriate amount of pride and accomplishment, but also satisfaction and feelings of better health (or at least on the road to it!).

The slow life must be welcomed rather than forced, but try reading the book In Praise of Slowness and filling your life with routines and actions that make you better personally, with others, and for others. I feel wildly improved over a short period of time and hope the same for you!

What life-altering books have you read lately? Are you living in praise of slowness also? Let me know in the comments!

16 Reasons Why Planning a Wedding is an Exercise in Project Management

20170807 - 16 Reasons Wedding Planning is like PM

Wedding planning came naturally to me, probably because I had years of experience developing the tools needed to be successful. I’ve been managing projects and teams since college at WPI, where team projects are a significant component of the curriculum. It made for a great transition to the working world, where EVERYTHING was seemingly project based. I moved from engineering, to construction, to real estate, and all along the way there were teams to be on and teams and projects to manage.  

And then, he asked the question. Of course, the answer was yes! My then boyfriend became my then fiance and now, for the past seven months and forever going forward, my husband. Planning the wedding was actually pretty fun even if there were some stressful times.

If planning or project management does not come naturally to you, I can understand that being a bride can be terrifying. This is especially so if you don’t hire a professional wedding planner. There are a lot of people to keep happy, funding to manage with a budget that is never what you really need or want, family politics instead of office or company politics, competing priorities, a million logistics to manage, and all this is on top of needing excellent communication skills.

    1. Leadership. Who else runs the show besides the bride for a wedding? It takes leadership to convey the vision, bring everyone together, and drive for success with a great start to the marriage. As the bride or groom, you are the leader and setting the tone with expectations and the grand vision for everyone in your wedding (see #4!). And this naturally brings us to…
    2. Setting goals. Remembering that the point of a wedding is to celebrate the joining of two hearts can help you focus on the why when times get stressful. Your goals may revolve around some of the other project management similarities below, or they may relate strictly to why you are doing this with your love. My husband and I wanted to have the most fun wedding – beautiful but not pretentious, simple but without lacking elegance. Oh, and on a budget!
    3. Communication. This is the penultimate skill needed in wedding planning! No one knows where to go, what to do, and how to behave unless you communicate your intent and needs. My awesome photographer was generous with praise for all of my communication leading up the wedding day (“can you teach other brides how to do this!?”). Who were the key contacts? What about back ups? Where do you need to be when? Similar to writing in elementary school, it is as simple as the 5 W’s and H, and telling it to the appropriate audience in the right manner. I liked email over text because it was easy to find – just search instead of scroll a million times (and no group texts!)
    4. Putting the team together. You don’t always have the ability to choose EVERYONE as part of a team when a project manager, but with a wedding you do get to select only the best people in your life and the vendors who can execute your vision! The wedding party, the person who presides over the ceremony, and the DJ are all your choice! However, freedom comes with great responsibility – who you select can make or break the planning and execution. Choose wisely! We were fortunate to get great recommendations and vendors who understood us. Our caterer felt like “our people” and the level of service was even better than we could have asked for. One of the leaders of our catering company was even helping me to bustle my dress before dinner!
    5. Establishing and sticking to a budget. My husband and I were focused on doing as much as we could for as little as possible; it was all about value for us. In fact, our theme was “ballin’ on a budget”! My parents were generous enough to help us shoulder the bulk of the costs and we had monthly budget update meetings. I would email them spreadsheets every time there was an update (back to communication!) and we would even hook up the computer via HDMI cable to the TV and have “budget presentations” to show progress. It helped us make decisions together, especially with the guest list.
    6. Negotiation.  This can be handy when working on a tight budget and dealing with family members. Asking for discounts or working through customization of packages and availability will be key. Sometimes, you may have to balance the guest list. “Sure, your co-worker can come, but this means that we are over the limit for the room. Who shouldn’t come instead?”.
    7. Logistics management. The day of takes significant planning and coordination before you get there! How are you getting to the venue? Where will you sleep after the reception? How will dinner or drinks be served? For every vendor hired and person involved, you need to think about how they are going to do their jobs and meet your vision. We had looked into alternate transportation options in case our January wedding in Massachusetts came with a side of snow – it would reduce the stress on everyone to get where they needed without worrying about their car sliding off the side of the road!
    8. Scheduling. Everything needs to be scheduled or it doesn’t happen! Understanding timelines and lead times and when the payments are due to make certain things happen are important. The day of needs to be carefully coordinated, and if you are already a project manager, you know everything will take longer than you think it will! Scheduling relates heavily to logistics management above.  I had created timelines for every vendor and “subgroup” of the wedding party – the bridesmaids are doing X at 10:00 am and the groomsmen are doing Y at 11:30am, the moms are with the bridesmaids, etc. It made for a much smoother day with fewer questions, especially repeating the task with vendors – who greatly appreciated being in the loop together!
    9. Coordination amongst teams. Your vendors and each of your families need some guidance on how to work together. They all have likely not worked with each other before, and you have to establish and facilitate how they work together and get their jobs done seamlessly and without affecting the other vendors negatively. Our venue event manager was a great coordinator and reached out to everyone. Since our DJ was dedicated into making sure we were on board with all of the music and timing, it was great that our event manager and the house manager had time to talk with him and work through decision making when we were in the middle of greeting guests at dinner.
    10. Managing differences. Maybe family politics does extend to politics – does your brother feel passionately about issues your partner’s cousin feels the exact opposite about, but just as passionately? You’ll need to figure out this management before they get to the bachelor party and work out getting the tuxes together! This is a huge communication piece, as well as expectation setting. We knew that picking the right guests to sit at tables together would be important to making the night fun for everyone. I set up the guest list in Excel for easy swapping and RSVP tracking and there was plenty of good times for both old friends and new friends.
    11. Organization. Whether you have a hard copy binder, or store everything in the cloud, you HAVE to stay organized with both wedding planning and project management. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but your documents, budget, and plans must be in a position to be understood if someone else picked up for us. My husband always had access to our guest list and budget and the logistics plans through Google Sheets (not an endorsement, just what I used!) – he never had to look beyond one file to understand where we were if there was a question and I wasn’t around.
    12. Risk management. For your outdoor wedding, you booked a tent in case of rain. This is risk management in practice – contingency plans, insurance policies, and checking in with the higher ups (whether a VP or mom and dad!) – all are a part of risk management. We’re trying to make sure things go smoothly and put in all the protections to make that possible. One way we managed our risk was to keep everything in a close proximity – the furthest distance was between the hotel and the church – one mile!
    13. Managing stress. There may be a lot on your plate, but freaking out or getting overwhelmed are not the solutions. It may be raising a hand to ask for help or taking some time out for sleep or a workout, whichever makes you happier. Stress only makes a situation worse – and stresses other people out. Keep your cool, and things will go fine. Sometimes you have to manage the stress of others too. My maid of honor was incredible at keeping everyone organized and calm – the other bridesmaids talked about how much easier she made their lives with color coded email reminders of what to bring and where to be, when.
    14. Task management. You didn’t pick your team or bridesmaids to sit there and say yes to all your ideas – you picked them to help you get the job done! This is practiced as delegation if you are passing your own tasks to someone else. Even if it is a task “out of your scope”, you need to make sure those willing (or being paid) to help are getting done what they need to, when they need to. My mom was a superstar helping out on the creative side of things, but we worked together on timelines to make sure we could balance all of our tasks and not be up to 5am before the wedding.
    15. Balancing priorities. I have a full-time job, and was also working full-time while wedding planning. While I do have a flexible employer, I have a lot to get done off hours because I have a demanding role and I do respect my employer. A few calls or emails at lunch and after work can get the job done, but I also know I could put off the honeymoon planning until we had the caterer booked. You don’t have to do it all once – nor should you!
    16. Patience. I don’t think this one needs explanation to either project managers or brides and grooms planning weddings! Take a breath – in, out – and it will be okay. Is it a battle worth fighting? We ended up fighting for supermarket flowers versus a typical florist because we loved the artistry of the woman who would be working on the wedding – and it paid off!  We saved over $2,000 versus a much simpler set of flowers of other vendors.

I’m not convinced that an employer would want to know about your wedding planning skills (unless you are going into events or wedding planning!), but development of project management skills via wedding planning can be directly applicable to what you are doing in the workplace! It might be a great example to use in an interview if you don’t have a work example to share.

I loved wedding planning and felt I did a great job for my and my husband’s wedding. At times I laughed because it felt similar to work in bringing teams together toward common goals and planning for a flawless execution. When more than a dozen guests told us it was one of the best weddings they had ever been to, it was gratifying to hear that all the hard work paid off not only for me, but for those in attendance. Now I need to continue to execute at work everyday!

Are you a project manager planning a wedding? Do you think the comparison is true for you too? Or does it relate to your career skills at all? Did everyone else love wedding planning?

Why Earning My MBA was Valuable: 7 Reasons

20170701 - Why My MBA was valuable

Life sometimes surprises us in ways we don’t always expect. When I began my MBA education in 2012, I thought I was doing it to differentiate myself from other civil engineers so that I could show business proficiency and understanding on top of technical engineering and project management skills. The goal was to become a leader of an engineering company – not one in particular, and the position varied by the size.  Today, I am still geared toward goals of organizational leadership, and the MBA changed my career for the better, while helping me find that the real estate industry was where I want to be.

I’ve been asked often about the value of an MBA, particularly by engineering students and alums of engineering programs. I always explain how it has to be a personal choice, but always explain what made my MBA experience valuable to my career to help provide the petitioner some context.

  1. I waited a few years after graduating. Had I gone to grad school of any kind straight from college, I would have gone for a technical engineering degree, despite my interest for the business world. I needed a few years to remove myself from homework and lectures and to just get experience and determine a direction. Had I entered a graduate engineering program right away, I may have never finished, or finished a degree unfulfilled and frustrated that I needed to make it work for me. Particularly beneficial for business school, I had at least four years of working in companies public and private, gigantic and small, to think about how real world businesses operated. This was valuable context to have as a background – without it, everything is just theory. Your work experience becomes case study for every case study you might undertake!
  2. I picked the format that was right for me. I was concerned about having the liquidity to pay the mortgage on my house if for some reason my renter didn’t or left, and I didn’t want to lose 2 years worth of engineering experience to go back to a similar role (that was before I realized what it was I truly wanted to do!) and simultaneously take on two years worth of tuition and living expenses debt, which would have been the case with a full time program. I seem to often impress people, and as a result get questions of why I didn’t go to Harvard Business School or MIT’s Sloan School of Management. All in one moment I am filled with regret and doubt that I could have gone to play at even bigger institutions, but I remind myself there was a lot more than prestige that went into my decision making. The part time, online program was the best thing for me at the time.
  3. I could afford to pay for it. My dad is a Boston College alum and last fall was my 31st season of BC football at 30 years old. When I had researched the program at the Carroll School of Management, I was enthused at the possibility of becoming a BC grad that I even put down a down payment after gaining admission. However, when I did the math out (which I should have done before the down payment), the cost of the program did not fit within what my employer was willing to pay and what I could afford.  The Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts was a far more affordable program, and even highly ranked – currently #1 in the US for on online, part time program according to Financial Times and now in the top 12 by the US News & World Report. I couldn’t imagine having student loan payments for part time grad school that were almost as much as my Boston apartment rent – for the whole 2 bedroom apartment.
  4. Made me a more marketable candidate. “MBA preferred” was what I believe was listed on the job description for my current role when I was job searching. Jackpot! That was an absolute advantage that I had against potential others applying for the role. It also opened doors with some great people in my network who knew and liked me, and could now see that I had taken, at least educationally, the next step toward working my way up and being a bigger contributor.
  5. Gained knowledge I was hungry for. I am an insatiable learner. I enthusiastically consume non-fiction every day for a half hour, or more if I have the time.  Reading a book that condensed an MBA into a few hundred pages was going to leave me with more questions than answers. I was fortunate to have professors in my program who were appreciative of my questions and digging deeper, as well as some group mates who were thoughtful about what we were trying to achieve. My eyes were opened to fields like marketing where I previously had no interest, and then learned about the power of what that field can do.
  6. I applied my knowledge everyday to gain context. The key to learning, for me, is applying what I’ve learned.  Every month we had cost reports and project summaries and I could see the cause and effect of certain things not just on a project but the company as a whole. I didn’t have the think about “what ifs” because the business decisions were playing out in front of me, in both positive and negative ways. I could make educated assumptions on outcomes if the opposite decision had been made.
  7. My expectations were realistic. At the time, I wasn’t trying to change industries. I was focused on learning and adding to my set of skills to be a better professional. I wasn’t expecting a $250K job right away and I wasn’t expecting to hit the c-suite immediately. I knew it would help step me up, and that it was up to me to make an impact with my new knowledge and skills. It would be a waste to put the paper on the wall and not realize that effort every day is what keeps accelerating careers.

 

Would I recommend an MBA? While it opened doors and was an overall positive experience for me, in my advice to others I’ll always say it depends. I’ll be writing on the reasons why I don’t think the MBA was valuable in an upcoming post so you can see the other side of the coin.  It really comes down to personal interest, if it works for your life situation and your goals, and your willingness to dedicate significant time and effort to focus and make it worthwhile. I have friends and colleagues who went full time and would never sacrifice their experience. Whenever someone asks for my thoughts, I dig deeper about their motivations.

What was your experience with graduate school decision making? Was your degree (or not getting a degree) worthwhile, and what if anything would you have changed?

5 Goals to Achieve Balance and Success

5 goals for balance and success

Planning, whether it be a wedding or goal setting, is something I love to do. Since what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done, it is imperative to track what it is I am planning, so that I know my execution is getting me what I had intended it to bring (on schedule, on budget!). When I was preparing for field hockey double sessions in college, I had 12 workouts each week set up and dutifully completed. The tired satisfaction each day was in making the check mark(s) next to each work out and highlighting yellow.  I was never the fastest on my team, but at the least always in great shape and ready to go.

 

I was too cool to set any new year resolutions this past January (or too busy getting ready for the wedding and honeymoon later in the month). I’m a believer that RIGHT NOW is the best time to start doing anything. No waiting until tomorrow, or Monday, or exactly July 1 to set my “rest of the year goals”. Of course, I’l check in myself more regularly, but don’t need to report out to all of you each and every detail. Since the concept of “Live, Work, Play” has been sweeping the nation in recent months and years in real estate and worlds beyond, I’ll divide my goal categories into each of those topics.  

 

Live

  1. Stick to healthy habits that bring happiness. There are a few distinct healthy habits I aim to concentrate on for both health and happiness.  I focus on these four after years of research, doubting my own worth, doing too little or too much of something, or focusing on the wrong end goal in mind. I’ve been on a search for happiness for a number of years, and recently it clicked that happiness is about loving who you are, being grateful for what you have, and eliminating comparison to others. This realization brought peace to my life to replace impatient and jealous angst. It helped me to be chipper and cheerful on both inside and outside. Health is a lifelong pursuit, and one we can never give up on if we hope to lead a good, complete, and happy life.
    1. Sleep. Back in high school I was an advocate for changing the school start time, but didn’t get my campaign past writing a few letters and emails. Unfortunately, in college and a number of years later I forgot why sleep was so important, and it dragged me down. Exhausted, I wasn’t the real me, I wasn’t productive, and I wasn’t capable of all that I could accomplish.  My goal now is to get a minimum of seven hours each night, with an average meeting or bettering 7.5 hours over each week.
    2. Exercise. While I don’t participate in sports competitively anymore (maybe I should get back to that!), I need exercise to be part of my life.  Not only great for the heart, bones, and muscles, exercise is great for my brain and my soul as a form of relaxation and stress relief. Exertion doesn’t seem logical for relaxation, but pushing forward on an erg, run, walk, or even challenging myself with certain yoga poses, allows my brain to focus and escape simultaneously. When I’m done, I am often filled with pride, joy, and excitement.  There’s always the adage that you never regret a workout.
    3. Practical eating. No. Diets. Ever. Again. The philosophy is to eat what nourishes and fuels when hungry. I do track my eating to help me make smart choices, but I don’t want food to be a stressor or the enemy or the way to find stress relief.  Food powers my mind and body so I can accomplish great things, or just get through a day. Food is not an effective stress relief, and cutting back even saves money!
    4. Self-care and relaxation. If I need to stare at the ceiling, I give myself the time to stare at the ceiling. Same goes for naps, or vegging out to Red Sox baseball or a couple episodes of whatever is on HGTV, or reading fiction set in Nantucket. I have a poor history when it comes to understanding when and how to relax, and through my own turn of thought and the patient support of my husband, I’ve come to a much better acceptance of the importance of doing nothing. Watching my dogs relax is a nice reminder to slow down and give myself a break.

 

Work

  1. Finish two collaborative projects at work successfully. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by coworkers who are talented, smart, fun, and dedicated success.  With these two projects underway, as complicated and intensive as they are, we are are all dependent on each other for flawless, professional execution to add value and improve the lives of our residents. So far, so good on these two particular projects. If we can continue as we’ve processed to date, it would be two huge successes to wrap up by year’s end.  
  2. Kick off another renovation project. I’m currently in planning stages on another project and can’t wait to get sign off and get to execution. There’s a lot of work ahead of me but I thrive in bringing teams together toward a shared goal and driving to stay on schedule. I get to work with a lot of the same great people on this and even a few colleagues for the first time.

 

Play

  1. Publish my first book or ebook. I’m writing a book in what spare time I have. The book is geared toward sorority women in college and those out of school up to five years, so it is certainly not intended for everyone. Since the days of first using reading as an escape and entertainment option, the concept of writing my own book has been exciting to me.  We’ll see how this first one goes before writing any others, but it is an exciting side project and prospect to be a published author (even if it is self-publishing). The world is a different place now to be able to bring your message to the world without the filter of a publisher, and writing or publishing a book is achievable by anyone willing to put in the book – hopefully this will be an enjoyed and helpful book to those who read it!  I’m looking for an editor, so if you or someone you know specializes in that work it would be great to learn more about the services offered!
  2. See friends and family regularly and continue to make new connections. My goal is to stay better in touch with those I love, and I will achieve this by reaching out to at least one person each day, whether by text or a call, to see how they are, have some laughs or give support, and maybe even plan a get together. For connections with new people, my goal is to attend at least one networking event each month. This not only keeps me better educated about what is going on in the real estate world, but allows the opportunity to meet new people and make new connections. I love my job and company and boss and coworkers, so am not looking for a new position, but as an extrovert I get my energy from other people and networking is a productive, social, and educational way to do that.

 

So there it is!  Five goals to work toward to help me maintain balance and achieve success in all areas of my life. How are your goals progressing from New Year’s, and are you re-setting for the second half of the year? What prevents you from succeeding at what you want? Would you need help goal setting?

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?