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Lululemon Pants Rant

The disaster that is Lululemon’s sheer black yoga pants has been all over the interwebs this week.  Business publications discussed their likely earnings hits…with quippy sentences like “it will hurt their bottom line” (oh you business reporters and your snarkiness). I didn’t  care so much because my black yoga pants from Lulu were purchased months ago, and are not subject to the recall. 00120065-0000-0000-0000-000000000000_469b5687-f4ab-4992-a2ac-46c322b7a161_20130319133432_Lululemon_031913_RF_300

Then the articles about how employees (and the CEO) are asking customers to try on the pants and bend over to see if they are in fact sheer happened. And the PR person in me shot up and cringed. Still all I wanted to do was help them out, because wow. (That is an entire different story, poor choice of words CEO!)

I guess I have become so loyal to Lululemon (I write as I wear Wunder Unders, Power Y tank and Daily Yoga Jacket), but what got me heated was a Washington Post article about this being a “fashion wakeup call about yoga pants.” Now, I am supposed to feel bad because I have chosen to replace my jeans with yoga pants? I don’t think so.

Jeans are my enemy. My muscular legs don’t look nice in them, so on the weekend when I am out and about I am in my yoga pants. I feel better in them. End of story. I am sure the Pixie Pant from J. Crew IS the perfect legging, but if I decide to go for an impromptu walk or yoga class I have to change.

I guess I am a little different since I work from home, but I resent the claim that I am an exhibitionist because I choose to wear them regularly. (BTW that label as an exhibitionist came from the actual reporter, NOT the comments) What is the difference between my Wunder Unders and a pair of skinny jeans? 130319093039-lululemon-yoga-pants-620xa

There is a time and place for your yoga pants. Of course I would never wear them to the office unless it was after hours. I would never wear them out to dinner when it is date night/girls night/whatever night.  Honestly, though you can’t tell me you would prefer jeans over yoga pants for your errand running.

 

Having One of Those Weeks

I’m having one of those weeks. You know the kind where no matter how hard you push yourself (in work and in life) you don’t feel like you are crossing off anything on your to-do list?

This is where my head is at right now
This is where my head is at right now

 

I knew the weeks leading up to April were going to be rough. I have a client expecting a decision from the FDA very shortly and another who just launched a new app. The fact that my to-do list can’t seem to have a beautiful pink line drawn through it is making me beyond anxious. That lack of lines make me feel like nothing has been accomplished though I know we are making progress.

New motivational computer background? Probably
New motivational computer background? Probably

I’ve been forcing myself to  break for exercise, but other things are slipping like my nutrition. No seriously, the other day I had a bag of edamame for lunch at 4pm and dinners are well past the normal eating time. Knowing my anxiety level is starting to hit supernova level I decided to take my rest day and turn it into a yoga day. I could only get in 40 minutes before my brain told me I couldn’t continue, that I needed to get other stuff done.

I hate that. I just want to be able to relax at night and sleep. God, I would love some uninterrupted sleep. The time change (though I love having more daylight at night) has really wrecked me.

So yeah, it is one of those weeks where I just want it to be over.

Target’s Everyday Collection Campaign

It’s been awhile since I talked shop here (shop being PR and all things social media), but I couldn’t resist posting about Target’s Tweet to Runway campaign.

If have watched TV in real time recently, you may have seen those crazy runway-inspired commercials for Target, which I don’t entirely understand. I think it aims to make everyday activities…making dinner, cleaning your baby’s diaper “sexy,” but I really don’t know.

Well the bulls-eye company took it a step further with its Tweet-to-Runway Show. Here’s the deal: Target encouraged fans to visit the “Everyday Show” page via Twitter and post messages concerning some product sold in the “Everyday” line. Target describes Everyday as “the most intensely sensible grocery and essentials collection of the season”, which could apply to pretty much anything. Someone chose the “best” tweets, which were then read aloud by models as they paraded down the runway carrying the products in question.

Some were hilarious. Others reminded me that some people share too much on Twitter.

While I love everything about the models reading real people’s tweets (“dot, dot, dot”), I don’t understand why they are poking fun at their own campaign. This whole campaign centers around glamorizing everyday activities, and having models reading tweets while holding a jar of pickles…seems to I dunno go in the mocking direction.

See some of “runway show” here.

Overcoming Anxiety

Some anxiety in the face of stress can be a good thing. It makes us work harder, prepare more thoroughly, and perform more intensely.  But people of different temperaments become anxious to varying degrees.

For me, the influx of emails, a growing to-do list, and the fear that I would let someone on my team down triggered anxiety attacks. I’m pretty sure my attacks were visible. I imagine I got this crazy-wide-eyed look. I know it was noticeable because it was actually a goal on my review form to “conquer my anxiety” for two years.

Let’s go high science for a second:

When a person is under chronic stress the structure of neurons can be altered. Neurons have bodies and branches used to communicate with other cells, and the more branches the neurons have, the better the communica­tion. Chronic stress causes a person to experience a loss of higher brain control over emotion. Stress reduces the number of branches in the prefrontal cortex, a regulatory part of the brain connected to memory and depression, which in turn causes den­drites, the branches that relay information between neurons, to shrink.

When we fret, especially when it becomes irrational or compul­sive, we fan the hot coal bed of anxiety until it bursts into flames. And so it follows that anxiety must be remedied over time as well, by learning to fret less.

I’ve learned to conquer my anxiety a few ways:

  • Yoga (or some other physical activity): Since working from home if I start to get worked up, I take a break. I walk, go for a run, complete a few flows. It helps me recenter myself.
  • Diagram: More than a to-do list, I think about how long each project will really take, and if one flows into another. I work out an actual process for completing the work.
  • Avoid reacting: We are surrounded by people who are just as anxious as we are. Instead of feeding it, and making it your own. Reassure and demonstrate that you have it handled.

It doesn’t always work and I still have my moments, but on my most recent review it was noted that I had conquered my anxiety. So, I’m feeling pretty good.

Tina Fey Improv Rules for Your Career

I just finished reading Tina Fey’s book Bossypants. While I picked it up as a good-humor, man she is so cool read I have to give her credit for tricking me into reading a self-help book for your career.

She's my new role model

From figuring out who to hire and how to act (or not) in an interview Fey offered a nice spin on how to make it in (show) business as a woman. One section in particular caught my attention and I am going to focus on it here…

Improv Rules And the Workplace

Rule #1–Agree

Always agree and SAY YES. In improv if you decide you are on a train, your partner doesn’t change it he or she goes with it. Respecting what your partner created helps innovation and ideas thrive.

Rule #2–Not Only Say Yes….Say Yes AND

You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own. Contributing to the conversation and ideas helps solidify you as a team member and it helps you learn.

Rule #3–Make Statements

Basically, don’t ask questions all the time. You put pressure on your scene partner to come up with all the answers. Statements are about confidence. You want to be part of solution.

Rule #4–There Are No Mistakes…Only Opportunities

Improv is essentially going with the flow. If you stop to explain what is really happening you lose the momentum. Not every project is going to go as planned. Learning to adapt makes you better in the long run on the job and helps support a better working environment.

Can you be a leader and a manager?

Tomorrow I am attending a session sponsored by PRSSA-NCC on moving from PR Manager to PR Leader. I thought it would be interesting to provide my pre-workshop thoughts….

Management vs. leadership–it’s a distinction we all hear over and over these days. They are not the same, but must go hand in hand for a group to succeed. The question is can you do both?

Management focuses on getting work done on time, on budget, and on target. Management is in other words execution, while leadership focuses on change and innovation.

A few years ago management actually included leadership–along with motivating, planning. communicating, organizing– as one  of the many functions necessary to make groups of people productive.

One could argue that in the agency world you go through stages of being both a manager and a leader.

You can akin a manager to a very strong Senior Account Executive who works with the team to stay on track and deliver on the plan outlined. They are often asked for input and in some cases have the opportunity to develop the plan themselves.

As you move into the Account Supervisor role, you are still executing but at this point have given much of the tracking to more junior level staff and are heading toward the designing stage, the innovation. With the innovation and strategic vision becoming more important as you continue to move up.

Of course, in agency world EVERYONE is responsible for delivering the goods and doing it on time and within the budget. At some point everyone is still the manager. It really comes down to HOW you manage that determines whether you are a leader.

“No” is the New “Yes”

More than ever we are prisoners of the urgent. We react to what’s right in front of us, whether it truly matters or not.

Prioritizing requires reflection, reflection requires time. And, well you just don’t have the luxury of that now do you? We are so busy trying to keep up that we don’t stop to think about much of anything.

Too often we default to “yes.”  Saying yes to requests feels safer, avoids conflict and takes less time than pausing to decide whether or not the request is truly important.

Many of us have become addicted, unwittingly, to the speed of our lives — the adrenalin high of constant busyness. We mistake activity for productivity, more for better, and we ask ourselves “What’s next?” far more often than we do “Why this?” But as Gandhi put it, “A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”

Here are a few tips, so that you can schedule time to figure out how to say no. 

1. Schedule in your calendar anything that feels important but not urgent. If it feels urgent, you’re likely going to get it done. If it’s something you can put off, you likely will — especially if it’s challenging.

2. As your final activity before leaving work set aside time (about 10-15 minutes) to outline your tasks for the next day.

3. When you get in the morning, do the most important thing on your list first. Focus completely on this for 90 minutes, turn your phone off, silence your email. The more focused you are, the more you will accomplish.

4. Take scheduled breaks throughout the day. Working from home I have had to institute this into my schedule even more. I actually started doing simple yoga routines during my breaks to renew myself.

Creative Mornings

Last week a Facebook friend posted the below video. It’s the full talk given by Ben Chestnut, CEO and co-founder of MailChimp.com, to a group at the Piedmont Park Conservancy in Atlanta. It’s a long video, but it was the slow weeks of December so I was able to watch the whole thing.

2011/12 Creative Mornings with Ben Chestnut from CreativeMornings/Atlanta on Vimeo.

Chestnut believes there is a great difference between “doing what you love” and “loving what you do.” His example: if you love to bake and you open a bakery eventually the business part of it is going to suck all the loving out of baking. (He said it more eloquently.)

“It’s not about doing what you love, but loving what you do. Love what you do, be really good at it, and success will find you.”

Instead of getting hung up on the “dream job,” sometimes you just have to look right in front of you and make the most of it. Create projects that drive you.

Ben sets up a work environment where this can happen. As a manager he has to embrace the chaos to get the best work out of his employees.

The culture of giving people “permission to be creative,” has been one of the keys to MailChimp’s success. In fact, the company often finds “Easter eggs” in its own website design because of this.  In the tech world, an Easter egg is a practical joke or a hidden bit of content that gets included in the finished product, and they are so named because users have to search for them.

Below is an excerpt from the Fast Company article, Chestnut’s 5 Rules for a Creative Culture

1. Avoid rules. Avoid order. Don’t just embrace chaos, but create a little bit of it. Constant change, from the top-down, keeps people nimble and flexible (and shows that you want constant change).

2. Give yourself and your team permission to be creative. Permission to try something new, permission to fail, permission to embarrass yourself, permission to have crazy ideas.

3. Hire weird people. Not just the tattoo’d and pierced-in-strange-places kind, but people from outside your industry who would approach problems in different ways than you and your normal competitors.

4. Meetings are a necessary evil, but you can avoid the conference room and meet people in the halls, the water cooler, or their desks. Make meetings less about delegation and task management and more about cross-pollination of ideas (especially the weird ideas). This is a lot harder than centralized, top-down meetings. But this is your job — deal with it.

5. Structure your company to be flexible. Creativity is often spontaneous, so the whole company needs to be able to pivot quickly and execute on them (see #1).

The Busy Season: Taking Control of Your To-Do List

Each December I am completely caught off guard by the mad dash to the finish line. I don’t know what it is about the Holidays that lull me into a false sense of calm. This year I am following the below outline to make it through without completely breaking down.

  • Write it all down. Put everything on one list. Determine which tasks are easy and which are more difficult.
  • Do some easy things. Spend 15 minutes doing the easy tasks. Focus on speed: make the quick phone calls, shoot off the brief emails. Cross as many tasks off the list as you can.
  • Turn to a bigger task. Turn off your phone, close all the open windows on your computer, and focus on one of the more challenging tasks. Do this for 35 minutes without distraction.
  • Take a break. After 35 minutes, take a 10-minute break. Then return to step two.

The closing of all the open windows is a challenge for me, as it is for any person completely tied to their email. Once I buckle down though to pump out those 2012 plans though I don’t think I will want ANYTHING else open.

 

Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now

I’m one of those people that works late. I typically start my day (even when I was working IN the office) no later than 8:20 a.m. and often don’t get finish up until after 7:30 p.m. First off, let me say I am NOT complaining, it is the nature of my job, which I love.  Also,  while it is the norm for me, I can take a break and go to the gym if I want to.

The interesting fact is I am not the only one. A recent study suggests that nearly two-thirds of U.S. companies report that their employees have worked more hours in the past three years. Your new new normal becomes these extended hours.

I have to admit though, since I moved in with the hubby, working late has become a little harder than it used to be.

So what can you do to avoid the stay-late work pattern or at least avoid its negative consequences?

  1. Reflect on your goals–both professional and personal. Figure out what is important to you. I want to have a family, but I also don’t want to start that until I am well established in my profession. So if that means putting in the extra hours now, so be it.
  2. Talk about it at home. When J and I first started living together he was still in school. It was a little different, now that we are both working, both striving to further our careers it makes a difference.
  3. Open up a dialogue at work. I am lucky enough to work for a company that appreciates work-life balance. They believe in divvying up the work to make sure not one person is stuck there every night