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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.

I Don’t Find The Time to Exercise, I Make It

This week has been rough with work and something had to give….and it wasn’t going to be exercising because if I have learned anything about myself, it is that I need to exercise especially in times of high stress.

So since I put blog writing on the back burner this week; here are some inspiring “you can do it” fitness quotes. These have been my mantra all week.20 min one hour


invincible impt meetings

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.

“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.

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.


You Don’t Have to Wear Pants!

I am at the moment a mixture of nerves and excitement. My fiancé recently received a job offer in D.C. A really good one, for a good firm that is going to give him a lot of great learning opportunities.

That pretty much means I have to go with him. (happily, I swear I am going happily) Being anxious to get out into the workforce he wants to start in mid-June, which means we are moving soon. We are also getting married soon. So, I was in sort of a conundrum. New city, new life, new job? That is a lot of new.

Luckily, I work for a very generous company that has figured out a way to work beyond geographical boundaries. So instead of having an entirely new job I just get a new working lifestyle.

I will be joining the ranks of telecommuters.  A few of those comrades have already bestowed some wisdom:

  1. Have a separate room for your office, with a door (says my dad and uncle) to shut work out at the end of the day
  2. Get dressed, no PJs although slippers are acceptable (says an SVP)
  3. Set boundaries and don’t let friends/family interrupt you during working hours

What are some of the other tips you have for me as I begin my new journey as a telecommuter?Anything in particular that will make the transition easier?


What does a productive day in PR look like?

PR is like having multiple personalities. Being able to flit easily from the mind-numbing task of building a media list, to securing a media interview, to answering a client e-mail and more is invaluable in this industry.

Given the fast-paced nature of our profession, it is hard to imagine that ANYONE can get out of work before 6:00 p.m. EVER. A debate that recently occurred over e-mail between a few agency friends—if you get out in time for a 6:00 p.m. happy hour are you really working or just highly productive?

I am still trying to figure out how I can land in the highly productive column. Here are a few things I am doing to succeed.

  • I have never been a morning person. So learning this trait has been a hard one: Get. Into. The office. Early. Get through the emails that dropped in your inbox overnight and file them away. A clear inbox can lead to a clear head. I swear.
  • I don’t live by this at all, but apparently, if you set aside designated times to check your e-mail it will save you time.
  • Same goes for your news sources. I have Tweetdeck set up and mark Tweets that I want to come back to.
  • Meetings, meetings and more meetings. They eat up a lot of my time. They cut my day and limit the amount of cruising time I get to power through my work. If you are always on time others will eventually learn to be on time too, thus saving you time.
  • I learned this one from my immediate supervisor (that is appearance No. 3). Microsoft Outlook’s calendar can actually serve as reminders too. One major time-saver I’ve found through its use is to set sporadic reminders to myself for items that are dangling in “follow-up limbo.” For example: the interview you got six weeks ago has it posted yet? Save yourself the hassle of sifting through your vast email for the last correspondence and set a calendar invite to pop up in a few weeks with the details of where the task at hand stands.

I am by no means succeeding at all of these, but I am trying. It helps you not only become more productive, but also effective and you are more likely to make that happy hour. Triple whammy.


Learning to Delegate

Many new managers and supervisors find it a strange new experience. Instead of just being responsible for your work, now you are responsible for the work done by others.

There is a strong tendency to have little faith in other’s abilities and sometimes even less in your own ability to manage others and get things done. For some, the easiest thing to do is retreat back to the familiar and do everything ourselves. While this may work or appear to work in the short run, in the long term it is a sure path to disaster.

Being able to successfully delegate work and ensure that it is done with a minimum of fuss is crucial for any management role. Managers and supervisors are not measured based on their individual contributions but on the contributions of their team. So, even if you put in the longest hours, if your team is going nowhere you are in trouble!

So how do you learn to delegate successfully?

  • Take enough time in the initial conversation to ensure yourself and your team member that he or she can do the task
  • Agree on deadlines and details from the outset
  • Have regular meetings for progress reports, questions and support (TRY NOT TO HOVER)
  • Share information (this goes for both of you)

There are probably only another handful of management skills more critical to your personal and professional success than learning to delegate. There is much more to delegating than meets the eye. It does not mean to simply hand out assignments. It is a science and an exercise in understanding one’s self.

Leave your tips in the comments.

Getting Out of Work on Time

Something I seem to struggle with is the ability to clock out at 5:30. No matter how hard I try more often than not 5:30 comes and goes just like 6:30 and sometimes even 9:30.

I know I am not alone when I say public relations is not a 9-5 job. However, overtime has actually been linked to a 60% higher risk of heart problems. So maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing to figure out how to get out with enough time to exercise.

Here are a few things I am going to start/already am doing with some serious effort:

  1. Doing my most important task first. One of the things I love about PR is that your day can change in the blink of an eye. But from now on, the night before I am going to decide the most important project for the next day. This will save time spent mulling over my to-do list and may boost my productivity for the rest of the day because I will feel accomplished.
  2. Prepare for meetings. A co-worker (you know who you are if you actually read the post instead of just the headline) sets reminders on her calendar to prepare for meetings. Even though I create agendas and read materials beforehand its time that I start thinking about what I am going to say and contribute so I am not wasting my client or team’s time.
  3. Avoiding Chatty Kathy. I like the people I work with, a lot. We tell fun stories and have inside jokes because when you are with people for 40+ hours a week, you have to find something to do other than work. But, I have learned that a lot of my day goes to those laugh breaks we take. In an effort to be more productive I now set times where my co-worker (same person here) and I “go dark.” Both of us get more work done quicker and its really working out great.
  4. Stay organized. Somewhere between high school and three years of working I lost my organization skills. My desk and filing system make me nauseous.  I need to start keeping “hot” folders—the things I reference most on my desk. Also I should try to have one spiral notebook per client…it’s amazing how easy it is to refer back to notes when you know exactly where it is.
  5. Figuring out where my time is going. (Right now, it’s looking for apartments UGH NYC apartment hunting is so stressful) In a perfect world doctor’s offices would open at 7:00 and close at midnight. Sometimes you just have to make those personal calls to the Credit Card Company and what not. I found that if I do it all at once, instead of sporadically I am not distracting myself over and over again. For example, my doctor’s office opens at 9:00 I use the time from 9:00-9:30 to do what I need to do and then I am done. It worked out really nicely the other day.
  6. Planning to leave early. Don’t laugh. Really stop it. Here’s the thing, when you have a deadline, you’re less likely to waste time. I am not saying I should be leaving at 4:30. But setting a goal to leave 30 minutes sooner than I do now, could potentially give me something to strive to.