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Overeating? You may be burned out at work

It was another crazy busy week at work. I always feel like when I am in the physical office there is more to do, or maybe I just feel less in control about when to do it.  I had a lot of need to happen moments this week between client meetings and presentations, and a few commitments after work.

While I pushed myself to get up and work out in the mornings, my portion controlled diet slipped. I was constantly hungry, and couldn’t stop myself from devouring the delicious hamentashen one of my colleagues got me.

Then a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported a connection between work burnout and overeating and uncontrolled eating behaviors in women. This made me say “duh” because I know when stressed at work, I turn to sourpatch kids, goldfish and yogurt covered raisins as my saviors.

What did strike me were the comments on the study from outside experts. Dr. Melina Jampolis, physician and nutrition expert for CNNHealth.com noted that long-term stress can make it harder to make dietary and exercise changes. So while I was exercising because I knew it would make me feel better, I was eating massive cheesey veggie burgers and drinking down martinis because I like to soothe my stress with comfort food.

Dr. Jampolis also mentioned that short-term diet changes, like cutting out carbs, could also alter your brain chemistry making you feel even more down.  Pushing you to grab a handful of M&Ms when you don’t even like them! (I said that, not her)

The Mayo Clinic has a good description of job burnout and what to do to keep it at bay.  For me it is all about perspective. It has taken some time for me to learn the walk away skill, but I am getting better at it so that I can stop burnout in its tracks.






“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.

Finally Answering the Feedback Question

One of the hallmarks of a millenial is that we don’t take feedback very well.  We roll our eyes, stare blankly at the person or just flat out don’t listen. And when someone asks how we would prefer to get feedback there is no response. Literally we can’t articulate what they want.

Over generalization? Yes, but think about it feedback or constructive criticism is judgement no matter the word choice. It is a threat to the way others see our value. Trying to answer that question may be easier if we think less about what is being said and more about how it is said.

Many managers see their success as a reflection of yours. This is great when you do something outstanding, but the same is felt when shortcomings are exposed. Anytime feedback is provided with the goal of getting someone to better meet a manager’s needs rather than being responsive to theirs, the outcomes will be less than desired. Managers are more likely to be reactive, insensitive and even hurtful.

Failing to hold the other person’s value makes it feel like an attack. The immediate response is then to defend, and not to absorb what you are hearing.

It makes more sense to think about offering feedback in an exploratory way–a honest inquiry and opportunity for learning for both people–with a careful eye to not be condescending.

Watch for things we do, and then comment “I noticed you did X, Y and Z to solve that problem and they worked really well”    Or, “I realize you are worrying about  X situation ,and I was thinking that if you tried  A, maybe it would work.”  In other words, confirm who we are when commenting specifically on good things, and don’t put suggestions in terms of something that we should do to correct a problem, but take the suggestion onto yourself (“I was thinking about”  instead of “you should do this”).  So when something is said, and it is in a couple of sentences, not a half hour lecture, you are more likely to absorb and learn!

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


Managing Accounts as a Defensive Specialist

I’ve been a little MIA lately, between work exploding and wedding finalization I was just a wee-bit overwhelmed. During that time, I got a pep talk from a supervisor who I have to say has an uncanny ability to pick the right words and truly light a fire under you.  The pep talk got me thinking…

It’s a lot more noticeable now that I am remote when I get frustrated and down trodden my voice pretty much tells you.  I stick my head in the sand and just let it all wash over me. My supervisor hypothesized that this reaction was completely different from what I most likely used to do back when I was participating in team sports.

He was completely right. I didn’t hang my head in shame or defeat, I got back on the court and did what I needed to do to win.  What is it about mile-long to-do lists and ever changing client demands that sucks the fighting spirit out of me?

In truth my position on the volleyball court (I was a libero and defensive specialist) was not much different than my current position on my accounts. I was the person most likely to receive serves from the other team and the one responsible for setting up each play. Anticipating where the spike would land, and being there so the ball didn’t hit the floor. 

For me, hearing that analogy made something click. Yes, a lot of what happens on the accounts starts with me and my anticipation, but it isn’t all up to me. I make the initial pass and backup the rest of the team. The regroups and reviews aren’t opportunities to poke holes, they are finding weak spots so the ball doesn’t drop.

I actually hung up the phone not thinking someone was blowing smoke up my butt, but giving me the permission to push myself back up to where I need to be to win. It’s the first time in a while that I feel like I can actually look at and react to the situation differently.

Yoga Teachings that Apply to Work

I started taking yoga regularly about four years ago. Not only did I actually start sleeping better, but I started applying some of what I learned to my working life.

Every day is different and is its own day—One of the things that the yoga instructors like to say is that no two days on the mat are the same. Very true. One day I can get into a full pigeon, the next (especially after a long run) I can hardly get into it. It’s taught me to be less self-critical, more patient and to pay attention to what’s working.

Improvement comes incrementally, then suddenly—For me the crow is one of the most difficult poses. The first time I propped myself up I couldn’t believe it. Now I can hold myself up for three full breaths.  Sometimes progress is hard to observe even if it’s being made. If you give up too soon, you forgo the opportunity for sudden breakthroughs.

Breathing can focus you—We always start class with deep breaths and finish with deep breaths. It helps you focus and it’s great. When things get very stressful for me, I take a second to breathe in and breathe out.  It helps.

Any other yogis out there apply their yoga practice to work?


Gracefully Accepting Feedback

We’re all a little sensitive when it comes to receiving feedback, especially when it is not all positive. Some experience feedback as pure criticism, and don’t want to hear it. Others see it as emotionally crushing. Still others only want to hear praise.

For me, the problem isn’t that I don’t think I should get feedback or that everything I do is perfect, it is the way I receive it. My facial expressions and the tone of my voice can in some ways rub people the wrong way.

So as I continue to try to work on it, I started realizing that just because I tell someone how I like to receive feedback a certain way, that doesn’t mean the person giving the feedback doesn’t like to engage in a certain way too.

Where one person may want me to listen without comment and wait for them to be finished before asking questions another may want me to have a conversation throughout. Ask the questions there and then. Of course, this depends on what I am getting feedback on too.

Tips for getting or even receiving feedback? Leave em below.


The Path to Creativity

Most of our lives consist of habits. We walk/drive to walk along the same route. In meetings, we sit in the same seat and at restaurants, we order the same dish.  Generally, if you do something right and well the first time it is a good idea to do it that way again.

Unfortunately, that reliance on memory can also hinder your creativity. Psychologist Tom Ward calls the use of memory in problem solving the Path of Least Resistance. In his research, he finds that when he asks people to be creative, they are still strongly influenced by what they know.

So how do we spark creativity? Art Markman, a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin recommends the following:

  • Place constraints on the problem. This may sound a little wonky. We often think it is best to have as few constraints as possible to be creative, but the focus may allow you to maneuver through solution quicker.
  • Inject some randomness. Create a solution that incorporates an element that is selected at random. The randos keep you from using solutions you already know about.
  • Add distance. There is a fancy psychology theory that says the further you are from something, the more abstractly you think about it. Markman suggests thinking that you have to create a solution to your problem that will be used in another country.
  • Do it for someone else. Try to imagine solving the issue for someone else.
  • Experience new cultures. Adapting to and learning about new cultures helps new memories and ideas form. This helps people become better at seeing that  any problem can be approached in multiple ways.

There’s Irony in that Achievement

I have been struggling at work. I can’t explain what is wrong and I can’t figure out how to fix it.

In May’s Harvard Business Review Thomas J. DeLong, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Sara DeLong, his daughter and a psychiatrist in San Francisco, discuss how being a high achiever can eventually get in your way. They discuss plateauing and the reluctance to turn to anyone for help.

They list several “curses” of the high achiever. Now, let me tell you, these curses are like a calling card for the feedback I have received.

  • The fact that achievers can get so caught up in a task that they don’t communicate everything with colleagues. CHECK
  • Failure to distinguish between the urgent and the merely important. YEP, USED TO DO THAT
  • Caring intensely about how others view their work, but ignore the positive and obsess over criticism. I THINK THEY ARE TALKING DIRECTLY TO ME

And then there were two that I literally said “well that explains it.”

  • The passion for work creates intense highs that give way to crippling lows. For achievers, it’s a fine line between triumph and agony.
  • Being guilt-ridden, not matter how much they accomplish they still feel like they aren’t doing enough.

What the article didn’t tell me is how to fix it. They express the need to be vulnerable and ask for help, but at what point should you be doing it on your own? Or is that the whole point, you shouldn’t be.

The authors note: “Moving your A game to a new level or in a new direction takes humility, it takes practice, and it takes patience (not necessarily your strong suit).”

And again I ask myself, am I being impatient? Are the people around me impatient due to their high achiever brains?

At this point it isn’t about a promotion or more responsibility. It is about doing the job I am assigned to do with my A game intact.  I just wish I could figure out the easy answer and get back on track.


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?