Finding Work-Life Balance

Photo Courtesy Fabio Bruna
Photo Courtesy Fabio Bruna

It’s a Sunday morning and I sitting in our home office. Earlier this morning I found an article on LinkedIn talking about the things you should do on Sunday to get ahead at work. The article made me think: why do we work so much and why would we work when we don’t need to?

I shared the article on Google+ and got some interesting feedback from people there. Some of them were remarking that work gives you purpose and you should do whatever it takes to be more productive so you can live a more meaningful life. Others recalled stories of workaholics that saved away for lavish retirements only to be stricken with cancer before they could enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Just like everything else, I think people need to seek balance with their work and life. Often times we talk about the “work life balance” but how many of us actually try to practice such a thing? We speak of it from a tangent as a way to justify an extra day off or with spite when talking about our mobile phones that alert us even during our times away from the office. How many of us actually work towards achieving a work-life balance though?

In my workplace I see people that leave consistently at 5 PM every day while others toil until the wee hours of the night, sometimes not leaving the office until midnight. Generally, these people share the same workload, so why does it take some so much longer than others?

Not everyone has the same proficiency with computers. Not everyone has stellar time management skills. Not everyone double or triple checks their work when they get done. We all have different ways of approaching our workload, regardless of how much work we have. Some of us are gifted with shortcuts while others have the take the long way to getting certain things done.

Because most of our work involves technology, those of us from the millennial generation have the upper hand. From a young age we were given a better understanding of the ins and outs of personal computing. A lot of us took computer programming before we even left high school which gave us the concepts of computing more efficiently. From just that grasp of a concept we can quickly create complicated spreadsheets, e-mail filters, rules and macros to help us streamline our workflow and spend less time doing redundant or menial tasks.

Older generations, or less technically-inclined co-workers don’t have those advantages and are usually left to take the “long way” to getting things done. Sure, we could share these tools, concepts and shortcuts, but without the core concepts that we were taught at such a young age, others won’t be able to formulate their own solutions to time-consuming tasks.

Instead of working harder, we should all focus on working smarter. Some of us have advantages that others don’t, but we should recognize those advantages and share what we can with others to improve their efficiency. The smarter we work, the more we can move forward.

For all of those things that take so much time, there is probably an easier way to do them. Perhaps if we all worked together we could find, implement and share solutions to make all of our work a little more easier. Then, with that extra time, we could do what we were put here to do: live.

Now that’s what I call work-life balance.



How to Find Direction

Freedom of choice by Krzysztof Poltorak used under Creative Commons 2.0
Freedom of choice by Krzysztof Poltorak used under Creative Commons 2.0

At some point or another in our lives, we lose direction.

Most of the time, though, we know where we want to go, but we don’t have any clue how to get there.

This morning while I was getting ready for work I listened to an interesting presentation given by Professor Renata Salecl which “explores the paralysing anxiety and dissatisfaction surrounding limitless choice.”

In the talk, Professor Salecl talks about how being faced with a choice can make us feel. A classic example that I related to was sitting at a restaurant and ordering a bottle of wine. Salcel tells the story of a colleague that becomes anxious each time he is faced with this task. If he chooses the most expensive bottle, his friends will think he is a show-off, if he chooses the cheapest, his friends may perceive him as a cheapskate. So, as a general rule, he always chooses something in the middle and insists on paying for it.

That got me thinking. Do we always force ourselves into choosing something in the middle? Whether its our jobs, the clothes we wear, the food we eat or the level of difficulty we chose in sports and games, are we always limiting ourselves to the middle?

Clearly, we cannot all be number one at the same thing. That’s just impossible. If everyone that worked for every company was the CEO, there wouldn’t be anyone in the company to manage. It sounds silly, doesn’t it?

The way that we can override our natural tendency to be something in the middle is to dare to be something more. To make our own choices that might be off the beaten path.

Right now, more than anything, I want to quit my job and start my own business. (I am completely flattered by those of you that continue to ask me why I have not already done that.) However, quitting my job and starting my own business exposes me to a lot of risk:

  • What if I don’t make enough money?
  • How will I get health insurance?
  • What if one of my clients sues me?
  • Where will I get the money to advertise?
  • What happens when I can’t handle all of the work on my own?

If you are thinking of going off on your own, you are probably asking yourself all of these questions. They are great questions, too. The problem is, where you work, you probably have a department of people that worries about your company’s revenue, a department of people that deals with providing your insurance, a legal team that handles litigation, a marketing team that keeps consumers informed of your products and a management system to ensure the work is being accomplished.

Going off on your own, you are going to handle all of those things on your own. So how do you get the big push you need to do it?

You need to make the choice.

Most people do not start their own business because of the risks involved. They already have a steady income, a decent HMO and a corporate 401(k) match (if they are lucky). To start on their own would mean abandoning all of these things already provided for them. Not only that, but it is a lot easier to maintain a middle management job while flying low on the radar.

Why would you leave all of that? Who in their right mind would want to sacrifice healthcare, free retirement money and the ability to wear a sport coat instead of a suit on Friday?

At some point we need to make the choice to step outside of our comfort zone. To try something new. To be adventurous.

If you are like me, you have already made the choice to start something of your own. However, if you’re smart, you haven’t ditched your day job yet.

This is where the direction comes in.

If my working conditions were completely unbearable and I couldn’t stand another day in the office without harming my personal relationships, I would have left. However, things are tolerable and manageable. They are where I need them to be in order to succeed in my next venture.

In order to find direction, you need to find the people that will help you get where you are going.

Whether they are your family, your friends or your special someone, you need to find the people that will help point you in the right direction but not be afraid to tell you when you are about to do something completely stupid.

Many times I have come home and told myself I was going to quit my job and start my own business. However, I am lucky to have the people in my life to show me that I can’t just give up without an exit plan. Some of these people are mentors whom I have met online, others are former co-workers and the most important one is my lovely girlfriend, Brittani.

Each day they influence me and help me develop my strategy for success. They point out what I am passionate about and what I should work harder on. They challenge me to think about things differently and to renew my perspective. Because of them, I am constantly growing, changing and evolving my plan for success.

It’s with these people that I find direction.

Surround yourself with people that have been successful, people that care about you, and people that admire you.

Know what you want to do. Make the decision to change. Do what it takes to get there and depend on the people that enrich your life to help you find the right path to get where you’re going.

Once you get there, don’t forget to look back and offer your hand and share with those that could benefit from your wisdom.


What Happens When You Lose Focus

Blurry Image by Steve Snodgrass shared under Creative Commons 3.0
Image by Steve Snodgrass shared under Creative Commons 3.0

It has happened to all of us.

At one point or another, we made a promise to improve ourselves and we failed. Whether it was at work, with losing weight or spending more time on our hobbies, we can’t seem to do everything we want to accomplish all of the time.

For me, I made a promise to write a blog post every day for 30 days. Sounds simple enough, right? I did too.

It turns out, it wasn’t. In fact, it was really hard. So hard–in fact–that I actually failed.

Failure is okay though. It’s not something to be afraid of. Each time we fail we teach ourselves what we need to improve and what we need to avoid in order to be successful.

You’re never going to be able to lose 20-lbs, write Thank You notes to everyone that did something nice, make your bed every morning and start a new Yoga class every Tuesday for a month. Somewhere, something is going to have to give.

As I tackle on new projects, new responsibilities and promises to myself, I am learning to realize that we as humans can’t do everything at once.

In order to be successful, we need to try one thing at a time.

You can watch all of the “motivational speeches” you want about how you should never sleep, you should never give up and you should spend every living and breathing second focusing on being successful. You can try to replicate what worked for someone else, but in the end, you will fail. We all need to learn to be okay with that.

By failing, we learn. By learning, we become smarter.

The smarter we are, the more realistic our goals become.

Remember: every time you lose focus, pay attention to what caused you to become distracted. Steer away from the distractions and allow yourself to find the best way to accomplish your goals.

Be realistic. You can’t eat the elephant all at once. Take small bites, and chew slowly.

Life is meant to be enjoyed. Sure, it’s challenging, but take advantage of its learning moments and use them to set you up for success.

Every time you lose focus, if you pay attention, you can put yourself a step closer to getting where you want to be.

And once you get there? Well, you’ll be grateful for taking the time to pay attention along the way.

Losing focus is okay. After all, you might learn something from it.

Would you press the e-mail panic button?

Last night I was having a long conversation with +Laura Dochtermann, a good friend of mine who happens to work in the publishing industry. We were talking about the evolution of text media and the slow but unavoidable death of print as we currently know it.

It is blatantly clear that the print medium is suffering. With the advent of the e-reader, iPad, Kindle and all of its various cousins, people are finding new ways to consume novels and periodicals. Along with that departure from paper is our departure from physical correspondence.

The drop in mail volume has become such a problem that the United States Postal Service is considering the end of Saturday delivery. It comes as no surprise though as more and more of us gravitate towards e-mail as our preferred the method of communication.

When e-mail was first conceived it was great. It allowed you to instantly connect with people thousands of miles away and transformed the way that we conduct research and business. Now you can share file attachments, appointments, copies of contracts and more.

As e-mail continued to evolve and it became more commonplace in the office, people started to rely less and less on other communication methods such as the telephone, courier service and fax machine. Now it seems as though an increasing majority of our communications at work are done over e-mail.

Of course we have message boards, instant messaging, social media and other ways of connecting online, but when it comes down to getting things done, e-mail is the communication vehicle of choice.

If we have come so far to adopt e-mail as our primary form of communication, why is it such a disaster? Talking to my friend last night, I learned that she had some 1,300 odd unread messages in her inbox. Undoubtedly, most of them were Spam, unsolicited messages and unactionable communications. However, in between those superfluous messages may have been a handful that needed thoughtful consideration.

How can we sort through all of the junk to find what is really important? How do we task ourselves with organizing an onslaught of communications when we aren’t sure what we should keep and what we should throw away?

I remember seeing a table once that showed how long you should hold on to certain documents, some for seven years, some for three and some for just as little as twelve months. It’s easy to discard things like junk mail, but why do we have to do that ourselves? Shouldn’t time-sensitive correspondence disappear once it is no longer relevant?

Each episode of Mission Impossible began with a self-destructing message, so why don’t advertisements and newsletters do the same once their newest version arrives?

Leaving your inbox untouched for a weekend or even just one day can present a huge problem when you return to sort out the mess.

Sure, you can try different apps and “features” which promise to unclutter your barrage of messages and bring the cream to the top, but how can you be sure you’re not missing something? What do you do with all of the junk on the bottom? Do you let it grow like a digital version of Hoarders: Buried Alive?

Clearly a problem of this magnitude requires immediate and drastic action. What can be done about these hundreds and thousands of messages that haunt you each time your visit your inbox? What can you do?

CAUTION: I assume absolutely NO liability for what happens if you consider the following approach. Please do not exercise this approach with your work e-mail unless you have backed up all necessary communications and are comfortable doing so.

Image Courtesy star5112 under Creative Commons 2.0

Okay, if you’re still with me, here’s what I suggest: put an end to it. No, don’t throw your computer out the window. Don’t quit your job and don’t unplug yourself from the digital world. Get rid of the mess in your inbox for good. Here’s how:

Let your family, friends, business associates and anyone else important know that you are getting ready to waive the white flag and declare enough is enough with the mountains of digital messages. After that, delete your messages. All of them. Each and every one. Get rid of the folders, get rid of the archives, get rid of it all. If it was important, you would have saved it or backed it up already. If you hadn’t, then you probably need to address a bigger issue.

Now that you have an empty inbox, as you start to get junk you don’t need, unsubscribe before you delete. Don’t say, “oh I ‘ll do it next time” or “that’s too hard.” Just unsubscribe. Recent laws have made it incredibly easy to unsubscribe to newsletters and other advertisements through e-mail.

As you unsubscribe and notice your incoming mail volume decline, continue to manage the messages as they come in. If it’s a note about a fun event you’d like to attend, quickly discuss with your family whether or not you would like to go, then take action on the message.

As you start to work through your messages on a daily basis and continue to eradicate all of the things you didn’t need, you will start to notice yourself living a more peaceful existence.

Now of course, you’re thinking, “delete ALL of my e-mail? You must be crazy?” Well, drastic times call for drastic measures my friend.

I promise you that by getting rid of all of these forgotten commitments, irrelevant conversations and companies pleas to get you to buy things you don’t need, you will find yourself in a much happier place.

The real question though is would you do it?

Less is More

Image Courtesy Kevin Dooley under Creative Commons 2.0

I’m not a professional blogger.

I’m not a professional web designer.

I’m not even in the Information Technology or digital industry.

I’m a story teller and a teacher.

I like to learn things and share them with my audience.

The last several websites I have created were all done through a WordPress theme. I loved the simplicity but unlimited configurations that the platform offered. However, as an occasional blogger and not a professional web developer, I’m starting to think that it might be easier just to leave the back end, delivery and syndication to the folks at Google.

I have trusted them to help me grow my social media audience, so maybe it is time to give them a chance with my blog.

They seem to be doing things well and impressing me with their technology. To date I own two Android devices, a Chromebook and a Google TV set top box. I handle all of my personal e-mail through Gmail and exercise my social media efforts almost exclusively through Google+.

With the ability to directly tag my friends and colleagues (like +Tim McDonald who inspired this post), I find that Blogger is a truly simple and efficient tool for my needs.

Because of the simplicity and the emphasis on what is really important (what I have to write) I think I am going to give Blogger a try and see if I can’t get my readership higher here than on my WordPress blog.

What do you think? Have you switching blogging platforms before?

Affiliate Purchases: A Nice Way to Say Thanks This Year

Over the last year, I have spent a lot of valuable time and effort evangelizing a new social media network. I have consulted with some great minds, held discussions with very influential people and have heard some amazing stories from the people I have met. During this time I have done my best to share what I have learned to allow you to benefit from my knowledge.

Because the work I do online is not related to my vocation, it is strictly a labor of love. I am not paid for my time on Google+, my evangelism of the network or the tutorials I share. Apart from a small bit of AdSense revenue that I receive from my YouTube videos, this is strictly a volunteer effort.

Without having to solicit you for donations or putting a “tip jar” up on my website, I thought I would ask you to do something even simpler. If you shop during the holidays for your friends and families and sometimes find yourself using a website called Amazon, your purchases can help pay for my web hosting, domain registration and bandwidth necessary to run this site.

If you would like to say thanks, you don’t have to pay me in cash, simply make your purchases through my affiliate link ( The small affiliate revenue generated will go a long way in ensuring that I can afford to keep this website up and running. If you would like to go further, please feel free to visit my Amazon Wish List this Christmas and send me something swell. Some of the items will help me create better video content, and utilize my mobile and tablet devices more efficiently.

Whatever you do this holiday season, be sure to thank the people that have shared knowledge, help and guidance in all of the things the interest you. Thank you all for being a receptive, interactive and well-engaged audience. I appreciate all of your participation and attention. If you have reached out to me in the past via Google+ notifications and I haven’t responded, please don’t be offended. The best way to get in touch with me is always through e-mail: I would love to hear from you.

Happy Holidays,


How Do You Balance Your Life With Work?

Lifehacker posted an article this morning called “How to Convince Your Boss to Let You Try a Four Day Work Week.” Is that enough time to get all of your work done, maintain all of your client relationships and move forward with all of those projects on the back burner? Continue reading How Do You Balance Your Life With Work?

How to Create Consistency Across Your Brand

So, here you are. You’ve arrived. You’re on Google+ and probably at least a half dozen or so other social networks. So what’s next?

If you’re here for a particular reason, maybe you’re a content creator, a brand ambassador or a marketer looking to gain exposure to your content, or you’re just here building your personal brand, it’s important to keep things consistent.

Think about the air pressure in your tires, if you have one under-inflated, two over-inflated and one at the right pressure, your car probably isn’t going to get the best gas mileage or keep you going in the right direction without a little help from you. Marketing yourself online is actually very similar. Continue reading How to Create Consistency Across Your Brand

What is Keeping You from Doing What You Love?

Last night I was inspired by none other than Carms Perez to create a very short an interrogative post on my social media fronts. The post was this, “The only thing keeping me from doing what I love is ________________.” There were lots of responses, but one of the recurring themes—sadly—was money.

When I posted this question, I didn’t really think there was a “correct” answer. I was wrong. Continue reading What is Keeping You from Doing What You Love?

The Evolution of Screen Technology

If you look at most of the sci-fi movies from the 70’s and 80’s, they featured CRT’s still as the technology of the future. With the advent of Plasma and LCD (now OLED), we are starting to see that screens no longer need the “deep” real estate they did before. But how fast are they evolving?

If you were to count how many color LCD screens (or plasma/oled for that matter) in your house, how many would you have? Right now, just in the room I’m sitting in, I have six. So how many can we expect to have in the future? Will all of our refrigerators come with embedded tablets in the door? Will our windows show us the weather and our calendars? Will we check our e-mail in the mirror while we brush our teeth? Continue reading The Evolution of Screen Technology