Making Work Better.

Photo Credit: QuoteFancy
Photo Credit: QuoteFancy


The single biggest theme I get asked about, [at any organized panel, one-on-one coaching conversation, formal Q&A or random mentoring interaction] is work life balance. This isn’t really surprising, we are working more hours and feeling more squeezed in our lives, so searching for life hacks, or empathy makes sense.

While I don’t really like the work life balance framing, I do have a make work betterstrategy that helps keep me in balance. At some point, I’ll organize my journey here into a TED-worthy story, but, for today, I will focus on sharing the strategy I use to manage my energy. This is key to my belief that I am not balancing work and life, instead, I’m balancing energy to help me thrive.

My strategy is really simple — I use the scientific method — try something, analyze, adjust, repeat. The trick is that every one of the conditions in my experiment is evolving, so the value is less in the solution and more in the a practice. A bit like life.

What does that look like?

Important to note, that theses lists will be different for each of us, there is no one size fits all here. The more you learn about yourself, the better results you will get. Here is my framework:

First, I inventory things that add energyThese include things like sleep, massage, yoga, meditation, learning something new, applying a new learning to a current problem, deep connection with people, helping others thrive and reading for pleasure.

Then I look at things that give energy when I complete them (but maybe not while I’m doing them). These include things like checking items off a to-do list, de-cluttering (email inbox, desk, calendar, etc.), exercise, finishing a big project.

Then I look at things that drain me of energy. These include negative people, uncertainty, minor physical discomfort (vitamin deficiencies, migraines, vertigo, etc. ), low blood sugar, extroversion overload, small talk, telephones, teenager drama, avoidable chaos, etc.

Lastly I look at my personal daily energy cycle. What times of day am I at my best and when am I more sluggish. Is that hard wired or environmental?

Now that I have my variables, I start to think about my rhythm within a day and a week. I look to tune the order of the kinds of tasks I need to get done, against the types of energy I have at a given time of day. I look to optimize both daily and weekly since I often can’t win this game every day, but over a week I have reasonable odds.

An example of what this looks like for me

  • Prioritize getting to sleep early as often as I can, to make sure I have enough fuel to get shit done the next day. I reinforce this habit with the reward of reading for pleasure at the end of the night.
  • Get up early to enjoy quiet, chaos free house and do low-effort tasks that build energy on completion (e.g., clear out my inbox, declutter my desk and drink all the coffee).
  • After I’m organized [and awake], do the bigger items — either exercise to build for a longer day, or some important work meetings and tasks [ideally both].
  • Be thoughtful about my propensity for low blood sugar. Have a reliable strategy for breakfast, lunch and mid-day snack and, if available, schedule a walking meeting in the afternoon to re-charge and connect with someone I care about.
  • Think about who and how many meetings I have back to back. Build in recovery time if I have too much required extraversion or negativity. I am at my best if I have a “work quietly” break after 3 meetings. If I can’t, I need a recovery plan. This might involve staying late to get some work done when the office quiets down.

I use my calendar to manage execution, being mindful of what personal commitments are hardest for me to keep, and making sure I build that into my weekly default template (e.g., I struggle to keep exercise commitments, so I add a few kickers — first, I put an extra prep 1/2 hour before, to remind myself to wrap stuff up and get my clothes changed. Then, I schedule a class that has a hard start time, so my responsibility gene kicks in and gets me there).

As I mentioned above, these are not universal, they are my truths [today]. Having teenage girls has increased my needs for quiet recovery options (reading, yoga, massage, etc), pre-kids that was not as important. Life and professional transitions increase my need for exercise and mindfulness to keep me open, positive and creative. Things like seasons (number of hours of daylight) and crunch times (e.g., school holidays, theater tech week, kids finals, end of quarter, and key work deadlines) add additional variables to work into my plan.

Most importantly, I check in frequently to this framework, especially when I notice my energy and positivity waning, this helps me maximize for flow and avoid burnout. I feel more in control, and more at peace with my choices, since, embedded in this framework is making purposeful choices about what not to do at all.

What about you? What are your life hacks for making work better?


Cross Post: LinkedIn

Gratitude and Abundance

What we believe to be true can shape our actions and our actions then shape our opportunities.

Too often I see people fighting for a single opportunity or a single prize, assuming that they must beat another out to get that one slot.  I would like to lobby for a different success view.  I would like to remind myself and my friends that the most rewarding success is shared.

When we can support other’s achievements, when we can make ourselves part of another’s success it creates more opportunity.  Personal and professional opportunity are abundantly available we need not treat them with a mindset of scarcity.

It took me a long time to get to this point of view, but I strongly believe that if you push someone else down to seize an opportunity for yourself, there will only be one, but if you find a way to share opportunities, more come your way.

In this week of stress for me personally, I want to remind myself to count my many blessings, and to remember what is important to me — that the work that I do and the effort that I expend helps to enrich and uplift those around me.  I want to be the kind of person that brings benefit to others, and who remembers that I am blessed with abundance both personally and professionally.  I also want to express deep gratitude for everyone who has shared their success with me.  I want to remind myself that to win at the expense of others is a hollow victory, and to share success with others is a blessing.

Great Strategists Rock my World

I’ve been thinking on this topic off and on for some time trying to figure out how to write such a post and not seem like a complete butt kisser*. I have since realized that I’m cool with kissing butt when it’s called for, so I took that constraint off and wrote the post anyway.

As luck would have it, I’m in a very fortunate situation having an awesome strategist to work with. I seem to be very lucky in this regard in that this is not the first time this has happened. I consider a strong, smart strategist the most important thing to be successful in a development role. Why? Well quite simply, you can never build every cool idea you have. Being able to find the right set of priorities separates the men from the boys (as it were). 

The single most important thing [for me], in a strategist is when they “call it.” When they see around the corner where I cannot and help convince me which way to go. The bigger the idea, the more foresight, the better. Being able to get to market with something that is innovative is a huge rush for us nerds. 

I have mentioned before that I’m not really an innovator myself, I’m a problem solver. Being pointed in the direction of the right problems is critical when this is your weakness. 

The question is, how do you find such a person? That’s tricky since you have to be able to trust someone who knows things you don’t. Looking into their past track record is useful but finding someone you respect is paramount. 

So here’s to all the great strategists out there — you really do rock my world. For the combination of a great development team and an insightful strategist is really unstoppable.


*My attempt to use non-offensive language has taken me to unchartered territory, as those of you who know me will attest. That said, I’ve recently learned that my 3-year-old can spell the word b-u-t-t (thanks to her sister) so it has re-entered my vocabulary this week, if only to say “we don’t need to talk like that.”


This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.