Where’s the reset button?

October 11th, 2007

I blamed it on the business trips for a few weeks, the listless lack of focus and intense, non-stop feeling that a rush of deadlines, to-dos and priorities were weighing in too much. I thought surely I’d get over it after I’d had time to unpack, relax, and unwind. I’d find time to make those calls, to post those posts, to reply to those e-mails, to organize my closets, to start on those projects. Right?

So last weekend, all of two weeks of endless yawning sessions and incredible fatigue after the two-week travel spurt, I let myself sleep. Or more like, myself let me sleep. I went to bed at 8 p.m. Friday night. Lame right? Honestly, I haven’t been to sleep that early since I was probably 6, or maybe, possibly, after I got home from a month-long stay in Berlin.

I just fell asleep without warning or plan about an hour after I got home from a delicious, luxurious sushi dinner date with my boyfriend. We were watching some TV we’d missed that week, and all of a sudden, all I knew was it was 9 p.m. and his caring face was looking down, telling me to brush my teeth and that he was going home so he didn’t wake me up.

Then it was 10 a.m. Saturday morning, and I awoke, refreshed, ready to go. I had tons to do, felt totally rested, and had no good excuse not to do anything. So of course, I just sat around, catching up on TV, tidying my room a little. Not vacuuming or folding laundry or anything.

Then I went over to his house to watch the big game with the boyfriend and his roommates. Which meant both of us read Y the Last Man trades and back issues for three hours while everyone else watched the game. (Yep, I love comics. Bet you didn’t expect that one. Also, I despise televised football. Too little game, too much advertising. Lucky for me, the boyfriend’s not a sports on TV nut either.) Anyway, it did not mean working on my thesis research even though I took my laptop. I decided that doing nothing on my to do list for just one day would be a good way to reset, to just have a day where I didn’t have any big expectations for myself. So, I relaxed, ate really delicious, unhealthy sausage queso (the boy frat house that could kill you variety), just lived a little.

It was nice.

So of course, I expected Monday to roll around and for me to just feel ready to go, for the to-dos at work and on the personal list to start flying off my list. I had hit the reset button, after all, right? Instead, Monday morning hit me with panic. I hadn’t done ANYTHING this weekend, and I was going to pay for it. I nearly had a panic attack in the shower, thinking about one specific detail I hadn’t followed up on for an event I’m planning. Then of course, Monday and Tuesday were full of meetings. I probably sat at my desk an hour and a half each day. So those hours were useless, spent trying to figure out where to spend the little time I had. It was getting even worse. More out of control than before. Time was against me, no matter how hard I tried.

Then this morning, the electricity went out in my bathroom. And I had the brilliant idea I needed to reset the electric outlet, like that would do something, like when your dryer doesn’t come on the first time. So, I pushed it. Of course, the electricity didn’t come back on, because my dryer wasn’t the problem. The lights flickered a few times in the house, so I finally figured out it wasn’t just my bathroom, and that there must be some sort of brownout in the area. So of course, hitting a little reset button on the wall was a lame way to try to try to fix it.

So I started thinking, maybe that’s why my Saturday didn’t exactly reset me the way I needed it too, even though I really needed it to. Could it be it was really a lame attempt to fix a much bigger issue? I’m considering it. Because while I’m glad I was able to take some time to chill, I also really need to take some time to remind myself exactly what I think about time management, getting things done, and multitasking. Because when I’m working, I need to be able to work. That way I can really relax when I try, and maybe, somehow, find some balance in the process instead of feeling like both work and life are overwhelming me all the time.

But I have to tell you, I really, really wish sometimes there was just a reset button that I could push to start that day over, to recharge my energies and priorities, force me into focus. You know what I mean?

Work. Life. Balance. These words tend to get tossed together a lot. Hanging out as though they go so merrily together, no one should give any thought to how difficult a concept this is not just to grasp, but to actualize. It’s a buzzphrase in conversations ranging from employee retention to job satisfaction to recruiting to gripe sessions with friends to exit interviews! Sure, we “value” this concept; most everyone strives after it. But what does it really mean? What does it look like? I’m coming to the conclusion that Gen Y may not really know.

However, from conversations I’ve been in the past week or so, young professionals everywhere are in the midst of dealing with this very definitive issue in very real ways. The thing is, when real life (and work) start getting out of balance, Gen Y isn’t sure how to cope. From friends blogging about trying to find time for a personal life amidst a constant workload to friends talking about spending 60 hours in the office while their spouse waits at home, I seem to be noticing a somewhat disturbing trend.

It seems Gen Y entering the workforce may be turning to workaholic tendencies to cope and get ahead. I’m not sure why this is happening, given we have been labeled one of the most balance-oriented generations yet. Perhaps it’s our drive or our intense desire to prove ourselves. Perhaps it’s an impatience to realize the promise of career advancement and opportunities we were told throughout college were coming to us that has us slaving away at the office and after work. Could be the fact that another large percentage of our generation seems to have a knack for slacking off, making it the perfect time for more aspiring professionals to showcase their dedication and talent.

Is it just me, or is this a real concern? Maybe it’s truly a different way of thinking about life and Gen Y believes that there’s a seamless process in which work and life are really extensions of one another. Whether or not we are truly predisposed with such a mindset, there’s a harsh reality check in store for Millennials, regardless of how much we say we value balance: If you can’t ever turn your mind out of work mode, if you can never put down the blackberry, if you’re logging more hours in the office than anywhere else but at home tucked into your comfy bed, it is safe to say that you’re starting to resemble a workaholic.

So, what’s a generation to do when our lives are on the line? How can we find balance in a system that doesn’t define it for us? Can we face the challenge of prioritizing for life, when push comes to shove? I’m all ears.

Be A Conversation Starter

September 30th, 2007

The conversation is an important tool in building relationships. Relationships are an important factor in your success, however you define it.

That’s why you need to be a conversation starter. But, keep in mind, this simple statement can be taken two ways:

  1. Be worth talking about when you’re not around.
  2. Start conversations when you are.

And each of these are important if you want to enhance your career. Both in in-person interactions and online.

To start conversations you really just need a few things:

  1. Something to say.
  2. Confidence.

To be worth talking about, you essentially need the same things, just in a little different packaging.

  1. Great ideas.
  2. A personality worth talking about.

The beauty of being a conversation starter in person is that brilliant conversationalists are also the type of people that others will bring up in conversation later on. People love talking about great storytellers, people with charisma, intellectuals, people with unique ideas, those who are outgoing or friendly.

And when people talk with you and about you, great things can happen. Especially if you have something spectacular to say. Doors may open, opportunities arise, your network grow. And who knows where you may end up.

So go ahead, start talking.

A Generation of Paradox

September 19th, 2007

It seems like there are a lot of contradictions in what Gen Y wants - out of life, jobs, careers, family. The things that matter.

We want guidance but to do things our own way. We want to be safe but take risks. We want to be loyal to employers but true to ourselves. We want to have dreams but stability. We want to do it all but have free time.

Maybe this makes us a confusing lot. Some call us wishy-washy. Maybe it makes us the same as every generation who’s come before us. Some say we’re just young and we’ll change our tune soon enough, as life levels us out (or knocks us down, according to the most cynical.)

Regardless of whether it’s a new thing or not, we’re a paradoxical bunch. This reminds me of myself growing up. I was a tomboy who played in mud and caught snakes, but wanted prissy clothes with ruffles and bells. I loved shoes of all sorts but would rather go barefoot than wear them.

So, the paradox thing isn’t new to me. I’ve always characterized myself this way.

Now, I look at my life and the lives of my peers and see that the phenomenon of paradox is alive and well in all of us, in our dreams, our goals, our values. The question is, do we have impossible dreams, are our hopes too high, or is the world really about to change in ways that we are dreaming of?

And the other question is, will the world simply change around us, or does the evolution depend on our voice, that of a generation ready for change, not just for us, but for everyone?

The Magic of World Class Service

September 13th, 2007

“It’s all in the details” is such a true statement, especially when it comes to events.

And one of the most important details, when it comes to customer service, the deal maker or breaker, is a great attitude. And let me just say, the staff at the hotel for the event I’m helping run this week have really turned on the magic of great customer service. So, I thought now would be a great time to share are a few ideas on how to really wow your customers or clients ala our fabulous experience so far:

1) VIP treatment. Not only are the other three event staff members and I privy to free Starbuck’s at a moment’s notice this week, we’ve been pinned – literally, with gold lapel pins – the mark of the really important people this week. Even though our event is only for about 150 people. But it’s great – for us and for the hotel staff – because it keeps us from complaining even though we are schlepping boxes up and down elevators and throughout a hotel all day and will be running around like chickens with our heads cut off tomorrow. The little things count. Give your clients and customers VIP treatment, and you’ll create customers for life and set yourself apart from the competition.

2) Time. I can’t even begin to tell you how much the gift of time means on a day like today. Rooms that were promised to us by 6 a.m. tomorrow were ready at noon today. A whole 18 hours before contracted, before we’re even paying for them. That means basically everything I needed to do tomorrow is essentially done today. Now instead of a 5:30 wake up call, I can actually sleep tonight. Which goes right back around to them, because I won’t have any excuse for being cranky at them tomorrow. The one thing everyone wants more of is time. Make your products, services, call systems, websites, paperwork - everything - more time-friendly, and your clients and customers will sing your praises.

3) The extra mile. My AV guys stayed long past their regular hours to help me fix a bug (that we had created, no less) on a presenter’s PowerPoint, for one. When I accidentally spilled my first free venti latte all over myself first thing this morning, I barely had to blink and the mess had been cleaned up around me. And a new latte arrived shortly thereafter. An unexpected free lunch was catered to our storage room while we unpacked boxes. The extra mile not just once, but repeatedly and not just from one person, is the sign of a world class organizational culture. One that won’t be quickly forgotten, by me, anyway.

It may sound simple, but in a self-serve, super-center world, excellent customer service is hard to come by. And it makes a difference, not just for clients and customers, but for employees and companies, too. Everyone here seems to like each other. Things seem to work smoothly. It’s like our little four person event staff is just a new member of their team, working to get this event done. It’s not them helping us. It’s all of us working together to pull this off. And that’s really a magical thing to experience.