Some books on creative work

The Accidental Creative is geared primarily to “creative workers”–that is, people who are paid not just to perform tasks for a certain number of hours, but who are paid by the value of what they create.  This perfectly describes my work, so I appreciated that the book spoke to particular issues of scheduling, managing energy, focus, and keeping creativity sharp when you’re working in a creative field.

In some sense, the book helped me by reinforcing some of the work habits I already have, and I wouldn’t say any one piece was really revolutionary or totally new to me.  However, the real value of the book, for me anyway, was in its suggestions for how to maximize creativity by tweaking normal time management advice to apply more specifically to creatives.  For example, normally time management advice assumes that to a certain extent all of your waking hours are on the table.  But with creative work, you have to factor in the fact that not every 15 minute increment is the same, and know yourself well enough to understand when you are doing your best work.  Another example is in stewarding your energy–you might be doing stuff for 15 hours a day, but you probably aren’t churning out top-notch creative work for each of those hours.  The author had good ideas for how to make sure that your best work actually happens.

Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day is another book by the same author, this one purporting to have wider applicability beyond creative fields.  I guess that’s true, although I’d argue that both books would have useful tidbits for just about anyone.

This one includes a lot of the same concepts as the previous volume, including advice on how to curate the flow of media you’re subjected to, ideas for how to have weekly and quarterly self-assessments of all of your work and life activities, and how to maximize your focus.  It does contain a bit more information about goal setting and how to leverage your focus, time, and energy to be sure you’re really being effective in the roles you identify as your priorities.

I found both of these books useful because I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient and effective in my work and more focused on my priorities rather than being fragmented.  The books are general enough to be broadly applicable, but if you don’t really do anything in a creative/idea-generating field you might not get as much out of them (but still would probably like the focus and prioritizing parts).

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

The Bookmarked Life

2Something new!  The Bookmarked Life is my take on catch-all posts–a record to help me remember this season of life.

Right now I’m:

…Considering

Did you see this Slate article about the girl who sent all of her texts in calligraphy for a week?  Something about that really appeals to me–maybe it’s the juxtaposition of fast and slow communication, or the fact that it would force me to think before I mindlessly use my phone.  I probably won’t text in calligraphy (although I could!  I love calligraphy!) but I’m thinking about mindful technology use.

…Furnishing my mind

As we’ve been reading more poetry and going over grammar in a different way this month, I’ve been reminded of how beautiful language can be–it has a structure, but there’s a wildness to it too.  Reading about the Oxford English Dictionary reinforced that feeling!

…Learning about

…Spanish curriculum options.  I decided to go with PowerGlide based on the Rainbow Resource review, and then after a 20 minute perusal of Homeschool Classifieds I found a like-new used set for $25, postage paid.  Since my kids love mysteries and stories, I think this option is going to be a win for us.

…Living the Good Life

The kids wanted to put on a colonial feast at the end of the semester, but we were getting ready for our big trip then so we put the idea off until this month.  Sarah made blancmange, Hannah made Scotch Collops, and Jack made Martha Washington’s Great Cake with meringue on top.  They did a great job, and it turns out that blancmange is really good.

…Teaching

We had a short Summer Term this month–nothing taxing, just reading from Sonlight, Ambleside, and other book lists.  We checked out all of the preschool and kindergarten type books to read aloud and Hannah and Jack read a lot of the older grade selections.  We also found some fun new favorites.  I’m happy that we got a chance to really focus on reading great children’s literature, read more poetry, and brought in math concepts in different ways this summer.  We also started a fantastic language arts enrichment curriculum that I’m super excited about.  More about that later.

…Creating

After living in our house for over a year, I’m finally doing something about the children’s rooms.  Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the baby is now over a year as well?  First up, the nursery.  I painted the walls (Baby Bee Yellow, same as the old house) and also painted some furniture and rearranged knick-knacks and pictures.  I think the new color makes the changing table/dresser with the Peter Rabbit knobs look much smarter.

…Memorizing

We’re working on 1 Corinthians 13 together, and I’m beginning to memorize Colossians on my own.  I recently read a fabulous book on the topic of using Scripture memory to deeply meditate and study the Bible–look for the review next week.

…Seeking balance

As I look ahead to the fall, I’m trying to think through the best way to handle my work/life balance in terms of windows for our best work.  I do my best focused creative work in the morning, and the kids focus on schoolwork better in the morning too.  I don’t want to wake up at 4am, but sometimes the kids are up before 6:00.  So as I work through plans for fall I’m considering the best times to schedule our babysitting (we have an amazing adult, Christian, educated babysitter who is available part time and who is fabulous with the kids and willing to supervise them doing schoolwork assignments–it is nothing short of a miracle, I know) in order to maximize everyone’s best windows.

…Building the habit

Exercise.  It’s addictive when I can get into a rhythym, but due to my aforementioned desire to sleep past 4am, it’s tough to schedule.  I’m trying to give myself points for showing up, even if some days I only make it through 15 minutes of Jillian Michaels before the baby starts eating crayons or someone starts a small fire in the toaster.

…Listening to

The baby now refers to herself as “Ah-za-za!” and it’s so stinking cute.  I could listen to that all day.  In the car, the kids and I are listening to the audio book of The Swiss Family Robinson (it’s very, very, very long).  And, since the new carseat I bought last week was a Graco TurboBooster, naturally I have had I Got a Man on the brain (“When your man don’t treat ya like he used ta, I kick in like a turbo boostah”).  Late 90’s hip-hop is always relevant, isn’t it?

What are you bookmarking this week?

 

Disclosure: A couple of links in this post (the ones to Amazon) are affiliate links.  Thanks for clicking through from A Spirited Mind!

A Whole New Mind

In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink looks at trends in history, technology, and business to suggest that to succeed in the future businesses and individuals will have to add right brain functions (like synthesis, big picture thinking, ability to craft story and meaning) to left brain tasks.

Since what I do for my job is basically to help companies solve problems, synthesize information, see big picture strategies, and create compelling narratives I naturally loved this book!  Hooray, I’m going to be successful in the future.  🙂  However, even if you don’t work as a consultant or creative, the book would be helpful to challenge your thinking and give you ideas for how to prepare yourself or your kids for the kind of jobs that won’t be easily outsourced or rendered obsolete in the future.

Pink spends the first half of the book making his case and the second half giving concrete examples for how to build the skills you’ll need to stay relevant and employable.  I thought the case-making was strong and compelling, but some of the ideas for building the skills Pink advocates were a little weak.  It might be a good start though, if you’re really deeply lacking in one or more of these areas.

A Whole New Mind is a well-written and interesting book, and would be relevant for people in all sorts of professional fields, as well as for parents.  I’d recommend it.

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Balanced

In her helpful book Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom, author and homeschool mom Tricia Goyer offers encouraging and practical tips for creating a life that leaves space for all of your callings.

Goyer is a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction, a homeschooler, and mother to six children, so you can probably imagine that her insights carry weight!  While the book is practical, you won’t find a bunch of schedules and rules.  Rather, Goyer’s tips focus on how to figure out what God has for you to do, how to tie your life’s themes to goals for your family and work, and how to keep first things first and avoid busyness even while living a full and productive life.

I appreciated Goyer’s decision to keep this book open and applicable by focusing on principles rather than too many techniques.  Each family situation is different, and if you’re a working mom (or a working, homeschooling mom) your schedule and priorities are probably even more unique.  I loved how Goyer returned again and again to the need to offer our lives, our gifts, and our schedules to God.  The ideas of cutting out things we only do for other people’s approval, prioritizing gifts and opportunities, and relying on God’s strength rather than our own make this book applicable to all moms, no matter what your work looks like–whether you self-identify as working or WAHM or SAHM or PTHSJOATMON M(What?  You haven’t heard of Part-Time, Home Schooling, Jack Of All Trades Master Of None Mom? I’m pretty sure it’s a thing.).

As someone who also balances writing for a living with mothering and homeschooling, I found Balanced inspiring and encouraging.  However, even if you do something entirely different for your job, don’t homeschool, or consider yourself a full-time mom who pursues dreams on the side, I think this book would be helpful.  Surely all mothers can relate to feeling pulled in many directions, and surely we can all use help in prioritizing.  I’d recommend Goyer’s book to mothers in all sorts of different situations.

If you’re interested in these topics, you might want to check out Tricia Goyer’s Balance Challenge based on the book.  

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  I received a complimentary review copy of this book in exchange for my review, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May Was Busy: Seven Quick Takes on the Understatement of the Year

eliza

1. Eliza was born on May 1.

Only two weeks late, but who was counting.  Since birth stories are not for everyone, I will sum up to say that I was induced by having my water broken, then nothing happened for three hours while I alternated between walking around and reading a book while being monitored.  I had a contraction at 11:45, continued walking and reading (Yes, I read a book while having a baby.  Surprised?), had the easiest active labor and transition ever, and then the worst most awful pushing stage ever.  But all’s well that end’s well and Eliza was born at 3:40 after only a little less than four hours of labor, and only the last half hour was terrible.  Plus no drugs and no stitches, so it’s a win.  Best of all, Eliza’s heart issues seem to have resolved once she started breathing air.  After spending months on bedrest and other restrictions, and thinking she would be a preemie for so long, it was nice to see her arrive totally healthy at nearly nine pounds!

2. Josh was born on May 4….35 years ago.

Since I had just come home from the hospital, all I gave him was Eliza.  I was so wiped I didn’t even remember to post on his Facebook wall.  I know.  It was so egregious I had to forfeit my Wife of the Year trophy and everything.  All the poor man wanted was pizza and a cheesecake. I will make it up to him some day.

3. We moved out of the Little House on What Used to be the Prairie.

For the record, packing up a house and moving two weeks after you have your fourth baby is not conducive to childbirth recovery.  Did you know it’s possible to have THREE cases of mastitis in the first month of nursing a baby?  Neither did I, but I think there might be a stress correlation in there somewhere.


4.  We moved to a Littler House Closer to the Prairie.

But only temporarily.  Our new house closing was in jeopardy due to the bank’s reluctance to issue us a mortgage on the strength of my contract income (when I pointed out that I made enough in contract earnings they said, helpfully, “OK, but what if you never work again?” Gee, thanks, because I wasn’t stressed out before.), so we moved to a cute little rental cottage for the interim.  It’s cozy and makes me feel like I’m playing house.  The kids think it’s like camping because their mattresses are on the floor and there are wet towels everywhere (only one small bathroom!).  Josh and I note that there is air conditioning, a washer and dryer, and a fully equipped kitchen.  Enjoy it, kiddos, this is just about as close to camping as Gillespies get!


5.  Josh got a job!  And his new office has a pretty sweet view (see above).

After almost five months of being without a job, Josh got a great offer and started work the last week in May.  I’m grateful that God provided enough work for me while Josh was looking for a job, and that the job Josh got is such a good fit for him.  And now that one of us has a regular paycheck, we can get a mortgage for the new house.  We’re thankful.


6. The kids enjoyed maternity leave from school, and then we started Summer Term.

I didn’t technically take maternity leave (no rest for the self-employed!) but I did have about a week and a half without any client work to turn in, I scheduled a month of blog posts in advance, and I took a few weeks off of homeschooling.  Since we do school year ’round we can take breaks when we need them, and boy did we ever need one in May!  After we got through moving, we started our summer term, which I will describe in more detail next week.  So far it’s going great.  I think it’s good for us to have some structure in the mornings and still have afternoons free for bike riding and summer play time.

7.  Jack turned SIX on May 30.

It’s such a cliche, but where does the time go?  Jack is a funny, sensitive, cuddly kid who likes to ride his bike like a wild man and builds extraordinary things out of Legos.  He is a great reader and surprises me by how well he gets math sometimes.  Although he loathes writing things down, he enjoys making really messy crafts involving copious amounts of tape and toilet paper rolls.  And yes, Jack still has awesome curly hair and rocks a bow tie like nobody’s business.  He assures me that he will always be my best bud and he plans to live with us until he’s an old man so he won’t have to be without me.  It’s simultaneously sweet and terrifying.  Which is kind of how Jack rolls.

So that’s my month in a nutshell.  If the nutshell were really, really big.  Like the kind of nutshell that would score it’s own special roadside museum somewhere between here and Colorado, but after you stopped and paid your $12, you’d find out it was really only a model of a huge nutshell, made of paper mache.

Anyway, how did May go for you?

Seven Quick Takes is hosted by Conversion Diary.  Check out the blog for more or to link up your own post.

What the Most Successful People Do At Work

In What the Most Successful People Do at Work, Laura Vanderkam writes a short but highly useful guide to maximizing your productivity, effectiveness, and happiness with your work.  Whether you work full time in an office, have a flexible career, or are a stay-at-home parent, I think you’ll find much more than $2.99 worth of helpful information in the book.

Unlike many e-books, which I tend to only recommend if they are free, I never have a problem recommending Vanderkam’s shorter pieces, because the writing is excellent and insightful and I get more out of her e-books than I do out of many full-length books on similar topics.  If you’re pressed for time and need some work-related time management help, you’ll definitely want to invest in this one.

What the Most Successful People Do at Work is geared not only towards traditional 9-5 jobs, but also to the broader concept of “life’s work” in the sense of work that challenges you and brings you joy.

This may coincide with your 9-5, or it might be the work you do in the margins of your main responsibilities.  Either way, Vanderkam writes, “the secret to astonishing productivity lies in a handful of daily disciplines.”

Based on her research, Vanderkam identifies seven disciplines that characterize people who are successful at their work:

  1. Successful people are mindful of how they spend their hours.  Being aware of how you spend your time helps you see where you’re over- or under-investing and figure out how long tasks truly take.
  2. Successful people plan the hours they have.  Once you have a handle on how much work time you have and how you currently spend it, you can identify more strategic ways to allocate that time, and plan those tasks into your schedule.
  3. Successful people prioritize to do lists.  Rather than a long list that tempts you to do the easy stuff and ignore the impact items, prioritizing and committing to completing important tasks sets you up for more success.
  4. Successful people know that what looks like work often isn’t, and what doesn’t look like work often is.  Checking email and “looking busy” for face time is not effective work, but sometimes visiting a museum or going for coffee with a contact is.
  5. Successful people practice their tasks.  Every form of work has core skills, and successful people practice and work at improving on a daily basis.
  6. Successful people invest in career capital.  Building up your network, improving your skills, and documenting your achievements will help you build the career you want.
  7. Successful people find joy in their work.  Joy does not come from workplace perks like free M&Ms (although I personally find fancy cheese platters absurdly motivational), but from making progress in important goals.
The e-book goes into far more detail on each of those points, including helpful applications from Vanderkam’s research and interviews that readers will find inspiring and illuminating.
If you’re interested in how to maximize your time, I also recommend Vanderkam’s full length book on the topic, 168 Hours.  But if you only have time for a short read, her e-books are definitely worth an investment. 

How do you maximize your work hours, or find time for “life’s work” amidst your other responsibilities?

Disclosure: The author sent me a complimentary review copy of this book, but the opinions in this post are my own.  This post contains affiliate links.

 

Connecting Your Work to God’s Work

In Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work author and pastor Tim Keller overturns the commonly held idea of dualism (that some things are more spiritual than others, and that there is a divide between religious parts of life and the rest of it) and instead presses on toward a biblical view of work.

No matter what type of work you do (and yes, not that you need me to tell you this, but parenting is work too), the way you go about it betrays a lot about your ideas of God and the idols of your heart. Every Good Endeavor unpacks the concept of work and how our faith should influence it, including issues like:

  • Worldview (what you believe is wrong with the world and what would make it better)
  • Identity (where you ultimately take your sense of worth and success)
  • Service (every job can be done for the good of others or for yourself)
  • Idolatry (things you look to for ultimate significance)

After digging into the broader themes of work and discussing a general theology of work, Keller also looks at specific types of work and how Christianity can change the way you pursue them.  I got a lot out of the arts section, which includes writing, and the specific applications of how having good theology can impact the way we write and create stories. (If you write and are interested in that topic, check out this excellent free podcast on writing from a Christian worldview)

As with other books I’ve read by Tim Keller, I found Every Good Endeavor thought-provoking and challenging and it helped me to think more deeply about the way my work connects to God’s.  I’d recommend it no matter what your vocation.

Do you see a connection between your work and God’s work?  Or do you tend to think that some work is “spiritual” and other jobs are just to pay the bills or get things done?

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Very Helpful Charlotte Mason Application

I think I may have read Charlotte Mason’s School Education: Developing a Curriculum a couple of years ago when my aunt gave me the complete set of Mason’s writings, but I recently re-read it and I have to say that I got much more out of it now that my oldest is seven.

Whereas before I think I read it with an eye toward how habits impact character and lay groundwork, now I have a better perspective on how habits can really help the routine of school and life to run more smoothly.

I say that because although I’ve continued to focus on habits as character training, I have failed to focus on them as a means to smooth our days and make school easier on us all.

After reading School Education afresh, I will be re-evaluating the way we do habits and routines for the next phase of school.

We’ve had a sort of loosey-goosey school arrangement this spring because of my pregnancy complications, and I anticipate giving us grace in that regard as we move to a new house and acclimate to the new baby for a bit, but I think this summer we will begin to apply a fresh approach.  Here are some highlights I gleaned from School Education that I’d like to apply:

We need to stick with a simple but firm routine.

Charlotte Mason points out that children are exhausted by lack of routine.  When every aspect of the day is up for discussion, it wears kids (and parents!) out.  The parent gets tired of the child constantly questioning and challenging every instruction and the child gets worn out by the continual low-grade conflict too.  There is a time and a place for flexibility, but if the vast majority of things could be routine rather than the subject of negotiation it could make life calmer and easier for all of us.

We need to allow for vast spaces of unstructured time in our routine.

As modern parents we tend to fill up every second of the day with activity, and it turns out that parents and governesses and teachers of 100 years ago had the same problem.  Charlotte Mason felt that feeling like we and our children have to be constantly doing something leads not to greater happiness or more usefulness, but rather to parents and children who are worried, restless, anxious, and fussy.  I certainly see this to be true in my own family.

Instead of constant hustle, Mason says we should lay off the hovering and let kids have plenty of time for free reading and playing and figuring things out on their own after their lessons.

“The moral is, not that all mothers should be careless and selfish, but that they should give their children the ease of a good deal of letting alone, and should not oppress the young people with their own anxious care.”

Mason further points out that we are too quick to fault children for “taking advantage” of busy days and being fretful and disobedient, when usually they are just catching the mood of their parents and teachers who get caught up in fussy nervous energy.  Again, I have seen this over and over again in my family–when I am overly busy and stressed and we have to get places on time, that is when the kids start dragging feet and losing shoes and getting into trouble.  Leaving lots of margin in our days could really serve to mitigate a lot of this fussiness.

In addition to giving the kids space, I need to give myself space.

As I’ve had to slow down this spring, while also continuing to homeschool and being the sole breadwinner for a couple of months, I’ve realized that the pace of trying to be all things to all people is not working out very well for our family.  I firmly believe that you can homeschool and work at the same time, but what that worked out to practically for me was working a little all the time, and never having set hours when I could work productively in a chunk, take client calls without child noise in the background, etc.  After things settle out with our new house, new baby, and after Josh gets a new job, I’m hoping to work out a regular arrangement with a mother’s helper, housecleaning help, etc, so that I can fill my core competencies (being wife and mom and teacher and also keeping my work hours in check and productive) and hopefully bring a more calm and less frazzled self to the game day to day.  As Charlotte Mason puts it,

“If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households…If she would only have courage to let everything go when life becomes too tense, and just take a day, or half a day, out in the fields, or with a favorite book, or in a picture gallery looking long and well at just two or three pictures, or in bed, without the children, life would go on far more happily for both children and parents.  The mother would be able to hold herself in “wise passiveness” and would not fret her children by continual interference, even of hand or eye—she would let them be.”

We need to apply habits to smooth routine in life and in schoolwork.

In many cases, this is a matter of me recasting how we work on habits.  I learned so much from this book about how habits of self-control, fortitude, attention, and controlling thoughts can make school work and daily life more pleasant for parents and children.  I found myself personally convicted on a number of points about ways that I don’t have a good habit that I’m trying to instill in my children.  If I want them to have the habit, presumably it would help for them to see me evidence it!  I also think that fresh applications of habits we’ve long worked on would be helpful, so the kids could see how the habit applies to their school work as well as to how they live their lives.

I’m still working that out, and have some plans to create some posters of habits and verses for the school room in our new house, but I haven’t fully fleshed them out yet.

I got quite a bit more out of the book–great thoughts about living books and school schedules and how to encourage children to have better reverence in worship and the like–but since this is already a long review, suffice it to say that I highly recommend School Education to parents, homeschooling or not.

How do you balance routine and space for free time in your family’s schedule?

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Lean In: Think About Your Daughters (And Your Sons)

If you follow the news at all, you’ve probably heard or read about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.  Depending on your situation, you may have decided not to read it, figuring it was just another women-of-privilege-who-whine manifesto, or a book for women who work full-time.

Actually having read Lean In, I would say that the book offers a calm, balanced, well researched consideration of how women fit into our society, and that it has HUGE implications for how we work, and more importantly, how we raise our daughters (and our sons).

Whether you’re married or single,  a parent or not, working full-time, part-time, or not at all, I think the issues and questions Sandberg raises are important and worth your consideration.

First, although women experience less institutional bias these days, social bias still works against girls and women who are smart, strong, ambitious, or leaders.

I can tell you from personal experience that the social barriers Sandberg describes (girls who lead are labeled bossy; even young girls know that being smart is good in some ways, but won’t make people like you; boys don’t like smart, successful girls, etc) are apt.  Whether your daughters choose to work or not, the message that the brain and personality God gave them is somehow wrong or something to be hidden rather than used is not acceptable.  It is not wrong for girls to be smart and ambitious, any more than it’s wrong for boys to be artistic or empathetic.  We have unique strengths and weaknesses.  As parents our job is to raise our children in the way they should go (the Hebrew word is something like “as they are bent”) not to try to fit them into some pre-conceived mold of how boys or girls should be.

Second, whether you approve or not, the majority of women work, and most of them work because they have to.

Sandberg cites the research: 41% of mothers are breadwinners.  An additional 23% are co-breadwinners, contributing at least a quarter of their family’s income.  I’d also add that in a volatile economy, women have to be ready to be the breadwinner if their husband loses a job, even if that isn’t their normal contribution or goal.  As Sandberg takes pains to mention several times, not all women want careers.  It’s fine if that’s not something your daughter chooses, but I think it’s naive to assume she will automatically have that choice.  It’s better to prepare our children to be flexible, so they can function no matter what sort of life circumstances they wind up with.  Moreover, even if my girls choose to be home with my grandchildren, I still don’t want them to internalize negative messages about who they are in the meantime.

Third, and for parents and educators, this is deeply important and sobering: the messages we give (and allow to be given) to our girls will have lasting impact on the sort of women, leaders, wives, and mothers they will become.

Having gone through it myself, I can tell you that it’s incredibly hurtful to be told that due to your personality type probably no one will ever want to marry you, or that you shouldn’t have kids because you’ll make a bad mom.  It also doesn’t help to be told that you can’t possibly balance work and family.  It took me a couple of decades to realize that while we all have strengths and weaknesses, who we are is not a mistake.  I wish more people would step up and say that while there are always trade-offs, and you might not be able to be a CEO and be a really involved parent, you can find a way to navigate some sort of fulfilling work with being a big part of your child’s life.  Likewise, I think boys need to be raised to know that their strength and success is not contingent on girls being less; that their intelligence is not threatened by a girl being smart; that their leadership is not negated by female input.

Sandberg’s premise is that due to these social factors, which they pick up from childhood, women often “leave before they leave” rather than doing their best in life and taking a step back from a career when they must.  Instead, she thinks women should “lean in,” however that plays out in their callings, and overcome internal barriers to success.

Although I think some of the barriers to women being Fortune 500 CEOs are personal (I’m an ENTJ and cum laude graduate of a top 3 Ivy like Sandberg, but I don’t want to work the hours she does or parent as she does, so I’m ok with not being an executive–there are different ways to define success), I think as a society we do need to continue working on the messages we send to children and young adults about who they are and what they are capable of doing.  Even as a entry-level worker in my 20s I experienced almost all of the bias and bad responses Sandberg talks about, and working and parenting were always presented to me in stark contrast, as though either you’re a good mom, or you work.  As Sandberg writes,  “Framing the issue as work-life balance—as if the two were diametrically opposed—practically ensures that work will lose out.  Who would ever choose work over life?”

Although I agreed with Sandberg’s statistics and anecdotal reports, I found I disagreed with her some of her conclusions.  Overall, however, I found the book helpful and thought-provoking.

I don’t know that the answer is for half of companies and governments to be run by women and half of homes to be run by men.  I don’t know that I would ever tell my kids that working 80 hours a week (for men or women) would leave enough time to be a really great parent.

But there is value to teaching our children that success and likeability can go hand-in-hand for boys AND girls.  That smart girls shouldn’t intimidate someone any more than smart boys do. That a woman who explains why she’s qualified, or who gets results and achieves great things at school or work, or who negotiates a better salary, can be still feminine and nice, just as a man who does those things can be masculine and nice.

Depending on your personality, this stuff may not be or have been a big deal for you.  But it might be for your children or for children you interact with or teach.  For that reason, I think the ideas and insights in Lean In are worth your time and consideration.

People have had some visceral responses to this book.  If you’ve read it, what did you think?  If you’ve decided not to read it, what led you to that decision?

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

 

Pushing the Up Button on Work/Life/School Balance

In her workout DVD Extreme Shed & Shred (which is awesome; you should try it), Jillian Michaels reminds viewers that “you can always, always push the up button.”

So true of life as well as weight lifting.

One thing about work/life/homeschooling balance is that it’s unpredictable.  You never know if a client’s change of schedule will result in two overlapping deadlines in the same week that your kindergartener decides to boycott subtraction.  You can’t predict when the babysitter’s car will break down or someone will start throwing up while you’re on a conference call.  After three and a half years you might forget how tired and sick you get while pregnant.  Sometimes life pushes the up button for you!

What do you do when the up button gets pushed on your work/life/school balance?  Here are a couple of things I’ve been trying to do as pregnancy sickness and exhaustion have left me feeling like a sloth with mono (who still has a job and needs to homeschool) for the past couple of months:

1. Focus on core competencies.

It’s too late to toss my kids in a school, so I’m on the hook for homeschooling, plus I really, really enjoy homeschooling and sometimes I think I do a fairly good job at it.  And I can’t subcontract my work or outsource being the wife and mom in our house (not that I would want to).  So I put my limited energy toward those things and try to let other stuff go.  Which leads me to point 2…

2. Outsource, let go, say no.

I have to teach Hannah multiplication, but I do not have to cook dinner from scratch every night or clean the bathrooms.  Fortunately because I have work coming in I can pay someone to clean, but if I couldn’t afford that, I would just ignore the mess until it got really bad, and by then my husband would probably have noticed and would pitch in (he’s actually super helpful around the house, especially when I’m not feeling well).  I’ve relaxed my standards for lots of things for now.  It’s only a season.  I’ve also just said no to a lot of opportunities–things that would have been fun, I’m sure, but that I just don’t have the energy for right now.  Sometimes you have to admit that you can’t do it all.  It’s better to save the energy for what you do best, than to be somewhere and be too wiped out to enjoy it.

3. Remember the blessings of a life well lived.

When I’m feeling terrible and it’s taking foooorrrrreeeevvveeerrrrr to get through the spelling lesson and a deadline is looming and my brain has turned to mush, I remind myself what a blessing my full life is.  This fall I’ve been struck so often by the things I take for granted.  I am never too alone.  I have amazing conversations with my family.  I get to do work I’m good at, but in a really flexible way.  The class I’m teaching this year is really rewarding.  I’ve had unexpected fun times with friends.  My husband thinks I’m pretty even when I’m pregnant.  My life is full, and it is good.  “Count your blessings” has pretty much lost its meaning from cliched overuse, but keeping perspective and a positive attitude really does do wonders when life is coming at you fast.

Do you ever feel like your up button is pushed?  What do you do to manage your balance when that happens?

 

Disclosure: The Jillian mention is an Amazon affiliate link. I don’t get paid to promote her workouts, I just really like them.