Final Thoughts on Leadership

Final Thoughts on Leadership

Over the last several weeks I’ve taken a look at a few topics about leadership that are near and dear to my heart and I hope that you’ve been able to find some good takeaways to apply to your life.  Whether you’re a leader, manager, parent, whatever, I feel like there’s something in there for everyone.

When it comes down to it, in order to be a great leader, you have to be great at relationships.  Now, of course, there’s a long list of attributes that makes for a great leader, but if you have no idea how to connect with people, regardless if you’re an introvert or extrovert, then you will have no followers.  And what’s the basic definition of a leader?  Someone who has followers of course!

I want to leave you with a final thought on leadership.  This is not going to be easy for many of you.  Especially for those of you like me who just really want to help others.  As a leader, if you are trying to develop leadership in adults, you have to get used to not helping.  Chances are, you work with an amazing group of people who are incredibly talented.  So, get out of their way and let them do their jobs.  This is a challenge for me because my brain is really good at figuring out systems and processes and so it’s hard to not dive in and tell everyone how to do something.  Who knows?  Maybe their way is better than mine, but I’d never know it because I’m in the way.  Your role as a leader is to be there if needed.  This is also hard when your team gets stuck.  If you are trying to build leadership skills in your team, then you have to stop yourself from jumping in and fixing problems.  Now, if you are working with teenagers or young adults, you have a bit more leeway because chances are, those folks just don’t have the experience yet and need some guidance.

This is partly why when I was teaching in the traditional classroom that I loved and also hated rubrics.  Rubrics can be the death of creativity.  Yes, there were those students who wanted to know exactly what was required (admittedly, I was one of them) and when I wouldn’t give that to them, they struggled really hard to get projects done and had 10,000 questions.  It truly breaks my heart to see creativity stolen away from students through the use of rubrics because it’s cuts corners on critical thinking.  I believe this is why so many Gen Z struggle in their first jobs.  School beat the creativity out of them and instead they were told exactly how to perform every task if they wanted that A so when they get out into the real world, they don’t know how to do work on their own.  Another reason that we should do away with grades, but that’s a topic for another day.

The point is, as a leader, sometimes you have to step back and let the chips fall as they may.  If you’re always doing to the work for your team, how will they ever learn to do it for themselves?  You have to be ok letting them “fail” so that they can pick up the pieces and start again.  It’s how ingenuity happens.  It’s also how team synergy happens.  You can’t always force the creative process as much as you might like to.  Finally, stop waiting for or expecting perfection.  It doesn’t exist.  If you are the type of leader who requires perfection out of your team, you’ll soon find you’ll be a team of one.

Let’s wrap this series up!  Here are the key takeaways:

  • Great leaders have integrity, are honest, and humble
  • Get to know yourself and your team
    • How do you work?
    • How do they work?
    • What motivates them?
    • What motivates you?
  • If you’re stuck in a toxic work relationship or environment, it’s time to move on – life is too short for you to be unhappy.
  • Looking to find a mentor or how to become one? Go back and listen to my interviews with Sheri Hart
  • Get used to not helping – even when you really really want to
  • And finally, when life’s challenges get tough remember that some things are just “over the L”

How to Become a Mentor with Sheri Hart

How to Become a Mentor with Sheri Hart

On the podcast last week, I interviewed my good friend Sheri Hart for round two of the topic of mentorship.  Sheri is an Associate Connections Director in Performance Content at VMLY&R. VMLY&R is a global brand experience agency made up of nearly 7,000 employees worldwide, with one of its principal offices located in Kansas City.

Sheri has been a leader of people for more than 10 years, and her passion is making sure that there is grace that allows for humanity in the workplace.  Here are the takeaways from that interview:

What made you want to start mentoring?

Like many people, I was introduced to the idea in the workplace. While I wasn’t always in a “people leader” type role when I first started out, I found that there were a lot of situations where I found myself listening to what others were dealing with and wanting to help. A lot of times people can find their own solutions just by discussing their problem out loud, and I enjoyed spending time listening and looking for questions to help guide them along the way. But you have to make yourself approachable or people won’t even think about starting a conversation in the first place.

Later in my career as I was promoted into roles where I had Direct Reports, it became my job to manage them, but I found that by not just doing the requisite reviews that the company requires, I really get joy from the opportunity to build relationships and extend the topics we were covering to broaden the process beyond Managing to Leading.

If someone is looking to be a Mentor, what steps should they take to make that happen?

Honestly, some things you can’t MAKE it happen. But for the most part, it is about building relationships and being a good role model or example in the workplace or whatever field that you want to be known in. People will tend to migrate your way if they see you modeling empathy, doing good work, and being good on your word. Trust is a huge factor. If people see you as trustworthy, they are so much more likely to feel comfortable opening up and discussing what can be some personal topics. Feedback can be difficult for many, trust is key.

If you’re moving this direction because you have direct reports, set up a formal structure. I typically meet with people for an hour each month, formally, and then whenever they ask if I have a minute we can find some time to talk if something more immediate comes up.

Things to consider:

This is THEIR career or situation….they should be the owners of the time. Think of it like they are driving the car, you are the GPS. Help guide them through the conversation, providing “are you supposed to turn here?” or “you might want to make a U-Turn here”…along the way.

That sounds great, but how do you do that?

As for them being the drivers, let them know that they are responsible for bringing the agenda to each meeting. It can be a certain situation they want to discuss or general questions that they have, so nothing major…but they can’t just sit down and expect you to make it all happen for them.

As for guiding….I find it is all about asking the right questions. I try to never ask a question that can be answered with “yes” “no” or “fine”. It’s the difference between saying “How are you?”, which can easily be answered with “fine” and the conversation stops, and saying “What is going well?” and letting them search their thoughts to provide any small wins they might have had.

So, clearly, questions and seeking more information are a key piece of the puzzle…what other things do you look to have in your toolbox?

There are a ton of different assessments and activities you can explore to either help you understand your mentee better as well as help them understand themselves.

Not the least of which is the Enneagram test which you have explored on your podcast and in your blog.

There is the old standard Myers-Briggs. There are free versions out there and a lot of content available on how to read and understand the various types. I’m an ENJF….but the N and J are flexible…the E and F are NOT. J These things are helpful to know if you were going to be mentoring me.

I use a short list I created with the different types of things that motivate people to explore what drives them. Do they love public praise or does that mortify them?  Are they driven by how much money they make or what benefits are provided? (PS…that’s not a bad thing and it’s OK if that’s your answer.) It just makes a difference in the types of goals you set and the type of workplace you may be looking for.

I have a list of, I think 16 different motivators….we go through them together and rank them. It doesn’t mean that the 16th thing on the list doesn’t matter, it just means less than the one they ranked as #1. Those things help me know what they can be doing to find those things in their career, as well as what I should focus on when given them positive reinforcement or guidance.

For example, I’m a “celebrate every victory, no matter how small” kind of person, but someone else might think tiny wins are nothing, they just want the big GOAL. Neither of us is right or wrong, but it’s helpful information to have as I work to provide leadership for them.

There are also exercises about writing your own personal mantra or finding your core values. Again, some people respond to these exercise with enthusiasm, and some would rather poke themselves in the eye with a fork than go through them, so you can’t just blow in with all of them and overwhelm with your “toolkit”, but it’s helpful to have a lot of them so that you find the right mix for each individual.

It’s a lot to think about, what would be your final thoughts on Being a Mentor?

I guess one additional thought would be that while you are a mentor and a guide, unless you are trained to do so, you are not a mental health expert. If someone is dealing with something serious and needs help, your role is not to try to fix that, but to help them find the resources to do so.

Mostly, that it’s not about YOU. It’s about THEM.

But, that if you find yourself with an opportunity to be a mentor, you will find that it is highly rewarding for you as well and that sometimes you’ll have a session where you learn way more than they do.

To hear the entire episode, go to www.adultingwithcj.com/podcast/021.

How to Find a Mentor with Sheri Hart

How to Find a Mentor with Sheri Hart

On the podcast last week, I interviewed my good friend Sheri Hart.  Sheri is an Associate Connections Director in Performance Content at VMLY&R. VMLY&R is a global brand experience agency made up of nearly 7,000 employees worldwide, with one of its principal offices located in Kansas City.

Sheri has been a leader of people for more than 10 years, and her passion is making sure that there is grace that allows for humanity in the workplace.  She joined me on the show to talk about mentorship.  Here are the takeaways from that interview:

What is a mentor?

A mentor is a person who can serve as a guide through whatever situation you are working through in your education or career.  It may be someone who has experience looking for a job, writing a resume, or creating a portfolio; if you’re a student, you’re looking to take the next step.  Or, someone who can help you with goals or skills you are looking to develop like giving or receiving feedback, giving presentations, or navigating difficult coworkers or leaders.

Why should you have a mentor?

Most of us have encountered a situation at work where we are in unfamiliar territory.  There is always someone who has been there, done that.  Whether it was determining they needed a career change or how to get their foot in the door within a specific company or industry, they’ve experienced it.

Where do I find these people?

There are a lot of places to find a mentor, and many times it will happen organically.  You may find yourself speaking with someone in the workplace where you appreciate their knowledge and input and are comfortable asking them questions and spending additional time discussing your goals, problems, strengths, and weaknesses.  In fact, I’ve found this to be my favorite way for relationships to start.  Who do you admire?  Who do you know or see who is already in that place where you are trying to be?  Look for groups – business groups locally or online where people in your career field or the career field you’re looking to get into.  Check out your Alma Mater – many colleges have programs to mentor their students and former students.  Just remember that, like any relationship, you may want to meet with more than one person before deciding they are “the one.”  Many people are successful or experts at their craft, but not all are open to sharing their secrets or being good listeners.

To hear the entire episode, go to www.adultingwithcj.com/podcast/020.

A Story About Customer Service

A Story About Customer Service

Today I want to talk with you about what makes for good customer service.  My husband and I just got back from a beach vacation and while it was wonderful, we met several folks on our travels that could be best be described as what not to do when it comes to customer service.  Let’s start with Mr. Seafood Market Man.

Rather than visit an International beach, we decided to stay in the U.S. and flew down to Dauphin Island which is an island in the Gulf on the Alabama side.  I learned of Dauphin Island from my mom, who also accompanied us on the trip.  She told us that there is really nothing there in terms of nightlife or things to do, it’s just you and the beach which sounded like heaven to us.  Knowing there would be few restaurants open in the off-season, we decided that we would take advantage of the local seafood market and cook most, if not all, of our meals.  I was super stoked to check out this market because Chad and I love seafood.  So first day there, away we went.

We get to the place and the guy behind the counter was pretty surly.  He didn’t seem too interested in helping us make decisions and at one point we’re pretty sure he lied to us about one of the types of shrimp we bought.  After two types of shrimp, coleslaw, shrimp and crab bisque, and of course, hushpuppies we figured we had enough food to feed the block.  As you can imagine, this excursion wasn’t cheap.  Didn’t matter that we just dropped nearly $100, the guy barely even thanked us for coming in.  On the way back to the condo, my mom told us that the last time she was there that the people were overly friendly, willing to answer any question you had, and encouraged you to try different ways of cooking their seafood.  Maybe the guy’s wife just left him.  Maybe he was hungover.  Maybe he was worried about fixing his roof that got blown off during the hurricane a week ago.  While we’re all human, if you choose to run a business that serves the public, even a smile goes a long way.  And your customers don’t leave calling you a douchebag once they are in their car.

Example two.  Again, not much on the island, we needed just a few things and so we stopped into a little food mart.  Evidently, they were having a bad day as well because as we were walking in the lady behind the counter was yelling at people that they didn’t have egg rolls, chicken tenders, or anything else that needed deep frying because their food truck delivery hadn’t made it in that morning.  Ok, we really just needed some bottled water and a bottle of wine, but thanks.  And again, when we paid, we barely got a thank you because the lady at the register was too busy yelling at the girl in the back.  At this point, we were like, what the heck is going on here?  And we still had one more errand to run but after the first two places, we kinda’ thought we should just head back to the condo and go lie on the beach for the rest of the day.  But, we’d heard great things about this little bakery so we decided to check it out anyway.

And oh my goodness we were not disappointed!  The ladies working there were by far the nicest people.  They were clearly happy to see us and were excited to talk about all the baked goods in their cases.  This was the polar opposite of the two places we’d just visited.  This is the kind of customer service you expect when you hear people talk about southern hospitality.  In the three examples, which of the places do you think we were recommending to complete strangers?  It certainly wasn’t Mr. Seafood Man or Miss No Fried Food Today Lady.

I’m sure you’ve all witnessed similar behavior when traveling or even when you’re not traveling.  You know businesses in beachy locations make all their money on tourism, so why would they want to drive customers away?  And frankly, this is true of any service business that makes its money serving the public.

If you are one of the lucky people who get to work with the public on a regular basis, I’m going to share with you a few ways about how you can provide the best service possible and keep your people coming back for more.

I’ve read tons of books about customer service and one of the best out there is called Lunchmeat and Life Lessons by Mary B. Lucas.  This book is near and dear to my heart because the family is from Kansas City and the author takes you through what it was like working for her father in the family business.  In fact, more than 70 years later, Bichelmeyer Meats is still in business and family-owned and operated.  While I’m not going to cover the whole book with you, I want to highlight the key takeaways.  First, Lucas suggests you want to make a lasting impression.  How do you do this?  By always remembering to put the ‘comeback sauce’ on every person you come in contact with.  Her dad told her that if someone comes in asking for a pound of lunchmeat, you give them a few more slices and smile and tell them you gave them a little bit more – whatever it takes to connect with people.  The point is to make sure your customers leave with the feeling of wanting to come back again soon.

The second part of the comeback sauce is that honesty is the best policy.  In the example of Mr. Seafood Market Man, he tried to tell us that no one gets this one particular type of shrimp fresh.  But, my mom knew he was lying based on a previous conversation she’d had with the owner the last time she was there.  Ugh!  I hate liars and I’d say most everyone else does too.  Now, there is a difference between being direct and being an asshole.  Let’s say you have to deliver bad news to someone like something they want is out of stock.  Rather than telling your customer that you don’t have the thing in your store and walking away, the better option would go something like this, “we are currently out of the item you’re looking for but so-and-so a couple of blocks over may have it, would you like me to call them and find out for you?”  See how easy that is?  It’s a polite way of saying no and also shows that you care about your people getting what they need.

Number two, admit your mistakes.  If you’ve screwed something up for one of your customers, own it.  It does you no good to play the blame game.  I’m a firm believer that there is very little, in the form of mistakes, that can’t be fixed.  Even something as simple as an apology will go a long way with people.  I know our first reaction tends to be, “it can’t have been me,” but that too is not helpful.  Even if it wasn’t you who made the error, take responsibility anyway.  Customers don’t care whose fault it is, they just want to be taken care of and they want to know you care.  So apologize, fix it, and move on.

While this next bit isn’t entirely about customer service, I feel it warrants mentioning because it’s just good advice for life and it’s “meet the challenge.”  This story is straight out of the book.  In July of 1951, the meat market had been doing very well and business was booming.  Then everything was turned upside down when a big flood wiped out the business.  For those of you who don’t know the history, the great flood of 1951 flooded more than one million acres in Kansas and 926,000 acres in Missouri and exceeded $935 million in damage which is equivalent to $9.21 billion in 2019.  This is how Lucas’s dad tells the story:

“‘Even with all the reports and the evacuation plans, my dad continued, ‘I really didn’t believe there would be a flood until it actually happened. It was the middle of the night and when your mother ran into the bedroom and woke me up screaming John, John wake up! It’s over the “L”.

It’s over the “L”?  What in the world does that mean?

‘The flood he replied. You know up the hill from the meat market where the Milgrams is grocery store is that’s the big vertical sign that reads M-I-L-G-R-A-M-S from top to bottom. She was screaming it’s over the L because the water was over the L in Milgrams.’

‘Wow,’ I replied if the flooded covered Milgrams that had certainly covered dad’s meat market.

‘I got out of bed and I went into the living room when I looked at the television pictures of the rising floodwaters and saw the M I and no G-R-A-M-S, I felt sick. I don’t need to tell you what was happening to the meat market. When the store up the hill was underwater. I thought a minute about what I might do. And then I told your mother to turn off the television set and come back to bed. She looked at me like I was crazy. But John the water is over the L she kept saying. Exactly. I told her the water’s over the L, there’s nothing I can do about it. Now come back to bed and let’s enjoy the fact that we can sleep late for a change.’

He smiled and seemed to get carried away in a memory for a moment, a memory that could have and probably should have been a bad one. And yet I could tell he did not look at it that way. ‘Over the L,’ I repeated.  ‘Your entire work world is underwater and a all you can think about as you got to sleep in for once in your life?

‘No,’ he replied. ‘That’s what I chose to think about at that moment. There’s a big difference. Sometimes you have to resign yourself to the fact that some things are just over the L.

He went on to explain that there were actually a lot of really good things that came out of the 51 flood. ‘I can tell you that as devastating as it was at the moment he said we would not be where we are today financially had it not been for that disaster. Because of the flood, I was offered a chance to borrow money at a 3% interest rate. I had no intention of doing that as I had saved enough over the years to rebuild the market myself. But a very wise friend told me to borrow all I could and to invest in real estate. Well, I did and I made some very wise decisions as to properties to buy that started a whole new income stream for our family that I never would have realized if it wasn’t For the flood, that’s why I firmly believe in the saying good luck. Bad luck. Who knows?

‘I got it, Dad,’ I said, and I meant it.”

What I hope you take away from all of this today is to figure out how you plan to put the comeback sauce on your daily interactions with people, that honesty matters, and regardless of the situation, you must always own your mistakes. And finally, when life gets you down, find ways to meet the challenge and understand that some things are just “over the L.”

 

 

 

 

Is Your Boss Like a Sex-Crazed Cardinal?

Is Your Boss Like a Sex-Crazed Cardinal?

Today I want to tell you a story.  Before the high heat of summer set in, I had my brother install new tint on our windows to keep the heat out.  We have 9 huge windows on the south side of our house that heat everything up in the afternoons.  The type of tint he used is highly reflective on the outside, which is great for reflecting light, however, it created 9 individual mirrors on the outside of our house.  Now, you’re probably wondering what the big deal is, so here’s the deal.  The Northern Cardinal mating season runs from May to July and the females are extremely territorial.  For several weeks, we had a female cardinal repeatedly slamming herself into her own reflection because she saw it as a threat to the pretty male birds in the yard that she was interested in hooking up with.

My husband and I both figured she’d eventually catch on and give it up but not until the mating season was over, did the incessant pecking stop.  And I say pecking like it was this cute little tap, tap, tap on the window.  It was really more like she was body slamming herself into the glass.  This got me thinking, how often do we feel the sense of someone encroaching upon our territory and get our feathers all ruffled up, as it were?  Or, how often do we make the same mistakes over and over again never learning the lesson?  We tried several different ways to get this bird to move on but no matter what we did, that thing just wouldn’t, or couldn’t figure it out.  Also, you clearly don’t want to mess with female Northern Cardinals when they are trying to get some.

Too often humans behave just like the cardinals; we see our reflection aka fear and we let it stop us from moving forward to get what we really want or need.  The same can be said about toxic relationships.  Some of us stay in relationships we know are unhealthy but like that cardinal, we keep bashing our faces against the window hoping for a change that will never come, and what we don’t realize is that the relationship we desire is waiting for us in the next tree over.

Lately, I’ve been discussing my thoughts on leadership and by now you know I strongly believe that in order to be a good leader, you have to be good at relationships.  Part of building strong relationships involves letting others in.  A lot of managers struggle with this because they fear if they give an inch, then their people will take a mile.  Or, they let their egos get in the way and they can’t relish the idea of giving over control to their team.  I think it boils down to self-esteem issues.  Rather than working together with folks as a united front, they’d rather call all the shots for two reasons.  First, they worry about being viewed as weak by their superiors.  Second, they get comfortable or complacent and change equates to more work.  How often have you been involved with a group of people who have “this is the way we’ve always done it” tattooed on their foreheads?  It’s called the comfort zone for a reason, it’s comfortable there.  It’s like a big, fuzzy, warm blanket where new ideas come to die.

But, what if as a manager or leader, you were to let your team in?  Let them be part of the decision-making process.  Ask them what is working or not working.  If you are doing reviews on their work, have them reciprocate on your work.  This is no easy task because, for most of us, it’s hard to hear that our people are unhappy.  And, for a lot of people, it is really hard to accept the fact that they need to change or evolve.  My comeback to the people who say “this is how we’ve always done it” is “well, that doesn’t make it right.”  If you are a manager of people or a leader in your group, I encourage you to get to really know your people and bring them into the fold.  Be transparent.  Be honest.

This brings me to the final thought I want to address.  Sometimes, relationships are flat out toxic whether in your professional life or your personal life.  If the reason you’re not keen on sharing the load with your teammates is that there’s what I like to call “a snake in the grass” amongst you, then it is time to consider moving on and ending that relationship.  You know the type, they take credit for all the ideas, they say one thing and do another, and you flat out can’t trust them to ever do the right thing.  In this case, in my opinion, you have two options.  Either you find ways to cover your ass such as keeping a file that documents your interactions, or you call it a day and get the heck out of there.  Trust me, it is not worth it to waste your energy on those hellbent on bringing you down.  There are other lovely places to work and better opportunities to share your knowledge with people who are truly invested in you and helping you grow as a person.  Don’t be like that cardinal slamming its body into the window hoping to scare off the competition.  Rather, look around.  See what’s out there.  You might be pleasantly surprised at the new opportunity that’s waiting for you to reach out and grab it.

If you’ve ever been in this situation, I’d love to hear about it and what you did to overcome it.  You can either leave a comment below or you can email me at cj@adultingwithcj.com.

Enneagram Types 5-9

Enneagram Types 5-9

This week we are carrying on with the second half of the Enneagram types.  Last week we covered types 1-4 so you’ll want to make sure and go back to the last blog post to get the info on those.  As I said last week, there are all sorts of personality tests in the world but one of my personal favorites is the Enneagram.  The cool part about the Enneagram is that it teaches you all about your personality as well as how other people think and feel.  In my opinion, the Enneagram is one of the most comprehensive personality inventories out there. If you’ve never heard of the Enneagram, here’s how it breaks down.

The Enneagram itself is a geometric figure that maps out the nine fundamental personality types of human nature and their complex interrelationships.  It is a symbol that is made up of a circle with a triangle and a hexad in the middle that connects to nine outer points.  The nine points are what represent the nine personality types – type 1 is The Reformer, type 2 is The Helper, type 3 is The Achiever, type 4 is The Individualist, type 5 is The Investigator, type 6 is The Loyalist, type 7 is The Enthusiast, type 8 is The Challenger, and type 9 is The Peacemaker.  Again, if you want to learn more about types 1-4 go back and check out Enneagram Types 1-4.  Let’s move onto types 5-9.

Type 5 is The Investigator and is an intense, cerebral type who is also known as the Thinker

They are hyper-aware of their surroundings; they are insightful and curious.  They love to pursue knowledge and are able to develop complex ideas.  A 5s basic fear is of being useless, incapable, or incompetent and as you can imagine, their basic desire is to be competent. The strengths of this type include the ability to remain calm in a crisis, constantly learning and picking up new skills, and are often ahead of their time.  Weaknesses include a tendency to be perceived as condescending, disconnected from their feelings, and isolating themselves from others.  This occurs because they are always striving to be independent and so by detaching from people fives oftentimes feel very lonely.  In order to effectively communicate with fives, you need to allow them plenty of personal space and time to think and make sure you express your thoughts clearly and logically.  Meetings should be productive and worthwhile and make sure you ask for their insight or observations.  Like fours, they don’t have time for chit-chat so be direct with what you need.  When giving feedback, just be honest about growth areas and offer constructive criticism.  Common jobs for fives include engineers, mathematicians, computer programmers, writers, and scientists.

And now what I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for, Type 6 aka the Loyalist aka me.  When I very first took the Enneagram test, I tested as a 1 and it completely made sense to me.  Ones feel the need to be perfect, they are highly organized, etc.  Then time went by and I took it again and tested as a Six.  At first, I refused to believe it and I swear I took the test two more times before finally paying for a test and sure enough, it came back as 6 along with an explanation that sometimes sixes misidentify as ones. Then I started studying the six and lo and behold, totally me.  Sixes are committed, reliable, hardworking, responsible, defensive, evasive, and highly anxious.  Check, check, check, check, check, check, and check.  They are often cautious and indecisive but can also be defiant and rebellious.  Their basic fear is being without support or guidance and their basic desire is to feel secure.  Sixes are good at making responsible and practical choices, honoring commitments, caring for others, thinking about other people’s perspectives, and they are both logical and emotional.  However, they can struggle to control anxious thoughts, they tend to expect the worst outcome, and they have high levels of self-doubt and insecurity.  The best way to communicate with a six is the help them feel safe and secure by listening and offering support.  Again, just like 4s and 5s when emailing them avoid small talk and get to the point.  When giving feedback keep it on the gentler side by expressing encouragements and constructive criticism.  You’ll typically find sixes as paralegals, bankers, professors, administrative assistants, and caregivers.

Type 7 is the Enthusiast aka the life of the party

Sevens are busy, productive types who are optimistic and spontaneous.  While they are highly practical, they can also be scattered and undisciplined.  Their basic fear is being deprived or trapped in pain and their basic desire is to be happy.  Sevens can think quickly and creatively.  They can easily handle change in plans, and they are great at acquiring new skills or abilities.  Weaknesses can include difficulty committing to plans in advance, they quickly get bored, and because of this, they can make impulsive or rash decisions.  When communicating with sevens be upbeat and optimistic, let them know what you need from them, and include casual conversation and dialog in emails.  When giving feedback be honest and constructive.  Sevens like to come up with multiple solutions to problems, so let them help you when you get stuck.  Good careers for sevens are artists, interior designers, bartenders, tour guides, photographers, and publicists.

Type 8 is the Challenger also known as the Protector

This type is powerful, dominating, self-confident, and assertive.  They feel they must control their environment and are often confrontational and intimidating.  They love getting into debates and are good at making tough decisions.  8s basic fear is being harmed or controlled by others and their basic desire is to protect oneself.  They tend to act quickly and decisively, can lead their team to success, and they are typically fair and logical in their decision-making.  Eights struggles with others’ opinions, following rules or orders, and being perceived as being intimidating.  When it comes to communicating, be upfront and direct, allow them to share new ideas or suggestions, avoid casual conversation, and share feedback respectfully and constructively.  Because this type strives for control, in order to resolve conflict with an 8, stand your ground and call them out on their inappropriate actions while also considering their side.  You’ll find 8s working as lawyers, ad execs, politicians, marketing strategists, and business owners.

Chad and I recently watched The Last Dance on Netflix which is the docuseries about Michael Jordan.  If you haven’t watched it, you should because MJ really is an impressive human.  During the show, I kept wondering which Enneagram type he is so naturally, I Googled it.  There is a strong debate on whether he is a 3 or an 8.  Remember, threes are the high achieving type but I’m convinced he’s an eight.  I mean, look, he’s powerful, dominating, and self-confident.  He led the Bulls to multiple wins, he’s a logical decision-maker and strives to control his environment.  Hello?  And as I mentioned, marketing strategists and eights go hand in hand.  Do you know how much money this man has made in his career, which let’s be honest, playing basketball was only for a short time all things considered?  He’s made his money through strategic marketing.  MJ if you’re reading this post, take the test and let us know what you are once and for all.

Type 9 is the Peacemaker

This type is easygoing, accepting, trusting, and stable.  They are good-natured, kindhearted, and supportive.  But for all those wonderful traits, they can also be too willing to go along with others in order to keep the peace.  The basic fear of nines is the loss of connection and their basic desire is to be at peace not only within themselves but also in the world around them.  What makes a nine a great peacemaker is their ability to see multiple perspectives, remaining calm and adaptable, reassuring those around them, and being open-minded.  Weaknesses associated with nines are the tendency to minimize problems, avoiding difficult or upsetting situations, and being passive-aggressive rather than addressing conflict head-on.  The best way to communicate with a nine is to encourage them to be open about their needs and ideas but avoid pressuring them to share their opinions or feelings.  Allow room for small-talk and personal connection and avoid being overly negative or critical when giving feedback.  Nines make great counselors, veterinarians, social workers, diplomats, and religious workers.  This is Chad’s type which is why I think we go together so well.  I need support, he wants to give it.  I’m the pessimist, he’s the optimist.  I struggle with anxiety and he’s stable.  Plus, he’s really cute too.

And there you have it – those are the 9 types of the Enneagram.  If you still haven’t taken the test to figure out which type you are, you can go here and take the thing: https://www.crystalknows.com/enneagram-test. Take the test and let me know what type you are!  You can either email me at cj@adultingwithcj.com or you can leave a comment below.  You can also check out this site: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-descriptions which I hope you will because there is a lot of great information as well as a deeper dive into the wings of each type and how each type interacts with the other types.  For example, if you are a 5 and your partner is a 3, it’ll show you how to communicate with one another and where there may be areas of improvement for you.  It also talks about how to work with each type in a professional setting.  All in all, I think the Enneagram is one of the best tools out there when trying to determine how to best lead a team at work or to work on the relationships in your personal life.

 

Enneagram Types 1-4

Enneagram Types 1-4

I’m a firm believer that in order to be a good leader you should also be good at relationships.  I think it is helpful to first determine your personality type or leadership style and then see how your employees stack up next to you.  There are all sorts of personality tests in the world but one of my personal favorites is the Enneagram.  The cool part about the Enneagram is that it teaches you all about your personality as well as how other people think and feel.  In my opinion, the Enneagram is one of the most comprehensive personality inventories out there. If you’ve never heard of it, here’s how it breaks down.

The Enneagram itself is a geometric figure that maps out the nine fundamental personality types of human nature and their complex interrelationships.  It is a symbol that is made up of a circle with a triangle and a hexad in the middle that connects to nine outer points.  The nine points are what represent the nine personality types – type 1 is The Reformer, type 2 is The Helper, type 3 is The Achiever, type 4 is The Individualist, type 5 is The Investigator, type 6 is The Loyalist, type 7 is The Enthusiast, type 8 is The Challenger, and type 9 is The Peacemaker.  Each of the nine types fit into a sub-category called the triads.  Eights, Nines, and Ones fall into the Instinctive Triad meaning they are concerned with maintaining resistance to reality – they also tend to have issues with aggression and repression.  Twos, Threes, and Fours are in the Feeling Triad.  They are concerned with self-image, however, underneath their ego, they carry a lot of shame around with them.  Finally, Fives, Sixes, and Sevens fall into the Thinking Triad and are concerned with anxiety and they will do what they need to do in order to feel safe and secure.  When you look at the triads, what you see is that each personality type has a basic fear as well as a basic desire.  Now, I could do 9 separate posts for each type but for the sake of time, I’m going to break it up into two posts.  I’m going to give you a high-level overview of types 1-4 today and next week we’ll do 5-9.

Type 1 aka the Reformer is an idealistic type

They are very conscientious and have a strong sense of right and wrong.  While they are always striving to improve, the kicker is they are scared of making mistakes.  They tend to have problems with repressed anger but at their best, they are wise.  When I first took the Enneagram test, I would have sworn I was a one.  I have a strong need to be perfect and I’m also highly organized.  But then I read that Sixes often misidentify as Ones, which is when I discovered I’m actually a Six.  The basic fear of Ones is a fear of being bad, corrupt, evil, or defective and their basic desire is to have integrity.  Strengths that are typically associated with ones are their awareness and attention to detail, they have an optimistic worldview, and they defend the rights of others.  Weaknesses include the tendency to be perfectionistic, difficulty accepting hard realities, and being highly critical of themselves and others.  When communicating with a One, you need to take them seriously, focus on conveying a clear message, encourage them to share their thoughts, and express feedback in a constructive way such as giving specific examples of ways to improve.  Common careers for Ones are lawyers, judges, social workers, politicians, counselors, and journalists.

Type 2, aka the Helper, is a caring, interpersonal type

Twos are empathetic, sincere, and warm-hearted.  They can also fall into the trap of incessantly trying to please people.  Because they are driven by their need to help others, they sometimes neglect their own needs and forget to take care of themselves first.  At their best, Twos have unconditional love for themselves and others.  Not surprising, their basic fear is the fear of being unworthy of being loved and I’m sure you can guess that their basic desire is to be loved.  Fun fact about Twos.  Women often misidentify as Twos because when they are taking the test, they will unknowingly answer the questions from a place of who they think they should be, aka helpful/caring.  This is not to say that there aren’t Twos out there who are women, but if you are a woman who first tests as a two, check out the next closest type you test as because it may be closer to the truth than the Two.  Twos are typically supportive and encouraging of people around them, they have a positive attitude, and they love getting to know people.  However, oftentimes, Twos seek out approval from others, they are sometimes perceived as overbearing, and the are easily offended by criticism.  In order to communicate well with Twos, you need to be attentive and encouraging and help them to recognize their value.  Let them help you problem-solve issues, and make sure you let them know how much you appreciate their hard work.  When you must give feedback to a Two, avoid being overly critical and share any concerns you may have with sensitivity.  You’ll usually see Twos as nonprofit leaders, religious leaders, nurses, teachers, and customer service reps.

Type 3 aka the Achiever is very success-oriented and is sometimes called the Performer

They are self-assured, attractive, and ambitious.  They are extremely competitive even to the point of becoming workaholics.  At their best, they are very authentic people who inspire others to do and be better.  Their basic fear is being worthless or without value and their basic desire, obviously, is be valuable.  They are driven to succeed, motivating and encouraging those around them, they easily connect with others, and are very charismatic.  However, oftentimes Threes focus too much on how they look, they have difficulty accepting failure, and like I previously mentioned, they can be overly competitive.  To communicate effectively with Threes, be as clear as you can and let them know exactly what you want or need.  In other words, being concise is the name of the game with Threes.  The best way to provide feedback to a Three is to let them know how much you value them while showing them how they can improve.  Common jobs for Threes are consultants, marketers, entrepreneurs, surgeons, lawyers, and politicians.

Type 4 aka the Individualist is the romantic, introspective type

They are self-aware, reserved, and quiet.  However, they can also be quite moody.  They have problems with self-indulgence and self-pity.  At their best, they are highly creative.  A Four’s basic fear is being without identity or personal significance and their basic desire is to be oneself.  Fours can deeply connect with their feelings and they are sensitive to the feelings of others, they know their growth areas and are also very deep-thinking and creative individuals.  As for weaknesses, they often withdraw when the going gets tough, they fixate on what they don’t have, and they tend to overreact emotionally when life gets hard.  Good communication with Fours should include sharing your feelings, being optimistic and encouraging, and letting them share their voice.  Avoid chit-chat – those deep thinkers don’t have time for that.  And when giving feedback, turn negative feedback into an opportunity for growth.  You can find Fours working as actors, writers, artists, photographers, designers, and hairstylists.

Is your head reeling yet?  I know, this is a ton of information to take in in a short amount of time.  I find all this stuff completely fascinating because I’m so curious to know that makes people tick.  If you’ve never taken the Enneagram test before, check out either of these websites to learn more:

https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-descriptions

https://www.crystalknows.com/enneagram-test

After you take the test, I’d be curious to know what type you are!  You can let me know via the comment section.

Next week we will finish up with types 5-9, which I’m excited about because I’m a Six and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

 

 

Are You an Effective Leader?

Are You an Effective Leader?

Today I’m starting a short leadership series.  This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart as being the first-born I’m a natural leader, and because I’ve always been curious about what makes for a great leader.  In my short time on this planet, I’ve been witness to people who should never have been put into leadership positions.  You know the type, communication is a foreign concept, they expect you to be a mind reader, you must never question their judgment, and they expect blind allegiance.  On the flip side, I’ve been very fortunate to work with some amazing leaders, the ones who lift you up, and want to teach you and help you be the best version of yourself.  They are your biggest cheerleader.  And although they still expect excellence, the same as the first example, the difference is you don’t want to disappoint the second.

This series is going to cover how, as a leader, you should start working on your relationships if you haven’t already.  We’re going to discuss the Enneagram types, how rewards don’t always work in the way we want them to and why this happens, and we’ll finish with a guest interview on mentorship – how to find one if you don’t have one and how to mentor someone else.

Frankly, I believe that to be a good leader you must first take a hard look in the mirror.  This is not an easy task – especially if you don’t like what you see.  According to a 2018 Forbes article, “It could be easily said that a great leader is someone who possesses a vision and the courage to follow through, who has integrity, honesty, humility and continues to be focused in the face of adversity.”  Those are some powerful words. Let’s start with integrity.

Having integrity means that you possess strong morals and an ethical conviction.  In other words, you always try to do the right thing even when no one is looking.  It also means that you recognize when you screw up and own your mistakes.  If your subordinates are calling you Dexter behind your back, this could mean one of two things.  Either they’ve figured out your dirty little secret/pastime or more likely, it means they think you are a sociopath.  This is not a good thing my friend.  I once worked with a woman who was the very definition of a sociopath with a good dose of narcissism mixed in.  She would lie, cheat, and steal to get what she wanted.  Driven by her lust for power is ultimately what did her in and in the end, she was fired from her position. Bosses with integrity have no need for power because they know they are good at what they do meaning they are natural leaders who know how to keep things organized and running smoothly.  They are also willing to show appreciation to their staff for a job well done.

As children, we heard the tales of Honest Abe and how he was known for always telling the truth.  Everyone who knew him said the same thing, they trusted his judgment and knew they would always get the truth even if it was something they didn’t want to hear.  Do your employees trust you?  Effective leaders are generally viewed as honest by their employees.  They keep everyone apprised of the goings-on within the organization regardless if it’s good or bad.  Leaders who are transparent and have an open-door policy are viewed much more favorably than those who conceal information.  Also, a trustworthy leader is a person who sees the best in people and believes that most people want to do the right thing.  They are approachable and supportive of everyone, not just the people they like.  We’ve all had teachers who played favorites.  When I was in high school there was this one teacher who I swear must have been the most unpopular person when they were in school because they always let the popular kids get away with everything.  In fact, this teacher actively participated in students stealing things because she would accept the items as treasures!  And, she was highly jealous of another teacher who was very well-liked by all the student body.  These traits do not make for good teachers or leaders.

And this brings me to humility.  Leaders who come from a place of humility use their success for the greater good, rather than for their own personal gain.  As a leader, how can you show humility?  First, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty.  Your team needs to know that you are willing to get down and dirty in the trenches with them.  Let me give you an example.  At a company I previously worked for, there was this one leader who could never be bothered to do any task she deemed menial.  She wouldn’t even load paper into the copier when she was in the middle of printing something.  And you bet your butt that if you suggested a new way of doing things that wasn’t her idea, it was never going to happen – even if it would make her life easier.  At this same company, you could always find the CEO doing any job that needed doing.  Pallets in the warehouse that needed unloaded? She was in there getting hot and sweaty working with the warehouse workers.  Toilet was overflowing in the restroom?  She went in with a plunger in hand.  The receptionist had to go home sick?  She was at the front answering phones.  Can you guess which one of these women everyone respected?  She removed her ego from the equation.  No task was beneath her.  She led by example and people loved her for it.  I know that we sometimes hear that being humble is a weakness.  But having humility is what helps us learn and opens us up to new opportunities for self-improvement.  You either want to grow and develop or you don’t and guess what?  The people you lead pick up on which one you choose.

One of the best bosses I’ve ever had embodied all these traits.  She was always willing to dig in and do the work, her door was always open, and she gave credit where credit was due.  She treated everyone the same and she tried to see the best in all her people.  She led by example and we loved her and would do anything she asked of us.  She is the kind of leader I aspire to be.  Are you that person for your people?

If you have a story you’d like to share about your favorite leaders, you can leave a comment below or you can email me at cj@adultingwithcj.com.

Next week I’m discussing the first four types of the Enneagram, which if you want to check out ahead of time, you can visit here: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-descriptions.

See you next week!

How to Get Your Home Organized

How to Get Your Home Organized

Do you ever feel like the clutter in your house is taking over your life?  Or, maybe you have been piling everything up in the attic or in the basement and you know you need to go through everything, but the thought overwhelms you, so you go take a nap instead?  Totally been there.

There are all types of clutter – maybe for you it’s books and magazines, kids’ toys, collectibles you don’t know what to do with like that stash of beanie babies you’ve collected, or clothes that don’t fit you anymore or are simply worn out.  Or, maybe it goes deeper to more of a tendency to hoard items.  The “I’m going to hang on to this because you never know when someone might need it” is the hoarder motto.  I’m being somewhat flippant here but if you are truly struggling with hoarding, it may be time for you to seek professional help, which you can find here. For everyone else, I believe clearing out the clutter starts with determining what you really love and use regularly and what needs to be given away or thrown in the garbage.  The most important thing to remember is decluttering and getting organized is not going to get done in one day.  You have to pace yourself and set realistic expectations, so you don’t get overwhelmed and then give up.  Let’s start in your closet because that’s an easy one.

First, if you are hanging on to clothes that don’t fit you it’s time to donate them to someone who can use them.  And you have to be real with yourself.  If you’ve got a pair of jeans in your closet you’ve had since high school that you are planning to squeeze into again one day, they’ve gotta go!  There’s no reason to have a constant reminder of woulda, coulda, shoulda in your closet.  You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.  For clothes that are stained or have holes – pitch them or keep a couple for when you’re mowing.  Do not, I repeat do NOT donate clothes with stains.  People who are shopping for used items don’t want your raggy nasty stained or otherwise soiled clothes.  When I’m thinning out my closet the first thing I do is go through each piece and really think about if I like how I look, if I like how it feels like does it pinch anywhere, is it itchy, or is it stretched out or too faded? If it doesn’t fit the criteria, into the donate pile it goes.  The same goes for t-shirts.  It’s amazing how many t-shirts one person can accumulate, they are like weeds.  You get rid of one and another one pops up in its place.  If you don’t like the fabric or it is the most appalling color for you, get rid of it.  If you’re hanging on to t-shirts for sentimental reasons, hand them over to someone who can turn them into a t-shirt quilt for you.  And hoodies are no different.  Seriously, unless you live in a cold-weather climate, you probably need to pare down your collection.  I know hoodies are comfy and cozy on cold fall and winter days, but are you truly wearing all your hoodies?  I’m guessing not.  Pick out your favorites to keep and donate the rest to someone who really needs them.  When it comes to actually organizing your closet, I like to separate everything out by color.  I know that sounds super OCD but hear me out.  When your clothes are organized by color, it’s much easier to find what you’re looking for – especially on busy mornings when you’ve got to get to work.  Instead of digging through your closet, you’ll go right to the color section for the piece, and there it will be.  My closet is organized white, black, brown then ROY G BIV – yes, the colors of the rainbow.  Friends, you’re just dipping your toes into the water of my processes.

Let’s talk socks and undies.  If there are holes in either, throw them away.  And if you have underwear in your drawer that you’ve had since high school…unless you just graduated in May – GROSS!  Throw them away right now.  As for PJs, the same rule applies.  If you have PJs with holes and stains, it’s time to throw them out.  For a lesson on how to fold clothes and organize your drawers, I recommend checking out Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix.  It’s really helped me get my dresser drawers under control.  Finally, if you have shoes that have barely any soles left, holes in the toes, or straps that are broken, into the garbage they go.  One more note about clothes, if you have business attire that you’re planning to get rid of, before you take it to Goodwill, get in contact with a local school.  Oftentimes, students who are in DECA, FBLA, or FCCLA require business attire when they compete against other schools and may benefit from your clothes.

Let’s move to the bathroom.  For some reason, the bathroom cabinets are like a black hole for toiletries.  Here you want to start with expiration dates.  If anything is expired, buh bye.  Soaps and shampoos that you hate the smell of?  Trash.  Old hairsprays or other hair products, see ya.  Cleaning supplies that don’t work or that gag you when you use them?  Get rid of them or give them to a friend who will use them.  And that leads to makeup.  Ladies, I know it’s very easy for your makeup to get out of control.  Trust me, I recently counted the number of MAC eye shadows I have and there were 28!  28!  Mind you, I didn’t purchase all of them because of the recycling program they have, but honestly.  I don’t even use MAC shadows anymore so if you want them, let me know.  If you have a stash as I do, the best thing you can do it to sanitize them and give them to your friends.  Same for palettes.  You can sanitize them and give them to away.  As for storage, the majority of my makeup is in a travel type container that I found on Amazon, which I will link in the show notes.  The same goes for fingernail polishes.  I have a sickness…I love polish.  I recently went through my collection and threw out the ones that were old and globby or if it was a color I hated, I gave it away.  As for the ones I kept, I have an acrylic carrying case that houses all my mani/pedi paraphernalia. And it lives in a hall closet where it doesn’t take up precious bathroom space.  For your drawers and cabinets – you don’t have to go out and buy baskets or other storage unless you just want to.  More than likely, you have something in your house that you can repurpose like cereal boxes or small totes or boxes.  You can buy glue-on magnets for the inside of drawers for things like bobby pins.  And you can use snack-size Ziplock baggies for hair ties.  The key here is to combine like items together so they are easier to find.  If under sink storage is limited for you, you can always purchase a small glass or wooden shelves to utilize wall space for storage.  Moving on.

The kitchen is another area that can very easily get out of control.  Unless you have a monster kitchen with tons of storage, your cabinets are probably stuffed to the gills.  The average kitchen size in America is between 150 and 175 square feet and unless the builder of your home was super smart about kitchen storage, there are probably areas that are useless to you.  My advice here is to start with your cup collection.  For some reason, we seem to have a hodgepodge collection of cups and glasses.  I don’t know if it’s because we get them as gifts or giveaways or if they are leftovers from college.  Regardless, it’s probably time to pare them down.  For me, I love coffee mugs.  I literally have to stop myself from buying new ones.  Even now, I probably have too many, but I actually love and use them all, so they stay.  Maybe for you, it’s an extensive collection of wine glasses.  Keep the ones you love and donate the ones you don’t.  For pots and pans, you know your favorites.  Keep them.  For all others, they either need thrown away or given away.  Then the hard part – gadgets.  I mean, it’s insane how many kitchen gadgets are on the market.  And the majority of them you don’t need.  At the end of Julia Child’s life, a group of people was curating her kitchen before sending everything to the Smithsonian and even she had gadgets that she couldn’t identify.  This is what I do.  Sometimes, there are tools that you only use for specific purposes a few times a year.  So, I will put them in a box and store them either in the basement or garage.  If in a year I haven’t gotten into that box one time, I donate the items.  If, however, I find myself going into that box frequently, then I move it back into the kitchen.  For tips on cleaning and sanitizing your kitchen, check out this post.

Next, let’s talk attic and/or basement.  These spaces can get tricky, especially for people who are very sentimental, or who love decorating for the holidays.  Before Chad and I moved to Kansas City, we went through the attic and cleaned out a bunch of stuff that we’d been hanging on to.  Most of it was leftover crap I had from college or that we had when we lived in separate apartments.  I think we had 3 VCRs.  For you youngsters, VCRs are what we old-timers used to play videotapes on before the invention of DVDs.  After we got everything cleaned out, I felt great and like this huge weight had been lifted.  Then came move out day and we still could not fit all of our things into one moving truck.  I couldn’t freaking believe it!  When we got to KC, I got super serious and honest with myself on why I was holding on to certain items.  We donated or pitched so much stuff, and then I really did feel relieved.  Whether you have attic space, basement space, or both, I recommend getting a good quality shelving system.  We bought ours on sale at Home Depot.  It’s heavy-duty metal and the shelves are adjustable.  We also invested in plastic storage containers, which go on sale throughout the year.  I recommend clear totes, but honestly, as long as you label the outside, it doesn’t really matter.  The key here is to get everything off the floor.  Unless of course, it’s something tall or really heavy.  And don’t feel like you need to go through all your holiday decorations now unless you have the time.  Rather, wait until the season and go through everything then.  My rule of thumb is if I don’t use all the holiday decorations I have for that specific holiday, then I’m probably not as in love with it as I was when I bought it, so it goes to donation or the garage sale pile.

And last, but not least, the garage is a space that people often forget about.  Chad and I always marvel at some garages we drive by because they are packed to the ceiling with boxes and have a little narrow path to walk through.  Maybe they don’t have great storage in their houses, so they have to use the garage.  Or maybe they need to listen to the Adulting With CJ podcast and start donating their stuff.  We’ve also figured that sometimes there’s no way their vehicles would fit in the garage so that’s why they turn it into storage.  Regardless of your situation, you should consider investing in pegboards and shelving.  Oftentimes, we forget about how much usable wall space we have for storage.  Things like Christmas lights, camping gear, and pool items can go in boxes and put on shelves.  For tools, we like pegboards because you can see everything you have rather than being hidden by a tool chest.  However, I’m not against tool chests because they are a great way to get yourself organized you just have to make sure that you’re not filling them up with junk or tools you don’t need.  Also, check out your paint collection.  More than likely, you have old cans of paint and spray paint that are no longer of use and needs to be disposed of properly.  My advice here is the same as the basement/attic spaces.  Try to get as much as you can off the floor.  Especially if you live in an area that can flood.  And, it just makes everything look cleaner.

If you have any ideas or questions about getting organized, I’d love to hear them.  Know that getting organized takes time.  You can’t expect to get everything done in one day.  Remember, organizing is a journey, not a destination.

Dealing with Cabin Fever

Dealing with Cabin Fever

I know I’ve mentioned that I’ve been suffering from some serious cabin fever.  I never knew how much I loved getting out and about until everything was limited.  You never know how much you’ll miss something until it’s gone, right?  Some days I feel like I’m being held hostage by my house so I decided to reach out to some friends and see if A) they were feeling the same way, and B) what they’ve done about it.  I got several really good suggestions – taking more walks, working part of my day outside, and simply driving around to just get out of the house for a bit.  I’ve also been dabbling in visualization, which sounds real woo woo but don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.  For me, I love being near the water so it starts with a sound like ocean waves crashing on the shore, babbling brooks, or light rainfall.  You can find these for free on YouTube. Once I find one I like, I close my eyes and focus on what the place with the water looks like and picture myself there – what it smells like, and who is there with me.  It really helps calm down the feeling of claustrophobia.  If you’ve been feeling the fever, give this exercise a whirl and see if it helps.

And I would say for the last few weeks or so I’ve also really struggled to focus on pretty much anything.  Some days it feels like the squirrels have officially taken over my brain.  Last week I was determined to figure out how to best wrangle those squirrels and get them back in line so I started an experiment.  Everything I’ve read says if you’re finding it hard to get anything accomplished to start with a morning routine.  So I looked at routines that other people have tried and swear by, and came up with my own routine to try with the understanding that if something isn’t working that I can change it at any time.  This is my list – get up when the alarm goes off and not hit snooze and DON’T check my emails, social media, or the news, read for 30 minutes, go for a walk around the block followed up by a short yoga practice, get ready – for me this means doing something to my hair and putting on real clothes, make the bed, open all the blinds in the house, have breakfast if I’m hungry, and then get to work.  Full transparency – I failed every single day to get up when the alarm went off!  I can’t help it, I’m a snooze button pusher from way back!  I usually hit it twice and then get up.  I don’t know what it is, but I’m here to tell you that I’m not going to feel guilty about it.  And since I’ve been trying to be more in tune with my body, I could tell within the first few minutes of the walk if that morning was going to include yoga.  I am a huge fan of yoga and stretching, but there are some days I just can’t do it full-on and you know what?  That’s ok.  I do what I can and what my body is down for.  On those days, I just walked a little farther.

One thing I did find very interesting is that most days after eating breakfast, I wouldn’t get hungry again until near dinnertime.  But I struggled with this.  We’ve been talking about intuitive eating and I’ve mentioned that the process isn’t linear.  I have easy days and not so easy days.  And friends, let me tell you that the clock has more power over me than I realize.  When Noon rolled around it was really hard for me to not get up and eat lunch but I had to continually tell myself that I wasn’t actually hungry and that the clock doesn’t tell me what to do.  So if you are starting on your own intuitive eating journey, know that it is going to take some time to retrain your brain.

The other part I found interesting is how much better I felt before getting to work because I wasn’t weighed down by emails that I’d gotten overnight, the trash of the morning headlines, or the drama of social media.  For me, my emotions are easily controlled by what I read online, and sometimes I just have to say no!  At least not first thing in the morning – give it a try, you may find that by not engaging when you first wake up changes your whole outlook for the day.

The other routine I started was a nighttime or sleep routine.  I am a terrible sleeper from way back and I think it may be genetic because my brother and mom are both terrible sleepers too.  The critical piece for me is the blue light from my phone and the TV.  On most nights, Chad and I fall asleep to the TV being on and even though we set a timer, it takes me that much longer to get to sleep than if It’s off.  My goal was to not have any phone or TV time at least two hours before bed, which would give me ample time to get in some more reading.  However, Chad and I have been playing Minecraft Dungeons and it’s so addictive!  So that whole no TV two hours before bed business turned into more like 30 minutes before bed.  Awhile back I bought some blue light filtering glasses and I’ve been wearing them while we play and then when I head up to bed, I read with them on.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well they’ve worked.  I used to wear them while I was working in front of my computer during the day, but I have found them to be most useful in the evening.  They really help with eye strain, and I think there really is something to filtering out that blue light.  We also stopped turning on the bedroom TV, which again was really hard because we love The Office and before bed is when we tend to watch it.  The last part of this sleep routine is to get my bedroom as dark and as cool as I can.  I honestly can’t tell you if this new nighttime routine is working or not because when I do finally close my eyes, I have images of Minecraft in my head.  When it comes to video games, Chad and I are completionists and since there are so few co-op games we like to play together, once we find one we get a little obsessive with it.  So next week, I’m going to really try and have no TV of any kind two hours before bed.

The last thing I want to mention is that I spend Friday preparing for the week ahead.  I make a personal to-do list, a professional to-do list, and any other tasks or goals I want to accomplish in the week.  I also make the grocery list and get them ordered and I tidy up the house.  Doing this on Friday really helps free up my mind space for the weekend.  I hate working on the weekends and when I don’t have to worry about work things, I am better able to be more present with Chad or my friends and family.  It also means I don’t have to spend the weekend cleaning when I’d rather be resting or pretty much doing anything else.  The only exception to this is laundry.  If you’ve ever watched Jersey Shore, they talk about doing GTL, which for them means gym, tan, laundry.  For us, it’s grocery store, time together, laundry and that’s what Sundays are for.  Sunday is also the day I pamper myself.  I give myself a facial, exfoliate my skin, do a hair mask, and work on my nails.  I do this because it is a good way for me to reset for the week ahead.  If you have any daily or weekly routines that are working, let me know what they are because maybe you’re doing something I hadn’t already thought about.  Or, if you’ve been feeling unfocused and stressed out, feel free to give my daily routine a try.  As I said, it’s all one big experiment and you’ll never know what you love or hate until you test it.