Archive for April, 2012

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Conquering my email, one step at a time

Categories: Balancing Act, Career Talk

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If you have total control over your email and it doesn’t stress you out, please stop reading now. For the rest of you, fellow overwhelmed-by-email readers, this will sound familiar:

I am in a constant struggle with my email.

There is too much of it. I feel overwhelmed by it most of the time, and just barely in control of it on the best days. I spend too much of my day answering and reading email and while I know it’s something that I have to do — for work and for life — it’s not something that makes me feel good or productive enough.

Over the years I’ve tried to develop email habits that will help me tame the animal. Here are a few of them:

  • Don’t check email first thing in the morning. This is my favorite one. When I manage to stick to it, I am more productive, my day goes better, and I am much more focused.
  • Check email at set times throughout the day. My worst email days are those when I leave my inbox open throughout the day. Then I can’t avoid the temptation of checking new mail when I see I have some and it just completely kills my productivity.
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Vacation question: To bring the laptop or not?

Categories: Balancing Act

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This week my family and I are going on vacation. Woohoo! (And also OMG, all of us really needed this one. A lot.) I’ve packed the bags, cleaned up the house so it’s not a total disaster when we get back, and gotten our documents and tickets ready. And now for the big important question:

Should I bring my laptop?

My initial answer was absolutely not. It’s been a crazy few months and I really need a break. My brain needs to disconnect and I need to spend time worrying about whether we all have enough sunscreen on instead of checking emails. Out of sight, out of mind.

At the same time, there is something to be said for being able to check email once a day (and I truly would only limit myself to once a day) and not having a panic attack when I’m back and there is a mountain of emails here to greet me. I’ve done this once before on vacation and thought it worked well. It also prevented me from stressing about the crises I didn’t know about because well, if they happened, I would know about them. Out of sight doesn’t always mean out of mind.

My husband suggested that I don’t bring a laptop but instead go to the business center at the hotel to check email if I absolutely can’t resist the urge to do it. (We’re traveling abroad so checking it on my phone is not an option. Otherwise I think that’s what I would do.) I’m considering this idea.

But tell me, when you go on vacation, do you disconnect entirely or do you check your work or personal emails from time to time?

Family-friends juggle, weekend edition

Categories: Parenting & Family

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My daughter asked to have a playdate with a girl from her class recently so I emailed her mom to see whether one of the next Sundays would work. She kindly replied that weekends are family time for them and asked if we could do the playdate during the week. Thing is, during the week our kiddo has activities on most days and weekends are when playdates work best for us, especially because my husband and I both work. (Our babysitter could bring her to a playdate after school one day but because she is only here three days a week she prefers that they do stuff together instead or she helps her with her homework.)

So this got me thinking about the weekend life juggle between family time and friend time. Starting with our Friday night sushi and movie night tradition, weekends are when my husband, kiddo and I have time to spend together. A lot of times we’re definitely guilty of trying to fit too much in, but the main ingredient is us hanging out together. Once in a while we succeed at leaving an afternoon open, and as unexciting as this sounds, one of my favorite times is when the three of us just hang out at home together, without rushing off to another activity, however fun it might be.
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How to get productive when you’re stuck

Categories: Balancing Act, Career Talk

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Confession: My to-do list is a mile long and I’ve done nothing concretely productive in the last few hours.

There was a lot of phone calls, emails, Twitter browsing, and looking over my to-do list, but it’s not far from the truth to say I wasted a bunch of time. I hate this feeling. If you’ve had it you know what I mean. So this blog post is part of my strategy for dealing with it. Because the way I see it, I could either call this a day (which I think would be a mistake, although not always, just today) or try to get some stuff done and quick.

Starting as soon as I hit publish, here’s my plan for coming out of the productivity rut:

  • Turn off my Wi-Fi. It’s maybe the oldest trick in the book but I rarely make myself do it. Without email, Twitter, Facebook, NY Times and other distractions, I know I will get more done. Or at least something done.
  • Take a tea break. I think there needs to be a physical reset from wasting time to being productive. Since I can’t change where I am right now I am going to take a mini break and make some tea. And drink it.
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