Managing Work Expectations in a Plugged-In-World

By now we all know that managing life, family, and a career can sometimes seem impossible. With the advancement of technology over the last two decades, work tasks have become much easier. However, these advancements have created an always-accessible work expectation. Having worked in corporate America for over a decade, the most important thing I’ve learned is how imperative it is to set boundaries not only for yourself – but for your superiors as well.

Setting boundaries and adhering to them promotes a healthy work-life balance. Working hard does not mean working longer hours or being plugged-in at all times. In fact, working longer hours has proven to be unproductive. The more time you allow yourself to complete a task, the more time you will take to do so. Before long you’ll find yourself overwhelmed and the quality of your work will inevitably suffer.

Working hard by working smart is the key to a successful balance. You must know your limits and know when it’s necessary to unplug. If you allow your colleagues to always interrupt your personal time – this will become habit. If you answer client emails at midnight – this will become their future expectation. Once these behaviors are set, there’s no turning back. I spent many years learning this the hard way. What started out as kind gestures, quickly turned into the status quo.  Eventually this environment I created took over my life.

Working after birth

(Picture of me the day after I gave birth – still working)

Accessibility can be beneficial if you know how to manage it. Technology allows you to work from anywhere, but it also allows you to always work. Here are some tips to assist you in learning how to manage your accessibility.

Each day periodically use the DND (Do not disturb) button on your phone.

If you are up against a deadline try to limit all your distractions for at least an hour. You’ll be amazed at how much you get done. Use this button on your cell phone once you get home too, even if it’s only a few nights a week. It allows you to focus on your family and enjoy your free time without constantly checking email or text messages.

Learn to say “No”.

Don’t get the reputation of always saying, “Yes!” Once the word gets out, everyone will bring his or her concerns and projects to you. You have enough on your plate, so it is perfectly acceptable to decline from time to time.

Vacation means you’re on vacation.

Answering emails and making calls while on vacation is a big mistake. It’s rare to even take a vacation, so why not enjoy it? If you seem available, work will make you available.

Prioritize your tasks.

If something can wait until tomorrow – do it tomorrow. I used to be that person who had to clear my desk before I went home. Once I learned how to delegate and prioritize my work in order of importance, I was able to manage my day and get home at a decent hour. Set a goal of what you need to accomplish and work toward it in your allotted time. Anything remaining will be there when you wake up – I promise.

Set your expectation early on.

Let people know your limits. Do not answer calls or emails unless it’s an urgent matter. If you do respond, let people know it was the exception. Don’t feel guilty about taking and enjoying free time – you and your family deserve it.

No One Is More Important Than You

In your adolescent years it is quite common to receive advice about life and what is to come in adulthood.  Most of this advice you tend to shelf because not only do you find yourself to be invincible, but adulthood seems like light-years away.  Then one day, poof, you’re an adult and all those words that came out of your parents’ mouths suddenly start to make sense.  An invaluable statement my mother made to me when I was a young girl was:

“Never lose yourself in someone or something else. Once you lose yourself, you will find you really have no one.”

At the time I thought she just said this because she hated my boyfriend and knew I deserved better (which by the way – she was right!), however she really said it because she saw a pattern forming.  I would often sacrifice what was important to me or change myself to please others, especially men.  I would lose myself, which ultimately resulted in my own misery.

As I grew into a woman, I started understanding more of the importance of her statement.  I was responsible for my own happiness.  If I lost sight of what I wanted and needed, I would never truly be happy.

Women wear many hats in life: wife, partner, mother, and employee, just to name a few.  It is very easy to give all your energy and time to these obligations and forget about what’s most important – you.  If you are not happy, odds are your family isn’t happy.  If you are always miserable, your career is probably suffering too.  It is imperative to take time to do what you like to do, even if it’s one hour a week to read a book or get a pedicure. It’s okay to divert some of that energy and attention to yourself. As a mother of two, I know it’s hard to find time and mother’s guilt can often keep you from doing things for yourself, but I will fill you in on a little secret:  Not only are you worth it…you deserve it!


As we enter a New Year, make a resolution to love yourself more.  Make you a priority.  Ask for help when needed, and take it without feeling guilty. Go on that run every other night.  Have a girl’s night where there are plenty of adult beverages to enjoy. Hell, even lock the door when you take a shower so your kids won’t come in and disrupt you.

Taking the time to unwind resets your mind and spirit.  You’re just as important as your partner, your children, and your career.  Remember:  If momma isn’t happy – no one is.



You Are Much Stronger Than You Think You Are

When I was in labor with my son I had the most amazing nurse by my side. Being a woman with two kids of her own, her advice and support really helped me.  At one point she looked at me as I was trying to get through a painful contraction and said, “You are much stronger than you think you are.”  This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this, but it was the first time someone said it when I desperately needed to hear it. As soon as the words left her lips I found my strength; I just had to reach for it.

After my son was born I felt so much pride and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.  Not only did I give my son the gift of life, but I also gave myself the gift of believing – in me.  Before I left the hospital I promised myself I would not let fear stand in the way of any future aspirations.  I had a son now, one who would look to me for inspiration and guidance.  I had to deliver.

Feeling inspired from my birth experience, I signed up for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  Why would someone who has never run more than two miles in her life sign up for a marathon? Good question.  I signed up because deep down I didn’t think I could run it and I knew I would have to find the courage to try.  Also, as a new mom I knew it was important to find time for myself.  The training would help me continue on my journey to a healthy lifestyle and each milestone would only strengthen my confidence in myself.

I started my training in December 2010 by walking on a treadmill. My first run was on December 28. I completed 1.14 miles and thought I was going to die. The sweat was pouring off my face, my heart was pounding and my knees ached with each step. Who was I kidding?  How could I ever get to 26.2 miles? Looking for encouragement, I started reading running blogs and other marathon stories. Many of their stories sounded just like mine and their message was clear – don’t give up.

I went back to the gym and started to walk for a few minutes, then run for a few minutes. This built my stamina and helped me control my breathing. My next attempt at a long run was two weeks later.  I completed 3.34 miles without stopping. Again I felt like I would never make it to the finish line, but I was adamant about moving forward. I signed up for three races prior to the marathon.  My first was an 8K in April, the Shamrock Shuffle. This was my first taste of running an organized race.  The excitement was overwhelming.  It was much easier to run when you had thousands of people cheering you on.  I was hooked and more motivated than ever. I completed two more races, the longest being 10 miles.

Over that summer I lost some steam due to my work schedule and the heat. My runs became few and far between. I was starting to think I just didn’t have the time or energy to keep up my training.  That September I managed to get in three long runs, the longest being 16 miles.   Then I tapered off to let my body rest.  At this point I was hoping for an injury so I would have an excuse not to run, then I essentially wouldn’t be giving up.  I had family flying in and I also told all of my friends I was running, so the pressure had mounted.  They were all counting on me.

The night before the marathon my husband invited some friends over to make signs for me.  Watching my loved ones write little notes of encouragement on poster board was very emotional.  They believed in me more than I believed in myself.  Later that night I saw a quote that brought tears to my eyes and I still refer to it to this day:

“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.” – Abraham Lincoln

Many times when we are faced with adversity the only way we get through is by the faith others have in us. Armed with this insight I went to bed to rest my mind.  The following morning I woke early, packed all my running gear and woke my husband up to drive me.  During the short drive to the start line, we passed volunteers setting up some of the water stations and my nerves set in.  I was silent the entire ride to prevent my self from crying. My husband dropped me off and whispered in my ear, “If anyone can do this… it’s you.  You got this.”

I watched him pull away and went straight to the bathroom to throw up. After I threw up, I started laughing.  Why am I doing this to myself, it’s just a marathon.  If I make it, I make it.  The important thing is that I am going to give it my all, and that is good enough.  I headed over to my corral and waited. It took nearly an hour for my corral to finally cross the start line, as all the elite athletes start first.  I am not a fast runner nor do I strive to be.  I didn’t care to beat the Kenyans – I just wanted to finish.

As I made my way up, I remember looking at the skyline and taking a deep breath of the crisp October air and saying to myself: Well here goes nothing, just do your best.


At mile seven I knew my husband and son were waiting for me, so the first six miles flew by.  When I rounded the corner in Wrigleyville, there they were.  My husband was holding my son on his shoulders with a sign that read: I am proud of my Mommy! You can do it! This sign along with a friend jumping in to run with me gave me a boost.  It wasn’t until mile 19 I hit a wall.  I had already made it this far; I didn’t want to give up. My mind and body was telling me to stop. Then I saw two signs that gave me the final push I needed.  The first one read: While you are out can you pick me up some bread?  I laughed out loud for a few minutes.  Then a block later another read: Pain is temporary – Pride is forever!  Once those words resonated in my tired brain, it hit me – I was going to finish no matter what.

As I turned the last corner, I got very emotional. I could finally see the finish line through my tears.  I did it.  I ran 26.2 miles. I can be the example for my son. I can best equate the feeling of crossing the finish line to the day I married my husband and the day my son was born. It was nothing short of amazing.


Each time I tell this story I always get someone who says, “I could never do that.”  But that isn’t true because actually – you can. You are much stronger than you think you are.  Your goals are attainable, whatever they may be. I encourage each of you to challenge yourself, but most importantly believe – in you.

*This story will be featured on Kindredvine


H.B.I.C Didn’t Come Easy

Listen up.  Becoming an HBIC did not come easy. We are all (let’s face it) HBIC’s at home, but I am referring to work. What is HBIC you ask?  Head B*tch in Charge.

Now, we spent a lot of time working toward HBIC before having kids.  Being kid-less was an advantage, as the eighty hour work weeks were quite common.  The stress levels and quick decision making actually prepared us to be moms, which let’s be honest here, is the hardest job of all.


As our families expanded, the balancing act became more difficult.  Sacrifices are something that come along with “having it all”.  I use BIG air quotes when saying “having it all” because everyone’s ‘having it all’ has different meanings.  My meaning of ‘having it all’ is: having a loving, supportive husband; having a career path of my own which makes me feel smart and independent; and having kids that I get to spend time with.


It takes a certain drive and dedication to not only have your family to look after, but also have your work family to look after.  Everybody always wants a piece of you, and your time is limited.  A friend emailed me this week and the subject line read:   The thing about being a Director…..The body read:  When the F*CK do you have time to do YOUR work???  At the end of the day, you figure it out my friends.

This is us, except with boobs.
This is us, except with boobs.

If HBIC is something you aspire to be, here are some tips that helped us succeed:

  • Sh*t is going to be tough, get used to it. It NEVER gets easy. Consider it a challenge.
  • Be confident in your decisions, people are looking up to you.  Even if you don’t know what the hell is going on, pretend you do.
  • Know what you are worth.  When you know, others will know.
  • Build relationships and be respectful of peoples time.
  • Do it because you love it.  Not for the money.
  • Always do the right thing. People will have more faith in you and your decisions if you are not rotten.
  • Open your ears! Listening gets you more than talking does.
  • Know you will not be CEO making a ga-zillion dollars in a year (new grads tend to think this).
  • Never say you are too busy.  Even if you are, I guarantee someone is busier than you.
  • Don’t be a gossip pants.  Chances are you have no idea what you are talking about.
  • Network… a lot.
  • Always follow up. It shows you are on top of your sh*t.
  • Take chances.  If you are passionate about what you do, others will be passionate too.

There you have it.  Now let’s go out and rule the world!

 “An effective leader does not control; she inspires and influences. As a leader I try to figure out what peoples dreams are.  In most cases the only thing holding them back is themselves.” – Candice Carpenter

Free Time? What’s That?

I have a confession.  I always get a slight tinge of jealousy on Friday’s when my non-kid friends or colleagues are so excited for the weekend, presumably because they have ‘free’ time to do as they please. I, on the other hand, have forgotten what ‘free’ time means.

I listen to them speak about their upcoming trips to tropical destinations, and can feel my mouth dropping as I imagine myself on a beach with a Corona.  Those thoughts then turn into hallucinations before someone snaps me back into reality, “Holly, are you listening?”  Um no, I was living through you and you ruined it d-bag!

 Don’t get me wrong, my nights and weekends are filled with family time and I enjoy every minute.  However, I do (sometimes) miss the days of sleeping in, OR just sleeping at all.

 As parents we know our ‘real’ job doesn’t begin until we come home.  Our free time goes something like this:  Drive home, unload kids, cook them dinner, cook you dinner (because they NEVER want to eat what you eat), bath time, brush teeth, story time, bed time, your shower time, then is it already 10 pm? Your bedtime. Ex-haus-ting!  Oh and if your kid is sick, then you are really screwed because you will probably be up all night cleaning up throw up and a** explosions. You are sure to enjoy that next day at work!

Of course when you have a night like this, the next day is when non-kid friends have to tell you how they are so tired, and so busy and expect sympathy from you.  I wish I could blurt out,  “Shut your face!  Wait until you have kids, then tell me how tired and busy you are.”  I refrain because I remember when I was a non-kid person, and that always would annoy me.

In the end, I have to admit listening to non-kid people whine about their ‘busy’ lives makes me feel like a bad a**. Because not only am I the HBIC at work, but I do this after pulling all-nighters cleaning up vomit and poop.  Take that losers.

I find this picture hilarious. Enjoy.
I find this picture hilarious. Enjoy.