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Setting Boundaries: Saying “Yes” to Saying “No”

September 7th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

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How many times in the last six months have you said “yes” to something you really didn’t want to do? Or allowed yourself to be burdened with meeting expectations that were unreasonable or out of your control? Or avoided saying something when a person or situation made you uncomfortable? Most of us have been in one or more of these situations at some point. We kick ourselves afterward for acquiescing, yet may rationalize it by the desire to be “seen as a team player,” or, not wanting to “hurt someone’s feelings.” Here’s the problem with this. We teach people how we want to be treated. And when we keep saying “yes” when we’re thinking “no” and don’t set and communicate our limits – our boundaries – people are going to keep asking us, and expecting us, to do things we don’t want to do, or to do more than originally agreed. (Can we say “scope creep?”) Eventually we become resentful. And when we finally draw the line, it may not be pretty. Better to set, communicate and maintain your personal boundaries up front. Here’s how.

Be self-aware. Knowing your boundaries starts with understanding your values and what’s important to you. If having personal downtime in the evening or family time on the weekend is important to you, then you would want to make it clear that you’re offline in the evenings and not working on weekends. Difficult, I know, in this always-connected work environment.  And, this environment was created by all of us who said “yes” to being always connected and working a ridiculous number of hours in the week (including weekends!)  It’s up to us to change it.

Set your boundaries. Decide what your boundaries are. Prioritize them. Write them down. Internalize them. Practice saying them in front of the mirror. Give yourself permission to have boundaries and acknowledge the benefits – more respect from others; more respect for yourself; less stress and anxiety and/or feelings of resentment; more free time; more time to focus on the projects you want to do, etc.

Communicate them. Be direct. If you don’t want your boss and co-workers contacting you at all hours, be specific about the times you’re available. On projects, manage others’ expectations up front with regard to what you’re capable of and the timeframe in which you can achieve it. Be very clear about scope, and the cost – in time, dollars or other work – when scope expands beyond that.

Learn to say no. Saying “no” is hard, especially when it’s to your leader, or to someone whose relationship you value. Yet as workplace communication consultant Diane Amundson says, “Good bosses appreciate employees who have the confidence to say no.” It’s all in how you frame it.

Challenge the stories that hold you back. Think about times in the past when you’ve said “yes” and later regretted it. Or allowed yourself to be taken advantage of. What held you back from being more direct? Fear of losing your job? Fear of disappointing the other person? Most people are unaware of how their actions impact us unless we tell them, and will appreciate being told what our limits are.

Be consistent. Once you’ve established and communicated your boundaries, work to maintain them. This will help educate others how to treat you, and will contribute to your well-being and peace of mind.

“I encourage people to remember that “No” is a complete sentence.” - Gavin de Becker

Till next time, Karen

Health, learning and development, Life, self-awareness, Work-life balance

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Take a Hike, Take a Cruise, Take a Vacation!

June 2nd, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

The average American worker earns 22.6 days in vacation. Yet in 2016, they only used an average of 16.8 days, leaving 662 million vacation days on the table.

I find this amazing. We need our R&R, people!

Why are US workers so reluctant to use their vacation time? A survey by GfK, who studies American workers and time off, found the following:

26% worry they’ll be seen as less dedicated

23% worry that they’ll be replaced

21% worry that they’ll hurt their chances for a raise or promotion

But here’s the thing. In a comparison of vacation takers and vacation forfeiters, GfK found that:

“Employees who forfeit their vacation days do not perform as well as those who use all their time. While they may believe sacrificing vacation time will get them ahead, these employees are less likely than non-forfeiters to have been promoted within the last year (23% to 27%) and to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years (78% to 84%). This is on top of the $66.4 billion in benefits they lost by forfeiting time last year.”

So vacation forfeiters, let me ask: How’s that working for you?

If you don’t already have something on the calendar, I encourage you to take a few minutes right now and pencil in a week or two weeks or whatever your schedule allows.  You need a break. It’s good for you, and it’s good for your employer.

Taking vacation has been shown to:

-Reduce stress

-Contribute to better mental and physical health

-Improve relationships

When companies encourage their employees to take vacation, they benefit through:

-Higher employee productivity

-Stronger workplace morale

-Greater retention

-Healthier employees

Whether you take an exotic vacation or a low-key “staycation,” get something on the calendar before the summer gets away from you!

Just like you need to give your body a break from your workouts, you need to give your brain a break from your work. Thinking, managing your emotions, making decisions, creating new ideas, interacting with others, all require mental effort that can wear your brain out.  You need to give it a rest.

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” -Seneca

Till next time,

Karen

Health, Jersey shore, Life, wellness, Work-life balance

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What Are You Doing This Summer?

June 15th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and, for many of us, the signal to start thinking about our annual vacation. Well, many of us have been thinking about it since January. Let’s be honest.

If you don’t already have something on the calendar, I encourage you to take a few minutes right now (well, after you finish reading this) and pencil in a week or two weeks or whatever your schedule allows. You need a break. It’s good for you, and it’s good for your employer.

Taking vacation has been shown to:
• Reduce stress
• Contribute to better physical and mental health
• Improve relationships

When companies encourage their employees to take vacation, they benefit through:
• Higher employee productivity
• Stronger workplace morale
• Greater retention
• Healthier employees

Whether you take an exotic vacation or a low-key “staycation,” get something on the calendar before the summer gets away from you!

Once you’ve scheduled your vacation, don’t stop there. I highly recommend that you pick a day this summer, and in fact, maybe once a month or once a quarter, that is just…for…you. One day that is your day to do whatever you want, except work! Go to a spa, take a hike, play a round of golf, or just sit by the ocean…whatever feeds your soul.

Just like you need to give your body a break from your workouts, you need to give your brain a break from your work. Thinking, managing your emotions, making decisions, creating new ideas, interacting with others, all require mental effort that can wear your brain out. You need to give it a rest.

In the words of Maya Angelou: “Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

Till next time,
Karen

Health, Relationships, Stress, Work-life balance

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Saying “Yes” to Just Saying “Yes”

March 21st, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

It occurred to me recently how easy it’s become for many of us to just say “No.” Of course, there are lots of good reasons to say “No” – to drugs, to abuse, to bad behavior, to more work when our plate is already overflowing...But increasingly, it seems, “No” has become an automatic response to ideas, experiences, people, and, yes, risks that might actually result in some personal development or other positive outcomes.

“No. We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work.”

“No. Thank you for the invite, but I need to…wash my hair…do laundry…” (You fill in the blank)

“No,” says the hiring manager to HR, “while the candidate has a lot of good qualities, she’s not an exact fit.”

“Risk embarrassing myself at the team karaoke event? NO!”

Shonda Rhimes, creator and producer of several hit television series, discovered the power of saying “Yes” when she committed to doing so for a year to everything that scared her. The result, as described by "Year of Yes" publisher Simon & Schuster, was that “she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self.” How cool is that?

Now, I’m not suggesting that you commit to saying “Yes” to everything for a year, a month, or even a week. Well, a week would be good. Let’s start with a week.

What I am suggesting is that you pay attention to how often you’re saying “No” and start turning some of those into “Yes.” Each time you do it, it gets easier. Each time you do it, you open yourself up for new experiences, opportunities and ideas.  Fear holds us back from so many wonderful experiences – fear of the unknown, fear of differences, fear of being embarrassed.  Say “Yes” to your fears and allow yourself the opportunity to stretch and grow in new directions. That “unknown” you’re worried about may be just what you’ve been waiting for.

What’s holding you back? What are you afraid of? Your assignment is to commit to a week of saying “Yes” to whatever opportunities come your way.  Then just keep going…

Till next time,

Karen

Learning, Life, Work-life balance

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What To Do When You Are Overextended

October 27th, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

OEXWork-related stressors and the maladies they cause, like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and decreased mental health, are more deadly than diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or influenza, according to an article in The Atlantic.

Additionally, workplace stress can interfere with productivity, impair relationships, and even cause safety issues. We’ve all seen over-busy people walking along – even crossing streets – with their eyes focused on their cellphone and not what’s in front of them.

So how do you recognize when you’re under too much stress – when you are “overextended”? It starts by being self-aware. When you start to feel overwhelmed, pay attention to how you respond to your work and the people around you. When we’re overextended, our positive qualities may actually become “too much of a good thing” causing negative impact. For example, someone who is detail-focused and analytical may exhibit “analysis paralysis” when overextended. Someone who is typically creative and social may become impulsive and overly emotional under extreme stress. And the “people person” who brings harmony to every meeting may suddenly become stubborn and resistant. When Mr. Peabody becomes Attila the Hun it’s time to get a handle on stress.

Oh, right, you say. There’s work to be done and we’re down two people…I don’t want to lose my job…I just need to get through this month and then I’ll (fill in the blank): get back to my family, get back to my workouts, get back to my life.

OK, people. Listen up. Part, not all, but PART of the reason we’re in this environment is that we allowed it to happen. Just like Lucy and Ethel in that famous bit in the chocolate factory, the more we demonstrated a willingness to work more, work faster, sacrifice life balance for the sake of a pay raise or out of fear for our job, the faster the conveyor belt went. The 40-hour work week turned into 50, then 60. Vacations? Who has time? Off hours? What are those? Welcome to our 24 x 7 world of work.

So what to do? I say, let’s take back our lives. Let’s stop the insanity and lean out for a change. Here’s how.
1. Set boundaries. Establish a time after which you don’t take work phone calls or respond to work emails, texts, smoke signals, whatever. Manage expectations about your “work hours.”
2. Be willing to say “no.” When asked to do something with a clearly unreasonable deadline or without appropriate resources, explain the impact it will have on your current work. Offer alternative dates, suggest alternative resources.
3. Stop and pause. Do a personal check-in. Adjust priorities, if needed. Take a break.
4. Breathe. Deeply and often. Consider meditation. Take a walk in the park or along the beach.
5. Laugh. Find something to laugh about every day. It’s good medicine.

"If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it."
-George Burns (who lived to be 100)

Till next time,

Karen

Behavioral assessments, Organizational health, Personalities, Work-life balance

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What Did You Do on Your Summer Vacation?

August 24th, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

VacationWhen I was in school, often our first assignment was to write an essay about what we did for our summer vacation. You probably had the same assignment, and were able to write, as I did, about lazy days on the beach (in my case, the Jersey shore) or at camp or on a family vacation or anywhere that was not school or work.

Fast forward to TODAY. If you were asked to write about your summer vacation, would you have a good story to tell? Or would your response be “What vacation?” If the latter, you wouldn’t be alone. A survey conducted by Skift, who tracks American travel habits, found that in 2014, 42% of Americans didn’t take a single day of vacation. Why is that? Some often-cited reasons (ahem, excuses) are: heavy workload, lack of money to “go anywhere” and the perception that people who take time off are less dedicated.

It may also stem from the fact that the United States is the only advanced economy that does not require its employers to offer their workers paid vacation time. In their report, No-Vacation Nation Revisited, researchers at the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that:
• Nearly one-fourth of U.S. companies offer no paid time off
• Those companies that do offer an average of only 10 days vacation per year

Compare this to European countries where employers are required by law to offer at least 20 days per year. And they expect their employees to take it! In Austria, the typical employee gets 25 days annual leave plus 13 paid holidays. Now that’s a vacation!

It amazes me that so many people in the U.S. who DO have the opportunity to take time off don’t take it. Even those working for companies that have unlimited or more generous than average time off policies. Back to that 42%. If you’re in that category, you are missing out on myriad benefits from getting away from the office. And I mean REALLY getting away. Not just moving your electronics to the beach! Research shows that time away from work:
• Improves overall health
• Increases creativity (New experiences! Different scenery!)
• Provides for quality time with family
• Ignites neural connections (Increasing your brain power, and that’s got to be good!)
• Increases productivity upon return

So what are you waiting for? There are still a few weeks left before summer officially ends. Do yourself a favor and use up some of those vacation days to take a well-deserved break. Even if you take a “stay vacation” (note: without electronics). You’ll feel better for it. Your family will feel better for it. And, yes, the company will survive while you’re gone.

Get working on that essay!

Till next time,

Karen

Health, Jersey shore, Life, Work-life balance

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