Tag Archives: time

Exhausted by boarding time? Here’s how to prepare for take off

Take off

 

 

Recently as I prepared for my spring vacation, I found myself with tons to get done. I grabbed the mail and newspaper. Then, I began paying bills, cleaning out my fridge and responding to as many work emails as I could get to.

I always like to tackle my to-do list before I leave to ensure a more relaxing vacation. But the long, frenetic days leading up to take off are exhausting. I understand why a recent survey by Wakefield on behalf of Hilton Garden Inn revealed 71 percent of women would clone themselves to achieve everything they need to get done in a day.

Many Americans leave up to $ 52.4 billion worth of vacation days unused each year. But time off can be key to work life balance. In particular, a little bit of preparation can go a long way to ensuring you actually enjoy the vacation days you worked so hard to earn. Over many years of writing about work life balance, I have asked businesswomen who travel often for their careers to share simple rituals and tested time-savers to make travel easier.

 

If you plan to travel this spring, here are a few tips you might find as helpful as I do:

  1. Get sleep. The night before traveling, many of us have the urge to stay up late trying to get things done. I set a bedtime the night before take off and stick to it. Truth be told, I’m cranky when I don’t get a good night sleep and I want to start my journey pumped for adventure.
  2. Prepare for an easy exit.  The night before traveling, I put my suitcases by the front door along with a list of what I need to do before I walk out the door. That includes packing my phone charger, feeding the fish, turning off the lights etc.  Creating that list allows me to get out the door quickly and creates peace of mind.
  3. Make a playlist. Before I leave on a trip, I make myself a “wind down” playlist on my iPod. When I travel, I often have a lot on my mind (places to go, people to see). My playlist allows me to soothe myself to sleep on a plane, lull myself into a dreamy state in a hotel room or relax a bit if my flight is delayed. James Taylor is my go-to artist for calming tunes.
  4. Download apps. There are lots of apps that make travel easier and keep waiting time at airports at minimal such as those that offer restaurant suggestions, give updates on flight status and offer easy check-in at hotels. CityMaps2Go is one of my favorite travel apps because it allows you to preload city maps onto your phone so you don’t need an Internet connection to find your way around.
  5. Make an exercise plan. Traveling can be tough on the waistline but if you plan ahead you can fit some exercise time into your schedule. Look over your proposed itinerary to block out 20 to 30 minutes to go to the hotel gym or for a short run. If that’s too much time to dedicate on vacation, there are a variety of free apps such as Wahoo Fitness’s seven minute workout, which you can easily do in your room. Perhaps right before brushing your teeth.

 

As a new member of the HGI Bright Minds team I’m excited to share work/life balance tips with all the superwomen out there to help make their lives easier. For more tips, be sure to follow me on social media and join the conversation at #HGIBrightIdeas.

Improve work life balance and fight cancer at the same time

As October came to a close, I began to miss the month when pink was everywhere. Still, it's great that at least one month a year, there is a focus on preventing and curing breast cancer. 

But now that November is here, there is no reason we should stop talking about cancer prevention, particularly when there are some easy things we can do to reduce the risk of cancer and improve our work life balance at the same time.

Dr. Pedro Serrano-Ojeda headshotDr. Pedro Serrano-Ojeda (CEO and Chief Radiation Oncologist of Caribbean Radiation Oncology Center in Doral) offers some suggestions that seem pretty doable:

Cut the sugar and exercise Obesity has surpassed the use of tobacco as a cancer causing factor. Making exercise a part of a daily routine can help minimize stress – make sure to leave the cell phone behind – and it makes for a healthy body.  Even just a brisk walk or light jog for 20 minutes a day will all help towards reducing the risk of cancer. 

Shop smart There are many household products – including certain shampoos – that contain parabens, such as sulfate, that could increase the risk of breast cancer.  There are many online resources that can help with finding products that do not have these elements, just a little bit of research before hitting the grocery store goes a long, long way. 

Read the label Using containers that are not suitable for the microwave can be a cancer-inducing practice. Cancer is an ancient and formidable enemy, yet there are some things we need to avoid in the modern world that will assist us in preventing the disease. Looking carefully at how we are using everyday products can make a difference.

Take Vitamin D– Women with breast cancer often have low levels of vitamin D so it is important to have a regular vitamin D check

Chill out Stress has a great impact on the body and predisposes it to cancer. It’s inevitable that sometimes situations will arise that will lead to stress, but if we stop and ask, “Is this item we are stressing over worth risking cancer for?” then I really think we wouldn’t sweat the small stuff.  

Live with purpose- As Einstein used to say, “Only a life lived for others is a life worth living.” And, as I say, “People do not die from old age, but people die when they stop dreaming.” So keep dreaming and keep living with purpose.

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Always busy? It’s time to reclaim your work life balance

Last night I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned thinking about everything I needed to get done. While my husband snored, I grabbed my iPad and piled tasks on my digital to-do list. Now, I am starting my day tired and if anyone dares to ask me how life is going, I will respond: BUSY!

 Are you busy, too?  By that, I mean are you juggling, cramming, rushing and feeling exhausted?

 We are all busy because that's life today. But maybe there's something else going on. Maybe we just haven’t figured out a better way to work and live.   

I just finished reading How To Thrive In A World of Too Much Busy by Tony Crabbe and found myself thinking differently about my struggle with work life balance and our society’s addiction to being busy.

Crabbe says we are busy because we're not making the tough choices. We choose skimming email rather than grappling with a complex project because it's the easy, busy activity. We steal attention from real relationships while we keep ourselves busy on social networks. Beating busy is simple, he says. It's about focusing on the things that matter.

 Here are some suggestion Crabbe gives to gain control over our lives and find a better work life balance. 

1. Say no to a request or ask permission to delay a deadline by using the word “because.” If you use "because" in your request, your argument will be seen as more rational and acceptable.

 

2. Be deliberate when you check email. Set specific times and do it in a focused way rather than grazing.

 

3. Identify at least one meeting that you can cancel or simply not attend.

 

4. Next time you are asked to do something, assess how much spare time you have and half it. Then assess how long you think the new task will take and double it.  Now you can make a better informed judgment whether to take it on.

 

5. Get better at making good choices. If we choose to fill our calendar with more, more, more, we are choosing not to have time to think — and that isn't effective. Resist feeling you have to fill up all your time at work or home.

 

6. Make intentional choices. The primary driver for choosing activities at work and home should be internal "what do I want to achieve?"

 

7. Over-invest your time and attention in the 15 most important people in your life.

 

Here are some great questions to ask yourself:

What could I do less of to enjoy life more?

What is the “I’m too busy” excuse stopping me from doing?

What is one small step I could take to go from being frenetically busy to being happy?

 

Making behavior changes is hard. It’s much easier to walk around thinking we have to do more and convince ourselves we need to be more productive. By being busy, we actually get to feel productive while procrastinating.

Have you ever really thought about whether you are addicted to being busy? Have you ever stopped to look at whether you're getting it wrong?

Busy

The Work/Life Balancing Act

It’s that time: Do you get back-to-school angst too?

Today, I'm running around like a crazy lady, trying to get my kids back to school supplies and battling the crowds of last minute shoppers. On top of that, I'm talking to parents for an upcoming article on how they tackle back to school. The whole thing has got me feeling a little nerve racked. Each year, as the first day arrives, I feel a little anxious about new routines for my children and myself. This year, my youngest starts high school, my oldest two are off to college and my whole routine will change.

I figure it is a good time to bring back a blog post I wrote in 2010 about working parents and back to school angst,and ways for working parents to avoid being over-scheduled. With a little planning, it is possible to find work life balance.

Wishing all of you a smooth and happy school year! 

 

Backtoschool5
(From August 2010)

This week I have a knot in my stomach. I get it every year around this time as I prepare the kids for back to school. Like most parents, I want the school year to go smoothly. I want their school schedules to blend well with my work schedule and work life balance to be possible. For parents, back to school can be just as stressful as it is for our kids.

As I scurry around, setting up carpools, buying school supplies and stocking up on lunch box snacks, I worry about what's to come and I mourn the end of summer. 

With the start of school, kids want to sign up for extracurricular activities. Then, it is up to us parents to get them where they need to go. Sometimes, we drive ourselves over the edge trying to make our work schedules mesh with their activities.

 Here are a few tips you can use when juggling your work schedule with your children's activities:

* Gage your flexibility at work. Your employer may be willing to make an arrangement with you, even if it's temporary, to allow you to get your kids to practices if you come in earlier. This usually involves a conversation in advance.

* Consider proximity. The more activities kids can do at school, the easier it is on working parents. Get a schedule of team try-ours from your child's school. Some day-care centers have started to offer dance or martial arts classes during the day.

*  Let your child choose. Children inevitably are more successful when they choose the activity rather than a parent.  "If it's something they really want to do, they are more likely to figure out on their own how to get where they need to be," says Mandee Heller Adler, a Hollywood college admissions consultant.

*  Find a carpool. This is when networking with other parents pays off. When asked, most working parents are thrilled to split driving duties.

* Do the activity with your child. Attorney Valerie Greenberg enrolled in martial arts classes with her two kids. She found it the best way to combine exercise for her with activity for them.

* Look into online activities. Your child might want to take cooking lessons by watching online videos at home.

* Enlist multiple children in the same activity. This may seem like a no-brainer but it may require some compromise.

* Ask about flexibility. If you plan to sign up for gymnastics or dance classes for your child, find out whether they have make-up opportunities for those times when your work schedules prohibits you from getting your child to their activity.

* Lose the guilt. "Parents don't have to be at every practice or show," says parenting expert Laura Gauld of greatparenting101.com. Sometimes, stepping back has its advantages, she says. "Someone else steps up and can turn out to be a good mentor for your child."

*Know the expectations. While elite youth sports teams are popular, they require travel and mandatory practices. It's best to check into requirements before signing up for a major commitment.

 

 

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

The virtues of quality time

After 10 days of climbing mountains, riding bicycles and wading in tidal pools, I'm back from vacationing with my family and trying to resettle into reality. What I will miss most is the quality time I had with my three children and my husband. 

Often I hear working parents debate quality versus quantity in time spent with family. Frankly, both are hard to come by when I'm running kids to sports practices, trying to whip up something somewhat healthy for dinner and worrying about making a work deadline. My conversations with my children and husband are along the lines of "How was your day?" or "How much homework do you have tonight?" I reluctantly admit that sometimes, I don't hear their answers, preoccupied by a phone call or email that need to be returned.

There is something about being in a different environment and a vacation-state-of-mind that opens the door not just for conversation, but also for listening. On vacation in Oregon, miles away from boyfriends, video games and a wifi signal, I asked my children questions and I not only heard their answers, I responded with additional questions that encouraged them to share more.

Studies have shown links between quality parent time and positive outcomes for children. I see positive outcomes for parents, too. I feel energized by having strengthened my relationships with my family. Typically at home, my daughter is running off to her boyfriend's home or my son is playing video games. There is something uplifting about quality time together outside of the normal routine where conversation goes deeper than the daily small talk.

I realize that going on vacation is a privilege some families can't afford. However, there are ways to build stronger bonds without traveling miles. For example, a picnic in the park or a visit to the museum with no where to be afterward could set the stage for the same kind of give and take conversation. Away from my daily worries, I was reminded how much I enjoy my family's company and just how valuable quality time is in our busy world. As I return to my Inbox and unfinished assignments, I am more conscious of the benefits of making quality time with people I care about and why we should all fight hard for work life balance.

What do you do to make quality time with your loved ones? Do you find ways to fit quality time into your work life balance?

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

How to actually take vacation, time off in 2015

                                       Vacation

 

 

Close you eyes and for a moment imagine yourself relaxed, happy and at your best at work. When I do that, I envision myself about a week after I have returned from vacation, all caught up at work and in a much better mindset than before I left.

 

Being my best self at work affects how I lead, treat others, show compassion and patience, and exhibit creativity. Most of us need a break from routine, a chance to decompress, to be our best selves. But surveys show we are not taking that crucial opportunity.

 

Just less than 42% of Americans didn't take a single day of vacation in 2014, and women took fewer vacation days than men, according to Skift, a travel intelligence site. The findings show many full-time employed Americans have at least 10 days of allotted vacation. Because workplaces often have use it or lose it policies, not taking vacation is like leaving money on the table.

 

What's going on?

 

There are all kinds of reasons people gave. Some said they were reluctant to use their vacation time for fear of appearing replaceable or concern about their work piling up. Some didn't have money to go on vacation or believed there was no one who could cover for them if they took time off.

 

Right before my vacation this summer, I felt like any story ideas I came up with were stale. I felt tired and disengaged. Most of us recognize we are not at our best when we haven’t been able to disconnect from work physically and emotionally for a long stretch of time.

 

Vacations don’t have to be costly or long to be revitalizing. Now is the time to think ahead for 2015. Start by establishing expectations that you will take time off, guidelines for how you will disconnect and back up plans for when you are on vacation. Help your boss (or client) get into a routine of contacting others for some issues that he’d normally contact you about. Do this even when you are in the office to train those who will cover for you.  You want you boss to gain more confidence in them and allow you a real vacation from work.

 

Even in workplaces that don’t encourage time off, let others know that they will benefit from your post-vacation rejuvenation. I feel like taking vacation in 2015 is doable if you keep your “best self” vision in mind and plan for it now.

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

How to return holiday gifts without wasting tons of time (and money)

Returns

I'm heading to the mall today but I must confess: I go nuts from the chaos involved in returning holiday gifts!

What seems like a simple exchange for size often becomes my biggest nightmare when I have to face crowds, encounter a grumpy sales associate or dole out reasons why I should NOT have to pay more for the same item in a different size.

I've been scanning the web for the best tips of holiday returns.

When I saw this article on the Time website it had a lot of good information to share:

Here is what Time says about returns. 

First off, if you know you don’t want the gift you’ve received—perhaps you already have one, or it’s not remotely in your taste—don’t open it. You have the best chance getting a refund or the full value in store credit for packages that are unopened and in brand-new condition. Next, check if the gift was accompanied by a gift or regular receipt. If yes, the person who bought the gift saved you some potentially big hassles, because without a receipt you may have no right whatsoever to a return or exchange. (Note to self: Always include gift receipts with presents.)

If there is no receipt, you could ask the giver—nicely, cautiously, graciously—where the gift was purchased and if he or she still had a copy of the receipt. This could be quite tricky, and if you’re going there it would be wise to mention how deeply you appreciate the thought behind the gift, but that there was a reason you wanted something slightly different; it could be as simple as needing a different size. Then again, there are reasons to steer way clear of this route. Not only could the giver wind up being offended, the situation could make an extremely awkward turn if, say, the giver didn’t want to reveal that the present was purchased at 85% off.

Assuming there is a receipt, look up the store’s return and exchange policy online, and then be sure to bring the item back to the store before the period expires. As the comprehensive holiday return report from the site Consumer World notes, around the holidays many major retailers institute policies that sensibly make it easy for recipients to bring items back after Christmas. Walmart, for instance, normally has return policies of 14, 15, or 30 days, depending on the item, but for purchases made between November 1 and December 24, the return period countdown doesn’t commence until December 26. In other words, if the item was normally subject to a 30-day return limit, the recipient would have to return it within 30 days of December 26, even if it was purchased in early November. What with the crush of crowds hitting the malls in the days right after Christmas, you might consider waiting for a bit before handling the return. 

Time says if you don’t have the receipt but you know where the item was purchased, go ahead and bring it back to the store. It’s likely the item was purchased with a credit card or was otherwise tracked by the retailer, so there will be a record of it on file, and you should be offered store credit or the right to exchange. (An outright cash refund is extremely unlikely, and pretty much impossible unless the original transaction was in cash, but it can’t hurt to ask.)

When bringing the item back, bring ID. One way retailers try to curtail abuse (and arguably, cut down on returns in general) is by requiring ID during returns and exchanges. Victoria’s Secret wound up on Consumer Reports “Naughty” list this year for its rigid requirement that customers present a government-issued ID for all returns and exchanges. Beyond having ID at the ready, be polite and patient. Store managers are more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt on a return if they perceive you as a potentially good customer down the road.

Here is what Time says about Regifting

If you think that regifting is a no-no, you’re in the minority. An American Express survey revealed that 42% of Americans repurposed presents they received by passing them along as gifts to someone else, while 76% of respondents deem regifting as “acceptable.”

But as with hand-picked and purchased gifts themselves, there are thoughtful and thoughtless ways to go about regifting. For example, it’s bad form to regift an item within a circle of friends who socialize regularly because it’s easy to see how word could spread and everyone could find out where the gift originated. It’s also the opposite of generous to pass along a gift to someone else when you found it hideous. Check out our five-step guide to regifting to repurpose presents in a way that won’t offend anyone, and that (hopefully) won’t get you branded as a crass, thoughtless regifter—which is even worse than being a thoughtless giver.

The National Retail Federation offers these tips:

• Check return policies before you head to the store.  Many retailers have their return policies posted online.  Some stores charge a "restocking fee" for returns.

•Know your online store policies, too. Though millions of gift-givers are in-store shoppers, many purchase gifts online. When making an online return, it's important to know who pays for shipping (the customer or retailer) and the exact location that returned items should be sent. Some online retailers have made hassle-free returns a key part of their business model. Others are less generous.

 

CNBC published this list of six retailers have the worst return policies. It's worth a read before you head to the mall and find yourself aggravated. Those retailers who made the list are Sears, American Apparel, GameStop, Barnes & Noble, ThinkGeek.com, Rakuten.com.

Here's a 2011 article from LifeHacker.com on how to turn your unwanted gifts into cash or something better. I figured at least some of these suggestions might still be valid.

Happy Returns!

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Why a task expands to fill the time you allow it

Calendar

 

 

Planning to write an end-of-year holiday letter? How much time will you spend on that? 

Planning to shop for a new wreath?  How much time will you spend on that?

If you haven't thought about those tasks from a time perspective, you should because if you haven't noticed, our to-dos expand to the amount of time we allot them.

In my line of work, everything is about deadlines. Sometimes, when the deadline is way in the future, an article takes me much longer to write than if I had to get it done in an hour.

Organization gurus tell us to put almost everything on our calendars and give ourselves a set amount of time to complete each task. Reading email is a great example.  If we don't set a specific amount of time aside for it, clearing email can fill many more hours of your work day than it should. One productivity expert told me that limiting the amount of time we give ourselves to complete a work project increases our productivity and quality.

But we don't just need to work smart, we need to play smart, too.

Yesterday, I looked at a friend's calendar and thought she was insane. It's color-coded and jam packed. She has allotted herself three hours on Saturday to run errands. As she explained why, I had an a-ha moment.

By allotting herself only three hours for errands, my friend has prevented chores from filling up her entire day off work. That's pretty smart because we all know that running to the grocery store and the dry cleaner and the drug stores can expand into an all day event if we allow it.

In her blog post, Jennifer Lea, The Energized Mom, asks: Does having more (free) time lead to greater fulfillment?

The answer is not necessarily.

How you use your free time is critical to work life balance. No one wants to have to follow a minute by minute schedule. But without slotting set amounts of time for certain tasks, you can easily find yourself reading email for hours instead of taking a bike ride with your spouse. Maximizing your time at work by confining tasks to time slots can mean the difference between leaving at a reasonable hour and staying late unnecessarily.

Life is so much more than spending hours doing something unfulfilling that could have taken just 15 minutes.  So, take some time on the front end to identify your high and low priority work and home tasks and decide in advance how much time and energy you want to invest in them. Nothing is too small to allot a set amount of time, even picking a restaurant for a date or browsing Facebook. 

It is so worth creating more time for those activities you most enjoy!

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Why is binge-TV watching worth your time?

I admit, I'm perplexed. I'm constantly told by people that they don't have enough time to read newspapers, exercise, keep up with friends, travel. Yet, people who struggle to find work life balance have huge chunks of time to binge TV watch. I wondered how and why they are getting the time and I set out this week in my Miami Herald column to find out….

 

Binge-watching TV: an escape zone?

 

 
 

Many workers say that on their time off, marathon viewing sessions of television shows is a pleasurable way to keep the world at bay.

 

(Above: Breaking Bad)

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

BALANCEGAL@GMAIL.COM

On a rainy Saturday in South Florida, Gabriela Garcia lay in her bed watching another episode ofCastle. She could get some fresh air, or even read a book or two, but watching Richard Castle investigate the homicide of a reality-show contestant had her enthralled. Before the day was out, she watched five more episodes of the TV series on Netflix.

“It’s my therapy,” says Garcia, a 37-year-old compliance officer at a Miami bank. “I work hard during the week and on weekends, I want to be lazy.”

It’s now easier than ever to get lost in marathon TV viewing sessions — a refuge that is becoming increasingly popular with America’s workers in their off hours. But how does the TV time-vacuum square with complaints about increasing workloads, hectic lifestyles and struggle for work/life balance? If workers value free time so fiercely, why spend that time glued to the tube?

A new study by Harris Interactive on behalf of Netflix shows 61 percent of us binge-watch TV regularly, watching at least three episodes of a single series in one sitting. Almost three-quarters of the public view binge watching as a positive experience and nearly 80 percent say that feasting on shows actually makes them more enjoyable.

“People are looking for refuge from the constant press of business,” says Grant McCracken, a cultural anthropologist who helped conduct the Netflix research. “At the same time, the stories are getting better than they used to be.”

Dramatic series such as Breaking Bad, The Wire, Downtown Abbey, Orange is the New Black andGame of Thrones are breaking the traditional rules, making TV even more complex and binge-watching more fun. At the same time, more people have signed up for Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime to get TV content streamed right into their television, laptop, tablet or smart phone, giving them a library of shows at their fingertips. And viewers are logging on in droves; just this week, Netflix reported it increased its total of paid subscribers to 47.99 million in the second quarter, up 34.7 percent from the same period last year.

Viewers say watching multiple episodes in order makes the sometimes-complicated plot lines easier to follow. But there is more behind the trend. Some workers admit they have binged to catch up with the current season so they can participate in conversations and inside jokes in their workplace lunchrooms or staff meetings.

It was water cooler conversation at her office that led publicist Mary Sudasassi, 43, to watch The Walking Dead. Sudasassi says she quickly became addicted to watching multiple episodes in a row. “After work and dinner, I would look forward to it like a prize.”

This summer, she and her husband, a mechanical engineer, are spending entire weekends diving into series that capture their attention. One Saturday, the couple watched eight episodes in a row of Game of Thrones. “We had to stop ourselves because we knew we should be doing something more productive.” But at the same time, Sudasassi says she looks at it as a fun couples’ activity. “It’s a way for us both to escape from stress.”

McCracken found the word “binge,” typically tinged with guilt or shame, has evolved into something different when it relates to television. Instead of vegging out like couch potatoes, television viewers now are called on to pay more attention to the action — and they are rewarded for it.

“There’s an ‘Oh My God’ reflex that comes out of new TV,” says McCracken, that causes views to look beyond the surface to explore the plot and their responses do it. “It’s not really that [Americans] are binging but rather they are feasting on good TV.

Much of this new “feasting” behavior is triggered by control. With DVRs and streaming, viewers can watch shows when they want, where they want, how they want and at the pace they want – in the middle of the night on a plane on a laptop, for example. Netflix studied viewer behavior and reacted to it “when given option, people were watching at least a couple of episodes in a row,” says Jenny McCabe, a spokeswomen for Netflix.

Those findings were behind its decision to release all episodes of House of Cards out at one time. Netflix’s research showed that 25 percent of subscribers who watch its 10 most popular shows cram an entire 13-hour season into two days; another 48 percent watch the entire season in a week. McCabe said Netflix intentionally eliminated commercials and the replays before each episode to [enable] viewers to use TV time efficiently. Or, as one lifestyle blogger, wrote, content producers are basically saying “Take the weekend, watch all 13 hours of this thing. DO IT.”

A working mother of young children, McCabe admits she binge-watches, too, catching up on multiple episodes of her favorite shows when she goes on a business trip. “I don’t’ have to share the TV with my significant other and I can just power through something.”

National branding guru Jay Leopardi, co-owner of Bad Boy Branding agency in Miami, says not only has he marathoned while on business travel, but he has watched multiple episodes late at night, sacrificing sleep and giving in to the urge for ‘just one more.’ “I’m an extremely busy person, but I have stayed up and watched House of Cards for five hours straight while my wife and kids were asleep,” says Leopardi. “It hooked me. It was that good of a show.”

In our instant-gratification society, the new content-providers, like Netflix, have realized that there is something satisfying for viewers in knowing that if an episode ends in a cliffhanger, in a few minutes they can see what happened. Leopardi says this is true for him: “I have zero patience. I don’t want until wait to next week to find out what happens.”

Regardless of when or where it happens, marathoning represents a huge time commitment. Watching the entire five-season series of AMC’s Breaking Bad, the highest rated show of all time, requires the devotion of more than 46 hours.

“When you put it like that, I feel embarrassed,” says Robert Yanks, a 24-year-old Fort Lauderdale advertising executive. “When you’re watching, it never seems like a big commitment because it is at your leisure.”

Over a weekend, Yanks said he and a friend might spent up to six or seven hours on the couch in a TV marathon of provocative dramas, illustrating that binging isn’t necessarily a solitary act. Among those who streamed multiple episodes of a TV series in a row, a combined 51 percent prefer to watch with at least one other person and talk about it afterward, research shows. Many even turn to social media for discussions.

Experts say people are giving up movies, books and exercise to escape into the world of Breaking Bad’s Walter White or Scandal’s Olivia Pope. McCracken says it’s clear to him why: “There is pleasure in the ability to sit at home watching episode after episode of great TV with the world kept at bay.”

The Work/Life Balancing Act

How much is your time worth? Why you need to outsource

My cleaning lady is at my house today. If I didn't have her, I would spend several days cleaning and not writing. I would be miserable and I'd have less money in the bank. By doing the math, I figured out I come out ahead spending my time writing rather than cleaning. 

Outsourcing is all about doing the math. What are your spending time doing — maybe even not doing well — that you could farm out and come out ahead? I've discovered that busy working parents need to outsource something if they want work life balance. Do you agree?

Here's my Miami Herald article on outsourcing…

How much is your time worth? Consider outsourcing some tasks

 

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

TODD

(ABOVE: Todd Paton of Paton Marketing)

Todd Paton has a booming Miami business getting customers noticed on the Web. One tool he uses is generating online press releases to build brand awareness and create links that will send traffic to a customer’s website. But Paton, owner of Paton Internet Marketing, acknowledges that writing the releases is not his strong suit. Rather than spend his time doing it, he hires out the task.

 “You have to value your time so you know what is or is not a good use of it,” Paton says.

As a proliferation of outsourcing sites spread, today’s business owners have more options for hiring out tasks that detract from generating income and having a balanced life. For some small firms, outsourcing has had a compelling impact on their growth, productivity and bottom lines.

An important first step in outsourcing is figuring out what doesn’t make sense for you to do personally. Paton suggests dividing your income by the hours worked and coming up with an estimate of your time value. Then, factor in the time it would take you to become an expert at a specific function and complete it. “Often you find you are spending time on something you could have done by an expert for a lot less than your time is worth,” he says.

How much you can you expect to pay a contractor depends on the type of work you’re buying, the skill level and location of your provider, and your own preferences. For example, Paton goes to eLance to find U.S.-based freelancers, and pays about $ 30 a press release. Rather than spend half a day on the task, hiring it out is worth the expense.

Elance and oDesk (which merged in 2013) are two of the most popular marketplaces for employers to connect with talent on an as-needed basis. They are joined by an ongoing rollout of sites that give business owners access to a global pool of human capital such as virtual executive assistants, marketing directors, graphic designers, transcriptionists, paralegals, Web designers, human resources consultants, bookkeepers, public relations directors and information technology specialists.

Lesley Pyle founded HireMyMom.com seven years ago to allow owners in need of outside expertise to tap mom professionals. She finds small-business owners increasingly coming to her site to hire skilled, work-at-home moms to build or design websites, create social media followings and manage email marketing campaigns. For many entrepreneurs, the new demands of technology are the most natural tasks to outsource, Pyle finds.

“There are constantly new and better ways to do things online. Unless you enjoy that or have time for that, it’s an easy one to put on your delegation list,” Pyle says.

Mande White-Pearl, a South Florida marketing strategist for female entrepreneurs, says that even when a business owner outsources, she needs to understand the specific outcome she wants from whomever she hires. White says she has used more than 20 virtual workers to complete tasks like data entry, graphic design or project management while she concentrates on bringing in business and spending time with her new husband.

The first year she began using contractors to help carry her workload, White-Pearl says, she doubled her company's revenue.

White locates her freelancers on oDesk and has paid $ 5 to $ 50 an hour, depending on the task. She typically gives out small projects to new hires, testing them before doling out ongoing needs. “Over time, I have gotten much better about being clear on what exactly it is I need people to do. If I have had a bad experience, it has been because I had not properly communicated what I needed, wanted or expected.

To ensure quality from freelancers, sites such as Elance, oDesk and Freelancer.com allow the hiring party to see how previous clients rated prospective vendors’ work, as well as detailed profiles of the vendors and what they charge. There is no charge for freelancers to post profiles on the sites and to apply to jobs.

The sites make money by charging the employer a fee that equals a share of the total amount they paid the freelancer. Expect to pay U.S.-based contractors higher fees, but remember, with offshore providers there may be a language barrier. Fees are paid per hour or per project.

For more-creative tasks, business owners are finding talent on Fivver.com, which introduced a mobile app in December. While the site is now far from the original everything-for-$ 5 concept, the costs of specific jobs are straightforward. White-Pearl says she has used Fiverr to find individuals to do video editing, logo design, animation and proofreading, and she has spent from $ 5 to $ 40 to get the job done.

With the increase in demand, a variety of models for online hiring are gaining popularity. Sites like OnForce and FieldNation have created networks of independent workers in the same specialty who can be hired per gig and dispatched to a job site as opposed to working remotely. In Spring 2013, OnForce introduced a mobile app to help pair the buyer with the freelancer who might already be out on a job nearby.

Kevin Michael, managing partner of Invizio in Coral Gables, runs a business that provides IT support to local companies. However, Michael says he recently became a vendor on OnForce, a network of independent IT professionals looking for gigs in their area. “We see it as a way to get our foot in the door.”

While on OnForce he’s the independent contractor, Michael says that as a business owner, he, too, has at times been the outsourcer. He has used hiring sites to tap professionals to create logo designs or marketing materials. “If you are a small business and trying to grow, adding headcount isn’t what you want,” he says. “It is much better to find someone with expertise who is affordable. Now you have more time in your day, and you’re still getting what you need done.”

 

 

Kevinvmichael_datacenter_shot

(Above: Kevin Michael, managing partner of Invizio, IT Support)

The Work/Life Balancing Act