DIY Season

It's here - DIY season. We all know what it means, right around when fall hits - people from far and wide start hitting up craft stores, Pinteresting as if their lives depended on survival. Isn't that what it really is, how to survive amongst the parents who live and breath Pinterest life? And for what do we go through this torment for? For the mere satisfaction of the two minute dialog you're going to have with parents that brag about how amazing you're homemade unicorn costume turned out or those amazing pumpkin treats that you spent 24 hours making not mentioning the tears, the curse words, the alcohol you consumed to put this beast together but instead smile proudly and say "it's all for their happiness"......SCREW THAT!

Why do we do this to ourselves? Two weekends ago I threw a halloween party for my kids and spent WEEKS preparing all the little bits and pieces for the "make your own s'mores" bar or the popcorn bar and I stressed over the entire thing BUT I did not make one thing....not one, I bought all the decorations, all the elements to create this magic and I still got my Pinterest worthy comments that I tucked in the back of my head and gave myself a mental high five for crushing it, then when everyone left I laid on the floor from the mere exhaustion and thought to myself "it's all for their happiness" - LIES! It was for me to throw a kick ass party. When I asked my son what his favorite part was - he said the donuts.

I used to love doing DIYs, then I had kids - sorry folks but I just don't have the patience to make my kid's halloween customs from scratch nor do I have the perfect sugar cookie recipe for the Holiday Cookie Exchange - I suck at baking. So what do I do to keep up with the actual Pinterest moms - I cheat. I go on Pinterest and look for the easiest thing I can put together with the least effort I can muster. My three year old will not remember the time during Valentines when I spent two hours tying little tags to squeeze pouches that said "will you be my main squeeze?" - why did I do that? They can't even read! I did it for the parents - that's right folks we are a bunch of braggers who want the kudos and that's ok. But I will not feel bad about buying the pre-decorated cupcakes from Publix to bring to the class party - see ya later mom guilt. My kids will remember that I was there for their class party and if they don't I'll be sure to show them the thousand selfies I took as proof.

Ironically, my most popular post on this blog is the DIY Scooby Doo group costume we did when we had our first born - it was my last DIY costume. Who am I kidding - I'll be back on Pinterest shortly after this post goes up to find something to show off to the other parents with - it's an endless cycle!

One Month Work Challenge

Hello October! Anyone else feel like September went by way too fast? How are we getting ready for the holidays already? Well, here we are and aside from preparing for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Holidays - you should be thinking about end of the year reviews at work. If you're like me, I cringe at the end of the year, not that I feel like I'm going to get a bad review, but that I have to remember all the good things I accomplished and what I still need improvement on.

After a few years of working in a  management position, I found that for most bosses, it's hard to keep track of all the things employees do over the year. I genuinely feel that sometimes reviews are based on your performance over the last few months of the year because we're reminded that those end of the years are coming up. So this past year, because I manage three other people, I started profiles and would make notes throughout the year of the good, the bad and the ugly of all my people so that I could give a fair review. But then I started thinking - even if your boss only really is looking at the last months to see how you're doing - you should not wait until December to find out what needs to be improved - find out now! Raises people! You want to maximize your raise and/or bonus the best you can.

So I came up with a one month work challenge broken out by week. It's in your best interest to find out from your boss or supervisor what you can improve on now so that when those reviews come up, you can say "here is what I've done to maximize my workflow and efficiency." This will give you the best advantage to receiving the raise and bonus you deserve. Once you get in the habit of making these improvements, this challenge can be done once every three months because we can always improve something. So here we go:

Week 1: Communication - where do you see you're falling short on getting the point across with your team and coworkers? Are you an introvert? Do you have a hard time asking for help? Do you feel that when someone is explaining something to you, you're losing focus? This is the week to find those answers. When you're not good at communicating, you're work suffers drastically. The most important tool you will have in any setting is being an effective communicator. Set your week up to include challenges for yourself. If you're an introvert - find a coworker you feel comfortable with to try and work on a project together - doesn't matter what it is, even if you have to make it up - this will force yourself to take lead and initiate conversation. Then you can ask them how you did.

If asking for help is a big problem - prioritize your day and your week. If you see you have projects piling up - make a list of smaller things you can hand off to someone else. Ask your coworker "hey, I'm a little swamped, would you mind giving me a hand on some stuff I have?" What's great about working as a team is that we are not a "one woman/man show" - you have resources to use. It only hurts you when you fall behind because you can't bring yourself to ask for help.

Week 2: Efficiency - how are you at completing projects? Do you find you're falling behind on deadlines? Identify why it is that you can't bring yourself to successfully meet timeframes. Are you bad at organizing? Do you have papers all over your desk? Organization is the key to efficiency, when you know where everything is and have a good understanding of what's required of you - you'll have no reason not to meet those deadlines. Give yourself a to-do list. It's your responsibility to prioritize your projects and if that is not something you are good at, rope in your supervisor. "Hey Sue - can you spare five minutes to go over my to-do list today? I want to be sure I'm prioritizing properly." The other reason for efficiency problems is that you're constantly trying to make everyone happy. Of course, everyone's things are important but telling them you're going to work on it right now means stopping what you're currently working on and eventually falling farther behind. If someone says they need something and there's no specific deadline - you can easily say "no problem, I'll have that for you by the end of the day" or "I"ll have that for you first thing in the morning, just need to wrap up some current projects." By deferring time but still showing the work is a priority to you, allows you time to re-prioritize your list or rope in a co-worker to help (improving communication!)

Week 3: Consistency/Accuracy - is your work constantly coming back because there's errors? Grammar, spelling, sloppy? When a boss doesn't feel like your work is reliable to send off to clients, then it reflects badly on you. It shows them you don't know what you're doing and your rushing to get it done. Mistakes happen when we feel rushed and sometimes we have to rush but if we have a good foundation we can minimize those errors. Double check your work before you hit send. Print out your report before you send it off. A lot of times when we're staring at something for a long time, we become "blind" to a glaring error. Walking away from your computer and coming back will help give you a second glance. Asking a coworker to review your work is great as well, four eyes are better than two! Bosses don't always have time to read through so it's up to you to make them feel good that the work is accurate.

Week 4: Organization - this goes hand in hand with being efficient. I like getting in early before everyone because it gives me an opportunity to go through my emails - get my list of what I need to do together and get settled. Having an inbox full of emails isn't helpful. Having a desk cluttered with papers, gives a sense of being overwhelmed. How do you improve on your organization? Start with your inbox - create folders. Some people like having a lot of folders, one for each person in the office or for each project they work on - some people like having a few (priority, later, completed). Find what works for you. Outlook offers flags - you can flag tasks you need to work on in priority whether it be for today, this week or later in the month. Setup your calendar to reflect due dates. Utilize your own to-do list; every Monday I send out to my office a weekly to-do list, it gives them a chance to look through it and make sure what they requested is on it and shows who it has been assigned to. For my support team, this becomes a running checklist - when they're completed with one project they can move on to the next that is assigned to them or help someone who is falling behind.

Then move on to your desk. I always like to tell people, make yourself at home at your desk. Set it up to your comfort level and that doesn't just mean being organize - put things up that make you happy. So many people hate doing this when they first start a job because they're not sure if it'll work out. I say make it yours for however long you have it! I hate papers on my desk...HATE IT! So I put wall files in my office for every person, when they need to give me something, it goes in their "cubby" this way when I'm ready to work on it it I know exactly where to find the paper. 

Phew! That was a lot of information. Give it a try and see how this goes for you. If you plan on taking this challenge - save the pic attached to this post and tag me. If you need some help, feel free to send me a message - we'll work it out together!

Making It Work - Two Working Parent Household

A lot of times families are split amongst varying types of groups: Working Moms/Dads, Stay at Home Moms/Dads, Working Moms/Stay at Home Dads, Working Dads/Stay at Home Moms, Single Working Moms/ get my point. In our house, it's always been two working adults and then when we had kids it was two working parents.

The stresses of figuring out what to do after the baby was born was very heavy on us. We were not and are still not in a position for one of us to stay home and raise our kids. We were a household that NEEDED to have two incomes. Could it have been done with one of us staying at home? I'm sure it could have - we'd cut back, live on ramen, have one car, cut out luxuries like cable - but it would have been even more of a struggle. We were face with choosing between having a nanny or putting our infant in daycare. Based on what we could afford - nanny was for sure OUT! We could not afford to employ a nanny which by the way is exactly that - you are an employer and you need to file paperwork and taxes and all that good stuff  - we just could not swing it. So daycare won out. I will do a more in depth post on the pros and cons to look for when you're deciding on childcare.

Fast forward to our second baby which means double the cost of everything! So we're still a two working parent household. There's a certain amount of stress when you have both parents working. You are at a job that demands your time 8-10 hours a day then you come home and dinner needs to be made, bathes need to be had, lunches need to be made, playtime needs to be had and finally BEDTIME! It's very easy to feel utter exhaustion and get agitated with the people around you especially your spouse or partner. You don't feel like the other is pulling their weight, you find yourself becoming resentful because you think to yourself "well I work too the least you could do is make the lunches". It happens!

One of the things couples need to remember is that you're both in this together. You're both parents, you both work and you both lean on each other. I know for us - it was easy to get snappy with each other when one was doing way more than the other - it wasn't until we had a serious conversation of "how can we help each other"? The last thing anyone wants is to have their kids see their parents barking at each other - it doesn't teach them good communication skills and it's a little scary for them. So we identified the areas that were giving us frustration - household chores was a big one for me. I feel like a messy house creates a large amount of anxiety in me so I'm constantly cleaning. So we divided household chores - I take care of laundry, bed making and bathrooms while he's responsible for kitchen, floors and dusting - together we tackle the toys. He handles bath times and I cook dinner - together we get both kids dressed for bed. Some days it goes smoothly and some days not so much but the point is we're communicating with each other and we're there for each other.

For us, it doesn't matter how much money the other one makes - my job is just as important to me as yours is to you and we both need to acknowledge that. There are times when the kids are sick I can stay home with them and others my husband can. If one kid is very sick and requires more than one day of home rest, one parent takes one day and the another takes the other day or if we both have to be at work - I'll work half day and he'll work the other half. Just as you have to work with a team at your job - your spouse/partner is your teammate at home and it's both of your jobs to make sure that at the end of the day - you both were there for each other.