Archive: Tips

Meditating Your Way to Balance?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Last week, I was stressed about everything. Work stressed. Money stressed. Car stressed. The list went on and on. The to-do list on my whiteboard only compounded the problem, growing each hour instead of shrinking. My head was spinning and nothing was getting done. So, I decided to take a timeout and haul out the portable meditation bench gathering dust in the closet and try to just sit and breathe for a few minutes. Under normal circumstances, this would have sounded like lunacy, a high-minded way to put myself another 15 minutes in the hole. But I was desperate, and nothing else was working. I set a timer for 10 minutes, sat down and closed my eyes. By most measures, the effort was an abject failure. It didn't clear my mind or keep my brain from racing. In fact, pulling myself away from the monitors actually...

 

By Brian Reid | May 27, 2008; 12:30 PM ET | Comments (23)

Preconditions for Balance

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I sometimes fall prey to the idea that attaining work-life balance is like assembling Ikea furniture: If I can just get all the right parts and follow the directions (say "no," get organized, put the spouse first), I should have a brilliantly stable life. Obviously, it doesn't work that way for me, and, looking around, just doing the "right" thing isn't enough for most of the people I meet. It seems to me that there are some preconditions you have to meet if you want a balanced life. If you don't have these things in order, no amount of balancing will get things under control: You Have to Like Your Job: It doesn't matter if it's unpaid work at home or a six-figure position with a corner office, you have to like what you do to have any shot to balance. I had a gig once...

 

By Brian Reid | January 31, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Crash Course on Workplace Re-Entry

By Rebeldad Brian Reid One of the classic arguments against taking time away from career to raise kids is that even a few short years out of the workforce is enough to seriously damage long-term earning potential and professional advancement. For some, it's getting mommy-tracked (or daddy-tracked), and others don't even make it that far -- just getting back into the workforce is a significant obstacle. But if you have three days open in January, an advanced degree (MBA, JD, MA, or MBA) and $1,175, Baruch College in New York has a program for you: "Opting Back In," a program designed to allow participants to leave with: A professional-looking updated resume A personalized plan of action to return to work A personal pitch Refreshed negotiation skills A support network of like-minded individuals looking to return to work The cynical part of me scoffs at the whole deal: I can't imagine...

 

By Brian Reid | November 29, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (47)

It's In The Bag

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Unpacking my primary business bag/laptop carrier/backup diaper bag after a recent overnight business trip was a veritable archaeological dig into the past year of my life. ... Amid the papers, file folders and power cords were a diaper -- two sizes too small -- smushed at the bottom, a small tube of pre-packaged powdered infant formula, a couple of plastic stars, some doctors bills, corrected homework and a maraca. It's clichéd to talk about how silly the "at-home" prefix is nowadays. No parent, regardless of whether they're in the work force, is centered at home. The big bag is the new office, a place to stuff all the fragments of life we need to get through the day. There seem to be so many tiny spaces of time in the course of a day (waiting for school to let out, waiting for potty breaks, unexpected stroller...

 

By Brian Reid | September 27, 2007; 07:27 AM ET | Comments (153)

Getting Rid of Time Sinks

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The chief challenge in balance, on a personal level, is making time for all of the stuff that needs to be packed into a day. And while there are now about a hundred thousand books out there that will teach you to do more, faster, it seems like the best way to extend a 24-hour day is to ruthlessly eliminate those time sinks that steal hours or minutes and give little in return. I've identified a number of time sinks in my own life, three of which I have made progress toward eliminating: TV: Once upon a time, before kids, I followed a huge number of TV shows. I was conversant in ER, NYPD Blue, the X-Files, all those now-defunct Thursday comedies and a handful of other shows I probably would not admit to watching if confronted. At the same time, I was working 10-hour days...

 

By Brian Reid | August 9, 2007; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Transformative Power of Dinner

By Rebeldad Brian Reid About a year and a half ago, a Wall Street Journal piece by a lawyer named Cameron Stracher caught my eye. It would have been a standard-issue op-ed decrying the loss of family dinners if not for the brief author's bio at the end of the piece, which noted that Stracher had a blog, dinnerwithdad.com, all about his efforts to make it home to eat dinner with his family most nights. He'd even sold a book proposal on the topic. At the time, I had my doubts that a high-powered lawyer and law professor who commuted 55 miles each way into New York City could actually pull off regular dinners. And, quite frankly, I couldn't see what the big deal was. I had to wonder: Had family dinners become so novel, so incredibly rare, that the topic deserved a book-length treatment? The book is out now,...

 

By Brian Reid | May 31, 2007; 07:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

Commuting and the 'Dead Zone'

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I miss my commute. At least, I think I do. I have the hazy memory of someone who hasn't had to do the cross-D.C. trek in a few months, and the limitations of the Washington-area highway system aren't as sharp in my mind. Still -- I miss my alone time in the car/Metro/bike. (I've commuted in every possible way -- save rowboat and cross-country ski -- in my 10-odd years of Washington work.) The commute is on my mind after I read a piece by the always-wonderful Sue Shellenbarger, who writes the work and family column for the Wall Street Journal. Shellenbarger shone a light last week on the "Dead Zone," that terrible time in the evening after work when you simply lack the ability to communicate with your family. I know I suffer it, stumbling out of my home office into the height of arsenic...

 

By Brian Reid | March 1, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Just Say No

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The one constant in the self-help books I'm more attracted to -- those on productivity and goal-setting and time management -- is the immense power and utility of the word "no." The problem, the argument goes, is not always that us unbalanced types are not working hard enough. It's that we're doing too much. So a couple of years ago, I decided to say "no" more, and it hasn't made much of a difference. "Just Say No" is no more effective a work-life strategy than it is an anti-drug message, and I'm just now beginning to realize why. Saying no is supposed to eliminate conflict, clear up space on the calendar and allow for free time. But that's not the way it works in reality, for me, anyway, when guilt and obligation come into play. The word "no" is invariably followed with something else. If I...

 

By Brian Reid | February 8, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (352)

Manifesto Project: The Power of Collective Wisdom

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The response to the Parenting Manifesto Project has been absolutely wonderful -- getting the perspective of dozens of parents on the big-picture elements of parenting has been eye-opening. Though one commenting wag last week suggested "don't get your parenting advice from a blog," it turns out that the collective wisdom of all of you is as valuable as just about anything you'll get at Barnes & Noble. I'm still archiving manifestos as they come in -- check them all out at the manifesto page and feel free to send along yours to rebeldad+manifesto@gmail.com. I've culled from what I've received so far to come up with an all-star manifesto, another stab at truth, in 500 words or less: Kids understand more than they're often given credit for. Explanation doesn't mean argument, and it doesn't mean that you negotiate away authority. Again, it's validation of the child's personhood...

 

By Brian Reid | December 21, 2006; 08:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Manifesto Project

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Today, I have a challenge: I want you to share your universal truths about parenthood. E-mail me (at rebeldad+manifesto@gmail.com) a manifesto of no more than 500 words on any parenting/balance topic you can think of, and I'll post them all at rebeldad.com/manifesto.html and highlight the best of them on the main rebeldad.com page and/or this space. I'm inspired by a recent project from one of the more interesting bloggers out there, Hugh MacLeod from gapingvoid.com (occasionally NSFW). He's been calling for manifestos of 500 words or less on any topic and posting some of the more interesting ones. It's fascinating to see the big-picture thinking that has emerged. I want to expand this kind of knowledge-sharing, so please pass along your thoughts. They don't have to be perfect. Just true. Here's my attempt, for reference. Parenting takes no specialized knowledge, and reading parenting books does precious...

 

By Brian Reid | December 14, 2006; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (336)

The Magic Hour

By Rebeldad Brian Reid As a kid, I hated the end of daylight savings time. I grew up in New England, where the darkness falls noticeably earlier than it does around here, and "falling back" banished much of my waking hours to darkness. Thinking back to my years in high school, I realized I have no memories of daylight during the month of December. What a difference parenthood makes. Having kids has dragged me, kicking and screaming, from night owl to morning bird. With two kids, there is no such thing as sleeping in. But rather than fight it, I've relished it. I understand that I'm at my best in the early morning, and for nearly two years, I've been trying to get up even before the kids for an hour of pre-dawn me time -- my magic hour. But it was hard to get into the magic-hour groove in...

 

By Brian Reid | November 30, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Four Keys to Spouse-Life Balance

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Kids alter life way more than a marriage does, and it's easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day survival that the marriage thing gets put on the back burner. Making sure the relationship with the women/man your married, though, should be a key part of the "balance" calculus ... nothing else may go as far in ensuring that work-life balance actually means you're happy at the end of the day. I've been thinking about the elements that contribute to successful "spouse-life balance" (and isn't that every bit as important as "work-life balance?"), and I've come up with four keys. I don't always live up to the ideals -- that's why I'm writing them down -- but they serve as useful reminders for me. 1. Date your spouse. I'm not sure you can have a fulfilling marriage without at least some one-on-one time. Once a...

 

By Brian Reid | November 16, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Parents, Kids and Wills

Last Tuesday, one poster suggested an entry on making a will. Funny how quickly those few words brought me back to the unexpected angst of new motherhood. I remember only the highlights (and low points) of the 24-month period during which I gve birth to my first two children, moved to Minneapolis from Manhattan, got the kids settled into a good daycare center, helped my husband transition to the new, high-pressure position that had necessitated our move, and changed jobs myself. But I do vividly recall repeatedly waking in the night, cold with a new mom worry not covered in all the baby books: What would happen to our children if my husband and I died suddenly? My nightmare became putting together a will, a feeble attempt to provide for my children if I were no longer around to protect them. It was unexpectedly torturous. First, to find a good...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 3, 2006; 07:25 AM ET | Comments (147)

Get Flexible

By Rebeldad Brian Reid This should be a golden age of flexibility. Not only do most of us have the tools to do our jobs from anywhere, at any point in time, but today's modern "knowledge workers" also have enormously powerful technology that helps us do those jobs far faster than could have been imagined a decade or two ago. But it's not a golden age, and that appears to fly in the face of basic logic and economics. Post writer Shankar Vedantam had an interesting Labor Day piece that argued that the absolute inability of most companies and bosses to measure productivity is what keeps flexibility from really taking off. It's hard to figure out when a guy like me is really firing on all cylinders and making things happen. You can't measure the number of widgets I create every day/week/hour. And judging me on the quantity of my...

 

By Brian Reid | September 14, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Five Tricks to Tame Technology

By Rebeldad Brian Reid People who love balance love to hate the insidious way that wireless devices have proliferated, and there has been much hue and cry over "Crackberries" and electronic leashes and the way wireless devices have turned the home into a branch of the office. I don't buy it. The technology isn't intrinsically evil or flawed or dangerous. Instead, it seems pretty clear that our behavior hasn't kept up with the wireless gizmo revolution. Don't like your Treo buzzing at dinner? The solution is pretty simple. Shut it off. Or throw it into the Potomac. You own the device, not the other way around. I've been developing some rules for myself to develop the discipline needed to keep my various beeping and vibrating and chirping devices at bay when it comes to family time, and I'd love to hear yours: 1. Remember Why You Went Wireless: There are...

 

By Brian Reid | September 7, 2006; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (105)

Finding Great Babysitters

As we all know, you can't work (or get much else done) without good child care, preferably that doesn't cost a fortune. What's your best advice for finding -- and keeping -- good babysitters? My two cents: Finding babysitters is a learned skill. As a new mom I was terrible and had to use babysitting agencies, which were expensive and not very good for finding occasional sitters (much better for finding full-time nannies). I've now learned to constantly be on the lookout for good sitters. Over time, I've found teenagers and college students to be the best. The right ones take babysitting seriously and appreciate the money. When I spot someone who seems friendly and eager to spend more time with my kids, I immediately ask for their number (although I never ask my friends' sitters -- no poaching seems to be the rule here in D.C.) I've found a...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 7, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (173)

Work-Family Expert on Balancing

Stew Friedman is a renowned expert on integrating work and family. A management professor at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania since 1984, he's the author of Work and Family -- Allies or Enemies? and Integrating Work and Life: The Wharton Resource Guide. In 1997, Working Mother magazine chose him as one of America's 25 most influential men in having made things better for working parents. Naturally, I thought he'd be a good interviewee for this blog. What changes have you seen in the last 20 years in terms of challenges facing working moms, within corporate America, academia and entrepreneurial fields? SF: It's somewhat easier for women to feel accepted in positions of power and, very slowly, men are taking up a bit more responsibility on the home front. What are your suggestions for companies trying to attract and retain talented working mothers? Are the suggestions different for...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 8, 2006; 06:50 AM ET | Comments (47)

 

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