Work to live, don’t live to work. Figure out how to make your work and life “fit” together.

Work Life Balance

The ever elusive quest for the working parent: How do I achieve work life balance? Or is the better question: How do I make my work and life “fit” together? Can there ever be true balance?

A few years ago, I attended an information session at work where a senior level executive provided her perspective on how to maintain work life balance. For each person it will be different, but as working parents we can all learn from one another. The following tips she shared with the group were invaluable:

Top 10 Ways to Maintain Work Life Balance
1 – Know (declare and stay committed to) what is non-negotiable
2- Schedule and make happen your must have “Me” time – jogging, train reading
3- Build and reward your support network (parents, friends, spouse, etc.) – make time for them and take time to say thank you
4 – Choose leaders who value you what you do and ask yourself very once in a while “does my job make me happy” and if not “what do I need to do to change that in some small way so it does”
5 – Prioritize/Prioritize/Prioritize – Focus/Focus/Focus
6 – No regrets policy – if you think that you are going to regret a trade off, you will so don’t make the trade off
7 – Have time management rules
* Minimize external lunches – they take too much time
* Manage to one night a week maximum for business purposes
* Build a moat around weekends
* Carve out time to get work done during the day (meetingless Wednesdays)
8 – Compartmentalize – I generally don’t mix business and personal ( ie. colleagues over for dinners, etc.)
9 – Have a “trusted” outlet – there will be times where there is more work-life pressure than usual and you will need to vent – have a trusted source(s)
10- Always remember that your kids have much longer memories than your colleagues.

This talk really spoke to me. There is a lot of great advice from a top level woman executive who strives toward work life balance or “fit” as we all do.

Work to live, don’t live to work. YOLO – life is not a dress rehearsal. Enjoy it!

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Benihana family birthday celebrations are easy and fun.

Benihana Logo

Ever since I can remember, my family would go to Benihana to celebrate birthdays. For those of you not familiar with Benihana, it is a Japanese restaurant (100+ locations in the US) where everyone sits around a table and a joke telling chef does tricks with knives while preparing your meal in front of you on an iron grill. Sounds like fun – right?

Top 5 reasons why Benihana is great for a kid’s birthday meal:

1- Kids can try new foods while enjoying basics like chicken and rice.

2- Built in entertainment for the kids while chef cooks meal in front of you.

3- Lunch special is easy on the wallet and you can take your time (lunch time
is less crowded).

4- If you sign up for Kabuki Kids® program (kids 12 and under), your child
receives a special birthday email or postcard for a complimentary Benihana mug
with purchase of a Kids Meal during the month of their birthday.

5- Happy Birthday being sung to you in English and Japanese is always fun as
well as the complimentary family picture at the end of your birthday
celebration.

Enjoy!

Benihana Tiki Buddha Mug

Networking is an art, not a science. It’s never too early to get your kids started on some of the basics.

Handshake
Ever since the girls were little, I would play this game with them: “Let’s pretend we are meeting for the first time; what would you do?” They would then shake my hand, look me in the eye and say “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” I would explain to them it’s always important to look at people in the eye (at least in America it is) and give them a nice solid handshake (I hate “wet fish” handshakes). It’s a basic networking skill, but I know they will continue to be able to use it during their lifetime.

This week, I had the opportunity to attend a Long Island Marketing Professionals Group meeting to hear Geoffrey Mann (Lorraine Gregory Communications Group) speak about networking. Wow! Geoff is definitely a “Master of Networking” as well as a gifted salesman and storyteller. He was inspirational and shared helpful networking strategies. Here are a few of the highlights:

1 – Dress for Success : Early on in Geoff’s career, he worked at Playboy. When he inquired about the company dress code, he was told: ” We want you to dress as a lawyer, not as a playboy.” There is definitely a level of respect one commands when wearing a suit and it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

2 – Business Card Exchange: Write down a few notes on the back of their business card to remember what you discussed including where and when you met them. A follow-up note can include some of those items to help you further build that relationship.

3 – Carry a “drink” in your hand, but don’t drink it: It just makes people feel more comfortable when they see you are also “drinking”.

4 – Don’t talk/text on your smart phone at networking events: This seems like a no brainer, but how can you network with others at an event if you are on the phone?

5 – Wing Man Networking: Take the current person you are talking with and ask them to accompany you to meet person X across the room. This technique will allow you to meet as many people as possible. We all have been through this at a networking event… you are speaking with someone and want to politely move on and talk to someone else. Now you have a “polite” solution. Take the current person you are networking with to the next conversation.

6 – Handwritten Thank You Note – With the world all about email and social media, a handwritten thank you note will make you stand out and shows you truly made an extra effort.

7 – Focus on the 3 A’s at a networking event :

Approach: Have your ten second intro and be concise and specific.

Attitude: Be positive. No one wants to spend time talking to someone who is negative.

Appearance: Dress for Success

8 – Always Use LinkedIn to your advantage: I am a firm believer in this one. If there is someone you know who will be at a networking event and you want to meet them, look them up on LinkedIn to see if there is a connection – people, work, school, interests, etc. Hopefully, they will also have their picture on their profile so you know what they look like. It’s amazing what you can find out about people on LinkedIn.  It is the best online resource for professional networking.

Networking is definitely an art and not a science. I know many of these tips are sure to help you at your next networking event. Have a great day!

Eating together as a family is important.

Family Enjoying meal,mealtime Together
One of your goals for the new year may be to cook more, make healthier meals and sit down together to eat as a family. With all of the kids activities and long hours at the office, I know it can be very hard to do this. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t make it happen every day. Here are my five simple tips to help you get started:

1. Planning: Take some time on Sunday to figure out meals you will be having for the entire week.

2. Incorporate takeout: It’s not always possible to cook every day. I am a big fan of Chipotle and pizza. (Make a big salad to go with the pizza. I always try to have romaine lettuce and tomatoes in the house to make a salad and incorporate vegetables as part of the meal).

3 – Have the kids help you cook: My girls like to help me make chicken meatballs and tacos. To make the tacos healthier, you can use large lettuce leaves instead of using an actual taco shell to wrap up the meat, etc.

4 – You don’t have to be perfect: Try to commit to sitting down together 2-4 times a week and don’t allow TV and electronic gadgets at the dinner table.

5 – Six O’ Clock Scramble: This is my secret weapon. For me the challenge very often is not about actually making dinner, but what to make. A few years ago, I discovered The Six O’Clock Scramble. It is an online menu and recipe service to help parents plan and prepare healthy home-cooked dinners, and is often described by users as “life-changing.” It has been for me 🙂 For $3 to $7 per month (depending upon subscription length), Scramble members get a weekly dinner plan that includes easy recipes, side dishes and a corresponding grocery list plus access to thousands of more recipes online. For more information or to sign up for the Six O’Clock Scramble, click here.

And if my tips did not get you motivated to sit down together as a family to eat a meal, perhaps this WED MD article – Family Dinners Are Important by Jeanie Lerche Davis will.  I have attached an excerpt from the article:
10 Benefits of Family Dinners
Toting up all the benefits of frequent family dinners:

• Everyone eats healthier meals.
• Kids are less likely to become overweight or obese.
• Kids more likely to stay away from cigarettes.
• They’re less likely to drink alcohol.
• They won’t likely try marijuana.
• They’re less likely to use illicit drugs.
• Friends won’t likely abuse prescription drugs.
• School grades will be better.
• You and your kids will talk more.
• You’ll be more likely to hear about a serious problem.
• Kids will feel like you’re proud of them.
• There will be less stress and tension at home.

I know this is so cliché, but kids do grow up so quickly. Enjoy this meal time together as a family. Bon appétit!

Setting up a monthly breakfast or happy hour is a great way to connect with other parents in your neighborhood.

Yellow School Bus
Today, we are having our monthly YOLO (You Only Live Once) breakfast bus stop get together.

My older daughter started a new school this year and I thought it would be fun to hold a monthly breakfast to get to know the other parents at the bus stop. They are a great bunch of people and our “meetings” are lots of fun. We get together at a local place (Swing the Teapot in Floral Park, NY – love it!) and we share stories about life, teachers, kid and school activities as well as stuff going on in the neighborhood. We also swapped cell phone numbers. In case something ever comes up and daily bus stop pick up becomes a problem, we can help each other out.

As Hillary Clinton once said, ” It takes a village to raise a child.” I always like to say “Sharing is Caring ” and setting up a monthly breakfast, lunch or happy hour is a great way to do that. Enjoy!

Teach your children how to explore a new place on vacation with their senses.

5 sensesWhen we went to India on vacation this time, I asked my kids to think about New Delhi, India with all of their senses instead of just the things they could see. This is the list of things we came up with together as a family.

It’s been a fun way to think about and remember things we did on vacation. Perhaps you will think about doing this when you go on vacation in 2014 !

Smell: calming scent of incense in India, yummy food being cooked

Taste: the different types of food you enjoy – spices, kebabs, dal, paratha, roti, butter chicken, kulfi, mango ice cream, gulab jamun

Hear: the honking horns singing together in harmony, peace, laughter yoga, music

India Motorcycle ride

See:  multiple people riding on a motorcycle,  beautiful paintings in the National Gallery of  Modern Art (New Delhi), stray dogs happily walking on their way, lots of people everywhere, organized chaos, monkeys, cows, lots of traffic

Touch:  the beauty of the temples, the warmth and hospitality of the Indian people, the elephant ride on Christmas Day, hugging family members we don’t get to see so often

Elephant ride on Christmas Day

Enjoy the simple pleasures of childhood: Have fun in the snow. Build a snowman, make snow angels and drink hot cocoa.

Depending on where you live, you may have opened the front door of your home today and seen a lot of snow. If not, the parenting lesson for this post is to enjoy some quality time with your kids and get as excited as they do with the simple pleasures of childhood ( first big snow fall). YOLO – (You Only Live Once)!

Found this list “10 Fun Things to do in the Snow – Outside!” by Jamie Reimer on www.handsonaswegrow.com:

1- Go sledding! Get a sled, make a sled out of cardboard, and just go!
2- Build a snowman. Roll some balls, big or small. Build a snowman together. Find rocks for eyes, twigs for arms, and wrap him up warm with a hat and scarf!
3- Have a snowball fight! Show the kids how to make a snowball. Have target practice. Set up something to throw at and let the kids get some practice in throwing!
4 – Build a snow fort. Pack the walls together to build a safe place for hide out! We have a brick mold builder that the boys use in the sandbox and for snow!
5- While you’re out shoveling the driveway or sidewalk, let the kids help! Or have them make their own paths… maybe a snow maze!
6- Stomp through the snow and make footprints!
7- Instead of making your own footprints, look for animal prints! Do you find rabbit prints? Squirrels? Deer? What’s in your backyard?
8- Get creative outside in the cold! Paint the snow! Make it colorful!
9- After a fresh snowfall, go lay out in it and make some snow angels together. Make a whole family!
10- Load. Dump. Scoop. Pour. Do it in the snow!

Enjoy and have a nice cup of hot cocoa afterwards!