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How to be a working parent – in 90 minutes…

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It takes me one and a half hours to get to work. Pfew.

Fifteen years ago I would’ve jumped off the train half-way and walked the rest just to be doing something. Now, its only just enough.

Because now I have three kids/three kids have me.

That ninety minute journey is decompression. Ninety minutes of acclimatising. Ninety minutes of recalibration.

Shorthand – desperately needed!

That’s because there’s four environmental changes my brain needs to absorb before i can mentally clock in…

Unreasonable-ness to reasonable-ness

Kids are irrational. Life is unliveable for Steo (my 4 yr old) about eight times before 9am. For toast reasons, tracksuit pant reasons, Texta reasons, iPad reasons. I see my role as diplomacy more often than not – negotiating the kids towards lunch, school, toothpaste, medicine, etc.

Unless you have a baby-boss ‘ T rump’ in charge, or clients/colleagues of a similar ilk, this skill doesn’t get a work-out at work.

So I need to reassign this energy. In 90 mins.

Inefficiency to productivity

I will not be thanked for providing a new banana to a colleague because hers broke as she peeled it. Cutting my lunch into 16 squares to make it more appetising will be what it is – a waste of time. I will only need to present that document one time, not three “because I didn’t read it in the right voice”. I’m at work now. Make stuff, do stuff, the quickest, smartest, most cost-effective way possible , please.

Come to grips. In 90 mins.

Chaos to predictability

Fright-and-flight peaks in parenting. I run a low grade cortisol level constantly – glands are at the ready to thrust in adrenaline with the next blood-curdling scream/sibling face punch/broken limb/food-or-drink spillage/broken window , etc . etc. ” The only constant is change ” is no longer a sweet meme.  ” Plan nothing” is your mantra.

Until ” Plan Everything ” is. At work.

WIPs, progress sheets, planning meetings, account managers, ‘next steps’, timing spreadsheets, base-touching. The sweet smell of predictability.

Adjust. in 90 mins.

TMI to politics

“I’m going to do a poo, can you wipe my bottom? ” is not something I will hear in my working day. Neither is “I’ll rip your guts open if you don’t give me back that transformer/apple/ texta/etc”. “I hate you mummy”; “What are these? ” *pointing to tampons/pads/breasts* ; are all thankfully home-chat. ‘Face-value’ is turbo-charged – ‘in-your-face-value’.

No ditto at work.

Double-meanings are everywhere. What does that stiff email from the client mean?

W ho is the ’right person’ to approve that change? Did you make sure everyone on that project had a say , and signed off that document? Understanding agendas, hierarch ie s, and role expectations , is all par for  the course.

Prepare yourself. In 90 mins.

So , I say again, praise the long journey to work…

And praise the gifted employer – like mine – who understands these shifts, allows for them , and facilitates them.

They will profit from them.

They’ll have a workforce of elastic brains: responsive; flexible ; and ready. Undemanding, grounded and pragmatic.

People who, when shit hits the fan , are:

1) ready to clean it off ; 2) know what stuff to use to clean it off ; 3) will find out patiently and fairly sewho  shit it is, and how it go t  there ;  4) smooth everything over with ice creams so it doesn’t happen again.

These wise words come from the brain of Mandy Lawler.

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Finding your ‘why’

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How sustainable is the ‘Do what you love’ mantra?

Miya Tokumitsu, author of ‘Do What You Love And Other Lies About Success and Happiness’, says, in an interview with The Altantic, she feels there’s a sort of dark hedonism in the pursuit of this ideal – like an addiction, where one is relentlessly seeking those “good feelings.”

Is this another way of saying that the ‘too much of a good thing’ principle can apply to a career based only on ‘love’?

Case in point – I worked in a café for 6 months surrounded by delicious food (my ‘happy place’) and ended up 10kgs heavier and very unfulfilled!

So, I think better advice is to find what ‘we care about’.

We are constantly telling organisations to find and commit to their ‘why’ and communicate this through a meaningful brand, but we don’t necessarily put the same pressures on ourselves.

I think a lot of the reason is that it’s easier said than done for most of us.

There’s mortgages to pay, bills to deal with, kids to raise, cars to fix – wistfully pursuing a noble vocation that usually translates to little $$ might be a bit pie-in-the-sky.

So how on earth do those of us stuck in a ‘what’ get some ‘why’ in our lives? How do we fish out the ‘vocation’ in our ‘profession’?

We might find some answers in the endless advice on ‘careers’ and ‘callings’ littered through
the internet.

Here’s two phrases I came across, for instance, that resonate with me…

‘Consider your epitaph, not your resume’

What do you really want to be remembered for? Read out your eulogy in your head – are you happy with what’s being said? What change can you make in your next career move that carves out more of your epitaph and less of your resume?

‘Find a problem to solve‘

How can I make my professional skill work to help fix a societal problem? Is there something I can do after hours, something I could suggest as an extra-curricular activity at work that makes a difference in a way I know will be fulfilling?

It’s not easy, but getting little bit of ‘why’ in our everyday work lives might go a long way.

Incidentally, I’ve now found my ‘why’ here at MamaTray where I now eat a lot less sandwiches and use my strategy smarts to help other organisations find their ‘why’. Ha!

These wise words come from the brain of Mandy Lawler.

Shut up and listen

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So, a couple of weeks ago I spent two days learning how to listen…

This sounds like spending two days learning how to tie your shoe laces but at the end I was still only maxing out around a level 2 listener (depending whose theories you’re good with, you can make it all the way to a level 5!) – pretty pathetic!

That’s because listening – not just hearing, but engaged, empathetic attentiveness – is H-A-R-D!!! It’s hard, because the key to real listening is to resist (and in fact actively reject) advising.
My father in law often mumbles, “The world is full of people wishing to act in an advisory
capacity” – you can taste the disdain.

But, amen…

I can’t remember one conversation where I’ve resisted dropping two cents in – asked
for or otherwise. Maybe it’s because we attach a value to an answer (a dollar value often in fact). Its quantifiable, in a way that simply listening isn’t. There’s nothing, for instance that shines a light on your dispensability at work, than sitting through a meeting without saying anything…thumb twiddler have an opinion!!!

But what if listening was more productive than advising? What if we took the view that we all have our own answers locked away inside our own private neurosis and it just takes a listener to allow us to vocally untangle it all and let the neurones connect things correctly to each other.

Here’s a challenge.

In the next conversation you have with a mate where they’re describing a pickle they’re in, let them do the bulk of the talking, if not all of it. If you must talk, say only things like; “how does that make you feel” (yes it’s lame, but it’s not advice); “what are your options”; “how could you go forward”. Importantly, resist saying “I think”; “I feel”; “I would”; “I did”.

See where the conversation goes, see if your mate arrives at a solution, see ‘how they feel’ about talking to you at the end of it and see how you feel having not said a word or at the very least given no advice.

You might start a very useful habit.

(And yes, I’m very aware that this whole blog has been a form of advice. 🙄)

These wise words come from the brain of Mandy Lawler.