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Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
April 2004

My goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life.

    In this issue, you'll find:
  1. Renewal at Work
  2. BossWoman coaching
  3. Up and coming workshops
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1. Renewal at Work
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If you think that life is moving at an increasing speed, you are right. Modern technology has presented us with the possibility of quick turn over in preparing sales presentations, proposals and reports. It has also lead to higher expectations that everything must be done as quickly as possible. I recently asked an audience whose cell phones were going off every 2 1/2 minutes how many of them were trauma surgeons, firefighters, or rescue workers that needed to be on call. In a group of over 100 people, no one admitted to having a job requiring them to be on call yet many people felt the need to stay plugged in.

Faster output, however, does not lead to quality output. A recent survey found that more than one in five workers said that stress was the single biggest barrier affecting their output (Investors in People Survey). Stress costs American industry more that $300 billion a year in lost hours due to absenteeism, reduced productivity, employee turnover, and workers’ compensation benefits.
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Working 24/7
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I talked to Suzanne Adele Schmidt, Ph.D. to learn more about how busy women leaders can manage the stress of time pressure while keeping quality in their work. Suzanne and her business partner, Krista Kurth, Ph.D., have coauthored a book called "Running on Plenty at Work." Their company, Renewal Resources ™, works with individuals who want to lead more renewing and productive lives at work. (Suzanne will be the keynote speaker at the April 27, 2004 Women’s Leadership Alliance- see below).

Suzanne says that in spite of those research results about employees feeling stressed by the technology and time pressure, the same research found that most managers do not believe that productivity is affected by stress. Given most managers' attitudes, it is not surprising that many employees believe that they have to keep going, pushing to get everything done. While American workers have less vacation time than Europeans, more and more of us are not using the vacation time we are allowed. This is particularly true when the economy sags and resources shrink. Workers fear that taking a well-deserved mid-shift break, a vacation or weekends off might land them at the rear of a long unemployment line. This approach to productivity affects both short and long-term performance - if people push through when they are tired, research shows it can take up to five times longer to get something done.

Suzanne’s response to the productivity dilemma is to suggest that you take time regularly during your day to renew yourself. She calls this taking “productivity pauses or renewal breaks.” She says, “Weekends and vacations are not good enough to work at today’s pace and keep up productivity. In order to be most productive, people need to manage their energy throughout the day, not just at the end of the week or the end of the year.”
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Increasing Productivity Through Renewal at Work
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Suzanne recommends taking brief productivity pauses at least every 2 hours during the workday so that you can replenish your energy and revitalize yourself. Obviously if you work in an office, you have more flexibility as to when you take a productivity pause. Those who work in a manufacturing environment, while they have less flexibility, can also use their regularly scheduled breaks to do something to renew themselves. Here are a few things that individual employees can do during a productivity pause:

  1. Renew yourself physically. If you have been sitting for a while, get up, stretch, take some deep breaths, or go for a walk outside. If you have been standing for a while, use your break to stretch your body, rest your feet, have a healthy snack, and drink water. She told me about one Fortune 500 Company that has placed basketball hoops in areas where manufacturing employees take their breaks.
  2. Do something playful or creative to refresh yourself mentally. Draw, listen to inspiring music, do a craft, or think about one of your hobbies. Be creative in how to do these activities at work. For example, while you may not be able to leave work to play a game like tennis, you can read a tennis magazine or visualize your swing for a few minutes. Play re-energizes you, allowing you to get more done in less time. In addition, sports research has demonstrated that visualizing success in your sport will raise your performance the next time you play in real time.
  3. Enliven yourself emotionally by talking with colleagues about what you enjoy about your work and life. Many people believe they do not have time for friendships at work. Taking the time to foster them can lighten your load, provide a place to connect, and give you a place to be heard. Of course exercise good judgment about what you share. No one is refreshed by ugly divorce stories or tales of your latest surgery. Save those stories for your best friend or therapist.
  4. Uplift your spirit by reconnecting with your purpose in life. Take a few minutes to reflect on how your work is a privilege and serves a greater purpose. When you are feeling down about your work or challenged by it, step back and look at the bigger picture. Realize how many people in the world would be thankful for the kind of opportunity that you have. If you are gradually realizing that this particular job is no longer connected to a greater purpose, you may be seeing the early warning signs of a much needed job change.
Suzanne’s book, "Running on Plenty at Work," offers over 187 simple and innovative ways to renew yourself. It is a fun and attractive book to keep on the side of your desk for break time.
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Increasing Productivity as Bosses
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Many of the readers of this newsletter are small business owners, professionals, or managers who are responsible for others’ productivity directly or indirectly. Employers can help to increase productivity by letting employees know that "productivity pauses" are welcomed and encouraged as part of their organizational culture. Advocate employees to set aside the urgency of work for a just a few minutes a day to renew themselves. A refreshed employee is more productive and happier on the job. Suzanne suggested some simple ways employers can support renewal at work:
  1. Start by adhering to the policies you already have in place such as lunch and vacations.
    • Bring back lunch. (Over 50% of Americans no longer take a lunch.) Encourage employees to spend at least 30 minutes a day away from their work area to eat lunch.
    • Honor vacations! The good news about taking a vacation is that the risk of having a heart attack is reduced by 1/3 for every week of vacation one takes. Renewal Resources recommends uninterrupted unplugged vacations. (Ask employees to leave laptops and beepers at home while on vacation.)
  2. Raise awareness about the importance of pausing at work. Get the word out that humans are able to work about 90 to 120 minutes before productivity begins to decrease. At that point, taking a break is critical to ongoing performance. Also someone who toils at a mental task for too long will take 500 percent longer to complete it than a worker who takes brief breathers.
  3. Offer articles, brown-bag lunches and online seminars about stress and overwork so employees will have the information they need to make better choices about their approach to work.
  4. Sneak a little fun into every day. Transform lunch time into a concert by inviting employees with musical instruments to play for their colleagues. Arrange to have an ice cream truck drive up to the building just in time for a mid-afternoon break. (While you’re at it, arrange to pick up the tab, too!)
  5. Cordon off a small room just for breaks. Don’t schedule meetings or allow smoking in the room.
  6. Place chairs or benches outdoors around the building to encourage employees to get some fresh air during breaks.
  7. Contract with a massage therapist to visit the workplace once a week. A quick neck-and-shoulder massage can ease away a world of tension.

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Conclusion
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You don’t have to wait until the next weekend or vacation to renew yourself. There are small simple quick things you can do to take a stress break and increase your productivity right in the midst of your work!

Susan Robison

References:
Based on interview with Suzanne Adele Schmidt, Ph.D. and article by: Suzanne Adele Schmidt, Ph.D. and Krista Kurth, Ph.D. "Running on Plenty at Work."

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2. BossWoman Coaching
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About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional coach, speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach women who want improvement in:

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life, give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching session.

She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:

  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session because she knows that workshops don't work.

Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.

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3. Up and coming workshops
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Professional Development for Women Day
-Susan Robison will offer a concurrent session on "Permanent Whitewater: Dealing with Change and Transition"
-Sponsor: Clemson University
-Date: May 21, 2004; 9-4 (Susan's presentation from 11:25-12:30)
-Place: Washington Dulles Airport Marriott
-Fee: $195
-For more information call: Kay James at 1-864-656-2200 or visit www.clemson.edu/success

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Spring Educational Conference: Fast Forward – Leading and Succeeding in the 21st Century
Suzanne Adele Schmidt, Ph.D. is the featured keynote and will speak about “Running on Plenty at Work: Renewal Strategies for Leaders”.
Sponsor: Women’s Leadership Alliance
Place: Holiday Inn Select Baltimore North in Timonium, MD
Fee: $59 for members; $69 for non-members
To register: Call Mary Branning at 410-653-5067
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To learn more about Suzanne Adele Schmidt and Renewal Resources, log onto www.renewalatwork.com.
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Ellicott City, MD 21042
Office: (410) 465-5892
Fax: (410) 465-5967

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