Don’t just say no, say yes to something more important

Eight months. I only have to make it though another eight months…

That’s when, my youngest, my little lord tyrant (and I say that with love), will be three years old. Intellectually, I know that the terrible twos don’t magically end just because the calendar changes, but it’s a date I am currently clinging to like a life raft.

No, I don't like it!
No, I don’t like it! (Photo credit: pand0ra23)

We had another dinner stand-off the other night. I was determined that my toddler at least try the food on his plate. It was delicious and cooked perfectly. I was convinced that if I could only get him to taste it, my toddler would willingly eat the rest. My son, on the other hand was equally convinced that I was trying to poison him.

I tried all the basic tricks. Pretending the food on the fork was an airplane coming into the hanger. I asked my older son to join me in by making loud, “Yum!” sounds. But my toddler would just say no as he smiled and turned away with his whole body.

I finally managed to get a fingernail sized piece of broccoli on his tongue through the use of stealth and trickery. He retaliated with the nuclear option; regurgitating everything he had eaten since breakfast two days prior, all while I stood there helpless. I guess this time he was serious about his no. Another round goes to the kiddo.

balance scale
balance scale (Photo credit: winnifredxoxo)

I read an article the other day stating that the term work life balance was misleading. It argued that balance, by its definition, required two equal, yet opposing forces. Therefore to achieve balance, your work had to be the opposite of your life. Considering the fun bodily fluids I get to clean up at home, having an opposite work environment is rather appealing. But I understand the point that the author was trying to make. Because you spend so much of your life at work, the last thing you would want is work that takes away from your life, rather it should add to your life.

I have begun the rewrite process of my novel with the hopes of have a manuscript ready to be sent to an editor by the end of July. I continue to get asked, how do I find the time to write a new novel, promote the first, manage staff, and raise two boys. I fully admit that I have a lot going on, but it could be much worse.

Steve Jobs once said that he “was as proud of what we don’t do as what we do.” He was talking about the products they thought of but choose not to bring to market. Rather than flooding the market with dozens of similar products with slightly different features and benefits, Apple focused on perfecting a singular product line.

My plate might look full at the moment, but it could have been overwhelming. As much as I am proud of what I am doing, I am equally proud of the opportunities I have turned down over the years.

I was previously offered a role within my company with increased responsibilities. The role would require me to use skills I have, but skills I don’t want to develop further. I would receive no growth satisfaction and by accepting it, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would become miserable. I thanked them for the offer, but told the management team that I would prefer to continue what I was doing. I explained why I was turning down their offer, what about the role wasn’t appealing, and what I wanted to do more of instead. I could tell they were stunned, but I had to remain true to my personal goals. By saying no, I ensured that I wasn’t a completely burnt out shell of my former self when another, more fitting, opportunity came my way later.

don't just say no
don’t just say no (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

You can say no and not commit career suicide. You should say no with confidence whenever you know the opportunity is counter to your personal goals. No is one of life’s most liberating phrases. It is a word most adults don’t say enough, at least not when it matters.

It is also a word I look forward to hearing less from my toddler’s lips. Until then, would you please pass the towel?



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Help Wanted – Embracing Outsourcing

Good Housekeeping is one of several periodical...
Good Housekeeping is one of several periodicals related to homemaking. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve recently suffered a terrible loss. My part-time housekeeper has found a better opportunity elsewhere. While this is great news for her (and I wish her all the best), it is awful news for me. I am going to have to somehow figure out how to insert deep cleaning back into my already full schedule. Cue the nervous tics.

She wasn’t coming by weekly, and I have never completely abdicated my responsibility in keeping the house habitable in between cleanings, but I am probably not going to have my house featured in Good Housekeeping Magazine based on my efforts alone anytime soon.

The days she did arrive were near magical. I would open the door and all the surfaces were polished to a high shine. The kids could be shouting or running around like maniacs and I could sit back and enjoy them rather than feel the stress of needing to straighten everything up pile up on top of the stress from the work day.

I get asked all the time how I manage to work a full-time job, raise two kids, and write. I’ll let you in on my little secret – I now outsource whenever possible. But I wasn’t always so willing to let go.

I spent the first several years of my career with the idea that the only way to prove myself as an effective team player and overall value to the organization was to do everything myself. I rarely turned a task down. Obviously a person asking me for my help was doing so because they knew I could take care of it effectively and on time. Saying no would be admitting to a weakness or other failing. Saying yes to such a request was the easiest way to accept their high praise of my work. Right?

A few years later a position in management opened up. I thought to myself, I’ve shown everyone how great I can be, I know I am going to get asked to fill the position. I am the clear choice.

Only then did I realize that I had made some major tactical errors:

  1. I had made myself too valuable in my current position
  2. I had not shown that I could delegate or push back on tasks effectively
  3. I had assumed the position was mine for the taking

Luckily I was able to identify a quick fix solution for the first two errors. I would train my peers making my replacement easier to find. I did this by delegating tasks, because hands on experience works best. Additionally I learned how prioritize and how to say no. I needed to focus my time on only the most important tasks.

Up until this point I had a great relationship with my boss. He was well aware of my career aspirations. Unfortunately his departure from the company was the reason for the open management position. I did not have nearly the same relationship with the remaining hiring manager. He would not know I was interested in the position if I did not have the confidence and courage to ask for it outright.

I wrote a whole essay on why I deserved the position in the most basic persuasive format: intro, reason 1, 2, 3, summary close with action statement. It must have gotten my point across.

I was offered the position, and could have easily reverted back to the friendly co-worker who said yes to everything. Sure, I would have been liked by everyone, but I would have been positively buried by work. My first year in management might have been my last. I either would become burnt out, or so ineffective at the job I was hired to do that my boss would have had no choice but to replace me.

Saying yes to happiness means learning to say ...
Saying yes to happiness means learning to say no to things and people that stress you out. -Thema Davis (Photo credit: deeplifequotes)

Sure, I like to think that I can take on any task my company throws my way, but I’ve learned to recognize that so could a number of other people, especially if given a little bit more practice. If I want to develop my staff to their fullest potential then I owe it to them to delegate more from time to time.

Additionally while no one likes to be told no all the time, the occasional “no” can be liberating. I may not be able to say I have it all, but truth be told I don’t want it all. I don’t want to spend every waking hour during the week working, or my weekends cleaning. I don’t want a life full of stress.  I’d rather spend my time with my family or the working on the tasks I enjoy such as writing my next project.

Unfortunately until I find my next great hire, it would appear that I need to become re-acquainted with my vacuum.



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Finding the time to write – the story continues

I’ve been blogging a lot recently about my efforts to better understand the world of book sales after publishing; research which might have been beneficial to do several months ago rather than the trial by fire that is selling anything between Thanksgiving and New Year. However as much as I share what I am learning, the post that continues to gain the most amount of views remains on the topic split between how I managed to get anything written in the first place between day job with two kids and National Novel Writing Month.

I can’t tell for certain exactly which of the two topics is of greater interest, so I’ll touch on both.

No, I did not participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge. I was still too close to the characters and story from my initial work to attempt to grind something out in such a sort time – nor would my children have let me spend so much time in the office. There were emergencies that needed to be attended too RIGHT NOW such as the crisis of the missing Lego City Fire Truck door, the milk shortage of Small Business Saturday, and the sit down strike against wearing warm winter coats even when it is 40 F outside.

I did however complete my plot map for my next project along with a whooping 4953 (you read that correctly) words which I am hoping to finish by mid/late Spring if I can remain focused. Could I have finished out a nice round 5000 words? Possibly, but more than likely a majority of those 47 words would have been mom,mom,momma,mom.

Unfortunately this time I won’t have a nice long sabbatical to maximize. Instead I will just have to find the time elsewhere as I am able. Luckily at least one kid still takes a nap and the other has befriended the kid next store. Thank goodness also for Netflix streaming. Now that Breaking Bad is off the air and the Walking Dead is on break, I should be able to ignore the TV for days. Now if I can only find time to squeeze in my holiday shopping…