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Gosh, I am overwhelmingly excited to introduce Kate to all of you. An incredible human being who not only is insanely talented but just all around the best. Seriously the best. She moved to Richmond which I don’t love, but I still love her. Without further ado… Kate!

Hi! Who are you?! What do you do?
Hi! I’m Kate. I’m a creative director & graphic designer currently working for my own design company, Camp Studios, as well as at a full-time freelance gig for a big financial services company.

Work/Life/Passion Balance, what’s your method?
I didn’t so much find balance as I toppled head first into it (plus, if you’ve ever seen me do yoga, you know from one tree pose that balance isn’t one of my natural abilities). I worked for many, many years for many, many hours a week fueled purely by a passion for good design and a fear of disappointing others (clients, managers, teammates, my parents — you name it). Then one day, after a particularly ugly 36 hour stretch of work building an app we hated by that point, where we’d only been back to our apartments to shower, I tried to send the designers home, saying I could finish up. And the response I got was “If you’re doing it, we’re doing it.” And that’s when it whacked me right in the face: I’m setting a TERRIBLE example! What am I really teaching these designers whom I adore and cherish? That jumping to every unreasonable demand was more important than our health and wellbeing?

And that was really it. That was the tipping point of a long-simmering, rarely-acknowledged sensation of: there’s more to both life and work than this. It’s not that I didn’t want to be a designer any more, it was that I realized that being a designer on my own terms was infinitely more attractive. So, in fairly quick succession, my husband and I decided to do the following things: quit our jobs, start our own design firm, move out of Brooklyn and down to Richmond and, in between moves, take the entire summer off and live at the beach to regroup and recoup. It was scary and exhilarating all at the same time.

That was just over a year ago, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. It certainly wasn’t without second-guesses and stumbles along the way, but on the whole, I’m so much happier now than I ever have been. Right now I’m balancing fairly well my fulltime freelance gig (read: dependable paycheck) and working on half a dozen clients of my own. It helps that good design is my passion, so work and passion bleed together and make the longer hours ok. I also have a much healthier attitude towards the amount of time I should spend on a project; it was liberating to finally realize that some of the things I was killing myself over went largely unnoticed by the client. Now I can decide whether I want to put in that extra two hours on a detail that will ultimately make me satisfied and proud of the work, or if it’s something I’m ok letting go.

Overall, what has helped balance me the most is putting my time and energies into the things that matter. In the last year, we moved states, took a two-month vacation, started a business, got married, bought a house and (juuust under the wire) got pregnant. I can’t say I necessarily want every year to be full of such massive changes, but I have a sense of momentum and accomplishment that helps generate the desire to keep growing and trying new things. I’m not even that stressed about the huge changes the baby will inevitably bring (she says optimistically). Talk to me in a year, though.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
Definitely not a designer or artist. I took art classes here and there but I certainly wasn’t an “art kid.” I was certain I was going to be a lawyer—I even went into college as a pre-law major. It wasn’t until I saw my roommate’s (a graphic design major) classes that I thought, “hey, that looks fun.” So I signed up for an intro to graphic design class my second semester and never looked back.

The best part is, when I called my parents to let them know I was switching majors, there was a long pause and they replied “Thank god you figured it out! We always knew you should be in the arts.” That was a huge relief (my folks are the best). Plus, I like to think that I’m always creating a solid, rational, evidence-based case when I present work to the client, so that’s how to work in some of that lawyer-y stuff.

Now that you’re pretty much a grown-up, what do you think you’re going to be when you grow up?
I’ll always be a designer. It’s in my heart and brain and soul and hands. With luck and hard work, our company will grow into something that will be sustainable for our family and allow me to achieve a great balance of work and motherhood.

Thanks for chatting! Where can folks find more info about you?
Our company site is http://www.heycamp.com, and our twitter handle is @camp_studios.

Anything else you want to share?
One article and one book resonated strongly with me around the time I was deciding to make all these big changes: “Why Designers Leave” on medium.com and (don’t gag at the title, it IS self-helpy but totally worth reading) “Choose Yourself” by James Altucher.

And this will always and forever be my go-to moment of zen: YouTube

So if last week that description of burnout felt all too familiar, we’ll focus on some action steps you can take to steer yourself on a healthier path. Here are three tips to try out to reduce burnout.

  1. Slow down – a lot of burnout stems from working long hours on too many things and not giving yourself a moment to breath. Find some ways to pace yourself. It could be as simple as finding time to work out, eating healthy, stepping away from your desk for a few moments or take up meditation and mindfulness techniques. Rather than shooting off emails immediately, take a moment between each one to have a sip of water, and think about how you’d like to respond. Taking that extra moment let’s you avoid being reactionary and you may catch some spelling mistakes.
  2. Switch it up – sometimes what you need is a change of pace. Try asking for a different responsibility at work, and it could be one that doesn’t even relate to your daily role. Learn a new skill outside of work that’s totally different than what you do each day. It could be something that would further your career or help open doors into exciting opportunities. Even in your daily routine you could try to break up the monotony by doing things a little differently. If you always start with emails and finish with reports, switch the order to give your brain a little jump.
  3. Cut the fat – keep track of the items in your role that really frustrate or dull you. Review them, and think about ways you could slice them out a bit. Even better? Review the things that really get you going at work and see if you can tip the scale towards more of that. Consider talking to your superior about some responsibilities you’d like to take on and try to craft the role that you’d like to be playing at your company. It may not happen immediately, but just having something as a goal in the long run can give your brain a happy boost.

Overall, burnout is really scary, and if you’re feeling really low, consider talking to a professional about it. Either a career counselor or a regular counselor can help you analyze what’s going on and give you a safe space to talk through exactly how you’re feeling now, and what changes you could make for the future – all while staying involved weekly on your progress. Good luck!

Credits:
http://lifehacker.com/5674007/burnout-and-how-to-deal-with-it
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/30/your-money/a-solution-to-burnout-that-doesnt-mean-less-work.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2014/11/07/how-to-cure-your-burnout-without-quitting-your-job/2/

Burnout is what we’re talking about today, and we see it a lot in the news. We’re going to focus on how you can avoid burnout and next week, we’ll focus on how you can beat it.

To start, we need to understand what burnout is. Contrary to popular belief, burnout is a little more complicated than the average stressful day at work. Burnout generally happens to high performers in their 20s or 30s, in the first 10 years of their career and has all kinds of side effects. Side effects that range from repeatedly getting sick, changes in eating, sleep or drinking habits and physical pain. It can have a very real effect on their performance and career, and few bounce back easily.

Okay, so now that we’re thoroughly terrified, what are some ways we can simply avoid burnout?

  • Encourage an environment of work during work hours (not after). Rather than sending emails at every hour, set up a scheduler that will allow people to write their email whenever the thought comes, but it waits to send until a more reasonable work hour.
  • Break out from the “lunch at your desk” conundrum by eating in a different location. Even if it’s 10 minutes away from your desk it’s good to give your brain (and eyes) a break. If you see someone eating at their desk, invite them to take a walk with you to grab lunch. Not only will you be helping two people get a break, you’ll make a new work acquaintance!
  • Promote a healthy lifestyle by encouraging people to join you on a post-work walk or run. Schedule your workouts so you can step out of the office to get some sweat going. Try to bring healthy lunches, and if you’re buying, opt for the whole grains and healthy meals rather than that slice of pizza
  • Be honest with your workload. Have you been running a hundred miles an hour? Take a moment to connect with yourself and see if it’s because you’re overwhelmed, or, if maybe you need to reevaluate how smart you’re working. Start cutting out the fat, and focus on if your current load is simply too much for one person. If it is, speak up and propose some solutions. Maybe one element of your job could be shared with another person, or, you could find something to automate.

Burnout is very real and scary thing, and hopefully these tips can help you stay away from it. But, it can happen to anyone, so next week, we’ll focus on some tips of what you can do to beat burnout if you’re already in it. Cheers to no burnout.

Credit:
http://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2015/jan/06/how-to-prevent-corporate-burnout

Hi hi! Just a quick blurb on a fun product I’ve been trying out called Happify. The app can be used on your phone or computer (I’ve been using my computer more often as it’s a nice mid-day break). An awesome product to help you think positively and refocus a bit. NYtimes just covered the product last week and I was pretty excited to read how much they liked it, too! It’s easy to use and they say it’s backed by science, which, makes it feel pretty damn official.

They wrote about a couple other products too, check out the review here.

Sidebar: I don’t work for Happify or anything, I just have been using their product for the past few months!

surprising employee engagement tactics

Hi Guys!

Employee Engagement. Hot topic, per usual. I found a couple articles talking about interesting ways to encourage employee engagement, overall employee happiness while reducing burnout. Without further ado…

  1. Pay people to take a vacation – no seriously. People need breaks, and with the number of Americans who don’t take their full vacation time each year, this is a really good way to ensure your employees don’t burnout. By offering funding to take a vacation, or giving them a bonus, they’ll be much more likely to take one. And come back to the office bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!
  2. No desks! – shut down your office, f’reals. You probably read about the Amsterdam office that turns into an event space at night, but this is a nice way to encourage people to go home. One of the easiest ways to get your office to shut down is for the higher-ups to go home. That’s it. Just send the bosses home. Deal with it tomorrow. It will still be there. Unless you’re performing open heart surgery. Then please stay and wrap that up.
  3. Enforce a “rest” period – one reason why people don’t like to take vacations is they’re nervous they’ll miss something. Well, if the whole company shuts down, there’s nothing to miss! TED and Quirky both take weeks off throughout the year where they shut everything down, forcing people to go away and take a load off.
  4. Email 40/wk – it’s hard to get away from emails if you need to be “on” all the time, but for those of us who can step away, consider setting personal “no email” times. I for one will not email after I’ve left the office unless it’s absolutely urgent. Also, if I’m sending an email on the later side I’ll clarify if it requires a response or can wait til the next day. That way, I’m making sure people know they don’t need to be glued to their devices.
  5. Create a culture committee – select people to meet with your employees and get a feel for what they’re looking for as events. Also, they can help plan birthday parties, holiday parties and basically make work awesome. And they can find cool events in the area to attend that are related to your business to learn more about your industry.
  6. Purpose Day – encourage your employees to give back by giving them paid days to go help out. After they do, try having them write about their experience and share with the whole company so people can hear about it! Bonus points? Create a volunteer-board or partner with a specific volunteer organization to make volunteering easy.
  7. Pay people to quit – Zappos and Amazon both will pay people to quit. I love this idea as it makes sure that the people that you employ actually want to be there. By paying people to quit you’re not only giving them a cushion to decide what’s next, but protecting your bottom line. People who don’t want to be at work are generally less productive than those who do!
  8. Let people WFH – just sometimes, let people WFH. Surprisingly, they may get more work done working from home and can take a little mental break from the daily grind.
  9. Useful perks – talk to your employees and find out what they are looking for. Consider things for their health, i.e. gym memberships, yoga classes, a meditation room, onsite flu-shots. Or think about things that will make their life easier, i.e. dry-cleaning service, home-cleaning service, partnerships with a food delivery service or restaurants in the area. Maybe even onsite childcare.
  10. Reviews & 1x1s – we know it’s important to have annual reviews, but those weekly/bi-weekly reviews help, too. It gives everyone a chance to make sure they’re fulfilling their goals, being utilized properly and are generally pleased with life at your company.


Credits: Washington Post, Inc, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Desk designed by Nathan Thomson from the Noun Project, @iconmonstr

Vacationing for Brain Space (2)

Hi All! I was busy celebrating my friend’s wedding but I have one post for you this week about vacationing. Then I’m going to GO on vacation! I’ll be back in a couple of weeks, but hopefully ya’ll will enjoy reading past posts while I’m out.

In an article from Forbes about employees taking vacation, they found, “Only 25% said they use all their paid days each year and 61% said that while they’re on vacation, they continue to work. A quarter of respondents said that a colleague got in touch about work while they were on vacation and 20% heard from their boss.”

Ouch. So what  are some reasons why they aren’t taking vacation? 33% are concerned about coverage, 28% are too scared to fall behind and 17% are worried they will lose their jobs. Holy smokes, with those kinds of numbers I’d be nervous to go, too!

But! Party people have no fear because so far what I’ve found is that vacation is uber important. Especially when we see statistics like 80% of employees feel stress at work or 70% of healthcare visits are stress-related.

Here are some things an unplugged (i’m talking auto-responder on and no sneaky emailing) vacation can do for you:

  • Boosts creativity
  • Lowers burnout
  • Increases quality of work
  • Improves productivity
  • Helps renew and regenerate
  • Reduces stress and anxiety, now, and for the future

Nervous about a full vacation? Here are some compromises! Maybe try just one of them, not all of them. A two-day staycation where you check email isn’t vacation. It’s a weekend that you worked through.

  • Staycations still count if you’re trying to save money – maybe you can reorganize that closet you’ve been eyeing, or go eat brunch on a random Wednesday morning
  • If you’re concerned about falling behind / coverage try short bursts of availability – tell your team the exact times you’ll be in your hotel checking email, and let them know the types of emails and questions they should be sending. That way, if there’s anything truly severe, they can reach you, and you’ll feel on top of stuff.
  • Avoid the guilt – Encourage other coworkers to take vacations and promote a positive environment that encourages full breaks to recharge. Maybe try to avoid emailing while people are out unless it’s urgent.
  • No time? Take a mini-break! – short, quick breaks are good for you, too. So yes, go take a look at that puppy video!

And in the meantime, check out this cute tip list from Boston College Carroll School of Management: tip sheet: the importance of taking a “work-free” vacation

 

See ya’ll on the flipside!

 

Credits: HuffingtonPost, PsychologyToday, About, abcnews, @iconmonstr

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