How to Handle Difficult Coworkers

When you are part of a work place where there are so many different personalities, human interaction is unavoidable and flare-ups are inevitable.  Work deadlines, low sales figures and unexpected emergencies create stress that can turn the most passive coworker into an ill-tempered monster.  Sometimes it is just the habits and behavior of others that make us grind our teeth and eventually lose our cool.  Here are some common work conflicts and ways to handle them from Catherine Newman in her article, “What to Say When Coworkers Stress You Out” and other experts.

The Chatty Coworker

We all have experienced that coworker who frequently stops by our desk to chat when we are trying to get work done.  Physically standing up like you are headed elsewhere when they walk over is one way to let the chatterer know that you are busy and will keep them from getting comfortable by your desk says John Daly, Ph.D., consultant and professor of communication at University of Texas at Austin.  If the visual cue doesn’t give them the hint, have some positive phrases ready such as “I would love to chat, but I have to finish this report” or “I would love to hear more, can we catch up over lunch?”  These phrases help to cut off the chatting yet still maintain a positive relationship with the chatterbox.

The Messy Coworker

A messy coworker can be reminiscent of sharing a dorm room back at college.  You can get stuck sharing office space with a person who amasses clutter.  Try as you might, you are probably not going to be able to effectively change this habit in a person, advises Lindsey Pollak, author of the “Remix: How to Lead and Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace.”  The ideal thing to do is to figure out what you can tolerate and what needs to change in order for you to be comfortable and productive in your work space.  One method is to try to create a wall, such as with filing cabinets, to block the messy view.  However this can certainly create bad feelings.  It is better to be forthright and tell your coworker that their clutter is distracting you and that perhaps together you could organize things.  That type of gentle nudge might do the trick and even help them to improve their performance in a more productive environment.

The Interrupter

As you are expressing an idea in a meeting, that one coworker interrupts you and absorbs your idea as their own.  One way to deal with this is to raise your hand and express that you are not finished or avoid eye contact with the interrupter and keep speaking, suggests Daly.  If this is a frequent problem, connect with a friend before the meeting and ask them to speak up for you if the problem arises once again.  Your friend can then intervene with a comment such as, “I don’t think Laura was finished speaking” or “That is an alternate version of Laura’s idea.”  Hopefully the interrupter will get the message.  If not, speak directly with the offender after a meeting and express that their excitement is causing them to interrupt.  Ask if they can be more aware that they are interrupting you and wait their turn.

The Constant Complainer

When you enjoy your job, the last thing you want to deal with is a constant complainer who drags you into their negativity.  Empathy can be key in this situation.  You can sympathize with their feelings and suggest they speak with a career counselor or, if the problem relates to something specific in the workplace, direct them to HR, says Pollak.  This way you are shifting the burden to a third party who can help them.  You avoid getting sucked into their negative space and having to deal with feelings that you do not share.

How to Move On

If the suggestions noted above have not helped and you have lost your temper with a coworker, how do you move on from it?  Just ignore the awkward, says Pollack.  As we all know, time heals all wounds and the negative feelings will probably diminish.  If the bad vibes linger, an apology of some type is needed, either given or received, to resolve things.  Avoiding the person is the absolute worst thing you can do.  Set up a coffee or lunch date and make whatever reparations you can.  Apologize for your behavior and tell the person you are sorry you lost your temper.  Next ask them to advise how to put this behind you both and move forward.  This will let them help guide the conversation and express their feelings.  Hopefully it will help establish a new relationship or at the very least, make the existing one less uncomfortable.  It is important to mend fences as best you can and consider building relationships as part of your job.

How to Avoid Making Snap Judgements

Life is full of situations that require us to make quick decisions and judgements.  Sometimes it is for our safety such as when we find ourselves with someone who sets off our inner radar alerting us that being with them is dangerous.  We make the judgements quickly that there is something wrong with this person and we need to get away from them.  It is important to listen to that inner voice, especially when it relates to our protection.  However, in our daily lives we often make decisions without all the facts.  We become quick to react without giving the person or situation a chance.  We make a judgement, jump the gun and say and do things based upon an incorrect interpretation.  We may be wrong about something we think we are right about.  There are enough challenges in life, so let’s figure out a way to avoid creating unnecessary ones and strive for more trust and harmony.

Overcoming Judgmental Tendencies

One of the first ways to overcome rushing to a snap judgement is to be aware of our tendency to judge.  The only way to truly stop passing judgment is to know when we are doing this in the first place.  A key characteristic of judgmental people is realizing that they are tuning out others.  When we snap to a conclusion, we stop listening.  Unfortunately, this often leads to inappropriate decisions.  If we actually focus on listening to what a person says, we might draw a different, more informed conclusion.  We are too concerned with proving our point instead of listening to the other person.  We can avoid making snap judgement by making curiosity our default setting.  When we are curious, we are open to learning and receiving information.  We can pose questions that will allow us to understand the meaning of a statement rather than judging or making assumptions.  We can also phrase questions so that they do not put the person on the defensive and shut down communication.  Avoid stereotyping and profiling others.  Try to be empathetic and put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a moment.

If we have an issue in a business dealing or transaction, we must act professionally and give the person the opportunity to respond.  Being defensive destroys communication.  Negativity needs to be left out of the conversation or email.  Calmly discussing ways to resolve or rectify the issue often leads to a satisfactory outcome.

Empower Each Other

As we remember, girls in middle school and high school often found that judging others was a way to connect-and thus cliques were formed.  This often led to bullying and belittling.  There is a bond that forms when like-minded girls are similarly judgmental.  Whether we were insecure, scared or needed the approval of others, we all wanted to fit in.  However, we are adults now and it is time to stop this behavior.  Just because someone else had a bad experience with or doesn’t like someone, doesn’t mean that you have to share the same feeling.  Find things out for yourself and make your own conclusions.  We need to empower one another, not knock each other down.  In both our personal and business lives, it is important to focus on helping others as mentors and colleagues.

Societal Change

The world has changed with the anonymity of social media.  We can post hurtful, negative judgement in a snap without repercussion.  Add in Instagram and Twitter, and we react in seconds to quick messages and photos hundreds of times a day without thought or research.  Now more than ever, we need to train ourselves to slow down, listen, ask questions and make informed decisions.  Let’s try to relate to one another better and create a new societal change that embraces positivity, civility and respect.

How to Disconnect From Work While on Vacation

With information media being available 24/7 and Wi-Fi offered at most hotels and even on the airplane, it has become extremely difficult to disconnect from work so you can relax and enjoy your vacation.  Add in a competitive job market and it ramps up the stress level of being away even further.  It is easy to feel nervous when you are not available for your boss, making you reluctant to go on vacation and enjoy yourself.  Luckily, there are some ways for setting professional boundaries while you are away which won’t make you feel like your career is in jeopardy.

Pre-vacation Prep

Before leaving for vacation, it is important to set up a plan with a co-worker regarding handling emergencies while you are away.  Similar to a doctor rotation, arrange with a trusted colleague to cover for you and offer to do the same for that person when they are away.  If something arises that he or she does not know how to handle in your absence, give them permission to contact you.  If you are the manager or an executive, be very clear that you will not be checking in nor should they be contacting you unless it is a true emergency.  Showing your employees the same respect when they are on vacation creates a common standard of behavior.

It is important to be precise about your availability when you are away.  For example, you can tell co-workers that you will check your emails once per day at a certain time, say 11am, starting the third day of your trip.  This allows you to have the first two days to unwind and relax.  It takes about 24-48 hours for your brain to disengage from work mode.  If they absolutely need to speak with you, they must reach you by 11am.  Otherwise, they will have to wait until the following morning for a response.

Be sure to set up an auto- reply message on your work email that you will be away and unable to respond until your return date.  Provide an alternate contact name and email address for anything that can’t wait until your return.  Also, tell people that you will not be accepting work-related texts during your trip.

On Vacation

While on vacation, force yourself to become fully engaged in activities.  Go snorkeling, hiking, or immerse yourself in that best seller you have wanted to read while relaxing by the pool.  If you have children, give them your full attention.  You have to completely disconnect from work mode before you will be able to recharge and enjoy yourself.  Stick like glue to the instructions you set up before your trip.  Stay off the phone with work and don’t sneak and look at work emails throughout the day.

Back to Reality

Once you are back to work after your vacation, you should be in a better place both physically and mentally.   If you did your planning right, you should not be returning to mounds of problems.  However, it is a good idea to devote one hour at home the night before you return to work to reading emails and texts.  It helps to do this in your comfy sweats with a glass of wine in hand to try to continue that “vacation” feeling.  This will help make the next day a bit less crazy by knowing what to expect and just maybe help continue that vacation feeling a bit longer.

How to Plan a Family Vacation with Less Stress

There is nothing like the excitement and thrill of taking a vacation with your family.  We imagine what it will be like getting away together and enjoying some special time without the distractions of daily life.  However, once you are days into the process of researching, deciding on a location and type of trip that will please everyone, figuring out your budgetary issues and checking all the details, this dream trip can become a nightmare.  It can start to feel like a full-time job and somehow you are the only one doing all the work.  Here are some pointers on how to save time, get it booked easily and enjoy the trip.

Simplify Your Choices

Write down a list of ideas of places you would like to go after checking some magazines, asking friends and checking social media.  It can be as simple as the beach, national monuments, Europe, etc.  Is the group looking to relax or wanting adventure?  Keep in mind how much time you have to be away and your budget.  Discuss this with the people who will be going with you and decide on a type of vacation that fits in with the group goals.  For example, if relaxation is the priority, go with a beach location, for excitement go for the amusement parks or exploring another country.

Make Sure the Family is Working Together

It is easier to plan a vacation when everyone feels they have a stake in it.  Family members, including kids who are not too young, can help research activities.  With a destination chosen, set parameters and give each member a specific time to get their research accomplished.  Next have a family meeting where everyone shares their written choices for activities.  Rule out those that are not probable due to time constraints, costs, etc. and prioritize the rest.  Now you will have a list of things to do on the trip.

Avoid Overbooking Activities

Make sure that the itinerary is not too overwhelming.  No one will enjoy themselves when they are rushing from place to place and constantly moving from one hotel to another.  It is a good idea to plan for some early physical activity with the kids so they will be ready for some down time later.  If you have younger children, many people swear by returning to the hotel after lunch and letting the kids veg out by the pool or in the room before resuming any evening activities.  Leave a day free to just relax or do something that is unplanned.  Remember, a vacation is about relaxing.  It shouldn’t feel like work.

Organize Your Trip Information

As you are booking hotels, rental vehicles, tours, restaurants and other reservations, keep all the confirmation emails in one spot.  You can create a designated “vacation” folder in your email account.  There are also special apps for doing this like www.tripit.com.  They will organize everything into an easy-to-read itinerary that you can keep on your phone or tablet and print out and keep with your tickets, ID’s, passports and other necessary travel documents.  A basic version of Tripit is free.  As you travel, you can edit the itinerary with notes and details for future reference.

Outsource the Planning

Some people prefer to use a travel agent which is good choice to cut out stress.  They can be a valuable source when your time to plan is very limited.  They have the knowledge and can save you hours of time in researching by finding the best hotels and getting the tickets you need.  They know which Disney breakfast has the best characters, and which hotels are closest to your target destination.  If you don’t have an agent, ask friends for recommendations.  Organizations like AAA offer organized group tours for families that spare you the headaches of planning.  Hotels and restaurants are all pre-planned for you.  Other companies include Intrepid, G Adventures and Backroads.  Their trips are designed to keep adults and kids both happy and relaxed.

Keep Lists

Packing lists can be prepared and printed out for each family member to use when packing.  Even young children can pack with adult supervision.  This way you know they are not forgetting necessities which will avoid trips to the store for forgotten items when you get to your destination.  Remember to bring your prescription medicines as well as over-the-counter things like aspirin and allergy medication.  It is important to allow kids to bring some extra things you may feel are unnecessary, but you can limit them.  If there is a road trip, remember to bring lots of healthy snacks for the car, some motion sickness meds and a few new toys or items to keep the kids occupied.  Audio books are a great thing.  Save these lists in your computer or device and add notes for your next vacation.

Relax and Have Fun

Now that you have everything booked and packed, it is time to head out and enjoy.  There will always be mix-ups, forgotten items and inevitably someone may get sick, but try not to allow the small stuff to upset you and ruin the fun.  Make sure to get adequate sleep, even if it means taking turns with your spouse as to who gets up early with the kids.  Junk food can be part of the fun of vacation, but try to limit it so children are not “sugared-up” or out of sorts.  For teens, limit the amount of phone/device time so they stay connected with the family.  If you are traveling with family or friends, perhaps you can take turns babysitting the kids so couples can get some free time alone.  The important thing to remember is that it’s vacation – there’s no right or wrong.  Just relax and have a wonderful time with your family.

P.O.W.E.R. Awards Gala a Success

And The Honorees Were….

The P.O.W.E.R. Awards Gala on May 16, 2019 at The Mansion at Oyster Bay in Woodbury, NY was a true success. Honoring women who make a difference in so many lives and seeing what they have achieved through hard work and dedication is truly an inspiration.  Our honorees were the sisters from Mondays at Racine Cancer Care Foundation, Elizabeth Sutton, Esther Fortunoff, Dorothy Toran, Dolores Catania, Marcie Manfredonia Sicilano, Linda Faraldo, Regina Calcaterra, JoAnn Caputo Tripi, Leslie O’Hare, Erin Oprea,   Dr. Doris Dalton, Dr. Alyson Myers , Dr. Leona Ayers and The Dubrows  as Our POWER Couple.  Some of our presenters were Carol Silva from New 12 Long Island and Supervisor of the Town of Oyster Bay, Joseph Saladino.

Philanthropy in Action

The Gala was not only to honor women but to support Mondays at Racine Cancer Care Foundation. Our silent auction was a success, the raffles were a hit, the vendors were incredible and the food and music couldn’t have been better. All the guests were dressed to impress and looked amazing.

Guests

People traveled from all over the country to attend this event. Some we met for the first time after working with them for years and others were familiar faces. Some new relationships and connections were created and we are excited to see what transpires.

 

 

P.O.W.E.R. Awards Gala to Be Held on Thursday, May 16, 2019

About Us

P.O.W.E.R., Professional Organization of Women of Excellence Recognized, is an organization which features celebrities, A-listers and everyday hardworking women from different backgrounds, cultures and who work in various industries and professions.  These women are highlighted on our website and in our quarterly magazine.  By connecting with successful professionals, and building positive relationships, there is nothing women can’t achieve together.

Gala

At the P.O.W.E.R. Awards Gala being held on Thursday, May 16, 2019, we are honoring some amazing women for their exceptional leadership and dedication in their profession.  These women inspire and empower us to be the best we can be.  They prove that with passion, perseverance and dedication, anything is possible.  Along with presenting awards that evening, we are having a silent auction with proceeds going to an amazing non-profit called Mondays at Racine Cancer Care Foundation.

This will be an evening of celebrating, dining, dancing, shopping and mingling.  There will be raffles and amazing swag bags.  Get ready to meet some powerful women.

 

The Importance of Solitude

There are certain people who love spending time alone.  However, a recent study published by “Science” showed that many of us would rather give ourselves electric shocks than be by ourselves with nothing to do for 6-15 minutes.  Why?  There are definitely benefits to alone time.  Given the fact that we spend most of our time with co-workers, family and friends and are often connected to social media, spending time by ourselves in solitude can be a treat for our minds and souls.  It is time to learn how to enjoy spending time by ourselves.

The Benefits of Alone Time

We often assume that people who enjoy being alone are weird and antisocial.  But recent studies have shown that people are more creative and feel more rejuvenated after deliberately withdrawing from social situations.  It is restorative.  Today especially, people feel overloaded being connected to the grid.  Any time we have alone is being spent engaging with others on social media.  We are not allowing ourselves time alone to figure out who we really are.  Spending time with ourselves helps us to gain perspective, build self-esteem and have self-compassion.  This makes us better people to be around.  When we feel whole and content with ourselves, we have more empathy to give to others.

Alone vs. Lonely

Being alone is not the same as being lonely.  Loneliness is a perceived feeling of social isolation and has been linked to such negative things as heart disease and depression.  One can feel lonely even in the company of others if they are dissatisfied with their personal relationships.  It is a fear of loneliness that often prevents people from seeking solitude.  However, by redefining solitude as being something positive and well-deserved, you will never mix up the two again.  Rather than avoiding being by ourselves, we will seek it out to help balance ourselves and will become content with our own company, letting go of self-judgement.

How to Find Alone Time During Our Busy Days

Most of us are so busy juggling our work and personal lives that we can barely fit in a shower before jumping into bed and starting it all over again in the morning.  We have to find a better way to fit in some solitude to suit our schedules.  If we start with short bursts of time, like 10-15 minutes, it won’t lead to feelings of guilt that we are depriving our loved ones or being selfish by allowing ourselves some time alone.  How you spend that time is personal.  Some people like to read, some enjoy journaling and others like to spend it in nature.  The idea is to enjoy the time for ourselves, not to turn around and post about it on social media.

Enjoying Our Own Company

After the realization of how much we enjoy being with ourselves sets in, and how less stressed and relaxed it makes us feel, we may become bolder.  Perhaps you will be brave enough to take a solo drive to the beach for an hour or two or go see a movie alone.  A weekend retreat alone could be just around the corner.  When spending time alone becomes a treat and not a punishment, it is amazing how much time you can find to devote to your new best friend, yourself.

 

 

 

 

Women Who Inspire Us

Growing out of a small town school event in California in 1978, Women’s History Month has been observed in March since 1987, when the U.S. Congress declared it.  It is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society.  The National Women’s History Alliance chooses a theme each year.  The 2019 theme is Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Nonviolence.  These are women who have led efforts to end war, violence and injustice and pioneered the use of nonviolence to change our society.

There have been women who have made a positive difference through peaceful protest and nonviolent actions for centuries.  We have chosen a few of these amazing women to showcase from the mid 1800’s to the present.

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

Susan B. Anthony was raised in the Quaker tradition of nonviolence and was influenced by her parents with a sense of independence and social justice.  She was collecting anti-slavery petitions at the age of 17 and became the New York State agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1856.  After meeting fellow suffragist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the two women formed the New York State Temperance Society when Anthony was prevented from speaking at a temperance meeting due to her gender.  They founded the Women’s Loyal National League to petition against slavery and later founded the National American Suffragette Association.

Anthony was arrested in 1872 for voting as a woman in her home town of Rochester, New York which led to a highly publicized trial and a fine she refused to pay.  Ultimately, it resulted in a grant by Congress in 1878 for an amendment giving women the right to vote.  Anthony became known as the “Napoleon of Feminism” and is remembered today as one of the most historically significant advocates for women’s rights.

Violet Oakley (1874-1961)

American painter, illustrator, muralist and stained glass designer, Violet Oakley was the first American woman to receive a public mural commission.  She is best known for the series of murals she completed for the Pennsylvania State Capital.  Her political beliefs were shaped by William Penn, whose ideals she represented in her murals.  When the United States refused to join the League of Nations after World War I, Violet traveled to Geneva, Switzerland where she spent three years drawing portraits of the League delegates and later published them as “The Law Triumphant: The Opening of the Book of the Law and the Miracle of Geneva” in 1932.

She was an early advocate of nuclear disarmament following World War II.  Oakley was the first woman elected to the National Society of Mural Painters.  She received the Gold Medal of Honor of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and was the first woman awarded the Gold Honor from the Architectural League of New York.  In 1977, her studio in Philadelphia was listed in the National Registry of Historic Places in recognition of her artistry and beliefs.

Josephine Baker (1906-1975)

American born French entertainer, activist and French resistance agent, Josephine Baker resided and made her career in Europe.  She was an icon of the Jazz Age and was noted for wearing a costume consisting of only a girdle of artificial bananas.  Baker was the first women of color to earn international renown and to star in a major motion picture, Zouzou.  She refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States and was noted for her contributions to the civil rights movement.  In 1968, she was offered the unofficial leadership of the movement by Coretta Scott King following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., however she declined in order to protect her children.  She received the French Croix de Guerre for aiding the French Resistance during WWII.

Coretta Scott King (1927-2006)

American author, activist, civil rights leader, and the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King helped lead the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.  She was an active advocate for African American equality.  King was also a singer and often incorporated her music into her civil rights work.  After her husband’s assassination, she took on the leadership of the struggle for racial equality herself and became active in the women’s movement.  King founded the King Center and fought to make her husband’s birthday a national holiday.  She broadened her scope to include apartheid and advocacy for LGBTQ rights.

Rosa Parks (1913-2005)

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was an American activist in the civil rights movement best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  The U.S. Congress has called her “the first lady of civil rights.”  On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to give up her seat in the colored section of the bus to a white passenger after the white section was full.  Her prominence in the community and willingness to become a controversial figure inspired the black community to boycott the Montgomery buses for over a year.  Her act of defiance became an important symbol of the civil rights movement.  Parks organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders.  Shortly after the boycott, she moved to Detroit and did similar work there.  She wrote her autobiography and continued to insist that the struggle for justice was not over.

Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

Mother Teresa Bojaxhiu was an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary.  In 1950, she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation which has over 4500 nuns and, as of 2012, has been active in 133 countries.  It manages homes for people dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy, and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, dispensaries and mobile clinics, children’s and family counseling programs, orphanages and schools.  Members who take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, also take a fourth vow “to give wholeheartedly free service to the poorest of the poor.”  Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and was canonized as a Saint on September 4, 2017.

Malala Yousafzai (1997- )

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate at age 17.  She is known for human rights advocacy, especially the education of women and children in her native home of Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan, where the Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school.  Her advocacy has grown into an international movement.  According to the Pakistani Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, she has become the “most prominent citizen of the country.”

Malala’s family ran a chain of schools in the region and she was inspired by her father’s thoughts and humanitarian work.  She wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC Urdu detailing her life during the Taliban occupation of Swat.  The following summer, a New York Times documentary was made about her life as the Pakistani Military intervened in the area.  On October 9, 2012, while on a bus after taking an exam, Malala and two other girls were shot by a Taliban gunman in an assassination attempt in retaliation for her activism.  Malala was hit in the head and remained in critical condition in the hospital.  She improved and survived, rallying to an international outpouring of support for her.  The Taliban was internationally denounced by governments, human rights organizations and feminist groups.  They responded by promising a second assassination attempt on Malala.  After her recovery, she became a prominent activist for the right for education and established the Malala Fund, a nonprofit.

In 2013, she co-authored a book, “I am Malala,” an international best seller.  In 2015, Time magazine put Malala on the cover as one of the most influential people globally.  From 2013-2017, she attended Edgbaston High School and is currently studying for her bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford.  There is no doubt that we will see more of her amazing efforts in the future.

2019

It is so important to become familiar with inspiring women during Women’s History Month, and every month.  We urge all of you to take a few minutes to read about the many women who have either changed, or are changing, our world for the better in peaceful and nonviolent ways.  Whether or not you agree with their interests and causes, they still have managed to become role models and achieve change.  Share their stories with your children so they too can learn about these visionary women.

How to Make the Best of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day.  Just hearing the words can set off a panic button for men and women alike.  Whether you are single or in a relationship, this can be a holiday full of expectations, excitement, disappointments, stress and exhilaration all at once.  There are two factions – those of us who are not in a relationship and those who are.  If you are not in a relationship, Valentine’s Day can be a very upsetting day or even week.  While we don’t live in Victorian times when if you weren’t married by age 25 you were an old spinster, it is still generally expected that you should be dating, in a solid relationship or married by most cultures.

Parties

Rather than allowing yourself to be upset at not having ‘someone special’ to share the day with, find a way to enjoy the company of others who are in the same boat.  Get together with a couple of single girlfriends and make a night of it!  Grab a favorite comedy movie, set out a couple of trays of hors d’ouvres, some wine and make it a fun girl’s night.  Buy a few face masks, put out a tray of nail polish with toe holders, fun glitter and a few towels for pedicures.  You might even want to go to a local beauty store and get some washable hair color – the sky is the limit.  Make sure to have lots of chocolate and maybe a rose for each friend to take home in a vase.  Trust me, everyone loves flowers and the thoughtfulness will be appreciated.

If you have friends who like to craft, purchase wine glasses from the local dollar store and oil-based Sharpie markers for everyone to decorate them to take home.  Buy Styrofoam wreaths, a few glue guns and glue sticks, and a bunch of fake flowers and have a Spring wreath-making session.  Purchase a 5 lb. bag of flour, butter, sugar, vanilla and a variety of chips and have a cookie-making night.  There’s no rule that says you can’t throw in some wine and dinner as well.  Maybe ask each person to bring a small snack or dessert.  Keeping busy and having fun will keep your minds off anything negative and everyone will go home with something beautiful to remember a special evening with friends.

Singles Dinner Party

If you have a lot of single friends of both genders, you may want to host a single’s dinner party with a theme.  You can make it pot luck and have everyone bring their favorite dish, or settle on a cultural theme such as Mexican, Asian or Italian.  Decorate and make little gift bags of silly things from the dollar store to send home with people just for laughs.  Keep in mind that others are feeling sad and need a pick-me-up as much as you do!  You may be surprised and find that doing something for others to make them feel better makes you feel better as well.

Pampering

You may want to embrace the Black Valentine’s Day of South Korea and just have a special day for yourself.  Schedule a massage or facial.  Get your eyebrows waxed.  Find a local reflexologist and have your feet massaged and pampered.  Light one of those aromatherapy candles.  Order some take-out or delivery from your favorite restaurant and add an appetizer just because.  Schedule something that you enjoy and embrace it.  If you have a bathtub, take a bubble bath.  Even if it means being by yourself, treat yourself like a Queen and allow yourself to be pampered.  Put on your favorite music and sing along.  As they do on “Grey’s Anatomy,” dance it out and enjoy being alive.

Philanthropy

If you are feeling altruistic and really want to get out of your own head and comfort zone, find a local food kitchen or shelter and volunteer to serve dinner.  Go to a nursing home and offer to spend time with the residents.  Find a local animal shelter to see if they need help.  You can keep it simple and bake some goodies for your local firehouse.

Couples

Even if you are in a relationship, whether dating or married, Valentine’s Day can still be stressful.  There’s an expectation for both men and women to make the day and night extra special.  Men are expected to give jewelry, chocolate and/or roses.  Women are expected to buy something special for the man in their life, perhaps surprising them with new lingerie and a gourmet meal.

Everyone creates their own annual traditions.  While newer couples may choose to go out and have a meal at an overcrowded restaurant with ‘Valentine’s Day Specials,’ many older couples elect to stay home and celebrate with dinner brought in from a local favorite restaurant or cook a meal together.  Don’t get me wrong, flowers, chocolate and jewelry are always perfect for Valentine’s Day.  Bake a heart-shaped cake or cookies for dessert, or even chocolate covered strawberries, which are a special surprise.  Break out a bottle of champagne and those glasses that are gathering dust in your breakfront.  Set the table with the “good” China, because it really is a holiday.  Dress up for each other.  Sweatpants and T-shirts are not romantic.

Time Together Doesn’t Matter

Regardless if you’ve been together 10, 20, or 40 years, celebrate a day dedicated to love.  Make your own card or cook a special meal.  Find the video or DVD of your wedding and watch it together.  Take out your wedding album and share memories of your special day.  Make it a point to spend quality time together.  Put the cellphones and iPad away.  Watch a romantic comedy together.  Enjoy being with the person you love.

 

A Month by Month Guide to an Amazing 2019

We all know the benefits of planning ahead and mapping out a course for success.  When you have set your sights on a goal, it is important to chart out a plan and break it down into manageable steps.  With the new year fresh upon us, let’s prepare a monthly guide to make 2019 the most productive year yet.

January

Since this month begins our journey, let’s start out by creating a journal where we can set out our plans and chart our progress.  I am the type of person who likes to write with a pen and paper, so I purchased a colorful notebook that I love and will want to open up and write in.  Others prefer using an app, such as Day One, which is a free app for basic IOS and Android, where you can list short-term goals, track your accomplishments and also note feedback received.  Having a journal is one thing, but remembering to update it is another.  It is crucial to update your journal ideally once a day, but realistically once per week.  I have been known to save ideas or feedback I have received during my work day on sticky pad notes or in my cell phone notes and transcribe them into my journal in the evening at home.  The more you read and review your goals and areas of improvement, the more likely you are to continue to pursue them.  This journal also becomes helpful as a source of information to review and utilize when you are planning a meeting or asking for a raise.

February

Devoting time to networking is crucial to keeping yourself out there and possibly leading to new opportunities.  This month, take time to send out emails, text or use other social media messaging to touch base with people in your network.  In addition, send messages out to people you haven’t spoken with in some time, such as a former colleague or someone you met at a holiday party last December and really clicked with.  You never know who can end up being a valuable networking asset or mentor.  It is also a great time to look into joining a professional organization or association in your field.  Many of these organizations are just starting to meet again after the holidays.  Also, start researching upcoming conferences for the year in your field, decide ones you might want to go to, register to attend, and make inquiries regarding company reimbursement requirements.

March

March is the month to make sure all your finances are in order and that you have all the documents you need for filing your income taxes.  April 15th will be here soon.  If you already know you will be getting a decent refund check, take half to pay off debt such as credit cards, unpaid bills and college loans.  Put the other half into savings, college or retirement funds.  If you have received a raise in pay for 2019, put the extra money into your 401K or pension, especially if you are receiving a company match.  It is also time to review your budget to see where money is leaking and how to improve your finances.  Maybe it is time to cut back on gourmet coffee out in the morning or ditch the smoking habit, and put the money you would have spent each day into a vacation fund.  You will be surprised how it adds up.

April

Spring is almost here, and with it comes spring cleaning time for your home.  It is also a good time to organize your desk space.  First, review your seating and computer monitor for the best ergonomic positioning.  Your work surface should be slightly below elbow height when seated or standing.  Your computer monitor should be centered with the mid-line of your body.  Keep the backrest of your office chair tense enough to support your weight.  Now take a look at your work space and declutter.  Only keep things that you use frequently on top of your desk.  Set up an in-and-out tray and keep it organized.  If it is overflowing, it will definitely affect your attitude and ruin the feng shui by destroying the harmony of your environment.  If possible, add a plant to your office to bring something fresh and alive into the space.  Some artwork on the wall and a photo of your loved ones will personalize your space and bring you joy.

May

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to make sure your vacation plans are intact.  Figure out how many vacation days you still have available and plan to use them.  Look into flights and hotels, especially during holiday times.  The U.S. Travel Association says that 52% of Americans leave unused vacation time on the table.  We are all busy, but downtime away from work is vital to our psyche as well as affording an opportunity to think about where you are and where you want to be without the pressures of the daily grind.  Employees should be valued for their accomplishments, not perfect attendance.

June

Team building can improve morale and help guide employees toward their goal.  If you are a manager, sit down with your people and ask them for feedback and ideas besides current work projects.  If you are an employee, ask your manager out to lunch to discuss any ideas you have or areas of concern.  This month is the perfect time for that employee picnic to get people together and help build relationships with each other.

July

We are now halfway through the year and it is time to review your career journal thus far and assess what you have done to get you closer to your goals.  If you don’t see the progress you hoped for, use this time to restructure and create new, more realistic goals.  Sometimes, by breaking things down into baby steps, we can accomplish more.  You also may realize that your goal has changed since January due to other events that have taken place and you need to reset your goals for the next six months.

August

August is often a time when we see a summer slowdown at work.  Many people are out of town.  Why not take this opportunity to volunteer or set up a work program in the office.  This will not only help you feel fulfilled by helping and giving back, but it can also let your boss see other skills you possess.  For example, setting up an office recycling program will not only help the environment but will also let your boss see your organizational and leadership skills.

September

Now that summer is over and it is “back to school” season, it is a good time to think about some skills you might like to learn.  Perhaps take a public speaking course, an online college course to work towards a degree or even just take a course in something you are interested in.  It may spur some creativity and could also make you think about some other career interests.  A yoga or Pilates class will improve your health and give you some alone time to focus on you.

October

The open enrollment periods for health insurance plans and some other types of coverage usually run from November 1st through December 15th.  Now is the time to figure out your potential healthcare needs for 2020.  You might need a plan with a lower or higher deductible or you might find it would be beneficial to open an health savings account (HAS) or a flexible savings account (FSA) if you have a high-deductible health plan and/or if it is offered by your employer.  This is a tax-advantaged medical savings account where funds contributed are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit.  Research the different plans to see if it would be beneficial to you.

November

Mentoring is a win-win situation.  You are able to tap into a younger person’s perspective and pay it forward by helping them with their future.  They, in turn, receive the benefit of your experience and wisdom, as well as creating a contact and friend to go to when they need direction.  Check to see if your company offers a mentoring program or look to industry organizations or community groups.

December

This month is usually incredibly busy with holiday parties, travel and family events.  When you find a small block of down time, take a look at your resume, your online portfolio and LinkedIn profile.  Update any major accomplishments that occurred this year, add in any published items you have had or any career-related certifications or courses you have completed.  If you have changed positions this year, make sure to update that information.  This way, should you decide to make a job change in 2020, it won’t be a huge scramble to update your personal documents.

By New Year’s Eve, you should feel empowered by your efforts to keep on top of your career and personal goals and be ready to start fresh on January 1st.