Work and life balance

Sometimes, we look at the end result of a new endeavor and get stuck. The effort needed to start and the energy required to persist are just too much. So, what can we do? We can take a first step. We can take a second step and a third.
I recall hearing a new year’s resolution a while ago, in which someone wanted to start an exercise routine. She committed to taking this one step every day—after getting dressed, she would put on her running shoes. The next thing she knew, she was outdoors every day and walking. As the days wore on, she picked up her pace, making good use of those running shoes.
For all of us, in time, the momentum builds, and the results become apparent. Making progress and achieving a goal no longer seem difficult or insurmountable. I took a first step a few months ago on a family project.
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Note: This blog is adapted from a recent Thinking Forward event, in which a troupe of professional speakers (including me!) explored the theme, Transform Your Community for Good.

The lyrics to songs can be like poetry that speaks to us. Music—the arts, nature, so much that surrounds us—can reveal intelligence, wisdom, and basic truths that we can apply to the communities in which we live and work.

Do you know the song, Accentuate the Positive? It goes like this:

You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between
You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith, or pandemonium is liable to walk upon the scene

To illustrate my last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do just when everything looked so dark
They said you’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between
No! Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between

(Music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, published in 1944.)

I got to thinking about how this song relates to communities—and here I’m thinking of communities in the broadest sense.

What are some of the characteristics of communities?

Communities of people come in lots of different sizes and shapes.

Communities are specialized and similar or diverse and different in terms of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, cultural background, residence, level of education, economic status, type of employment, or some other demographic.

Communities likely have insiders and outsiders. Members may all live in the same county. Maybe they are all librarians or healthcare providers. Maybe they have the same professional degrees or licenses.

Communities can have different structures. They can be flat, where all members have an equal voice. They can be hierarchical, where some members fall somewhere between the top and the bottom.

In some communities, you already belong. If you graduated from a certain university, you are in the community of alum. In others, you have to join. For example, membership in an association of alums likely makes you a more exclusive member of the community, with additional benefits.

Some communities share a physical space and some share a virtual space. For example, the technical communication community, to which I belong, meets every year at a conference. Members of this community also meet virtually at webinars and other online forums.

Though communities are different, members have a common tie that binds them to the community—whether at home with your family and friends; at work with employers, clients, employees, and colleagues; in recreational activities; or in volunteer pursuits.

And, as human beings who breathe the same air and walk the same earth, we are all part of a very large community where what we do touches others.

Know a good community when you see it. Focus on the good. Focus on the positive.

As the song says, you’ve got to:

  • Accentuate the positive. Latch on to the affirmative.
  • Spread joy up to the maximum.
  • And have faith!

How do you recognize a good community? You’ll know it by its fruits. You’ll see a lot that’s positive, affirming, and encouraging. You’ll see signs of joy. And yes, there will be a spirit of faith and optimism. There will be a sense that wonderful possibilities can transpire.

Let me give you two examples: Read More

In early 2013, while reading Shifra’s Story, written by my book club colleague, I recalled writing some of Kalman’s Story and discovered my handwritten pages, likely written around 1980. This story is my recollection of how my grandfather, my Pa, started a journey at the turn of the 20th century from Must, Poland, that led him, eventually, to the United States. With the passing during the last days of 2012 of Pa’s precious daughter, who was my dear mother, I treasure the many family stories that live in my memory. I will do my part, now, to preserve them by writing what I consider to be sacred texts.

Comment: It’s now 2019 and an unexpected introduction to a cousin on Kalman’s side of the family caused me to look into the sparse notes taken so many years ago from family members long gone. It appears that Gittel’s sister (Kalman’s maternal aunt) was named Leah. Kalman had a paternal aunt named Chani and a paternal uncle named Ellie.

“Mmmm. Ouch. Ugh.” moaned Kalman. His little legs ached as he ran. His little arms hurt as they held on to the wagon. Running—literally—to freedom and safety meant holding on to the back of the eggman’s horse-drawn wagon and keeping up with a horse’s four legs that were much longer and speedier than his two.

“What’s that I hear?” murmured Reb Mayer. He stopped the wagon. “Who’s there?” Reb Mayer stopped the wagon, sprung to the ground, walked to the back of the wagon, and found Kalman. “What are you doing here?”

No answer came from the eight-year-old boy. A pleading, pained look said, “Please offer me a ride.”

“Come on up front. Have a crust of bread. And tell me why you’re here.”

Kalman began, “I know you stop at Bialystock. I want to go there.” To Kalman, Bialystock meant Mama Gittel’s sister and her children. It meant an end to Must.

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Every month can be a busy month. Yet December with holidays, festivities, and year-end wrap-ups can make us feel especially frenzied. What to do? Apply what you already know about good health and happiness. Find ways to keep your reservoir full. Wellness and happiness can be as easy as A, B, and C.

A. Know when you are in a downward spiral. You might be working less efficiently and productively than usual. Perhaps you are experiencing boredom or displaying negativity at those with whom you work and live. If you do not feel motivated and challenged, there might be too much stress or insufficient positive stress. Take time to figure out what you need to remove from—or add to—your daily routine.

B. If too much to do seems to be converging on you, lighten up! De-clutter. Put projects away. Take them out only when you are working on them. And if you do not need that rarely used tool, that outdated furniture, or that stack of old magazines, books, and games, get rid of it! If others can use your discards, then sell them or donate them. If not, recycle them or toss them.

C. Get physical. Get mental. See what classes are available to keep your body and mind in motion. Your health insurer, community center, school district, supermarket, sporting goods store, or library may be offering just the right program for you. Whether it’s aerobics, dance, or zumba; healthy cooking, weight reduction, or nutrition; first aid, anger management, or a book club—find a new activity and find it now!

As for me, I am going to:

A. Laugh each day.

B. Say adieu to oversized clothes.

C. Stretch my brain by making Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal the first book in a trilogy. Yes, that means two more books are waiting to be authored!

How about you? What are your happiness and wellness plans? They can be as easy as ABC.

Notetaking (Photo is courtesy of geekcalendar’s photostream,, Creative Commons)

Are you thinking of attending a professional conference? Are you weighing the cons with the pros? Sure, this will cost you money—likely out of your own pocket—and  time. While you’re away, that looming project deadline will not disappear. Neither will that family event. Yet, you’d like a change of scenery. You could benefit from a renewed sense of purpose. You know it’s time to recharge! You decide Yes! You will go.

A while ago, I committed to doing a presentation at an out-of-town conference of technical communicators and made my travel arrangements. Early last week, I got my act together, finalizing my presentation, taking care of responsibilities on the business and home front, and preparing myself for a few days away. Read More

Practicing for our Singalong with Gert

Summer means it’s time to prepare Ma’s picnic for our extended family and her ever-evolving circle of friends. My role is to compile the list of invitees, send out the invitations, and, most important of all, prepare the handout, Singalong with Gertrude. Recently, I sent her the list of songs we discussed—a combination from previous years and a few new ones. I created the list and sorted it alphabetically. That way, I could easily identify and delete duplicate titles from the list. When I sent her the alphabetical list, she did not like the sequence! A singalong should not progress from Aba Daba Honeymoon to Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. Musically, it makes no sense.

Of course, as a good daughter, I went through several revisions, and I think we now have it right. We start with Hail, Hail, the Gang’s all Here. We sprinkle some of the happy, smile songs throughout—Just Let a Smile be Your Umbrella; When You’re Smiling; and Smile, Darn You, Smile. We made sure that Ma’s favorite songs are at the top of the list, since with 50 songs, we may not sing them all. We will, though, conclude with the last song on the list, May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You. So variety and importance factored into the organization. Read More

Balance life and work with yin and yang

Long-time Shenouda employee, Donna Muldoon, applies the concept of good enough to balance work and life

The biggest lesson I’ve had to learn regarding work and life balance is the concept of good enough. This has been especially difficult for the perfectionist in me but has ultimately been the philosophy that helped guide me, and console me, during my most hectic times.

Reminding myself that not everything has to be perfect and that many things can be done to the good enough state has saved me productive time and energy, and allowed me to feel better about the job I’ve done on some tasks. Of course, this is best applied to mundane, repetitive tasks like household chores or yard work but has also been useful at work on similar types of jobs—ones that come back around for many revisions.

It’s not always easy to remember to stop at good enough. I still feel like I’m cheating—not doing my best—but it has helped to achieve some measure of balance in my life at important times.

All the planning, organizational tools, support structures, and helping hands can’t guarantee work and life balance. The small degree of balance present in my life is largely due to an incredibly patient and considerate employer who allowed me the latitude to keep most of the balls in the air, most of the time.

A few words from Judy Shenouda, the “incredibly patient and considerate employer”

As a small business owner, I recognize the critical importance of balancing the needs of the business to deliver the products and services that clients purchase with the needs of workers who have all kinds of non-work demands on their time and energy. Over the years, I have learned to address this yin and yang balancing act. Read More

Welcome to Career Success in 12 Easy steps. In this blog, we will move forward and closer to achieving our career, world-of-work goals. Let’s think of this blog as a friend, confidante, and guide. We will use it to think, explore, doodle, draw, dream, and act. This is our time to take charge of our work and our life. As we explore how to apply life’s lessons learned to career goals, we will tackle our unique challenges, evolve, and transition to the next phase of our worklife. Together, let’s create beautiful, remarkable success stories that others can emulate.
For more information about Judy Shenouda, Shenouda Associates Inc., and Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal, please visit the easescommunication website.

~~ Judith Shenouda (commonly known as Judy)