A Different Family Reunion: Moving Past Heartache and Disagreement

It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye
–‘The Living Years’, song & lyrics by Mike & the Mechanics

Is there anything that gets you thinking about your own life more than a funeral? Last week I attended a friend’s funeral and compared the planning lessons learned from my father’s funeral.

While planning is a top priority to reduce stress and allow time for grieving, another overlooked necessity is overcoming family discord.

Every family has issues. Every family has someone that has fallen out of favor or holds a grudge against someone else, for whatever reason. At the time of the grudge-inducing event, emotions are high, tempers are short, and pride is set in stone. While peace is attempted, it often fails and carries on for years, even decades.

At my father’s funeral, I had an opportunity to repair my relationship with my brother Bill, after 40 years of silence. All I know is that when I was 13, I stuck my tongue at him and I haven’t been forgiven. At the funeral I hugged him, told him I missed him, and promised to call when he got home again. I felt optimistic that the years had melted the pain and we could return to being brother and sister. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. He never answered my calls. He eventually sent me a message to quit bothering him because he wasn’t interested in talking to me anymore.

As we get older, we’re often driven to re-examine our relationships.

  • Do we miss someone?
  • Do we need to apologize to someone?
  • Do we need to forgive?
  • Are the issues that initiated the anger still important?
  • Do the years melt the discord away?

My story is no different from yours or anyone else. We try. We keep on trying. We don’t give up. Maybe a few more years is needed.

I wasn’t there that morning
When my father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say…
I just wish I could have told him in the living years
–‘The Living Years’, Mike & the Mechanics

Instead of waiting and wondering, start now. Attempt to make peace while everyone is still living. If you keep trying, it’s better than the regrets of, “I wish I would have apologized before he died.”

What first step can you take?

Kristen

Seeking Work/Life Balance? The Family Phone Tree May be the Place to Start

“Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create” ― Jana Kingsford

You are a busy person: you juggle client calls, appointments, and projects on a daily basis, sometimes simultaneously. Similarly, you field random calls and requests from family members that range from rants, venting, or general (unimportant) information. Yes, there is the occasional emergency, but the likelihood of a true emergency tends to be low.

Most often, family calls are predictable, based on plentiful past experience so when their call arrives in the middle of the work day, we’re faced with a few options:

  • Answer immediately because it’s always a joy to speak to this person.
  • Answer immediately because this particular family member rarely calls and it could be critical.
  • Cringe and decide: do we answer knowing the call is a false alarm?
  • Let the call go to voice mail because we’re working in our business.

When was the last time you pressed your way through a company’s phone tree system? These automated recordings are designed to efficiently direct us to the most knowledgeable or helpful person to handle our need. While they are an annoyance, and I’m not convinced this is efficient for us as the caller, there must be some time savings for the business. Following a recent series of distracting calls from various family members, I wondered how this system would work with the family. Would this feature simplify the work/life balance for a business owner wedged in the Sandwich Generation? Here’s how mine would sound:

Hello my dear Family Members. I’m sorry I cannot answer your urgent call at this moment, but I’m involved with clients at this time. Listen to the following options to best serve your needs. Please listen to the full menu as our options change frequently.

  • Mom/Dad, press 1
  • Spouse/partner, press 2
  • Son/Daughter, press 3
  • Sibling, press 4
  • All other family members, press 5

(You will need to personalize your family phone tree for best results.)

Beyond the first level of categories, there would be some similarities. Here is how I would define level 2:

  • Press 1 if you are calling because someone won’t eat their dinner.
  • Press 2 if the family member won’t complete their chores.
  • Press 3 if another family member is annoying you.

You’ll also need to include additional categories for each group:

For your parents (in my case, my mother), I need to include:

  • Press 4 if this is a news flash about April the Giraffe
  • Press 5 if this is regarding the latest political gossip
  • Press 6 if you are worried about something

For your partner/spouse, include:

  • Press 4 if you want to discuss what to have for dinner
  • Press 5 to compare the latest story from our children
  • Press 6 if you want to tell me details about your latest World of Warship battle

For Son/Daughter, include:

  • Press 4 if you are complaining about work
  • Press 5 if you are venting about life in general
  • Press 6 if this is a request for money
  • Press 7 if you are seeking advice which you plan to ignore

For those that receive the rare call from extended family members (cousin, aunt, estranged family member), this signifies something potentially critical, so it’s wise to answer immediately.

Regardless of which direction the person-in-question blunders through the family phone tree, they must record their message, which will then be queued in order of pre-determined urgency. Then on a break, you can address the issues in order of importance.

There are many joys to being a business owner and working from home, but dealing with family members is one of the darker sides of business ownership. It’s best to treat with love, patience, a bit of humor, and the family phone tree. Would such a system improve your quest for work/life balance?

Perhaps there’s an entrepreneur out there who recognizes this need and is building a prototype now!

Kristen Edens

5 Exercise Tips for Entrepreneurs—Plus 1 If You Really Hate Exercise

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“True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united.” – Wilhelm von Humboldt

Do you have a history with exercise? Or is it a love/hate relationship?

My exercise history began in my early teens. My brothers were teen terrors and there was a lot of stress and strife in the household. Retreating to my bedroom was one solution, but so was hopping on my bicycle and escaping the drama. What started out as 5 miles per ride quickly doubled and quadrupled until I participated in my first Century (100 mile) tour at the age of 16. I loved it and was hooked. I even pursued Exercise Physiology as a career and graduated with a master’s degree in 1990.

Needless to say, I love physical activity and exercise. It has been a long-standing, daily part of my life. There have been two phases of life, however, when I wasn’t as active as I’d like to be.

  1. Pregnancy—it’s difficult to exercise with 9 months of continued morning sickness.
  2. Entrepreneurship—building and owning a business takes A LOT of time. It isn’t easy to head out for a 50 mile bike ride whenever I want.

As with everything else, we must modify and prioritize. When I worked at Brigham City Hospital as an Exercise Physiologist, I spent a lot of time helping patients find ways to include exercise into their daily routine. Most of them HATED exercise. However, by the time they came to me, many had experienced a cardiac event and needed to train their heart for recovery and improved health. Exercise became a race to stay ahead of additional complications.

While many people continue to struggle with implementing exercise into their day or week, the more you exercise now, the better it will be in the long run. Entrepreneurs especially can benefit from stepping away from their desk and getting outside—or to your local fitness center. Entrepreneurial wellness (or as I like to call it, wow-ness) is up to us to pursue.

Built from my own experiences these 6 tips will help introduce exercise into your business schedule:

Standing desk: standing at a desk for a portion of your screen time keeps the blood flowing and the mind active. Even if your back or legs can’t stand for long blocks of time, you’ll find your strength improving, which will positively influence your duration in other activities.

Refresh and revitalize by stepping outdoors: how many times do you get stuck on an idea or a project? Do you agonize in front of your screen, forcing ideas to come from the black depths of nothingness? Then it’s time to step away and get OUT! Breathe in fresh air. Let the wind and sunshine, or even the rain, clear your brain. Do a brain dump and let things flow naturally. I find that fresh ideas come quick after a 10 minute step outside. Does 10 minutes sound like a lot? How many minutes were already lost seeking ideas that were stuck?

Get the family involved—especially the grandchildren (if you have them): Children are GREAT encouragement and motivation, plus we are viewed as GREAT grandparents for our involvement with them. They are bundles of contagious energy and lots of joy. Utilize their youth and let it rejuvenate you!

Stretching: this VERY EASY exercise form is often overlooked. Who doesn’t feel good following a morning stretch? Or getting out of the car after a long drive for a full-body stretch? Stretching is the easiest, do-anywhere form of exercise and it costs NOTHING! It keeps the blood flowing, relaxes the body, and gives us pep. We won’t break out into a sweat and we can do it before and after any meeting or event we attend. For introverts, it’s a grounding tool before and after social events.

Pump up the volume—the heart that is. Yes, you still need to get your heart pumping. Not the normal grocery store stroll we all fall into, but something that has you breathing a little harder and pushes the blood through your body—faster than stretching. Walk a block—fast—as if you are late for a client meeting. THAT’S the feeling you want when you exercise—whether that be walking, running, cycling, or whatever method you choose. The more times per week, the better, but we’re entrepreneurs, we’re grandparents, we’re caregivers…we’re BUSY! But your self-care must come first to be the best you can be, and exercise is a big part of that—for prevention, maintenance, and wow-ness.

But what can be done if you absolutely hate exercise? My first suggestion is to explore ways to stretch and pump up the volume. A little activity is better than none at all. If that won’t happen then eat healthy, make mental relaxation a part of each day, reduce stress and habits detrimental to your body, drink water, and maintain regular check-ups with your health care providers.

Your customers and your family want you around for a long time!

To your health and your success,
Kristen Edens
A grandparent in business

Redefining Normalcy

cry-62326_1280You don’t drown by falling in the water. You drown by staying there. ~Unknown

How does this list of people, places, and things influence your life?

• Parents & their needs and health
• Adult children & their drama
• Grandchildren—no drama here (unless they’re teens), but lots of grandparenting opportunities
• A spouse/partner & their needs
• Everyday living—home, vehicles, tech & computers, bills, pets, maintenance and those little extras that pop up at the worst time (is there ever a good time for these situations?)
• Business & career needs—the time dedicated to business competes with the demands from everything else.
• Self-care—do you forgo this to accomplish other tasks on your list?

person-424262_1280I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival. ~Audre Lorde

Much of 2016 became a jumble of madness with all these issues demanding my time and attention. I was hopping from one situation to another while attempting to balance self-care and business.

With all this activity, me time became a RARE occurrence. Even with a home office, it was too easy for someone to knock on the door to request my attention. I had investigated several co-working spaces, but the cost and the commute were counter-productive. Plus, a co-working community had too much buzz for my solitary preferences.

A change was needed, and it wouldn’t be easy. Inspired by my good friend Margaret Pettis, I heeded her semi-serious advice: get your own apartment!

After some in-depth self-examination, including lifestyle and finances, this was the best solution. Although it may upset those who love me, I would gain the space I needed for personal well-being and business focus.

Within a matter of weeks, I had moved into my new home and office space. During this transition, I re-established a new schedule. New boundaries were formed and discussed with loved ones. With input from my assistant, Lisa Smelcer of Virtual Admin Experts, we created a schedule that kept me on target and tips to tame the internal and external productivity vultures. This list is now pinned it to my office wall.

In one month’s time, here are the early benefits of redefined normalcy:

Scheduling: The family has a schedule of my work day availability. I respond to their needs during a specific time or they must wait until after hours. (Tough for me as well as them!)

Productivity: With Lisa’s help, 9am-10am has transitioned from email putzing to social media production and interaction time.

A weight off my shoulders: My partner relies on me for a great deal of little tasks and I feared for his well-being. When I told him my plans, he said, “This will be good for us both; you’ll gain what you need for your personal and business growth and I’ll get a better idea of my limitations without calling on you for help.”

Self-care: I’m less edgy and feel more relaxed as I settle into re-established business activities. Instead of fitting in business around everyone’s needs, I’m moving forward rather than barely keeping up with projects and growth.

Is there too much chaos in your life? Has your normal gotten out of control? If so, this may be the time to redefine your normal.

Kristen Edens
A grandparent in business
Making Midlife Better!

Stress-Free Vacationing: Tips for Before, During, and After Your Retreat

DSCN0986You know you need it—time away from the everyday routine to refresh and relax. However you choose to get away, it’s the planning and prepping before, during and after your vacation that brings added stress to an already busy schedule—especially as a business owner!

As I prepped for my recent vacation to the Smoky Mountains, I experienced a jumble of stress and joy while getting ready. Not only did I have to plan for the journey, I had to make plans for the business and for my family (who stayed home this time). With help from Cathy Sexton of The Productivity Experts and Lisa Smelcer of Virtual Admin Experts, these tips help made the process faster, easier and stress-free:

Before Vacation
Cathy:

• Create a checklist for your business, yourself, and the family. Review ahead of time with key members to discuss plans and procedures.
• Utilize email autoresponders for email which includes a business-emergency contact. It’s also advisable to mention that internet and cell phone services will be limited.
• Create a vacation voice mail message during your time away.
• Let your business emergency contact (virtual assistant or team member) know of your vacation plans in advance.
• Block a day before and after vacation for no meetings, calls, or email. Use this time to tackle last-minute business needs before vacation AND to take care of urgent needs upon your return.

Lisa:

• Make a priority list: what must be done before vacation? What can be delayed or rescheduled?
• Implement To-Do lists: One Note is a great tool that can sync with computer and smartphone.
• Complete all critical tasks ahead of time—client projects, meetings, phone calls.
• Work extra hours ahead of time to complete critical, urgent or time-sensitive tasks.
• Involve team members or your assistant with the prep and planning.
• Make sure team is up to speed with activity.
• Trust in your systems and your people.
Hot Tip: A few days won’t spell disaster for your business.

During vacation
Lisa and Cathy agree:

Take time for self!
• Disconnect from your electronics for some well-deserved ‘me time’.
• Use this time to clear your mind and relax. Open yourself to new ideas for yourself and your business.

Lisa:

• While on vacation, bring a notebook and pen to write ideas down. Put the thought on paper and forget about it. It will be waiting for you when you return.
Remember: Most tasks don’t have to happen right away.

After vacation:
Cathy:

• Use the first day back to get in the groove again. Take care of urgent issues.
• Turn off autoresponder and vacation voice messages.

Lisa:

• Create a priority list of what needs attention first: emails, meetings, phone calls and client projects.

Once your groove has returned, review your vacation response system and revise, if needed. When your next vacation is due, you’ll have systems in place with less fuss and muss.

What stress-free vacation tips do you have? Share below and share with friends!

Kristen Edens
Making midlife better!