Anniversaries and Un-Resolutions

A New Year Doesn’t Have to Mean New Business

Sometimes the best resolution is no resolution at all. Photo by Sonam Yadav from Pexels

Happy New Year friends! The last couple of weeks have been long-ish stretches of quiet time interspersed with short bursts of crazy. On January 4th we celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary with a family party.

Our party theme was Minecraft Farm. We bought a Llama pinata, then beat it up and took all it’s candy.

I knit and crocheted many things for the kids.

My child calls these stuffies Mr. Kitty Hat and Blue

Slowly Walking Down the Hall Faster Than a Cannon Ball

In between making stuffed animals, I completed interviews for various outlets interested in remote work. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you saw the post from Digital Nomad Sage last week. Another interview came out today from Remoters. I was also on the radio with Money Matters based in Houston. I’m on the radio again next week with Drive Thru HR.

I’ve been simultaneously on vacation AND working like a maniac. I took 2 weeks off from my day job so I could relax with the kids’ during their winter break. I scheduled that time off 8 months ago, before I knew the date my book would launch. Friends, my book launched today.

I nearly spent my entire vacation working on book stuff. Launching a book resembles planning a wedding. There are a lot of moving pieces and different players that work together before the main event. My book launch to-do list runneth-ed over. (We’ll just pretend ‘runneth-ed’ is a word.)

There’s a Fine Line Between Optimism and Delusion

I planned to cram a lot of writing time into the two weeks I was off. I use the word ‘plan’ loosely here. It was more of a wish list that had nothing to do with reality. I was going to: 1) Read a lot of research on psychological safety, 2) Work out every day, 3) Write three articles about remote work, 4) Spend quality time with my kids in between 5) Planning our family party and 6) Launching my book.

Then my oldest kid got sick on the first day of winter break. Shortly thereafter the second one got sick. And the rain of Vancouver closed in. Instead of focusing on my writing, I spent the first days of winter vacation knitting on the couch in between taking care of the kids. It should have frustrated me more than it did. But the fact was, I was mentally depleted. I needed time to let my brain go fallow. So I made the last-minute decision to work in short sprints so I could spend the majority of my time lazing about with the kids.

Who Says You Have to Vow to Resolve Anything in 2020?

Taking a break is hard if you’ve been running yourself ragged. It feels weird to just do…nothing for stretches of time. At least it was for me. I am a woman of action. It’s especially hard at the beginning of the year when everyone wants to hear your New Year’s Resolutions.

But you know what? New Year’s Resolutions aren’t the boss of you. If this is where you’re at right now–mentally depleted–the best resolution might be no resolutions in 2020. Or if you can’t quite do that, consider ‘take better breaks’ as your resolution of choice. My resolutions are usually hedonistic. One year I resolved to eat awesome cookies. Several years ago I went in search of better cheese. I wasn’t going to pick a resolution at all this year, but ‘take better breaks’ is growing on me. I’m going to sit with the idea in the back of my brain for the month of January and see how I like it.

Do you make hedonistic or subversive New Year’s resolutions? I’d love to hear about them.

6 Books that Influenced my Decade of Remote Work

Books! Books! Books! Everybody! Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Greetings on the last day of 2019! Before we leave this decade and enter the ’20s, I wanted to note some of the books that influenced the way I engage with people in the remote space. This was the decade that kicked off my remote adventure, after all. What better way to send it out in style than to talk about books?

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Before you can be a great manager, first you must learn to manage yourself. That is doubly true for managers of remote workers. So much of our employee’s experience of the company comes directly through us. Kahneman’s book changed the way I thought about trusting my gut.

From Values to Action by Harry M. Jansen

There are a couple of reasons I liked this book. First, it actually shows you how to translate the values you want to live by into action. It’s not only an idea book, but also a how-to manual. Jansen provides a framework of questions instead of a ‘one-size-fits-no one’ recipe for success. I don’t use the whole framework, but I do I try to end the day by asking myself if I’ve done everything I said I was going to do. If not, why not? If find the questions clarifying.

Platform: Get Noticed in Noisy World by Michael Hyatt

When the first iteration of my book was nearing it’s publication date, my publisher’s marketing team told me I needed to go post on Twitter every day to get the word out about my book. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Fortunately I like to research, and I found this book and the one that follows. I listened to ‘Platform’ on Audible. Hyatt read his own book, and I enjoyed his energy. This book is like your big brother giving you advice with a big shot of ‘you can do it’ cheer leading on the side.

30 Day Book Marketing Challenge by Rachel Thompson

If Hyatt was my cheerleader, Rachel Thompson was my coach. Her book is half the reason I didn’t send out a dozen ‘buy my book!’ tweets before giving up on Twitter entirely. Instead I’ve met many lovely people, and had enjoyable conversations. That’s what social media is supposed to be about anyway. Conversations.

Creative Quest by Questlove

I picked up ‘Creative Quest’ at an airport bookstore on a whim. I’m so glad I did. If this book had a secret subtitle, it would be ‘the working person’s guide to creativity.’ I especially love the way he describes creativity as being open to things vs digging deep inside yourself. As someone who produces researched articles pretty regularly, I am always looking for things outside of my own head to spark the next article. It was interesting seeing how Questlove’s process works.

The Remix: How to Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace by Lindsey Pollak

I was pretty excited about Pollak’s book when it came out. At Kaplan, I manage at least three different generations of people–Boomers, GenX, and Millennials. I was hoping ‘The Remix’ would provide an overview of the differences between groups, and it didn’t disappoint. It has some great ideas for communicating across different platforms, too.

In one way or another these books influenced how I interact in the remote space. Do you have any books that shaped your online identity? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

3 Ways Remote Workers Can End the Year Well

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad from Pexels

Most of us won’t finish December as billionaire super models. But you CAN close out the year as a hero for your employees, you clients, and yourself if you take time to do these three things.

Post Your Year End/Holiday Hours

One of the many perks of remote work is the ability to hire (and sell to) people in different parts of the world. But different countries have different traditions. The end of December is a holiday in some, but not all, parts of the world. Post your hours on your website, email/phone out-of-office message, and everywhere else your clients and colleagues may try to reach with you.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that people will remember that it’s a holiday in your country. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving a month before the United States. I’m from the US, and I work for a company primarily based in the US, and I still forget about US Thanksgiving because no one around me celebrates it. Your client in Qatar shouldn’t wonder why it’s taking you so long to respond to the email he sent on Christmas. Post your hours.

Send a Year End Message

The savvy remote worker looks for any excuse to connect with clients and colleagues. The end of the year is a great pretext to communicate with everyone in your network. Your message doesn’t have to be long or particularly masterful so long as it’s sincere. On Tuesday I sent the teachers who work with me a short email, and included this graphic I made in Canva.

Is this a work of staggering genius? Hardly. But I wanted my teachers to know I care. Not everybody celebrates Christmas, but cat memes are universal. Image is from the free version of Canva.com.

It didn’t take long to put this together in Canva and add it to my email. The writer in me cringes a little at the wording–it comes across as ho-hum to my internal editor–but a sincere ho-hum message is better than no message at all, when you want to make sure people know you like working with them.

If you have more time to craft a nicer message than the one I produced, do so. But if you don’t, don’t let perfect become the enemy of good. If you like this idea but feel overwhelmed just thinking about making a meme, feel free to use mine. I won’t tell.

Choose A Year End Tradition

The first two tips in this article focus on ending the year right for your clients and colleagues. This last tip is designed to help you build a meaningful transition into the new year.

Transitions were one of the things I didn’t think about before I went remote. I am so happy that I gave up my commute. It’s given me hours back into my day. But I missed the way a commute created a natural transition into and out of work, so I had to make up my own transitions.

The end of one year and the beginning of another is a big transition. As someone who works in an office of one, it’s pretty easy to ignore it in favor of hitting the items on my to-do list.

I would suggest that taking a moment to ceremonially end your year is good for your mental health. The end of the year can be a fraught time for some. It’s all to easy to think that if you haven’t ended the year (or the decade) as a billionaire super model, or cured cancer, you must be defective. Implementing a small year-end ceremony is a nice way to commemorate what you have done, and start the new year with a clean slate.

Your ceremony doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. If you can afford to spend a week in Tahiti to clear your head, great. Personally, I need something a little more cost-efficient. So I clean my office. Cleaning isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I do like the symbolism of wiping the dust from the old year out of my office before the new year shows up. I am literally giving myself the gift of a clean start.

I spend the time remembering the things I did in the year that I’d like to do again. I think about the things I didn’t get a chance to do that I might work into the new year. And when I finish my cleaning, I say (to myself) ‘I declare this year closed.’ It’s a simple ceremony that works for me.

Life is messy, but your year end doesn’t have to be. If you keep these three tips in mind, you can close your year in an orderly fashion, and start the new one with a clean slate.

Breathing Spaces, Not Resolutions

Everything feels better on the beach.

Somehow September turned into New Year’s Resolutions, Part 2. I thought this was a parent-specific thing, but I know childless people who are caught up in the ‘new school year, new you’ craziness. According to my inbox, now is the perfect time to reset my diet, take up an exercise challenge, read the latest books by my favourite authors, and start that Coursera course someone picked just for me. It’s like everyone’s high on Pumpkin Spice latte fumes.

All joking aside, I get it. Why not put away your bad habits AND your summer clothes all at the same time? It’s so efficient! Personally, I just spent the last two months working while the kids were on summer break. I’m tired. All I really want to do is enjoy the fact that someone else is legally obligated to provide an excellent learning environment for my children, at no extra cost to me.

Last year I fell for the Pumpkin Spice fumes. I joined a run challenge, bought cookbooks to help me make healthy dinners my kids would love, and tried to Amazon prime my way to a new life.

That didn’t turn out so well. I love running and cooking; the activities themselves weren’t the problem. The problem was that I added more stuff to my already crammed lifestyle without pausing to consider where I would fit them in.

This September I did something different.

I Took a Secret Vacation

It wasn’t a total secret. I want to stay employed, after all. My job knew I was taking time off. My family and friends did not. I love my family. I love my friends. But when they know I’m off, I tend to get asked to do laundry or go out to lunch. The whole point of this particular exercise was to side-step my routine and examine it from the outside.

So on Monday I got up at the usual time, went into my office at the usual time, and asked myself questions I haven’t asked in a while. What do I really want to do with my days? What should I do to go back to work feeling like I’d had a good time off? And then I sat back and waited.

I don’t know how the rest of you see the different facets of your personality. I think of mine as a committee. There’s my inner maker, who would love to spend an entire day making things. There’s my inner athlete, who prefers long sessions sweating in the great outdoors. My inner toddler wanted to go exploring. And my inner writer wanted to write things on a more forgiving deadline.

I like doing other things too. These were simply the activities that moved to the head of the queue when I thought about what I really wanted to do. Since the stakes were low (I only had to figure out two days) the committee vote came through pretty quickly. I would spend Monday reading and writing. Tuesday I would knit and walk on the beach. The goal for both days was to spend as much time as possible neither speaking nor being spoken to.

The Secret Vacation Backstory

I’ve taken secret vacations since my first child was an infant. We all have the right to say ‘I need breathing space,’ and expect the world to leave us alone for a bit. Unfortunately babies don’t work union hours. And mothers, in particular, aren’t supposed to want time away from their children. It’s pretty easy to get to a point where you’re too tired of fighting to fight for what you need. So we suck it up.

Until the day that I didn’t. One day I got dressed for work and dropped my daughter at daycare. Then instead of going to work I drove to the beach and called in sick. I didn’t do much. I walked for a long time. My favorite yarn store in LA was six blocks from that beach, so I went and knit at their big wood table. I bought an early dinner. And then I went back to the daycare at the usual time and took my child home.

All together I played hooky for six hours. It was life changing. I went home better able to deal with new motherhood, a demanding job, and the fallout from the 2009 recession. Best of all, I didn’t have to fight anyone for the respite because no one knew I’d taken it.

It was my little secret. And I knew I would do it again.

The Power of a Small, Sneaky Escape

Some people walk the Appalachian Trail in an effort to find themselves. But you can reap the same benefits on a smaller scale with a secret vacation. There’s something powerful about asking yourself what you really want to do with your time and waiting for the answer. It almost doesn’t matter how much time you set aside. Reserving–and enforcing–a breathing space is an empowering act.

Plus, keeping things small means you can do it more often. If it’s been a long time since you’ve done the things you really want to do, your inner committee might resemble the mob outside Walmart on Thanksgiving. Every one of your interests will try to out-shout the others when you’re starved for free time. If you plan regular escapes, the committee settles down. Your true priorities emerge. You leave your vacation time with a better sense of what recharges you. And that right there is snack-sized self reflection.

Third, sneaking out of your life prevents you from spending your free time doing the soul-sucking things you “should” do. Nobody can know you’re off. They’ll figure it out for sure if your kitchen floor goes from grimy to gleaming in an afternoon. Therefore, for operational secrecy, you need to leave that floor alone.

People Think My Vacations Are Weird But Really They’re Awesome

I (usually) tell my husband about my secret vacations after they’re over. Mostly he’s bemused by the whole idea. Others look at me like I’m crazy when they find out. But for me, these little interludes are (metaphorically speaking) how I put the oxygen mask on my own face first before helping anyone else. On Wednesday I dove back into my usual schedule. I didn’t have a new life, but I definitely felt like a new me.

If you’re feeling like you need a change, maybe what you really need is a secret vacation. Give it a try. The sanity you save might just be your own.

How to Get Better at Riding the Chaos Wave

Change isn’t going away so let’s get good at dealing with it.


Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

The era of the job for life ended before my generation joined the workforce. Most of us know that our employment situation could change with little warning. Maybe it was the recent layoffs at Buzzfeed and Huffington Post, or the government shutdown in the U.S., but I’ve been thinking about how the average person can get better at dealing with change.

I don’t pretend to have the definitive answer to how to do this. I DO have an approach. I call it riding the chaos wave. There have been long stretches of my professional life where my role, my boss, and my entire company structure has changed every few months. This is how I surf the wave.

Learn Fast

My goal in any new role is to start functioning nearly autonomously by the end of the first week. Some people drink and know things–I talk to people, read, and write stuff down. This is how I learn.

You may learn a different way. Figure out what works for you. Learning how you learn can make change less scary. You may not know everything now, but you will have confidence in your ability to succeed in your new situation.


Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

Don’t Take the Drama Personally

Everyone around you is anxious. It has nothing to do with you. It will look personal because people will question your decisions. They may even act resentful or cold.

For me, it helps to pretend that I’m wearing my ‘newbie’ hat and that people are reacting to it, not me. Remember that the person who keeps a cool head the longest, wins.

Do Take Time to Grieve

Most job changes and restructurings mean losing things and people you like. Give yourself time to process your feelings. Think of your grief as a forest fire–it’s better to hold a controlled burn.

I am not a therapist or a mental health expert. I do know that going for a run helps me process many things. Find what works for you.


Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

Make New Connections

This one can be hard if you’re grieving. Or perhaps your company has gone through so many changes that you’re burned out on change. You may also have some survivor guilt if you kept your job when others didn’t.

Make connections anyway. I have never, in the history of ever, learned how to excel in a job by reading the company manual and doing exactly what I was told. In my experience you get the real scoop from the people around you. Even if everyone else thinks they’re clueless, you can start to get a sense of the bigger picture by putting together the little bits everyone knows.

Change is Like Coffee

It’s an acquired taste. I don’t like losing coworkers. I do like learning new things, and pursuing new challenges. If you can’t stop change, then it makes sense to try to find something to enjoy about it along the way, even if you have to do the metaphorical equivalent of dumping a metric ton of cream and sugar into your change cup before you choke it down. Do this often enough, and change may not taste so bitter.


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Change is Also a Chaos Wave

It can come at you from any direction, and if you stand still it will crash into you. I believe that each one of us can learn the skills to ride the wave instead. This is my approach to riding the wave. Do you have a similar or different approach for dealing with change? I’d love to hear about it.

Celebrations, Not Resolutions

Let’s get off the punishment train


Photo by Nattu Adnan on Unsplash

Someone once said that ‘exercise should be a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment for what you ate. This is good advice–and it applies to more than exercise. For one thing, you’re more likely to make room for a party than for a punishment session. For another, adding in consistent (healthy) celebrations can give you the mental fortitude to make positive changes.

I’ve found this to be the case in my life. I like running. I don’t like strength training. Since I wish to get faster at running, I strength train a few times a week. I enjoy getting stronger–but I still wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love running.

This is why I don’t really ‘do’ traditional New Year’s resolutions unless I can game the system. As an example, in 2015 I resolved to run a race, and I signed up for a 5k that took place on January 1. It was called, appropriately enough, the Resolution Run. Resolution: completed.

Instead, each year I commit to something positive and hedonistic. Last year I committed to eating better cookies. I also decided to do this 2 week daily making jump start. Both of these were super fun. I can now whip up killer peanut butter cookies in less than 15 minutes. This is a life skill as far as I’m concerned.

The daily making challenge rebooted my appreciation of my own creativity. (I get no compensation for plugging either of these, by the way. I just really enjoyed them.) This was the year I published my book, started this blog, and began posting articles on Medium. Am I giving all the credit for these accomplishments to cookies, running, and a daily making practice? No. But my new go-to activities made me happy, and that helped me power through the tough bits.

Maybe a positive, hedonistic goal will help you, too. I encourage you to add a little intentional joy to your life. You may be amazed at what happens when you do.

How to End the Year When You’re Broke, Busy, or Burned out

Let’s focus on closing the year on a positive (and realistic) note.


Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

If you believe the memes on social media, this is the time of year when we’re supposed to: 1) take control of our finances, 2) get rid of the negative people in our lives, and 3) let go of the excuses for why we haven’t done 1 or 2. Last call for completing those 2018 resolutions!

People of the internets, we have 25 days left in December. Even if you’re a remote worker with lots of flexibility, you can’t fix a year’s worth of problems in 25 days. Happily, there is a sane way to tie up the old year even if you’re broke or short on time.

What Went Right?

Most of us have a mental mix tape of all the things that went wrong in 2018. Take a moment to write down the things that went right. You can do this all in one session or during small gaps in your day. Some of those positives might be big-a new job, a new relationship—but don’t overlook the small stuff. Did you start a hobby? Try a sport? You may need to focus on very small things, at first, before you can remember some of the medium-sized positives.

Who Cares?

There are good reasons why you need this list. Many people go through an existential crisis at this time of year. They think of all of the things they didn’t do. They think of all the things that went wrong. Don’t let the negative mix tape erase the positives. If you want to make changes to your life in 2019, you need a balanced assessment of where you are. You may not have lost 40 pounds this year, but maybe you kept a roof over your kid’s head. Go you!

Now What?

Once you know where you are, you can start thinking of where you want to be. Putting your list together in December lets you test drive a few new habits before the resolutions craze in January. This knowledge will keep you from getting sucked into activities that don’t mean much to you. Even more importantly, this is a crazy time of year. If you can size your goal so that it fits into your routine now, then it will probably fit into your life when things calm down next month. Plus, you’ll have a jump on the new year. It’s a win-win.