Monday, December 1, 2008


My belly is as big as my head. Sure, you'll snicker at that comment, but know that it's the truth. See, when the holidays roll around many Americans look forward to the opportunity to connect with family, engage in spirited past-times, and above all, eat good food. While the stufessional craves the same, and by no means in short-order, the stufessional must also continue the professional/personal balance to maximize their time effectively.

The holidays reserve time away from work to enjoy a short respite. This time is critical for stufessionals who can capitalize on getting their school work done, and in some cases, get ahead in their work.

Such an effort does not come with chagrin, for the holidays are characteristically a time to rejoice in the wealth of one's social and familial circle. It is a big bummer to have to pull oneself away from festivities to pound out a paper.

Thus, having played teeter-totter over Thanksgiving, I offer several points for the future for all stufessionals:

1) GET 'EM DONE: Procrastination will bring down a nation, as I like to say. I don't really, I just like sounding verbose once in a while. Don't wait until the last minute to get the work done. This is common sense, but moreover, get the work done as early as possible. Think of the Christmas ham or Thanksgiving bird as your reward. Celebrate the holidays at the same time as you celebrate the completion of your school work.

2) STAY FOCUSED: It is so tempting to pick and choose which events to be part of. Maybe you'll have dinner with friends here, check out a movie with family there, see your college buddies at the pub elsewhere - but it all adds up to a Swiss cheese schedule. Knowing myself, I find it very difficult to go in and out of work mode. Fun is a drug, which undoubtedly leads to more fun. Stay focused and get your work done to have fun later on.

3) LEAVE THE LAST DAY TO YOURSELF: Regardless of your balance between school work and holiday bliss, make sure to leave the day before you return to the office for yourself. It is good to decompress following the seasonal extravaganzas. Get ready to shift gears again and jump back into your work clothes.

Those are just a few suggestions of mine from personal experience. I would love to hear what you think. Perhaps you can expand on what I've offered as solutions to this time management issue.

- Jared

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Actively Passive

As I learn format and language for writing press releases and broadcast news stories, I regress to an earlier stage in professional development. I'm not talking about the first business venture I ran out of my parent's basement (sharpening skis for neighbors), I'm talking about my Peace Corps service in Togo, West Africa.

Leaving the English language for French not only made me more aware of sentence structure, but also with how I use structure. For what seemed like the first time, I met the conditional tense, future imperative, and the present perfect, to name a few. Breaking down how I had been speaking years prior revealed my individual choices for communicating.

I found an overabundance of the conditional tense (expressing desire for something without knowledge of receipt). The conditional tense makes use of "would", "would like", "perhaps" and "can."

For speaking simplicity cultural appropriateness, I adopted the present tense. I went from vague politeness of "would like" to the more direct "want". Togolese also spoke predominantly in the present tense. French was not their first language, so the breadth of the vocabulary was not exercised. I remember feeling uncomfortable and even offended at times from present tense speech in my host country.

As time passed, I grew to appreciate the present tense more. It engaged me.

Back in America, I find myself sliding back into the conditional tense. I have to work a bit harder here and there to employ the present tense. And when I do, I carefully gauge if a request or expression comes across as strong.

It is amazing how culture influences expression. Writing in the present tense for news stories or press releases is part of the broadcast culture. Learning, cultivating, and employing active language not only aids the communication process, but creates synergy with recipients.

- Jared

Monday, November 24, 2008

Opiate Of The Masses

Stufessionals crave knowledge for the self and society. In this relentless pursuit, they make sacrifices. Sacrifices most commonly tally in the personal life. Something has to give in order to stave from near mental breakdown.

Perhaps I'm exaggerating. In this state of mind, I most likely am. See, I'm drinking a Coca-Cola. I've already had two cups of coffee with plenty of sugar.

My mind feels like it's spinning in washing machine (with energy efficiency), my bowels feel like their on vacation (figure that one out), and my gut feels as hollow as a dead poplar.

Caffeine is most certainly the opiate of the masses. It's cheap, attractive, fun, and - thanks to caramel color - black like the pits of hell.

I find myself reaching for the white wave classic far too often. I know what it does to me, yet I still chose to put the devil inside me. My lack of will power underlines my frailty. I ration that I am only a human being bound by original sin.

Why then, with Biblical complications of my actions, do I choose to imbibe caffeine? The answer is simple. I don't want to sacrifice. Gosh, that makes me sound like a dictator of a small, isolated country.

While this issue is undoubtedly tied to the complex psychology of yours truly, it does underline how some stufessionals (and there are others who does this beside myself) push themselves to keep going when they should surrender once in a while. I'm not saying wave the white flag and lie down. I'm thinking more along the lines of how U2 waved the white flag at a concert in Red Rocks in 1983.

I'm drinking water now. And I will get more. Some times I fall down in judgment, but I have to pick myself up again and keep going. There are greater tragedies than having a Coke. To maintain effectiveness and be healthy, a stufessional should address their needs rather than turn to quick fixes.

- Jared

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Journey's End?

Technically speaking, the journey is at an end for the stufessional blog. Academically speaking, however, the journey continues through various permutations of PR bliss. To stop writing is antithetical to the saga. What would the Lord of the Rings be if Frodo took a vacation?

I have decided to place an entry today as a demonstration of that continuation. I will travel all the way to Mordor.

As a stufessional, I am preoccupied with efforts to improve myself. When I receive graded work from a professor, I rewrite it and resubmit it. Perhaps my efforts are not reread, nevertheless I have completed the act for myself. I do not accept the graded document as a completion to a contract.

To illustrate my point - of not giving up and continuing despite an end - I'm going to reference you to a gallery of photographs: CLICK HERE.

- Jared

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Stages in Effective Dialogues - A la EXTCD

Just sharing something on effective communication from work.

Focus on other(s)
Use body language effectively
Use silence/pauses effectively
Reflect and verbalize feelings
Summarize content

Use on e question at a time
Use silence/pauses effectively
Reflect and verbalize feelings
Summarize content

Describe problem (not person)
Explain consequences (not threats)
Give clear and specific message
Focus on actionable behavior
Seek commitment
Agree on next steps

Friday, November 21, 2008

In Celebration of the Hamster; The Stufessional’s Ancestor

But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Excerpt from Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Prior to our plugged in, maxed out, over-achiever mindset existence there was the hamster, likely the Stufessional’s ancestor evolving by natural selection. Nearing the end of my rope one day, I retreated into the recesses of my mind to ponder our ancestor and marvel at how we broke off from that lineage to form performance-oriented type-A superhuman.

Rooted in pragmatism and loathing inefficiency, I simply dismissed the hamster as an idiot when I was younger. Until I began to feel more and more like the idiot hamster recently, I assumed the fruitless running on his wheel each night was born out of a desire to get somewhere, anywhere, but my brother’s smelly pre-pubescent room.

What cracked open an entry into hamster enlightenment was the realization that hamsters don’t have emotions. That’s right—they only have instinct. Instinct seemed like a viable reason to go back and re-think the value of the hamster wheel.

I wasn’t there the day my mom bought the hamster for my brother. I don’t know if the wheel was optional for exercise, but I also don’t know of any hamster that doesn’t have a wheel. They just go together. The funny scene from Chevy Chase’s European Vacation “look kids, there’s Big Ben” overtakes my mind when thinking about any repetitious task. The hamster never seemed to mind repetition though, even when he went nowhere. It was like Big Ben was brand new each night.

What drives this small animal to never miss a night on his wheel? What keeps him in a perfect disciplined routine in the absence of movement?

He has promises to keep to himself that only he knows about. He enjoys the journey, rather than the destination. He defines achievement by his perseverance. He is self-driven. He won’t sleep until he is done.

The hamster went further on his wheel each night than I realized. He also showed me the way to go on from here.

--Lynn Johnson
Stufessional and admirer of the hamster

Facetime with Facebook

Another long sigh coming from my voicemail....
Another person who wants to get together....
Another friend I don’t have time to catch up with....

Don’t they know that everyone is going digital now?

Pressing for face-to-face “get togethers” from a Stufessional is as ridiculous as the woman on Brett Michaels' Rock of Love TV show last season who screamed she wanted “facetime” with Brett, when about a dozen other women of ill-repute were fighting for his attention. It just seems a little silly.

When you care enough to send a poke but don’t have time to put in a call, Facebook is the answer. This virtual social scene works on your schedule. For instance, I can log-on at any time of the day and respond in an organized rapid fashion to everyone who has poked me, sent an email, posted a comment or sent a gift to me. In record speed, I can respond to all social overtures toward me in a fashion that only the commitment-phobic, or people who simply do not have time to socialize, would love.

Facebook also makes a Stufessional, who has little time for friends, feel loved and needed. It satisfies the basic human need for attention. For instance, who knew I had nearly 200 friends? I mean, does anybody have 200 friends in real life? It can satisfy even the most curious voyer by offering opportunities to rifle through other friends’ pictures, notes, bios and other personal information that maybe none of us should be putting on the Internet in the first place.

The most important feature Facebook offers a Stufessional is a tracking system for birthdays. Oh, the relief of never forgetting another friend’s birthday! All you have to do is check your homepage.... and upcoming birthdays are listed right there. If you are really savvy, you can find a free gift to post on their wall to make their day special!

Facebook---it’s the preferred social outlet for the Stufessional who otherwise would live a life of total solitude.

--Lynn Johnson
Stufessional and Facebook user


While exercising at the gym, I feel this strange urge come over me to check my Blackberry....about every five minutes. The urge really seems more like a sensation of missing something. It’s kind of like that feeling of still rocking on waves in a boat after already making the transfer back to land. As I look around, I see about a fourth of the people exercising with a cell phone or other PDA near them. Some even answer their phones and try to talk while running on a treadmill, and yet others make calls between sets when lifting weights. They are the ones that make me feel better about my Blackberry habit. At least I am not one of them, I reason. At least I do not have Crackberry syndrome. Although the urge to have it at my side at all times is there, I cannot really be suffering from Crackberry, because I am able to set limits. I do not use it in the bathroom (yes, I know people who do), and I do not use it while exercising in the gym.

Being organized and efficient is not a standard to aspire to when pursuing stufessionalism; it is a requirement. My Blackberry 8830 keeps my life in order. In one place, I can utilize my five different email accounts, send text messages, make and receive phone calls, keep a master calendar with alarms and reminders, create to-do lists, use the Internet, access a GPS navigation system, store all my personal contacts including emails, phone numbers and addresses....the list of tools to empower me in my pursuit to shove as much into my life at one time is endless. I think if I ever lost my Crackberry....oh wait, I mean my Blackberry.... I might need a grief counselor. Without it, I could never multi-task at the pace of Generation Y while hiding the fact that I am really Generation X.

So today’s blog message is-- if you feel like you have ADD but you know you don’t, run right out and get yourself one of these little miracles. You will never forget anything, or be late for anything ever again—-unless you just want to.

--Lynn Johnson
Stufessional and advid Blackberry user

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Work Time Work Out

What relieves stress? Aside from chucking it all, cashing out your retirement plan and heading to a tropical isle, experts agree that the best stress reliever is exercise. “[Exercise] affects the biology in the brain in the same way that anti-depressant drugs do,” says Andrea Dunn, exercise psychologist at the Cooper Institute. As we jog, bike or lift weights the stress hormone cortisol decreases and endorphins increase. VoilĂ , we feel better.

How does a stufessional squeeze in an exercise routine while studying, writing papers, reading, excelling at work, keeping up with friends, fulfilling family obligations, running errands and eating well? If hitting the gym before, after or during work is not feasible, consider chair exercising.

Chair exercising may not be as intense as an hour at the gym, but any exercise is better than none, and the positive effects are cumulative. Here are a few of the best chair exercises:
  • Sitting in your chair, lift one leg off the seat, extend it out straight, hold for 2 seconds; then lower your foot (stop short of the floor) and hold for several seconds. Switch; do each leg 15 times.

  • Place a small pillow between your feet. Try to lift the item off the ground and squeeze your legs together at the same time. You can also place the pillow or other soft object between your knees and squeeze. Repeat 15 times.

  • While seated, pump both arms over your head for 30 seconds, then rapidly tap your feet on the floor, football-drill style, for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.

  • Isometric contractions are easily performed in a seated position. Squeezing your muscle, hold the contraction for a few seconds, then release. Repeat each muscle 15 times.

Make every minute count. "Stand rather than sit. Walk rather than stand," says Joan Price, author of "The Anytime, Anywhere Exercise Book." Make the trek to a colleague's office instead of instant messaging. When you take the stairs, give your legs a workout by consciously employing every muscle. Park in the furthest space and enjoy a brisk walk. Take every opportunity you can to decrease cortisol, increase endorphins and de-stress.


WebMD's "Exercise at Your Desk"
eHow's "How to Exercise at Your Office"
Associated Content's "Top 10 Ways to Relieve Stress"
Mayo Clinic's "Exercise: Rev Up Your Routine to Reduce Stress"
The Cooper Institute

The information provided on this site is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any exercise program.

Monday, November 17, 2008

To do, or not to do: that is the question…

To do, or not to do: that is the question
Whether it is more expedient to worry about
The countless "to do’s" that one has to do
The work-work, the homework, the housework, the patchwork
Or, procrastinate another day and let time pass away

To enjoy love and life
To consider, remember, and deliver despite
The time, the obstacles, the missing pieces and more
To rest one’s eyes after all the day’s chores

To sacrifice
To direct
The attention
Of one’s life

To move
In a vain
That has no purpose
Or light

The stress in a mess with no happy ending
To offer a ghost solution with no beginning

No more
Not today
This, too, shall past

I will write the list
Do the last task
And, toast the glass

The pangs, the churn, the buzz, the drive
The mountain, the calamity, the river, the tide
The shuffle, the bustle, the hustle, the toil
The spoil, the boil, the coil, the royal
Piece of happiness that is the reason for it all.

Is it the journey, the practice or the rise and the fall?
The up and the down
And, the up that stays up?
Or, is it the “to do” that we “did” because we never gave up?


Use The Force Wisely, Young Jedi

Visual aids enhance stufessional presentations. A stufessional in a business meeting may employ PowerPoint presentations to swing executive favor, while in the classroom, a stufessional can add zest static slides with photography and even audio.

Perhaps this is no surprise. Stufessionals are savvy after all. Yet merely selecting a image to spice up drab bullet points is not the answer. Visual aids are not a quick fix. They require forethought and care. Consider reading the U.S. Department of Labor's article, "Presenting Effective Presentations with Visual Aids."

Let's isolate the Microsoft PowerPoint visual aid for this discussion. In a typical work-flow, the stufessional labors over the content -- the written content. Text is written and rewritten to be clear, concise, and attractive. During the presentation, the stufessional speaker most likely references the PowerPoint in the background. The speaker is the focus, while the projection is wallpaper.

I argue that the same attention to grammar ought to be applied to visual content. One is not dependent on the other. The presentation is a package where each element must be strong. A weakened corner of a box will most likely cause the contents inside to spill.

Presentation Helper
, an online resource for sharing ideas with respect to professional presentations posits "Seven Deadly Sins" of visual presentations:
1. Still using bullet points?

While bullet points are fast and easy to use, they are a poor way of getting your message across. According to research at carried out at UCLA a visual presentation is five times more likely to be remembered after three days than a presentation using just bullet points.

2. Corny images.

Visual images obtained from the royalty free photo database often have actors showing emotions such as surprise or happiness. The difficulty is that they can look very corny, and if the photos are a few years old, the fashions can look very dated. As with most things in life, taking a little extra time to select that right visual appearance will make all of the difference.

3. Using Clip Art.

Clip Art used to be a great way of making a presentation visual. The problem is that clip art now looks very dated compared to a color photograph.

4. Grainy pictures.

A lot of visual presentations are let down by the use of grainy images. It could be a picture or it could be a logo. Generally these images are taken from a web page and increased in size. The problem is that since they were saved as small files to make them load quickly, they do not enlarge well.

5. Copyright theft.

You must obtain the permission of the copyright owner before you can use any image. Often this is obtained simply by sending an email to the web master. If you don’t, you could easily end up with legal proceedings against you. How will they ever know? Well you never know who might be in your audience, and if the presentation gets distributed electronically you may find that the image that you have taken has an invisible digital water mark hidden in it. A grainy image (see above) is perhaps the biggest sign that it has been taken off a web site.

6. Images purely for decoration.

A picture is worth a thousand words. So why would you slap down any old image just to fill up a bit of space? The image should help to tell your story. One technology company had a slide entitled “Our stable of products.” Instead of an image showing how their products could suit a wide range of businesses, their graphic design agency had added in a picture of a horse! Relevance is everything.

7. Video clips that are too long.

It is very tempting to add in a video clip into a visual presentation. The difficulty is that an audience’s attention span when watching a video is very short. On the other hand the standard company video is often between three and ten minutes long. The audience will typically start to get twitchy after around 60 seconds and start to switch off after two minutes. If you are going to show a video, get it cut down into bite size chunks.

Stufessionals looking to add flavor and edge to professional or student presentations may benefit from visiting Slide Share, an online database providing inspiring PowerPoint designs and secrets.

Stufessionals looking to branch out to DVD video, online video, and doctored photographs may benefit from visiting the digital media labs at their university. At American University, the New Media Center provides online tutorials for software programs like iMovie.

- Jared

"The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates."
- Oscar Wilde

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Unplanned Landing

In aviation accidents, there’s something called a “chain of errors.” A chain of errors is a string of seemingly innocuous missteps that lead to and add up to an accident that, in aviation, is rarely innocuous. An “unplanned landing” is not a slight error.

I cheated on myself this week. As a stufessional, I promised myself (and the entire Stufessional Society) that I would not do any class assignments on work time. Well, yesterday, I did just that. How did I get here? How did this happen? How can I prevent it from happening again?

My chain of errors began on Monday night when, after finishing the bulk of my assignments, I decided to leave the last one to Tuesday. The first misstep was the blatant procrastination. The second misstep was that I had a previous commitment on Tuesday night that would not allow me to put in time on homework. So, on to Wednesday. I couldn’t do homework on Wednesday night either because I had work work to take care of. Another mistake, even if it was unplanned.

Thursday rolls around and, after the kids went to be, I buckled down. “I’m going to bang this assignment out right now!” I said to myself. Read the assignment, analyze, start planning my approach. Uh-oh, The Office is on. I know I’m recording it, so I’ll just watch this first segment then get back to work. It’s now ten o’clock and I’ve just watched all of The Office and sat right into 30 Rock. (Did I mention that I was recording these so I could watch them later? I did mention that, right?)

No worries, I’ll just finish this up by eleven and call it a night. Now it’s 10:30 and I can’t keep my eyes open. Damn.

So, there I am on Friday afternoon, just got out of a meeting at three, I have lots of office work to do, but that last assignment is staring me in the face. OK, just this once…

And there it is. One excursion from my plan on Monday night led to my doing homework in my office. One small misstep started my very own chain of errors that ended in my unplanned landing.

What have I learned and what can I pass on to the other stufessionals of the world? Make a plan and stick to it. If you don’t, you may have your very own unplanned landing.

(I hope no one at work is reading this.)

- Jim

Friday, November 14, 2008

Leadership for Dummies and Otherwise Busy People

This week I attended a conference on leadership for new managers and supervisors in Washington, DC. The various seminars were produced by National Seminars Group, a division of Rockhurst University Continuing Education Center, Inc. I have learned that continuing my professional education and training through seminars and conferences is one of the most important (and relaxing) things I can do for myself as a stufessional. It is nice to meet and mix with professionals from across the country with whom you share common experiences, ideas and concerns. The food is generally pretty good and it is also an excuse to turn off your blackberry or cell phone and activate that well-beloved "out of office" message.

Many organizations budget external training into your benefits package already (and may or may not tell you that) so find out what your company has to offer and take advantage of it. It looks great on a resume and should be a question all of us ask during job interviews. "What sorts of continuing education opportunities are available to me if I choose Company X or Non-Profit Y?"

As a part of a seminar on assertiveness, I learned that there are four ways to manage people; as a dominator (Executive Ed), a Persuador (Socializer Sally), a Stabalizer (Loyal Lou) or an Analyzer (Factual Fred). Which style are you? I also learned that assertiveness is being able to state what I see, what I think, what I am, what I want and what I intend without making any statements about you. Other things I learned include how to develop my own mission statement, create "liftscripts" or templates for dealing with tough personal and professional dialogues, that my body language matters more than my words, that I should offer a recommendation for solution when I task an employee because expectations should always be defined and finally, that habits form after a mere 21 days of repeating a behaviour.

Perhaps there is nothing in the above paragraph that you did not already know. Perhaps you think, wow, what a waste of three days, Anna. Well, to that I say: you may be right but it was free, it was empowering, I met some really cool people and they served a strawberry layer cake that was to die for!

Washington DC is a hub for professional conferences and seminars. Talk to your employer today about continuing your education through training and watch the stress melt away for at least a few hours or a couple of days.

- Anna

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Nothing really happens on my way to work in the mornings. Monday's are usually boring as there are fewer cars on the road. The excitment (yipee) really starts on Tuesday's as it seems the whole of Virginia gets abandoned for DC exactly at 7:30 every morning. Since everyone heads to the same direction, I try in my own little way to frustrate other see, I never go over 35 miles per hour on the George Washington parkway, and sometimes, I could hear some of these wonderful drivers cursing my mother!!!.

I have been driving on this parkway for so long now that I know every little corner a police cruzer is awaiting the next victim - like a spider eyeing it's next meal (a fly). Although, sometimes I have seen them munching on donuts...heh heh! You've got to love them...

At work in the morning is a whole new story....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Viva la Nap Revolution!

A certain stigma keeps us from being true to our core desires. Every day thousands are afraid to do what comes naturally. We need a change. It is time to break out the cots and blankies: We need a nap revolution.

According to a 2008 National Sleep Foundation (NSF) poll, 44 percent of adults sleep fewer than seven hours on weeknights. The lack of rest can result in employees who are impatient and unproductive. Other interesting findings:

  • 29 percent have fallen asleep or become very sleepy while at work
  • 12 percent were late to work due to sleepiness
  • 4 percent left work early and 2 percent did not go to work because they were too sleepy

The rigorous pace of the typical office does not help. Longer commutes bookend longer work days. Constant access to employees via BlackBerry and iPhone blur the line between work and home. As work becomes all-encompassing, changes are needed to help employees stay healthy and productive. Naps are the answer.

Those who take siestas are not lazy. As the "Boston Globe" illustrates, naps are part of the larger 24-hour sleep cycle. Jennifer Ackerman, a physiology journalist, explains:

"Most mammals sleep for short periods throughout the day. We have consolidated sleep into one long period, but . . . our bodies are programmed for two periods of intense sleepiness: in the early morning, from about 2 to 4 a.m., and in the afternoon, between 1 and 3 p.m. This midday wave of drowsiness is not due to heat or too many fries at lunch (it occurs even if we skip eating). Rather, it arises from an afternoon quiescent phase in our physiology, which diminishes our reaction time, memory, coordination, mood and alertness."

If naps are natural and necessary, why do only 34 percent of employers allow them at work? Why are resting lounges not a common health benefit like water coolers and flu shots?

Sleep is an important part of work/life balance and should not be neglected. Stufessionals owe it to themselves to join the nap revolution.


The Stufessional Sacrifice

The sentiment that resonates from the end of last week until this very moment is sacrifice. I made some sacrifices last week that, ultimately, caused me to tip the scales in one direction. After reading the two previous posts, I see that other stufessionals agree that it is difficult to accomplish “it all,” but it is more important to be present. When you are present, you feel, understand and appreciate the things that matter, as opposed to just doing and existing. The flip side of that is the possibility of not getting “it all” done.

Last week was difficult. Working on "The Hill," I encountered so many challenges – none of which I can discuss on this blog or at all. Needless to say, at the beginning of the week; I was totally out of balance. I did not work out. I had succumbed to my guiltiest pleasure and kryptonite, chocolate, and I had not done any of my homework. On top of all of that, I found myself sinking into the abyss of work, work, and more work… By Friday, I was completely wiped out, but I stayed up all night to read and do my school assignments. On Saturday morning, I was starting to unravel at the seams from sheer exhaustion. On my ride to class, I started to ask myself some difficult questions.

After arriving 12 minutes late to class, I took my seat and began to feel at ease with my decision to struggle against exhaustion. At some point during the day, one of my classmates, Misha, inquired how I was doing. She must have sensed how tired I was. When I said that I was tired, Misha replied, “You are always tired. You cannot be on top of some things and totally neglect sleep.” At that moment, I was reminded of the unfair sacrifice that I was making. I was giving to my job and sacrificing my sleep. I was also working on class assignments and sacrificing sleep.

Leaving class, I felt a bit overwhelmed from the class exchange and the amount of assignments that were due the following week. I decided to make one more sacrifice; this time it would be for me. Instead of doing class work, I spent the entire evening relaxing and went to bed early. Feeling almost refreshed from a restful evening, on Sunday I enjoyed catching up with my mother and girlfriends. I felt ready for the start of the week.

It was a good thing that I had recharged on Sunday because Monday morning met me with more “Hill” challenges. Knowing that I needed to balance work, school, family, self, etc.; I made a compromise. Before the days of not exercising became weeks and then months, I committed to working out on Tuesday morning. After work, I called my mother to see how she was doing, and then I focused on my homework. Spreading myself almost too thin again, I implemented a deadline for my studies; after which, I shared a peaceful dinner with my significant other. I felt proud of myself. I managed to fit “it all in”; plus, I got to bed early. The unfortunate sacrifice was that I did not get to post on the Stufessional Blog yesterday, and I did not get to my workout.

Today, I was able to exercise, eat a good meal, and take a minute to post on this blog. I realize that something might be sacrificed today and every day for that matter in order to accomplish this stufessional thing with some semblance of balance. I will not continue to sacrifice myself – well, not intentionally. Otherwise, what is the point of it all?

- Shrita

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Good Problem to Have

The previous post has really hit home.

It’s all about priorities. Not school. Not work. More like health, family and friends.

When you’re trying to juggle school, work and a family, you can lose sight of what’s important. Personally, managing a career and school isn’t too bad (so far, knock wood.) However, my “honeydew” list (“Honey, do this. Honey, do that.”) is getting quite long.

“But, Jim, you have all day Sunday to get to that stuff. What’s the problem?”

No problem. No problem at all. I’d just rather spend some quality time with my kids because I don’t have that opportunity on Saturdays. (That and the wife needs a break, but that’s not my point.)

I will say, however, that I have a very dusty home gym in my basement and a serious lack of anything remotely resembling muscle tone. I haven’t gained any weight, which is good, but that’s only because I don’t have time to eat while chasing my kids around. I’m also in bad need of a checkup at both the doctor and dentist. (Marketing idea: combine the doctor and dentist office. One stop shopping! Sorry, I digress.)

So, while one of my priorities (making sure I get to watch my kids grow up) is being met, another (my health) is not. Or maybe it’s just that I’m not making it a priority. Less or no TV might help.

Most of us are fortunate in that we get to choose our priorities. We don’t have to worry about the six-mile trek for clean water, or how to get some food. Any food. Those are truly priorities. We’re privileged that we get to choose between work, school, family, food, home and other aspects of our lives. We can get lost in all of this excess and get stressed out about which extremely fortunate decision we have to make. A good problem to have, so they say.

But then, things happen that bring that everything right back into focus. A classmate has a cycling accident. Another classmate almost loses a close family member. A son is sick and we can’t figure out why.

Things like this tend to refocus us on the true priorities: Health, family and friends.

- Jim


Early Sunday morning I fell off my bicycle. I broke three teeth, split my lip, and found myself in the emergency room wondering what I could have done to avoid tragedy. The answer was simple; I could have done nothing.

A stufessional is someone who takes control of their life. A stufessional believes that they are the architect of their own destiny. A stufessional is typically in competition with the self more than others.

When I fell from my bicycle, I shuddered. While wondering how I would get treatment and navigate my insurance policy, I held more concern with how quickly I would get back into the saddle. An accident is a setback to a stufessional's entire sense of being. Stufessionals are doers. Not doing, especially following an accident, is a tremendously humbling experience.

An accident reminds a stufessional of how truly driven they are. An accident gives pause and, even in state of discomfort, time to honor one's achievements. Yes, it is sad that such a violent disruption of routine garners reflection, but it illustrates my point -- stufessionals do not dwell on what could happened differently. Their focus is on tomorrow with lessons learned from yesterday. Setbacks, even painful ones, remind stufessionals of their greatness.

- Jared

Friday, November 7, 2008

Yesterday is gone and other hard learned lessons from a new manager

I should have posted this blog yesterday. That tops the list of things I should have done yesterday but now, yesterday is gone. This is the most important lesson I've learned as a new manager. I am definitely not new to this whole "stuffesional" thing. I started babysitting after school and on weekends when I was 15 years old. My next job was teaching ballet and acrobatics at 17 years old and I worked full-time during undergrad. However, I had never managed people until now. I was always responsible for me and me alone. My time, my work, my studies and stress load, my family - just me.

A few months ago I was promoted to management. Rather ironically, I manage a team of seven working professionals who are all currently in graduate school. Yesterday, one of my best but most defiant employees got mad, screamed at me, quit his job and walked that order. I was shocked. I was embarassed. I felt like a failure. It left me scrambling to redistribute his work load and rearrange the schedule. While I can never get that time back, it is important to take a step backward sometimes to reflect and learn lessons that can make me a better manager in the future. I have learned a lot of difficult lessons as a new manager and I will share a few of them with you now.

  1. Your employees are not your friends - never try to be buddies

  2. If an employee is disrespecting your authority, look closely at the situation and nip it in the bud quickly but don't ignore it

  3. New managers should always take advantage of continuing education training available to them to aid them in making the transition - don't put it off because you are busy. Just do it!

  4. Look into the possibility of promoting one of your employees to a "team leader" position and delegate some authority to that person

  5. Do the job your employees do and do it often

  6. Let them give peer feedback - ask them questions and listen carefully to their suggestions

  7. Take an hour each day and close your door to employees; this time is for scheduling and managing your own work load

  8. Keep a spreadsheet tracking employee progress by date (i.e. Sally was late on Tuesday but volunteered to take on an extra assignment on Thursday)

- Anna

Anna Rabinowitz is a public relations and information manager for George Mason University's Graduate and Professional Schools at the Arlington Campus. She has held communication and marketing positions for a United States Senator and Holland & Knight LLP. A native Floridian, Anna enjoys studying international espionage, farmer's markets and spending time with her husband of two years, Steven.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

You call this balance, what balance?

When driving half asleep to work this morning, it didn't occur to me that I could really take some time off and get over my lack of sleep from watching the elections. After working more than fifty hours each week, as well as enduring an eighty minute commute each day, being burned out is inevitable - but you see, my work has something we call 'Alternate Work Schedule'(AWS), meaning, you rest every other Friday. Some people take advantage of this, while others see it as an opportunity to close their office doors and continue where they left off without interruption. This proves true of a study that says sixty-four percent of workers feel that their work pressures are 'self-inflicted'. True? Yup!

The big 'Bank' has a work-life balance as a mandate, staff are also encouraged to go to school if they want to - so at the end of the day, I say to myself, "I earned my share of stress today, I worked very hard for it, and no one, no one, is going to take it away from me', ha ha.


Umou is from Sierra Leone, West Africa. She comes from a family of 34 brothers and sisters. She drew her calmness out of the madness of growing up with a huge family.

Earning her BA from Marymount University, she currently works at the External Affairs Communication Unit at the World Bank. She is with the training team which manages the 'strategic communication' trainings at the Bank.

She earned her BA from Marymout University.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

That One Thing and Having a Cow: Work/Life Balance Advice from the Mayo Clinic, Oprah and Stephen Covey

Last month Senator Barack Obama suspended his campaign to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii, and with the news of her passing on Monday, one may presume the purpose of the trip was to say goodbye.

The decision to put family first tipped Obama’s work/life scales in one direction. His was a dilemma in the extreme, but the principle is one that stufessionals struggle with every day: how to maintain equilibrium. They fight to keep the peace in their personal and professional relationships, but is it wasted effort?

The work/life challenge is a balancing act, a constant state of checking and correcting. Stufessionals like Shrita and Jared
work 11 hour days and then devote entire weekends to class and studying. How does one keep it all together? The experts tell us to prioritize, lean on others and keep to a schedule.

Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People,”
says simplicity is the key to prioritizing. He is not alone in that thought. Wise old Curly, as played by Jack Palance in the 1991 motion picture “City Slickers,” opined that the secret of life is finding “just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean [anything].” He was talking to Billy Crystal’s character Mitch, who by the end of the movie finds the “one thing” in his wife, children and the new family pet, a baby cow. Adding livestock to the family lineup may not be the answer for everyone, but identifying the priority in one’s life brings focus and balance.

The Mayo Clinic and WebMD via agree on the importance of
leaning on others for help. Stufessionals can find assistance on the small scale by enlisting friends to babysit during study sessions, or on a larger scale by accessing their Employer’s Assistance Program (EAP), which provides limited, free confidential counseling sessions. Asking for help is not a sign of instability, but rather a way to use all resources at hand, just as one would utilize multiple media for a research project.

Keeping a schedule is also important to work/life balance. The Mayo Clinic suggests
doing housework and running errands on weekdays so the weekends are free for hobbies or spending time with family. Stufessionals do not have a lot of leisure time, so there is great value in running a load of laundry every day so Friday night can be spent relaxing.

Stufessionals should heed the advice of the experts. It is not possible, nor necessary, to be a superwoman or superman and attempt to do it all. When they identify priorities, ask for help from all available resources and make time to take time, stufessionals can succeed, with or without a pet cow.


[Susan has produced over 120 events and meetings in five years, from executive summits and VIP receptions to fundraising golf tournaments and galas. Susan balances her studies with a full time job, volunteer board positions for the International Special Events Society and Starlight Midatlantic, brilliant and adorable niece and nephew, running ten milers and the search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.]

Monday, November 3, 2008

Everything and Nothing Is Balance

A daughter, an aunt, a sister, a niece, a mentor, a sorority member, a communications director, a cousin, a graduate student, a teammate, a friend, a best-friend, a girlfriend; did I mention that I was a friend? With all of the roles that I play at any given moment, it is a wonder that I have time to do anything for myself – let alone pursue graduate education. My 11 hours-per-day job that combines crisis or emergency with every new task keeps me up at night, as I often contemplate my “to do’s” or a strategic way of handling “the new, most important thing.” Needless to say, sleep is a luxury in my life as a Stufessional. Everything is spinning at a dizzying pace to the point where, at times, I get off the meandering merry-go-round to do my favorite thing: nothing. That is how I rest; that is one of the ways that I achieve balance.

For me and probably for many Stufessionals, we are operating within the paradigm of great extremes: doing everything all at once. The foremost goal – and converse – for me is to strive for instances when I can do absolutely nothing. I find it cathartic and restoring. When I am doing nothing, I am actually doing something, just not a “to do.” In my “nothing” moments, I am chatting over coffee with my mother or catching up with one of my girlfriends. I could be giving myself a pedicure or sharing a laugh with my boyfriend. The point is to relax my mind, spirit and body.

It is not always easy to get to the point, where I can do “nothing.” In fact, it can be very hard when I have reporters calling me all day about a controversial vote, research to conduct, a press statement to prepare, assignments to complete for class, and errands to run for my mother – all due by the end of the day. During these stress-filled days, I pray for strength and endurance; then, I prioritize and give it my most concerted effort. I am usually content with the results of my labor; however, there are times when only more hours in the day or a total neglect of the ones I love would enable me to complete the “to do” list. The latter is not an option.

Having endured some challenges that would have caused many to quit and victories that are forever etched in my heart, the one thing that remains constant is the support of my loved ones. I am strengthened to drive through the competing deadlines, past sleep deprivation, and against adversity because I have a level of balance, which is wrapped in the support of my loved ones. I realized a few years back that there is no accomplishment or task more important than the people I hold dear. Remembering that principle helps me to consider the time and forces me to make time to do “nothing” with them or with myself. The result is peace and appreciation for the blessings in my life – the ultimate balance.

- Shrita

[With a 13 year career in political and nonprofit community relations, Shrita has organized grassroots lobbying efforts, implemented numerous social service programs, and worked on local, state and federal political campaigns. She currently works as the Communications Director for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives.]

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday is "Funday"

Ah, Sunday.  Sunlight through my bedroom windows awaken me.  I stroll into the kitchen in my embroidered robe, fix a cup of tea, and ease into the couch cushions.  I reflect on my accomplishments of the passed week and, before musing about the days ahead, I focus on the next dozen plus hours.  Perhaps I'll share a nice brunch with friends, catch a movie, and zone out before a televised football game.  Yes, Sunday is Funday - an entire day devoted to the carefree exploits of yours truly.  

I wish this image were true.  In some ways I'm the odd gunslinger out of we seven stufessionals. I do not carry one full-time job from Monday to Friday, tally hours in class on Saturday, and reserve Sunday to myself.  Rather, I work several jobs every day of the week in an archaic, sleep-bamboozled schedule that keeps my head above water and arse in the classroom.

On a typical Sunday, I wake late and groggy from working the previous evening in a wine bar after a full day in class.  Yes, you are correct, I go to school from 9 a.m.-5 p.m each Saturday then work from 6:30 p.m. until 2 a.m.

Sunday finds me restoring my body through rest and infusing my brain with knowledge through study.  I am not at the dispense of whim.  I am a student who supports himself by working 40 plus hours a week.  I take what free time I can to craft quality work.

I am committed to personal and professional growth.  To accomplish this I must sacrifice a large portion of my Sunday.  I may take a cup of tea from my spot on the couch, but once that cup is empty, I've got work to do. 

- Jared

[Jared Macary supported and led communication outreach campaigns in urban and rural Togo, West Africa from 2004-2007.  As a current Master of Arts Public Communication candidate at American University in Washington, DC, Jared continues to strengthen strategic and tactical programming]

A Stu-what?

First off, it’s pronounced stew-FESH-ahn-ul. It’s a mix of the words student and professional, which is what we (the seven bloggers) all are.

We define a stufessional as any one individual of the relatively small community who are both full-time employed and engaged in the pursuit of higher education.

As stufessionals, we face several challenges; some unique to us, some more common. Here’s just a sampling of some of the hurdles we face:
• Time – Try to find time to work late, study, hang with the family and exercise. I dare you.
• Money – This education thing ain’t cheap.
• Health – Mental and physical. Stress can do amazing things to the human body.
• Family and Friends – We are social animals after all.

Of course there are many more to cover. That’s the point of this blog. We’ll talk about these issues and more as they pertain to us, the stufessionals.

We want to hear from you! Do you think you’re a stufessional? What challenges are you facing? How do you address those challenges? Do you live with, work with, or hang out with a stufessional?

- Jim

[Jim is a stufessional currently balancing the Masters in Public Communication program at American University, full-time work as a director for a professional non-profit association, and family man with a wife and two kids. So there.]