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