Work / Life Overlap

Slowing Down

February 7, 2015


When I was around 6 months pregnant with Fox I was asked something along the lines of “What’s the biggest risk you need to take over the next year?” I looked down at my big belly. Slowing down.

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A few months ago I got a nail in my tire. I don’t have time for this shit! Fortunately, I have super fancy tires called “run flats” which means they keep running, even when they’re flat. After a week or so of running flat I managed to find 30 minutes at the end of my work day to take my car by the shop and have my tire fixed. Slow down, eh? That thirty minutes gave me time to think about how  it is that with a packed calendar (coupled with a deep-seated sense of urgency to LIVE! LIFE!) I don’t even have time for little emergencies, much less the dreamier images that come to mind when you say the words “slow down” like I don’t know … breathing, meditating, gardening, getting a massage, laying out in the sun, or taking a nap.

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Yesterday I found myself at the doctors office with a sick baby. And apparently I had left my phone at home. It gave me time to think about what slowing down really means. It takes just as much practice and discipline to slow down as it does to get shit done. And it’s not as glamorous as you might daydream – taking a deep breath is important but slowing down is literally making space in your calendar to live life. And I’m not talking about scheduling a massage, or a workout, or even a vacation.  I’m talking about scheduling NOTHING because sometimes living life looks like a sick baby with a weird rash on his tongue in a doctor’s office.

I have time for this. 

Getting Back to Work

September 22, 2014


Late last week I spoke at the Circles Conference to a packed (and quite stylish) audience full of designers. And now I’m nursing what my friend Brené Brown calls a vulnerability hangover.

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My talk was about how painful it can be to be a working creative because of The Fear. But that if we can just do a few things – like get specific about what both the worst case scenario and the ideal day look like, get clear on what we really want to be doing all day, and maybe make a mantra to remember what that is – then maybe it won’t be quite so painful to put your heart into your profession. I didn’t really get serious about my talk until two weeks ago. I had written out what I wanted to say – and when I read it out loud it sucked. So I recruited my speech writer and voice coach (that would be my sister and business partner, Tara) and we spent an entire Saturday afternoon out at my parents lake house writing my script – word-for-word. Then I spent the next week memorizing my cues and designing my slides. The night before my talk in the hotel room I practiced forgetting the script so I could sound casual. As if I was going to walk up on that stage and give a story that had just come to mind – like lunch with a friend. Then I practiced walking (the stage strut – not quite a model stomp) and talking at the same time without forgetting that words were supposed to be coming out of my mouth.

Oh. And that was all only after getting my snotty and over-tired baby to sleep on the hotel bed – two hours after his normal bedtime. Which for a baby, and a new mom, is kind of a big deal.

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After my talk I felt high. I had a quiet, humbling moment of gratitude when I found myself backstage. And then when I was sure nobody could see me I pumped my fists in the air – like a dorky protagonist in an 80s romantic comedy who just scored a date with the homecoming queen. I know it’s probably not cool to admit that I was proud of myself … but I was proud of myself.

I made my way back to the conference lobby buzzing with inspiration and energy. And that’s when I saw my sister talking to my creative girlfriends – my tribe from all over the country (and even Canada!) – and my baby crawling around on the floor at their feet … and for a minute I felt like I had it all. And that I could actually do it all. But today. Today, I have fears, my self-doubts, and my vulnerability hangover. And now I’m getting back to work.

P.S. You can watch the talk here. 

Talk notes drawn by Terence Tang.

A History of Work

September 4, 2014




Monday was Labor Day. I thought I’d celebrate by having a cookout with my family, wearing white (which I’ll keep wearing through the Fall, no doubt), taking a two hour long nap, and recounting all of my past jobs. Here it goes:

I got my first job when I was 15 and a half. I’m not sure why I was so desperate to work at a Taco Mayo that had opened a mile from my super suburban neighborhood but I showed up to the interview wearing clean JNCOs and the only shirt I had that didn’t expose my belly button. A tired and clean cut middle-aged man wearing a polo asked me a few questions and put a star at the top of my application – I was sure I had the job. And I did, of course I did. I worked something like 15 hours a week and learned all the gross secrets of working at a fast food taco joint. Like that the beans come in powder form and only become refried once you add water to the mix. One memory that stands out in particular was when I was pouring the chicken out of its plastic bag and into a metal bin at the assembly station all the chicken juice spattered back up in my face. I was a terrible employee – I just kind of stood around when we were slow and always forgot to close the cash register after taking orders. My favorite part of the job was when I got to make myself whatever I wanted to eat (nachos with queso and sour cream only) during my break.

I quit the taco place after missing a Ralph Nader conference all my friends were at so I could work. At a fast food taco place. I still regret it a little but hopefully it helped shape my somewhat driven work ethic. I think I enjoyed being a teenager (ha! right.) for a couple months before applying for a job at JC Penney’s. My sister worked at Penney’s at Sooner Fashion Mall all through college and hooked me up with an interview. I wore opaque blue tights, black platform Mary Janes, and a white belly shirt that didn’t expose my belly because I was also wearing a high-waisted black skirt. I think I was hired on the spot and told that once I passed my drug test I would be able to begin work. I said thank you and had a quiet freak-out as I drove my bright yellow 1973 VW Bug home. A drug test. Great. I passed but not without my dad first having his secretary call me pretending like she was the drug test facility saying I had traces of heroine, cocaine, and marijuana in my system and that they would need to tell my parents. I called my mom at work in incoherent tears promising up and down that I had NEVER done cocaine (!) or heroine (!) but maybe had a joint once or twice and IdidnoteveninhaleIpromise. That’s when I got the call-waiting beep and when I switched over my dad was cracking up saying “I got chya!” Good one, dad.

I worked at JC Penney’s for two years – which from 16 to 18 seems like forever. I think I quit the summer before starting college when I got a job working at my best friend’s family’s diner appropriately called The Diner. It’s a narrow shotgun style restaurant with 10 booths and 8 counter seats. I had to wake up at 5:45 AM on Saturdays and Sundays to show up for the breakfast shift which seemed like the middle of the night back then. I truly sucked at being a waitress but I loved that job. The best part about this job was the immediate gratification of working for tips – the worst was trying to scrub off the smell of diner food and being too tired to party with my friends past midnight. I think I only worked there for a summer or so and left when I decided I just wasn’t cut out for waiting tables.

I barely remember this short-lived college job making smoothies on campus corner while I was living in the dorms (which was also short-lived). What I do remember is making my own smoothies concoctions, making customers angry when I wouldn’t scrape every last bit of smoothie out of the blender, and being paranoid about getting stuck in the walk-in freezer.

I spent the majority of my college years working at Hancock Fabrics. While you would typically imagine little old ladies cutting your bolts of fabric, instead the store was staffed with a bunch of college girls sporting hair dyed to look like a skunk, septum nose piercings and a couple of visible tattoos. We spent our shifts gossiping and obsessing over new fabrics and the things we would make out of them.  The thing I love the most about this job are the real life skills I learned. I can identify the difference between silk and satin and all the fabric measuring and converting decimals to fractions and back again was good prep for design school. I loved going to the Classic 50s drive-in burger joint across the street to order grilled cheese with mustard and onions on my lunch break while listening to NPRs This American Life. 

I worked at Hancocks right up until I graduated college and got my first full-time job as a layout designer at The Oklahoma Gazette – Oklahoma’s best alt weekly publication. This was pretty much the best first job ever. I worked with my brother-in-law who pretty much taught me all the technical design skills that my fundamental art school program didn’t really cover. I made some really great friends and had so much fun at this job. It was a dream come true. And I was making a 5-figure salary (just barely) for the first time ever – I treated myself by buying a house and designer jeans.

About a year after working at the Gazette I was recruited by my sister to come work with her at Third Degree Advertising – a small 15-20 person agency here in Oklahoma City. This job was more than a dream come true. I worked here for 5 years and my favorite was the yearly ADDYS awards – it was like prom for designers. At this job I made friends who over time started to feel like family – and I was literally working with family. My sister and I loved working together and for the longest time kept our family ties a secret from clients and even some co-workers. I worked here for five years until I decided to quit and try the freelance thing.

I freelanced for a year before my sister decided to leave her position as Creative Director / VP at Third Degree to come start a company with me. Today marks three years that we’ve been doing our own thing and wow, to try and sum up what I’ve learned, created, and labored over for the last three years is a daunting task. When we started Braid Tara simply wanted to feel like a creative expert and I simply wanted to live the dream and help other creatives do the same. Done and done but we’ll keep on going.

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So there it is. A history of work – I’m not one to revisit the past very often but laying it all out here in one place has me wondering what my work choices say about me. Should I have spent less time working for $5.25 and hour and more time volunteering, interning, and making better connections? Nah, but what’s cool about taking a trip down memory lane is that I can’t imagine this list will get much longer with jobs – but it will grow in projects, launches, and offerings. I’ve just begun what feels like my life’s work.

Images by Choate House

More Writing (Less Emailing)

June 11, 2014


It’s obvious that since having a baby my time has been spread thin. It truly is a balance – a give and take. If I put energy and time into one thing, it usually means I’m not going to be able to give my attention to something else. Prioritizing is a skill I’m learning to hone.

In order here are the things that are important to me:
• HOME // Jeremy, Fox, cooking good food, weekends with our family
• WORKING OUT // weightlifting, yoga, barre3, cardio, long walks
• WORK // coaching, client meetings, blogging (here and at Braid), letter writing
• FRIENDS // book clubs, coffee dates, dinner parties

Nowhere on that list is emailing, yet I probably spend a good 75% of my work time tending to emails. Granted, some of this is creative direction to my team, interviews for blog features, or follow-up emails with my one-on-one clients. But more often then not it’s reactionary requests – and I can’t help but respond immediately because it gives me instant gratification of feeling productive. But it’s really not.

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There are lots of articles out there on how to manage your inbox. Here are a couple of my favorites:
• Alexandra Franzen – she writes the BEST scripts for responding to tricky situations – from conflict resolution, to saying no, to how to respond to emails no one wants to receive. I’ve used her scripts almost word-for-word and they are magic.
Zen Habits – Leo Babatua is my favorite online minimalist and I love reading his email habits.

Okay, so reading about how to manage your email is great and all. But putting it into practice is another thing. The thing is, I need to spend less time emailing so I can spend more time blogging. Writing feeds my soul. Responding doesn’t. Writing reaches more people at once. Responding only helps one person at a time – and while that’s worthy I have big demanding dreams of my own that need to be tended to right now.

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So here’s some new practices (and it will take practice, I’m sure) that I would like to try in order to spend less time emailing and more time writing:
• Write first thing in the morning – BEFORE I check my email.
• Turn off email push-notifications on my phone
• Check email twice a day and that’s it / block off time just for emailing. (I think this will be hard!)
• Have business inquiries and requests go straight to my employees to respond to
• Limit my emails to just two or three sentences. My biggest fear is being misunderstood (especially in tone) and brevity in email can often feel cold … but I think I’ll be doing myself and the person on the other side a favor by being brief. I might even add a little explanation for brevity in my footer.
• Stop responding to emails that don’t really need a response. For example, I send out a lot of one word “Thanks!” emails.

Do you have any other ideas for managing email? What are some tactics that work for you?

Coaching for Creatives | Show Up With Intention

April 14, 2014


How are you showing up for your clients?
If you’re racing from deadline to deadline you might be showing up frazzled, resentful, and spread thin. And it will show in your work and client relationships.

How are you showing up for your partner, your family, and your friends?
If you’re itching to check your email under the dinner table you might be showing up with scattered attention and only a part of your whole heart.

Try this – the next time you go into a client meeting take a minute beforehand to consider how you want to show up. Take some deep cleansing breaths and visualize how you can best help your client and what you want to accomplish. The next time you sit down to work on a project clear off your desk, close all your browser windows (and perhaps open a real window). Soak up the potential of a blank page and set an intention for how you want to feel while you do the work.

The next time you have dinner with a friend or a date out with your main squeeze try leaving your phone at home. Instead of falling back on conversations about what sucks, instead speak from the place that holds your dreams and desires.

This week try to consistently show up as your best self and share the gift of attention and intention – in work and life. I’ll join you. 

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If you like this post you might like my DIY Coaching for Creatives Email Sessions. It’s 4 emails x 4 weeks (16 emails total) for just $40. Complete with worksheets, exercises, mantras, meditations, and to-dos for time management, decision-making, and strategies for living more of what you love – in work and life. You can learn more about what you’ll get and purchase anytime here.


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