David Allen is NOT Helping my Insomnia

February 2, 2010 5 comments
Note to self: when it’s 3:45 am and work anxiety wakes (and keeps) you up, do not think reading David Allen will lull you back to sleep. For those of you unfamiliar, David Allen is the Getting Things Done guru (or “GTD,” as we personal management geeks call it). I read David Allen the way non-cooks watch the Food Network: it’s a spectactor sport. Because you see, while I can get things done in my life, I don’t Get Things Done. Which means I don’t get my inbox to zero each week, I lurch through the work day with a brain so full of “uncaptured” tasks and to-dos my head threatens to explode, I am chronically unable to “process” a certain pile of magazine clippings in my inbox that outlived their timeliness and usefulness somewhere around 2006…nevertheless, I am addicted to the literature of personal management and in particular the cult of GTD.

 

Back to my insomnia. I’m reading David Allen’s latest Making it All Work and come across this chart mapping what he calls a “matrix of self-management.” There it is up above. Poses a simple model based on axes of perspective and control. Too much of either = bad. A balance of both = good.

 

My mind whirls to life and so much for sleep. I start cataloging colleagues along these axes. Illuminating! Genius! So easy to peg management outages when you’re looking at someone else!

 

I aspire to be a “Captain and Commander,” of course I do. Wouldn’t you? I think I’m usually pretty good at the Visionary stuff but oh lord…do I slip into Crazy-Maker territory more than I’m willing to admit? What about Crazy-Makers I might encounter on the job? How to manage those relationships? And the Micro-Managers, can they be helped? What can a mentor do to pull them up out of the weeds and get them to focus on the bigger picture? And more importantly, will I ever fall back asleep??

 

Gah. Food for thought. How about you? Where do you fall along these axes? Please share. My insomnia and I are all ears.

 

(Image from Making it All Work)
Categories: Work Tags: ,

I Can’t Believe I’m in Dubai

January 20, 2010 10 comments

I’ve been trying to write this post since I got to Dubai two days ago but words keep failing me. I fancy myself a sophisticated traveler but nothing prepared me for this place. It’s not just the opulence (which is outrageous), it’s more the sheer FOREIGNESS of it. There are only a few places on this planet I never thought I’d see in my lifetime, and the Middle East is one of them. Moreso in a post-9/11 world. And yet — here I am. I awoke at one point during the 12 hour flight over here and saw on the on-screen flight tracker that we were flying right over Baghdad.  That’s when it hit me. I was really on my way to the United Arab Emirates. I’ve been farther away from home before (my husband’s home city of Chelyabinsk, Russia) — but nothing has felt as far away from home as Dubai.

And yet.

As part of yesterday’s itinerary (I’m here in meetings with my Olay client) we venture into a residential neighborhood to spend time with a Dubai local woman to discuss her skin care routine. Her name is Rasheed and she isn’t much older than I am. She welcomes us into her beautiful home, introduces us to her dimpled 12-year old daughter, serves us juice and coffee. And then we talk through a translator for an hour. About skin care, of course, but also about feeling beautiful, about husbands and kids, about keeping house, about working and getting to the gym. Rasheed is eager to show us her yard, the pheasants and chickens she keeps, her lime and mango trees, the patio that’s under renovation.

I notice tall pots of alyssium, a sweetly-fragrant flower I plant along my borders each spring many, many miles away in New Jersey. It’s the sight of those flowers in their carefully tended pots that gets me. Rasheed and I love the same flowers.

Same way we love our kids and our husbands, and playing with beauty products, and enjoying a chat over coffee.

Maybe not so foreign after all. Imagine that.

 

I created a Whrrl story about my visit here.

Categories: Clients, Culture, Work Tags: , , , ,

Outgrowing Star Wars

January 14, 2010 9 comments
This image is known in Star Wars movie poster geek circles (not that I’d know anything about that) as “US One Sheet Original Movie Poster Style C.” It’s awesome and old school and at the height of my 7-year old’s Star Wars frenzy, I found a decent reproduction and had it lovingly framed for his bedroom.

 

Did I mention it’s awesome?

 

Tonight getting ready for bed the 7-year old gives the poster a sidelong glance and says casually, “You know I’m not into Star Wars anymore, right?”

 

And a little piece of my heart dies a quiet death, kind of the way Yoda finally became one with the Force in Episode VI except that had hung around for 900 years and the damned poster only survived my son’s fickle taste for one.

 

Only consolation is he got Beatles Rock Band at Christmas so now he wants a Beatles poster. Could be worse.

 

Image via.

New Presentation Design Inspiration

January 12, 2010 1 comment
I’m a sucker for a good presentation design book but truth be told, there aren’t a ton of them out there. My bibles are Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte and Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds — well-worn copies are never far from reach at my desk. I was thrilled to read on Nancy’s blog this morning that Garr has published a new book called Presentation Zen Design. Nancy and Garr are close collaborators; watching two people who could be considered competitors collaborate and share is pretty inspiring (a lot of this dynamic plays out on their respective blogs.)  I highly recommend you get to know these two if your work includes any kind of presentation creation.

The Bra Color Meme: So What?

January 8, 2010 19 comments

So this was me at 5:32 PM last night on Facebook.

 

 

If you’re a chick, I bet you had your own “what up with all the colors on Facebook statuses?” moment yesterday.  And, like me, you probably had your little moment of epiphany: 

 

 

 

As I think many of us now know, someone somewhere invited women to share their bra color on Facebook yesterday without public explanation, all by way of spreading breast cancer awareness (Mashable speculates on the origins of the meme here.)

 

I actually adore this idea – it does everything a viral campaign should. We saw, we questioned, we buzzed, we laughed, we passed it on. And it was a uniquely chick-ish “social object” to be passing, wasn’t it? Our bra color, for god’s sake. Intimate but not embarrassing, a way to express individuality (I’m talking to you, animal-print ladies) and sisterly solidarity at the same time. And kind of keep the boys out, except when the boys themselves started playing along. Which is hilarious and alarming in equal parts.

 

BUT. As a cause-related effort? Not as successful. Feels like there was a big missed opportunity here. I’ve done a bit of cause marketing in my time and subscribe to a cardinal rule: tell people what they can do to make a tangible difference.  The bra meme got the hard part out of the way – it got us buzzing. It just needed to connect the dots and give us the tools to make a difference.

 

Is it because this was a grassroots effort started by a woman without ties to one breast cancer organization? Possibly, and fair enough. Was it just intended to “create awareness” without any other call-to-action? Again – possibly (though breast cancer is hardly a disease which needs to be put on the map.) For me, if you gave me a shortened link to share along with my color on Facebook and Twitter which let people click through to make a donation or sign a petition or something else concrete – done and done. I would’ve shared it gladly and hopefully made a measurable contribution to the fight against a disease which has touched every single one of us.

 

So did you participate in the bra meme? If you’re a marketer or PR person, how would you have handled it as part of a cause campaign? 

Thanks to my Twitter pal @karinatweedell for sending the Mashable post and holding my hand as I struggled to understand what all those damned colors meant.

My Mea Culpa New Year’s Post

January 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Ugh, I am the world’s laziest blogger. I didn’t manage to hit any of the usual bloggy post milestones — no “Happy holidays to my readers,” no “Year in Review,” no “Predictions for the Year Ahead…” I’ve been too busy this holiday season shredding my carpal tunnels playing Guitar Hero and poisoning the Russian with turkey tetrazzini I made with, uh, slightly aged turkey leftovers. 

HOWEVER. I do want to take this occasion to wish you a very heartfelt and belated Happy New Year. I can also say to all my Russian friends (and those who love them) — Merry Russian Christmas. I wish everyone who comes in contact with this blog all the best for a healthy and happy 2010. Thank you for reading my scribbles. It means a lot to me, it really does.

To make myself feel a little less slackerific and prove that I have actually thought recently about this industry of mine (not just turkey salmonella and Guitar Hero), I am sharing a video interview I did before Christmas with the one and only Owen J.J. Stone a.k.a. “OhDoctah.” For those of you who don’t know, Owen is a brilliant vlogger and social media consultant who actually knows his stuff and doesn’t spout jargon at you all day. No snake oil, just smarts and a WHOLE lotta charisma. To know him is to love him, which I learned the moment I met him at the 140 Character Conference in LA last fall. You can find him here and here on Twitter or at his company website (IQMZ).

Anyhowdy, we sat down to jaw about public relations and social media; check out our conversation here.

Image via.

Hope in the Mist

December 10, 2009 11 comments

I get home from the business trip after dark. It’s been two solid days of planes, trains and automobiles – doing the security line striptease, breaking nails on suitcase latches, schlepping from one client meeting to the next with bloodshot eyes from fitful hotel sleep and not enough Visine. I’m thrilled to be home but as usual, my return disrupts the fragile balance my stay-at-home husband has established with our son in my absence.

Enter Mommy, exit discipline. I realize as I lurch into the kitchen lugging suitcase and laptop bag that I’ve interrupted dinner. I’ve distracted my son during the all-important first course, by which I mean the plateful of vegetables he must finish before getting mac-and-cheese. He’ll eat veggies but like pulling off a bandaid, it’s best when it happens all at once, without interruption. I’ve shot his concentration and he’s now wrapped himself around me with the freakish strength 6 year olds can muster when it comes to bear hugs and marathon tickle sessions. I breathe him in. I haven’t seen him in two days.

My husband indulges the reunion for a while, then tries to coax our boy back to finish dinner. It’s swim team practice night which means dinner is served later and everyone’s exhausted. Bed time is minutes away and we’re not even through the carrots yet. My son ignores his father’s pleas to finish the meal, having run off to the TV room to find a drawing he needs to show me RIGHT NOW. He’s got two days of catching up to do with me and in his mind, carrots – and bedtime – can wait. On cue, my husband explodes.

The battle of wills between the 42 year old and the first grader is fierce. Testosterone flies fast and furious, both sides hell-bent on making sure the other knows “YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME.”

Normally I’d intervene. Mediate and bargain. Make the peace. Tonight, something switches on in my brain. I realize, “I can’t fix this.” It occurs to me the men in my family will never figure out how to deal with one another productively as long as I’m in the ring refereeing.

So I leave. I pull my coat back on knowing full well this will trigger a fresh outburst of wailing from my son.

“PLEASE….DON’T…..LEAVE……ME!”

I tell him as calmly as I can that I’m going to take a walk so that he and his dad can make friends again. That they need to work it out themselves, that I love them both and I’ll be back in a little bit.

I walk out into the cool night air, willing myself not to look back at the house. I know I’ll see my son plastered against the living room window, yelling for me to come back. I am tired from my trip, tired of the drama, tired of undermining my husband in his parenting efforts.

It’s humid for December and a light fog has settled on and around the houses on my block. I pause at the end of the street and look at all the houses along our town’s main drag, decked out in friendly competition with a bright array of Christmas lights. I breathe slowly and deliberately, in and out, in and out. This grounds me in the here and now, because I refuse to project myself into a future where my husband and son can’t settle their differences,  come to blows, stop loving each other.

I’m touched by the sight of these houses lined up side by side in the night, lit up as far as the eye can see, all the way down to where our town’s main street intersects with the highway. The houses get smaller and a little more ragtag down there, but they have been decorated with care and tonight they are luminous.

Why do we hang lights at Christmas? To evoke the star of Bethlehem and the nativity? Keep up with the Joneses? Celebrate the Solstice and the return of the sun’s light? Me, I love Christmas lights for reasons so complex and emotionally intertwined it’s tough to peel apart. They are beacons that fill my heart with optimism that this Christmas will be different – no holiday dysfunction, no missed connections, no New Year’s resolutions made and abandoned. Hope that this year, things will be better.

I turn and make my way back down the block to our little blue house. I’ve only been gone ten minutes but I’m guessing things have diffused inside. I notice the lights have gone out on the evergreen garland I’ve twisted around the lamp pole in our front yard and though it’s dark, am able to correct the setting on the automatic timer. The strands of fairy lights nestled in the pine blaze brilliantly back to life. I look up to see my husband and son silhouetted in the front window, waiting for me together. I climb the porch stairs and go back inside, out of the mist and into the light.

 

Image via.

Note: I was inspired to write this post by the brilliant women of Blog Nosh Magazine who are hosting a blogging carnival to celebrate hope during the holiday season. They’re doing this to help raise awareness of a charity program called Loads of Hope which I am obliged to tell you was created by my agency’s client Tide. I assure you, I would support both Blog Nosh and Tide Loads of Hope regardless of the client relationship because good people and programs deserve to be promoted. My clients don’t know I wrote this but if they read it, I hope they like it. (You, too.)

Please visit Blog Nosh to learn about the carnival and the campaign.