live to work

Do You Work to Live or Live to Work?

Jen Roberts Balance, Leadership, Stress

Do you ever feel like your schedule is so busy that you don’t have time to focus on the things that are most important to you? One of the things I most appreciate as an entrepreneur is the opportunity to set my own schedule, do work that I love with leaders who inspire me, and to have the flexibility to spend quality time with my family. I haven’t always felt like I had this much power to choose my approach to work and life. For years in my former corporate life I often worked long stressful hours that made me feel out of alignment with my core values. I was living to work; not working to live. I knew something had to change, but that’s not an easy task in the frenetic pace of corporate life. As the year winds to a close, offices around the world often fly into …

Monday

How to be Super Productive (Even on a Monday)

Jen Roberts Balance, Productivity, Stress

It’s Monday—the day that many of us begin our workweek—and I’m already tired. I don’t know about you, but my days off are often just as packed with activity my workdays, which can leave me feeling sluggish at the start of the week. Don’t get me wrong: I love days off just as much as the next guy (maybe more). But a weekend full of soccer games, outdoor play, cooking, cleaning, and late night movies can lead to diminished concentration and motivation when Monday morning rolls around. If this sounds familiar, it’s no wonder you’re dreading the alarm clock that signals the start of another hectic day ahead! The typical work environment can be best described in one word: REACTIVE. With so many distractions pulling your attention in different directions, it can be difficult to focus and be productive. This is the “norm” in most work environments, so it is …

connected to friends

5 Regrets of Leaders (and How to Avoid Them), Part 5: Staying Connected to Friends

Jen Roberts Balance, Communication, Leadership

How big of a priority are friendships in your life? In the hierarchy of relationships, friendships are typically subordinate to those of our partners and family. Friendships, like romantic relationships, are unique in that you choose to enter into them. Usually, people forge friendships with those who share common interests and due to proximity, like attending the same school or in the workplace. Over the course of your lifetime you’ve likely had many different types of friends. Does it seem like things were simpler when you were younger? They probably were. Once upon a time you could run over to your friend’s house to see if s/he could play, but as you get older, friendships take more planning and intention to prioritize. Both people and friendships change over time and get trickier to nurture as you get older. As people age their priorities shift and friendships are often negatively impacted. …

5 Regrets of Leaders (and How to Avoid Them), Part 4: Courageous Authenticity

Jen Roberts Balance, Communication, Leadership

When you were a child, what did you dream your life would be like? What did you aspire to do, be, and accomplish? Are you “living the dream?” Or, like so many, have you lost sight of your true self and settled into a safer, smaller existence that leaves you wanting more? When looking back on their lives, the BIGGEST regret of the dying was this: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Authenticity is one of the most desired qualities in a leader. Authenticity is measured by your ability to express your ideas, beliefs, and values in a way that is true to yourself. It sounds like it would be easy to be yourself yet many people struggle with authentic self-expression their whole life. Instead, they allow fear to guide how they “show up,” masking their …

the happiness factor

5 Regrets of Leaders (and How to Avoid Them), Part 3: The Happiness Factor

Jen Roberts Balance, Leadership

You’ve likely heard the phrase, “The grass is greener on the other side.” While it’s normal to strive for the next best thing, that type of thinking probably doesn’t lend itself to helping you feel happy or satisfied. We’ve all fallen into this tempting trap before at some point or another. It’s hard not to look around and compare yourself and your life to others. These types of behaviors, however, often leave you feeling unhappy and frantically scrambling to stay ahead in the game of life. It’s much easier to think, “When I get X, then I’ll be happy.” Thinks like: When I finish school and start working, then I’ll be happy. When I get a promotion, then I’ll be happy. When I can finally retire, then I’ll be happy. That list can go on indefinitely. What you think will make you happier becomes a mere stepping stone to the …

power in vulnerability

5 Regrets of Leaders (and How to Avoid Them), Part 2: Power in Vulnerability

Jen Roberts Balance, Leadership

Vulnerability is the state of being easily hurt or attacked. Opening yourself up to being vulnerable goes against all of your biological wiring to protect yourself from harm. Despite this, some of the most powerful leadership moments I’ve witnessed came as a result of the leader letting down his or her defenses and taking a risk. One potent example was when a CEO client of mine stood in front of the entire company to share his 360 feedback results—the good, the bad, and the ugly. He was poised and humble as he bared his deepest feelings to his employees, something he’d rarely done before. The range of emotions in the room were astounding; there was laughter and tears by him and the employees. Afterwards, I heard nothing but praise and comments of admiration from the group. His vulnerability demonstrated not weakness, but amazing strength. “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels …

regrets of leaders

5 Regrets of Leaders (and How to Avoid Them), Part 1: Work Less – Live More

Jen Roberts Balance, Leadership

My husband recently lost one of his closest friends to cancer. I always try to look for the learning and opportunity in every situation. And sometimes, that’s difficult to do. Over the past couple weeks we have spent a lot of time reminiscing over old stories, and looking at photos, laughing and crying, as we talked about life, work, and friendship. In a post she shared on Facebook, Brian’s sister-in-law expressed her gratitude for his example, calling him “an incredible leader and a faithful friend and father.” She went on to say that he taught those around him “invaluable lessons about what is truly important,” and she learned from him to find purpose, love deeper, and dream way bigger.” Times like these make me think about the choices we make in our lives. One of the best personal decisions I made was to start my own leadership coaching business to …

Make time work

How To Make Time Work For (Not Against) You

Jen Roberts Balance, Productivity, Stress

How do you feel about time? Do you feel like time is on your side? Or, are you constantly rushing around but have no results to show for your frenzied efforts? Is time flying by leaving you feeling depleted, rather than fulfilled? I recently took some time off work to celebrate my 15th wedding anniversary. Two weeks to be precise. (I know—don’t hate me!) A trip of this length is a huge luxury and not one that many people feel they can afford. While visiting the Galileo Museum in Florence, I was struck by how long we’ve been obsessed with attempting to measure and control time. At the museum, I came across this quote next to a display of antique astronomical timepieces: “Since antiquity mankind has been fascinated by time, viewed as an enigma on both the philosophical and the physical level. Without succeeding in explaining what time is, astronomy …

habits to build awareness

Three 5-Minute Habits to Build Awareness & Enjoyment at Work

Jen Roberts Balance, Engagement, Leadership

I went shopping the other day while my car was being serviced. I decided to go into a home and craft type of store where I can get lost for more than an hour. I couldn’t believe my eyes; there were Christmas decorations lining the aisles. “Christmas decorations in June!?” my disgusted inner voice shouted. Ridiculous! As I stood in that store, frozen in place for more than a minute, I wondered when we started getting so ahead of ourselves. What ever happened to enjoying the season we’re in? This, of course, made me think about my corporate clients and the workplace equivalent of “Christmas decorations in June.” It occurred to me that many leaders I coach struggle with being present in the moment. The typical corporate environment supports—even rewards—futuristic thinking. Don’t get me wrong: strategic planning serves a great purpose in guiding work, and I love a good plan. …

productivity

Organized Chaos? 3 Office Improvements for Productivity and Focus

Jen Roberts Balance, Productivity, Stress

Removing clutter and creating a better space can help you improve your focus and productivity. I know this first hand. We all have our own little rituals or quirky behaviors when it comes to what makes us feel in control. Mine is cleaning. When I feel anxious, angry, or otherwise like I’m not as in control as I’d like to be I find solace in Clorox wipes or clearing out a closet. Sometimes I can’t even think or concentrate when I’m distracted by my physical surroundings. While it might sound weird, it actually makes some sense from an energy perspective. Everyone has good days and bad days, energetically speaking. Some days you’re on fire and feel unstoppable and others you might find yourself completely distracted and unable to be productive at all. There is science behind your energetic engagement as you approach any role, goal, or task. Your physical environment …

advice

The High Cost of “Good” Advice

Jen Roberts Balance, Leadership, Management

Think back to your early days in leadership when well-meaning bosses, mentors and co-workers shared their personal opinions and advice to help you quickly advance up the corporate ladder. While I learned many valuable lessons from seasoned corporate leaders, I got a few really bad tips as well. The worst piece of advice I ever received sounded something like this: “If you want to be successful—be seen as ambitious; someone who really cares about the company and your career—you need to be the first one in the office in the morning and the last one out.” The idea, of course, was that if I demonstrated my undying commitment to my job that I’d be rewarded in the future. And, being an eager young career woman, I wanted to do whatever it took to be viewed as a committed and competent employee. In those formative years, I tried to follow this …

best leadership advice

The Best Leadership Advice You’d Give Your Younger Self—In Two Words

Jen Roberts Balance, Leadership, Productivity

Some people think leaders are born. Others believe (myself included) that leaders are made; shaped by their experiences. They say hindsight is 20/20. Your leadership experiences and observations have likely taught you much over the course of your career. In life and leadership there are probably things you wish you’d known or figured out sooner that would have saved you time and pain along the way. What do you wish you’d known at the start of your leadership career? This is the thing you wished you’d known when you were younger, and would have made your leadership career easier and better. If you could leverage your wisdom to make a change earlier in your life’s trajectory, what advice would you share with your younger self? In a letter to her 20-year-old self, Oprah Winfrey advised, “see yourself with your own eyes.” She claimed her younger self “spent too many days …

Need More Sleep

For A-Game Performance, Leaders Need More Sleep

Jen Roberts Balance, Leadership, Productivity

When was the last time you woke up feeling completely refreshed? If you can’t remember, it’s possible that you’re trading sleep for work, and it’s probably impacting your performance more than you know. Only 59% of Americans sleep seven or more hours a night, according to a recent Gallup poll. Sound like a dream to you? You might be in the 41% who don’t even get the luxury of that much rest. Getting a good night’s sleep is important, yet a good portion of the population ignores common medical advice recommending seven to nine hours of sleep each night. A lack of sleep has been linked to a number of health problems and can cause cognitive impairment. In fact, studies show that performance, when sleep deprived, is similar to performance when under the influence of alcohol. So, if you put in an 80-hour workweek, you might as well be coming to work drunk the last …

Baggage at the Door

5 Practices to Leave Your Workday Baggage at the Door

Jen Roberts Balance, Stress

Coming home. It should be something we look forward to each day as we leave work, but oftentimes leaders don’t make this transition smoothly. Transitions are so important and few are more important than the transition between work and home. Our workday can really fill us up with so much stuff: stress, overwhelm, information, tension, stories, worries. That is the nature of work. The problem is that you can end up carrying all of that baggage home with you where it can negatively influence and spoil the sanctuary of your home and the relationships you have there. When I was still working in the corporate world, I often continued responding to emails long after I arrived home. I ruminated about my day over dinner and often worried about the next day well into the night. I was exhausted all the time. And even when I was at home, I wasn’t …

Intention

5 Tips to Harness the Power of Intention

Jen Roberts Balance, Productivity, Stress

Many people believe that success just happens; it’s the good fortune of some and elusive of others. The most successful people know the truth: Consistent action creates consistent results. And it can’t just be any action. Intention is where it all begins. Success takes intention, clarity, and commitment to proactively creating and practicing the habits that help you stay aligned with your goals. Without intention, your work is unguided and unfocused. You may find that you’re exhausted at the end of the day, but have no real results to show for all your busy-ness. This happens because most people spend their time and energy reacting to things, and much less time proactively creating their experiences. One of the most powerful habits I have built is setting aside focused time to gain clarity about what I choose to do, and setting deliberate intentions to drive my actions. Creating a new habit isn’t as easy as it sounds. …

Connecting

Connecting to Your “Why”

Jen Roberts Balance, Leadership, Stress

I live in a small town right outside of Savannah, Georgia. The road I travel to go anywhere has two lanes; four in the commercial stretch. Cutting across this road are two sets of train tracks where I’ve spent many a morning cursing the railroad system for allowing the trains to stop traffic during what we humorously call our “rush hour” when people are trying to commute to work and drop kids off at school. That was back when my commute was more than the two minutes it now takes me to walk upstairs to my home office. It was also when there never seemed to be enough time, and I often found myself counting down the days until it was Friday. “Thank God It’s Friday–TGIF!” You’ve felt it and I’m sure you’ve said it, too. One day as I sat waiting at those tracks something big happened. As I …

More Resilient

How Changing the Way You Think Will Make You More Resilient

Jen Roberts Balance, Productivity, Stress

Truth: stress and adversity can pop up anywhere, any time. Just when you think you have it all under control –BAM!– you get hit with something that derails your best intentions and sends you into a tailspin. Things change, pressure. What you do with that pressure and how to move forward are the keys to success. While we all hit road blocks, there are some people who go about their daily lives seemingly without a worry. What’s their secret to keeping calm while everyone else is struggling to make it through the day? As far as we can tell, it’s pretty simple, really: they’re RESILIENT. Being resilient doesn’t mean you’re immune to stress and problems, it just means you know how to be tough in the face of them and you can bounce back quickly from setbacks. While resilience might come a little more naturally to some people, there are …

5×5: Essential Leadership Lessons From 5 Years in Business

Jen Roberts Balance, Engagement, Leadership

When I was still working full time in my corporate job and feeling stressed to the max and way out of balance on the personal side, a wise friend said to me, “Five years after you leave this place people will say, ‘Jen who?’” This part hurt my ego a bit, but then she went on to say, “But your kids will never say, ‘Mom who?” Tears still well in my eyes each time I recall that pivotal conversation. Shortly after that, I struck out on my own and founded Difference Consulting determined to build leaders worth following from the outside-in and help them create work environments that bring out the best in everyone. I won’t say that being an entrepreneur is always easy, but starting this business was easily the best decision I’ve ever made. I want to share my biggest and best lessons to save you time in …