WORKING moms usually look at time as an enemy. Time escapes them when they have a deadline to meet. It taunts them when they are caught in a traffic snarl at eight o’clock in the evening with hungry kids waiting for the family dinner. It mocks them when they see dark circles under their eyes from a night of catching up on household chores. They hate time because working moms need lots of it to effectively accomplish all the tasks necessary to have a perfect job, a dream home and an ideal family. But working moms lose time all the time, at home and at work.

Working moms’ bosses know this. They have seen the tug of war between working moms and enemy time. Sometimes, working moms can hold on; oftentimes, they fall flat on face. Thus, the perception has developed that women, especially working moms, don’t want to work long or unusual hours. This perception has hindered the advancement of women at work with employers hesitant to give more responsibility, more authority and consequently, more promotions to working moms. In some cases, the perception is not true; in others, it reflects the sad reality.

When then can we do, first not to lose out on this constant tug of war with time and secondly, to correct the perception that’s blocking opportunities for advancement?

Many consultants recommend time management techniques. Others say that time management is not the solution—managing yourself is. Still others say that self-management is not enough—what is needed is life management. Well, I think these techniques can work, but then again, these may not. These are two-dimensional strategies—one dimension is time, which varies with life expectancy; and the other is the person’s competencies. Consultants recommend tweaking either one to achieve the perfect order of things. But there is a third dimension that can be managed—and that is the person’s paradigms.

The common paradigm is that we should strive for the perfect job, the dream home and the ideal family. In doing so, we fly through life like super moms and super wives and we don’t realize that doing so is draining our life force. My belief is that we can never be super “anything” because as human beings, we can only strive for perfection but never attain it. This is not a defeatist attitude; it is only an attitude that sees human beings in all our natural imperfections.

Is achieving all these goals or outputs worth the deadly price? Or is the “through-put” more important? What I am saying here is, perhaps the “how” of going through life is more important than the “what.” A thousand years from now, all our “what’s” or material achievements will surely have vanished from the face of the earth. No one will remember that we even existed on this earth. The only thing that will be left is God’s memory of how we conducted ourselves in life, which shall determine our heavenly happiness.

With this paradigm, we can let loose the stringent expectations on ourselves and look at time management in a new light. Yes, by all means, let us make more efficient use of our time. Let’s work on enhancing our competencies so we can be more effective. But let us determine and focus on the goals that will allow us to go through life being the best that we can with others. In so doing, we will gain more respect at work and at home because we are able to bring the expectations of our loved ones and colleagues to a level where we can meet them consistently and lovingly.

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. Published in Metro Working Mom September 2002.

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PEOPLE AT WORK COLUMN: New Skills In A New World

DO you have what it takes to succeed at work? If it takes you a while before you can honestly say yes to this question, then, it’s time to take stock of your existing skills and competencies.

The new workplace

Today’s formula for success has changed in the last few decades. The knowledge, skills, attitudes, habits and values that have served previous generations no longer meet the demands of a workplace  revolutionized by the Digital Age.  According to Ernie Cecilia, president of EC Business Solutions and Career Center, the world of work is characterized by:

• Wider use of technology

• Flatter organizational structures. Instead of several managers handling small teams, companies employ less managers who have a wider sphere of responsibility and control a larger team.

• Use of team structures rather than permanent groups. Instead of strictly delineated organizational charts, companies use The floating “cells” of people or teams who report to any and all who need to know about the project.

• Faster-paced timelines. The strategic in strategic planning process has shorted to a five-year time frame. In fact, your business assumptions can turn turtle in a span of one year. Scenario planning is the key to planning in a fast-lane world

• Growing use of the information highway which includes Intranets and the Internet. Virtual offices have mushroomed, doing away with the physical limits of a real office and aggravations of actual highway traffic.

• More customer-driven products and services.  Customers are becoming more demanding and discriminating. In response to this, many companies look for employees who are skilled in serving “crabby customers” and even “customers from hell.”

• Global standards, if not global markets. Excellence and world-class are now synonymous

• Rapid and numerous changes

The new worker

Given this situation, Cecilia identified a new set of competencies needed to succeed in the new world of work.

Learning skills. Definitely, when one is faced with change, you can only adapt if you are able to learn quickly and thoroughly the skills needed in the new Corporate Order. You also need the ability to get things done right–not just on time, but faster. In the new world of work, speed and efficiency are the operative words.

Emotional intelligence skills.  Paradoxically, in a world “depersonalized” by technology, only those with good people skills will be noticed.  Email and the Internet may have decreased face-to-face transactions, it has widened the scope of human relations on a global basis–thus making social skills a necessity.

You also need to have the ability to see the forest and the trees. Successful executives have found out that the higher you go up the corporate tower, the more vital it is to have macro-vision and micro-vision. In other words, abstract theories and management policies have to be tested and proven to be effective in the everyday–while the everyday has to be directed towards a larger goal. Thus, nothing beats a hands-on executive or one who manages by walking around or pacing the shop floor.

You also need the inner skills of flexibility, adaptability and ability to thrive on change.  As the chameleon changes its skin to blend with the environment, so must you–while maintaining the integrity of his inner self.

With these challenges in the workplace, coupled with the challenges we working moms face as parents and wives, the world is as tough as frozen meat. So we can chew it and savor it, we need to develop the “teeth” or competencies sharpened by continuous learning and practice. Only by sharpening our cutting edge can we have what it takes to succeed at work and in life.

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. Published in Metro Working Mom April 2003.

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PEOPLE AT WORK COLUMN: When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Stay Focused!

THE BRIDGE to dreams and reality is made up of hard work. The CEO of a top multinational IT company says it succinctly, “The problem is in the execution, which can be equated with hard work.” And hard work is something many people are not prepared to do. Thus, they don’t get to see their dreams become reality.

I know, because I am on that bridge struggling to keep my balance as I work towards my dream of bringing world-class learning to people at work through mass media. Sometimes, the hard work gets to me as it fills my days—and nights—with so many tasks to be done as soon as possible.

If you are determined to realize your personal vision, you must be prepared to do hard work. This means doing all those numerous tasks that need to be done, clambering over obstacles in the way of getting things done, and staying focused on accomplishing your vision. Sounds unexciting? You bet. How then can you make hard work exciting? Here a few tips culled from my three years experience since I gave up my corporate cocoon:

  • Give yourself “candy” for each task completed. When you make your to-do list for the day, week or month, place opposite the task what “candy” you’d like to reward yourself with when you finish that task. The “candy” may be something as simple as a bar of chocolates or something more glamorous like taking a holiday. The more you dislike doing the task, the sweeter the “candy” should be. This is somewhat like programming yourself to associate hard work with the sweet pleasures of life. If you do this long enough, you’ll eventually savor doing the hard tasks, even without the “candy.”
  • Don’t pack in your day with too many things to do. Leave enough spaces between your schedules for you to breathe. It is twice as stressful if your day is so tight that you can’t even exchange pleasantries with a friend or a loved one or just spend quiet time with yourself during the day. Most importantly, at the end of the day, don’t schedule anything but keep it free for whatever spontaneous activity that makes you happy. You need to rest and recharge if you want to find the energy to handle the next day.
  • Keep away from negative people. Hard work is hard enough without negative people constantly saying you can’t do it. They may be envious colleagues who think you are having it easy or outsiders who want to cash in on your achievements.  If they call, email or text you, simply ignore them!
  • When you encounter obstacles in accomplishing your task, be creative in how you can get around, over and under the obstacle. Or, like the characters in the popular television show, Charmed , vanquish them. In pursuing your personal vision, ruthlessness is essential. Any wavering on your part will just be fodder for the many people who get satisfaction in seeing a fellow human being fail.
  • Be narrow-minded. This must be strange advice from an HR person, but what you need now is focus. Why do you think horses need blinders when they pull a carriage? So they don’t get distracted from the path by strange people and noises. If you want to convert your vision to reality, you must be focused solely on that goal.
  • Listen to yourself. There are many people close to you who may have your best interests at heart. But they may be the same people throwing in the pebbles that make you stop as you walk towards your dream. If it feels right in your gut, go ahead and do it. Your personal vision is your own; you do not need to be democratic (get consensus or consult many people) in the process of achieving it. And even if you do choose to get their inputs, remember that only you can make the final decision. They may criticize you, throw worst-case scenarios, and fill your head with all sorts of reasons why you should give up. Don’t let it eat at you or your resolve.

Remember, turning your dreams into reality is risky business. The chasm between dreams and reality is deep and to ensure you don’t fall into it, build a strong bridge of hard work. Stay focused on your dream don’t give up and go the easy way. Remember that everything you do today will help create the life you really want.

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. Published in Metro Working Mom June 2003

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