A few years ago, nothing seemed to be going right for Dani DiPirro – her job in marketing at a financial services company in Washington, D.C., her friendships, or her love life. She realized she had to make changes. But what?
As a kid, her nickname was Eeyore due to the fact she tended to see the world from beneath the negative haze of a rain cloud. But now she wanted to tinker with that mindset. She wanted to be positive – to be an exponent of positive thinking. And she wanted to be present as she pushed through life, rather than have her mind adrift.
"It seemed to me that if I could learn to see the good in life – to become more positive – I could make the most of even the worst situations. It also seemed like, if I could learn to be present, I wouldn't spend my time stressing about the past or worrying about the future – two things that had been occupying my mind for years. I knew that if I could become more positive and more present, other aspects of my life would begin to shift in a good way," she says in an interview.
As she shifted her focus, she described it on a new blog she started, PositivelyPresent.com, and eventually her life picked up. She left her corporate post to devote herself full-time to her blog and associated efforts, including writing a book. She found a great guy. She stopped some bad habits, like drinking, that kept her from being positive and present.
If becoming positive and present helped her emotional and mental balance, quitting her job nudged her off balance. "Changing careers – going from working in the corporate world to working for myself full time – was a huge shift and it's still something I'm trying to get the hang of. The work-life balance changes immensely when you're in your office constantly – and a lot of tasks that were once handled by others when I was working in the corporate world (taxes, benefits, ordering office supplies, etc.) are all up to me now," she notes.
Her struggles with balance led to a post on the Little Dumb Man blog sharing some insights. It starts with deciding each morning what is most important for you. We've been told to do this, of course, to be productive at work. But she is recommending it to be effective at life. Narrow your day down to a few important tasks, but make sure they cover the rainbow of your life, from jobs to friends to family. It might be attending a piano recital by your child. It might be – here's a heretical idea – setting aside time for yourself.
She said in an interview that adding a positive or present note to your to-do list can help you to stay focused on whatever attribute you want to have in your life on any given day. For example, if you want to practice more gratitude in your life, write, "Be grateful" on your to-do list or set a reminder on your calendar.
Her experience with all the new balls she had to juggle leaving the corporate world leads her to recommend delegating as much as you can, at work and more generally through life. "I am a terrible delegator. If I have to get something done –whether for work, for a party, for a friend or family member, etc. – I want to do it. I feel if I give someone else a task I need to do, it won't be done the way I want it to be done so I have a hard time delegating," she writes.
"But delegating can be an absolute lifesaver when you're dealing with an overwhelming, action-packed life. Think about all of the tasks you do every day (write 'em down if you have to) and then consider who would be able to do these for you."
Maybe your kids could help clean the house. Maybe you can afford a housekeeper. Maybe friends or relatives have offered help that you routinely turn down but might be wiser to accept. "Don't feel guilty if you can't do it all by yourself," she declares.
She also has become a fan of mini-breaks and urges you to give yourself as many as possible. They come in two types: The tiny-but-important breaks that can punctuate your day, a few moments to refresh from the treadmill of events or closing your door so your kids won't interrupt while you focus on work, but also short periods away from work, like a Saturday at the beach or a weekend away from home.
Finally, she urges you to allow yourself the freedom to say no to requests but also observes she needs to learn to say yes more often. "I'd always felt really good about saying 'no' when I didn't want to do something – until I realized that I might be missing out on things simply because I thought I didn't want to do them," she says. So if you tend to say "yes" to everything try saying "no" more often. On the other hand, if like her you typically say "no," learning to say "yes" a bit more may lead you to new experiences.
It's a matter of balance – and being positive and present as you seek that balance.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter