Carefully Crafted on July 22

4 Lessons Learned During My Brief Hiatus

Hello? Is this thing on?

After a brief hiatus, I’m back to blogging! I recently gave birth to a baby and took some time to enjoy him and figure out this mom thing (very much a word in progress!). That said, I am starting to transition back to work, which means I’ll also start transitioning back to blogging.

journalingI’ll spare you all the details, but Shonda Rhimes couldn’t have written a story as crazy as my labor and delivery adventure if she tried. Short version: I went into labor a full month early on a highway in in rural Ohio and was flown by helicopter to the closest hospital equipped to perform an emergency c-section. I was two hours from home. In terms of work, I thought I still had a month or so to prepare my team for my maternity leave. So much for that plan!

But, three weeks away from the office with virtually zero client interactions was oddly refreshing. I didn’t totally disconnect from social media, or email for that matter, but I did cut waaaay back. My son was in the NICU for 13 days, which means I spent countless hours also in the NICU — journaling, thinking and just being. In that time, I had some important realizations, personally and professionally. I won’t bore you with all of them (after all, 13 days provides A LOT of time to think!), but I will share a few items that I’ll focusing on:

  • Trust your team. As I was being loaded into the helicopter, my husband texted one of my employees to let them know I wouldn’t be at work on Monday. While we had done some planning and discussing various “what if” scenarios, none of us were truly prepared for me to exit the office so suddenly … and so soon! After a surgical procedure and with a baby in NICU, all my energy was focused on getting  both of us healthy and home. Thankfully, my team stepped up to the plate and exceeded my expectations. In fact, when I called the next day to check in, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they’d already met to map out a plan to ensure all our clients were taken care of. They launched new client initiatives, executed successful campaigns, managed client relationships and expectations — their normal jobs and things (like budgeting) that I typically handle myself. All without missing a beat. The lesson for me? Hire people who share your values, commitment to each other, and desire to exceed client expectations, and then trust them. I’m always impressed with the results our team produces, but never more so than the last few weeks. And, I’m indebted to them for going so far above and beyond and letting me just focus on the baby.
  • Appreciate “Twitter friends.” I’m grateful for the professional doors social media has helped open for me. But, I’m even more thankful for the people I’ve befriended thanks to Twitter. (And, I mean real friendships, not the loose “facebook friend” definition.) During those long days and nights in the NICU, I was constantly amazed at the DMs, texts, emails and Facebook messages from “Twitter friends” — many of whom are people I’ve only met in-person a handful of times. Relationships that begin on social media are real. We all get busy, and if you’re anything like me, sometimes that means the time you spend conversing on social channels tends to dwindle. But, it shouldn’t be that way. Just as I make time to see my “real life” friends and family, I need to do a better job checking in with and making time for online friends. While geography prevents us from physically hanging out as frequently as we’d like, the relationship isn’t any less important or meaningful. So, here’s to a renewed commitment to being a better friend to my “Twitter friends.”
  • Value your time. We all have things that are important to us — whether it’s a new baby, a pet, a favorite hobby or something else that we love devoting time and energy to. But, to have enough time to enjoy those things, we need to learn to value our time. The past couple weeks, I’ve been able to assess how I was spending my time. Ask yourself: Are you wasting time or are you maximizing productivity? Are you working on projects and with people you truly enjoy? If not, what changes can you make? If you’re going to spend time away from your family, friends, pets or hobbies, it should be worth your while. That means sometimes saying no is the best decision.  Additionally, if you work in an agency environment, evaluate the time you devote to client work. It can be a difficult conversation, but if a client has unrealistic expectations, demands your 24/7 availability, or constantly asks for things beyond the contractual agreement, you need to establish some boundaries. Don’t work for free — or for peanuts. Time is valuable and we all deserve to be fairly compensated for our efforts. Want to have it all? Define your all — what’s most important to you — and politely decline projects, meetings, committees, projects, etc that don’t fit, while seeking out opportunities that do align with your vision.
  • Appreciate technology. The hospital had sketchy cell service. Talking on the phone in the NICU is frowned upon anyway, which meant the easiest way for me to stay connected with family and friends was via texts and Facebook messages. Interestingly, because the cell coverage was so poor, I couldn’t actually text from the NICU — only iMessages (to other people with iPhones) were being delivered. Without those communication outlets, it would have been so much more difficult for us to keep people updated (and to keep our sanity in tact). Checking Facebook and Twitter, texting and reading the NY Times app was like a lifeline to the real world — some semblance of normalcy in a high-stress situation. Basically, I’m forever indebted to Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg! Even though we’re surrounded by technology all the time, we shouldn’t take it — or the impact on our lives — for granted.

Thanks for letting me share some of my recent learnings. Back to regular blogging in the coming days!


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