Does Your Haste Make Waste?

November 20, 2012

It is that time of the year, where the fervor of the holiday season coupled with the frenzy of all that I’d like to wrap up in a 2012 bow, can get the best of me. How about you?

I served up my own self inflicted lesson in ‘haste makes waste’ last week when my ‘doing’ vastly outweighed my ‘strategic thinking and planning’.  A botched video production afternoon and a couple miscommunications with colleagues and clients were the resulting road kill.  Nothing irreparable of course, but certainly a wake up call to remind myself of what is most important and what must really be de-prioritized or shed altogether.

How do you stay grounded? How are you keeping your eye on the ball when you are getting pulled in so many different directions? This is actually a critical issue for women in general as they work towards taking on more senior level roles: the struggle to shed their familiar tactical orientation in order to make room for strategic thinking and planning.  We women have been socialized to make copious amounts of lists and ratchet it down with glee throughout our days. We love getting taking care of business!

For me, as mother to two wee children and the owner of my own business, the to-do list always seems endless. Prioritization is critical, but even still, there can almost never be enough discipline inflicted in deciding how to spend my time and resources.  Unfortunately I seldom know if I have veered off of a productive path until repercussions are felt, much like they did last week.

Here are some simple ways I stay focused and disciplined:

  • Diligently manage my calendar: (e.g. send emails to folks I am meeting with the next day to confirm meeting details, I have become much better at determining whether a meeting is even needed in many scenarios as well as learning to graciously decline the folks who ask me for coffee to ‘pick my brain’, lean towards spacing out meetings vs. packing them all together)
  • Work out at least 4 times a week (that’s where I do my best thinking)
  • Check in with my husband (my coach) monthly (I tell him what I am focused on in my business and review how I am spending my time to hear his feedback. He always has a totally different perspective than I do, which is why I married the guy, he’s the ying to my yang)
  • Give myself mini deadlines for projects with ample time built-in to get things done, so that rather than operating from a place of stress, I am operating from a place of pride for getting things done ahead of time. It works!

What works for you? How do you ensure that your haste does not make waste?

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Secrets for Success from my Hollywood Comedy Writer H.S. B.F.F.

November 13, 2012

I had the privilege to interview my high school best friend Gloria yesterday for my forthcoming book, Road Rules for Leading Ladies.  Gloria Calderon Kellett is a comedy writer in Hollywood who has had enormous and ongoing success ever since she dipped her toe into Tinsel Town 11 years ago. She started out as an assistant for Academy Award winning Writer/Director Cameron Crowe and has gone on to sell original pilots to CBS, ABC, FOX & TVLAND.  She also wrote on successful shows such as “How I Met Your Mother,” “Rules of Engagement,” and is currently a writer and producer on the new show “Devious Maids.” The picture atop is Gloria and I on the day of my wedding in Atlanta getting ‘beautified’ for the ceremony. She was my matron of honor.

She observes themes in Hollywood that get in the way of more women having greater success in senior level writing and performing roles.  These are exactly the same themes that prevent women from consistently succeeding in many other professional industries at a senior level.

Gloria kicked off the call stating:

Katie the most important thing for women to understand is that they have to be their own warrior.  You have to fight for yourself and self promotion is critical.

I see a lot of women being uneasy in this realm. Particularly in Hollywood, you need to constantly ask people to read your scripts, come see you perform-and for women who find their work to be so personal—they can get really uncomfortable if they see it as setting themselves up for personal disappointment or even rejection if people don’t show up or worse don’t laugh at your jokes.

Speaking for myself, women have to get past taking their work so personally. Men seem to be less sensitive about their work…and thus more successful in a lot of ways.  You have to raise your masculinity in this regard.

For me, I recognize that I am a sensitive person, I do have thin skin but I think my sensitivity is part of what makes me a good writer, once I recognized that I was not ever going to be able to thicken my skin, I seriously considered if this was the business for me. I decided it was, so then I asked myself how am I going to weather the storm?

Once I realized it’s not personal, it’s a business—things really shifted for me for the better.

Secondly, in order to be consistently successful you can never get comfortable.  You have to constantly put yourself in a state of discomfort. Because in Hollywood, even if you get a writing or an acting gig, anything could get cancelled the next day.  You are never allowed to ‘sit back’, ever.  No matter who you are.

A third point Gloria wanted to stress was that she saw a stark difference between herself and her male counterparts because many of them had a wife;meaning someone at home supporting everything that they did and helping them keep their life in order so that these men can go and focus on their work.  For Gloria, and so many power house women I know like her, hiring an assistant changed her life for the better in this regard. Now, she says, “I have a wife,” in addition to a doting husband who has a busy career as a top cartoonist (SheldonComics.com).  This added support allows her to buy time so that when she gets home after her 12 hour days at the Disney studio she doesn’t have to schlep to the grocery store, etc, –rather she can be present with her young family (yes, she has a 3 month old son and a daughter in primary school).

Thank you Gloria for sharing your story with us and for being a part of this book—you are a hero to us all!


How Hurricane Sandy Awoke My Compassionate Self

November 5, 2012

Hurricane Sandy has devastated an area of our beloved country that is near and dear to my heart.  Seeing parts of the area lay in total destruction, particularly Staten Island and Queens, and continually hearing about how people there are still suffering in dire conditions right now, has AWOKEN my compassionate self.  I imagine I might not be alone in this vein, which is why I wanted to share my reflections.

As I am gathering items to send with a friend who is flying out to NYC tomorrow to help in the recovery efforts, I realized there are people who are staring into my window at the stop lights here in Portland who are looking for the same kind of basic support.  Why is it that I am pulled so strongly to aid those who are 3,000 miles away from me, when within a stone’s throw, I am avoiding eye contact with a homeless person who is merely asking for change?

I know all the naysayers have their hardened and cynical beliefs that the ‘everyday’ homeless person is likely going to use any funds I give them to fuel their addictions.  I try to convince myself that that’s the case every time, I turn a blind eye to them.  However, what if it’s not, what if they really are a single parent who has fled their hometown from an abusive partner and is trying to piece together a life, just as their cardboard sign says?  Why do tears stream down my face when I watch ABC news coverage of the Hurricane Sandy share stories of elderly people stuck in high-rise apartments with no electricity, water or food for days on end but then I will ignore those asking for a little support right in my backyard?

I don’t have the answer to this question. I imagine a social psychologist would be able to formulate a theory around a ‘numbing’ of our consciousness that we all develop when we are continually exposed to a similar request. However, I am going to try to make a commitment to do some of the things I think about doing as my ‘better’ self: things like loading our car up with boxes of granola bars and extra winter clothes even shoes to hand out when those much less fortunate and I come eye to eye at one of those stop lights again.
Has anyone else noticed these same phenomena? How have you reacted in light of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath? What are you doing differently now in your community?

Finally, here are two local NYC offices that are accepting resources for those affected by Sandy. The money and items you send will go directly to NYC residents and thank you for sharing this information:

Tunnel to Towers Foundation (Staten Island based Foundation)

Or make an online purchase and have the following items sent directly to City Council Member James Sanders Jr., 1526 Central Ave, Far Rockaway, NY 11691.  These are the items in need: blankets, warm clothing, socks, rubber boots, diapers (esp. toddler sizes), formula, wipes, water, flashlights, batteries.