Tag Archives: Inspiration

Puttering: Anti-Stress Random Acts of Little Consequence?

When you have unstructured time, do you find yourself thinking about your long to-do list but just doing something mindless instead?  Your mind has taken over because it needs unstructured time and since we are always behind we don’t ever give it this luxury.

5.29.13 front circle from N

I disagree just a bit with the dictionary on the definition of puttering, or maybe it is a matter of semantics on the use of ineffective and unproductive in the description.  Puttering can be aimless and random, leisurely and casual – but can be highly consequential.  We don’t do enough of it in my opinion and seem to swing from overly-booked to entirely mindless as a result.


My dad had sets of old once-white t-shirts and worn jeans (or shorts in the summer) that came out on the weekends when the suits were set aside.  These clothes signaled a day spent puttering; he would be found in the backyard, his workshop, the garage, or the shed if not taking a trip to the hardware store.  Now some of the work, like mowing the lawn was planned and therefore not puttering, but most of what he did falls in the puttering category.


Meanwhile mom could be found doing her own version of puttering in the house, stationed in the corner of the sofa with a stack of reading material, a cup of coffee and a notebook and pen.  Mom’s puttering was about culling information and repurposing it for her needs; exploring ideas that might come back out years later as part of a project.


I started to think of all of this while doing the dishes (yes, I do them by hand – mindless puttering gives me time to ruminate) and wishing that someone who likes to fix little things around the house would adopt my house as a cause and come putter here once a month or so.  Puttering about the house sorting, straightening, culling keeps me from having to plan a big chunk of time to keep things in order.  Puttering in the garden idly plucking weeds out of the mulch (love mulch, gardening is enjoyable with mulch) keeps me from having to spend hours weeding.


So puttering is ineffective?  I don’t think so.  When my brain is tired, I can still sit with a pad and pen and jot down the stuff I will do later when I have energy, as it wanders into my head – aimless, but effective.  What do you think?


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

Fishing for Post Ideas

Happy Summer, Readers,

I have several posts in process, but thought that I’d throw out a request for ideas.  What would you like to see here?

Beth as Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Work Life, Writing

Our Brains on Summer


Everyone who knows me is going to cry foul – so do as I say here and not as I have done in the past and get out of the office to take in some sunshine and fresh breezes as many days as you can.


Why?  Because your brain will thank you.


Why?  Because vitamin D directly from the sun is the best kind.


Why?  Because we should all channel our inner child periodically and watch the clouds scuttle across the sky.


Why?  Because people watching is an interesting pastime.


To fulfill all of these whys, and just for funsies – leave your phone and your pad and all other electronic devices in the car or the office.  Partake in the sounds of nature along with the sights.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Insulated from the Rain

Have you ever noticed that fluorescent lighting, which is normally so harsh takes on a softer glow when contrasted with gathering storm clouds?  I can remember back to an early age in school, deep in whatever task, coming out of it to look around as my eyes sent me messages that the quality of the lighting had changed, a storm was approaching.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether I am in a mid-century school building, an older school or an office building, the change in sunlight affects the quality of the artificial lighting indoors.  Differently than the transition to evening.  Though newer lighting tends to have more of a spotlight effect.

stormyWhen the clouds gather, sometimes slowly stacking, sometimes madly swirling, my instinct is to get a good seat, a book and to watch the clouds until the storm bursts – interspersing storm watching with reading.  Of course, at work or at school I must deny this instinct.  Somehow though, the threatening weather seems to draw everyone closer together, a primitive impulse that there is strength in numbers.

It does depend on the season though, doesn’t it?  In fall and winter, rain makes our thoughts turn to being cozy, to soup and sandwiches and fireside chats.  In the spring and summer, we have an urge to go out and be in the rain, to let it wash freshness over us – to watch later how it brings out new plants, encourages buds on established plants.

Heading home, hearing the swish of the windshield wipers and watching headlights arc through the brooding gloom and tires splashing in the water slicing across streets we aren’t ever very fond of rain at these moments.

Later when we stand in grass that is almost neon green and under trees that shake rain droplets from their leaves with every breeze, we see the benefit of the rain storm.

This post is written in response to the daily prompt:


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Work Life, Writing

The Soundtrack of Our Lives, at Work

I think that a love of music is pretty universal.  Music in general, that is; once you get into types of preferences, there can be heated discussions.  This type over that type, the volume, the method of delivery.  Sometimes this argument is more about power struggle than like/dislike of music itself.


Imagine a movie without a soundtrack, realize how rare it is to go into a store without music playing.  Music affects mood and energy, underscores a message.  But it can be very contentious in a work place; back to the preferences – not only of type but also of volume.  Because even with headphones, there can be issues.


As a manager, there is also the problem of getting the attention of the person plugged into headphones, without scaring them.  (It always makes me wonder if this person can hear their phone ring, too.)


Personally while I love music, I don’t feel the need to drown out my current environment.  I have never listened to music at work, and I listen to natural sounds when I go for a walk.  I get that it isn’t for everybody, but suggest that you try it out.  Especially if your office has music wars.


Does your office have music wars?  Why?  How are they resolved?


Is music played in your office?  How is the type decided?  How do you feel about that?


Music can be a uniting factor or a dividing one.  Back to where I started this post, music is generally appreciated, therefore a uniting factor.  It is in the details, just like with so many other things in life, that music gets mucked up.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations



Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

Crafting a Beautiful Day to Recharge Yourself

Positive psychology is an important field of study, for as Dr. Martin Seligman has said, “the skills to relieve misery are different than the skills needed to be ‘happy’”.  Plenty of people have wiring that makes it difficult to cope with life.  The rest of us just need a little help to reinforce our good habits, knowledge and understanding to allow for a fulfilling life.


I woke up the other morning to a discussion by the local radio hosts about eating habits – they read a quotation from some guru that talked about savoring just three bites of a loved food and then walking away for 15 minutes to satisfy a craving.  The hosts had much derision on this point, but they had lopped off the most important word as the discussion ensued – savor.


Savoring is very much different than eating and a far cry from gobbling.  Let’s get away from the food focus and apply this thought to our work day.  We are hard wired to give great weight to threats based on our ancestral survival needs – so we can skim over the pleasant, fulfilling things and linger over the dolorous ones.


Tell your brain that your survival needs rest more powerfully on savoring the moments when you get an ‘atta boy/girl’ of any kind and less on dwelling in the land of the gotta do’s.  What did you do right?  What are the good behaviors that you want to repeat?  Learn from the mistakes, but don’t beat yourself up or forget the successes.


Check out this website to learn more about your own happiness status – Authentic Happiness – and learn some clues on how to build on your current state.


One thought presented is to craft a beautiful day for yourself every now and again as a means to reinforce your happiness.  Build in activities that play to your strengths, say curiosity or fitness or gardening or animals.  Taking time to deliberately work on your happiness is beneficial to all around you, and to you.


I don’t know about you, but I’ve been talking for months about doing something like this, but not taking action.  We should make a pact to compare beautiful days by the end of the summer.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Sunshine & Energy, There is Joy to be Found

It is a gray day today, after a gray day, after a rainy day and I am dragging just a bit.  The dandelions (which I broke down and attacked large swaths of with spray) haven’t had the energy to open their yellow faces for half of this week.  I know how they feel, who doesn’t start to lag when the sun is hidden for too long?


We aren’t flowers, but still we will start to wilt without some sun – we are wired to have at least a touch of seasonal affective disorder I suppose.  Even those who get shut up into artificial environments for many hours five or more days per week.  We get energy from the sun, just like solar panels – we need to turn our faces to the sun for just a bit to recharge.  (I’m not talking tanning, here.)


I always work harder to pump cheerfulness into my greetings and interactions on days like this, despite the initial energy drain, in hopes to get a return on my investment through a smile and upbeat response from my counterpart – especially once I entered management because personal energy has great effect on job performance.  Indeed our performance in general.


Joyful events seem so very much more so on sunny days and conversely terrible events seem very much more incongruent on sunny days.  (Think of that perfect fall day on 9/11/2001.)  But sometimes personal tragedy is ever so slightly lessened by the appearance of the sun.

Empress of Elucidation


My mom was having her last adventure, learning to let go of this life as the natural world was shuttering up for its winter dormancy so we had gray days and shades of beige to match our family’s experiences.  Our sunshine, light and bundle of energy was sputtering out.  But determined to make it one more adventure, forced by her body’s inability to overcome its infirmities her mind continued in its quest to savor curiosity.


My siblings and I took turns with the caretaking duties, which mostly involved the same wonderful philosophical discussions that had characterized our adult relationships with this remarkable woman.  Interspersed with learning how to flush a port and other nursing duties.  Mom and I were discussing this very topic, the affect that the sun has on our abilities to cope when I lightheartedly mentioned that perhaps she could make her final journey on a sunny day.  (We have a vein of dark humor running deep in our family.)  She allowed that this would be a worthy goal, neither of us knowing how far into the future this sunny day might be.  But knowing it would not be the 4 more years she had hoped for when we last talked to the doctor about the lack of alternative therapies.


It wasn’t but a few days later, maybe a week that the house was waking from a peaceful night to a sunny Friday morning in early December.  The caregiver gave mom a sponge bath and I whispered that we would just get her cleaned up and dressed in fresh pajamas and she whispered back ‘ok’.  She had mostly stopped talking by then, this woman who still had so much to say.


The overnight caregiver left, my sister was off tending to her young ones (life intrudes regardless of the momentousness of occasions), the hospice nurse was due any minute and my brother would be flying back for his shift in a day or two.  I was quietly reading the paper and offhandedly let mom know the day, the date and that the sun was shining.


She accepted the message and left behind this world and her fragile body just as the nurse and my sister arrived.


Now years have passed from that morning and I don’t relate this story to make anyone sad, though I miss her acutely.  I see this as a story now of the energy and potential for new adventure that the sun can bring as it shares its light and warmth with us.  We just have to be open to the possibility and make a point to gather some energy from the sun when it shines.  Having a sunny outlook is a choice.


[Author’s note: About an hour after I wrote this, the sun burned away the clouds, and I went out to enjoy the light.  I like to think mom had a hand in that.]


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

Reinvention Implies Original Invention

If you are one of those people who created a life plan in childhood and have been able to stick to it, then this post doesn’t apply to you.  (Or maybe not, you might want to keep reading.)


I follow Dave Kerpen on LinkedIn, he is one of LI’s ‘influencers’, and he made a comment in a post a few weeks ago that has bubbled back up to my mental surface.  His comment was about reinventing yourself professionally.  I believe that the context was within changing careers.


Inventing something means to create a finite object or complete idea.  The first radio was invented, manufactured, marketed, sold – and has been taken over by all sorts of new inventions.  And so on for all the myriad items that have been invented since the wheel.   These follow up items are reinventions of the radio, rather new inventions that improve upon it or use its invention as a starting point to create something completely different.


If you carry over this idea to a person, then how do you really define when the person is completely ‘invented’?  At the outset of adulthood?  First professional job?  Creation of a family?  Standing on our own two feet financially?


I could keep going, but you get the picture.  Our life is a trajectory with many pauses and course changes but only one point of completion.  I am, then, still in the process of inventing me.  A career change isn’t a reinvention, just a new part of the invention that is me.


What do you think?


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Culling Weeds

Once again I didn’t get the weed stuff on the yard in the fall nor did I get it spread early enough to prevent the dandelions from popping up this week.  I’ve been spending at least an hour per day this week pulling the heads off in an attempt to prevent further spread at the very least.  Plus I’ve been digging up as many as possible to the point that my palms are sore.


I realized today that dandelions in their sunny yellow state are actually rather pretty – and look quite similar to chrysanthemums.  Why do we encourage one and sneer at the other?  I also have had a full blown dandelion paper weight for years because again they are quite interesting in that form, especially under glass where they will not propagate.


I’m not a big fan of using chemicals on my lawn, maybe that is partly why I am so bad about using the anti-weed stuff.  My objection is based on the law of unintended consequences by solving one problem and exacerbating a more serious problem – poisoning the groundwater.  But I also don’t spend enough time on the lawn to make it look decent without chemical assistance.  (You should see the size of some of the roots I’ve been pulling up.)


I am a puttering type of gardener.  I enjoy greenery, and flowers – being near growing things does bring serenity.  But I don’t care for crouching, stooping, weeding and that sort of activity.  So a perennial garden is just about the right speed for me – I can putter, but I don’t have to micromanage.


How, you might ask, does this fit in with my work life theme?  I have used the corollary between ideas and seeds since my children became old enough to start reasoning.  I continued to use it in my work life, especially once I hit management.  A parent or manager strews all sorts of seeds; some hit fertile ground and a new plant pops up within days, others hit fallow ground and may lie dormant for weeks, months or years before sprouting.


I recently had a conversation in one of my LinkedIn groups with someone who pointed out that some of these idea seeds appear as weeds.  That conversation came back to me as I wrestled with the dandelion plants.  They are tough, determined plants.  If you read the bag of the chemical weed killers, many actually say that they will not kill mature plants, only prevent the growth of new ones.


How do we know when we are sowing idea seeds which ones will be plants we like and want to keep and which ones will germinate as weeds, which we will want to eradicate?  Let’s get into the weeds on this one.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Challenges of a Mom Working Outside the Home: Modern Parenting

Every generation of parents (which can include many generations of adults due to the longevity of our ‘child-rearing’ age span) seems to adhere to a similar style.  Or set of styles, ranges of options.  We are all seeking the right thing, that magical perfect parent mode.  We naturally look to the experts of the era when our children are small to set the tone for us.


My generation was raised by mostly stay-at-home moms (called homemakers at that time) and fathers who had work/bread-winner as their main focus and varying degrees of parental participation.  Play-dates, quality time, helicopter parents and other ideas weren’t anywhere on the horizon.  Parents wanted their children to have more advantages than the parents had experienced and Dr. Benjamin Spock’s books were on many shelves, but cognitive development + physical development hadn’t really been fleshed out as of yet.

helicopter parent

Personal fulfillment was growing in popularity at that point and the ‘me’ generation was in full swing.


By the time that I had my kids, staying at home was more of a conscious choice, indeed it was somewhat implied that this choice was preferred by those who couldn’t cut it in the working world.  I relished the opportunity to spend time getting to know my kids and going through their early growth because I had such a great experience as a child myself when my mom made it clear that curiosity is a gift.  Dr. T. Berry Brazelton was the expert of note at that time.


Parents now have so many experts from family to friends to blogs to magazines and books and the past…  It is no wonder to me that I heard a statistic on the radio from a recent survey – 17% of parents admitted that they look forward to going to work so that they can get sanctioned time away from the kids.


So I just have a question, how do you know that something is right for you at work?  Do you have a process to help you to decide?  Sometimes the process works and sometimes it doesn’t so you learn and move on.  There are things that you know well and other things that you want to learn and still more that you don’t know at all.


The same holds true for raising your kids.  You know your kids, you know your hopes for your kids.  You therefore know more than you think that you do about the best thing for them.  Make sure that they know that you love them in the midst of all the busy, busy days.  Make sure that you really hear them when they are talking.  No other generation figured out what the magical perfect parent mode was either and I think that most of us have turned out ok.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations



Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life