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A day in the life of an AMC staff member

wiseman w mug II

Each week you read on our blog how we all “wear many hats!” While this is the case for many association professionals, I feel that it is particularly true for AMCs like AMPED. Between the various needs of our different clients, some days we can be all over the place! I thought it might be fun to document one whole day at work to get an idea of the wide variety of tasks we tackle. It would have been hard to capture it all, but I did my best. Enjoy!

7:25 a.m. — Kiss dog and husband goodbye. Yes, in that order.

7:25:10 a.m. — One more kiss for the dog - she’s so cute. Off to the office!

7:43 a.m. — Pass by my usual drive-through Starbucks. Running a bit late. Decide I can make it without caffeine today.

7:56 a.m. — Arrive at office. Spend a few minutes reviewing each of my in-boxes (six total). Respond to messages that have quick answers and prioritize my day.

8:00 a.m. — Laugh at self for thinking I could survive without caffeine. Grab a coworker and head to Starbucks. We are both named Emily and we both get iced coffee. That really throws the baristas off.

8:05 a.m. — “The other Emily” and I use the walk back from Starbucks to discuss a knowledge-sharing session my colleagues had yesterday that I missed due to a call with a potential member. I give her a heads-up that I need her help pulling a specific set of abstracts from a recent client meeting to add to the client website.

8:30 a.m. — Recurring calendar reminder: time to update a client’s member list in email marketing service site. This particular client has rolling membership renewals, so their member list is constantly changing. They use this service to send out weekly e-newsletters and upcoming webinar invitations, so it is vital that it is consistently up-to-date.

8:45 a.m. — Lynda will be in the office today. Write up a quick list of items to discuss with her, including an upcoming client Board meeting.

8:53 a.m. — Follow up with emails from members for a particular client regarding their membership directory listing. Make changes to the database if required.

9:30 a.m. — Come across a voicemail from last night for a client member who wants to renew their membership. The message is a bit hard to understand, so I spend a few minutes searching the database for partial phone numbers and names to see if I can figure out who this is.

9:35 a.m. — Find the company name and confirm the phone number. Review my notes from the renewal workbook. Oh, awesome! This was a company that previously told me they weren’t planning to renew their membership. My follow-ups had worked! *Pats self on the back*

9:36 a.m. — Pick up the phone to dial the member.

9:36:15 a.m. — Realize the company is in California, where it is only 7:36 a.m. Ugh. *Hang up phone and create myself a calendar reminder for 11a.m. to give them a call back.*

9:45 a.m. — Calendar reminder pops up to write AMPED blog. Already on that! *dismiss*

9:56 a.m. — Pop over to “the other Emily’s” office for her to show me how to find those abstracts. Turns out to be super simple. Spend the time originally dedicated to writing my blog to updating the client website. Web updates for this particular client aren’t typically in my job description, but I work closely with the volunteer leader who inquired about it and I know the person that would normally take care of this has a lot on her plate, so I don’t mind at all. (Reason #536 I love working at AMPED – we all do this sort of thing for each other.)

10:20 a.m. — Microsoft Word crashes. Luckily, both documents I had been working on saved.

10:25 a.m. — Website updates complete. It bothers me that previous entries on the page are inconsistent. Spend time cleaning up the format and notify volunteer leader that the page has been updated. Notice that one portion is completely missing. I assume the client will want it added in, so I send an email to a colleague to find missing info.

10:30 a.m. — Three email campaigns were scheduled to go out today to notify various groups for one of our clients about an upcoming webinar. Watch notification emails as they come in to make sure everything seems right. Notification emails end up in my clutter inbox. Give clutter a quick once-over to make sure there is nothing important.

10:33 a.m. — Review inboxes and respond where necessary. One question required a bit of research, so I spend a couple minutes searching through documentation for an answer. Not finding what I need. Send an email to the person who will have the answer.

10:41 a.m. — Office manager, Trisha, comes in to let me know that she ordered a Graze Box trial for the office. *Yay! We love snacks.* Speaking of snacks…

10:42 a.m. — Grab snack from fridge.

10:47 a.m. — Tony pops over to discuss a potential member for one of our clients and come up with a quick plan to keep them engaged.

10:54 a.m. — Jeanne asks me about award order for client Board member. Shoot. Should have filed original email in ”waiting for response” folder. Send reminder email to Executive Director to select the award.

10:56 a.m. — Process new member application and send email with invoice and payment instructions.

11:12 a.m. — Realize reminder had popped up to call member in CA from earlier. Dial number, but learn that contact is only in office on Monday and Friday. Get email address from secretary and send follow-up. Create reminder for me to follow up on Friday. Respond to other emails while in Outlook.

11:47 a.m. — Process continuing education reimbursement application for a client member. Members receive up to $50 reimbursement every two years, so I first check to make sure this particular member qualifies.

11:52 a.m. — *HR hat on.* Discuss staffing plans now that two of our interns are gone for the summer.

12:00 p.m. — Only halfway through the day? Hope people are still reading! Discuss onboarding/orientation plan for new volunteer leaders with outside Executive Director for one of our clients.

12:05 p.m. — Help Tony and Brittany prepare for meeting with a client partner member. Discuss 2017 sponsorship package, including membership, conference registration, marketing support, etc.

12:20 p.m. — Quick walk around the Square. Stop at local cheese shop to put together Wisconsin-themed gift basket for aforementioned partner member meeting. *These are the really rough parts of association management.*

12:40 p.m. — Catch up on emails while eating lunch. I normally try to eat outside on nice days like this, but I’m taking the afternoon off on Friday and want to keep things moving.

12:55 p.m. — Calendar reminder for member database training with new Latin America staff person for one of our clients. Pull up documentation, database and screen sharing software. Quickly finish lunch.

1:00 p.m. — Give high level overview of membership database to new Latin America staff. Thankfully I have all of the most common database procedures documented. Our cloud server allows me to share the documentation via a web link to ensure that our Latin American staff always has the most current version of the document.

2:15 p.m. — Reach out to account manager for VoIP service to follow up on a new phone order and inquire about headsets for some staff that share offices.

2:21 p.m. — Update membership and staff reports for upcoming client Board meeting. I’ve already had various staff members update their areas, so I just need to finalize my sections.

2:30 p.m. — Does it bother you when you ask someone two questions in an email and they only respond to one?

2:46 p.m. — Provide updated membership numbers to finance manager so she can update budget forecast for client.

2:48 p.m. — Receive answer to question from 10:33 a.m. Pass along response to member and quickly respond to other emails while in Outlook.

2:52 p.m. — The new member application I processed this morning has made payment online. Complete processing membership and send welcome kit.

2:55 p.m. — There’s someone with a megaphone yelling outside my window. It’s always something . . .

2:58 p.m. — Review graphic and member listing for publication in a client’s magazine. Doing so reminds me of some web updates to make. Create reminder to do so once I receive answers to a couple questions.

3:13 p.m. — Follow up with a few new client members for their logos and text for their listing on the website.

3:18 p.m. — *IT Person hat on.* Boot up former employee’s laptop to look for document. Not able to find it. Deliver bad news to colleague.

3:28 p.m. — Yep! I was right – the client asked about that missing portion of the website from 10:25 a.m. Good thing I’m already on it.

3:31 p.m. — *All hats on.* Catch up with Lynda: potential clients, potential employees, upcoming client Board meetings, client financials, life.

4:32 p.m. — Review inboxes. Someone requested a list from a recent client meeting, so I repurpose one that I already have rather than starting from scratch.

4:40 p.m. — I won’t get to a larger project that I had planned to work on this afternoon, so I move it to tomorrow’s calendar. One of our clients is implementing a complete Association Management System to replace several independent systems (event management, email marketing, abstract management, etc). Moving a client to a new database is a big project and takes lots of prep work, so I block off an hour or so on my calendar every couple days to chip away at it.

4:42 p.m. — There’s a line out my door since I’ve been away from my desk. Assist colleagues with a few questions regarding financials and where to find specific documentation.

4:53 p.m. — Prepare projects for intern to work on tomorrow.

4:59 p.m. — Check survey sent to a client board regarding their availability for an in-person meeting. Send reminder to members who have not responded.

5:01 p.m. — Review calendar and to-do list for the day to ensure there was nothing missed.

5:03 p.m. — Shut down laptop, lock up. Head home to my cute dog (and husband)!

5:06 p.m. — *IT hat back on!* I notice an email on my phone from a colleague who accidentally deleted a file. Unfortunately she hadn’t saved it at all yet, so I am unable to recover. Deliver the bad news.

5:50 p.m. — Send background information files on a potential client to a new employee. I can do this from my phone. *Cloud computing for the win!*

5:59 p.m. — Okay now I’m done working for the day. Heading in to the gym.

9:04 p.m. — Peek at inboxes on my phone one last time. I like to have an idea of what will be on my plate when I get in to the office tomorrow. I swear I’m done now.

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Whistle while you work

smiling dog

We’ve all heard the grumblings from co-workers, friends and family, “I wish I could talk to a 'live' person.” It’s a sure thing that you have recently encountered recorded messages, instructions to “press 1,” or long wait times.

So if someone actually does get you on the phone, he may not be in the best of moods.

As a serial tasker (thanks to Emily Wiseman for that insight!), I find it difficult to focus fully on callers and give them the attention they deserve. In the past, they have probably heard my computer keys clacking, or the shuffling of papers in the background as they try to explain the reason for their call. With our ever-increasing workloads, it is difficult to keep the focus on the caller.

So what do I do when receiving a call in the middle of a very busy workday? Stop, listen and smile.

Why smile? When talking on the phone, you are at a disadvantage in that the caller cannot see your body language: the tilt of your head, facial expressions and hand gestures. All are lost in today’s emails, texts and phone calls. Your voice is the only clue as to your attentiveness.

Professor John J. Ohala, University of California, Berkely, Department of Linguistics theorized in his research paper The Acoustic Origins of the Smile, “…words sound better to humans when accompanied by a smile. By smiling, the cheeks are pulled back reducing the size of the mouth cavity and this produces higher vocal tract resonances.”

From Improving Your Inflection on the Phone:

  • A monotone and flat voice says to the customer, "I'm bored and have absolutely no interest in what you're talking about."
  • A high-pitched and emphatic voice says, "I'm enthusiastic about this subject."

Don’t just go through the motions
According to Dr. Mark G. Frank, et al, Physiologic Effects of the Smile, a smile with Duchenne marker is the “enjoyment smile” and is one that involves specific facial muscles creating an upward pulling of the lip corners and crinkling of the eyes. Individuals who smile with the Duchenne marker “…are perceived as more sincere, honest, friendly, and approachable…” Well, that’s all well and good when someone can see your smile, but why smile when talking on the phone?

In an interview with NPR, Amy Drahota with the University of Portsmouth, discussed a study conducted by the University, in which she posited that you can tell the difference between an enjoyment smile, and one that is “non-Duchenne.” The test involved participants answering a series of questions with just one phrase. The test was designed so that the one-phrase answer, in response to the questions, would increasingly cause the participant to (a genuine, Duchenne) smile. The sound bites of the one-phrase answer were then played to a second set of participants who were asked to determine if the person in the sound bite was smiling. The study concluded that people are able to detect a genuine, enjoyment smile by the sound of your voice alone.

The sound of a smile will convey to the caller you are friendly and approachable, and able and willing to help. I find that taking the time to smile puts me in a better mood and better able to handle any of my clients' needs. 

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Breathe! How to keep your staff positive, friendly (and sane) during crunch time

The first few months of the year always seem to be pretty busy at AMPED between membership renewals and client meetings in the spring. While we all tend to get caught up in emails, membership applications and the one-million-and one things on our to-do lists, it is important to remember that your colleagues are in the same boat. Here are a few things we do at AMPED to stay positive (and friendly... and sane) during the busiest times of the year.

Sheldon stress

Take screen breaks. Step away from your desk for a bit – even if it is simply getting up and making yourself a cup of coffee. A break from your screen will allow you a short mental pause, making it easier to re-focus on your to-do list. Swamped? Kill several birds with one stone: have a walking meeting with a coworker! You can chat face-to-face about what you normally would have sent several emails about, get some fresh air, and feel refreshed when you return.

Work collaboratively. Keep that “team player” attitude and remind yourself that you are all working toward the same goal: the success of your clients or organization. Be mindful of what is on everyone’s plate — priority A on your list is not likely priority A on someone else’s. Pitch in and see what you can do to help get it done. At AMPED, we have a staff meeting every Monday morning for exactly this reason — it’s important that we all understand what everyone’s priorities are for the week and what we can do as a team to ensure they happen.

One thing that I love about AMPED is the culture 
— we actually all enjoy working together!

Stay healthy. This one may seem odd in a workplace positivity list, but it’s so true. Not only does regular exercise reduce stress, it can also boost your productivity. Now you’re friendly and efficient. AMPED employees stay at the top of our game by practicing yoga, running, CrossFit, and karate. Fueling your body with the right foods is important, too, especially during those long days onsite at client meetings. We like to plan ahead and ensure our staff office is stocked with plenty of water and healthy snacks like nuts, fruit and granola.

See the future. Don’t let the things on your to-do list overwhelm you. Consider what all of those little items will add up to in the end. A high member retention rate? A successful client meeting? Think about how you will feel in those scenarios and let that motivation power you through.

Celebrate milestones. We’re really good at this one. Survived a busy meeting season? Staff lunch. Got membership renewals out the door? Happy hour! Made it to 10 am without accidentally deleting a file you’ve been working on? Go get yourself some Starbucks, girl!

One thing that I love about AMPED is the culture — we actually all enjoy working together! I think the fact that we all take time to do these things is a big contributor to that. What are your tips for “remaining human” during busy season?

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Starting the New Year with a clean slate

Marechiel family for New Year 2016

Aah, a new year! When I think of a New Year, I think of making New Year’s resolutions. Google “New Year’s resolution” and 140,000,000 search results come up. Before I could make my own resolutions, I needed to reflect on the year that passed. This process would hopefully guide me toward making new goals. I have so much to be grateful for. 

Professionally, I had the privilege to be assigned an executive director role for a new client account. To me, this meant I’m trusted in my ability to manage an organization. I received a recognition from the association community with the ASAE DELP scholarship. I interpreted this as: my contributions and leadership capabilities are appreciated.

In my family life, three of our four kids in college are doing well. (Yep, they are all on the Dean’s List!) Our youngest who is a senior in high school is enjoying a banner year himself organizing an Ethics Symposium to address bullying, self-esteem and moral standards among his peers — an encouragement that my husband and I must have done something right in our parenting . Everyone in the family is healthy. When many folks are experiencing health issues that limit their ability to live and enjoy life, we couldn’t be more thankful.

There were also things that didn’t go as I had planned. Did I achieve my weight goal? No. Did I participate in all the socio-civic and volunteering opportunities that came my way? No. Did I spend time with that one girlfriend I wanted to continue deepening my friendship with? No. Did I make enough time with my husband to continue to strengthen our marriage? No. Did I fret when I didn’t achieve the goals I set? Yes. Should I? No.

A wise mentor has told me, the year that has passed is done. The New Year is an opportunity to start a new slate. She asked me to declare to myself that the year 2015 is over. What’s done (and not done) is done. I need not worry and carry the baggage of what should have, could have, and would have been. So, in this spirit I am planting the seeds of greatness by letting go and celebrating this new beginning by creating new intentions in 2016. Here are questions to ask yourself as you begin the process of starting anew.

What are you committed to accomplishing this coming year in all areas of your life? Strengthening your marriage? How about a date night twice a month? Improving emotional connections with your children? Can you spend one-on-one time with each of them? Attaining a professional certification by year-end? (I plan to commit one hour a week to professional development training to hit the prerequisite hours before applying to take the Certified Association Executive exam.) Want to improve your stamina and endurance? How’s about starting at 6,000 steps for five days and increase in time to 10,000 steps?

In order to produce the above, what do you need to develop in yourself? The answer to this question is different for everyone. It can mean having a set schedule plotted on one’s calendar, or imbibing internally motivated traits like staying determined, or practical tricks like creating visual reminders.

As you consider relationships that you wish to enhance or develop or things you need to develop in yourself, what do you think could stop you or be the reason at the end of the year that you would not fulfill them? Is it an issue of time? Will lack of sleep inhibit you to adopt healthy habits to develop your stamina? Reflect on those and you’ve won half the battle.


What is this year going to “be about” for you? Is it going to be a year of learning? A year of forgiveness? A year of peace? A year of prosperity? Declare it!


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When your association moves to a new AMC . . . and so do you: Tips to stay focused, positive

NAFA team
No one likes change…or do they? Recently, our group, The National Air Filtration Association (NAFA) transitioned to a new management team — AMPED! Luckily, I was asked to join the AMPED team so I could continue to support NAFA, where I have worked for over 10 years [photo: Core NAFA team]. This is a great group of people, dedicated to education and professionalism in the air filtration industry.

Was I scared? You bet! But excited too. I was determined to make this change with a positive attitude, so I developed a mental check list:

Embrace new technology. It keeps you young! Learning new programs and apps is like going back to school. It increases your value and worth and, in the end, it usually does make your job easier.

Own up to your mistakes. Admit to them, fix them and move on. This is hardest for me. I don’t like to be embarrassed by acknowledging a mistake. But I actually found a comradery in having a team that can help you fix an error. You learn something new. Be thankful for the talented and educated team in your arsenal.

Never let them see you sweat. I knew some in the organization were concerned about my future. I let them know right away what a great team we were getting with AMPED. Projecting a positive attitude about a new situation is infectious.

Don’t forget the past, but don’t dwell in it. Explain procedures, listen to the team suggest new and better ways of doing things. Get the phrase “We’ve always done it this way” out of your head.

Jump in with both feet. I knew I had to do things I may not be comfortable with (writing a blog, for one!), but I took my nervousness, set it aside and plunged in. Sure the water was cold, but I soon warmed up and was able to start enjoying the swim.

Finally, appreciate your value. Stop focusing on all the ways things are changing and, instead, embrace the positive that you are getting from your new team. I had to set my ego aside quite a few times as more experienced people made changes and implemented new ideas. I focused on the positive comments. I found there were quite a few if I listened hard enough. I keep those in the forefront of my mind like a mantra; this allows me to keep from getting in a negative mood.

There will be bumps along the way, but negativity will affect the people around you. Give your team members the respect they deserve. Even if you aren’t feeling particularly positive, focus on the bigger picture. You’re a part of the team and your attitude matters. A little effort goes a long way.

If you project a positive attitude, chances are it will be reciprocated. Negative people see walls, but positive people look for and find solutions. Instead of seeing a problem, see a puzzle; move the pieces and solve it.

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When I grow up I want to be an association manager… said no one ever

when I grow up

When I meet someone for the first time and I’m asked what I do for a living, the exchange usually goes something like this.

Me: "I manage associations."
Them: [confused look]
Me: "Do YOU belong to any trade or professional associations?"
Them: [nine times out of 10 they do]
Me: "Well, someone has to make sure the conferences are well planned, promoted and executed; the newsletters are written and distributed; the membership database is managed; the website is up-to-date; dues renewals go out on time; financial records are kept; and that the board stays on its strategic path. — That’s what we do."
Them: [clearly impressed] "Wow! I’ve never heard of that. How does someone get into association management?"
Me: "Well . . ."

It’s an excellent question — with answers as varied as the associations we manage. From my experience, there really is no direct entry into this profession. I mean, no career counselor ever looked me up and down and said, “Hey! You’re organized. You’re a great communicator. You like working with people and improving products and processes. You’ve got what it takes to be a great association manager!” 

In school, when I was thinking about career goals, association management wasn’t even on my radar. I landed here out of chance. I wanted to be a journalist, so my advisor hooked me up with an internship at what was then the Wisconsin Innkeepers Association, managing their monthly magazine. That six-month internship turned into a full-year job. And that opened the door to my first “real” job out of college with Executive Director Inc., as a communications manager for the National Christmas Tree Association (proving once again that there really IS an association for everything!). Later I would go on to do communications and marketing work for the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin and now AMPED.

Everyone else I know in this profession has a similar story. They had no aspirations to go into association work. By happenstance and good fortune, they simply fell into it.

I'm thinking about this now because my teenage daughter is exploring job options as part of her career planning class. As she shows me the top ten results from her career exploration exercise, I'm betting that nowhere in any student’s results did association management show up as an option. Which is too bad, because there is a great need for new talent and strong leaders in associations. The next generation’s skills in communications, finance, technology and governance will help advocate for and advance the careers of millions of professionals and academics around the world.

“To work for an association is to choose a varied, challenging and rewarding career path that will give you a chance to grow professionally while helping make the world a better place,” says the American Society of Association Executives.

Who wouldn’t want that?

Who do you know who would make a great association manager?

For more information on association management careers, see:
Through the Maze: Careers in Association Management; American Society of Association Executives
FAQs: Careers in Association Management; Association Forum of Chicagoland
Career Headquarters; Wisconsin Society of Association Executives

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Nailing it: Understanding association culture and history starting day one

hey girl

Next week marks three months since I began working at AMPED, but it feels like I should be celebrating six months. That is NOT a bad thing. Fortunately, with guidance from seasoned AMPED staff, I was able to jump right in!

On my first day at AMPED, Owner Lynda Patterson handed me two postcards: one for a local Madison event and another for IMEX America (a worldwide exhibition for meetings and events) in Las Vegas. I was excited to learn that I would represent AMPED at both events, but then swiftly panicked realizing I had so much to learn! Both provided opportunities to network with meeting industry professionals — local and national — and I had my work cut out for me to become knowledgeable of our company and diverse clients.

I made a point to learn the history of our client’s annual meetings as well as future goals to prepare for one-on-one appointments with exhibitors at IMEX. After 22 appointments and presentations in just two (long) days, I returned home more confident in my job and excited for potential meeting destinations and partnerships for our clients. Additionally, after repeating the “About AMPED” speech 22 times, I can say that I successfully have it down!

Just two weeks after I started, one of our clients held their annual summit. A few weeks later, we brought a client board to Madison for a retreat. And this week we host a leadership training program for yet another client. I quickly learned that there is always something going on at AMPED. It can be overwhelming, but these face-to-face opportunities allow us to get to know our clients better. I may not be fully involved in the details of these meetings but being present allows me to soak up information and help me understand how to work with each client to be successful.

One of the reasons I was drawn to AMPED was the importance of company culture — a professional environment that is fun, flexible and rewarding. Within days, I felt that to be true. Each Monday morning, AMPED staff comes together for a meeting to discuss the week’s top priorities allowing us to get a glimpse into each other’s busy schedules as well as offer up help and suggestions. It is a great way to start the week and prepare for big projects and deadlines and know that your colleagues have your back if needed. On Wednesday mornings, you will see the AMPED team walking together to a local coffee shop for “$2 Latte Wednesdays,” giving us the chance to get out from behind our desks and get to know each other on a personal level. And being new to Madison, I’ve started a new tradition called “Food Truck Fridays” so I can experience all the delicious options found on the Capitol Square. These touch points throughout the week help me get to know my colleagues, both professionally and personally, while also getting a sense of the overall work we are doing as a company.

Sure, there are days when I am reminded that I have lots to learn and wishing that I could be in the shoes of seasoned AMPED staff, but I am grateful for the experiences, both good and not perfect, that help me become a better meeting planner and colleague. Don’t be afraid to jump right in, professionally and socially. It makes those pesky Monday mornings much easier to deal with when you enjoy your work and those who work beside you.

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Lying down on the job? New desk configurations include one that goes horizontal

running

 

Since entering the workplace I have seen more and more people stand while working. I’ve always thought how uncomfortable that must be to stand all day. At AMPED I’ve seen a few of my colleagues hack their own standing desks, while some have adjustable desks. All the hype about standing verses sitting, and now even lying down, at work made me wonder what’s really the best for you?

Standing vs sitting research
Over the last decade there have been numerous studies conducted on the health benefits of standing while working, including lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. This is because when you are standing you are using muscles in your legs and abdomen which consume sugar and can lower cholesterol. In addition, researchers suggest too much sitting leads to more disability as we age and can even shorten our lifespan. As a result of these findings, there has been a 50 percent increase in sales of standing desks over the last year. Standing desk manufacturers are pushing the common belief that their product will eliminate the “sitting disease” and health problems caused from sitting an average of nine out of 14 waking hours each day.

Sitting vs standing research
While many organizations are following the “trend” of standing desks, can they be sure they’re receiving the right message? Occupational health specialists now fear that many office workers have taken research suggestions too far. Specialists are finding many workers believe standing in one place, rather than sitting, will improve their heart, reduce weight, and fight off other negative effects associated with sitting too much. However, they caution that standing all day is not the best answer. Prolonged standing can lead to issues such as curvature of the spine, varicose veins and backaches. Researchers state that although standing does burn a few more calories because our heart has to work harder to circulate blood, it also puts more strain on our back, joints and veins.

And lastly, lying down
Recently introduced to the market is the Altwork Station. This workstation allows users the flexibility to sit, stand and lie down using four modes: standing, collaboration, regular and focus. However, they are really pushing the “focus” mode, when the chair is completely reclined and the desk and monitor follow. The idea behind the Altwork Station is that individuals need multiple configurations throughout the day to complete different tasks. More specifically, individuals need the product’s “focus” mode to complete tasks they need to intensely focus on. The main drive behind this creation is that the way people sit at desks hasn’t evolved since the late 1800s and that today’s workers need a variety of positions in order to increase efficiency.

So what’s right?
Unfortunately, I can’t give you this answer. Studies have not yet determined how much standing verses sitting helps in regard to your health. Research is still being conducted to try to find the answer for all of us desk users. Until an answer is determined, it is recommended that workers incorporate a combination of sitting, standing and walking. Researchers are suggesting that, instead of standing still or sitting all day, we sit 20 out of every 30 minutes at work, stand for eight minutes, and then move around for two. For some of you this may sound easy; others may find this pretty challenging! For those who are up for this 20-8-2 challenge, set an alarm on your phone or a timer on your computer to follow these guidelines. And hey, if you are successful with this it means you will be standing up and sitting down 32 times in a workday which has benefits of its own. For those of you who are not up for this challenge, try to increase your movement throughout the workday by planning a walk at lunch, taking a lap around the office, getting up to fill your water bottle, or, for us at the AMPED headquarters whose historic building has no elevator, climbing all of the stairs to our third-floor office.

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A thousand miles away has never felt closer: How to make remote employees feel like part of the team

remote polar bear

As technology rapidly changes and makes working from anywhere easier, more people work remotely than ever before. Working remotely can be a challenge. Trust me, I know this from experience, having worked almost 13 years from home in a previous association management life.

When AMPED recently transitioned in a new client, the National Air Filtration Association (NAFA), we were fortunate to add NAFA's long-time staff person, Terry, to our team. Terry happens to live in another state, over 1,000 miles away. In addition to everything associated with bringing on NAFA, we wanted to be sure that Terry felt like a part of the AMPED team right from the start, regardless of the fact that we didn't share office space.

How can you make a new, remote employee feel welcome? Here are a few tips:

Convo
Terry was included on our staff instant messaging system, Convo, right away. This allows us to quickly and easily communicate. It’s faster than email and means we don’t have to pick up the phone every time we need to share a bit of information.

Skype
No one looks good on the web cam, which is why I was hesitant when it came to making the leap from phone to Skype. But once we started holding our weekly check-in meetings via camera, I quickly realized the value of seeing the person on the other end. That one once-a-week, “in person” catch-up helps us feel more connected and strengthens our relationship.

The Cloud
Our cloud-based server through Egnyte allows Terry to access all of the NAFA files the same way we do in the office. We’ve moved to the cloud and already see the benefits. There’s no need to email files back and forth.

Meet the Team
It was important for Terry to see the new NAFA headquarters and meet her co-workers, so we invited her to Madison for an onboarding visit. We took advantage of the few days she was here by holding our annual AMPED photo shoot and rescheduling our weekly staff meeting so Terry could hear about all of the things the staff was working on. We also spent meal time with her, included her in our "$2 Latte Tuesday" tradition and got to know each other on a personal level – a big part of the AMPED culture.

In the end, the benefits of having a remote worker who is passionate about the organization far outweigh the challenges. Technology allows us to communicate just as effectively as if we were in the same office. As long as we remember the importance of incorporating the relationship building and the human touch into our daily routine, we can make the most distant worker feel like a part of the team.

Do you allow employees to work remotely? I’d love to hear how you’ve made them feel like a part of the team.

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Why are Millennials so…

Wiseman - Millennials

Narcissistic. Entitled. Distracted. Lazy. Most people who know me wouldn’t use those words to describe me (but they would likely say I’m obsessed with food). However, they are words often used to describe my fellow generation of Millennials (surprise! I’m as young as I look). Nearly every time I visit LinkedIn, I come across an article declaring why you should fear Millennials in the workplace or an infographic displaying what horrible people we are compared to Baby Boomers.

Lucky for me, Lynda Patterson, president/owner of AMPED, has recognized all of the great things about Millennials. Really—go take a look at how fresh-faced we are (please don’t guess which one of us are really Millennials and which ones have just discovered the fountain of youth). Here is the gist of actual conversation between Lynda and me after she returned from a conference with other AMC owners:

Lynda: You are a Millennial, right?
Me: Yes.
Lynda: Shouldn’t I be scared of you?
Me: No.
Lynda: I didn’t think so. I just got back from hearing other executives gripe about how Millennials are so difficult to work with and I couldn’t understand what they were talking about!

Let’s go over a few reasons why you should take a page from the AMPED playbook and not be afraid of Millennials as employees and colleagues:

We are smart …
Do I sound narcissistic? Yes. But it’s true! According to a study by the Pew Research Center, Millennials are the “best educated group of young adults in US history”—1/3 of us have earned at least a four-year college degree. We also started school right as tuition rates exploded, which likely means we actually want to learn. Why else would we take on an average of $30,000 in debt?

… and want to continue to learn.
Some Millennials may be freshly out of college, but learning is still our top priority. A survey from the UNC Kenan-Flager Business School for Forbes revealed that 65% of Millennials rank personal development as the most influential factor in our current jobs and 22% see training and development as the most valued benefit. In an EdAssist study of Millennials, 60% would pick a job with the potential for continued professional development over one with promised pay raises. The same study revealed that Millennials will stay at a company longer for access to learning. At AMPED, we are encouraged to pursue higher education and are even reimbursed for courses related to our jobs.

We are efficient …
We may be “technology obsessed,” but it has made us pretty darn efficient. If we expect everything to be on-demand, we better be on-demand ourselves. Our tech-savviness allows us to focus on the big picture and not get hung up on the technical details of a task. But we don’t always need to rely on technology! Part of the reason we prefer face-to-face meetings over a phone call or email is because a) we are collaborative and b) face-to-face is so much more efficient! There’s no need to go back-and-forth fifty times over email; let’s just get together and get stuff done!

… and great at multitasking.
Okay, fine. Apparently multitasking isn’t really a thing. We are “serial taskers,” our brains can quickly switch from task-to-task (sounds pretty efficient to me). This especially comes in handy when working in an environment such as an AMC, doing various tasks for several different client associations and needing to “flip the switch” as soon as a phone call comes in for a different client.

The next time you come across the typical “Millennials are scary!” article, keep in mind that we aren’t that bad. We also brought you Snapchat, Facebook, Airbnb, and Groupon.

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Why I applied for the ASAE DELP Scholarship Program

ASAE DELP

On August 10, 2015 I and 11 other 2015 ASAE DELP scholars stood in front of hundreds of association professionals as we were recognized for our achievement during the ASAE 2015 Annual Meeting in Detroit. The Diversity Executive Leadership Program (DELP) for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) is a two-year program that recognizes individuals from under-represented identity groups who demonstrate exemplary leadership skills and a commitment to advancing the association community. Our class will participate in an accelerated leadership program of education, mentoring and volunteer service in the association community and I couldn’t be more excited. What motivated me to apply?

Someone believed in me. Every now and then in one’s life you meet someone along the way who exudes deep enthusiasm, and you can’t help but be excited with a project or endeavor that he or she is sharing with you. I met that person a year and half ago. She’s my boss, Lynda Patterson and the owner of the association management company, I work for. I didn’t know about DELP until Lynda told me about it and enthusiastically offered to sponsor me. She recognized my leadership abilities, was proud of my accomplishments, and thought that applying for the scholarship will usher in more opportunities for professional growth, allowing me to go even further in my association management career.

The goals align with growth needs. I am impressed by ASAE’s commitment to support diversity and to provide opportunities to under-represented groups so that we may access professional education and a deep network of strong leaders. Having over a decade of association management experience but not much exposure to continuing education, I would benefit greatly from DELP’s benefits.

Far reaching benefit. Association managers in Wisconsin do not have easy access to continuing professional education. DELP would provide learning not just for me personally, but also, indirectly, to other professionals in Wisconsin. I would be able to help broaden the reach by passing on the knowledge with colleagues I interact with in my place of work and also in the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (WSAE) in which I am currently a member.

Surround myself with rock stars. I believe that if you want to get better than you think you already are, and learn new ways to live a successful professional and personal life, surrounding oneself with people you want to emulate will provide the encouragement and example that will help you reach the next level.

Be an inspiration to others. My eleven years of experience with helping associations live their missions have been very successful, and I am on track for even greater success. I want my success to serve as an inspiration to others who might otherwise think their race or gender is an insurmountable obstacle. Already, I know of some people who have been inspired by my personal story, how I moved over 3,000 miles across the globe while a single mother with four young children. I think DELP can help stories like mine be shared broadly, inspiring many to greater dreams and achievements.

The benefits go both ways. Much as I would learn from well-experienced, connected professionals through DELP, others may benefit from the global experience and attitude of purposeful action that I bring to the table. Three of my top five strengths from the Clifton Strengths-Finder — Activator, Maximizer, and Achiever — identify me as a candidate who would “maximize” the opportunity, continue to advance the goals of the program, and, when given a project, get it done.

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Communication is key to transitioning back from work leave

with NorahOver the past few months I have been transitioning back to work after having been on maternity leave. When it comes to welcoming a new baby to the family there is a lot of excitement and joy. There is also a fair amount of stress and anxiety. I have been very fortunate to have some flexibility in my transition back to work. The encouragement I’ve received from my AMPED colleagues has been really incredible and I can’t thank them enough for their support!

Going back to work after maternity leave is a deeply personal experience and there is certainly no “one-size-fits-all” approach. However, there are a few things I’ve done that have helped make it a little easier.

Frequent and honest communication has made all the difference. Prior to going on leave my coworkers and I made a point of meeting several times. These meetings served as an opportunity to figure out who would cover my workload while I was out and to formulate a plan for my return. We made sure to spread these meetings out throughout my pregnancy — not just at the end — so that we had plenty of time to plan for everything that needed to be covered. While I was on leave, my focus was on my new baby, recovery and family, but as the date of my return to work approached my anxiety level increased, so I made a point of checking in with the office. Getting a quick update on what had been happening while I was out made my first few days back less stressful.

I have been extremely fortunate in my transition. One thing that helped was to come back to work gradually in the first few weeks. I’ve known several people who have taken this approach in different ways. A friend of mine who was going back to work full-time made her first day back in the office a Thursday which gave her a couple of days to readjust to the office, a few days for her baby to adjust to day care, and a weekend to work out any schedule adjustments. Another friend whose day care was nearer her home than her office arranged to work from home the first week back at work. Her son went to day care and she followed a normal work schedule from home. That way if her son needed her during those first few days she was close by. This decreased her stress and she was able to get more work done. I realize that this gradual approach may not be a realistic option in all cases but, if it is possible, it can be extremely beneficial.

As I mentioned a “one-size-fits-all” approach to returning to work post maternity leave doesn’t exist; everyone’s situation is different and unique. But, my final suggestion for everyone going through this experience is to be patient. Figuring out a new routine and a workable balance between family and professional obligations takes time and it won’t be without its challenges. For me, it has definitely been an eventful few months and I’m still adjusting to my new “normal.” But so far, it’s been a smooth transition.

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It’s 3 o’clock somewhere!

tired-dog


That groggy and lethargic feeling that we are all too familiar with is what I like to call the 3 o’clock slump. Many of us have our go-to fix that helps us get through the end of the day. I know when I am feeling groggy I go straight to coffee which may not always be the best choice.

I think it is helpful to have a few tricks in our arsenal to help us get through the slump. Below are a few tricks and tips to stay energized and re-energize after the 3 o’clock slump hits you.

Take a hike: No seriously, go for a walk. Getting up from your desk and taking a quick walk can get your blood flowing and wake you up. If you can get outside and go for a walk, great, go out and get a healthy dose of vitamin D! If you have to stay inside, no worries, just do a few laps around the office. You can also get moving by walking over to a co-worker and asking a question instead of e-mailing them. If you need motivation to get up and moving either set an alarm or grab a buddy, chances are they will be more than willing to go walk with you.

Snack Time: Snack time is not just for children, we adults need it too. In order to boost energy you must snack smart, choose foods with high protein and fiber. The combination of high protein and fiber will keep you full and energized. Try nuts, they are packed full of protein and fiber. You can even make your own trail mix!

Housekeeping: Cleaning your desk can be a great way to shake you out of your slump. Cleaning your desk is a mindless task that does not require copious amounts of concentration, however it will leave you feeling accomplished, focused, and ready to take on another task! Having a clean work environment can also reduce your stress levels giving you an added bonus.

Hydrate: Did you know that fatigue is one of the first signs of dehydration? It is recommended that the average male drinks 3.7 liters a day, and the average female drinks 2.7 liters of water every day. If you find that you’re having trouble getting in your recommended amount of water try adding fruit to your water for a little flavor. If bubbles are your thing, try sparkling water — those too come in fun flavors. A fun new water bottle doesn’t hurt either!

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Emotional intelligence in the workplace

social intelligence

Emotional intelligence is something that all of us should spend our entire life striving to improve. Very few people will be naturals but the important thing is that we all make a concerted effort to become better at it.

Emotional intelligence is having the ability to understand and regulate your emotions. It also includes being able to read and understand what others are feeling and expressing. When you are emotionally intelligent you’re able to communicate effectively, empathize with your co-workers, and diffuse conflicts that arise, all of which are important skills to have when interacting with others socially or in the workplace.

Being emotionally intelligent encompasses four attributes: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and good relationship management skills.

Self-awareness is being able to recognize your own emotions and how they may affect your own behavior. Part of being self-aware means that you can recognize your own strengths and weaknesses, understand how to utilize your strengths.

Self-management involves how you might control your emotions, feelings, and possible impulsive behaviors. When you are self-aware you recognize your emotions and when you can self-manage you see those emotions and are able to direct them in ways that are positive and productive. Being able to self-manage also indicates that you will be able to adapt to changing circumstances in the workplace. I still struggle when it comes to these concepts. Too often, I let my emotions get in the way of rational thoughts. The key is realizing my weakness and willingly continue to work through the weakness.

The next two attributes involve some external abilities.

Social awareness involves seeing others’ emotions and concerns, being able to properly understand communication, body language, and being able to pick up on social cues. Social awareness helps people to be able to pick up on power dynamics within organizations, as well as be comfortable in social settings.

Relationship management involves using your social awareness skills to communicate, develop positive relationships, maintain those relationships and inspire and influence your co-workers or employees. When you have good relationship management, you are able to work well in a team and manage conflict in ways that move the team or organization towards its goal.

Someone with emotional intelligence can inspire and motivate others. Many organizations are now using emotional intelligence tests for their incoming candidates. It is becoming a popular idea and some believe can be even more important than IQ or technical abilities.

There are some basic techniques that will help you be more emotionally intelligent:

  • eye contact
  • attention to nonverbal cues
  • focus on the other person(s)
  • use humor
  • active listening
  • forgive
  • focus on the present rather than past issues
  • when asking questions-listen for the answer and try not to interrupt
  • give yourself time to cool off before discussing an issue
  • write your thoughts and feelings down to give yourself a chance to process them.
  • perhaps a concept to keep in mind for increased opportunity in your employment, allowing better relationships with those in your life.

No matter how old/young we are, there is always room to improve our emotional intelligence. I have to continue to remind myself not to fire off that email reply while my emotions are still “talking” to me. No matter how “bothered” you are by a comment/email, remember to give yourself time to cool off before addressing the issue. Write down positive and negative thoughts so that you can best formulate a response that will make your point in a positive manner. There is always a way to turn a negative into a positive, the hard part is becoming good at finding that way.

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8 realistic New Year's resolutions to make this Year

Mark up 12-9-14 FINAL low rez w caption

 

I like the idea of New Year’s resolutions, but I tend to set the bar pretty high with unrealistic goals that I rarely follow through on. That’s why I resolved to come up with achievable goals this year. Here are eight easy and fail-proof resolutions that everyone can make.

1. Clean out and organize email inboxes regularly
It is so important to have a clean inbox or, in my case, inboxes, because then important information is never lost or forgotten. I answer my emails daily, but I really only reorganize and clean out my inbox in desperate times when I am looking for one particular email. I sometimes find that the folders I created to file away emails are also outdated, because what I had originally developed the folder for has become more complex and now requires subfolders. Regardless, I will be cleaning and reorganizing my inbox once a week to ensure that I can easily find any information I need at moment’s notice.

2. Delete all the out-of-date files
In the process of compiling a final report from a recent, very large meeting, I found we had saved quite a few revisions of the same files, so I had to dig to find the final versions. Now that the meeting is over and the year is ending, I made it my personal goal to clean out the files so that we only have the most up-to-date documents saved and everything is in the correct folder. We won’t be hosting a meeting like this for another six years, so when we revisit the files again, I want them to be organized and a helpful resource.

3. Update your office/work space
Rearranging or reorganizing your office could reenergize your work space and help your productivity. Evaluate whether your current set up is the most functional or whether your desk might be more organized with the help of letter trays or shelves. Updating your office could also be as simple as adding a new piece of décor, like a new painting or a plant.

4. Use social media…more
Social media is a powerful tool. I continue to learn more and more about its power, both in my personal and professional lives. Whether it is deciding on whether to start using social media for your company or clients, or reevaluating the platforms that you currently use, make fun and realistic goals for your accounts. These goals could include exploring a new social media platform, reaching a certain number of followers by the end of the year, or starting a hashtag trend.

5. Streamline your mornings
I find that when I am rushed in the morning, my whole day feels altogether hectic. It would be so much easier to lay out my clothes, pack my breakfast and lunch, and get my gym bag ready the night before, so that when I get to work, I am calm, relaxed and ready for the day. I know that another alternative would be to just get up earlier, but if I am going to make realistic goals here, getting up early is not one of them.

6. Take the stairs
Regardless if you make any fitness goals this year, this is a resolution everyone should just do. Luckily, I work in a building where an elevator is not an option, but I have had jobs in the past where it was way too easy to take the elevator over the stairs. Think of all the calories that could be burned WHILE at work, not to mention it is great for your legs and your heart!

7. Bring a lunch
It is really easy to eat lunch out every day, especially if you forgot to pack one the night before and you are running late (see resolution 5). And if you work in downtown Madison like I do, where there are a plethora of wonderful restaurants to choose from, it is even easier. But if you bring a lunch at least once a week, you will not only save money, you’ll probably choose healthier options, too.

8. Learn a new skill from your colleagues
Work is where we spend most of our time during the week, so we spend quite a bit of time with our colleagues. Whether you want to learn a new recipe or how to use a computer program, your colleagues may have a skillset to share, you just have to stop and ask. My colleagues happen to have diverse areas of expertise, so I look forward to working with them over the next year to learn new things and get to know them better!

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Get up! Stand up! Tips for selecting a standing desk

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2014 was the year I finally decided to focus on my health. And oh boy did I! I joined a gym and got excited about working out. I learned how to fuel my body with clean, unprocessed foods. I grew stronger. I lost 30 pounds and gained some killer biceps! But of all the things I accomplished this year, perhaps the most healthful and life-extending decision I made was to reduce the time I spend sitting on my bum.

The Sitting Disease
Here’s what I know: Research shows that excessive sitting can be lethal. Most of us do it all day long: in the car, on the couch, in the office. It’s so bad, that experts say it can’t be negated by exercise and can lead to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancers and early death. There’s even a name for this inactivity: the “sitting disease.”

I knew if I was really going to take this health thing seriously, I needed to sit less and move more. That’s tough to do when you have a desk job. So I set out to find a sit-to-stand office solution that would work for me.

In search of a solution
I started with a cheap hack that consisted of a 2’ x 3’ board set across two cardboard boxes. On top, I put my keyboard and my mouse. This got me on my feet, but, as you can really only stand for an hour or two at a time, it was awkward to break it down and set back up again throughout the day.

Then I started being conscious about standing while doing activities that didn’t require sitting: conference calls and meetings, or reading, for instance. And rather than sending an email to my colleagues a few offices away, I got up and paid them a visit.

This was all fine and good, but not enough to truly counteract the effects of sitting. I needed a permanent solution.

There are an amazing number of sit-to-stand options out there, ranging from adjustable desk tops to fully mechanized furniture. Some of the best I found were desktop workstations that turn your existing desk into an adjustable one. Ergotron, Kangaroo, and Veridesk are all attractive options and range in price from $300 - $600.

I wanted a full-desk option, however, to fit my two-monitor set up. Among the contenders in the height-adjustable desk category were Jesper, Evodesk, Ergo Depot, Stand Desk and XDesk. These can be pricier, ranging from $800 to over $2,000 depending on features that can include electronic adjustment, power management solutions and even add-on sound systems. Some also come with apps that alert you when it’s time to sit or stand (as if our bodies can’t tell us the same thing!).

The results
As I tend to have champagne tastes on a beer budget, I set my sights on a full sit-to-stand desk and scoured the Craigslist ads for something second-hand. Then last month — Bingo! — my dream desk appeared in the form of a beautiful bamboo-topped NextDesk. It required a two-hour drive across the state and back and another three weeks to get all the additional parts I’d need to make it complete, but it was well worth it.

I’ve lived with my new sit-to-stand desk for over a month now and have reduced my workday sitting time from about nine hours to three. I can write, design and hold meetings all while standing and I’ve noticed I have more energy than when I sat slumped over a desk all day. I love it!

I truly believe that adjustable desks and sit-to-stand solutions will become more commonplace and affordable very soon as we continue to learn about the dangers of sitting. But I wasn’t willing to wait. If sitting less and standing more can boost my chances of living a longer, healthier life, why not start right away?

A few final tips

Get a mat. Reduce the stress on your legs by getting a good desk mat. I purchased this one from Amazon.

Wear the right shoes. You’ll stand longer if you’re feet are happy. I have an extra pair of comfy shoes near my desk in the event that I’m wearing heels. Or I go barefoot.

Keep moving. Yes, sitting too much is bad, but standing too much in one place can lead to varicose veins. Who wants that? Be sure to shift your weight as you stand. Or, do what I do: turn on some tunes and dance!

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Ch-Ch-Changes: Tips to smooth the transition to a new job

new-job

Adjusting to a new job is tough. Whether you’re making a career change after just a few months, or many years, transitioning into a new role can be downright scary. Changing jobs means meeting and trying to fit in with all new people, it means a new routine, perhaps a new schedule, a new commute, and obviously, a new set of tasks and expectations. 

I recently started at AMPED after more than ten years with my former company. I went from being a wealth of knowledge and someone who others relied for all the answers, to being the one who knows almost nothing. My commute time more than doubled, which means my alarm clock now goes off an hour earlier. I sit at a desk the majority of the time now, when previously I had a good mix of sitting and being on my feet.

These are all things that have taken some getting used to and I’m certainly no expert in the career change department, but looking back I realize that there are a few things that have really helped my transition go a bit more smoothly. The following are a few suggestions for you if a career change is in your future.

Practice your routine. In the days or weeks leading up to your first day at the new job, take some time to test out your new wake up time, commute, parking, etc. Even if you’re not able to try the drive at the time of day you’ll actually be commuting, do explore all the possible routes. Feeling confident in my new commute definitely helped calm some of my first-day nerves. Nobody wants to make a bad impression by being late on the first day so if you can squelch even an iota of that nervousness by not being concerned about getting lost, you’re in good shape!

Ask questions. You will undoubtedly get bombarded with information in the first days and weeks at your new gig. It will be entirely too much information to take in at once, but by engaging and asking questions, you may just retain a little more of that information than you would by listening alone. Likewise, nobody expects you to get everything right on the first try. If you’re feeling uneasy about a task you’ve been assigned, ask for help! Your co-workers are your best resources.

Accept invitations. It can be intimidating asking questions of those aforementioned co-workers if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. One of the best ways to get to know the people you’ll now be spending more time with than some of your own family, is by accepting their invitations. Whether they invite you to happy hour, or for a quick coffee run, it’s important to accept the invitation. Getting to know your co-workers outside of work can help you feel more at ease when you need their help back in the office.

Immerse yourself. Everyone learns differently, but in my experience, the best way to really “get it” is to fully immerse yourself. I was so scared to answer the phone for the first time, but I took comfort in the fact that the hold button was my new best friend. Any question that came in could be answered by someone in the office. And by fielding those questions and finding the appropriate person to answer them, I was learning something by listening to the response. Take the opportunity to listen in on conference calls, request that your co-workers copy you in on email responses so you can later use them as reference. Even if the information isn’t immediately relevant, it’s likely that you’ll benefit from it at a later time.

Stay positive. This is probably the hardest of all. Even after four months, I get frustrated when I don’t know how to do something, don’t know how to answer a member’s question, or mess up something that should be really easy. But it’s important to remind yourself that nobody figures it all out right away. The President probably gets lost on his way to the bathroom in his first few months in the White House, right? The bottom line is that we learn from mistakes, and we all make them. Beating yourself up over it just isn’t worth it. If you can manage to stay positive, even despite all of the inevitable mistakes you’ll make, you’ll be so much better off in the long run.

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A working mom can have it all . . .


full time job . . . That is, if you’re working for a woman-owned business that understands the challenges of managing a job that impacts lives and a household where lives depend on you. Hats off to our owner and president Lynda Patterson for offering her team members a work environment that is enabling, flexible and supportive. 

I started working for AMPED full-time seven months ago. For much of it, I worked the usual 40-hour week. For the past several weeks, however, I have been clocking in at 150-200% due to the fact that the largest scientific meeting of our company’s largest client is a mere 27 days away.

We budgeted for an attendance of 6,185 scientists, researchers, physicians, investigators and patient advocates who focus on multiple sclerosis — 6,455 have since signed up with an expected 15-20 percent more by the conference date. The work behind the scenes is voluminous; the coordination levels immense; the back-and-forth between the organizing leadership, logistics specialists, speakers, vendors and attendees are incessant. Our scientific programs are all set and on schedule. We exceeded abstracts submission from past years by 115%. We are compliant with all ACCME rules and policies, even with changes that went into effect April 2014.

While ensuring that all our service providers from Montreal, the UK, Hannover, the East Coast and Madison, Wisconsin are in sync, I managed to have one son graduate from high school (with highest honors, ahem); prepare two kids for college (college dorm shopping and new student orientations, anyone?); celebrate four of five family members’ birthdays in a big way (thanks to frequent flier miles); send off and welcome back two of our kids to and from France, Sweden and Spain; cheered on our youngest in almost all but two soccer games for the season (they were conference champions); saw through the knee surgery of our oldest son; and personally volunteered as AV tech for our church and emcee at a fund raiser to raise awareness on the Typhoon Haiyan’s recovery efforts that claimed thousands of lives in the Philippines last year.

I credit my faith in helping me endure all these (I’ve been blessed with good health), but I must say the kind of work environment I am lucky to have and the lovely home I get to go home to at the end of each day have allowed me handle it.

Are there days when I’m just completely exhausted? Yes, of course! How do I cope? I catch up on sleep. I watch a favorite TV show while snuggled with my husband in the couch. I cook Filipino dishes. I connect with friends and family through social media. I hang out with my multi-cultural girlfriends. And then there are emails to answer, contracts to review, payments to process, doctor’s appointments to escort kids to. It’s endless.

I’m typing this blog entry while on a plane en route to a final walk-though of our upcoming scientific meeting of 6,000+. Yesterday was our youngest’s birthday. I scheduled this trip so I can be there for the celebration; to let my son know, he is loved. It’s possible. A working mom can have it all.

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Angelou quotes inspire in life and work

MayaAngelouQUOTEInspirational quotes: We’ve heard our teachers recite them, we’ve shared them in presentations and we even read them in signature lines of emails. To be honest, I actually considered using a quote to begin this blog. Remember when we all learned in middle school English to use a famous quote or thought to begin our papers? I sure do and, admittedly, I carry that with me to this day.

But beyond these typical (and often forced) encounters, inspirational quotes have never really been my thing. I’m not the type to print out a quote and tape it to my mirror or anything. However, with the passing of Maya Angelou, I was reminded of the beautiful and motivational thoughts that she shared with us during her lifetime. A few of her famous quotes left a lasting impression on me and because of this, I felt I should share them with others. In some way, each quote is applicable to one’s personal life, but also has implications in our professional life. Here are three of my favorite quotes shared by Maya that have inspired me to be better, particularly at my job:

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude”
Don’t we all wish it could be this simple? It’s certainly one of those “easier said than done” phrases to live by. Too often we encounter projects, clients, or even coworkers who we don’t like, and I hate to say it, but the chances that you’ll continue to run into these things are pretty high. Unfortunately, because it’s your job on the line, you can’t really “change it.” So change your attitude. You’re only wasting energy by focusing on the “I hate this” and “I wish it were some other way” thoughts. Instead try finding the positives. Maybe you’re learning a lot or perhaps you’ve found that you’re really good at something. Focus on that instead. I promise you can find something to enjoy in every situation!

“Nothing will work unless you do”
This quote rings particularly loud in my ears. We Millennials are often characterized as having a sense of entitlement, carrying around the idea that we deserve better, if not the best. While I have my own opinions on the truth of that accusation, I think there’s no denying that we could all use a good reminder that to get what you want you have to work hard. I like this one because it’s easy to understand. No interpretations or clarifications necessary – just work hard!

“We encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated”
Now this one is pretty difficult (or nearly impossible if you’re anything like me) to follow. Many of us strive to be the best at what we do and leave no room for failure. Unfortunately, failure, at some point, is inevitable. I know you may think your superman or superwoman, but trust me it will happen. Whether it is a small mess-up or big mistake, chances are you’ll encounter some sort of defeat (probably more than once) in your career. What’s important to remember is that you can’t let these defeats get the best of you. Yes, it’s important to reflect upon them so that you can lessen the chances they’ll occur again, but as soon as you’ve done that – move on! Don’t hang on to any sour feelings and don’t think that you can’t get past it. Focus your energy on how you can improve the next time around and on what you learned from the experience. By doing this, you’ll only get stronger.

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Take control of workplace productivity

productivity

With summer finally hitting the Midwest, the weather keeps getting nicer and nicer. After surviving a brutal Wisconsin winter with polar vortexes, blizzards and ice storms, there is no doubt that we deserve a pleasant summer season. For me, the summer has a lot of positives: sand volleyball, hiking, kayaking and just the ability to enjoy being outside. Unfortunately, it can also be distracting and destructive for my productivity.

As the days get nicer, I start seeing my focus drift more and more from what I should be doing. This is a trend that seems to be popping up constantly in society today. Distractions from things like smart phones, social media sites and, obviously, the lure of nice weather seem to affect workplace productivity. In my short time in the working world, I’ve learned some things that help me stay focused and get my work done efficiently.

Take a break. I know that we are all busy and have tons of work to finish, but if you’re drifting off task then take 10 to 15 minutes to reenergize. If it’s nice out, take a short walk outside. Stop by Starbucks or a local food cart to grab an afternoon energizer. This could make a huge difference in terms of your productivity. Taking that extra time for a break could help you save time in the long run.

Exercise. Ok, there’s no need to exercise at the office, but make sure to take the time outside of work to workout. In the past year, I feel like I’ve read countless studies about how sitting in a desk or staring at a computer screen is going to kill me. While I have friends who have taken some measures in the office—such as purchasing a standing desk or sitting on a medicine ball—to overcome these trending theories, I prefer to use my time outside the office to my advantage. I try to get to the gym regularly or workout with some You Tube videos when I can. While this may not offset the pending doom that is “Death-by-Office,” I notice a difference when I expel some extra energy. When I work out, either before or after work, I notice that I’m not as restless as I am otherwise. This allows me to do my work tasks without feeling fidgety or unfocused.

Get enough sleep. Sleep makes a huge difference in my productivity. When I get to bed late, I can definitely feel it. I feel sick and I can barely get anything done. This obviously presents challenges in the office. Make sure to get an adequate amount of sleep so that you don’t end up falling behind on important tasks.

Find your “zone.” In general, we tend to perform best when we are “in the zone.” This means that we are not overly bored or overly stressed, but seem to have the right amount of focus and time to ensure the best possible performance. If you can figure out how to get in your zone and stay there, your productivity will increase drastically. I tend to get in the zone when I set deadlines for myself. Even if I am doing a remedial task, I set a deadline. The deadline could be one hour later or one month later. Either way, this makes me complete my tasks efficiently while producing high quality work. Calendaring out your day or week so that every hour is accounted for helps with this as well. While some things simply cannot be planned ahead of time, the more prepared you are the more likely you will enter your zone. While this may seem like an abstract concept, approaching the workplace this way could help you get in the best mindset to do work in the most effective way.

Unfortunately, distractions are part of life—and part of the workplace—but just because they exist does not mean they need to control your day. If you learn how to keep your distractions under control, your productivity will undoubtedly increase. These tips are just things I’ve learned from experience. Find what work for you and use it your advantage!

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