How Can I Balance Work and Family Life?

How Can I Balance Work and Family Life?photo
By: Cynthia Bull


Trying to meet dual work/life demands in today's environment (especially in the U.S.) frequently results in feelings of being unbalanced. If one's general focus and sense of balance becomes clouded, it affects an overall sense of peace. When focus is blurred and peace succumbs to anxiety, unfortunately, it can lead to chaos. This article offers steps you can take to maintain balance both in the workplace and at home.

Psychoneuroimmunology, the study of mind and body, explores how mental and emotional health affects physical health. An article by WebMD feature writer Sherry Rauh (cited on http://www.webmd.com/) lists five practical steps toward better work/life balance. Here are excerpts:

1. Figure Out What Really Matters to You in Life: Personal coach Laura Berman Fortgang says getting your priorities clear is the first and most essential step toward achieving a well-balanced life. The important point here is to figure out what you want your priorities to be, not what you think they should be.

2. Drop Unnecessary Activities: Fortgang recommends dropping any commitments and pursuits that don't make your top-five list, because "unnecessary activities keep you away from the things that matter to you."

3. Protect Your Private Time: "Carve out hours that contribute to yourself and your relationship," says Stevan Hobfoll, Ph.D. psychology at Kent State University. Guard this personal time fervently and don't let work or other distractions intrude. "Stop checking email and cell phones so often."

4.Accept Help to Balance Your Life:Allow yourself to rely on your partner, family members, or friends - anyone who can watch the kids or run an errand while you focus on other top priorities. "Tag-teaming is a great way to create extra free time," Hobfoll says.

5. Plan Fun and Relaxation: "Remember, you make time for what you want to make time for," Fortgang says. If something is important to you, don't brush it aside with a dismissive "I don't have time for that." You are in charge of your own schedule - it's up to you to make time.

Jim Bird (founder and CEO ofhttp://www.worklifebalance.com/) champions the value of achievement and enjoyment in four areas of life: business, family, friends, and self. He suggests that these two aspects are "critical to the success of a leader, his or her organization and the community and culture of which they are a part."

Here are seven more steps to help balance work and family life:

1. Create and maintain a written or electronic work schedule and use it each day on the job. Try as much as possible to stay within those time commitments. An occasional exception is to be expected but need not be disruptive.

2. Keep a home schedule with everyone's activities listed. As much as possible support each other as a group and make certain no member is left unsupported in any activity, remaining tolerant of each other's differences (schedules, preferences, personalities).

3. Share as many family meals together as possible during the workweek. If nightly gatherings are not possible, commit to a specific number of meals together and consider sharing or alternating meal preparation by family members, either individually or in teams. (Establish and keep a "come home time" in order to honor evening commitments.)

4. Spend quiet time together as a family (reading, hobbies, homework or games) where each member can enjoy an individual interest. Everyone appreciates quality time together regardless of the activity, and it's not always necessary to have a group activity going.

5. Make a date with your partner on a regular basis, if not weekly then as frequently as possible, but make a commitment and keep it.

6. Prioritize plans as much as possible, but remain flexible and open to change. When necessary, say "No!" and avoid adding pressure to everyone.

7. Take a break from dwelling on the mistakes of the day and Have Fun Together.

The ability to identify realistic, here-and-now goals and to minimize or eliminate unrealistic goals lessens work/life drama and helps to keep life under control. Circumstances will always change (and often when least expected), and certainly being flexible and amenable to changing times is absolutely necessary. Being an active participant in one's life, following and practicing steps to preserve balance creates balance itself.

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CYNTHIA BULL (http://www.cynrje.com/) is an internationally published writer and editor who helps international authors, marketers and speakers add greater value to their products through her top-quality writing, editing and transcription services. She is the author of How To Be A Medical Transcriptionist and Winning At Work While Balancing Your Life, a contributing author of Walking with the Wise Entrepreneur (Mentors Publishing House), cited in Make BIG Profits on eBay (Entrepreneur Press), and Managing Editor of Mentors Magazine Think & Grow Rich Edition. Cynthia has created over 200 book products in the past two years for her clients and, as mentor, helps clients reach their goals through her products, experience and genuine caring. Cynthia writes this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

Managing Stress During the Holidays

Managing Stress During the Holidays

By: Charlene Davisphoto

Statistics overwhelmingly indicate that stress is the root cause of many health-related issues including heart disease, cancer, obesity, depression, memory loss, high blood pressure, and diabetes. And with increasing demands on both your personal and professional life, learning how to effectively manage stress is more important than ever - especially with the holidays right around the corner!

The first step to stress management is identifying what factors in your life are causing you to feel anxious. Some people have physical symptoms such as headaches or high blood pressure while others may get internal symptoms like panic attacks or depression. In either case, recognizing the source can help you find methods that will help decrease your stress level.

Other steps you can take to manage stress is decreasing the amount of caffeine and alcohol you drink. Eat healthy snacks throughout the day to keep your blood sugar elevated. Deep breathing and meditation are easy techniques that require very little time. Also, exercise is a good way to manage stress that has many other health benefits by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight.

Dr. Kathleen Hall, internationally recognized stress and work-life balance expert, and founder/C.E.O. of The Stress Institute, Mindful Living Network and Alter Your Life (http://www.stressinstitute.com/) recommends artisans use her renowned S.E.L.F. Care program during the times of holiday stress to help stay cool and collected:

-Serenity: Listen to calming music before bed, do a short meditation, use guided imagery picturing leaves floating down a water stream or balloons floating off into the sky.

-Exercise: Take a walk, ride your bike, dance, practice yoga or play. Exercise is essential is stress reduction!

-Love: Maintain close relationships with friends and family members; look at the holidays as a time to take advantage of quality family time, even if you feel stressed at first. Healthy relationships contribute to healthy minds!

-Food: The holidays are full of wonderful food. Let yourself indulge a little bit rather than forbidding yourself from enjoying holiday treats!

Amy Stone, a pottery artist who does baby hand and feet impressions, and personalized baby gifts (http://www.mittspiggyspaws.com/andhttp://www.fairysandfrogs.com/), recommends organizing your time and getting plenty of sleep. "Set time goals for yourself and try to get in bed at a decent hour," she says. Stone admits this was hard for her to do initially because like a lot of artists she is most creative at night. "I learned to map out my time better and sleep at night instead of keeping owl's hours."

Stone also recommends keeping a calendar of deadlines so that you can clearly communicate to the customer when they can expect their finished order. "This is paramount, especially with Christmas fast approaching," she says. "I'm usually done much earlier than the allotted time frame, but this keeps customers satisfied and helps my sanity as I take on more projects."

Internationally recognized artist and designer, Pablo Solomon (http://www.pablosolomon.com/), encourages fellow artisans to not stress out by putting themselves into debt buying big, expensive presents. "My wife and I shop yard sales and junk stores year around to find unique items that our friends might cherish such as old books, art, vintage purses, and other collectibles," he says. "Often our gifts are the most appreciated because they show we put time and thought behind them."

Another gift-giving idea comes from Connie Mettler, publisher of the Art Fair Calendar (http://www.artfaircalendar.com/), who recommends that instead of spending hard earned money on gifts, start trading/bartering with other artists/artisans early in the year so that you are ready with gifts for the holidays. "Usually these are gifts you would have a hard time justifying paying retail for."

Remember to be good to yourself during this stressful time of year. While you cannot completely eliminate stress from your life, you can take steps to effectively manage it. Take some time on a regular basis to check all systems and regulate stress levels; your body and mind will thank you for it!

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CHARLENE DAVIS (http://www.thewriteessentials.com/) is an internationally published writer specializing in business, retail, e-commerce, and food. She wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

Customer Testimonials: How Important Are They to Your Artisan Business?

Customer Testimonials: How Important Are They to Your Artisan Business?photo
By: Marcia Passos Duffy

You're doing all the right things to market your product. Your Web site is search engine optimized. You have lovely brochures and sales flyers. You're Twittering. You're networking on Linked In and Facebook.

But you may be overlooking the most important marketing strategy that can make or break a sale: customer testimonials.

Customer testimonials are not just for diet or beauty products. These third party endorsements, when used correctly, adds credibility to you as an artisan, and your work.

"For artisan businesses, whose products often have a much higher price tag than mass manufactured products for the same use [customer testimonials] are a big factor," notes Shel Horowitz, a marketing consultant based in Hadley, Mass., and author of six books on frugal, effective and ethical marketing (http://www.frugalmarketing.com/). This is particularly true if the product is purchased over the web or from a catalog, "...where you don't get to see and touch and smell the product," he says.

Testimonials are one of the most powerful tools artisans have for marketing themselves, says Sarah Nelson, a marketing consultant based in Portland, Maine (http://www.npressnewsletter.com/) "Testimonials move you from saying, in effect, 'I'm great and you'd better believe it!' to 'I'm great and here are real people who say so,'" says Nelson.
Susan Martin, a business coach and consultant from Brooklyn, NY who works frequently with artisans and creative professionals (http://www.business-sanity.com/) notes that creative people often have trouble tooting their own horn. "Testimonials are a great way to get others to do that for you," says Martin.

How to Get Testimonials

But how can you get testimonials? Sometimes raves about your product come unexpected through your email or snail mail. Perhaps you already have collected a stack of this kind of "fan mail."

The only thing left to do is to email or write the person thanking them for their kind words and asking their permission to use their quote and name for your marketing materials. Most people will agree.

But what if you don't have any usable testimonials? Then you will need to ask your customers. But it doesn't have to be a request for a long-winded testimonial - and it doesn't have to be formal.

"Many people are under the impression that a testimonial should take the form of a complete signed letter on company letterhead," says Nelson. But you'll get more usable quotes if it is an easier, less formal process. "...simply go after two sentences from each testimonial-giver."

These short testimonials can be found in any letter of thanks (use the strongest two sentences for your promotional materials), when someone spontaneously utters quotable praise (grab a pencil and ask, "Can I quote you on that?" and write it down). Another approach Nelson recommends is to call your best customers and say you are collecting success stories from customers and if they would like to be included. "Putting it that way flatters [customers] and presents the idea to them as a compliment rather than a burdensome request," says Nelson.

What a Testimonial Should Include

1. Full name and location. Make sure you get permission to use any quotes in your print and online marketing materials. Don't add partial names or information, which makes the quote look dubious, such as "Joe S. from the mid-west."

2. Short sentences about specific benefits. Make sure that the testimonial is not vague kudos, such as "Your hand-crafted axe works great!" Instead, suggests Horowitz, make sure that the words convey the benefits received, such as "I get so much enjoyment out of using this hand-crafted axe that I can't imagine ever using a chain saw again."

3. Emotion. The ideal testimonial should be a heart-felt sentiment in a customer's own words. It should contain some kind of simple explanation of a situation that existed before the customer did business with you, and the problem you helped them to solve with your product, says Martin. "Now an artisan may be confused about the 'problem/need' scenario...but even if you are selling a beautiful object, the problem may be that the customer wanted to add beauty to a drab apartment," says Martin.

How to Use Testimonials

There are many creative ways you can use these testimonials once you have gathered them. They can be added to your Web site, brochures, advertisements, blog posts, postcards, catalogs, email and more. They can even be used during a presentation at a trade show.

When posting testimonials on a Web site many people chose to create a separate section, but Martin prefers to place testimonials in a text box into the content of an appropriate page, "...so that when they're reading the description of your work, that specific chosen testimonial can lend credibility without having to click to another page," says Martin.

Pablo Solomon, an artist and designer based in Lampasas, Texas, (http://www.pablosolomon.com/) says that testimonials - and showcasing them -- are one of the great joys of doing good work.

"As artists, we often do not get feedback that we really consider to be meaningful. Usually our feedback -- good or bad -- is from other artists or art critics that should not be taken too seriously. However, when paying clients give you good feedback, this should be treasured," he says.

Testimonials are a powerful tool you can use to gain credibility, trust and generate more sales. But you ought to know there are FTC guidelines regarding testimonials.

Testimonials that you use in marketing materials must reflect typical experiences of your customers and must be able to be substantiated. You also must make it clear that you did not pay to obtain a testimonial. For more information on FTC rules regarding the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising click here:http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/guides/endorse.htm

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MARCIA PASSOS DUFFY (http://www.backporchpublishing.com/) is a freelance business writer based in New Hampshire and is a member of the state's artisan and business organization, NH Made. Marcia's articles have appeared on Yahoo Finance, CNBC, Bankrate.com, NFIB.com, Smart Business Magazine, The New York Times Lifewire, The Weather Channel, among others; she is the author of the book, Be Your Own Boss. She also publishes two online magazines, Home Office Weekly.com (http://www.homeofficeweekly.com/) and The Heart of New England.com (www.theheartofnewengland.com). Marcia wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.