Platform

 

I never thought I could do it. For years, I watched other women go to exercise class, get in great shape and enjoy the camaraderie of being with other women. Finding enough time for myself with two kids and a job that required regular travel made it an impossible feat. When a job transition occurred in December of 2015, I challenged myself to think differently to make this career phase include more of the things that were important to me.

Thanks to my sister-in-law Dawn, who is always onto the best ideas, I signed up for Pure Barre, a high intensity exercise class that uses a ballet bar, bands and isometric moves. I knew it was going to be a hard-like really hard. On the surface, this was not a good idea. The studio was twenty minutes away, I couldn’t touch my toes much less survive 55 minutes of torture, but it was now or never and I was determined.

The studio owner Brynn Hanson and instructors were positive and supportive, which made me feel like I was meant to be there. The classes were as hard as I expected, but in time, a funny thing happened. Torture turned to challenge and with each step that I made it became a little more bearable. I managed my time better to ensure I could go and my strength improved. I started to look forward to the stretch and deep breaths at the end, which gave such a great start to my day and made me feel better about myself.

When they introduced Platform classes, it was clear from the chatter at the classes that this was not something I could do. Pure Barre class meets cardio for an even higher intensity level and calorie burn. I avoided it like the plague for months on end until January came and I was in desperate need to shake off a few holiday pounds. I admitted to several women at the class that I was afraid to try it as it seemed too hard. They encouraged me and gave me the boost I needed to put myself out there. I gave myself permission to fail, as long as I tried. I could always leave, step in the bathroom for a fake restroom break or just leave early for an “appointment” mid class.

It turns out I loved it, even though it was hard. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone was exactly what I needed to shake up my game. The women alongside me in class were sweating and suffering just like I was, but we were all in it together and here to support each other.

As women, striving to be our best personally and professionally, the fear of the unknown can be crippling. Focusing on the limiting factors can take away from our ability to grow in ways we never knew we could. With the support of other women and admitting our vulnerabilities in a safe place, we can push and be pushed to try.

Platform became another platform for me to take my game to the next level. No, I haven’t shook those holiday pounds yet, but more importantly I am reminded of what I can do if I put myself out there and engage the support of others. A special thank you Dawn, Brynn, Kat, Pure Barre and many others in class. You’ve helped me more than you know.

The Power of Sleep

sleep

I am a huge believer in the power of sleep. As an advocate for work life balance, I talk and write about the importance of getting good sleep as part of my self-care model. In fact, I believe that getting good sleep goes beyond self-care, and is a key part of our success formula in our careers and our businesses.

The facts back this assertion. Study after study shows that good sleep leads to higher productivity, better decision-making and enables us to keep our emotions in control in the workplace. Arianna Huffington’s book “The Sleep Revolution” puts the sleep crisis on the front burner of businesses today, citing that worker productivity costs us an average of $2,280 annually per employee due to lost productivity from sleep deprivation. Companies are now taking sleep more seriously, educating employees on the importance of sleep and creating more flexible work hours for employees to manage their schedules in a healthier way.

As fate would have it, in 2016, I brought my commitment to sleep to a whole new level. I had the opportunity to take on the role of SVP of Human Resources at Elite Comfort Solutions, an innovative sleep products company that is changing the way we sleep, literally. Our company develops new technology in the design and comfort of mattresses and sleep products. We are growing wildly as a result of our innovative ideas to help make our customers’ beds and pillows feel comfortable and cool.

My role as a leader in our business is to create a culture where both our employees and our business thrive. Success is built on having productive employees who contribute every day and are engaged in growth. To be engaged, they must be well rested. I now create my messaging about sleep as a reminder to them of the importance of sleep, both to be more productive and to support their work life balance.

Here are three things that we can do as leaders to share the message of the power of sleep:

 

  1. Change the conversation about sleep in the work place. Stop talking about fewer hours of sleep as a badge of productivity and dedication to your job. Start bragging about getting a full 7 to 8 hours and how much better you feel as a result. Encourage your traveling coworkers to not take the earliest flight of the day at the expense of less sleep. We need strategic thinking and balanced emotions in every meeting. Getting good sleep helps to achieve this.
  2. Manage your technology to enable good rest. Technology and smart phones allow us to work 24-7 without barriers or work rules to enforce good practices. The blue light emitted from these devices can affect our melatonin levels that enable us to get good rest. Buy yourself an alarm clock to replace your phone on your nightstand. If that’s too radical, at least change your settings on your phone to avoid the phone from emitting blue light. Set technology limits to avoid checking email late at night when you should be focused on unwinding. Encourage coworkers to do the same.
  3. Learn to do a reset on sleep. We’re all human and changing habits is hard. I am challenged as well to practice the work life balance and sleep advice that I preach. Learn to reset when your sleep habits slip. Give yourself permission to take a 30 minute nap to recharge on the weekend. Track your sleep to monitor when you are getting a full night and when you are not. Make it a priority to get back on track when you miss multiple days of a full night sleep.

Join me to help lead the way to make a difference and support good sleep habits in the workplace.  We can make a difference.

The Art of Traveling Fashionably Light

Over the years traveling in an international HR role, I’ve always been on the lookout for those great tips to lighten my load, organize my travel gear and look good on the road. Always observant at airports on the latest gear, I’m never afraid to ask another fellow traveler how she does it.

On a recent trip with my fashionista and organizer extraordinaire sister-in-law Dawn, I learned a few tips on the art of traveling fashionably light that were too good not to share. We teamed up to give our best ideas to all of you:

Lighten your Load:

Investing in the right carry on can make the world of difference in getting around. Dawn recommends the Tumi International Carry on for the lightweight and ability to expand. If you travel at large airports, consider a 4 roller so you can push or pull and make sure you don’t exceed the 21” travel size when you buy one. Tumi outlets (yes they exist!) are a great place to maximize your dollars and buy the best quality available.

Choose the right briefcase or tote that works for you. I like a bag that is big enough to let me insert my handbag to meet the 2 bag max, fits under an airline seat, but is light enough so it doesn’t give me an instant travel headache from the strain in my shoulders when it’s full. I have the Tory Burch York Buckle tote in camel which fits the bill. I always carry a charger in my tote and an extra set in my luggage for back up.

TBTote

 

 Maximize Space:

Roll your non-hanging clothing items to maximize space and prevent wrinkles. Wear your bulkier pieces like blazers or sweaters you need to pack on the plane to free up space in your bag.

Travel light

Accessorize your Travel: 

Invest in an oversized wrap that you can wear on your travels and doubles as a wrap to keep you warm in the drafty plane. Dawn’s favorite is her Louis Vuitton Monaco Square shown below. Timeless and elegant. I like anything 100% two ply cashmere as it won’t wrinkle. Nordstroms has a great selection of wraps in their accessories department and for those willing to bargain hunt, check out TJ Maxx.

LVMonaco

Pick a color scheme for your outfits on your trips and let your accessories add the pop of color interest. Build your outfits around neutrals – black, white, beige, navy or gray. Pack versatile pieces that you can combine into multiple outfits. I always bring an additional black cardigan in case I get stuck an extra day.

Organize your Toiletries:

Ditch the Ziplocs and invest in the Sephora Travel on the Go 3 oz. toiletry pouch. More sturdy, see through and holds a bit more. For $4.95 these are well worth it. I now keep an extra on hand.  Bring your favorite scent along without dragging the large bottles. Atomizers fit perfectly in your pouch and are easy to fill instead of taking the whole bottle along. This affordable atomizer from Nordstroms for $6 and was part of my holiday gift for my girlfriends who are on the go.

Sephorabag.jpg

atomizer

For international travel, I always bring an extra medical pouch in case I get sick on the road, which includes cough drops, a decongestant, Dramamine, Advil, band aids, and a packet of chicken soup. Dawn makes sure she takes Emergen-C Vitamin C packs regularly before and while traveling.

Traveling can be grueling but when you take off prepared it’s always an easier trip.

The Story of Ms. Ana- Passion, Purses, and the Pursuit of Balance

anaphoto-e1429670616111 hobophoto-e1429670780261I met Ms. Ana four years ago. It was a fluke that I found her. For years we lived in the same town; two women with a shared passion for making purses and accessories right down the street from each other. We probably crossed paths at Joanne’s Fabrics or the grocery store plenty of times over the years, but it was one fateful day that we finally met. I tracked her down after I saw her purses at a store where I was hosting my daughter’s birthday party. There they were on display, handmade like Vera Bradley with attention to detail that only an artisan could do. The storeowner told me that she was a local designer and she gave me her number.

The next day I called her and we set up a time to get together to talk about my “purse project.” Little did she know that this “project” had been on hold for years. I developed a passion for fashion and handbags back in high school when my best friend and I would study fashion magazines and spend our hard earned babysitting money on the latest clothes and accessories. I learned how to sew and eventually started creating my own accessories. I dreamed of having a second career in fashion with my own line of purses.

Then came marriage, career and two kids. My hobbies came to a screeching halt and dreams of handbags faded into the abyss. I, like many women couldn’t justify time away from the kids and family after working all day, so I put my hobbies and part of me on hold.

Sometimes along the way we get off track, we lose part of ourselves in the pursuit of family, career goals and not enough time in the day. As women, we tend to give these things up for our families and our careers at times when we need it the most.

However, I subscribe to never giving up, just like we tell our kids and friends. I think that every working woman should have a passion they pursue. Whether it’s a cause to support, a hobby, sport or a creative outlet. We all deserve something that breaks up the intensity of career and family demands. Something that feeds our soul and is just for us.

Most importantly, I encourage women to not only find things that feed their creative side, but be creative in how you find time to be creative. Never give up on things that you need for you.

It turns out that fateful day ignited my passion again. While I knew that my career would not be in the fashion world, I needed to do something that fulfilled me. Ms. Ana was the perfect find. My handbag sketches soon became reality and she helped me to bring my designs to life under a line I named Livelle.

Today, I design handbags and accessories for friends, charity events and as gifts for those around me. Ana is Ms. Ana to my kids, and they are often with me when I meet with her on my handbag projects. She even gives them sewing lessons so they too can learn to have hobbies they enjoy.

People often ask me how I have time be a mom, have a career and design handbags on top of it. It doesn’t feel like much of a feat to me, it feels like a necessity. How can I not?

Blogging for a Cause

I got the idea to blog from my brother Jay, who began his own blog about life as a businessman and determined goal seeker. We are alike in many ways as we have always aspired to big goals and dreams that were woven between entrepreneurship and personal success.

He is an amazing writer and his posts were tantalizing. So much so, that I decided to send his blog to Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos and author of “Delivering Happiness.” Jay is a huge fan of Tony and has read his book and a 100 others like it. I probably should have asked him, but I did it on a whim after reading a great post. A few days later, I got an email back from Tony’s assistant that told me Tony read it and wanted to feature Jay’s writing on their blog. It was so exciting and it validated what I already knew that Jay has a special gift.

His blog made me realize that I too have a love for writing and capturing the challenges and things that I have learned from my own experience as a working woman and mother. Last year, I began writing short articles that focus on these topics and provide a few take aways that the reader can relate to and use to face their own challenges. Finally, in March, I gained the courage to ask Cathy Cassani Adams , who is a contributing writer for Chicago Parent Magazine and radio show host of Zen Parenting Radio with her husband Todd if I could guest blog. She jumped on it and I realized, it’s not about being the perfect writer or acclaimed expert on these topics, it’s about going for it without fear.

So why blog when I’m busy enough with my career and family that already takes up my time and energy? Passion. A passion to explore the issues we face and utilize a creative outlet to balance my work and my personal interests. The more I explore these issues and open up about my challenges with women, the more I learn and the better I become for myself and my family.

Stay tuned, share and please give me feedback I love to hear from women like you!

Amy

Ready, Set, Launch!

Chic_2

After having the opportunity to guest blog for http://www.cathycassaniadams.com and appear on the radio show http://www.zenparentingradio.com about work life balance, I was inspired to do more for working women. My career in Global Human Resources over the last twenty years has given me real experience on the front line of issues that affect women. First as a “Working Woman”, now as a “Working Mom” with two young girls, I see the challenges, the roadblocks and the hard work it takes for us to thrive in our careers, strike balance within our personal lives, and to be our best.

I am passionate about figuring it out, helping others and connecting with other women who can relate. This blog will explore these issues, how we can put our determination to work and how to get “perfect” out of our vocabulary. All with an occasional post on my favorite fashion and beauty finds.

Why call it “Chicago Working Woman” when there are woman all over the world who endure these challenges? It was the city of Chicago where I spread my wings in life and work, where I met my husband and developed a love of fashion. It only seemed fitting to name this blog after the place where my journey began.

I hope to hear from you. Please share your thoughts and ideas with me at Chicagoworkingwomen@gmail.com.

Enjoy!

Amy Rodgers