At the end of my long work days, nothing gives makes me happier than knowing that my day was successful and productive. Every day I strive to be impactful and productive, but in my personal and professional life. I hope that every day I make as big of an improvement as possible in my work advocating for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. In my personal life, I feel productive and content when I can connect daily with my daughter, my husband, and other loved ones in a meaningful manner. With many moving pieces in my work and life, staying productive is not without its challenges, but the rewards that my focused approach reaps are always well worth the effort.
In the day-to-day operations of my organization, Second Chance Employment Services (SCES), there are always interruptions. They might come from clients, who are women with pressing needs, or one of my employees who needs my approval of a form or a management matter. If a client has an emergency, then everything else stops for me. The well-being of a woman who has been victimized comes first, and I shift my workflow to accommodate her needs. I’ve found that the key to managing this has been the usage of a tracking system, which allows me to both track my clients’ needs and the other tasks that must constantly be reprioritized. With a tracking system keeping tabs of deadlines, assigned tasks, etc, I can easily return to the administrative tasks after I’ve helped a client. This prevents important but not strictly time-sensitive issues like managing my New York Office, fundraising, and raising awareness amongst youngsters, from falling through the cracks. Deadlines and reminders also help keep my employees and myself accountable to each other, which help the organization move forward as a whole.
I also rely on tracking tools to help manage professional responsibilities outside of my organization. The past few years I devoted a considerable amount of time lobbying for domestic violence victims’ rights during the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) on Capitol Hill here in Washington, DC. I can’t even count the number of meetings I attended, or the hours put into creating congressional briefings and keeping in contact with White House and Congressional allies. Fitting all this into my schedule would have been impossible without careful tracking of other responsibilities and scheduling my time according to priorities. Taking the time to carefully consider the time needed for all of my various responsibilities allowed me to fit them all into my schedule and be the most productive that I could be. In the end, my team had the great satisfaction of seeing VAWA funding extended to organizations that work to empower victims of violence through economic means, such as SCES.
Additionally, I have been busy promoting my first book about SCES, name “Ending Domestic Violence Captivity”: A guide to economic freedom. Now writing a second memoir, and conducting outreach to young people in colleges and universities. It’s enough to be a full-time job, on top of my actual full-time job! My productivity in these different realms is greatly enhanced by a focused and disciplined approach. I divide the work into sub-sections, taking everything one step at a time. It would be unreasonable to sit down one Saturday morning and expect to write an entire chapter of my book. Instead, I pick a topic that I know I want to cover and write just a few pages at a time; before I know it, my sub-sections are coming together into a chapter, and that chapter leads to another. It prevents any task from seeming overwhelming and makes the entire process much more fulfilling.
I advise others who are hoping to make their time more productive to use organization tools similar to mine. Figure out how to break the whole work down into smaller, accomplishable goals. Don’t view it as a 200-page proposal, but first see it as an outline of the proposal and a short summary of the first part. When you’re breaking down the work into smaller pieces, see where the help of others can come in. Is this a task easily accomplished with a small team to which I can delegate small pieces? Would the feedback of just one peer make me feel more confident about moving from one section to the next? Has someone done something similar before that I could use a guideline?
It is unnecessary to recreate something that has already been done, and learning how to capitalize on the work done before us (and giving the proper credit where due, of course) helps increase productivity enormously. When I first began volunteering in women’s issues, I used templates from friends to help write proposals. It helped me to work faster and effectively. Even now, I still take the time to create a template for a task that I know I will repeat at some point. I never regret taking that hour or two late one night to create the template. I am always thankful when I can use these reliable shortcuts for myself in time pressured situations. I ask my network of friends to read pieces of my work. I find my colleagues feedback invaluable, and helpful in reducing the amount of time I spend reviewing my own work.
Overall, I’m the most productive when I keep my goals in mind: both those that are related to smaller, incremental tasks that I set for myself and those that are loftier and ambitious end points. Figuring out which issues are short-term and long-term helps me set up realistic timeframes for projects at SCES and my work as an Speaker and Executive Leadership Coach. When I am stuck, I separate myself from the environment, by either grabbing a cup of chamomile tea or going for a walk. When I return to the task, my mind is clearer and I am more focused. All this helps keep me motivated and productive towards the ultimate goal of ending violence against women. www.ludygreen.com; www.scesnet.org
My Approach to Maintaining Productivity: One Step at a Time was originally published in Thrive Global on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
The Power of Support Systems
Mother Teresa once called loneliness the most terrible poverty. When reflecting on my life so far, I must agree. The company of others in the support system that I have developed has been one of my greatest blessings. Over the years I have cultivated and nourished a strong support group of both colleagues and friends that I often draw to for strength. The belongingness and friendship provided by my support system has carried me through countless challenging times and continues to spur my work with victims of domestic violence today.
When I moved to Washington, D.C. alone as a young women, I quickly realized the necessity of developing a support system. When I arrived in D.C., I set my sights on interning on Capitol Hill, a place that seemed familiar due to my family’s involvement in politics. When interning on the Hill, I met many young professionals with interests and ambitions like mine. I could easily forge new friendships based on these. I turned to these new friendships when I was looking for roommates or hoping to escape the city in a weekend beach rental.
As my friends and I matured, so did the nature of my support system. Given my lack of extended family, friendship was key in raising a young child. When my daughter was born, I had developed an active career in human resources and my husband’s work frequently took him overseas. My friends lovingly helped to fill in caregiver gaps if my daughter or myself fell ill. Being a young mother also brought new friends into my support system. I found myself gravitating towards women in similar positions, those constantly looking for babysitters or who could commiserate if I felt down. It was during this period when I learned how vital those friendships were to my personal success — not just with the practical matters but also by providing the nourishment and human warmth that my mind and soul needed.
I turned to this ever-growing support system when I had the idea to start an employment agency catering to victims of domestic violence. Through volunteer work in shelters, I learned that battered women often return to their abusers because they lack financial resources to support themselves and dependents. I was determined to start finding these women employment. My first partners in finding abused women stable and long-term employment were 40 of my human resources colleagues. Leveraging this part of my support system proved invaluable to getting my organization, Second Chance Employment Services, started. This community continues to serve as the key to the organization’s success today.
As my career progressed, my friends in other social networks have continued to evolve. I enjoy the company of women with older children as well now and have a bevy of exercising buddies that I turn to for motivation and companionship. My partnerships with various associations has also brought new friends into my life.
One of the most important things I have learned from developing a strong, helpful support system is that a successful support system requires a mutual exchange. One cannot simply take and not give back. You must provide help to your friends if you also expect them to help you. Being able to give back to those who have given to you is one of the greatest gifts. This helps others grow and in turn helps us grow. My friends come from a variety of backgrounds, so we help each other in various ways. While I might turn to a friend for some styling advice, I can utilize my expertise in human resources to coach them about a potential career change. Another one of my friends is an active fundraiser like me, and we accompany each other to various fundraising events.
My advice to those seeking to establish their own support systems is simple. First, start off by finding people who share your interests. Studies have shown that sharing interests helps facilitate meaningful friendships. If you enjoy looking at visual art, seek an art appreciation group or join a local art class. Volunteer with a non-profit organization in which you’ve always been interested. Finding people with similar hobbies and passions will truly make you feel like you belong.
These social interactions can have positive repercussions on all parts of our lives. Studies have found that your social relationships can positively affect both your mental and physical health. My friendships have been crucial in my life; I believe that I would not have accomplished as much without the loving support and encouragement I received. My support system has brought light into my life and shows me the importance of love every day.
Self-care When Caring for Others
By Dr. Ludy Green
Fifteen years ago I founded Second Chance Employment Services the nation’s first and only employment agency dedicated to serving victims of domestic violence. With a small staff, we have helped place thousands of women in long-term and stable employment, affording them the economic freedom to escape their abusers permanently.
Since a large part of my job is being a constant, strong support system, I must remain strong and happy in the face of a lot of violence, darkness, and broken dreams. For many years, I couldn’t understand the emotional toll that the job took on me. I was carrying the burdens of others and absorbing their negative experiences, and I felt unable to release them. My long workdays, easily 12 to 15 hours, gave me little opportunity to stop and heal myself. Even when I was with my family at home, I carried this burden.
I soon realized that this lifestyle was not sustainable. To bring my full-self to work, I needed to restructure my life and provide myself with better outlets to relieve my stress. I couldn’t continue sacrificing all of myself to my work otherwise there wouldn’t be any part of me left to give! I started researching self-care techniques and made a conscious effort to identity how my feelings were impacting my life. This involved searching my own heart and thinking deeply about what I needed. I had to find activities and personal time for myself and bring back control in my life.
I adopted a number of life changing habits that had remarkable effect on my vitality. The primary activities that I have found helpful in relieving stress are exercise, relationship building activities and mentoring others. The type of exercise I do varies depending on the day, but I make sure to work out at least four to five times a week. Some of my favorite types of exercise include running, Soul Cycle, yoga or dancing. I find that it is very important and ultimately more stress relieving to work out with another person. I always exercise with a buddy to both hold myself accountable and to create stronger friendships. For example, I love going for Saturday morning jogs with my husband and to Soul Cycle with my friend Molly. Daily exercise increases my endorphins and lets me return to the office, refreshed, refocused, and ready to work.
Various relationship building activities have also helped me to channel my stress. The best type of relationship building activities are ones that create conditions for high quality connections and require trust or engagement, such as going for long walks or canoeing. Joining a book club or any type of intellectual group is a great way to build relationships quickly and deeply. I use the strong, positive relationships I have formed in my life, outside of work, as a buffer to the stressful aspects of my job.
Once I began to consciously incorporate these various stress reliving activities into my daily life, my work and personal life improved. I felt more effective and focused. My personal relationships, especially with my daughter and my husband, flourished as I could separate myself from the burdens of my work when spending time with them. I learned that working smart does not mean working all day long. I felt, and still feel, fulfilled and noticeably happier.
By incorporating positive activities into my daily routine, I bring more light and good energy into the office and work more efficiently to help others. My clients have often experienced unthinkable cruelty, and seeing someone else happy, bright, and shiny has inmediate impact them. My own active life inspired me to begin bringing our interns to outdoor activities, like kayaking and canoeing, which has in turn helped them cope with the exhausting nature of our office.
Since learning to care for myself in a methodical and disciplined way, I have continued to grow. I found the energy to start doing public speaking and I even wrote a book, “Ending domestic violence captivity: A guide to economic freedom,” Volcano Press 2015. However, the biggest impact has been my continued drive to serve my clients — wonderful and inspiring women who have been abused and disparaged by others for too long. When I arrive at my office well-rested, confident in myself, and feeling positive, I am ready to fight for these women’s rights. For me, that is the best possible result of my self-care routine.
After years in the human resources sector, I changed my path to pursue one of my passions in the non-profit world. Successfully making this change, however, can be a challenge.
A report released earlier this month has gained national attention, from both politicians and comedians alike. The recent report, based off of a study conducted by Institute for Women’s Policy Research, claimed that women would not see equal pay until 2048. More recently, USA World and News reported that male nurses are paid an average of $5,000 more a year than women, even though women make up the majority in the field. In the article, US World and News made a point to clarify that this gap may not be the result of gender differences, but rather a result in differences in skill and experience.
It is hard to completely conform to the belief that the gap in pay between men and women is solely a response to differences in skill and experience, but either way it is important for women to address their role in the business world. It is not possible for women to have direct control over their salary in comparison with that of men’s, but they can control what type of jobs they pursue and goals they achieve. The key to this control is branding.
Branding can refer to the use of any market strategy to transform the appearance of a product to make it more distinct and easier to identify, with the goal of ultimately increasing profits for the respective company. But in this context, branding can also be used to refer to the decision to and process of changing the appearance and mindset of oneself in the hopes of achieving such goals.
Why should women rebrand? Women today face significantly greater barriers in the corporate world than men. In addition to the potential gender bias they face, they are also often the caretakers of a family, a huge job that requires a lot of time and energy. Therefore, to overcome these obstacles it is important that women embrace their power to make a name for themselves.
The branding process begins with passion. The first step is realizing what your passion is, and all the skills you have to pursue this passion. It’s important to think about what type of job markets you have been involved in before, paid or unpaid, and how they made you feel. Before starting the non-profit organization Second Chance, I worked various jobs in human resources but I never felt fulfilled. I realized that I felt more inspired and vindicated while volunteering at a domestic violence shelter for abused women. A key part of branding yourself is reevaluating your line of work and asking yourself the important question: Is this what I am truly passionate about?
Next, it is important to believe in yourself. It sounds cliché, but self-confidence is transparent and crucial when trying to advance in the job market. Create a list of your skills, ones that you whole-heartedly believe that you exhibit well, and embrace them! The most successful people who rebrand are the people who are most believable. If you fail to brand yourself in the way that you want to or the way that you feel like best demonstrates your strengths, employers will brand you for themselves and most likely not in the way you want to.
Finally, take the extra step. Branding yourself may entail reaching out to an old connection, taking an online class, or creating a support group. There are so many tools that women can take advantage of today to help them successfully rebrand themselves. One such example is social media. Take advantage of the connections you have formed through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to spread the word about your new ideas. Social media is one of the best ways to gain public attention because it is easy for everyone to access and you have complete control over how you portray yourself.
Although it’s easy to succumb to societal pressures in today’s competitive job world and only meet the bare minimum of expectations, it’s important to realize how much potential women have despite what experts may say about differences of skill and experience. As the CEO of Market Mentor Caryln Rodz explained in an article cornering women in the work force, “I am not a man, and will probably never be fully understood by men. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not capable of accomplishing the same things. I’ll just likely approach them differently”. If embraced correctly and portrayed accurately, our different approaches can make us just as successful, if not more, than our competitors.