The Math Behind Self-care

What if we all had 10 pellets of energy to spend each day? How many do you spend before you even get to work?

Maybe you wake up every morning rehashing things you should have said the previous day/decade. Day after day, you start with 9, the first one continually absorbed by mental stuff.

You read Facebook in bed before you get up, glance at Twitter while you brush your teeth, like a few things on Instagram over your first sip of coffee. You’re down to 8.

Maybe you spend another couple on patience, getting the kids out the door. Then another 1 on traffic. Down to 5.

By 9am you have literally spent HALF of your energy pellets for the day. It’s possible that you show up to work every morning as if you were half-hungover or as if you started your day a full 6 hours before the rest of the world.

Most people have an allergic reaction to the words “self-care.” I get it. Self-care evokes a basket filled with pastel bath beads, a personality who must sniff incense and leave work by 3pm to adjust his chakras. Self-care sounds wealthy, spoiled and precious.

Ignore the poor marketing, folks. “Self care” is math, quite simply a question of depleting and refilling. Have you ever spent time in a sandbox? You can’t build mountains without making holes.

So how do you maximize those 10 energy pellets? And is there a way to earn any back? I have some ideas.

1. Deny regret. And while you’re at it? Deny jealousy, imposter syndrome, trolls and could-have-beens. Not one of these serve you. Do not give them an ounce of an energy pellet. When they show up in your day, call them out and turn away. Nice try, regret. You’re cut off.

2. Shed, continuously. Every single thing you do today will take energy from you. Not into the book for book club this month? Stop reading it. Dragging your feet on a catch-up coffee with someone? Cancel it. There is a difference between loyalty and empty obligation — and often the difference is called guilt. There’s no room for guilt in your budget.

3. Outsource. I say this specifically to business owners: YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE THE ONE TAKING OUT THE TRASH. Value your damn time and recognize the absurd tasks you’re holding onto because you’re worried people will think you’ve got an ego. Welcome to adulthood. Those people’s assumptions are their problems, not yours.

4. Refuel with premium. Make time and space in your schedule for the best of the best. Whether it’s a daily call with your dad, evenings spent with nothing on the schedule or afternoon chakra work (hey, no judging!), you know the activities and people who bring you energy, whose presence in your life sends you back to your desk with renewed enthusiasm and a couple extra energy pellets. Follow these, always.

Can you imagine how efficient meetings would be if everyone had a handle on their shit and showed up with energy to spend? How quickly could decisions be made if the only topic on the table was the issue at-hand?

It’s all math, folks. Practicing self-care demonstrates your understanding and appreciation of systems. You know as well as I do: the best people at work are never the ones eternally scraping the bottom of the barrel.

If you’re a manager, self-care is even more important. You can’t offer support, guidance and direction to a group of people if you don’t have a handle on yourself. Join us next week for Plucky’s manager training in NYC! The very notion of attending a 2-day conference is a gift to yourself.

On Managing Your Friends

“I’ve had to delete texts lately,” my client said. “I start typing but realize partway through that it isn’t cool to share what annoys me at work with her anymore.”

Holy cow, the complexities of promotions in friendly workplaces.

You used to be peers. You talked over lunch about your days, you rolled your eyes together about That Person on the team… and now you’ve been asked to manage the team. Now not only are you in charge of That Person’s career path, you’re also responsible for your friend’s performance reviews, too.

The anxiety about encountering such awkward social situations keeps many people from management in the first place. Why trade friends for responsibility?

I don’t think you have to. Like any uncomfortable identity shift, life will hand you moments in which you cross a bridge into unknown territory. Some friends will follow you along the twists and turns and some will stay back, taunting you and throwing stones on which they’ve painted “WHAT A SELL OUT.”

It’s not your job to control your friend’s ability to reimagine a new version of your friendship. But here are some tangible steps you do have control over:

1. Call a spade a spade. Go out for a coffee together and say something like “I’m excited about this new stuff at work but I know it might be weird for a while while we navigate new roles. How do you feel about it?” The important thing to emphasize here is this: if you don’t talk about what’s awkward, you either seem stupid or dishonest. Of course this is going to be tricky. But inviting conversation about how it’s tricky for both of you opens the conversation enough to recommit to the next phase of your friendship.

An ability to talk about hard things and have faith in the friendship (despite the fact that some periods will be more challenging than others) is a defining quality of leadership.

2. Identify a role model. Somewhere, somehow, you know a leader who can talk like a real person but is also reliably professional. You trust her instincts, you know that you could approach her for guidance and there is something really soothing about the fact that you never hear her speak badly of others.

Once you identify this leader, mentally bounce your hardest social situations off of her. What would this leader say in response to your friend’s passive aggressive text? How does she handle the boundaries of friends at work? How would she handle a conversation with a team member who needs to start wearing deodorant? (Welcome to management.) 

Managing can be overwhelming; role models helpfully remind us that we’re not the first to do anything. 

3. Find new peers. You need new people to text. Developing relationships with others at your management level gives you a safe peer group among which you can discuss confidential information. If you’re not finding connections internally, reach out to manager friends in other workplaces. It is helpful to normalize your managing experience by hearing about the stuff going on at other companies (AND HOOO BOY IS STUFF GOING ON OUT THERE HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF UBER I MEAN REALLY.)

You will be less tempted to share confidential information with internal friends if you have a healthy channel to absorb it. Vent upwards and outwards, no exceptions.

4. Stay in your lane. It isn’t your job to make sure your friend can sleep at night because you were promoted. Don’t apologize for your progression or feel guilt about his feelings — and you do not need his permission to grow in your career. If you follow the above advice, you have demonstrated that you are glad to have a new work opportunity AND you’re eager to evolve your friendship too.

But. He may not be ready to receive this generous offer. 

At the end of the day, you cannot control the emotional growth or maturity of anyone but yourself. So if your friend is going to hold it against you, if they’re going to be resentful and stick their tongue out when you’re not looking, then you keep on keeping on. An inability to accept change is your friend’s Achilles’ heel — not yours’. Continue being reliably professional and, if he’s lucky, he’ll save the friendship by growing through it.

Are you a manager? Have you ended up in weird social dynamics since becoming a manager? Join us this summer for manager training. We’re going to talk about it all, normalize modern managing and help you find your way through it.

Beyoncé vs. Ballads (Know Yourself)


“So what’s #PluckyWomen?” I was standing at the bar, ready to order. I looked up from the drink menu at the dude next to me and in that second a song started playing over the speakers — the song I listen to when I’m writing big SOWs or prepping ambitious new pitches.

Maybe it was because I was there a little early and didn’t have anyone to get back to at the table. Maybe it was because I wanted to warm up my voice before facilitating career conversations. But probably it was because of that song. I came out swinging.

I told him what I believe about networks, how valuable community and camaraderie are for women, how I know women who are holding down full time jobs and raising children and cooking meals and who still have time to be in book clubs. “Women are multitasking NINJAS,” I said. “And often we’re only talking to each other about our kids or our relationships. I want us to talk about work so we get more seats at the table.”

He asked for four business cards to give to his sister, mother, aunt and cousin. Score.

I’ve written before about my recent foray into running. In the first few weeks of C25K I tried to double up the 40 minutes I spent exercising. While I ran (and walked), I also listened to a smart podcast about the news. I was getting in shape AND learning! For the first two weeks it was awesome.

But once the training turned into longer stretches of running, I found it impossible to keep with it. I was supposed to run 8 minutes in a row AND process the escalating violence inspired by the current administration? Both made me want to lay down on someone’s lawn and tell them to bring me donuts.

I didn’t want to give up on being informed. But I know myself. I’m 36 years deep in Jen Daryness. Girl ain’t running without real motivation.

So I traded podcasts for pop music and moved Pod Save America to serve as background while washing dishes. Eight weeks later I survived my 5k.

When I sit down to write, I am tempted to catch up on Twitter over my first few sips of coffee. But that inevitably turns me into a doomsday basket case. So lately I’ve been reading one of David McCullough’s essays before writing. McCullough writes about American character, always an optimistic voice for where we have been and where we are going. This morning I underlined this passage:

“It might never have happened. That’s among the most important lessons of history… and of life. There is so much around us that might never have happened were it not for a host of qualities called imagination, commitment, courage, creativity, and determination in the face of obstacles — that maybe most of all.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear this morning. I closed the book, put my coffee down and here we are.

You know that phrase, “you are what you eat”? I think it’s bigger than that. You are what you retweet. You are who you meet for drinks. You are what you watch or subscribe to or read. You are a culmination of everything you’re consuming, whether that’s food or otherwise.

So first of all, human, you have choices about what you put in your noggin.

And second of all, you have powerful expertise about yourself.

Don’t listen to ballads when you need Beyoncé. You know what songs (or tasks or PEOPLE) make you feel strong. And you know what books (or responsibilities or PEOPLE) really take the air out of your lungs. Start making decisions about how and when to leverage this knowledge and you’ll find that even your most daunting moments become navigable.

Everything I’m writing about here is vital to managers owning their authority. Are you a manager? You should join us at Plucky manager training in NYC this summer. I would love to see you there, but more than that you’ll get a lot out of it. Join us!