praxis

The Benefit of Flexibility by Christina Stewart

Praxis began because Drew and I wanted to be The Boss. We wanted to work for ourselves and have infinitely more flexibility.  I personally was frustrated with asking if I could have an afternoon or an hour away from the office to attend to something for my kids.  I have excellent time management ability and can focus easily, I know how to manage my time with my tasks and saw slipping away from work to watch an assembly or take a child to the dentist as easy and as just part of my day.  Funny, my boss didn’t see it that way. However, I never did ask if I could come in on a Saturday to get ahead of the workload – I just would and of course no one ever challenged me on it. It isn’t that they wouldn’t let me go – if I asked, then I could go – but it was just the fact that I had to ask and that it was tallied up and tracked, used as vacation, or I traded this time at work here for this time at home there and recorded on some spreadsheet and in some database.

As the one in charge of the service we offer now (aka The Boss) I weave what needs attending to at home and at work into my day and my schedule.  It’s the sunny Monday morning of a Long Weekend while I write this – but I was up at 5:30 so I might as well write this blog while the house is quiet and I have the time – right? And come Wednesday afternoon at 12:50 you’ll find me at the school walking my youngest child’s Kindergarten class to the pool for swimming lessons – because it’s important and fun – right? Still trading time but I’m most certainly not tracking it and I’m not asking if I can; I’m simply managing the pieces of my life and my work that matter.

I have a friend in Vancouver who runs his own business with about 20 employees and he doesn’t track lunch hours or what time they roll in each day – and I’ll tell you something crazy - he doesn’t even track vacation.  Not one little bit.  He sets out the expectations and provides plenty of support; guidance and the tools and resources they need to do their jobs. And then: he lets them get to it. If they need a Wednesday afternoon off to walk their kid to a swimming lesson, off they go, without question, without asking.  If they need two weeks in Hawaii, off they go without question, without asking. He hires skilled people with the ability to get the job done without his meddling and then makes sure they know what they are on deck to do.  Then they do it as they see fit, in the times that work best for them. He doesn’t track anything but their final performance and if they are getting the results he needs them to, they are successful.  End of the story.

As Drew and I stare down the barrel of making our first few hires, we’re most definitely thinking about flexibility for our team.  We refuse to make our employees choose between work and family – we aren’t retail, someone does not have to be minding the store in order to get the job done.  Also, as an HR company we fully understand that companies that are willing to offer more flexible job options find that their employees are happier and more committed to their jobs, or even that they get more work done.  So that’s a nice bonus, but in the end we’re offering flexibility because I will trust them and I have better things to do than track and trade my team’s work time with down time – and so will they.

 

My Unplanned Plan by Christina Stewart

It’s no secret that I’m a planner.  I’m organized and thoughtful about the future and I set goals regularly. So, of course, I take care to plan accordingly.  In my own business we have business plans from each year, strategic plans, marketing plans and goals written down on several whiteboards dotted around the office. I have to-do lists and to-day lists. I have lists for each kid (colour coded of course!) and lists for the house, for groceries, for our dogs and for my husband and me. I have notebooks filled with goals and plans and ideas stashed in each vehicle, each room of our office and home and I’m sure there are a few under couch cushions too.  I’m a big fan of planning.

I tell my clients that planning is a tool that serves both themselves and their businesses.  It is a path to follow that allows for the energy, resources and time of your business and your employees to be in alignment. A good plan will not only tell you where you are going but how you are going to get there.  This is a maxim that I live by in my work and in my entire life. This is what my clients pay us to do for them, and we do it very well.

And yet, we’re about to enter the spring of 2017 and I have no idea where Praxis is going this year.   Seriously. Even typing that sentence gives me chills.  But it’s true.  In November last year, my partner, Drew and I took off to Vegas for a few days to do some 2017 strategic planning.  Except, we were in Vegas and away from the kids and our regular life for the first time in years.  So, we slept and ate and didn’t do any planning.  Then around came December and January – our biggest and busiest months in the life of our business. Followed by a productive February, filled with sick kids, sick adults and playing catch up on all the stuff we didn’t get done in December and January.  You get the idea. Life is busy.  A good busy – a great busy, but still busy.

Week after week, I write down that our priority for that week is “strategy development.”  I write down “we need to define who needs us this year” and I write down “How are we going to let business who need us know we exist?” and I write down “how are we going to best help our clients reach their goals.”  And yet, here we are with no plan.  But here’s the fun part: That has become my plan.

Starting my own business has pushed me in ways I could never ever have foreseen.  I am challenged in a new way almost daily to be creative and put myself out into the world in interesting ways. This whole “no plan” has become part of this adventure for me.  I’m understanding what it’s like to live by an organic system. I’m learning to let the flow of my business dictate where I expend my energy.  It’s a fascinating, unique and developing feeling for me.  It makes me uncomfortable – but there is a huge part of me that is learning to live with discomfort and to actually flourish from what I discover while I am uncomfortable.

I’m not sure how long this departure from my normal will last for me – at the core of who I am, I am a planner and I know that will surface and win out again. Plus, I know that setting goals is actually a sound business practice, but for now, I’m going to let it ride and see where we end up.

Good-Bye Morning Ninja by Drew Stewart

It is 5 am. I wake up at this time not by choice, but out of habit. I have recently wrapped up a contract at a company in Vancouver that required me to commute daily into the city from my home on the Sunshine Coast. As most would agree, 5 am is much too early to be waking up and being a fully functioning person. However, necessity is the mother of invention and I needed to develop a morning routine that best balanced optimal sleep and getting out of the door on time. In order to achieve this, I needed to become The Morning Ninja.

I had a routine that was refined and perfected over several months. The morning started by slipping out of bed quietly, careful not to disturb my wife or our two dogs, with the latter having permanently set up residence at the foot of our bed. As quietly as possible, I would traverse through the darkness on my way to the bathroom, guided by cell phone light and the mental blueprint I have of every nook, cranny and misplaced toy on the floor.  Not to brag, but I got to be pretty good getting up and going every morning. I especially took pride in seeing the fruition of my planning the previous night.  Little know fact about being a successful morning ninja is that at least 90% of your success is due to thinking ahead and anticipating. I would have a mental checklist that I’d run every night before my head ever hit the pillow. Not until all of these had been satisfied, did I feel confident that I could get  out the door and on my way to work undetected.

‰        Set out the clothes I want to wear in the morning

‰        Plan route from bed to bathroom

‰        Ensure all doors along the route are cracked slightly

‰        Leave bus fare by the door

‰        Pack portable food for breakfast to eat once out of the house

‰        Continue to abstain from any morning coffee dependency

 

Once out of the house, my whole body would relax and my mind could get lost into whatever podcast I had queued up. I was no longer The Morning Ninja. I was now The Commuter.

I went from the faux excitement of sneaking around my own house, constantly fluid yet economical in movement to doing a whole lot of standing around and waiting. I waited for the bus. I waited for the ferry. I waited on the ferry. I waited to get off the ferry and finally, I waited in traffic on the way to work.  8 hours later, I would do it all in reverse.  

This morning I slept until 7am, brazenly flipped on lights, made noise and got the chance to set my eyes on everyone in the family and it was absolutely glorious. Good-bye Morning Ninja. Good-bye fellow morning commuters. Good-bye alarm clock.

Hello family.