Nan S. Russell
Author & Speaker
[ If you’re interested in a particular theme or topic I write about,
quickly find it in the blog by subject archives.]

I tried time management, increased efficiency, being more productive, working more hours plus weekends-and-nights during a first-act career that took me from a minimum wage employee, through various management roles, to a Vice President of a multibillion dollar company. At the same time I was a wife, mom, and sometimes elder care giver, seeking to have “balance” in my “real life” while trying to squeeze in time to work on a few life dreams along the way.

Some years I did okay; some I didn’t. For the first decade and a half of that career, I got accustomed to bouts-of-overwhelmedness I held inside, scarfing extra strength Excedrin throughout the day, highlighted with increasing side-trips of anger, frustration, lashing out at those I loved most, plus the occasional health scare.

Maybe I was just slow at recognizing my own stress limits and signs back then. But one day, midway through that career, I found myself unable to get out of bed—overwhelmed and exhausted. I was emotionally spent, with no more to give to anyone. I spent the day in bed, reading and crying my way through a book that sparked my thinking.

That book, and others I devoured after it, served as catalysts for me to see a different path and to gradually transform from being a passenger in my life to being its driver. Years of reading, research, thinking, exploring, self-discovery, reflection, teaching, and learning later, I still don’t presume to know what is best for anyone other than me, and even then I’m not always sure. But, I do know those who get great results, the results they want for their lives, are masters at managing themselves.

Myth: You need employer support for work-life balance
This is the myth of balance: that work is separate from life.

Real balance isn’t something someone gives you. It’s not a program, but a mindset. And it doesn’t come from the outside. Consider that 429 million paid vacation days in a given year are left unused by U.S. employees. Despite cries of “overwhelmed” just 51 percent of employees (continue reading →)

It's Not About Time 

Thriving and getting the results you want happens when you understand, at a core level, no one can rescue you from you and your busyness, or live your life for you. Nobody but you. That’s what people who self-manage understand.

It's Not About Time 

I was born in Montana, left as a toddler, returning in my fifth decade for a second act career as a writer. It was then I first met and worked with Native Americans. Previously, I hadn’t known anyone who didn’t have an arriving-to-America story in their family history.

While many of us have relatives, perhaps generations ago, who made a conscious decision to come to this country, that’s not true for everyone, of course. A few people were already here, some tagged along as children, and others were brought against their will.

Along my life’s way, growing up in California, attending graduate school in Michigan, raising a family in Pennsylvania, living in the Rocky Mountain states of Montana and Colorado, I’ve heard hundreds of why-we-came stories from people I knew personally.

Some stories are fresh with tears and struggles, others generations old where details have been lost or blurred. But the why seems to remain. On my mother’s side, they came for religious freedom; on my father’s a chance for (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things, Life 

It’s a toss-up world. Sometimes what we encounter is truthful, sometimes it’s not; sometimes a picture is real, sometimes manipulated; sometimes a statement or “news” story is factual, sometimes “over-exaggerated,” fabricated, or plagiarized. In this kind of world, trust can seem naïve, gullible, and foolhardy.

Of course, sometimes it is. Not everyone is trustworthy. But, the reality is all people never have been and never will be. From snake-oil salesmen to the seller of the Brooklyn Bridge, there have always been scammers, cheaters, and manipulators. Technology may have changed, but the challenge of knowing how, when, and whom to trust hasn’t. It’s still an essential skill for anyone who wants to be winning at working.

In a complex, changing world with social media influence and a 24/7 connectivity of people, it’s easy for anyone — even the trust-savvy and trust-skilled — to make trust mistakes. However, some are easier to avoid than others.

Three Essential Winning at Working Trust Don’ts:

  • Don’t allow the halo effect to extend your trust perimeter. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, a halo effect is: “The tendency of a favorable (or unfavorable) impression created by an individual in one area to influence one’s judgment of him or her in another.” You wouldn’t allow your auto mechanic to do your root canal, so don’t apply the equivalent elsewhere. Just because someone is successful or competent in their role doesn’t mean they’re trustworthy in other roles or areas. Be wary of giving trust-passes stemming from the halo effect.
  • Don’t blanket trust or distrust, or extend or withhold trust, based on title, position, or role. Neighborhood priests and test-changing teachers offer headline examples against a trust blanketing approach. A person’s role or status (or race, gender, religion, or community) doesn’t determine trustworthiness. A person at the top of an organization isn’t inherently more or less worthy of trust than someone in an entry position. All leaders, salespeople, construction workers, business owners, doctors, police officers, protestors, students, politicians, neighbors, or friends aren’t the same — i.e. all trustworthy or all not. Trust is about individuals, not groups. Be careful about the trust-blankets you throw.
  • Don’t judge only what someone says; judge what they do against what they say. Actions, at least consistent ones, do speak louder than words. But those actions don’t speak in a vacuum. Our words provide the backdrop for how our actions are measured. It’s that alignment between words and actions that creates behavioral integrity, which is a foundation for trust. Don’t give your trust to people whose words and actions are misaligned — who say one thing and do another– or those whose actions demonstrate a belief that their words apply only to others, not themselves. Pay attention to mismatched words and actions, including your own.

(continue reading →)

Trust Inc, Winning at Working 

Life happens with or without our participation in it. By holding back engagement you lose the joy, love, and opportunities it holds, simply because they’re not the ones you seek.


It's Not About Time, Life, Quotes 

I’m on the radio show, “Thank God For Monday” with Brother Greg – Saturday, March 11 @ 8:30 AM EST – discussing my new book It’s Not About Time. 

It's Not About Time  Comments closed

It was one of those unwanted travel days. Stuck overnight in an interim city after a canceled flight from arctic weather, we were in second-day clothes. Using provided airline kits to brush our teeth and hair, we attempted to create some look of presentability.

Our day was spent waiting to hear if flights resumed, while working in a darkened hotel hallway after room check-out. By the time we took the late afternoon shuttle to the airport, all we wanted was to get home. Several hours later, we did.

Anxious to collect luggage and head home to warm showers, we found ourselves instead waiting in a long line to report missing luggage. I couldn’t help hearing the conversation behind me between a father and (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things 

The 40 hour workweek is a myth for the majority of people who work full-time for two reasons. First, sometimes we have to work more, and second, sometimes we want to. When I’m writing a book or working on a new project, I rarely notice the hours. I’m focused, engaged, and challenged. I’m working early, I’m working late, and I’m grabbing every minute I can. But when I have to do something I’m not interested in, it’s different.

It’s not always the number of hours we work that matters, it’s why we’re putting them in. Gallup researchers note: “Highly engaged workers who log well over 40 hours will still have better overall well-being than actively disengaged workers who clock out at 40 hours.”

It’s a myth to assume long hours means less well-being. Just like it’s a myth that we’re working longer hours than ever before, or that this generation is (continue reading →)

It's Not About Time, Winning at Working 

While living in Montana’s Flathead Valley, there were years when significant construction happened in our development. Some days the hammering echoed hard against the mountain slopes making it was hard to tune out; other days the sounds were muted. One year we were stuck in the middle — construction one lot away on one side and two lots away on the other.

Both houses started their foundations the same month, and their evolution intrigued me. Not for the construction interest per se, but as a glimpse into differing styles. The house to the right plodded along with one or two people periodically showing up on any given day to do work; then nothing for weeks. By contrast, the second house swarmed with crews Monday through Thursday.

The first builder wasn’t in a hurry it seemed, while the second couldn’t move fast enough. Their contrasting styles reminded me how some of us can (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things 

It's Not About Time