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.]

It was the first day of spring break for our elementary school-aged granddaughters, occurring on the Friday before their week off. We’d invited them to spend the day with us since their parents were working, promising we’d do something “different” together.

The girls questioned us about what was in store, even offering guesses for some far-fetched outings. “No, we’re not flying to Disney World,” we explained. While some of their excitement was in the not-knowing, we did decide to manage their expectations, clarifying that “something different” didn’t mean “something big.” We even outlined what they might wear and bring for the day.

We picked them up early that morning, explaining on the way to their favorite restaurant that we’d talk about the day’s happenings during breakfast. Over eggs for some and chocolate chip pancakes for others, my husband and I told them: “It’s a mandatory fun day,” defining what that meant and outlining the morning adventure.

Their unenthusiastic reaction to what we told them surprised us. The oldest was noticeably quiet while her sister pushed back, not liking the suggested activity or the concept. “Do we have to?” she asked. “Yes. You have to have fun today,” we said.

When their parents arrived in the evening to retrieve them, their (continue reading →)

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Download a chapter of It’s Not About Time here.

It's Not About Time, Quotes  Leave a comment

I once worked for a boss who was never wrong, never made a mistake or a bad decision. All you had to do was ask him. To his staff he was Teflon-man. Nothing stuck to him and everything came sliding toward us.

Accountability was not a concept he practiced unless things turned out well and then, he claimed the credit. But if they didn’t, he immediately embarked on endeavors to identify someone responsible. Being called to his office typically meant he was looking for information and trying to decide whom to blame.

Justify. Justify. Justify. Like a battle cry, he commissioned reports, graphs, charts and enhanced documentation whenever his boss questioned him. He found it easier to dig his heels into a position than admit he might have been wrong or change his mind. Working for someone I couldn’t respect eventually led me to transfer departments.

But it still baffles me. People do make mistakes, they do trip up sometimes and they do, on occasion, speak or act in error. And while there’s nothing that says we should be happy about it when we do it ourselves, trying to act (continue reading →)

Winning at Working 

My husband gave me a card at the beginning of 2018 that’s been standing on my dresser ever since. I see its message when I wake up or wander into the bedroom. There’s a picture of an early sunrise on a distant horizon, its light spreading across an ocean with no land in sight. A figure on the deck of a sailboat watches the emerging colors in the sky.

Across the card, in large elegant font, are these words — simplistic on one level; profound on another — “Every day is a gift.” The card serves as a reminder and a nudge to me: a reminder of no promised tomorrows for any of us, and a nudge to consciously use well the time I have.

I do want to live that way. Most mornings I read the words, deciding that, yes, every day is a gift and my best use of this day should reflect that gratitude and understanding. Yet, more often than I’d like, that’s not what happens.

I’m guilty of losing perspective or numbing out to the preciousness of these non-renewable days, until something tragic, or frightening, or significant happens to shake me awake for a time. I’m guilty of routinely applying habits for getting things done, or getting caught up in the “doing,” without self-awareness about what I’m doing or who I’m “becoming” or “being” in the process. And I’m guilty of (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things, Life 

The reality is, effective people are highly productive. Part of that stems from enhanced self-managing skills, but a significant contributor is the way these people think about and use their time. They’re judicious and thoughtful about its use.

As Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter Faster Better puts it, “‘Productivity’ means different things to different people, but at it’s core, it’s about thinking a little more deeply about the choices we make every day.”

To that end, here are some time management and productivity tips to spark your thinking about your own time-use. One of my tips happens to be #18.

26 Helpful Time Management Tips and Techniques

It's Not About Time, Tips 

This week, I found myself spending a day with strangers when a scheduled flight was cancelled because our pilot became ill with food poisoning. As the news began to spread; the reactions were mixed: Anger, Frustration, Sadness, Excitement, Joy … and on and on. Since I was traveling alone, I started people watching an activity I love to do especially in airports.

One of the first things I noticed was the noise level had increased exponentially, then nearly everyone was on their cell phone and a long line was forming at the departure counter where the airline representative was trying to tell us next steps over the loud speaker. It was one of those and then “life happens” moments. Each of us had expectations, plans and others depending on us at the other end. Now what?

A quote popped into my head, by Randy Pausch author of The Last Lecture, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, only how we play the hand.” It seemed fitting for my current situation. Fast forward an hour or so. And, I and several fellow passengers were at a nearby hotel* in bathing suits sitting poolside with cold beverages watching the sunset. At the same time, others were demanding a full-refund for their inconvenience. While we all thought we would be flying then many of us made a choice to enjoy the unexpected delay. How do you react in those “life happens” moments?

Until next time take good care and be safe out there.


* The airline paid for our hotel and food vouchers.


I’m not sure when it started, but for me it was the early 1990s. I was living and working on the east coast and remember the day I saw it invade my everyday world; even telling my husband that night. Today it’s a ubiquitous style.

Back then, common etiquette meant pausing before speaking to insure the other person was finished. On that day I watched a hostile verbal-take-over as the person wanting the floor simply talked over the other person until he yielded. They weren’t debating a heated topic; he merely wanted to change the focus.

Like many cultural changes, verbal-take-overs arrived in dribs and drabs until we adjusted to them. In a few years, the no-pause speaking overlay style frequented everything from meetings and basic conversations to news channels and talk shows. I even perfected my own style which became a necessity in some workplaces. Time was short and verbal-take-overs signaled “move along,” albeit with rudeness.

Another no-pause style took root around the same time. I noticed it first on my regular commute as drivers made a no-pause choice more and more frequently at stop signs, crosswalks, and red lights. Now I see another no-pause emerging. This week at a museum exhibit, a young woman wanted to see what I was looking at but couldn’t wait the 20 seconds for me to finish reading the sign, so she (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things 

It’s a great time to give yourself the gift of time.  Download a free chapter of my book  here. [Yes, it has a new cover]; Or, buy it on Amazon here.

It's Not About Time  Leave a comment

It was a dimly lit restaurant. Still she was dressed in pink, and while I admit it’s hard to tell the gender of babies, clothing color is a reliable clue. So, it surprised me when the waitress began playing with my granddaughter, asking “How old is he?”

Twenty minutes later, that same waitress served our dinners into my daughter-in-law’s lap, spilling the contents of her tray as she approached the table. We made light of the occurrence, assisting her with basic cleanup, but the interaction got me thinking.

In today’s world, too many people are “at work” but not “present.” Preoccupied. Disengaged. Daydreaming. Bored. Text Messaging. Socializing. Whatever. Their bodies are somewhere their mind isn’t. They’re easy to spot as they go about their tasks in a robotic dance of just enough-to-get-by-ness.

These disengaged people seem unaware their present actions carve their future opportunities. They’re surprised when (continue reading →)

Tips, Winning at Working 

In my local paper there’s a column of reader comments. People leave input, “no more than 30 seconds” on a call-in line. Each day a few of these short statements comprise the section. While occasionally there’s a thank you for a random act of kindness or a plea to include grateful messages, most are in the against-it camp, even suggesting, at times, those who disagree should “move to another planet.”

Like a toxic vine, being against-it, whatever “it” is, seems to be burrowing deep into our cultural mindset, modeled with fervor of late in the political arena. What one party is for, the other is against. Even before an idea makes it to twitter or the blogosphere, opposing party pundits and representatives rail against whatever approach the other side might be considering.

But before finger-pointing and smugness gets the better of us, consider that the against-it road is alive in most workplaces, communities, organizations, schools, and homes. The labels are different: it’s the boss or the staff, the parents or the teachers, the rich or the not-rich, the corporations or the “real” people, the women or the men, the baby-boomers or the millennials.

Being against something is so much easier; even easier still when all you have to do is retweet or “like” a post. No thinking required. When we follow the against-it path, we don’t have to be (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things, Life