Six tips for getting “enough” out of tech events

As I prep for three tech conferences over six days in Austin, I close my eyes, take a deep breath, exhale and open my eyes. “Enough” seems to be hard to identify. In a world of abundance and ubiquitous tech, we constantly seek the optimal balance. I prepare my work and life, clearing out the non-essential to leave room for inspiration. Inspiration comes in the form of people, things and experiences. Each must have time, space and attention in order to fully appreciate their value. So here are a few thoughts on how to prioritize “enough” so that you bring your best self forward and come away with new ideas, friends and an action plan.

  • The human side is really quite simple, like my friend Ted Rubin says, “be good to people.” There will be many new faces and ideas mixed with the old. I thrive on connecting the dots between them all to make the experience all the more rich.
  • Schedule time to pause and reflect, either alone or with someone else. Walk and talks are an easy way to incorporate movement, connection and reflection.
  • Write down your main takeaway(s), tag with context and share (if it would be of value to others). My motto, “knowledge is power, sharing is powerful” definitely applies here.
  • Eliminate the digital distraction of unused apps on your phone. Make sure you know the passwords in case you want to load them back on later.
  • Manage your contacts. When you make a new contact make sure your record it, tag it and follow-up. Loads of apps can make this easy, but do it while you still have context. If you collect a card, write the event and something memorable about the interaction on the back so you can do it “later” (but while it is still fresh). Bring business cards, but also have a picture of yours on your phone to easily share.
  • Pack light. Mix & Match clothes and bring only the chargers you need. Don’t forget an extra battery!

My bag feels remarkably light. No extra papers, books or devices nor flyers or give-aways to leave a lasting impression will accompany me this time. I admit, as a global nomad, one learns the art of packing efficiently. That combined with the incentive of ever decreasing baggage allowance. Nevertheless, my bag seems considerably lighter than in years past when heading to Austin. With smart phone, tablet, watch and noise reduction headphones, I am set. A few mix and match outfits fit for the climate, walking shoes and I am good to go in a carry-on. My backpack is nearly empty, leaving space for a few select goodies to bring home with me.

Although this list is is compiled with conferences in mind, the practice of enough can be applied in many aspects of our lives. I hope you find this list helpful, and welcome your input, sharing and even invitation to walk & talk in Austin to discuss digital life balance.

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Balance is Not a Four Letter Word

LinkedIn-OutsideWorkTo my surprise and delight it seems the world is awakening to the value of balance.  Today’s #OutsideWork posts on LinkedIn shared by influencers resonate with well-being and balance’s impact on success.  I have been busy interviewing leaders for my upcoming book, BE-ing @Work.  The emphasis on well-being and balance is increasingly apparent in the stories they shared.  Far beyond the implication of physical health and productivity, lies the connection with self as well as with others to BE one’s best and thrive in that.  Balance seems to have overcome its outdated reputation for meaning flexible hours for working mothers. This shift has left me with a strong sense of hope in the future.  Practice and implementation may be a way off, but the conversation has evolved.  Let’s keep it evolving from preaching to implementation and practice.

Note: Slots still available for interviews on BE-ing @Work throughout February.  If  interested in sharing your story about interventions or actions you use to bring your best self to work and bring out the best in others, please contact me.  Highly productive individuals who suffer from chronic syndromes or illness.  (i.e. Depression, Lyme, MS, …) are of particular interest, but not required.

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Back to BE-ing @Work

BE-ing in ThoughtI keep coming back to be-ing. Our upbringing was seeped in the value system of Self Reliance for many generations.   I was raised with the resonating lines penned by my ancestor, Emerson. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” “Our chief want in life, is someone who shall make us do what we can. This is the service of a friend. With him we are easily great.”

With this foundation, there is little wonder what led me to this juncture. It is a point in which I seek to understand the ways in which I/we can best accomplish be-ing at work. To be our best selves while bringing out the best in others in whatever we do requires a deep understanding of self. Technological advances have changed the conditions and tools in which we engage with others and our work. In order to build and maintain mutually beneficial and effective relationships today, presence of be-ing must evolve in concert with the advances of technology.  The advances both augment and challenge our ability to be true to that self. Starting with presence, we have greater potential for the ability to thrive and succeed.

The last several years, I have engrossed myself in a doctoral journey in Human and Organizational Systems that has both provided answers and triggered many more questions. I emerge having explored wearable technologies as potential intervention for hindrances to presence, an element of the ability to BE one’s best. The journey is far from over, despite acceptance as a scholar. I return to practice with a renewed curiosity and desire to explore both the barriers to presence and actions/tools used to enhance presence.

The dissertation is done, soon to be shared after the proofreaders have at it.  Now, with room to breath and energy to exhale, I look to what’s next.  I am collecting more stories to make the book version of my dissertation more accessible to a wider audience.  If you have stories to share please contact me directly at heidi (at) forbesoste.com.  More specifically, I am looking at what people identify as challenges to BE-ing their best selves and bringing out the best in others and how the overcome those challenges through actions and tools.

bridge-buildingA brief note to people who have worked with me over the last ten plus years in various iterations of 2BalanceU.  From building the tools to share wisdom, to teaching and speaking about the application of social tools in organizations, to building bridges between tech and people, to researching the behavioral science of presence and technology it all remarkably returns to 2BalanceU and 2BU. The path through social strategy and connecting people and ideas for their greatest potential remains one that I shall travel, albeit creating my own route.  Expect no change in name, but rather the approach to achieving the path to BE-ing one’s best and bringing out the best in others.

More to come very soon.

Bridge image credit to Kevin Kenny

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Balance ➜ Perspective ➜ Productivity and Wearable Technology

PorchingReturning to flow in writing can be a challenge after a pause away from finger to keyboard.  The unexpected result of a minuscule creature’s bite forced pause and reflection on my dissertation as I recovered from the symptoms of Lyme disease.  Whatever the cause, I welcomed the gift of reflection and perspective breaking my myopic trance of data and theoretical analysis.  Amidst the constant flow of Summer’s visitors, I was able to try out my thesis and analysis on a wide variety of audiences and settings.  This is an attempt at explaining my evolution of thought and practice, to return from the obtuse academic speak to the clarity of language understandable beyond the realm of scholars.

I explored various angles to express the connection with wearables as social technologies. Despite this connection being obvious to me, in my admittedly myopic state, was not so for others. Wearables allow for an intimate and multi-sensory connection to individuals. They provide both incoming (ie. sensors that track heart rate and motion) and outgoing signals (ie. updates, beeps or vibration alerts). This connection creates a greater understanding of how we engage with the systems in which we exist, as well as how to best manage the relationship for sustainability of both individual and the system. For example, stress triggers, sleep patterns and idleness are known physiological challenges that impact psychological behavior.  Wearables provide a access to data that potentially enable users to modify negative patterns of behavior.

The buzz of my research on wearable outcomes  lead curious visitors to me.  I listened and observed the reaction to my Apple Watch (the one device I wore) and the conversations it brought about.  With fascination, I observed my own behavior as to how I engaged with the device and what it meant to me.  I watched and listened as others shared anecdotes of their experiences in correlation with their wearables.  Between the design feedback, health changes and lifestyle impacts I was impressed with how many, how and who was being impacted by wearables. It was another moment of discovery of the data beyond the study data being far more interesting and worthy of exploration. That said, these conversations were not part of my study and hardly academic in nature. They took place on the porch over wine and sunsets. Nonetheless, I became excited again with the possibilities for where it all will lead.

The momentum of excitement over the potential for improved quality of life and health as social technologies mature is taking form.  It is in its infancy, yes, but nonetheless the wave can be felt.  It is only a matter of time, patience and inevitable innovation before the technology will be integrated into our systems seamlessly.  The acceptance of the benefits to global and individual health and wellbeing will eventually outweigh the fear of ingestables and embedded devices, their data and even the systems that utilize the data. Remember, it was not that long ago that we wondered why we would want a smart phone (user penetration nearly at 80% in US, up from 9.6% in 2011).

The physical devices themselves are not necessarily making the change.  The potential change results from the ability to improve wellness through greater accuracy and communication of data using intimate sensors, signals and apps.  Individual wellness improves the system’s ability to be productive.  The challenge of becoming one with the tech ecosystem is understanding the human factor of systems. Social technologies provide a window into how systems interact with one another, as well as a channel for that engagement.  Finding the optimal balance will benefit everyone.  We have a ways to go, but I am hopeful.

I happy to see that I am not alone in my thinking.  The latest issues of Harvard Business Review focus on Rethinking HR and Design Thinking. Outside Magazine’s interview with Jay Blahnik on the Apple Watch provided a rare view into Apple’s integrative approach to wearable and app development aimed at improved quality of life and productivity.  I look forward to fully emerging from writing the final pages of my dissertation to contribute to the discussion.  Until then, this is a brief exercise to get my fingers moving on the keyboard.  The exercise of allowing myself to fully “be” while recovering and enjoying the company of family and friends has provided me the perspective needed to produce the final pieces.

Allowing room for pause and perspective has not only provided clarity in the findings of my research.  It is an integral part of the process for the system to find balance that makes room for the seamless integration in the future.  In presence, being mindful of ourselves and device usage so the benefits outweigh the risks is key.  Placing the Watch in “do not disturb” or even to removing it completely, breathing the fresh air and enjoy the company of an old friend can be a blessed gift of perspective and productivity.  So now back to writing the final chapter of my dissertation and designing the role of CBO (Chief Being/Balance Officer).

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Reflections from Wisdom 2.0

Be wise, be sillyOne of the most beautiful things about Wisdom and Mindfulness is what it brings out in people.  It has been a long time since I laughed so hard my belly hurt and smiled so much my cheeks ached.  This, all in the midst of profound learnings quiet inspiration and deep thought.  Did I get what I expected out of Wisdom 2.0? Why, yes indeed and more. Despite not being in (my usual) network and share mode, I met some amazing people with brilliant minds and fascinating stories.

To be clear, this was about research for me.  My intentions were, at least, that.  I’m in the depths of writing my doctoral dissertation on Wearable Technologies and Presence in the Workplace.  I was drawn to the speaker list (half of who’s books are included in my literature review).  I attended with my student hat on, intending to understand how wisdom and mindfulness are being adopted into organizations.  All my (book) research was pointing to corporate wellness programs.  What I was excited to see what that it, the Mindfulness Movement, was driven from a much more grass roots level.  Of course, for it to be accepted and supported (in other words given a budget) it had to show value for money.  The ROI through some form of metrics (performance, decreased absenteeism and presenteeism, engagement…).

The advocates and ambassadors of Mindfulness are breaking into the domain of leadership.  Listening to Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn CEO, we all secretly wished that we were working for such an enlightened and authentic leader.  As he lead the chorus “Sitting by the dock of the bay,…” we imagined ourselves part of his camp.  Ming Tan, Google’s Jolly Good Fellow and founder of Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI)gave us pause to the potential for extending these practices to other organizations with joy.  It is easy to get excited by the potential of conscious leadership and business practices when lead by such compassionate and wise leaders.  It is neither simply fluff nor driven by health related issues.  These guys mean business, with heart.

Some take-aways that I especially appreciated

  • Christine Carter (Happiness Expert) “Don’t lean in if it means leaning out from your sweet spot.”
  • Tristan Harris (Google, Product Manager) “Consumer demand can drive design change with the metric: time WELL spent.”
  • Adam Gazzaley (Neuroscientist) Innovation using video game mechanics can provide neurocrossfit for our plastic brains
  • Sherry Turkle (author) “The unedited life is most fulfilling”
  • Fred Kofman (author) “What is good for you doesn’t always taste good.”
  • Meng Tan (SIYLI) “Business at its best reduces suffering.”
  • Julia Hartz (Eventbrite Co-Founder) “say YES”

Next time I attend Wisdom 2.0, I will have finished my research and dissertation.  I hope to have something that will be worthy of sharing there.  But even more so, I look forward to taking the opportunity to be more present and enjoy the more extensive offerings in lectures, workshops and yoga that I missed this round.  Today I return to writing and research mode with a new

Note: Some of you may have seen me there and felt a twinge of frustration as my head was focused down on my iPad, rather than at the stage from which wisdom bestowed.  I was listening, far more deeply than you realize.  For me this my way of mindfully and creatively capturing the experience and learnings.  My Wisdom 2.0 sketchnotes album is below, and feel free to enjoy, share and download them if you like.

Link to flickr album for Sketchnotes from Wisdom 2.0

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10 Gifts for Geek Girls with Style

I give in. Everyone is asking me for recommendations on wearables and presence gifts for presents. Tis the season. So here they are, some of my favorites holiday shopping tips for the geek girl who wants to stay connected without losing her head.  Oh yes, and all of them can be ordered online so you can avoid the holiday craziness and keep your holiday spirit alive.

Elizabeth-Ann-Purse-In-Boots-European1. Purse in Boots

Purse in Boots is such a brilliant idea, I am so glad someone finally acted on it, and with style. I haven’t gotten mine yet, but I am hoping Santa will deliver. I gave up on the “one for you, one for me” holiday shopping. So I guess I will have to wait.  They come in several different styles. Looks like they are selling out quickly.  So if your girl needs her phone on hand and hates pockets, I would order them soon.

tile-don't lose it2. Tile

Tile, a tracking device to attach to all the things you don’t want to lose.  Ok, so this may not be what they meant to track (much as we would like it too sometimes).  But these great little trackers use crowd sourcing to find your favorite items from bikes to keys.  Buy them in multipacks and you can keep track of all the good stuff you care about and even have some left over to put in your kids backpacks.  Come to think of it, this might be the new wine charm I have been looking for.

3. Shine Bloom

bloomShine Bloom takes an already well designed beautiful fitness and sleep wearable device and makes it into a fashion statement.  I love the approach behind Sunny Vu’s work to make wearables wearable.  It should be something that will be worn even when its discharged.  Not that this is a major issue with Shine, as the charge should last a year, rather than ever several days.

4. Ring.ly

Ring.ly caught my eye early last year.  They are just now ringly-featuresending out their early orders, but I have seen them in person and I can’t wait for mine to arrive.  Being one who often misses calls and notifications from turning the ringer off, this will be a blessing.  I never liked having the phone on the table.  Unlike men,we girls tend not to have pockets big enough to accommodate a phone that will be close to the body (and feel the vibration).  Founder, Christina Merkando, has done a beautiful job designing wearable functional art.

5. Jyars

jyarsI love these little containers.  When I travel I use one for each of my medicinal necessities (sleep, pain, allergies) in color coding.  They are sturdy and well sealed.  The moment Aldo, the founder and friend, turned me onto these little Jyars I couldn’t get enough of them.  I love giving them as the unexpected gift too.  Any geek girl who is into homeopathic remedies will thank you for this one. OK, I admit it is not wearable (although they fit in an old film canister sling).  But when I can find my meds to keep me from being tired, in pain or sneezing, I am definitely more present.

6.  Vessyl

vessylFor those of us to who consume too much caffeine or sugar and not enough water, here’s an interesting new one.  Dehydration or over stimulation on caffeine can be major presence inhibitors.  So keep your geek girl hydrated.  Vessyl is supposed to evaluate and track your intake coming from your beverages.  Unless you have a built in cup holder on your hip, this one is not wearable.  I have to admit, I haven’t tried it yet, so not sure of the accuracy.  I am waiting for mine and look forward to seeing how it works.  If it just gets me to increase my daily hydration, I will be happy enough.

Spoon Stylus7. Spoon Stylus

Does your geek girl like to cook?  If she is like me, the iPad is the source of the best recipes quickly.  Keep the tech clean and easy to access by giving her the cooking spoon stylus.  They can be found at loads of places, including Bed, Bath and Beyond.  A great stocking stuffer or hostess gift for the geek girl cook (or her partner/kids who dangerously messes with her tech with gooey fingers).

8. Docking/Charging Station

dockchargerAll these devices and their chargers can be both hard to keep track of and batteries loaded.  I love having a docking/charging station for them when I get home. (If your geek girl has kids, you might want two.) This keeps them at the ready for my next adventure, but keeps me present for my family.  There are many different styles, so rather than take my recommendation, look for one that matches hers.  I like this combo dock and charger to minimize cables.  Wearable tech is great, but most of them still need to be charged fairly regularly.  Until the battery life issue is fixed, at least you know will know where the chargers and devices are in the house.

9. Spire

spire-and-chargerAnother beautiful and functional wearable that is starting to ship now is the Spire.  It is all about balance, and tracks breathing as well.  For us ladies, we can wear it most discretely in the cleavage part of the bra.  But it can also be clipped at the hip.  I recently met with the founder, Neema Moraveji, who is part of the Stanford Calming Technology Lab and got to see the device first hand.  I have high hopes for this one.  There is great science behind it, which takes it beyond the gadget factor.  Keep an eye out for it.  If your geek girl is patient enough, she might be happy with getting on the pre-order list.

chat pack10. Chat Pack Extreme

To give the ultimate gift of presence, let’s go low tech.  One of my favorites are the chat packs created by Bret Nicholaus and Paul Lowrie.  You can find them in loads of local bookstores and gift shops (and of course on Amazon.com).  They come in different themes.  Great for sparking a little conversation while devices are docked during dinner.  My kids even are willing to partake and even enjoy it.  I particularly like the Chat Pack Extreme.

So there you have it, my ten recommendations for wearables and presence for presents this holiday season.  I will be spending my holiday crunching data and preparing for my dissertation on wearables and presence of mind.  I will make a point of checking out to be present as a present with my family during the holidays.  I will think of you all bringing presence as presents this year.  Feel free to share any ideas that you have for great devices and tips on wearables and presence.  I think we all could use them.  Warmest of wishes!

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Creativity and Aging

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Finishing up a great read, The Mature Mind, The Positive Power of the Aging Brain by Gene D Cohen. Cohen expanded on Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages that looked at human development up to around age 40. Cohen’s work looks at Midlife Re-evaluation => Liberation => Summing Up => Encore stages from 40 beyond. Integrating this type of thought and understanding of this kind of brain power and creative thinking shows the importance of leaders and team members in this age group. We cannot afford to lose their insight, wisdom and perspective when trying to innovate. I will no longer associate the senior moment with things forgotten. Let us look to them as moments of wisdom derived from experience and perspective.

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I’m back, well almost.

It’s about balance. From the outside, I am often perceived to have mastered it, balance, that is. When inside, like most, I am challenged to my core. I did not pay attention to that which I preach, balance. As you might have already guessed, this is a reflection posting, but one that I thought worthy of sharing. I hope you will agree and find that it gives you reason to reflect and act upon your own balance.

You may have noticed (or not) that I have not posted much as of late. I have been following the sage wisdom of my elders. My mother raised me well enough to practice, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all.” Of course, I also believe too much “nice” sometimes has the same effect. My father said, “nobody listens once you start shouting.” I have been pretty good at keeping my cool despite it all. But recently I have discovered that the ocean doesn’t mind my occasional outburst (and it feels pretty good). Before you get worried (or not), know that I am indeed alive and doing well.

After seven years in Sweden, my health suffered from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and I needed a serious change. I mean this in every sense of the word, health (emotional, physical, intellectual…). I had forgotten how to smile, and was in need of a serious belly laugh. Being in my mid-40s (yes, a bit of mid-life stuff too), I knew something drastic had to happen.  It needed to begin with the physical “vessel” so that I could proceed with the rest. So, here I am, moved the family to California (kids here, my husband’s coming eventually).

First order of business, sunshine to increase the dangerously depleted vitamin D levels. Second, get active both inside and out. Third get social, meet new people and reconnect with my existing network. The first month was full of the usual logistics and details of an international move with two kids. Registered the kids for school and activities they would love. I signed up for Pure Barre to literally kick my bottom into shape. I brought music back to my life, both guitar and downloading some great playlists on Spotify.  I bought a used convertible to maximise sunshine and smiles while getting it all done.

All my meetings have been either on a hike or walk (no more lunches or fika – unless earned). I have reconnected with some wonderful friends and contacts and made new ones. The depth of conversation is remarkable when one has room for comfortable contemplation, silence. Walking side by side as you aim to a vista point provides just that. The shared memories that are created ensure a bond that cannot be matched by a hurried lunch and certainly not by meeting in a sterile office.

I am feeling amazingly sane and happy for the first time in years.  I am able to tackle whatever life dishes out.  This already tested by challenges to learn the emergency systems (separate ER visits for kid, dog and car all in one week).  So, yes, now it is time to get back to work.  It will not be full throttle at first, as part of my effort to maintain balance seeking the right amount.  But I am happy to say that yes, I am back.  My doctoral research is making great progress and I have a few projects in the wings.  You will be hearing from me again soon and there is some great stuff brewing.

You might ask what does this have to do with leadership in the new social paradigm or global social strategy.  Everything! Part of leadership and social strategy is authenticity and taking care of yourself so that you can lead, connect and share.

I hope you find this helpful in seeking your own balance.  Moving to California is neither the answer nor an option for most.  My point is to take action to achieve balance when it is completely lost.  Take care of the core so you can take care of the rest.  I expect great things from you all.  Perhaps on our next hike.

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Social and Visual Leadership

The paradigm has shifted, and the learning curve is steep. Some will rise and some will fall. Social media marketing is only a small piece of the picture. Understanding that social is people, and people are not just our customers is a start to the journey.

Organizations are made up of people in many different roles. Their jobs require people both internally in the organization and externally in partners, product & service providers, new hires, investors, and so on. Relationships are what count whether business to business or business to consumer, it comes down to people.

Each person has a story that contains knowledge, experience, passions, interests, skills, and people.  Each individual is a unique part of the whole organizations and defines its collective story.  It is this story we share and grow in social technologies.  Leadership must take active part in the story for an organization to succeed in this new paradigm.

Social Optimization, the building and maintaining of MUTUALLY beneficial and effective relationships, is a key behavioral shift when mastering the Art of Social Strategy.  This does not come simply from balancing the gives and takes by counting interactions.  The behavior change must be a result of recognizing the value of all relationships as part of the whole.  It comes from understanding who we are (as individuals and organizations), what we have to offer and what/who we need and how to reach it/them.

Social technologies are tools that help us optimize this change in behavior when we learn how to best apply them.  They simplify our processes for supporting our networks and communities, receiving that support in return.  Sharing knowledge globally through different sensory stimulus has never been easier. It has evolved beyond text.  It is visual, interactive, musical and memorable. Language and time are no longer limitations for creating a global community of advocates.

Understanding who we are and who is part of our story is the first step of the journey.  How you apply social optimization is what will determine your success over the long haul.

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