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HBR wrap

07 February 2013

Maybe it’s because it’s the first blush of the New Year but I’m betting everyone’s reading not only the emails important to work, family and friends, but all the other notifications and subscriptions, online course descriptions, blog posts and articles you receive because of past well-intentioned sign-ups and being ‘too lazy’ to unsubscribe.

I don’t know why these emails, which we probably thought of as rubbish just two months ago, are now invested with new meaning and importance, but a New Year does manage to bring with it the best intentions… and we all know where those lead.

Whatever the impetus, one of my reconnections has been to Harvard Business Review. Articles that have captured my attention, lately, and if the site’s ‘most read’ and ‘most commented’ banner stats are to be believed, have also captured the attention of other readers, include: ‘Women need to realise work isn’t school’, and ‘Women, Finance the world you want’, and ‘Dear colleague, put the notebook down’.

From there it was just a link away to Smart Company’s League of Extraordinary Women, where I was lost for hours (in a positive way) in the names of the unknown and the known and the amazing work they’re doing for women and girls worldwide. Another link later and I found myself reading around one of my favourite topics, ‘happiness’ and our ongoing search for it. It was on the Australian School of Businesses Knowledge@ site that I saw a transcript of an interview with Grechin Rubin (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania) on her search for happiness and her ‘Happiness Project’.

Here’s some of what she has to say about her Happiness Project and about what the successful pursuit of happiness can look like: “There’s no wrong way to do a Happiness Project. I think the thing to do if people want to start their own Happiness Project is to pick a few things. But they need to be concrete and manageable – and by concrete, [I mean] something that you can actually measure and that you know whether you’ve done it or not.”

She also thinks it’s helpful to start the process with your body: “That may sound very basic, but so many people are chronically sleep deprived. So many people just don’t get any exercise. When you don’t get any exercise, you don’t get enough sleep and it’s hard to just have the energy to get through life. If you feel irritable, you feel exhausted, you feel indecisive, you get sick more easily. If you’re thinking, where should I start, I don’t know where to start, going to sleep on time and getting a 15- or 20-minute walk – even if you can’t do anything more – is a great place to start. Beyond that, whatever it is you want to work on in your life, make it concrete and manageable.”

As for women not making it through to the executive ranks after blitzing the boys at school and university, here are some observations from business writers Whitney Johnson and Tara Mohr on why they don’t in their estimation:

1) To make it in the workplace you must challenge and influence authority not provide authority figures with what they want – aka being at school

2) You must take risks; prepare but also learn to improvise.

3) You need to find effective ways of self-promotion.

4) You need to embrace the non-liner, surprise-package career path – take opportunities and don’t worry if you don’t think you’re ready for something.

5) And you need to stop worrying so much about being liked – and be respected.

On another note HBR blogger, Whitney Johnson, has come across women who have chosen to designate their businesses as non-profit because, “women were willing to make donations hand-over-fist, but they wouldn’t invest.”

Johnson goes on to point out, in the HBR piece ‘Women, Finance the world you want’, this makes no sense from a financial perspective: “A donation means the money is gone; an investment means you may get something back. From an emotional perspective, the decision adds up. When you donate, you are giving something. When you invest, you can expect a return.”

She then asks: “how do we explain the high investing anxiety of four out of ten women?”

The answer she suspects is “because, deep down, they fear it will bankrupt their femininity.”

Alexandra Samuel’s airtight case in her HBR piece, ‘Dear Colleague, etc,’ for throwing out your paper notebook and going digital when it comes to meetings is a cracker. A declared Ambassador for the Evernote App – a text, image, sound, digital notebook – Samuel so convinced me with her digital notebook argument, that I downloaded the free App and have begun using it. (No one wants to look old fashioned.)

Read on
For more HBR insight:

For more on heroic women:

For more on happiness: