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9 Tips for Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave

9 Tips for Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave

If you’re like many new moms preparing to go back to work, you might find yourself exhausted, overwhelmed and facing a lot of uncertainty. Obviously child care is on the top of the list, and it’s critical for getting back to work. But what else should you be thinking about? Look no further than this list to set you up for success as you transition back into work.

1. Do a dry run…or two or three

If you go the nanny route, have them come to your house for a few trial runs and leave your house while they are there. The first time you leave your child will likely be emotional, so it’s best if this doesn’t also coincide with the equally emotional first day back in the office. Practice (and time) your morning routine, so you know how long you need on a typical morning. By having a few trial runs with your nanny you can also see what else they might be able to help with, like the laundry, preparing meals or even some light housekeeping.

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2. Make time for self-care

Remember to put your oxygen mask on first. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will be in no shape to take care of others or handle your workload. Incorporate acts of self care into your schedule before you go back to work to get into the habit of taking care of yourself. If you’re running low on ideas for self-care, check out the 20+ recommendations in this short video: Burnout Prevention Guide.

3. Practice mindfulness

Realize that it is going to be emotional and maybe even painful the first time you leave your little one. Practice mindfulness by embracing those feelings and feeling them fully without judgment. And then remember these powerful feelings are just signs of how much you love your little one. If you need help starting a mindfulness practice but are short on time (what new mom isn’t?!), try this Meditation Challenge that teaches you to meditate in only five minutes per day.

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4. Determine (or refresh!) your values

When we’re facing transitions, the uncertainty can often be overwhelming and we forget why we do the things we do. Whenever we’re at a crossroads, it can be helpful to examine our values so we can connect what we do with why we’re doing it. If you want help determining your values, this exercise will help you gain clarity on what’s most important to you–and in less than 10 minutes. If you’re feeling frustrated and notice your inner critic getting loud, remember that working mom is not synonymous with “bad mom” and that you can be both a wonderful mother and a working mom.

5. Get support and ask for what you need

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and ask other moms how they do it. Many of the overachieving women that I coach find it tremendously hard to ask for help and have created a strong identity around being self-sufficient. Learning to soften the need to “do it all” will help you transition back into work, and make your life easier. I often tell my coaching clients to remember that it’s not weakness to ask for help, it’s a sign of strength. When you’re struggling, it’s helpful to remember how good it feels to help someone else, and you can share that positive energy by allowing others to support you.

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6. Practicing saying no…without the guilt

Ahh, the art of saying no. I was just speaking at the Watermark Conference for Women, and being able to say an effective no was brought up multiple times as a critical skill for working moms. If you have trouble saying no, it’s helpful to start practicing with saying no to small things before tackling the big stuff. You will want to be firm with your no, because otherwise you’ll end up drawing out the process and wasting additional time and energy. It can often feel more natural to say no with an appreciation sandwich (example: I appreciate you reaching out and getting in touch, but I’m unable to help with the bake sale at school next month. Thank you for leading the charge–I appreciate your dedication to the school!) so you are both firm and compassionate. Check out this video for more tips on how to say no without feeling guilty.

7. Prioritize sleep

I can’t help but include this tip even though it probably seems both obvious and impossible at the same time. So here it goes: even if it means letting your partner do a night feeding, or having dirty dishes in the sink, or letting the bed go unmade, do whatever you can to protect your sleep. I highly recommend investing in an eye mask and earplugs so that when you do sleep, you get the highest quality sleep possible. One of the biggest disruptors (besides night feedings!) to our sleep are our phones. The extra time spent checking Facebook and then Instagram and then rechecking Facebook before bed not only pushes back our bedtime, but staring at a screen also disrupts the production of melatonin and messes with our sleep cycles. Confession: I’m powerless over my phone, so in order to actually put this tip into practice I had to buy an alarm clock and move my phone and charger into the kitchen so it wouldn’t tempt me. Consider making a similar adjustment if you’re finding it difficult to turn off the phone at night.

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8. Plan and delegate

Setting clear expectations with your partner about responsibilities at home is important in any marriage, but especially a marriage with children. Can’t seem to convince your husband to do more around the house? Try sending him this study that shows that couples have more sex when household chores are shared. Another power tip for working moms is to do meal planning every Sunday night. This will help save yourself the hassle of figuring out what you’re going to have for dinner while your stomach grumbles.

9. Pay it forward

If there isn’t a moms group at your company, start one. Talk to HR about how they can improve their policies and how they can better reintegrate moms post-maternity leave. If the HR team is hesitant, you can send them this study that shows that having great parental leave policies is a key way to attract and retain top talent.

The transition back to work after having a baby can be a rocky one, but hopefully with these tips in hand you will be better prepared for what lies ahead.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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