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Interview with James Claitor and Colleen Contreras

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Colleen Contreras has a degree in business, is a certified project manager, and is working on a law degree. She has experience in the technology, hospitality, and philanthropy industries. For the last five years, Colleen has consulted organizations on program planning and implementation, technology, management, operations, and strategic alignment.
 
Jim Claitor is experienced in change management, negotiation, conflict resolution, marketing, and organizational development. He has served as a trusted advisor to a number of executives, helping them think through their political environment as well as clarify and achieve their personal and organizational goals.
 
 
Interview: 

It seems that every time I turn around I'm reading an article about the cons of multitasking. Most wives and mothers multitask all the time. What advice would you give them?
 
In a recent workshop at the national conference of Business Professional Women, we asked a room full of women to raise their hands if they thought they were good time managers.  Only about 2 raised their hands.  We believe that you have to be a good time manager and multi-tasker to even get out of bed in this 24/7 society.
 
The key to being a good multi-tasker is to make sure that you know when to take time out for yourself and when to pause in the multi-tasking to be fully present for others.  As the mother of a three month old, I know first hand how difficult it can be.  Multi-tasking is a necessity particularly for mothers but it is easy to become so busy that one day seems to run into the next.  As one successful working mom commented, the key is to keep the precious moments precious.
 
If a very busy person could do ONE thing to at least slow down the treadmill, what would you suggest they do?
 
Communicate more.  The busier we get the less effective we become at communicating and the more inwardly focused we become.  It is easy to feel alone, unappreciated, or that we are the only ones struggling with these issues.  We forget to ask the key questions: "who can I get to help me?"  or “who can help me take a new perspective?”
 
Taking a break and reaching out provides support, help, a fresh perspective, and often times new solutions. Sometimes the best firefighters are also the biggest arsonists.  Much of the time we continue to frantically throw ourselves at the problem. We start to screen people out. Worse, we expect them to understand. Relationship problems, whether at home or at work, frequently result from the lack of communication.
 

Most writers have fulltime jobs, writing either before or after work, or on weekends. What advice would you give them about keeping balance in their lives?
 
We hear so much about balance in our lives.  It is a mistake to think that it means everything is  balanced the same at all times. Naturally one aspect of life will take precedence over another, and frequently without warning- such as an urgent family situation. It helps to know one's priorities, and what it takes to disrupt them.
 
One top consultant has set expectations at home and at work as to how much she may be interrupted on a weekend, and for what kinds of urgent issues. This carries over to writers. As highly skilled as she is, she is aware that she is not indispensable, and other's can handle or start working on client problems.
 
Writers need to schedule time that will be respected by their significant others and other outside commitments. Having said that, it pays to remember that Murphy’s Law is alive and well even in the most carefully planned schedules. Space in the calendar needs to be left open in order to have time to deal with surprises. Writing time may have to be moved, but not be eliminated as the low priority.
 
We don't often see a father-daughter writing team. How did you co-authorship begin?

Dad and I have always been pals and when our consulting careers overlapped we saw that we had a unique opportunity to bring our backgrounds together to truly help others. In the process we grown both as individuals and in our relationship. We approach problems and work very differently, so we learned to respect and deal with each other's style. Colleen needs to know where things are in process, and Jim, with his less linear style, has learned to report in and get feedback to avoid raising Colleen's anxiety level. We treat each other as partners, and have a real awareness of and respect for each other's strong suits.
 
How do you find time in YOUR busy schedules to write, work, and maintain good relationships?

Priorities.  It is not uncommon for me to ask my dad to pick up the slack or vice versa as our other commitments need more attention. 
 
We often remind each other when we become too focused or driven to take a step back. We know what stress can do to relationships, and we know that it often helps for someone to provide outside perspective when you are getting frustrated. Checking in plays a big role in alleviating stresses and allows us to share schedules and tasks. We have times where we will not call each other or take calls when we either need to concentrate or want to take time for relationships.
 
Once again, life is fluid and things happen to disrupt our "out of office" times. With some conversation and re-evaluation, things can get back on track. If you set as your goal to rebalance things, chances are you will succeed.
 
What advice would you give to new non-fiction writers about the process of writing a first book?

There were three keys. The first was to be very open to feedback and find people with unique perspectives who would share them without reserve. This led to the second, which was to write, and rewrite and, on a number of occasions, rethink whole issues. Lastly, we consulted with someone who knew the business side of writing, and could guide us by providing an industry eye. This enabled us to focus on our goals for the book and minimize time spent on other issues.
 
Can people really "have it all" in terms of a balanced life?  If so, what's the one piece of advice you'd give them to maintain balance?

 Some people may think of that as a dream, but it is very possible. It requires making choices. You have to remind yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed or out of balance that it doesn't have to be that way! You can step back, examine your situation, and make choices that will lead you back towards your sense of balance.
 
Being balanced does not mean there will not be conflict, or anxiety, or fear.  Many times these are testaments to your willingness to be to be fully present. It does not mean you will never feel frustrated or make compromises. It means understanding that the energy put into a given priority or task is coming from somewhere. Ask yourself, "Where? Take a look at what is most important to you. Choose accordingly, and you can have most, if not all of it.
 

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If time is money…how much of either are you spending on what is really important to you?!
 
Work is important. Very important. But so is your outside life. Imagine feeling good about yourself every day because you were able to make meaningful contributions to all that is important in your life—including yourself. The fast pace of our times makes feeling overwhelmed and overcommitted the norm. Build the Life You Want AND Still Have Time to Enjoy It! will help you to break the cycle once and for all!

This entertaining and practical book is a quick read that provides simple yet powerful solutions that can be applied immediately. What's more, this book shows you how to examine your work style so that you can choose the approaches you want to use—and will use—to revolutionize not only the way you do things, but also the way you look at them. Knowing the secrets in this book, you will gain control over your work and life.
 

Feel free to drop me your comments about this interview to museitupeditor@yahoo.ca with BUILD THE LIFE on the subject heading and I'll be happy to pass on your comments to the authors.

If you'd like to be interviewed, or simply appear on my blog, send me an email to:
museitupeditor@yahoo.ca