Take the scenic route. Much like when we’re driving, we often choose the most efficient route over and over again, but trying a new way helps you notice new things, anchoring you into the moment.
I had the pleasure to interview Cherylanne Skolnicki. Cherylanne is one of America’s leading authorities on work life integration, helping working women live their happiest, most fulfilling lives. From her early days at a Fortune 500 company to founding The Brilliant Balance Company, where she leads a vibrant community of high achieving women, she’s become a go-to expert and trusted advisor for women who want to get the most out of life. Cherylanne grew up wanting to be a Fortune 500 CEO, and started her career at Procter & Gamble where she worked for 15 years before forming her own company. While there, she managed businesses worth up to $1 billion in revenue and led teams that spanned the globe. Her years in a leading global corporation give her first-hand insight into the pace at which successful people today are expected to operate. She is particularly passionate about helping working women thrive despite the rigorous demands of their work and home lives. Today, the Brilliant Balance Company equips women to get the most out of life through its training and coaching programs as well as its extensive free content platform. Cherylanne is a sought-after speaker and top podcast host. Each year she speaks at number of events, companies, and organizations. She also hosts the Brilliant Balance Podcast which reaches thousands of women each week with inspiring messages and practical ideas. Cherylanne’s work and advice has been featured in The Huffington Post, Forbes, Cincy Chic and Women’s Day. She appears on TV news shows as an expert on work life balance, productivity, and purpose. Cherylanne graduated from Cornell University in 1995. She also holds an MBA from the Goizueta School of Management at Emory University. She is one of Cincinnati’s 100 Wise Women, a Forty Under 40 Honoree, a happy wife, and a proud mom of three.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Sure! Fifteen years into my career at Procter and Gamble, I found myself restless. I was successful, but not fulfilled. I had a deep belief there was something more meaningful I was meant to do with my life, but with the noise of a more-than-full-time job and two young children, I couldn’t clear enough head space to figure out what it was. I was passionate about health and wellness, and health coaching was in its infancy. So I got my certification and resigned from P&G to start my first company — and then learned that same month that I was expecting my third child. I ran that business for five years until I had clarity on what was next…an all-encompassing approach to equipping women to meet the competing demands of their work and home lives without losing themselves in the process. The rest, as they say, is history.
According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?
This constant pressure of feeling rushed is a relatively new phenomenon. We’re living in unprecedented times with more demands on us than ever before, despite having access to countless time-saving services and the most advanced technology in history. In my opinion, the biggest drivers of the constant rush are:
1) Technology. It has shortened the communication loop and we are struggling to keep up. It has also made work omnipresent and we haven’t created boundaries to protect personal time.
2) Geography. Our geographic locus of control has widened so we spend more time in transit.
3) Parenting. Our children have more demanding school and extracurricular lives that require our involvement.
We’re basically rushing to keep up with a world that is changing faster than we are adapting, and it’s causing us to feel like there is simply not enough time.
Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?
Even the accomplished women I work with can quickly go into a tailspin when they’re constantly feeling rushed. First, we get overwhelmed. We have so much on our plates that we don’t even know where to begin. We start making to do lists for our to do lists, and the sheer workload becomes paralyzing. Second, this constant rushing has all but eliminated any margin in our lives for downtime or breathing room. Without it we can’t collect ourselves, get regrouped, and decide with intention what to tackle next. And this of course leads to chronic dissatisfaction — anxiety, depression, loneliness, and self doubt — as we lock ourselves away in our always-buzzing minds.
On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?
It’s such a paradox, but the effect is dramatic. Slowing down long enough to actually be in each and every moment of our day makes time feel expansive. Every moment really counts. When we’re not racing through our day only half present, we make more intentional choices about where we’ll invest our time. That intentionality is the key: Choosing how each hour (or minute) will be spent means we’ve given it thoughtful consideration. Nothing is happening on autopilot or by accident. And because we’re being choiceful, it stands to reason that we’ll choose wisely. We’ll choose the activities that enrich our lives and fuel our accomplishments. So it’s not so much that we’re doing more…it’s that we’re getting more out of each thing we do.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
1) Breathe. This is the most overlooked practice of all. Taking a few slow, deep breaths when things start to feel out of control is incredibly grounding. It brings you right back to the moment at hand.
2) Single-task. One surefire way to be fully present is to do one (and only one) thing at a time. We all THINK we’re good at multitasking, but none of us are.
3) Take the scenic route. Much like when we’re driving, we often choose the most efficient route over and over again, but trying a new way helps you notice new things, anchoring you into the moment.
4) Unplug. I try to keep my phone off from from 8PM till 8AM. It ensures that at least half of each 24 hour day has white space available for me to think and breathe without the temptation of distraction or entertainment just a click away.
5) Get outside. Being in nature grounds us and provides instant perspective. There is nothing more therapeutic than an outdoor walk to clear your head and bring you back to center.
6) Spend time around children. It’s nearly impossible NOT to be in the moment when you’re around small children! They insist on having your full attention, as any mom who’s ever heard a chorus of “Watch me! Watch me!” can attest.
How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?
Mindfulness is a way of living that is rooted in paying attention. So much of our day can go by with us on autopilot — just going through the motions, and not really in the moment. And because of that, we miss the opportunity to be fully present, both for ourselves and for others.
When I was young, my dad would sometimes be mid-conversation with me and notice I wasn’t fully paying attention. This was unacceptable, so right in the middle of his sentence, he’d say something interruptive like “…and then I fell down and broke my arm and it shattered into hundreds of bone shards and there was blood everywhere…” This would naturally make me look up in horror, asking “WHAT?!” This little piece of mindfulness training worked like a charm. He’d bring me squarely back into the conversation and into the moment. It was always a poignant reminder that giving someone your full attention during a conversation matters. When you don’t, they notice, even if you don’t think they do.
Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?
One way to integrate mindfulness into your everyday life is to create a transition ritual. Since I coach a lot of working moms, who regularly feel pulled in competing directions, I emphasize the importance of creating zones in your day — for work, for your family, and for yourself. As you transition from one zone to the next (for example, coming into the house after a day at the office), you take a few moments to breathe and set an intention for how you want to show up for the people you’re about to greet. So often we come into the house trailing energy from work — a conflict, an unsolved problem, a worry — and it shows. Our families sense it. We may still be typing a message on our phone even as our children are wrapping us in a hug. Using a transition ritual to let all of that go so we can be fully in the next moment with our kids or our spouse really makes a difference. And of course it works in the other direction as well, leaving behind the energy of the “morning launch” at home as we shift our full attention to our work!
Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?
I use one that may be somewhat non-traditional. The idea was inspired by the Tibetan singing bowls that are sometimes used to begin and end a meditation practice, or to bring you back to center in the middle of one. As a proxy, I set an alarm on my iPhone to chime gently every 15 minutes during a block of deep work (writing, etc). It helps me pull myself back on track if I’ve gotten distracted. The chime sounds and I ask myself “Are you doing what you said you’d be doing right now?” If I’m not, that’s my gentle reminder to get back on task.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices
My can’t-live-without-it tool is the Down Dog yoga app! This has been a game changer for me — within seconds, it customizes a practice with the intensity, duration, and style I choose. This allows me to fit in a practice whenever my schedule allows without trying to find a studio, class, or instructor that will work. I am probably on my mat four times as often because of this app.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Be where you are.” It’s the collection of words that most clearly reminds me that I’ll never get this moment back again. I learned this from a mentor in my first corporate job — she was raising three young children at the time and shared that the way she found peace was to be fully in each moment. “When I’m at work, I’m all in at work. And when I‘m at home I’m all in at home.” This came back to me years later when I was juggling a job, a house, a husband, and three babies of my own. I was trying to make all those daily decisions about which meetings to go to and which ones to skip, which ballet lessons and soccer practices to be at and which ones to sit out, and so on. I developed a practice of intentionally deciding each week where I’d be hour by hour and then sticking to it. No second guessing. No guilt. It’s darn near magical as a practice.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d like to inspire a movement that encourages everyone to BE BRILLIANT. I want to see us chasing our biggest dreams, and pursuing them with the full force of our energy and talent. If every single one of us were chasing a dream, think about how engaged and alive we’d feel. Instead, too many of us are hiding behind cliches like “I have no choice” and “I have no time” and “I’ll do it when the kids are grown.” We’re losing ourselves in the process. Being Brilliant is all about owning our talent and unleashing the full force of our creative energy in service to something bigger than ourselves. It’s a game changer.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!