Doing less or more on vacation

Posted January 15, 2019 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Business, Family

Tags: ,

There’s truth in what Lucille Ball said: “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.”

It may be obvious to you, but recently it struck me that the busier I am, the more I get done.

Over the past few months, I have been overwhelmed, stressed, and a little ragged when I let myself think of all the things I need to do. Somehow the urgent things get done, and I move on down the list.

Then I took a vacation. Except for checking email every once in a while (so I didn’t face an overflowing inbox when I got back to work), most of the “busy work” halted.

I took time to sleep in, to read, to relax. But I also had plans, places to go and things to do.

On the first and last days of my vacation, we took two family day-trips – places we wanted to take our son for the first time. But with so much time, we couldn’t stir ourselves to take the second trip sooner.

Between those family days, I worked only on projects that I wanted to do. I couldn’t justify doing them when there were more urgent projects, but I enjoyed doing them. There were other things I wanted to do, and had the time to do them, but not the motivation.

Though my vacation is over, here are three things I could have done to make sure I got more done:

* Designate work times. I could have aside two days, or three mornings, as work days. Whether it’s checking work email, preparing taxes, doing yardwork, or cleaning the house, making that mental shift to “work” can help focus attention and set boundaries for the rest of the vacation.

* Set imaginary deadlines. My default was “I’ll do it over my vacation,” but that’s not specific enough. I should have set a date for when something needed to be completed – even if it was an arbitrary date.

* Tell someone about it. Better yet, I should have told someone what I wanted to accomplish, and when, so that I felt some pressure or accountability to actually follow through.

Now I have some ideas for staying on task during my next vacation.

What is your ideal vacation? Are your vacations all-leisure or a combination of work and play?


Poetry: Too Soon

Posted January 8, 2019 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Fiction

Tags: , ,

Too Soon
by Rachelle Chang

I saw you here the other night,
And here you are again.
No one ever comes this way
But me, and you, in the rain.

This place, it is so strange and far
From all that I have known…
I linger here, but not for long,
I’ve been too long alone.

And you, I know, won’t leave this place,
While I must journey on;
Tell them for me, when they return,
That I’m already gone.

I came too soon, you see, I came
And now I stay too late;
I ask you this: when they return,
Tell them I could not wait.

“When” by Daniel H. Pink

Posted January 5, 2019 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Book Reviews

Tags: , ,

At one time, my son was really interested in social experiments. He didn’t run any experiments on me (I think), but he did make me watch some episodes of Daniel Pink’s “Crowd Control.” We watched Pink try to reduce speeding by creating a musical highway or give away prizes. Not long after that, Pink’s book “When” caught my curiosity at just the right time, when I was thinking about making a career change but was still unsure of what I wanted to do.

“When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” (2018) by author Daniel H. Pink is a book about timing. Specifically, the science of timing, based on more than 700 studies. With an engaging tone and all of that research in bite-sized pieces “When” is thoroughly readable and gave me a lot to think about.

The book is divided into increments of time (day, beginnings, midpoints, and endings), with a “Time Hacker’s Handbook” section at the end of each chapter that is filled with tools, exercises, and tips. One of the most useful tips he shares is to identify personally meaningful days to create a “fresh start effect” – whether it’s the start of the week or month, a birthday, an anniversary, or ordinary day that you make meaningful (Star Wars fans might consider May 4).

The Day. Morning larks, night owls, and third birds. Our moods follow a common pattern: a peak, a trough, and a recovery. For night-owls, this pattern is reversed: recovery, trough, then peak. This pattern has a big impact on problem solving, creativity, and even morality. Pink suggests that we perform analytical tasks at optimal times, and perform creative tasks at low times. In between, we should take frequent, short, restorative breaks (moving around, talking with others, going outside, or taking a nap).

Beginnings. Beginnings matter, and Pink points out two beginnings that we might want to re-think. For example, when you start your day has a big impact on the rest of your day. For teenagers, an early start could negatively impact learning. Pink recommends starting the school day later, after 8:30 am. And when you graduate and enter the job market – whether it’s a strong economy or a weak one – has a lifelong impact on your career and wealth.

Midpoints. Happiness tends to climb high in early adulthood, slides down in the late 30s and early 40s, dips in the 50s, and begins climbing again in the 60s. In everyday life, Pink suggests that we use midpoints in a project, competition, or calendar to motivate us. We can set interim goals and then publicly commit to those interim goals. Ernest Hemingway would stop writing in mid-sentence to keep his productivity flowing.

Endings. Endings shape our behavior by energizing us – we want to do something significant. We’re more likely to do something challenging or meaningful right before we reach an age milestone, such as age 30, 40, 50 or more. In a few years, I’ll reach one of those decade milestones (I won’t say which one), and I’ll let you know if I come up with something significant – or wild.

There’s more about the power of when – like secrets to group timing, ways to make the present more meaningful, and how we can change our perception of time. You can read more about “When” and watch an author interview on Pink’s website at

Are you a morning lark, a night owl, or a third bird? What beginnings and endings stand out in your memory?

Spending more time in the future

Posted January 1, 2019 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Business, Family

Tags: , ,

Today, there seems to be a strong emphasis on living in the present, on savoring each moment. We can add meaning to our days by focusing on good things that happened, accomplishments, and kindnesses.


But we also need to balance living in the present with spending time in the future.


“The capacity to imagine and articulate exciting future possibilities is the defining competence of leaders. Leaders are custodians of the future,” write James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner in “The Truth About Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know” (2010).


“Spend more time in the future,” Kouzes and Posner suggest. “You have to carve out more time each week to peering into the distance and imagining what might be out there. You have to spend time today in order to have the time tomorrow.”


So I spent some time imagining what our best possible organization could be like in five years. Who is part of our best team? What are our core programs, products, and services? What other organizations and agencies are we working closely with? What is the state of our finances? How are we making positive changes in our community?


Thinking about the future is revitalizing. It makes me feel hopeful. It gives me a renewed sense of purpose.


It’s like a reverse time capsule. In five years, what will your time capsule tell you about about today?


This ties in with a happiness practice that I recently learned through “The Science of Happiness” class. In this practice, we were asked to imagine our best possible self – in career, family, relationships, finances, hobbies/interests, and health.


And what it comes down to is time – more time doing meaningful things, like time with my family, time devoted to art, and work that has a positive impact on society.


The practice is not meant to make us feel frustrated about the difficulties that we face today or the challenges that we foresee in the future. It helps us learn about ourselves and what is important to us. And it can help us prioritize who we can be and what our organization can become.


Imagining the future made me really excited about doing even everyday tasks, because I could see how each small step could get us to that best future.


Do you make time to spend time in the future? What do envision for your life in five years?

Mahalo in 2018

Posted December 25, 2018 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Mahalo

Tags: , ,

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, Better Hawaii readers!

I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude recently, after taking “The Science of Happiness,” an online class from the Greater Good Science Center. More than just feeling gratitude, we need to express our gratitude.

So I’ve been committed recently to expressing gratitude more often. I started a gratitude journal at work and invite everyone, staff and clients, to share a message or just reflect silently. The new year has been a wonderful time to express my appreciation for the people I work with and the relationships that have helped me grow.

Let’s take time to thank the people and organizations that have made our lives brighter and strengthened our community in 2018. Send an email, make a phone call, or thank someone in person. You’ll brighten their day and your day, too.

Here are just a few people and organizations on my mahalo list:

Mahalo to sixth grade teachers, Bob and Valerie, who challenged students on an impressive Immigration project; Eric who taught swimming and Zachary who conducted orchestra; and a team of seventh grade teachers, Joseph, Heather, Allison, and Renee, who encouraged students to be global citizens.

Mahalo to our neighborhood parks, museums, libraries, and volunteer groups: Koko Head District Park for their ceramics studio; our neighborhood public libraries for Free Comic Book Day, summer reading programs, and keeping up-to-date with thousands of books, magazines, and newspapers.

Mahalo to the community organizations who make Hawaii better: Aloha United Way for community services and grants to nonprofits; the Friends of Hawaii Charities for grants to nonprofits through the Sony Open in Hawaii; the Hawaii Hotel Industry Foundation for their Visitor Industry Charity Walk; Foodland for their Give Aloha Community Matching Gifts campaign.

Mahalo to the Clarence TC Ching Foundation for sponsoring the “Inspired in Hawaii” Essay Contest and the Hawaii State House of Legislators for sponsoring the “Hawaii: Next 50 Years” Contest, encouraging students to think of ways we can make Hawaii better.

Mahalo to 7-Eleven for free slurpees on July 11; Barnes & Noble for a free cookie for my son’s birthday; and Burger King for free French fries, cones, Icees for a $1 donation to the BK Scholars fundraiser, helping hard-working Hawaii students.

Mahalo to the Greater Good Science Center, for teaching me that happiness is about joy and meaning, that we can train our mind for happiness, and that being kind to others – and ourselves – can make us happier.

Mahalo to you, Better Hawaii readers, for helping to make Hawaii better.

Who do you want to thank this year? What are you grateful for?

Best books of 2018

Posted December 18, 2018 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Book Reviews, Books

Tags: ,

This year has been filled with changes and opportunities that challenged me to move out of my comfort zone. I was drawn to books about coping with adversity, leadership, and finding meaning at work.

Here are 10 of the best books that I’ve read in 2018:

* “The Tower of Dawn” by Sarah J. Maas – about confronting your fears and prejudice, learning that ‘love cannot exist without trust,’ being seen as you really are, self-forgiveness, and the power of kindness.

* “Lake Silence” by Anne Bishop – about rebuilding self-esteem, being friendly but not a friend, finding where you belong, and being a bridge between worlds.

* “Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers” by Sara Ackerman – about the effects of war, the anxiety of keeping secrets, taking a stand against racial prejudice, and allowing yourself to feel alive.

* “The Forbidden Door” by Dean Koontz – about facing the truth vs. living in denial, recognizing that evil is real, loyalty, and choosing not to live in fear.

* “All Systems Red” (novella) by Martha Wells – about what it means to be human, self-identity, free will, and making your own decisions – basically, saving people so you can go back to watching entertainment videos.

* “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” (2009) by Simon Sinek – because people are drawn to why you it, not what you do.

* “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” (2018) by Daniel H. Pink – about hacking your time to boost your performance and energize yourself.

* “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High,” Second Edition (2012) by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzlerl – teaching us how to confidently tackling conversations that have opposing opinions, high stakes, and strong emotions

* “Do It Anyway: The Handbook for Finding Personal Meaning and Deep Happiness in a Crazy World” (2003) by Kent M. Keith – about accepting that life is unfair and living as if you can make it fair.

* “The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups” (2018) by Daniel Coyle – about building safety, sharing vulnerability, and establishing purpose.

Which books have entertained you, challenged you, or inspired you? Which books would you recommend ?

Happy reading and happy new year!

Driving with bosses

Posted December 11, 2018 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Business

Tags: , , ,

One summer, my co-workers and I took a memorable roadtrip back from a conference. One of the sponsors came up with a Gold Rush theme, and placed a large golden nugget – complete with cactus, pick ax, and lantern – as the centerpiece on each dinner table. Unfortunately, it looked a little like golden poop. My boss had a great sense of humor and drove back to the office with that golden nugget taped to the hood of his bright red car. It still makes me laugh.

Another summer, I drove to work in the mornings with my boss. It was a little uncomfortable at first, but 45 minutes in the car, five days a week, with your boss is a golden opportunity. Usually we have only a few minutes during the day to catch up. But in the car, we had time to talk about work, make quick decisions, and get to know each other better.

We usually think of meetings as the best times to get things done. We schedule formal meetings with an agenda and specific action items. We set up lunch meetings to discuss business deals – or celebrate them.

But I’ve learned to appreciate the time I spend with my boss in the car. It’s a chance for us to talk about our jobs, the challenges we face, and our personal lives, without any distractions or interruptions. We’ve had conversations about our families, our past jobs, and current problems.

Roadtrips can be a bonding experience, especially when you’re driving to an unfamiliar place. You’re navigating unfamiliar roads as a team. You’re focusing on your relationship, instead of traffic. Getting lost can make the trip even more memorable.

I’ve taken roadtrips with bosses along scenic highways, through “country” towns, and to a little-known barbecue take-out restaurant. There’s a right turn that we almost missed without some fancy steering. These shared memories make working together a little easier. It just costs us time and gas.

Traffic doesn’t have to be a roadblock – it can be an opportunity.

Have you ever driven with your boss? Or, if you’re a boss, have you ever driven with your direct reports? What is the most memorable conversation you have had on the road?