Empty-nester Jill Valdez is creating impact and helping others do the same.
Creating impact through structure and empowerment
Jill Valdez and I had a great conversation about creating structure through tools like time-blocking, task management, and the good old reminder alarm to tackle the various areas of our lives, and also about encouraging leaders to empower the people on their teams to create lasting impact.
Jill is a new empty-nester mom of three adult children. She spent 17 years as a full-time executive of a non-profit corporation while building a life with her family, pursuing her degree, and volunteering time on a woman’s leadership team. After spending a few years in the for-profit sector. Jill’s passion for helping companies has led her to the launch of her own business, called LINK. Today Jill balances growing her business, a job as an Executive Director of an organization that provides groceries for 325 families every week, volunteering at a newly started church, and exploring new adventures with her husband.
A typical day
A typical day for Jill depends on which hat she is wearing.
She works as the executive director at the food pantry organization on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. On Mondays, she works with the team to set things up for food distribution to families in need. On Tuesdays, they actually distribute the food. On Wednesdays, she takes care of administrative tasks.
On Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, she works on her business.
She finds that it is helpful to look at the days and know what type of work defines that day. She allocates specific time periods to various components of her business.
When she works with clients, she asks them to do the same thing, penciling out what their ideal week is using the “block scheduling” approach to know which pieces of their businesses they’ll work on specific days.
That division of her weeks between the food pantry and her own business defines what her “typical” days look like.
On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, she leaves home at 6:30 am and gets back around 7 pm. Her work on those days is very focused on food distribution.
During the rest of the week, she works for herself, so it can be easy for her to say, “Maybe I’ll work today, maybe I won’t.” Still, she gets up early, jumps on the treadmill to get some exercise and listens to a podcast while exercising, and catches up on housework that got neglected. Then she’ll go into her office and sit down to attack her task list for the day.
Most of the time, she doesn’t allow her work to bleed into the evening. There’s always something she and her husband can be doing in their respective career paths, but they’ve made a commitment to one another not to allow work to consume them. They treat their business endeavors as a job (surprise!) and set a time to stop so they can spend the evening as a couple.
Jill is a “late-to-bed and early-to-rise” type of person. She decompresses from the day by catching up on the news and social media or occasionally having friends over. On days she’s not at the food pantry, she tries to make dinner and spend the evenings quietly.
Saturdays are reserved for the fun stuff. There are a lot of things for them to discover because they are new to Arizona. They work intentionally at keeping that time open. In fact, on Jill’s calendar, it says “protected and dedicated time for us,” and they don’t schedule anything else on that day unless it is an emergency.
Sundays are for church. Jill and her husband are both ordained ministers and they’ve started a church in the area they moved to. After church, they’ll go out to have lunch with church friends and hang out. Sunday evening is reserved for downtime and preparing for the rest of the week, looking at her calendar and taking mental note of what to prepare for that week.
What made you decide to launch your own business and what are you trying to accomplish?
Jill noticed that many business owners lacked skills she expected them to have, such as people management and process development. She helped a company improve in these areas and realized it was so rewarding she wanted to do it on a bigger scale and help more companies, which prompted her to launch the business. She works with small business owners and managers at mid-sized companies. In essence, she is someone who can give attention to the team so the business owner or manager can focus on the actual business. So often, the leaders are trying to wear all the hats and the people portion tends to get pushed down, so Jill helps them in that regard.
How do you find clients and how do you identify who you want to work with?
Jill’s biggest challenge has been figuring out this part. When she first started the business, she had no clue about marketing. She was fortunate enough to find a great marketing coach who gave fantastic direction, helped answer her questions, and helped to create a process for her to go out and find clients.
Her most effective approaches are to connect with people on LinkedIn, and to get herself out there by being featured as guests on podcasts. Being on a podcast allows her to add value to prospective clients and regular listeners alike.
Can you share a tip or principle with leaders who struggle with people management?
Jills says that the one thing to remember is that companies today need to evolve their thinking. The old mentality was, “My team is here and they should give me their very best because I’m giving them a paycheck.”
Now, people want to know that what they do is making an impact. People get a job because they need a paycheck, but they choose where and in what industry based on where they feel they can make a difference.
We’ve become a culture that values making a positive impact and is conscious of social justice. This mentality has come into the workplace, so the manager who thinks simply giving a paycheck is enough needs to remember that the employees are people. They may be good at leaving their personal lives at home, but they still have personal lives. They have challenges. When they come in, they don’t come in to be a cog in a wheel. They want to make a significant contribution to whatever the organization is doing, so empower them to do that by setting up systems that allow, even encourage, that kind of culture. Also, figure out how to reward your team in a creative and impactful way.
Biggest productivity challenges
Jill’s biggest productivity challenge comes when something doesn’t go as planned and her weekly routine is thrown off. For example, if she doesn’t finish the food pantry administrative work on Wednesday, she’ll end up not having the margin she needs. Figuring out where she’ll make up for what didn’t get done, and deciding what to sacrifice, is her biggest challenge.
About 10 years ago, Jill read a book titled So Stressed which explains the medical and physical effects that stress has on women, and it compelled her to make changes. She is by no means perfect at it, but when things start to get derailed, she simply takes 15 minutes and walks away from it all. Then she comes back and spends the next 15 minutes prioritizing everything that needs to be done so she can attack it from there.
Tools Jill recommends
Jill was introduced to the task-management app Asana a couple of years ago. She scoffed at it at first, but now she won’t start a project without having it outlined in Asana first. For example, when she’s talking with a client and there are action steps she needs to take for that client, she’ll put it into Asana with a due date assigned to it, which will populate her calendar as well. This has been the biggest factor in how she manages everything.
Jill is a Mac user, so she uses the iCal as her calendar, and also has a Google calendar for her business. Both calendars sync with her Asana account. As a part of her everyday routine, she checks her Asana checklist and her calendar, and then she makes sure she is staying on top of whatever is coming up.
She is also a big fan of the timer and alarms on the calendar.
What happens on a day when everything gets away from you?
Jill has given herself permission to say “I’m going to walk away from all this.” She needs to free herself from the expectation that she’s going to be able to do it all, all the time.
About 10 years ago, Jill’s family experienced a significant loss. For about a month, they didn’t do anything except for the bare minimum, and that had to be ok.
When things get overwhelming and she needs time to process it, she allows herself time to do that. She trusts that she’s going to be able to figure out how to get to the things that aren’t getting done, or that it wasn’t supposed to be done. She trusts her intuition, what she knows, and her ability to discern
What’s on the horizon for Jill?
Jill is excited about the coming fall season because she’ll be stepping away from the work she’s doing for the food pantry. She’s been developing a manager to take over her tasks, which means she won’t be required to be there as much, giving her more time to invest in her clients.
Last thoughts on making a life that matters
Give yourself permission to be a person. There will be times for that mom at home when you’re trying to juggle getting your kids to school, and having to work, and having a perfect house, and making everything happen. But try to enjoy the moment you’re in. There is always going to be something to do, but make sure that you’re doing what’s really important for that time and season.
What do you think?
Connect with Jill
- Text LINK to 31996
More about Jill
Jill Valdez spent 17 years as a full-time executive of a non-profit corporation while building a life with her family, pursuing her degree, and volunteering time on a woman’s leadership team. In 2016, a corporate restructure caused Jill to have to figure out what she wanted to do for her new career. She jumped into the for-profit sector and quickly learned that her skills for creating systems and developing efficient processes would fill a void. Jill’s passion for helping companies has led her to the launch of LINK … helping companies implement strategies to create engaged employees to get to the next now without pandemonium. Today Jill balances growing her business, a job as an Executive Director for an organization that provides groceries for 325 families every week, volunteering at a newly started church, and exploring new adventures with her husband.
Resources and Links
So Stressed by Stephanie McClellan and Beth Hamilton
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