What Websites/Information do you trust? Why?

What websites do you trust to quote?  Do you think about the endings – .edu, .org, .com, .net – when you are looking for important info?  This is something I regularly discuss with my students (at the community college level) because it is so easy to obtain false and misleading information via the web.  I can write anything I want in this blog (with the acceptance of the website master) without seeking the accurate information.  Certainly not a goal of mine, but the possibility is there.  For example, if you want to find Holocaust naysayers, they are as close as your internet connection.  Being choosy about who and what kind of websites you cite are important for keeping your credibility both as a person and as a writer.

A Time to Kill

I do wonder, however, what makes me trust certain sites.  I suppose that is the historian in me.  I trust AARP, I trust the BBC, and I even trust The New York Times with certain limitations.  That would make me a liberal, I believe, but as Matthew McConaughey‘s character said in A Time to Kill, I am not a card-carrying ACLU radical.  Clearly, my political and social leanings affect whom I believe.

I was speaking with a fellow volunteer yesterday, a woman in her late 20’s or early 30’s, and she made the comment that recently a client asked her to be careful where she got her information.  That was a surprise to me.  Not the “careful urging” but the fact that someone must advise that.  Are we all careful about where we get our info?  When I hear “they said …” I want to run.  Instead, I usually ask, “who are ‘they'”?  My spouse was reading an article from USA TODAY about warding off Alzheimer’s, which includes lots of regular exercise, Vitamin D, and drinking up to 5 cups of tea a day.  My immediate question was, “Who did these studies?”  If one of the studies was performed by a tea manufacturer (think Lipton, my favorite), I would have been suspicious.

Information is a great thing to have.  However, correct and careful information is vital.  While growing up, I often heard “practice makes perfect.”  Not true.  “Perfect practice makes perfect.”  I don’t try to research all of the information that is passed my way because, obviously, I do not have unlimited time to do that (much as I would enjoy it!).  But when I hear what I consider extreme words such as “never”, “always”, “should”, etc., in information offered to me, furious red flags fly and I vehemently question the information.  Taking these precautions may help you to disseminate the information that bombards you daily.  It can actually be fun.

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Work-Life Balance – Is it possible?

A month ago, my daughter-in-law changed jobs.  She interviewed for and received the job of her dreams during the Great Recession.  She left a high-powered well-paid law firm for a close-to well-paying commercial organization as one of their legal team.  She chose to relinquish the opportunity of stressing herself out attempting to reach unreasonable bill-able hours. Hours that kept her at work long after her husband was home with their child.   She made the decision to opt for a regular schedule with the caveat that her earnings may be limited in comparison.  Which included the choice to have more time for her daughter and husband.  What a brilliant choice.  The Birmingham Post recently reported that more women solicitors were considering carefully how much of their lives they had to give up to make partner.  The study suggests that firms need to consider that women (and men) have other responsibilities.  Sound intelligent to you?

As long as we have people who want a life outside of work, we will deal with this question.  As a historian, I tend to believe that the last time we had a true work-life balance was pre-Industrial Revolution #1.  With cottage industries and the ability to create one’s own work schedule, the family of the 1800’s was able to decide whether they would keep their nose to the grindstone two days or seven.  Or go on a picnic for three days, or imbibe alcohol Friday through Sunday.  Or Monday through Wednesday.  The advent of the clock punching work world changed all that.

How does one accomplish a balance?  In my research, the word “priorities” came up repeatedly.  We all say we have priorities, but are we aware of what they in fact are?  The reality is that it takes awareness and commitment to change one’s priorities. To state repeatedly that your family is most important may sound nice, but working a 60-80 hour week belies that.  What we do speaks decibels louder than what we say.

One article suggested that those who work long hours tend to exaggerate those numbers.  What?  Sixty hours is not enough?  The author of this article puts forward that the Millennial Generation may have a thing or two to teach the clock punchers of earlier generations (including my own).  Perhaps if we stop complaining about not having enough time to have it all, we may have enough time, so she says.  Is it really that easy?  I guess we must wait and see.

How can you establish a better work-life balance?  An interview with experts offers a number of suggestions. First, have a pajama day at home.  Do nothing.  Schedule it weekly.  A movie afternoon will work just as well.  Second, ask yourself specific balanced questions.  Find out what your priorities are, and then post the list. Read it often.  Internalize it. Third, make a “yes” list.  This mentally establishes your priorities and will help greatly when someone says, “Can you….?”  Is it on the yes list?  If not, the answer is no.  It is a complete sentence.  Fourth, when you interview for a job, ask for more.  Is flexibility an option?  Can I work Sunday evenings, and come in Monday afternoons?  The above Millennial Generation swears it will work.  You will never know if you don’t ask.  I suggest you also seek companies that offer flexibility. They really are out there.

It may be the recession that redefines our ideas of what is enough work, and what is enough balance.  Perhaps we can eventually discover just what it is we can do without.  Then perhaps we can go on another three-day picnic.  I’ll bring the wine.