I am having such fun watching the PBS series Downton Abbey. While I do long for a more civilized age, I do not envision the quick return of corsets and calling-cards. It would be so lovely if we could all brush up on our behaviors as easily as Lord Grantham's valet brushes up a dinner jacket. As an etiquette expert, I often hear people proclaim that they would be more polite "if only there was more time." Yet these very same people do seem to juggle busy schedules, manage multiple games of Words With Friends and post hourly updates on Facebook. Sadly, mannerly activities are not a priority.
No more excuses! This is a Leap Year and therefore we have been granted an entire extra day to add civility back into our busy lives. How will you spend your 16 extra waking hours? You need not be the Lord/Lady of a stately manor to be polite. Here are some mannerly suggestions.
Take it Up a Notch -- Instead of dashing off a quick e-mail or leaving a harried message, take the time to do one better. If you received a text, send an email. If you received an email, pick up the phone. If you received a call, schedule an in-person meeting. Not for every communication every time, but rather for those interactions where it is warranted and appropriate.
Really Connect -- Remember that person you have been meaning to see? The one you have said "We really need to get together!" to repeatedly? Now is the time to meet for coffee, lunch, or drinks after work. Make the effort to spend quality time with that person.
Mark The Occasion -- Was there a retirement, promotion, referral, new client, or kindness you meant to mark, but have not had the time? Now is your chance to catch up on your professional relationship obligations. Take the time to visit your local card store. Stock up now on cards and note cards for future events so that you have some at the ready when they need to be sent. And don't forget a quick trip to your local Post Office for stamps.
Expand Your Circle -- Have you been meaning to expand your professional circle, join a local organization, or follow up with people whose business cards you have collected at networking events? Research your resources. Attend a professional event in your field, register for a conference or schedule your next networking interaction.
Reinforce Relationships -- Now is a great time to update your professional database. Nonexistent or stale networks are no networks at all. Review your LinkedIn connections, send out new requests and update your profile. Business is all about relationships, so be sure to keep in touch with your contacts.
Audit Your Career -- Take a quiet moment in your day to carefully consider where you are in this world. Are you living in the city of your dreams? Are you challenged by your professional position (and compensated appropriately)? If you are not where you would like to be, make the first move towards your goal. Register for a course, update your resume, request an informational interview, and move forward with your professional life.
Lastly, do spend some of your extra hours with those you love. Take a cue from those at Downton Abbey. Call a long lost cousin to say you care. Drop by a dowager aunt to ask for advice. Or schedule a family dinner, turning off all modern electronics, and focus on making polite dinner conversation.
Tomorrow is Leap Day, Feb. 29. I hope everyone enjoys being Lord/Lady of their Manners.