Attempting Too Many Things at Once

by Jeff Davidson, MBA, CMC

In our current era of multi-taskers, concentration and focus are underrated. A magnifying glass held up at the correct angle to the sun will quicky burn a whole through a piece of paper. At the same time, no matter how much sun shines through your office window onto your desk, none of those long and tedious memos are going to catch on fire. The lack of combustibility has nothing to do with the way the manufacturer engineered this flat piece of glass.

Multi-tasking is occasionally helpful and seemingly satisfying but, along with the shower of information and communication overload, represents a paradoxical impediment to getting things done. Let’s see why.

Faster and Less Attentive

The term multi-tasking evolved from the computer industry, the early mainframe computers designed with parallel processes is perhaps the prime example of automated multi-tasking.

In many respects, the computer has accelerated our inattentiveness. Personal computers achieved critical mass in 1981 with the introduction of the Apple Computer designed as an alternative to the IBM PC. The affordable technology enabled common folk to engage in sequential kinds of activities and elevated our propensity to become task-switchers. Then for a host of reasons, and some so bizarre that they defy description, over the next 25 years we began to emulate our computers. We multi-tasked while they multi-tasked.

Today, with the typical office professional sending or receiving more than 200 messages a day, counting all forms of communication, and all of them coming and going at shorter intervals, a generation of career professionals are being driven virtually to distraction. A number of the messages are fleeting, the meaning often unclear, and the result a listless and confused workforce.

Against the back drop of information and communication overload, ever-advancing technology, and more choices than anyone needs or even wants, seemingly, an entire workforce generation has been taught to multi-task as if this is the way it has always been, needs to be, and always will be.

Continuous Partial Attention

Multitasking has become a norm giving rise to “continuous partial attention,” where nothing gets your true and undivided focus, and everything is homogenized to the point of carrying nearly equal weight.

We offer our attention here, there, and then somewhere else. Like a one-man band, we get our strokes from strumming the guitar, tapping our foot, and blowing on the harmonica. We equate accomplishment with flapping our wings, stirring up a lot of commotion, and making a lot of noise. We can barely tolerate stillness. For many, silence doesn’t appear to be golden, it seems more like a dark space, lacking productivity, that can yield nothing useful. Undivided attention is a term that has fallen out of popular use.

Generally, we feel guilty if we don’t multi-task! We contemplate our increasing workloads and responsibilities and how they are subject to continual shifts, and justify multi-tasking as a valid response to a world of flux.

Despite the temptation to do otherwise, focusing on the task at hand is vital to getting things done. Whether there’s a handful of tasks confronting you, or ideally only one, give all your time, attention, energy, focus, concentration, effort, and all that good stuff to the task at hand, and then turn to what’s next.

Over-employed, and Undesired

It’s likely that people have always sought to handle many things simultaneously, stretching as far back as cave dwellers. Their multi-tasking effort probably seemed crude by comparison. Someday, somewhere, someone may discover that we are hardwired to continuously attempt to economize our use of time.

Our age old “flight or fight” response to perceived stressors in the environment works well, at intermittent times. The small jolts of concentrated energy and vigilance helps us to safeguard our selves, our loved ones, and our possessions. As a species however, we are not wired to effectively handle continuous streams of two major stress hormones — adrenaline and cortisol — on a daily basis.

Bruce McEwen, Ph.D., director of the neuroendocrinology lab at Rockefeller University, observes that while we can apparently weather stresses and rapid hormonal changes in the short term, about 3 to 15 days, soon thereafter chronic stress begins to ensue. The result is a weakened immune system, aggression, anxiety and a decrease in brain functioning which results in burnout. Dangerously high levels of cortisol can result in poor sleep patterns and insulin resistance which can open the door to bad eating habits and weight gain.

More Errors, Lingering Effects

Multi-tasking seemingly enables one to achieve time-saving benefits, but does it? While some people remain relatively unscathed by multi-tasking and can get as much done in the course of the workday, most people suffer in ways they don’t even understand.

Rather than increasing their productivity, multi-tasking diminishes it. They make more mistakes. They leave too many things undone. Their quality of work is not what it could be. And the list of potential hazards of multi-tasking is beginning to grow. Are you a victim to any of the following:

* Gaps in short-term memory?

* Loss of concentration?

* Problems communicating with co-workers?

* Lapses in attentiveness?

* Stress symptoms such as shortness of breath?

When multi-tasking, sometimes your brain can go into a crash mode. This is characterized by not being able to remember what you just said or did, or what you’re going to do next! This has been termed “having a senior moment,” but it’s no joke and it doesn’t only happen to seniors.

Professor David Meyer at the University of Michigan has established a link between chronic high-stress, multi-tasking and loss of short-term memory. “There is scientific evidence that multi-tasking is extremely hard for someone to do, and sometimes impossible,” he says. Also, the time lost switching between tasks tends to increase the perceived complexity of the tasks and often results in making a person less efficient than if he had chosen to focus on one task or project at time.

Continually Kidding Ourselves

The most difficult type of multi-tasking occurs when you try to engage the same area of the brain. You run into this all the time, people who are on the phone who are also surfing the net, listening to the radio, or in earshot of someone in the next room. Whether you’re attempting to handle conflicting visual-processing tasks or conflicting auditory-processing tasks, the net result is you’re not going to handle either task as well as you would handle each individually.

Marcel Just Ph.D., co-director of Carnegie-Melon’s Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging, conducted a study in which he asked participants to listen to sentences while comparing two rotating objects. These tasks draw on different areas of the brain, yet participants’ ability to engage in visual processing, comparing the two rotating objects, dropped by 29%.

Participants’ capabilities for auditory processing, listening to the sentence, dropped by 53% when engaged in this mild multi-tasking test. Dr. Just says that while we certainly can do more than one thing at a time “we are kidding ourselves if we think we can do so without cost.”

Also, research conducted at the National Institute of Mental Health confirms that when the brain has to juggle several tasks at once or in rapid succession, it has to overcome “inhibitions” that it put in place to cease doing the task to begin with. It’s as if the brain is taking its foot off the break.

Focus and concentration will be your keys for getting things done. Multi-tasking, as it is popularly understood and practiced, is not your answer. It is expensive in terms of the level of stress induced and the rise in errors and, hence, can actually hamper productivity.

Jeff Davidson is “The Work-Life Balance Expert®” and the leading personal brand in speaking, writing, and reflecting on work-life balance issues. He’s spoken to Fortune 50 companies such as IBM, Cardinal Health Group, and Lockheed; and to American Express and Westinghouse. He wrote Simpler Living, Breathing Space, and Dial it Down–Live It Up, among 65 other books. Visit http://www.BreathingSpace.com

Creative Leisure

Creative Leisure
by Jeff Davidson

The trend in America in the last decade or two has been toward more frequent but shorter vacations, often boxed around holiday weekends. If you use the contrarian approach and take your time off when the rest of the world isn’t, then holiday weekends are a good time to stay at home and let everybody else compete for highway lanes and parking spaces.

In my book, the Smart Guide to Accomplishing Your Goals, I list a wide variety of possible goals in various categories such as social, leisure, and lifetime goals. Here is a small subset of the lists contained in that book, with some extended explanation.

Do Some Creative Writing
Maybe you couldn’t stand writing in high school or college. Maybe, like me, your teachers and professors marked up your papers so vigorously that you were dissuaded from writing for a couple decades. Nevertheless, you have the opportunity before you, either by turning on your PC or simply taking out a pen and paper, to let your creative juices flow. How about a short story? Some well-crafted short stories are less than 100 words. Could you write one?

How about writing poetry? You might have tried it in high school. Think about how much more wisdom you have acquired, and how that could impact your ability to get poetic. No one is saying that you have to try to get the stuff published, or even show it to anybody else. Perhaps you just keep it in a log or journal for your own edification.

Start a Card Group
Did you use to play cards on a regular basis? I did in college. We played poker on Wednesday and Sunday nights. I played more for the fun and camaraderie rather than for any meager earnings (as it turns out, I lost $85 in the course of one semester). Many people who once played pinochle, bridge, or canasta are surprised and pleased to find that the joys of card games quickly re-emerge. This is especially so when you’re playing against others on your skill level and with people you like.

Researchers tell us that playing cards, filling out crossword puzzles, playing Scrabble or Boggle, and engaging in other such activities helps to keep you mentally alert and mentally sharp, especially as you get older. There’s no need for your cerebral powers to decline.

A card group is easy to arrange. You only need three other people… and if you have a spouse or significant other, perhaps only two other people. Hence, that means just one other couple. How easy can it get?

Spectator Sports: Taming Longer Games
Are you a sports fan? Major league baseball games are running 30 minutes longer today than years ago. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that many sporting contests, even those with a game clock, are taking longer. Owners and managers have a vested interest in dragging out contests to enable media sponsors to air more advertisements and on-site vendors to sell food and souvenirs during the games.

If you’re watching any of the big three, baseball, basketball or football on TV, especially for weekend games, recognize that the inundation of longer and longer commercial breaks all but guarantees that you are looking at three hours from start to finish.  Don’t get caught up in this syndrome. What are your options?
*You can begin watching exactly at the start of games and skip the 30 minutes of commentator and expert analysis.
* If you don’t need to see the game in real time, record, and then fast forward through the commercials when you finally view it.
* Tune in from the start of the third quarter, or in baseball from the fifth inning on.

Join a Choir or Chorus
Maybe there’s an opportunity for you within a local group, or at your place of worship, to open your mouth and make a “joyful noise.” Through the ages, singing has been beneficial to one’s health. After all, you have to breathe more deeply, expand your lungs, and exercise your lower facial muscles.

You probably want to get involved with a group that meets either weekly or every two weeks, versus more often. Otherwise this can end up being a drain on your time or energy. Once you’ve found a group that meets at a comfortable interval, many benefits await. You get to open up that creative space in your brain that you haven’t tapped recently. Most groups choose songs that are among the world’s favorites. You get to participate with others who potentially are at the same place in life as you… or who are at the same place as you at least for those few moments during the week.

Join a Renaissance Festival
If there’s a group in your town that re-enacts periods in history, check it out. Many people say that they have loads of fun at such encounters, whether they be Renaissance festivals, Civil War re-enactments, or Colonial re-enactments.

Collecting Churches and Cathedrals
No, you don’t have to become a multi-millionaire and start buying up buildings. I’m talking about visiting buildings or natural settings that inspire you. My mother, who was not religious, used to “collect” cathedrals. When she was in a town and saw pleasing architecture, she’d stop and focus on it, or sometimes go in and marvel at the statues or stained glass. This was long before digital camera and cell phone cameras.

I do the same when I pass a scenic lake or happen to be atop a hillside. These are tiny moments of leisure that have a cumulative effect if approached as the true gifts that they are.

A Grander Notion
Some people like to combine their leisure time with intellectual improvement. Maybe you’re one of them. Have you ever considered educational travel? This is when people travel to a location with the primary purpose of learning something that’s directly related to the location. So, if you go to Stonehenge, or the pyramids, or the Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina, you act as both tourist and student.

Educational travel makes perfect sense. You study archeology, the environment, art, architecture, or natural history by actually being onsite and examining subjects in their original location or natural condition. Educational travel allows you to immerse yourself in whatever it is you’re studying and come back a better person.

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., offers educational travel. Such trips are cited within the first couple pages of each issue of their monthly magazine, Smithsonian. Other institutions offer them as well, primarily universities, conservation societies, and even some professional associations.

Teach a Course That You’ve Mastered
When you teach a course where you’re already a master, there’s no heavy work involved on your part. You don’t need to read up or prepare a lot of notes or outlines. Particularly if you’re teaching in an adult education or university extension, you can walk in and let the sparks fly. The reward comes in your ability to share with people who want to benefit from your wisdom.

It’s been said that you don’t learn while talking to others; you learn only while you listen, but that’s not entirely true. Sometimes you say things in new ways, or you say things that you didn’t know you were going to say, and you actually learn as a result of your own articulation. When you’re teaching a course, you’re really opening yourself up for the chance to learn: As students ask questions, pose their views, and offer insights that represent new ground for you, you are learning as well.

Parting Ideas
Here are some additional ideas on how to make the most of your leisure:
* Start a policy of receiving only magazines that either make your life simpler or that amuse you.
* Only take airplane trips on vacation that are one-flight, non-stop. Anything else taxes you in ways you don’t need to be taxed.
* Take on new friends who engage in leisure activities that you find very alluring and who will teach, guide, train, and include you in their activities.
* Open your home more frequently to others via parties, receptions, meetings, and brief visits.
* Find others in your town who like to play in ways that you like to play.
* Frequently take walks in shopping malls, along city sidewalks, down nature trails, and anyplace else you feel safe.
* Go to the library one evening a week, and read whatever magazines appeal to you. Join a monthly book review discussion group.
* Buy a joke book, learn some card tricks, practice impersonating others, or learn juggling.
* Take an impromptu weekend trip to someplace you haven’t visited.
* Consider taking up a sport you’ve never attempted, such as golf, archery, hiking, or snorkeling. Or take a class on crafts, be it wood, pottery, metals, ceramics, leather, stained glass, jewelry, or woodworking.
* Become an amateur geologist, going on your own “fossil” hunts. This could be as simple as finding rocks and breaking them open, or looking for petrified shark’s teeth, troglodytes, or minerals embedded in stone.
* Buy a telescope and start watching the sky.
* Train a hamster, a gerbil, a cat, or a dog.
* Get on the committee that sponsors a festival, holiday parade, or street fair.
* Take a course in handwriting, calligraphy, or sketching.
* Visit one new restaurant a month or, if the spirit moves you, once a week. With your spouse or significant other, go to a restaurant much earlier than usual some evening, linger over drinks, linger over appetizers, linger over the entree, linger over dessert, and take your sweet time leaving as well. By the time you’re out of there, the world will have changed. So will your attitude.

Jeff Davidson, on the web at http://www.BreathingSpace.com, holds the registered trademark as “The Work-Life Balance Expert®.” Jeff is the leading personal brand in speaking, writing, and reflecting on work-life balance issues, and he has a passion for speaking to organizations who want to help their employees make rapid progress in this arena. He has spoken to Fortune 50 companies such as IBM, Cardinal Health Group, and Lockheed, and to American Express, America Online, Wells Fargo, and Westinghouse.

Three-Word Game Plans

by Jeff Davidson

Do game plans need to be long and voluminous?  On some tasks and some ventures, as few as three words might be more than enough to get started:

Assess, Adjust, Act
Ask, Accommodate, Apply
Breathe, Believe, Begin

Confront, Consider, Commence
Collaborate, Contemplate, Control
Consider, Capitalize, Continue

Digest, Deliberate, Decide
Deliberate, Decide, Do
Embrace, Evaluate, Embark

Embark, Establish, Emerge
Encounter, (Self) Educate, Execute
Focus, Fathom, Formulate

Grapple, Grasp, Go
Embark, Establish, Emerge
Improve, Innovate, Integrate

Investigate, Integrate, Initiate
Mesmerize, Motivate
Pause, Plan, Proceed
Jeff Davidson is “The Work-Life Balance Expert®” whose passion is helping organizations achieve rapid progress for their employees or members. The premier thought leader on work-life balance issues, Jeff is the author of 65 books, among them “Breathing Space,” “Dial it Down, Live it Up,” “Simpler Living,” the “60 Second Innovator,” and the “60 Second Organizer.”  Visit www.BreathingSpace.com or call 919-932-1996 for more information on Jeff’s keynote speeches and seminars, including:
* Managing the Pace with Grace®
* Achieving Work-Life Balance™
* Managing Information and Communication Overload®
Re-fuel, Re-focus, Re-formulate
Relax, Re-group, Re-start
Sponsor, Support, Succeed

 

 

Safeguard Your Hotel Stay

by Jeff Davidson

You big meeting is approaching. You’ve been planning this for ever-so-long. The day before, or days before, once you get to your hotel and are checking in, here are a few tips to increase the probability that you’ll be at your best for the duration:

* Explain to the check-in staff that you are a hosting and managing a meeting, you have a critical tasks early in the morning, and your sleep is crucial. That alone might prompt them to give you a room that is known to be in a quiet section of the hotel.

* Specifically ask for a room where you’ll have peace and quiet. In general, these are rooms away from elevators, opposite the street side or front of the hotel, and not on the second floor. The second floor is too close to the banquet rooms, lobby, and front entrance, where people come and go, and quite naturally, make noise.

* Ask for a room without a door adjoining another room: Too many supposedly progressive, service-oriented hotels and hotel chains contain this dreaded door. It is all that separates you from arguing couples, insomniac musicians, and those who feel compelled to watch ESPN Sports Center at 3 a.m. If you end up in a room that has such a door, cover the bottom with a heavy towel.

Party in Progress
Before moving to North Carolina, I was in a hotel in Raleigh that shall remain nameless. It was part of a successful hotel chain. At 9 p.m., a disc jockey began playing records in the hotel atrium on the ground level. The sound reverberated up through the open space such that every room in the hotel was subject to an auditory intrusion.

At 11 p.m., when I was ready to go to bed, the party was still in progress. I called the night manager and asked that the noise be turned down, stopped, or moved to a non-public space within the hotel. The night manager commented that it wasn’t within her authority to take such action. I asked her when it would end. She didn’t know.

I suggested that she familiarize herself with the state hotel/motel laws, the hotel chain’s organizational mission, and her job description. She declined. I asked her once more, this time letting her know that I would call the police. She said, “Call whoever you want to.”

I called the police and met them about ten minutes later at the front door. The hotel manager, who was not on duty that night, arrived only seconds later. When she heard the noise, saw me, and saw the police, like a thunderbolt she rushed to the disc jockey and stopped him cold. She then returned, apologizing profusely.

I explained that I carefully, patiently, and politely informed the night manager of her responsibilities, but that she refused to capitulate in the least. I didn’t relish calling the police, but it seemed a better option than waiting until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. or later for the noise to end. From that episode, I learned a maxim that has stayed with me: Never spar with people who don’t need to get good sleep for their living.

It’s your career, your night, and your meeting the next morning. I say you deserve breathing space and the right to a restful, complete night’s sleep. Sweet dreams.

Jeff Davidson is the internationally recognized expert on work-life balance and holds the registered trademark from the USPTO as the “Work-Life Balance Expert”®. He is the author of several popular books including Breathing Space; Dial it Down, Live it Up; Simpler Living; and the 60 Second Organizer. He is an Advisory Board Member on The Organized Executive, a monthly publication of Jeff of the Columbia Books, Washington DC.

Do Quiet Association Leaders Lead Best?

by Jeff Davidson

As many as two in five executives report being more introverted than extroverted. Traditional business lore, however, has it that extroverts are more likely to rise to the top. After all, outgoing people tend to be good at sales, influencing others, and communicating with impact.

So, what possible advantages can an introverted leader have? Actually, introverts enjoy many leadership advantages:

1.) They tend to be lower-key – Having a more methodical approach to management, introverts often exhibit a quiet sense of confidence that is reassuring to employees. Especially in tumultuous times, an introverted leader may have a calming effect on staff that an extroverted leader cannot approach.

2.) Introverts are idea people – Introverts have a built-in disposition for continually contemplating an array of new ideas. They pass on such ideas to their lieutenants and subordinates in the quest to find more productive ways to get things done. They are willing to accept the input from others. They constantly quiz their troops on ways to improve operations. They encourage ideas disseminating from all levels.

3.) They speak softly and carry a big stick – Recognizing that their influence over staff at all levels tends to be extraordinary, they often let others do the talking. When they have something to say, they offer a pithy observation or keen commentary that they know others will reflect upon. They look for the lightbulb to go off in others and are pleased when they are able to make that observation.

4.) They leave a word trail – Introverts make lists, take notes, and write things down. They know that a strong explanation helps enroll others while also serving as documentation for their decisions. They are more likely to think and write than their extroverted counterparts who might have a predisposition to simply act.

5.) They take time to reflect – Introverts are not afraid to be alone, and indeed seek out alone time. For them it is a chance for self-renewal and refocus. Time away from others gives them the opportunity to engage their imagination. Often, they are able to derive effective decisions as a result of having some alone time. Also, during high intensity activities, their prior alone time helps them to remain reflective and responsive as opposed to reactive and inaccessible.

In addition to all the above, many introverted-type leaders are also excellent at follow-through. They understand the importance of consistency when it comes to leading others, being true to one’s word, and making good on promises.

So, if you are an introvert, aspiring to leadership, fear not. Extroverted leaders have their advantages, and you have yours.

Jeff Davidson, “The Work-Life Balance Expert®,” is the world’s leading personal brand in terms of speaking, writing, or reflecting upon work-life balance issues. He is the author of  “Dial it Down, Live it Up,” “Simpler Living,” “Breathing Space,” “The 60 Second Self-Starter,” “The 60 Second Organizer,” “The 10 Minute Guide to Managing Your Time,” and “The 10 Minute Guide to Managing Stress,” as well as 24 iPhone apps in the “Work-Life Guide” series. His books have been published in 19 languages, and in aggregate 141 times. Jeff is an Advisory Board member for The Organized Executive, a monthly publication of the Columbia Books, Washington DC. He holds the registered trademark as “The Work-Life Balance Expert.” Jeff can be reached at http://www.BreathingSpace.com

Twelve Observations about Work and Life

By Jeff Davidson
Every person on the planet has some knowledge that could benefit others, including the people you work with everyday. Never write off others because they are too old, too young, too rich, too poor, or any other superficial reason. You’ll be surprised by the wisdom you can gain by simply listening with a non-judgmental ear.I could be right or I could be wrong, but my life experiences have led me to the following observations. I hope some benefit you:

1. Stop lamenting the fact that you’re not smarter than you are, or that you’re not as good at something as you’d like to be. You can accomplish nearly anything you want through hard work. Your skills develop over the course of your life, and you can develop new ones. Maybe your association will foot the bill for training, or maybe you have to enroll and pay for yourself. Further, learn to recognize the things you are good at and put these talents to use, rather than struggling to excel in a career for which you have no natural inclination.

2. It is of little use to dwell on the past and wish you could go back and change it. Making mistakes and feeling as if you’ve squandered some of your youth is a natural part of life that happens to everyone. Anew, view your youth with a healthy perspective; while you may have squandered some time, you probably also accomplished a lot and had some fun along the way.

3. Don’t get so caught up in dwelling on your mistakes that you fail to seize present opportunities. You have time left in your life to move on and use it productively.

4. Don’t fear change. It’s a part of life and certainly part of your organization. You won’t be the same person at 30 as you were at 20, or as you will be at 40 or 60. Growing in all different ways is a good thing. If you went through life with the mindset of a 20 year old, you would miss a lot of the joys of adulthood. While change can be disconcerting at first, each stage of life becomes more (or at least as) enjoyable and fulfilling than the previous one.

5. Make a constant effort to grow. Challenge yourself mentally. Explore different means of spirituality. Place yourself in new social situations. Unfamiliar scenarios are usually a little frightening at first, but with time the unfamiliar becomes the familiar, and you’re glad you took the chance. Move out of your comfort zone and explore.

6. In our rapidly changing society, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the technological innovations and information you think you need to absorb in order to function productively at work and even at home. Rest assured that everyone feels the same way. Staying flexible is key to maintaining productivity. Find ways to make the
changes in your work life advantageous.

7. Life is a continuing process, and there is no one point when you become magically grown up and have accomplished everything you want to. If there was such a point, what would you do when you got there?

8. The nature of life is to constantly grow and change, and there is always more to learn and experience. Be wary of feeling as if you have reached the pinnacle of all of your experiences and accomplishments. If you become complacent, that point really will be the pinnacle of you life, since you won’t feel compelled to achieve even more.

9. You only have so much time and energy in your life. To feel fulfilled, you must choose what things you want to spend most of your time and energy doing. Choosing your priorities might take some soul-searching, or they might be obvious. Is family most important to you? Or, do you envision a time-consuming career? Whatever your interests, you must define your priorities in order to be productive. You can try to have 11 different priorities, but they will hardly be priorities, and you likely won’t pay sufficient attention to each. Decide what few things are important to you, and spend most of your time and energy supporting those priorities.

10. Never underestimate the power of your attitude and the effect it has on your perception of the world. In general, people see what they want to see. For instance, if you have heard something negative about a person before you meet them, you are likely to dislike that person right off the bat, regardless of anything they do or say. The same holds true for almost every situation in life. There are both beautiful and horrible things in the world. If you think positively, you’re more likely to notice the beautiful things. If you think negatively, you will pick up on all the not-so-great things that go on.

11. Many people seem to blame the mistakes in their life on some unseen force that constantly brings them down. They think they are just unlucky or that others are out to get them. For the most part, this is not the case. Almost everything that happens to us results from the choices we make, consciously or unconsciously. Not choosing becomes a choice in itself, don’t ignore the tough choices you will have to make.

Blaming fate for your misfortunes will get you nowhere; taking control of your life and the choices you face will. In order to empower yourself, you must recognize the decisions in your life for what they are and consciously make the best decision you can. Every now and then something completely random will happen to you, and you certainly have no control over that. But realize that most of the things that happen to you don’t just “happen to you.”

12. Making decisions is difficult, and the best decisions generally result from careful thought. However, don’t feel as if you have to ignore your gut feeling about something. We have instinct for a reason, and usually your instinct will not lead you astray. Sometimes it is detrimental to think too much about something; instead of over-analyzing, go with what your little voice tells you. You’ll be surprised how much you don’t realize you already know. The subconscious is a powerful thing. When you can harness some of that power and put it to use in the conscious world, you will find that the things your little voice tells you are usually right on.

Jeff Davidson is “The Work-Life Balance Expert®,” and the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues, helping organizations ad their employees make rapid progress in this arena.

Take Control, Feel More Prosperous

You’ve Got Your Whole World in Your Hands
By Jeff Davidson, MBA, CMC

All things in your life might seem as if they’re running together into one big blur when you don’t feel in control of your time. You end up feeling overwhelmed and highly stressed. Our rush-rush, go-go society doesn’t help… it exaggerates our sense that “time is slipping away,” and contributes to our rising stress levels.

The key to regaining control of your day is to understand that you do have choices, you can institute measures of control over your life. I’m not referring to more items for your to-do list. Rather, these are ways to change the way you view time and in turn, have more control over your environment.

To help illustrate the choices we all have, here’s an example of a typical morning routine: You wake up to an alarm clock, and flip on the radio or TV first thing for the news. Then you rush to find something to wear, wolf down some breakfast  (if you eat anything), scramble to find your briefcase and keys, then jump in the car. You navigate through snarled traffic to get to work, and by the time you sit down at your desk to start your day, you’re already exhausted and stressed about the day ahead. And it’s no wonder – if you begin the day “out of control,” how can you expect the rest of the day to go well?

How Could it Be?
Now let’s look at that same example and examine other choices you can make: You wake up to an alarm clock. Yet, if you need an alarm to get you out of bed, you’re not getting enough sleep. Sleep is essential to your productivity, your sense of control and your good health. You should be able to wake up naturally at the same time each morning, so if you’re not, go to bed earlier.

Next, you flip on the TV news or fire up your smart phone. You want to be informed, but in reality, you’re simply being bombarded, often with information you can’t use. Since you have little or no connection to the news, it comes across as noise, which heightens your stress. You’re better off using that time visualizing how you want your day to go.

You rush to find something to wear. If you’re running late in the morning and simply grab any old thing, you won’t feel as polished as you would if you had laid out your clothes the night before. It only takes 10 seconds to pick out what you’re going to wear, but mentally, it’s an extremely valuable tool – you eliminate the rushed decision-making in your morning that adds to your daily stress.

You wolf down some cereal or eggs. Skipping breakfast or wolfing it down leaves you without the nourishment you need to lead a productive day. You don’t need a three-course breakfast – just have some cereal or fruit on hand and, here’s the key, eat it slowly. Eating slowly gives the nutrients a chance to do their job.

Your scramble to find your briefcase and keys. Again, this is a matter of spending a few seconds the night before placing items you need for work by the door, so you can take them on your way out. Better yet, automatically leave your keys and briefcase by the door as soon as you get home from work, so you’ll always know where they are.

Change Your Approach to Lower Your Stress
By slightly altering your daily routine to better “manage the beforehand,” you can begin to take back control of your day. You have to be brutally honest with yourself and admit that no one is making you stay up late, no one is making you eat a certain way, or dress a certain way. How you approach your day is solely up to you, they are your choices.

If you’re feeling stressed as a result of your choices, you can’t blame that on your boss, or the mortgage you have to pay, or your commute. You can exercise personal mastery and freedom of choice to lead the quality life you deserve, but it’s up to you to do it. Start today.

 

Jeff Davidson, “The Work-Life Balance Expert®,” is the world’s leading personal brand in terms of speaking, writing, or reflecting upon work-life balance issues. He is the author of  “Dial it Down, Live it Up,” “Simpler Living,” “Breathing Space,” “The 60 Second Self-Starter,” “The 60 Second Organizer,” “The 10 Minute Guide to Managing Your Time,” and “The 10 Minute Guide to Managing Stress,” as well as 24 iPhone apps in the “Work-Life Guide” series. His books have been published in 19 languages, and in aggregate 141 times. Jeff is an Advisory Board member for The Organized Executive, a monthly publication of the Columbia Books, Washington DC. He holds the registered trademark as “The Work-Life Balance Expert.” Jeff can be reached at http://www.BreathingSpace.com