10 ways to stop feeling overworked and overwhelmed

Effectively managing our professional and personal lives is a problem we all struggle with. Maybe that’s because we look outside ourselves for solutions: software, apps, devices, time management systems.

Scott Eblin, author of Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, says,

“The only person who is going to keep you from feeling overworked and overwhelmed is you.”

So how do you pull it off? It starts with making one overriding commitment: You must commit to intentionally managing your time so you have a fighting chance of showing up at your best–your most inspired, your most productive, and your most “in the flow.”

So how do you do that? Here are Scott’s tips:

1. Recognize and overcome the tyranny of the present.

People who are always “in the moment” don’t look ahead and make plans to pursue their goals and dreams. Though there are certainly things you need to do every day, much of what you think you need to do isn’t particularly important–especially where your long-term goals are concerned.

That’s why you should…

2. Ask, “Is this really necessary?”

Challenge your basic assumptions about your regular habits. Do you need to have that meeting? Do you need to create that report? Do you need to respond to that email? In many cases you don’t, but you do anyway simply because that’s what you’ve always done.

Eliminate as many “nice to do” tasks as possible–not only will you have more time, you’ll also have more time to be effective where it really matters.

3. Push reset on your calendar.

Sometimes the answer to “Is this really necessary?” is “Yes, but not right now.” What is the most important thing you need to do today? What tasks will keep you from getting that done?

The same is true if something important pops up: Immediately reset your calendar and reprioritize. Getting stuff done is fine, but getting the right stuff done is what really matters.

4. Understand and set your operating rhythm.

We all work differently. Some like to hit the ground running. Others like to start the day by reflecting, meditating, and thinking. Some like to work into the night.

The key is to understand not just how you like to work but also how you work best. You might like to work late at night, but if you’re tired or frazzled by a long day, you won’t perform at your best.

Do some experiments to figure out what works best for you. While you won’t always be able to stick to your plan, you will always have a plan to return to.

5. Schedule the most important tasks first.

What are your priorities for the month? The week? Today? Determine what they are and do those things first.

Why would you work on less important tasks when the truly important items are where you create the most value–whether for your business or your life?

6. Give yourself time for unconscious thought.

Giving yourself time for unconscious thought is key to making smart decisions when you face complex problems. Research shows people tend to make their best decisions when they have an opportunity to review the data and facts and then focus their thought on something else for a while.

How? Take a walk. Do a mindless chore. Exercise. Do something where your body goes on autopilot and your mind does too. You’ll be surprised by the solutions you can dream up when you aren’t purposely trying to be creative.

7. Set boundaries.

No one can or should be on 24/7. Yet you probably feel you are–because you allow yourself to be.

Set some boundaries: the time you’ll stop working, certain times you’ll do things with your family, certain times you won’t take calls, etc. Then let people know those boundaries.

Other people won’t respect your time unless you respect your time first.

8. Be strategic with “yes” and “no.”

You can’t say yes to everything. (Well, you can, but you won’t get everything you say yes to done–so in effect you’re still saying no.)

Sometimes you simply need to say no. Other times you can say, “No, unless…” and add stipulations. The same is true with yes: Saying, “Yes, but only if…” creates guidelines.

Always consider the effect of a request on your most important goals. An automatic yes also automatically takes time away from what you need to get done.

9. Tame your distractions.

Most people are distracted over 30 times an hour: phone calls, emails, texts, office drop-ins… The list is endless.

Schedule blocks of time when you’ll turn off alerts. The only way to stay on schedule is to work on your own schedule–not on that of other people.

10. Remember your impact on other people.

If you’re a leader–and since you run a business, you definitely are–you naturally impact other people. You set a direction. You set a standard.

You’re a role model.

Be a great role model: a person who gets important tasks done, who stays on point, who focuses on achieving goals and dreams … and who helps other people achieve their goals and dreams.

That’s reason enough to manage your time so you’re consistently at your best.

re-blogged extract from Jeff Haden’s Blog on Inc.com

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Mindfulness starts with monotasking

 Mindful Leaders or mindfulness in leadership is seen as the current leadership behaviour most in demand.

‘Some of the recent difficulties of Hewlett-Packard, British Petroleum, CEOs of failed Wall Street firms, and dozens of leaders who failed in the post-Enron era are examples of this.(lack of mindfulness)’*

Q: What is mindful leadership, and what are its benefits?

A: Mindfulness is a state of being fully present, aware of oneself and other people, and sensitive to one’s reactions to stressful situations. Leaders who are mindful tend to be more effective in understanding and relating to others, and motivating them toward shared goals. Hence, they become more effective in leadership roles.*
Mindfulness isn’t new, many cultures have used it for hundreds of years and even in western businesses it has been celebrated. Daniel Goleman wrote about it in 1990 although he called it Emotional Intelligence and many now see this as more important in a leader than IQ.
Now cast you mind back to your working day; did you or people around you?
  • check emails when talking to someone on the phone
  • constantly think about all the work you had to get through when you were at a meeting
  • do work when on a conference call
  • Flick between tasks due to interruptions
  • eat lunch,work, text, check social media
  • MY FAVOURITE sit in a course or meeting glued to your blackberry only engaging when it suited you

This is not an exhaustive list of multitasking, please add your own examples

What’s more is that Clifford Nass, a researcher at Stanford assumed that those who multitask heavily will nonetheless develop some other outstanding skills. He thought that they will be amazing at 1. filtering information, 2. being very fast at switching between the tasks and 3. keeping a high working memory.

He found that none of these 3 points are true:

We were absolutely shocked. We all lost our bets. It turns out multitaskers are terrible at every aspect of multitasking.

People who multitask a lot are in fact a lot worse at filtering irrelevant information and also perform significantly worse at switching between task, compared to singletaskers.

Now most studies all point towards the fact that multitasking is very bad for us. We get less productive and skills like filtering out irrelevant information decline.

So before you book your meditation classes (I thoroughly recommend meditation but that’s another post). its back to basics. Plan our tasks. Be present. Complete one thing at a time and do it well. Pay attention to the people around us that we are interacting with…really listen and observe before taking action or speaking.

The number 1 complaint I have on Change courses is that people don’t feel they are being listened to. Such a simple habit / behaviour to help people through change.

If you would like to know more about mindfulness you could start here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wherever-You-There-Are-Mindfulness/dp/0749925485

* extract from HBR

Let me know your thoughts in the comments box

A great TED video about monotasking is below.

The 3 R’s to stop you being overwhelmed

Everyone at times can feel as if we have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Many people will grin and bare it, work extra hours and hope that things will get better.

We start saying things like ‘ I wish I had more time in the day’

Sometimes we get through this and sometimes it can have an effect on our home life and health.

The 3R’s is a technique to help.

Relax – Easier said than done, however, putting more and more pressure on yourself is not going to solve anything. Someone once said to me when I was stressing about getting everything done before going on holiday ‘Is anybody going to be physically hurt? Will the department grind to a halt? Is a week away from your desk going to matter?Who can support you when you are away?’. They got me to be more rational about the situation and for me to start seeing who could help.

Ultimately, if you don’t relax and look for support you will burn out and who does that help?

Taking emoition out the equation helps with the next stage.

Review – Take time to review what you have to do

What can you control? Break down everything that you think you have to do using the matrix below. In order to feel more in control and more calm, break down that weight from your shoulders into smaller chunks. What is urgent and what is important. NB. if home life is important to you it should be in the High Importance and Urgent box!

What can you influence? – This is about getting support. We cannot be all things to all people, think about

  • Can I get extensions on timescales?
  • Am I the right person for this task?
  • Am I taking on things because I want to please people around me?
  • Can I delegate some of this work?
  • Is my ego and preference for being in control stopping me from asking for support?

What is outside my control? – Sometimes we put ourselves under pressure by worrying about stuff that is outside our control and influence. It’s a waste of your energy and time. Accept that it is outside your control and concentrate on what you can change.

Re-boot

Just as wehave to re-boot computers when they have taken on new updates or are working inefficiently we should re-boot ourselves after the above.

Think about your

Focus – Stick to what you have planned. Don’t fall back into dealing with box 4

Openness – Be open to other peoples offers of support and advice. Be flexible, tasks will move around the box

Energy – take breaks even if it is just for a few minutes to get your energy back up. Imagine what it will feel like to tackle what you have prioritised.

I haven’t had a TED video on my posts for a wee while so enjoy this one. Funny and helps to look at our perception

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 Tips for building better resilience

Everbody encounters times in their lives when stress starts having a strain on our health (mental & physical). I have noted 15 tips to help you get through the feeling of striving to thriving.

1. Recognise when you are starting to feeling the strain in your life and identify what are the route causes of this strain.

2. After identifying the causes list the ones that you can influence and change and accept what you can’t at this time, change.

3. Re-evaluate your values and purpose in life, we can all lose sight of these due to the pressures of life. Be yourself everyone else is taken.

4. Re- train your brain to step back and look for the positives in situations. I remember someone drawing a black dot on a flipchart and putting their head up to the dot then stepping back. They went on to say that the flipchart was life and when we are under lots of pressure, all we can see is the black hole or all the things that are wrong, we need to step back to see that there are lots of things that are good in our lifes.

5. If you are finding that you can’t cope then you owe it to yourself to ask for help; there are professionals and charities that are confidential and are there to help people.

6. Learn to laugh again, many people with serious illnesses regularly talk about the release that having a laugh has, sometimes about the darker side of their situation

7. Once you have analysed the root cause of the strain make a plan and take small steps to changing things. Lots of small changes are easier and add up to larger change in the long run.

8. Start to look at mistakes or preceived failures as learning opportunities. Nobody is perfect, in fact many successful business people have had ‘failures’, however, they have gone on to be successful again. WD40 was named because there was 39 versions before that weren’t right.

9. Start looking after yourself. Our bodies are like machines and if you don’t get enough of the right food,exercise and rest the body and mind will start to breakdown. Start slowly with things like having a healthy breakfast, go for a walk at lunchtime, make time for just you even if its half an hour to read a book, get some sleep.

10. Accept that things in life will change, most people don’t like change, however if you look back on your life you will see that you survived an enormous amount of change.

11. Learn to say no sometimes. Trying to please everyone is a sure way to take on too much.

12. Look at challenging situations with the problem solving part of your mind; using logic can decrease the emotional / irrational aspects of stress. Rarely does anyone make a 100% perfect decision or plan, so don’t put off decisions until something is perfect, many leaders report making decisions on 70 – 80% probability of success.

13. Keep a journal – writing down or typing your thoughts can help you stop continually mulling over them, especially when you are trying to sleep

14. Build or re-build your support network e.g. friends, family and trusted colleagues. It is easily to lose contact if we are extremely busy,however, this speeds up the process of losing objectivity in our situation and being able to release some of the pressure by talking about it, no matter how hard. The old saying a problem shared is a problem halved still stands.

15. Do something everyday that moves yourself forward no matter how small you regard it to be or when going home reflect on 3 things that went well in your day, you will be amazed at what has.

If you have any techniques or experiences you would like to share please leave a comment I would love to hear from you.

http://www.samaritans.org/?gclid=CJunzey14a8CFaYJtAod5nWbDQ

Rework your development

I love reading books that inspire me and my most recent is rework. This book is aimed at businesses, however I wanted to write about how some of the controversial ideas could be adapted for your leadership development

The book has essentially 7 chapters (I am only going to look at a few in this post)

  1. Ignore the real world
  2. Planning is guessing
  3. Start making something
  4. Embrace constraints
  5. Make tiny decisions
  6. Underdo your competition
  7. Build an audience

Ignore the real world

Many of us unfortunately work in enviroments where the atmosphere is less than positive and new ideas are greeted with ‘that wont work in the real world’, however, if you look at the truly innovative ideas and products of the last 20 years they probably met with the same response.

Routine will severley damage you as a creative, thought leader. If you make the same noises at work as everyone else then be prepared to be seen as part of the group not a leader and individual

Planning is guessing

Now the book controversially advises against long term business plan and as a executive coach you may be surprised that I kind of agree when it comes to development. I have met people that have 5 year plans and that works out for them but it isn’t for everyone.

To test the theory ask yourself, am I where I wanted to be after the last 5 years? Has the business stuck to its long term plan?

Have a Vision of where you want to be eventually, however concentrate on what needs to be done now take action to meet to immediate needs, stay flexible so that you are open to unexpected opportunities.

We all change as people as we get older we should acknowledge this and change our plan as appropriate.

Start making something

Leaders hate problems and love solutions… so if your call to arms to change something in the workplace falls on deaf ears it is because you aren’t presenting solutions.

Start making the solution, this could be a short presentation, run a pilot using your ideas, putting an unofficial mentoring programme in place etc.

Then when you have the facts and can show success then people will be more open to your ideas. I am always amazed when there is a success then people start talking about how they were involved, when they weren’t that interested in the first place.

Embrace Constraints

Learning& development budgets are currently been slashed in spite of recent research showing that companies that spend on development have better productivity, but rather than dwell on this it is time to be more creative.

Development that costs nothing but a little time

  • Coaching, mentoring and shadowing – eitheir ask for it or put yourself forward to help other people
  • Challenge people to get involved in projects outwith their job role
  • Introduce ‘stretch’ concept into 1:1’s, talk about the added value you bring or challenge people to bring added value to their role
  • Access to the internet – you be amazed how much free stuff is on here e.g. follow a leadership blog! 😉
  • Give groups of employees time to work on anything apart from their existing role to come up with ideas that will increase efficiency, productivity,reduce costs,increase employee engagement etc (it worked at google)

Make Tiny Decisions

Sometimes wholesale change in your life can be overwhelming and it allows our inner critic to step in an scupper our motivation. Also if things go wrong on what you see as a massive goal it can become a source of embarassment, the critics in our reality have won.

So, make small changes in your life and stick to them and once it has become the norm add another before long you will have made a massive change.

Another tip is not to talk to much about the changes as it may lessen the energy of the idea, just keep doing it and you will start to hear people commenting on your positive change.

You can find more on rework here (I am in no way related to the authors or publishers, I just liked the book)

http://changethis.com/manifesto/68.01.37Signals/pdf/68.01.37Signals.pdf

http://www.amazon.co.uk/ReWork-Change-Way-Work-Forever/dp/0091929784

Please let me know what you think for or against this book

If your are thinking about buying a new book, here is a link to someone who read 200 and his thoughts.

http://inoveryourhead.net/lessons-i-learned-reading-over-200-books/

Sunday Reflections

I always find sunday’s are good for reflection which I believe is an important part of being a leader as it allows us to take stock before we move on.

The above Modified Aristotle Bancale Venn Diagram By Dorothy Shapland was posted on Toforius facebook page. Wonderred what you thought?

 

Tofurious has a great facebook page and blog. He is a photographer however there is alot of business crossover and he is very knowledgable about using social media

http://www.tofurious.com/blog/

Dorothy’s blog

http://askmsdorothy.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/reflecting-on-what-i-do.html

Hope your weekend is going well

A Vision of work / life balance

So it’s Friday as I write this and this has prompted me to post about work / life balance.

Are you saying ‘thank god it’s Friday’?

‘I would love to have a great weekend; however I have so much work to do’

‘I am totally stressed and shattered’

This weekend I would ask you to think about what you would like your life to be like in regards to work / life balance and formulate a vision statement for this. It should be no longer than 15 words.

This may seem very formal, however most successful companies use vision statements to motivate people and allow it to create strategy and planning. If you want to change anything in life you need to have a strategy and a plan

e.g. ‘My life is about family, friends and allowing me time to enjoy life more’

From this you can formulate strategies to help you achieve this vision

  1. Spend more quality time with my family
  2. Ensure that I stay in contact with friends
  3. Allow time for me

Make the planning part simple to start with; look at small changes.

A tool to help you is Start Stop & Continue

Write down all the things that you want to start doing, stop doing and how to continue doing the things that feels write in your life.

Be warned the bit inside you that doesn’t like change will start saying things like

  • I don’t have time for this
  • It will affect my work
  • I will have time to do this when I retire or kids leave home

As Nigel Marsh says in the attached TED video, success should not be based on who has the most money when they die.

Nobody can make these changes except you

Hope you enjoy the TED video, if you have any anecdotes or things that have helped you with work life balance please comment.

Hope you have a great weekend