being productive

The Top Way to Be More Productive at Work

What do you think the top way to be more productive at work is? Time management? Delegation? Clear goals and strategies? Singular focus? Prioritization? Managing interruptions?  

The winner is: Be happy.

The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley (GGSC) posits that we are not only more productive, but also more successful in our work when we are happy. To get a pulse on your happiness at work, take their quick quiz.

Here are a few suggestions GGSC gave post-quote about improving happiness at work even more.

Photo by Andreas Klassen on Unsplash

Make It Meaningful

I noticed this one right away in the questions asked. Find work that is more than a paycheck. As Malcolm Gladwell says, “It’s not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between 9 and 5. It’s whether our work fulfills us.” When our work serves a greater purpose, contributes to our personal growth, and aligns with our personal values and beliefs, we have found something we can’t wait to wake up in the morning to do.

An interesting question in the quiz which I believe is tied to the meaning of our work, is having curiosity in our work. To learn and grow, we need a certain curiosity, a desire to explore. This may as part of the actual work – like a scientist who wants to know how and why things work – or it could be how we approach the work – like someone on a production line who wonders if changing the sequence will speed efficiency. It helps to have an open, child-like curiosity leading us throughout our day. When we are open and growing, we are improving our work and our lives – and we are happier.

In the Flow

Hopefully your work allows you to fully engage. It is not too boring or too stressful for you. Sports often uses analogies of “being in the zone” when all our energy and focus is centered on our actions. Our work can be this way too. When we are distracted, not interested in, or overwhelmed by our work, we are not in the flow. Working smart not hard is one way we stay in the flow.

Back in the day, I was very (underline very) bad at being in the flow. I was a bull in the china shop. Pushing. Rushing. Ruled by the checklist. Pushing up stream did not make me more efficient. It made me, and those who had to work with me, less happy. I find now that being in the flow, I can be as, if not more, efficient and I am a heck of a lot better to work with.

Balance

I have written about work-life balance ad nauseum, mostly because we still need to learn and embrace the concept. Constantly check your work-life balance, where do you need to make adjustments to find equilibrium. Be present in each moment and in each task. Gift yourself with breaks when and how you need them. Reassess your relationship with time.  Manage your stress levels. Don’t let your work consume you; it should add to, not take away from your life. We work to live, not the other way around.

Be in It Together

Our Western society it based on independence, but we really need others and a sense of community to make us happy. Don’t go it alone. Ask for help. Give help. Give recognition. Accept recognition. Be compassionate to those around you. Laugh with your co-workers. Make real connections. Celebrate group wins. Be understanding. Mentor. Be mentored. Being connected not only makes you happy, but it decreases your stress level as well.

How did you score on the quiz? What are things you can do to be happier and therefore more productive and successful at work? Share your thoughts with us here.

hide feelings

The Way Out is Through

This article captures much of what concerns me about the mainstream spiritual movement. Be positive, raise your vibration, and attract what you want. The message repeated again and again is to focus on the good and more good will come to you. The unspoken message is that if bad things happen, it is your fault for not keeping your vibration high. The problem is life is not always good, and the truth is, it is not your fault.

We have bad days. To deny these negative feelings, to believe that feeling them is inappropriate and to be avoided, is to deny ourselves the truth of being human. No one is perfect. No one is happy all the time. We are meant to grieve. We are meant to get angry. We are meant to be sad. We are meant to experience every emotion humanly possible. To deny your feelings, bad or good, is only denying yourself and denying the truth of life.  

Feelings are like seasons. Without winter we can’t have spring. After summer must come fall. One season is not bad and another good. All are necessary to maintain the balance of life. The same goes for our feelings. Happiness is amazing to experience, and yet sorrow helps us know what we value. Anger is a great tool to help us identify and act against what is not serving us or others. Grief is an acknowledgement of love and the noting of transition – ours or others. If we do not experience all of these feelings, we are not truly living.

hiding our feelings
Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Often, we perceive feelings and being emotional as weakness. It is the opposite. As Fred Rogers said, “Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness. It takes strength to acknowledge our anger, and sometimes more strength yet to curb the aggressive urges anger may bring and to channel them into nonviolent outlets. It takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and our anger flow in tears when they need to. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it.”

To hide from the unwanted and undesirable feelings, many of us numb our feelings. But facing our feelings, all of our feelings, is not only living fully it is also necessary to our growth. The last months of 2019 I was plagued with medical issues, and I didn’t like it. I stupidly cut my foot open, requiring stitches and weeks of healing. Once my foot was back to almost 100% utilization, I came down with a doozy of a cold, keeping me on the couch for another seemingly endless week. I resisted being ill. I was angry that I could not do what I normally did and begrudgingly had to ask for help. I created an awesome pity party for my predicament. To top it off, I tried to deny these feelings because they were not positive and helpful to me or others.

What finally released me from these emotions, was sitting with them. When I stopped, accepted my situation and how I was feeling, and then explored what I was learning from this episode (awareness of my codependent tendencies and finding gratitude for things I take for granted) then I was released from the experience and the emotions. Instead of ignoring how I felt, instead of trying to be positive when I felt crappy, the way I found release from these not-so-awesome feelings, was by feeling them. The way out of the negative experience was by going through it.

What do you find difficult right now? What do you not want to experience? What are you avoiding?

What is this experience trying to teach you? What can you learn from what you are going through?

Do you have the courage to feel completely? I hope so. For the only road to release, is through. If you need some support as you go through, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or your support system. Hang in there; it is better on the other side.

online information

Information Overload

We live in a time where information is at our fingertips. Literally. Can’t remember the show that actress was in? Google it. Disagree on what happened at last week’s party? Text other guests for their take. The world wide web and mobile telephone devices have made it so easy for us to have easy access to information. Centuries ago only scholars, priests and those in power had access to information. Today no matter who or where you are, information is readily accessible. Our current challenge is not access to information. The challenge is how we process and utilize the information we receive.

As a trained marketer, I know how and why facts are bent and repackaged. No matter if selling a product, a politician, or a cause, savvy communicators can twist the truth until it says what they want. Paulo Coelho said, “There are a thousand ways to interpret reality. Distinguishing fact and fiction is not only difficult for the writer, but for anyone. We live under a barrage of information that we believe are facts, but often they can be fiction.”

online information
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

We can’t control how facts are twisted due to bias or self-centered interests. What we can control, is how we process the information coming to us. I have written before about questioning the validity of the information before sharing or acting upon it. In addition to my previous advice about analyzing the source, the quality of the information, and the conclusions, I’d like to add two more steps.

Pause

Before reacting to information or even analyzing it, pause. If the information makes you mad or sad, give yourself a time out. If you start researching right away, you will unconsciously search for information that proves what you want to believe. By pausing first, we are able to contain our emotions so we can do a more objective search. Pausing also means we don’t give in to our knee-jerk reactions. Our society looks like a tennis match right now. A jab is thrown, and we react and send one back, and then that person reacts and sends one back. Again and again and again. No discussion takes place. No thought takes place. We are reacting, unconsciously, from a place of fear and anger. We are not thinking, reasoning, and then acting from our truth. If we want to improve our communications and our world, we need to stop blindly reacting to information.

Act

After a thorough and objective analysis, consider the appropriate action. Is there something to say or do? Are there boundaries to put in place? Is there a mental reframe to be made? Remember, as my dear friend says, “waiting is an action too.” Sometimes it is best to wait for more information or the right timing. The importance here is that we don’t get stuck in a mire of complaining, worrying, and being angry. Rehashing the facts only keeps the pain happening. Information is only helpful if it is used to make informed decisions and then to take action.

I truly hope in these days of more information and less truth, that you can keep your head above water, stay out of the emotional response, take responsibility for the information you consume, and remember you have the power and responsibility to act.

“Love” by Ukrainian sculptor Alexander Milov, photographed by Andrew Miller

What I want. What I really, really want.

Do you know what you want? What you really, really want? Many of us do not. I know I don’t always know what I really, really want. Sometimes it is because I don’t have clarity of what would make me happy. Sometimes I don’t think I can get what I want. Most times it is because I don’t think I deserve what it is that I want. Almost always it is because I am afraid of inconveniencing someone else by asking what I want; by expressing my needs.

This time of year, many of us make New Year’s Resolutions, which should be based in what we really want. And yet, usually within a few days we give up on our resolutions. They are too tough to complete. We don’t think we are making progress. It is easier to do what we have always done. We blame others for keeping us from our dreams. My family would not approve. My husband does not support me. The economy is bad, so it is not the right time to make a change. We sometimes give up even before we try.

Another way we sabotage getting what we want, having a new life, a new way of being, is to act in the opposite way as what we want. For me, I often long for connection. However, something in me thinks I will not receive it or don’t deserve it, so I say or do things that push people away. Instead of asking for and expecting what I long for, I usually unconsciously do or say something that results in the opposite of what I desire. It is dumb and counterproductive, and it happens much more frequently that I would like to admit. In Brené Brown’s book, Rising Strong, she says, “The irony is that at the exact same time that we are creating distance between ourselves and the people around us by off-loading onto others, we are craving deeper emotional connection and richer emotional lives.” Sums me up pretty well. How about you?

“Love” by Ukrainian sculptor Alexander Milov, photographed by Andrew Miller

In my last post, I expressed the importance of connection and service. These are things that I want. I really, really want. Instead of hoping I will have more connection or making resolutions to do specific things to make that connection happen – which often leads to a longer to-do list that I resent or avoid – this year I am choosing to live the way I desire, to live each moment how I really, really want. I am not making a resolution, a goal, or a dream board. I am committed to living each moment based on the principals to which I aspire.

What is it that you want? What do you really, really want? Do you ask for what you want? Do you believe you can and should receive it? Do your actions and reactions match your desire? If not, what can you do to bring your desires into alignment with your beliefs and actions? Are you setting lofty goals or just committing to be your best each moment of the day?

If you are ready to make progress on your resolutions, on what you really really want, check out these tools to make it happen. Wishing you all the best in 2020 and beyond!

For more on the sculptor: https://www.facebook.com/milovalexandr

For more on the photographer: www.Awesomephotography.ca, Instagram @awesomephotography.ca

reaching out

The Importance of Connection & Service

December 25th many people around the United States and the world will be celebrating Christmas with family and friends. Those celebrating and those not, may also be suffering mentally or physically. Stress, depression, hopelessness, and illness appear to be becoming more prevalent.

In November the LA Times published a very depressing article about the decline of life expectancy in the United States. Yes, you read that right. Life expectancy in what used to be considered a major world power, is now declining. More concerning to me is why there is a decline. The article described how chronic stress is the root cause of the increase in illness and premature death.

Unfortunately, I don’t have suggestions to fix the employment and healthcare challenges which often lead to this stress. Instead I would like to explore how connection and service can help lessen our stress and improve our health.

Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

Connection

As our tools for communication – internet, social media – increase, our ability to connect with others often decreases. One reason is that we are having monologues versus dialogues. Our posts are desperate cries for someone to see and notice us. The result is not connection, but more isolation brought about by comparison, jealously, and self-pity. When the posts do appear to be dialogues, they are usually still monologues spouting us-vs-them diatribes.

The result is loneliness. We have 500 Facebook friends, and no real-world friends. All of our personal facts and figures, data to describe us, are available online, but no one knows or can see what is in our heart. We are in constant communication but have no real connection.

To reconnect with those around you, turn off your computer and meet someone face-to-face. Use your telephone as the verbal tool it was initially created for, instead of as an isolating computer game. Next, listen more than you talk. Ask questions and really hear the answers. When you do talk, talk from the heart. Share your whole truth, not a censored truth projecting what you think others will be impressed by or what you think is the acceptable norm. True connection is found in our fears and foibles, more than a sanitized version of the truth.

Service

Loneliness and hopelessness grow when we isolate and detach. Instead, get out of yourself and help another. Maybe that means volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, a soup kitchen, or a women’s shelter. Maybe it means simply talking to the lonely widow in your building. The service you do is not as important as getting out of yourself and thinking of others.

When we feel poorly, we often reach for comfort food, a glass of wine, or an illicit substance to make the pain go away. Those may help for a little while, but they don’t last – and they often have lasting negative side effects or repercussions. Helping another has more positive effects and results for others and us. It helps us get out of ourselves and our own self-pity. In supporting another, we gain hope as we often see solutions for others we could not see for ourselves. Giving to others is not only charity, but is also one of the most selfish things we can do because it always makes us feel better.

We may not have power to change the economy, our employer, or the healthcare system. We do, however, always have the power to change our reaction to our circumstances. Focusing on pain, fear and worries only increases pain, fear and worry. When we choose instead to get out of our self by making true connections and giving freely in service, we find real happiness, hope and joy returning to us.

Wishing you all a happy, hopefully, and healthy 2020!

stuck in a prison

Cut ’em Some Slack

Over the last few years, I have watched as many people have become more and more black and white in their thinking. There are good guys and bad guys. There are people who agree with us and people who are wrong. There are angels and devils. There are the saved and the damned. There are Bears fans and Packer fans. Once we have labeled someone, they are stuck in that container. How many times do we label someone based on one aspect of their being or one mistake that they made?

Think of the most stupid thing you have done. Think about your biggest regret. How would it feel if you were judged for the rest of your life on only your largest gaffe? No one would remember the good that you did. No one would take in consideration your great sense of humor or intelligence. No one would see or consider anything besides this one foible. Wouldn’t feel that great, right?

Now consider, how unfair and unkind is it of you to judge others on only their mistakes.

Photo by Denis Oliveira on Unsplash

We are all human. We are created to make mistakes. We are by nature, fallible. One of the biggest gifts we can give to ourselves and others, is to be accepting, tolerating, and loving despite and maybe even because of our faults and failings. When we can love ourselves and others, warts and all, we are giving respect. We are giving space to improve. We are being realistic. We are being inclusive. We are providing a platform for growth and problem solving.

When we judge and label based on one incident or one aspect of a person, we are limiting their and our potential. If we only focus on the bad someone has done, we don’t see them as a full human being. Many times this is why prisoners are mistreated. All that is seen is that they broke the law (one aspect of their life) and are therefore bad. We don’t see their humanity. We don’t see that they were once children. We don’t see the people they helped out in the past. We don’t see their struggles. We don’t see the challenging situation they were born into. They are just labeled as criminals and sent away.

This does not mean that we excuse and accept bad behavior. It is ok and actually very important to create strong boundaries to protect ourselves and those we care about. And it is important to see and accept people for more than just one bad act.

If you find yourself judging someone, you may want to take some time to process why you are labeling them based on one aspect of their character. Why is it so important to you? Why does it hold so much weight for you? How does it feel to convict them for this sole action? How does convicting them also imprison you?

As you go about your week, notice how you are labeling and categorizing people by one aspect of their character. How does it make you feel and react when you focus on this sole aspect? How might you deal with them differently when you are able to open up to see them wholly? How do you think about them and react to them when you focus on more than one aspect of their being?