Take Back Your Work Life

When There Aren’t Enough Hours in the Day

Diane Beaulieu, Entrée Kitchen owner and B.I.G. pod leader, asks, “When you have that feeling of there just aren’t enough hours in the day, where do you suggest one starts to relieve the stress?”

Great question Diane!

Take Back Your Work LifeThere are four places to find relief when you feel there are not enough hours in the day, there is too much to get done, and the stress of your workload is too much. As a recovering Type-A, I have a tendency to think that EVERYTHING needs to get done RIGHT NOW and by ME. If you have the same struggles, take a look at priorities, best use, taking a break, and trust.

Priorities

Look over your to-do list. What is truly critical? When we get lost in the stress of our to-do’s we often don’t take a moment to determine if the task should even be on our list and if it needs to be done right now.

Create four quadrants on a sheet of paper and label the sections urgent-important, urgent-unimportant, not urgent-important, and not urgent-unimportant. Place each of your tasks in a quadrant. Now look at the urgent-important group. Is there enough time in your day to complete the tasks that are both urgent and important? Then look at not urgent-important and urgent-unimportant. Out of those items what is truly necessary to you to complete now? If you don’t have time to do it today, schedule a time to complete it. Take the not urgent-unimportant and either drop them in the trash or record them in a notebook. Look at the notebook once a month or once a quarter and determine if any of the items have moved up on the priority-importance scale.

Remember the quadrant tool and use it to prioritize any new projects before adding them to your list.

Best Use

Look at the prioritized to-do list. What are the things you need to do yourself? Entrepreneurs, parents, and caregivers often feel such a strong responsibility and love for what they are doing that they put everything on their own to-do list. When the truth is, we are sometimes not the best person to make something happen. The result is that business owners get bogged down in the minutia of office busy work leaving them no time to focus on building and improving their business. When caring for another, there are sometimes not enough time in the day or what is needed to be done is outside our skillset. No matter your situation ask yourself if you are the right person to complete the task and if it is the best use of your skills and time. If the answer is no, find or hire someone else to complete it.

Take a Break

This may seem counterintuitive, but when we are stressed we are actually very unproductive. Go for a walk, do deep breathing, meditate, exercise, watch a funny cat video. By releasing the mind from the grip of stress, even for a few moments, you can gain mental clarity and re-energize yourself for those tasks that you really want to get done.

Trust

When I feel stress overcoming me I repeat the mantra, “Everything that needs to get done today will.” Hopefully you have shortened your to-do list by prioritizing and delegating projects, but if it still feels like there are not enough hours in the day to complete what you desire, instead of worrying that it won’t get done, trust that it will. It is amazing what this little mind game does. For me it removes the tight constrictive fear of stress. When that is gone, it feels like there are more hours in the day. Albert Einstein said, “When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.” Time is flexible depending on how we perceive it. Expand the number of hours in the day by telling yourself there are enough.

Hope this answers your question Diane and also helps others who feel behind the eight ball.

Are there tools you use? Share your thoughts and help others reduce stress.

Looking for more help? Check out From Type-A to Type-ME: A Framework for Stress Reduction.

A Stressed Out Baboon

We all complain about stress, but what is it really. National Geographic did a wonderful report on what stress is by not only looking at humans and our environment, but also through baboons and science. In watching specific tribes of baboons who ate the same food, lived in the same area, and experienced the same natural threats, scientists found it was not environment but social interaction and social rank that caused stress. The baboons that experienced stress and the physical symptoms of stress were those on the bottom of the food chain. They were the weak males being picked on by the alpha males. They were the female baboons treated like chattel. Stress was caused by the belief that they were less than. Stress was caused by the fear of being attacked by those stronger. Stress was caused by a bleak outlook for their future because of their status in the tribe.

No, not a baboon, but a cute little sloth.
No, not a baboon, but a cute little sloth.

The scientists noticed that the baboons lower on the food chain experienced much of the same physical issues that humans do. The physiological stress response can be more damaging than the stressor itself. Stress leads to higher blood pressure, heart rates, and therefore the potential of heart disease. A constant fight-or-flight response shuts down the immune system leading to issues like ulcers. The stress response actually kills off our brain cells, specifically those in the hippocampus, making learning more difficult and the memory fade. There is less dopamine in the system and therefore less experience of pleasure. There is an increase in weigh around the belly where fat has a more severe effect on overall health. Stress affects the cellular level making us age faster.

Something interesting happened.

The tribe of baboons came across a dumpster of meat. The alpha males ate it up, for they always ate first. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the meat was tainted. This led to the death of the alpha males. Those left in the tribe were then the female baboons and what the scientists called the “nice guy” baboons. What was interesting is that the tribe changed how they related to each other. The fighting, biting, and attacks which had been common place, were now gone. The tribe worked together, they groomed each other, and they were kind to each other. The resulting harmony led to lower stress and better health.

Look around your life. Who are the alpha baboons causing you stress? Your boss? Your landlord? A family member? Is there a way you can remove yourself from their attacks? Is there a way you can raise your self-esteem by no longer giving them your power? Is there a way you can focus on what you can control in your life instead of fearing an attack from another?

To receive help in reducing your stress, download a free chapter of From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It

 

Fear

I like to think I am fearless, and in many ways I am. But in some ways I am not. One of the most noticeable ways is in regards to my business. I fear not having enough income to pay my bills. I fear I will not be able to make the business what I want it to be. I fear that I made a mistake making my passion and purpose my business. The problem is when I listen to my fears and believe them I make bad choices. If I believe I won’t have sufficient income, I feel it is hopeless therefore I am unmotivated to attract new clients or attend networking events. If I fear my business won’t be what I want it to be, I am constantly looking for proof of this and pull myself into a depression. If I fear my purpose is not meant to be my business, I am constantly distracted by other potential ways to bring in money. My fears then become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Yet fears in themselves are NOT reality. Fears are only real if we believe them and act as if they are already fulfilled. The answer is to see fears as beliefs and not reality. Fears are expectations we move and act upon because we believe them to be our fate. Our fearful beliefs and expectations are only thoughts. The simple and difficult way to move forward fearlessly in our lives is to release our negative beliefs and expectations.

PanamaRecently I was able to do just this on our trip to Panama. I had a fear of returning our rental car late. I feared my unexercised winter legs would not make it to the top of Cerro Ancón. I had a fear I could not stay afloat in the ocean. One by one I released these thoughts and amazingly found the power to move forward. In doing so, I also found new options and opportunities which had been blocked by my focus on fear.

One of the biggest fears this Recovering Type-A released, even before we left for our trip, was not having all of our hotels booked ahead of time. We were leaving for a country we never visited before where we did not speak the local language fluently and were going into cities we could find little information about. I released the fear we would be sleeping in our rental car and trusted. Had I not let go of the fear, my Type-A would have taken over and booked a hotel in Las Tables where I thought I wanted to go. As it turns out it is a really neat town – for a few hours. Had I booked two nights there it would have been less than desirable. In letting go however, things turned out better than I could have ever planned. Between the recommendation from the proprietor of our first hotel, La Estancia, and the assistance of a LinkedIn buddy from Try Panama, we stayed at a secluded beachfront hotel and a posh resort which were both available and within our budget. There was no hassle or any real effort on my husband’s or my part. We just needed to make our needs known and accept the great gifts given to us.

PanamaThis experience helped me see and release the other fears which came up on our trip. I knew and trusted that releasing my fears allowed new, better, brilliant opportunities to arrive.

What are your current fears?

Do you have fears around paying bills? Around your or your loved ones heath? Do you have fears about some seemingly unattainable future goal? Look at the fear. Is there any substantial proof it will absolutely 100% occur as you fear? If not, let it go. Then feel the pressure and anxiety lift as you release what is not fated to be. Feel your power return. Feel your joy. Then keep your mind clear and take baby step after baby step toward what you want. You will be amazed by what happens – for the better – and without any major planning or substantial effort of your own.

Melissa Heisler

Hiding Not Seeking

Caffeine has always been my constant companion. In my younger years, caffeine came in the form of Mountain Dew. When I entered the workforce, my caffeine delivery system became coffee. As energy drinks entered the marketplace, Monster became my drink of choice. The thing is, caffeine is not good for me. I have known for a while and recently had a doctor prove it. And yet, I didn’t stop putting caffeine in my system.

Have you ever had a habit you wanted to break but didn’t have the motivation to do so? Or if you could break it, the habit would come back? The problem may not be willpower. The problem may be that you are treating the symptom not the cause.

Melissa Heisler
Melissa Heisler

When I was drinking coffee, I didn’t like the taste of every cup and I hated how it discolored my teeth. Yet I would drink cup after cup. If I had a Monster or two, I would have the shakes and couldn’t concentrate. Yet I would have more the next day. When we digest things which are not good for us, we actually experience a high. The high is created when our bodies rally the troops to fight the unwanted guest. As adrenaline attacks the invader, we experience a seemingly pleasurable high from something that is actually not good for our system.

But knowing all this did not give me the power to remove caffeine from my diet. This is because I did not drink it to get the high per se. I was using the high to hide my pain, discomfort, and negative emotions. If I was in a good mood, I didn’t need coffee. If there was troubling me, I longed for caffeine and could think of nothing else. When I was caught up in the high of caffeine, I could ignore what was bothering me. Caffeine is my Band-Aid, my mask. This addiction distracts me from those things I don’t want to face. But you know what? The things I didn’t want to face are still there after every cup.

Next time you reach for your mask of choice whether it is coffee, chocolate, potato chips, or a marathon of CSI, stop. Put down your addiction and wait. See what emotion, fear, anxiety, or worry washes over you. Then work through that discomfort. By going through the discomfort you can remove it once and for all. And in doing so, you can also release your addiction.

Living your life

Working for a Living

Recently whenever I talk to a client or friend about their job I hear:

I have lost the passion for my work.

My co-worker undermined my project.

It seems we only shuffle paper and no longer provide anything of true value.

My boss took credit for my work.

I have to work overtime again, without pay.

There is too much work to do. I am completely overwhelmed.

Once again, I had a nervous breakdown in my office.

There are many reasons we feel this way. The economy tanked out in 2008 and led to layoffs but the same amount of work to be done, so those still employed are doing the work that used to be split between many others.

A primary focus on quarterly goals has created an atmosphere of short-term thinking. The best choices for the company, customer, and worker are secondary to trying to increase the appearance of quarterly profits for Wall Street.

Individuals are afraid of losing their job, feel their pocketbook tightening, and have increased pressures. Because of this, tempers are shorter, people share less, care less. Civility and compassion at work are diminishing.

How Can You Make Your Job Better?

Living your lifeThere may be a few very slow moving changes we can make to the state of our business and the economy overall. In the meantime, what we can affect to make a less than desirable circumstance better is our own perspective, thoughts, beliefs, actions, and reactions.

Often when there are issues or conflicts, we want the other to change. We want our boss to be fair. We want our co-worker to do their share. We want the economy to improve. However, these are not things we can truly affect. We are not in control of them. We may be able to state our case to our boss, but we can not control her response. We can bring the workload situation up to our co-worker but we can’t change his level of execution.

To truly change our experience, we need to change ourselves. You may be in a negative circumstance, but you are still in control of how you experience that circumstance.

We need to become Aware of our actions and reactions. Are our actions and reactions helping or hurting us? Are we making situations even worse by how we react and feel about them? Are we allowing a poor work environment to affect our sense of self worth?

We need to learn Acceptance of the situation and others. This does not mean we rollover and take abuse. Acceptance means ending our desire for things to be different than they truly are. Much of our pain can be the pain from expecting and desiring things to be different than reality.

We need to look for Alternatives. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. What are things you can change in your own beliefs, actions, and reactions which could improve your experience of your current job?

We need to take Action. Complaining about our work but then approaching it the same way is not action. Blaming others and waiting for them to change is not action. Every day what are the small steps you can take to make your experience just a little bit better? That is action.

For more concrete ideas to make your current job better, download the 10 Ways to Survive a Less Than Ideal Job. To learn how I used Awareness, Acceptance, Alternatives, and Action to change my experience download the first chapter of From Type-A to Type-ME: A Framework for Stress Reduction. Both are available gratis. Learn how you can help share Melissa’s story, reduce the amount of stress in the world, and reserve your copy of From Type-A to Type-ME.

What do you see as the answer to this problem for you? What are the small steps you can take today to make a difference in your own experience?

Burnout To Balance

Why are we more stressed? And what can we do about it?

Never in history have we had such comforts and ease of living. Our grocery store shelves are stocked and we can cook a meal in minutes. We can communicate with family and friends around the world instantaneously and face to face. Modern conveniences make our day to day life easy. Then why the heck are we so stressed? The reason is because of this technology, and our limbic brain. I have been preaching this a long time and recently spoke about it.  Now newest research by Dr. Marc Schoen, psychologist and faculty member at UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine, has proven it.

Burnout To BalanceMuch of technology is a helpful for our life, but it has also taught us impatience and a demand for perfection. We expect everything to be immediate and when it is not we become stressed. “I have to wait three minutes for my Starbucks coffee. Oh, the humanity!” We expect everything to be perfect and the exactly the way we desire it and when it is not we become stressed. “You bought full not skim milk? My life is ruined.” We are less patient with people, timetables, and the natural cyclical every changing way of life. Everything in our life becomes a stressor from traffic, to our cable being out, to our favorite snack missing from the vending machine, to slow internet. None of this is life or death, but we feel it is.

Although on the outside we are living a better, more comfortable life, our limbic brains are telling us something different. Our limbic brain is our survival brain. This is the part of us that reacts unconsciously to danger. Back in the day when a tiger appeared, if we used our logical minds to decide what to do, we would quickly become lunch. “Oh look a tiger. It has pretty stripes doesn’t it? It seems to be salivating. The tiger must see me as food. If that is the case, perhaps it is time for me to leave this place.” Chomp. The limbic brain is set to survival. It sees a tiger and activates our legs in the opposite direction before we realize consciously what is happening.

What has happened in our modern age is that our limbic brain perceives inconveniences with the same intensity as life and death situations. We become fearful and anxious in traffic, when we forget someone’s birthday, or when the boss is headed to our desk. The problem is that when our limbic system kicks in it sends all of our energy to our muscles so we can fight or flee. In doing so, it shuts down those things we use on a daily basis, like our digestive, immune, and reproductive system to conserve energy. Then because we see everything in our life as an apparent danger, we are constantly in a state of alert. Our cortisol levels are high, our daily systems are shut down, and we begin to have stress related illnesses.

This leads us to look for something outside of our self to reduce our stress. Due to the media and our current society, instead of seeking measures which truly alleviate our stress level, we unfortunately turn to maladaptive habits for relief. Dr. Schoen has uncovered maladaptive habits people use which I often see in my clients. Two maladaptive habits are choices, consciously or unconsciously, that we make. First are obsessive habits; those obsessive compulsive disorders large and small, from triple checking that the door is locked to repetitive washing. Second are addictions to food, alcohol, sex, television, shopping, and a whole host of seeming pacifiers.  The next two maladaptive habits are ones that occur in our bodies. We develop sleep disorders and insomnia. Or we have chronic illnesses, colds, flus, headaches, and stomach aches. The last of the maladaptive habits Dr. Schoen identified are avoidance habits like the fear of crowds, flying, or going over bridges.

The question is if these maladaptive habits are not helping our stress, what can we do?

De-Stressed WomanFor true stress relief, it is necessary to consciously choose new healthier long-lasting and truly effective habits. Unplugging, getting sleep, deciphering between real and imagined fears, learning patience and acceptance, and focusing on what we have not on what we don’t. Stress relief is very simple, but not easy. Over the years we have created deep pathways or grooves in our mind. We have programmed our minds to unconsciously respond with our maladaptive habits. The simple answer is to create new habits, new pathways, and new grooves. It is simple, but it does take time to create and program into our minds.

To receive help in reducing your stress, download a free chapter of From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It