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How is your week going?
No, really. How is it going? On a scale from “Calm waters, smooth sailing” to “Rough Chop” to “Gale” to “Tempest”, how effectively are you sailing through your week?
Chances are that most of you—most of the time—will say, “Gale,” “Tempest,” or “What word do you have for something worse than a tempest ‘cuz that’s where I am?”
We live every day with wave upon wave of tasks, competing priorities, and interruptions.
And that sucks. It feels bad, it saps our energy, and lowers our productivity. It’s also a downward spiral; the more storms we experience, the more behind we feel, the more we push, the less energy we have, the more we don’t get done, the more storms we have.
For those of you who manage a team, you’ll recognize that this is not just a personal issue; it affects teams and entire companies the same way.
GOOD NEWS: Two simple habits; you choose when to take them on.
(Of course there’s good news!)
What doesn’t work is trying to fight the storms by working harder, going numb, blaming, or hiding. There will always be new waves of tasks and interruptions and they’ll wear you down.
What DOES work is learning to surf these waves. And you are just two simple habits away from hangin’ ten.
If your frustration with the way things are is high enough, grab these two habits and run with them; they’ll change everything.
If you’re not ready, bookmark this post for a time when you are ready, when the way things are is no longer acceptable.
HABIT ONE: Plan-Do.
If you start your workday by diving in to your work, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, invest a relatively minute amount of time to plan you day and your week. When you do, you’ll put yourself above the waves.
This type of planning gives you the proper perspective to know what your will work on given of all the things your could work on. It also gives you the information you need to decide in the moment whether to allow this next interruption or that request.
Set aside time–maybe 40 minutes–before each work week (e.g. Friday night, Sunday night, or Monday morning) to review all your projects and commitments to know what you’ll select to work on and what goes to the back burner. Set aside 10 minutes or so before each work day (either that morning or the night before) to select what you’ll work on that day and adjust your weekly plan based on what’s happened.
Have with you the lists of your projects/commitments/appointments as you do this planning.
For more information about this habit, see this article in Fast Company: http://www.fastcompany.com/article/work-smart-how-to-avoid-the-busy-trap?partner=homepage_newsletter
For more help, email me with your questions or post a comment below.
HABIT TWO: Be here now
This habit is about changing your state of mind–your attitude–instantly and often as you can.
If you see this habit as less practical and even a waste of time, give me a moment to explain. It’s actually a surprisingly powerful and productive tool.
This is deep topic that we can spend our lifetimes learning about. For now, let the loosely constructed logic below point you in the right direction. If you’d like to learn more, email me. You can also skip this logic and go right to the practice that follows.
- Performance in our jobs and life comes only from action.
- Our state of mind affects our ability to perform, to act well.
- Without focus or training, our state of mind comes from our habitual thoughts and emotions.
- We build our habitual thinking and emotions from very early on life. They are there for what was a good reason.
- Some of these habitual thoughts and emotions are no longer useful; they really detract from our performance today.
- The thinking and emotions more in conflict with our performance today can be categorized as “regret about the past” or “worry about the future.”
- We may not think we are regretting or worrying. Typically we react to the word “regret” and “worry;” looking deeper, we see we indeed are expending too much time and energy on the past or the future.
- The best barometer for measuring whether we’re too focused on the past or future is how we physically feel. Tense, nervous, ill, numb, in pain, and excited are some of the usual signs.
- Regretting the past or worrying about the future pulls our focus from the ONLY PLACE EVER WE CAN PERFORM: here and now.
- We can tell we are in the here and now when the physical sensations disappear or diminish.
- We can’t force ourselves to be here and now. Forcing creates an ugly reaction of not-here-and-now.
- We can release ourselves by simply observing. Naming what we are thinking, feeling, doing drives a wonderful wedge between us and our habitual thinking.
- Regular observation gives us the ability to catch ourselves caught up in habitual thinking and emotions and release ourselves without much effort at all.
- Regular observation is like building a muscle. As we strengthen our observation muscle, we naturally have more energy and focus to act well, right here and now.
Practicing Habit Two
- For the next 24 hours, notice your thinking and emotions. Just name them and go no further; resist the temptation to describe, evaluate, judge what you notice. One easy way: quietly say to yourself as often as you can today, “This is me thinking_______.” Or, “This is me feeling_______.” Or, “This is me______.” Examples: “This is me thinking this meeting is a waste of time.” “This is me reacting to my colleague’s comment.”
- Extend this practice by making a commitment to it and using the habit builder to make it stick.
Post a comment below with your questions, observations, or improvements to these habits.