“Too much of a good thing can be bad for you” my mother used to say this to me all the time when I was growing up. She used this in reference to my constant reading habits and her prediction that I would either rot my brain from overuse or go blind from reading too much. I don’t see signs of brain rot just yet but I did have to start wearing glasses in my teens to cope with the strain on my eyes. When I think about balance, this is the childhood memory that springs to mind. When I think about balance, I think about making sure that I balance my time between professional and personal pursuits.
When I started out in my career some 18 or so years ago, I didn’t understand the concept of being in balance. In fact I did not understand the concept of stress. What was that? I was fresh out of university and grew up in a culture where work and play was so skillfully interwoven that I had no concept of being stressed due to work or even having to make time to have life. I felt invincible, I could everything and be everything. I worked every hour there was honing and building my skills. I progressed quickly and achieved all I set out to. Then my life changed; I became a mother, not just once but twice. I got older and suddenly (well maybe not suddenly as this took years but to me it felt like it was sudden) things that I took as a given or for granted no longer applied.
I was now responsible for two little human beings and their development; I had responsibilities that did not include my profession or my professional goals. I had to now include things hitherto missing from my calendar like: the school run; extra curricular activities; school plays, homework, play dates, doctor visits etc. Sleep became more of a longed for dream than a reality. My professional life hadn’t changed but my personal one had and the two were at odds with each other. My life was out of balance and stayed out of balance while I grappled with the changes that I needed to make for some time. I struggled to have it all because I felt I needed to have it all.
One day I woke up, exhausted unable to cope and that was the turning point for me. I decided then and there that work should not be the reason why I exist and live day-to-day. I was first and foremost me and whatever it took to ensure that I didn’t compromise that, I would be fine. I did a few practical things like reducing my hours at work, and being present for the early developmental phase of my children’s life. I also became intentional about taking time off and relaxing on said time off. I became intentional about my own personal development and reading more varied topics to improve my knowledge and skills. I intentionally set my own working hours and decided when I would and wouldn’t work. I decided intentionally that when I needed a break, I would take one. All this because I decided that I would no longer exist to work but that work would facilitate my decision to live.
Achieving balance does not happen overnight, it takes work and being intentional about both your professional and personal goals. When you operate in balance you are so much more effective at what you do.
Have a great week.
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life. Whereas before you dwelt in time and paid brief visits to the Now, have your dwelling place in the Now and pay brief visits to past and future when required to deal with the practical aspects of your life situation. Always say “yes” to the present moment.” I read this quote in Practising The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and I remember my initial reaction to reading this was to put the book aside and say out loud “What?” what did this really mean? was it just another way out their technique that was so left field it did not make sense? all those thoughts ran through my head and I left if for a few days then one night after a particularly stressful day when I had been unable to order my thoughts I went back to the book and re-read the chapter and this particular quote.
At that defining moment it made sense to me and was like a light bulb moment where I recreated the eureka moment in my head and did a little happy dance. After the day I had experienced, this passage made me understand the concept of being present in the now, every time. My day had been stressful, not because the tasks were difficult of anything out of the ordinary had happened. It had been stressful because I “borrowed” trouble and lived in the land of “what ifs” before those things had even happened. For every meeting, I had a vision of the future and what could go wrong and this shaped my thinking and actions all day. I was not present in those meetings, I was in the future looking back at the past. In subsequent conversations that day I was not fully present in the now, I lived for a brief moment in a world totally of my own making.
For that one day , though present in body I was not there in mind or spirit. I didn’t make what as happening that day my primary focus. I learned a valuable lesson that day, one I still apply today. It is important, no matter what we are doing or experiencing to be present and not just physically present but mentally present as well. If I am in a meeting, I don’t check emails unless I was waiting on a message that had importance to the topic at hand. I will often put my phone on silent or do not disturb when I am doing things that require me to be present fully and not be disturbed.
I try (try being the operative word) to do one thing at a time and once that is complete move on to the next thing. If I know something big is happening on a particular day, that is all I schedule. This is simply because I only have space for so many big rocks each day. Personally I chose one big rock each day professionally because I am leaving space for the personal big rocks which may come my way being a mom and all!
being present is important, it gives you the ability to understand with perfect clarity what is happening and being said, what you are feeling and how you are reacting. “The more you are focused on time past and future – the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is” (Eckhart Tolle). What are you focused on right now?
Have a great week!
The photo in this blog may remind you of days you have had where everything became due at once; it may have also been the day when the washing machine broke and flooded your kitchen; or the school rang you to pick your child up early; or the trains were cancelled which meant your perfectly planned day was suddenly left in chaos and suddenly the pressure was on.
There are those of us that faced with such disruption, will calmly re-prioritise and apologise to those affected and re-plan to complete the actions at the next available opportunities. there are also those of us, when faced with unexpected interruptions that freeze and become unable to function and cope in the face of what is happening. We become mired in the details of what is happening and keep circling the drain rather than getting back on track. Often sayings like being “unable to see the trees for woods” are bandied about as an excuse for the our vicious cycle we find ourselves in. Sometimes this can lead to individuals become stressed and unable to cope. Productivity is interrupted, engagement and motivation suffers and sometimes regretted attrition is the result.
Time management can be learned but it is a skill that unless you practice and make it habit that will become lost over time. Crisis management is also another skill that should not be used as time management technique. It should form part of our planning but not the default method to managing issues.
I have difficulty at times managing my time but more often than not, I am pretty good at keeping to time and on schedule. I don’t revert to crisis management even though I do operate very well when under pressure. This though a valuable skill set is pretty stressful and what I have found personally is that over time I can maintain a level of craziness for a few weeks. If this spans into month, then I am in danger of becoming entrenched and unable to function effectively. Some of the ways in which I go about controlling my time are:
- setting goals and then breaking them down into daily tasks
- using a journal to keep track of my ideas and progress towards goals
- using my calendar to keep track of home, work, kids and friends
- Saying no
- leaving time daily just for me to think
- planning in every hour of my day and what I will be doing – but being conscious and flexible enough to adapt if the unexpected happens
My team will often remark to me how nothing seems to faze or upset me. This isn’t strictly true but what I have learned over the years is that you need to model the behaviours that you are espousing to others. Time management like any other skill can be learned and become habit-forming. Don’t let time manage you, but make every effort to manage it to the best of your ability.
Have a great week!
Sometimes it can feel as though you are a faceless cog in an engine called team at work. Individual passions and objectives are of no import, only what the team achieves and contributes. To those on the outside looking in, the team is one, even though it is made up of different individuals with differing skills and contribution. When I think of a well-functioning team who are operating as one, my mind always goes to the Mercedes Formula One Team. They are known collectively by their brand. Yes the drivers are seen as individuals and celebrated as such by their fans but the team, often the hundred of faceless individuals behind the scene who have worked to develop the car that the driver then takes and makes waves on track are the true heroes of the day.
Within the team, those individuals who make up the whole are celebrated for their expertise and those who need to know, know about their contribution. Not everyone plays well together and we need to be conscious of this, especially when we recruit individuals to be an individual contributor then force them to operate as part of a team. Being faceless can be ok, if individuals are given the recognition they deserve within a team structure. Where it becomes an issue is where the team is dysfunctional and some members are contributing, whilst others are not, yet all are rewarded the same or where there are clear divisions in terms of objectives and values.
Reframing is basically a technique that can be used to take a different look at whatever it is that scares you or makes you feel anxious.
It can be applied in many different ways in a work setting. Take for example if you are worried about an upcoming presentation, reframe it as a chat with your good friends; a performance management meeting becomes a catch up over coffee.
Reframing lets us reduce our fears by changing things to common place occurrences.
Remember fear can also mean face everything and rise! Have a brilliant Saturday : )
TGIF appears weekly in my Facebook feed like clockwork. Millions of workers the world over all breathing a sigh of relief that they have come to the end of another working week. All are excited to welcome in the weekend and two days off work hooray!!
Should we be concerned at this mass sigh of relief that work is at an end? Is it a sign that work is seen as a drudge rather than a pleasure that people enjoy?
I enjoy seeing Friday just like everyone else who works a Monday to Friday work pattern but probably not for the same reason as others. My anticipation is more of a hygiene factor rather than anything to do with work itself, because Friday signals that Saturday is close and on Saturdays if I do one thing and one thing only it’s to have a lie in until 11! Decadent right?
So why do you give thanks that it’s Friday?