Distractions at Work

Read about the top five offenders and some solutions you can incorporate into your own life:


Adjust Priorities

When emergencies or catastophes strike, cars break down, accidents occur, or health issues arise, priorities often shift on a dime. It could take just seconds to temporarily or permanently change your entire life.

As your time and attention changes to more pressing matters, what do you do with whatever is still left on your plate? How do you continue tending to the important when the urgent is so compelling?

Reflecting on the recent tragedies in the world, including the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, the major flooding, the bus accident on Route 95 in New York and other such events across the globe I wonder how people cope.  Although I had no one personally from my family, friends or professional colleagues in the World Trade Center when the tragedy of 9-1-1 occured, we were fixated with the events. Those like me, in the peripheral, went on with our lives and work and continued to focus on other priorities.

However, when it affects you personally, you may be immobilized and fixated on the necessary actions although other priorities continue to exist in your life.  Balancing your other needs and those of your loved ones is likely a challenge. For those who have lived through a death of a loved one, accident, sudden emergency, natural disaster big or small….how did you cope? What are some suggestions you have for others who may now be going through similar experiences?

Turn it OFF!

That’s right…turn off your cell phone, pager, PDA and other electronic communication devices for the next 60 minutes!  Don’t just put them on vibrate or silent mode but turn them off (as if the battery died). During this period, fully concentrate on whatever task you have at hand. Give yourself the opportunity to perform at your best! Although you may feel some anxiety (or withdrawal) see how it affects your productivity. Let me know the difference!!

Reality Hits the Road

You may have had some sort of training along the way that helped lead you to your success, organizing, time management, goal-setting, right?

This isn’t about the basic time management skills or stress management 101.  Take those principles you’ve learned like, (Covey’s) four quadrants, (Morgenstern’s) categorizing using the A, B, C’s for your task priorities, (Allen’s) integrated system of stress-free productivity and put them to the reality test.

What happens?

Unfortunately, many of these outstanding systems don’t work. Not because they’re not effective systems, but because people don’t fully implement them. Then, they give us and resort to their old ways, sometimes thinking that their situation is hopeless.

For instance, you start your day with a list or framework of what you are going to accomplish. You know what’s most important, you know what decisions need to be made but then, unfortunately, reality hits the road—

…the phone rings endlessly, the system goes down, your boss has a crisis that needs your immediate attention, you have some irate customers, a colleague plants themselves in the corner chair in your office to talk about her personal issues, you get an urgent message from the school that one of your kids has gotten hurt, etc.

The problem isn’t about managing time; it’s about managing all these interruptions. These distract you from accomplishing what you set out to do each day and if you don’t re-prioritize on a dime, ask questions to clarify importance and timeline, focus on what’s most important, delegate, be flexible (to a point), block out distractions, and say “no” when appropriate you may increase your stress, decrease your productivity and feel dissatisfied in what you’re able to accomplish on any given day.

Coping with a Job you Hate

Read my recent post at MyPath, powered by Manpower:
Welcome to MyPath: Full Plate: Coping with a Job you Hate

Put Down the BlackBerry and Pay Attention

Are you a SuperBusy Mother who can’t put down your BlackBerry??

I’m learning to put down the BlackBerry and pay attention – Busy Mama – The Olympian – Olympia, Washington

Reduce Mental Draining Stress

Chances are that if you are reading this Blog, you have too much on your plate. Your ‘to-do’ list is likely several pages long and your plate is over-flowing with activities and responsibilities, many that you didn’t even put there yourself. Often, you may feel like your mind is going to explode because you have so many things stored in it that you must remember.

When I meet with clients who are feeling this way, they tell me that they feel like they can’t get anything done even though they’re trying their best. They express feelings of inadequacy, overwhelm, stress and frustration. They feel scattered!

Although these clients usually have a to-do list, they also keep a running list of all the things they have to do in their minds. This is the primary cause of mental stress! My clients expend a lot of energy worrying about these things, even though 87% of what we worry about either never happens or is totally out of our control anyway!

Studies indicate that when we pay attention to a piece of information, it enters our short-term memory. Typically we can only hold 5-9 pieces of simple information in our short-term memory. If this information is not acted on or encoded it goes away. Therefore, to keep information available we need to get it into our working memory. Working memory is like a vehicle that transports information from short-term into long-term memory. Working memory will transport something that fits into an existing memory, much like a filing cabinet storing data.

Once you get information into your long-term memory, you’ve made progress, but then you have to get it out. Working memory files information into long-term memory. These files are not easily accessed—-we often need reminders. And it’s easier and more efficient to recognize something than to try to recall it from scratch.

The important key to reducing the stress of forgetting things or not being able to recall them is to have a system for organizing material as it comes at you and then being able to take action. Neither system will operate effectively if left in your head though. You need to get this out of your head and into easily accessible files on your computer or in a series of reminders for action in your daily management system (e.g., MS Outlook). You can reduce mental draining stress by de-cluttering your mind.

Improve your Sex Life!

With just about everyone having too much on their plate these days, we all have Obsessive Distraction Disorder (O.D.D.). Distractions pull us away from what we say is important to us.

As I was getting dressed on Saturday morning, I caught a short segment on the CBS Early Morning show featuring Dr. Jenn Berman, a well-known Psychotherapist. The piece was about putting sex back in your marriage (something many are too distracted to do!)

Dr. Jenn Berman shared 5 keys to “Getting Heat Back Between Those Sheets”. These tips closely align with the need to Assess what’s on your plate; Integrate with what matters most; and Maintain the Alignment going forward. One of the key problems is that we are exhausted and over-stressed because we over-schedule our lives. This effects our ability and desire to be intimate in the bedroom. To better balance, say “No” more often so that you have more time, energy and interest to say “Yes” to your relationship. Ultimately everytime you say “yes” to something you are indeed saying “no” to something else. Be aware of this so that you can pace yourself and avoid tapping out your energy before you get to your partner.

She also mentioned the importance of communicating without placing blame. Personally, I’ve found that something I learned when watching my wedding video 19 years ago and listening to a toast by our Uncle Steve…”Your marriage needs two important things to thrive and they can be summed up with the initials P U. You need patience and understanding.” I’ve lived by this and also treat my husband and our relationship with the utmost respect that it deserves.

For a marriage to succeed in these times when everyone seems to have too much on their plate, it takes conscious effort! Other tips from Dr. Jenn Berman may be viewed at the video online at: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/08/15/earlyshow/saturday/main5244010.shtml?tag=cbsnewsSectionsArea.9 .

Watch CBS Videos Online

It’s not JUST ABOUT Work-Life Balance

I have studied work-life balance for well over a decade and conclude that the key reason why there’s still a gap for employers, business owners, and employees despite millions being spent in programs is because these opportunities are mostly all externally-focused. Thus, work-life balance as we’ve known for years has been primarily focused on programs, services, benefits, and the like while neglecting that true balance is internally-driven. The symptoms often associated with unbalance include overwhelm, burnout, stress and other mental, physiological and emotional issues. Yet the programs, although helpful, don’t fully address the problem.

Balance is derived from a sense of harmony, peace and alignment. One who works 90 hours a week could actually be more balanced than someone who doesn’t even work at all. Balance is about knowing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and feeling that sense of control over your life. When you’ve usurped power of your life to someone or something, it’s that powerlessness that causes feeling of imbalance.

Some of the more popular programs including childcare, elder care, concierge services, health and wellness benefits, flextime, telecommuting, and job share help ease the burden of working long hours while managing a life outside work. They also allow for working longer hours. Yet true work-life balance is about being aligned, making the right choices for you.

My studies have revealed that it’s not just about work-life balance, time management, stress management, or increasing productivity but all these things combined to help each individual overcome what I call Obsessive Distraction Disorder (or O.D.D. for short!). Distractions increase when you’re not aligned with what’s most important to you! By targeting what matters most, decisions are based on top priorities—what’s most important to you!

The typical work-life program offerings help create more time and sanity. However, time spent unwisely is still time lost; time that can never be recaptured! Unlike other resources, time is not a renewable resource. Therefore, it’s highly important to recognize what’s most important in all aspects of your life and realign around those things. Be crystal clear about your values, integrity, needs, purpose and priorities.

Remember the old adage…it’s not about working harder, but working smarter. In this case, think more broadly, work is a part of your life that serves a specific purpose, so LIVE SMARTER, not harder! Make wise choices aligned with what matters most to you!

Get Everything Done

I have been studying the work of David Allen. Many successful entrepreneurs, executives, and employees at every level of the organization have successfully implemented his processes for improving productivity. However, the key to effectively implementing his processes and methodology is to increase your understanding by re-reading his books and applying them to your life in a consistent manner. At the first encounter with David Allen’s work, most people experience greater control, energy, creativity and focus but they let it stop there rather than going deeper. The extreme value is to conscientiously adopt the procuedures continuously in broader contexts. After implementing some of the basic techniques circle back and integrate it more fully and consistently to the rest of your life.

According to David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”, “Ready for Anything”, and “Making it All Work” there are five discrete stages that he recommends we undergo as we handle our work.

In the first stage, you are collecting things that demand your attention. In this stage it is vital to keep the incoming collection in control by having as few collection means as possible. You collection sources should be emptied on a regular basis! In order to capture everything that might signify something you have to do, you’ll need to gather together everything you feel incomplete with in your life, including, personal or professional, big or little, urgent or minor importance items, and anything that you feel ought to be different than it currently is. It is important to capture everything so that nothing is left in your head. Collection tools could include a physical in-basket, paper-based note-taking devices, electronic note-taking devices, voice-recording devices, and email.

The second stage is processing and the third stage is organizing. These two stages together form the focal point of the decision-tree model. There are a number of key questions to ask yourself about incoming stuff before you can collect it and process it. Firstly, ask what is it? Then define whether or not it is actionable. If no action is required then it is either trash and no longer needed (delete or discard); something that might need to be done later; or, potentially useful reference information. Actionable items need to be linked directly to a project or outcome that you’ve committed to. Then the next activity that needs to be done in order to move the current reality toward completion needs to be defined. This action can be done immediately, delegated, or deferred.

All of the organizational categories need to be physically contained in some form. The total system for organizing just about everything includes non-actionable item categories for trash, incubation tools, and reference storage. When no action is required you can discard it, put it in a tickler file for later reassessment, or file it so you can easily find the material when you need to refer to it in the future. Actionable items are categorized into a list of projects, storage or files for project plans and materials, a calendar, a list of reminders of next actions, and a list of reminders of things you’re waiting for.

The fourth stage involves reviewing the whole picture on a regular basis. A weekly review is a good time to gather and process all your stuff, review your system, update your lists, and get clean, clear, current, and complete. And, the final stage of this system is to decide what you’re going to do at any given point in time.

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