Balance your Priorities

How much faster, busier, more hectic and  demanding can our lives possibly get?

These past two months have been especially challenging for me with numerous family issues and my own health concerns. Although I study life balance and help others through my teaching, speaking, writing and coaching I found myself bursting at the same seams I’ve helped others better handle. All of my techniques and strategies were in my tool box and once I took a deep breadth, re-focused, and took things more slowly I was able to manage day-to-day and see the rainbow at the end of all the rain that was pouring down in my life.

Living a balanced life  has become one of the biggest challenges in our  society.  However, as I’ve learned from my own experiences, until you get your thinking and actions aligned, you’ll naturally be out of balance. To be in balance, you need to align your life with your top priorities and live that way each and every day!

Your priorities come from your core — your personal values.  They define what is really most important to you. They help guide your decisions about where and how you will spend your time, money and energy.

If you want to live a balanced life, begin by defining your core values and key priorities.  Define what life balance means to you. 

A blanket answer will not resonate with every one of you. We will have different answers to what’s important to us and what life balance looks like for us. Life balance is a concept that has a different meaning for each of us. What’s a balanced lifestyle for one, might not be balanced for another.

The key to getting the right balance, is making time for what’s important to you.

Restore Balance

With an added flurry of activities to complete in preparation for the holiday season, it’s vitally important that you continually and consciously restore your sense of balance.

Here are a few places to start:

  • Set Realistic Goals – Establish goals for yourself based on your key priorities. For example, if being physically fit is highly important to you, then create an exercise plan and schedule time daily to honor it. Be sure your goals are positively-based (e.g., to be strong and healthy) vs. negatively-based (e.g., to lose 30 pounts). Avoid being all things to all people!
  • Minimize the Clutter  – Unfortunately, most of us have clutter some where in our lives, either in our office, our car, at home, or in our head!  Manage that clutter so that it doesn’t accumulate. Filter what comes in to your spaces.  Being in a clean, clutter-free zone will provide you with a sense of peace and the feeling of having some control over at least part of your environment. 
  • Detach regularly – Allow yourself some time to disconnect from the demands of work.  Avoid checking email, texts, instant messages at least every once in a while to give yourself a break and to differentiate the important from the urgent.
  • Set stronger boundaries – One of the most important things you can do to preserve your health and well-being while minimizing stress and overwhelm is to say “no” to demands placed upon you.  Realize that you don’t need to accept every invitiation, assignment, project, etc. offered to you.
  • Ask for help – Rather than suffering in silence, anger or frustration speak up and ask for help. Very often, famiy members, friends, neighbors or co-workers would be thrilled to help if they only knew you needed it. Anticipate whenever possible, so that you have help readily available before you have a meltdown!

Happy Summer!

Today is officially the first day of summer.  For some, it may have felt that summer started weeks ago when your kids ended their school year or when the days were longer and hotter.  With temperatures peaking in the 90’s today and bright sunshine, it will definitely feel like summer here in NJ, although the kids don’t finish their school year until Wednesday!

As each new season comes and goes, many of my clients use it as a time for self-reflection and renewal. They check-in with their goals to see if they are on track. They commit to achieving new goals for the second half of the year.

  •  Are you on track with your goals?
  • What are your priorities this summer?
  • How will you be sure to stay focused on achieving what’s most important?
  • What obstacles may prevent you from achieving what you what you want to?
  • How can you plan on avoiding them?
  • What will you do to gain some enjoyment from this more relaxed time of the year?

As a professionally trained and internationally certified coach, I work with business leaders to help insure their personal and professional success.  I offer training, keynote presentations, and seminars to support each individual and the organization as a whole to achieve your goals. Contact me to discuss your needs!

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.

Maintain for Best Performance

Ongoing maintenance is key to keeping everything running at peak performance.

I took one of my cars in today for an oil change and some general maintenance work. Have my other car scheduled next week once the four new tires I ordered come in.

This reminded me about the importance of not only tending to our cars, but to other equipment, vehicles and appliances we rely on every day. In order to get a full life from our investments, we must properly care for them!

This is true, too, for our bodies and our families. Wellness visits and quick response to warning signs will help keep you running at tip-top shape.  Although in our car, warning lights ignite on the dashboard when something needs our immediate attention, many ignore similar warning signs in their own body. If you’re suddenly feeling tired all the time, coughing, have difficulty breathing, are experiencing aches and pains, or just realize theat something is off, don’t ignore these signs. Similar to the dashboard lights, these are a warning that something needs your attention.

For those responsible for others, whether they be young children or aging parents, the same warning signs are indications of possible illness or other health issues. Pay attention…don’t be too busy to perform regular check-ins and maintenance. You’ll be glad you did because it could save you from long hospital stays, extended bed rest, and a possible financial burden.

Set Value-Based Goals

When working with successful clients, I’ve observed that those who experience the greatest levels of fulfillment and personal satisfaction as they achieve their goals, have aligned their goals with their personal values. If you follow good goal-setting practices in addition to aligning your goals with your values by writing specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and trackable (S-M-A-R-T Goals) action plans, you have a better chance of success and knowing what your true priorities are.  You spend the majority of your time on what matters most to you!

The first step in the values-based goal-setting process has to start with making an inventory of your values.  Goal-setting is important but unproductive unless it is set on a foundation of your values.

Your values are the intangible aspects of life that make you feel in alignment, complete, on track, and functioning at a high level. Values are the essence of who you are. They are at your core. Although they may change over time, a life that aligns with one’s core values will feel more satisfying, even in the most difficult and challenging times. Values are the things you do that you find very attractive, an emotional state that you feel is very important. As life changes, it is important to re-examine your values. What was important to you at 20 may not be the same thing as when you’re 43.

Some examples of values include adventure, fun, service, creativity, connection, etc. When we consciously design our life to align with our values, life gets immeasurably richer — and easier! Gaining clarity of your values and designing your life around them is a process.

To discover your values, ask yourself:

  • What is most important to you in your life?
  • Then ask, what is important to you about that? What does this give you?

For example, if you answered that family is most important to you. Dig further to discover the core underlying value by asking what does family provide for you; you may find that family gives you a sense of connection, belonging or community. As you see in this example, the underlying value extends beyond family. Focus on what the value gives you to be sure you’re uncovering the core value because this will help you set your goals around your values.

Once you identify you values, choose activities or goals that are aligned with them.  When you set goals to experience more of what you value most, life gets immensely richer – and easier!

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

No Time to Read This? Read This

Many of us use one system or another, or a hybrid-type system to manage the multiple tasks on our over-flowing plate. In this post written by Sue Shellenbarger for the Wall Street Journal Online on December 08, 2009, she analyzes three of the widely known time management systems and shares her personal experience from a brief trial using each method. In no particular order, Ms. Shellenbarger reports on David Allen’s Getting Things Done; Francesco Cirillo’s The Pomodoro Technique; and, FranklinCovey’s Focus program. Although I’ve been helping people manage their productivity, focus and performance for years and have heard of two of the three she analyzed, I admit that I haven’t studied any of the systems nor had any first-hand experience with any of them. The technique I use and help others incorporate into their SuperBusy lives is intuitive from my life experiences and that of the many clients I’ve had the privilege to coach over the years. So, as I read the descriptions and analysis I am honored to know that The Priority Pro utilizes many of the concepts and strategies that I didn’t even know these experts have designed. What validation!! As I continue to hone my methods, maybe someday there will be a widely known method with my name attached but until then, I continue to be available to help the SuperBusy and to encourage people to use what works for them!

No Time to Read This? Read This

Managing Change and Uncertainty

Change is inevitable – after all, nothing really stays the same. But in today’s challenging times, it seems like we’re on “uncertainty” overload, never knowing what will happen from one moment to the next. Here today, gone tomorrow – or, at the least, very different tomorrow.

Uncertainty bring stress and confusion, and while most of us would be quick to say that we want less stress and more certainty in our lives, what we really want is less of a stress reaction to what life is throwing our way.

We can’t choose what happens to us – but we can choose our responses to the situations we encounter. Let’s take a look at five different responses that people have to stressful situations. As you read through these five responses, you may want to think of a recent stressful event or news that you may have received, and see what your reaction to that event can teach you about how you habitually respond. You may have one type of response at work, and another at home, or you may react differently depending on who else is involved.

The first, and unfortunately all too common response to stressful events is to suffer and be a victim to it. People who respond this way don’t take action. Things happen TO them – and though they may complain and be generally miserable about it, they don’t take any steps to do anything. They allow life to control them, instead of the other way around. This way of responding is certainly not recommended, and eventually, it will take its toll on one’s physical and mental health.

The second type of response is to accept it the situation, and to get some perspective on it. Someone with this response may say “so what,” or perhaps get some perspective on the situation by asking if it will it matter in a year – or a week – or even in a day.

The third way to respond is to actually take steps to change the situation – taking action to bring it to resolution (or at least move toward resolution). This is a very powerful response, and one that many effective leaders employ.

The fourth way to respond is to avoid the situation. People responding this way make a decision not to get involved in a situation that they don’t see as concerning them, or upon which they can’t make an impact. For example, someone may choose not to get involved in a dispute going on within their office if it doesn’t directly involve them.

The fifth and final way that people generally respond to stress is to alter the experience of the situation. When we look at a situation differently, the experience itself changes. Changing perceptions is probably the most challenging of the responses, because we tend to be stuck in our own interpretations and assumptions about what’s happening, but it is also perhaps the most powerful of all.

It’s your world, and you can create it as you wish. Remember, what one person sees as stressful, another person barely notices, or sees as exciting and full of opportunity. How are you going to choose today?

(This was excerpted with permission from the E Factor Newsletter January 2009 – “Handling what life throws your way” © 2009 iPEC Coaching)

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Un-Turbo Charge from Your Super Busy Life

August is the number one month for vacations, but I haven’t vacationed in August because I prefer to avoid crowds! This year our kids had the first week of November off from school and we took advantage of it. We spent a week at the beautiful islands of Turks and Caicos at the Beaches Family Resort. We had a ‘real’ vacation and as a result we came back relaxed and rejuvenated.

In this day in age, it’s nearly impossible to fully escape. I’d say that over 70% of your day is spent with your phone or computer. Whether or not your are using it, its there. You are thinking about it. Thinking about who might call you or text message you. And because you are thinking about it, you happen to break it out and read the news, send someone a message because your bored or worried about something, check Facebook, or surf the Net.

If you are planning a vacation, do yourself a favor and leave the work at home. You need to separate yourself from work if you are going to benefit from relaxing. Spending a week away from the office without my cell phone or laptop has truly given me the break I needed. Beings my husband couldn’t totally unplug, he brought along his laptop and checked in briefly just a couple of times a day. Having the laptop nearby gave me the opportunity to keep clearing out the junk in my inbox so that I could concentrate on the important items left in my email once I returned.

I had the opportunity to spend quality time with my husband although my kids ditched us to hang out with some new friends they met at the resort.
Everyone needs a little R&R from time-to-time. Whether you plan just a few hours away or a couple of days, weeks or more, taking a break will help you re-focus while reconnecting with yourself and your loved ones.

Vacations are also good for a number of other reasons, too:

•Encourage Creativity: A good vacation can help you to reconnect with yourself and promote your creativity.

•Help Prevent Burnout: Workers who take time to relax away from the office are less prone to experience burnout, making you more productive than your overworked, under-rested counterparts. Vacations increase your quality of work and life.

•Can Help keep you Healthy: A relaxing vacation decreases stress and increases your health and well-being.

•Can Strengthen Relationships: Spending time enjoying life with loved ones can keep relationships strong, helping you enjoy the good times more and helping you through the stress of the hard times. Likewise, spending time vacationing apart may also help strengthen relationships, too!

Enjoy life and your vacation on the beach or ski slopes, visiting museums, sightseeing, or simply relaxing in your own home or somewhere else, whatever you desire. Simply free your mind from the boundaries and pressure of your work while you can, and take advantage of what this world has to offer, before you realize its too late. In the long run it may prove to be a very advantageous way to spend your time.

The bottom line is that taking a some time away from the stresses of every day daily life can give you the break you need and deserve so that we can return to your regular life refreshed and better equipped to handle whatever comes your way.

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