“Strategies for Practicing the Art of Balance.”
Do the RIGHT WORK
Decide what is your bottom-line work – what is important, NOT merely urgent. Avoid the workaholic syndrome of continually putting out fires.
Distinguish EGO-ORIENTED WORK from RESULTS-ORIENTED WORK
Ego-defensive work is usually unnecessary. Concentrating on what really has to be done to simply complete the task than on trying to avoid criticism or to prove that you deserve praise can eliminate often 50% of some tasks.
Rather than overwhelming yourself with the expectation of doing 60 hours of work – or even 8 hours – to finish the job, focus on when you can find just 30 minutes to get started.
Pre-programme your brain with solutions. Each night and every Sunday evening spend a few minutes seeding your mind with the top priority task you’re to start on tomorrow. When you are stuck, overwhelmed or tired, take 2 – 5 minutes to brainstorm how the job might be tackled, divided up, delegated or reduced. Get in your mind the specific time when you will start.
Go from OVERWHELM TO OVERVIEW
When you first approach a large task your mind will call for enough energy to try to finish it all at once. Use this agitated level of energy to overview the entire task and create a Reverse Calendar back from the future deadline to the starting point. Assign “start-lines” instead of deadlines.
DON’T PROCRASTINATE ON LIVING
You cannot put your life on hold. It will backfire and reduce your efficiency and productivity. Remember to rest well, sleep well, exercise hard and make yourself leave the office for lunch, to walk or to take a break.
Keep the big picture in mind
Insist on time for your life, your family, your church, your career and over your relationships with yourself. Avoid the temptation to get lost in trying to do more work. LIVE NOW, the life you’ve always wanted – a few minutes each day, a few hours each weekend – in order to keep from burning out, resenting your work and losing motivation.
The pre-condition for any human effort is a vision of success. Man is never strong, so enterprising, so endlessly resourceful, as when his aim stands clearly in front of him, to be achieved by a definite number of determined strides. To “work without hope” is a contradiction in terms, for work without hope is work without real drive, without momentum.
Effective goal setting has at least three parts:
Setting the Ultimate Goal
Setting the ultimate goal – a future place you’d like to be and how you’d like to feel in the future, e.g., become general manager of my company
Choosing and committing to a Path that leads towards that goal, e.g., I’m willing to work for three years learning new skills, making contacts, following up with clients or customers, making the necessary attitude or habit changes that will position me to take on the responsibilities of general manager
Directing the Fundamental Goal that tells you where to start and what to do on the path to your Ultimate Goal, e.g., I will start today by making three extra follow-ups with clients, signing up for a class about selling on the Internet and putting the TV remote in the garage.
Bottom-line: Your goal setting will be ineffective unless it uses this three-part process.
If you only have an Ultimate Goal you will remain overwhelmed by the amount of work involved in moving you from where you are to where you want to be. To be a truly effective setter of goals you’ll need a Functional Goal that tells you where to start and what to do today on the path to achieving your goals.
Tips for Balance
“Time is the most healing thing you can give yourself today.”
Give yourself one extra minute or drop one “last minute” chore before starting your day.
Take a 10-minute walk before collapsing in front of the TV.
Before starting your car, take 3 deep breaths (about 15 seconds in total).
Honour transactions between projects, calls and clients with 6 – 12 deep breaths (30 – 60 seconds) as you let go of the last task and get ready to start on a new activity.
Honour the Sabbath or Shabat by having nothing scheduled for at least 4 hours every weekend.
Give yourself an extra 30 minutes at the gym.
Leave one extra minute so you can talk to a neighbour’s child or pet a dog.
Shut the television off early and give yourself an hour just to think.
Cut one “I have to” from today’s To Do List. In fact, why not cut “have to” from your vocabulary?
Focus on just one thing for at least 15 minutes without interruption.
Eliminate one stop in your mad dash to accomplish all your chores in one trip.
Give yourself 5 seconds to look up, see the sky and wonder at the majesty of the clouds and the trees.
Shift from Worry to Wonder
Whenever our mind desperately tries to control some future event, we experience anxiety and worry. Worry creates an image of an event or problem that’s in the future and then – like a faithful servant – our body tries to work on it. This plays a dirty trick on the body by building up energy that can’t be used now, causing you anxiety or “nervous energy.”
The next time you’re worrying about controlling the outcome of some event that only exists in your mind’s virtual reality:
Notice how you tense the muscles in your forehead and jaw. The mind’s image of potential danger in the future mobilises your body’s fight-flight response. Your body, being more of a realist than your mind, remains in the only time there is – the present, where it’s stuck with massive amounts of hormones and energy that can’t be used now. A full-blown panic attack is in the making unless you take charge of your worrying – and time-travelling – mind and the illusion that you control the so-called future. You know, the future doesn’t really exist – yet.
Catch yourself building-up tension and use it as a signal to quickly shift your focus back to the present. It is only in the present moment that you can do something to avoid future danger or develop plans to cope with it. Practice using a phrase such as “What can I do now?” to get your mind into the present working on problem resolution.
Expect a surprise. Tell your worrying mind to take a break and expect a surprise. Practice rapidly shifting from trying to know what’s going to happen in the future to being comfortable wondering what interesting solutions and surprises soon will occur to you. Tell your worrying mind “You haven’t the foggiest idea how we’ll get through this one, so it’s going to be a surprise. This is going to be interesting.”
Schedule time to do high-quality worrying. Whenever worrying about the future begins to disrupt your concentration and enjoyment of the present, remember that you’ve scheduled 30 to 60 minutes this evening to do some quality worrying. At that time you’ll focus on developing plans for coping with possible danger, look for alternative solutions and restore your confidence that you’re prepared to deal with whatever life presents without needing to know, grasp or control every detail. Stamp out unproductive, low quality worrying.
Neil Fiore guides managers, executives and line personnel to new levels of peak performance. From his experience as a Lieutenant with the 101st Airborne Division, a manager with Johnson & Johnson, a statistical analyst for Shell Oil and a psychologist and career counsellor at the UC, Berkeley, Neil brings practical tools for life and work to his seminar participants. He holds a doctorate in Psychology and a BSc degree in Economics.
© Neil Fiore, PhD, 1998. All rights reserved.
For further information, e-mail, write, fax or call Neil Fiore, PhD:
Neil A. Fiore & Associates
830 San Carlos Ave
Albany, CA 94706
1 (510) 524-9149 (Voice & Fax)