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Less Stress, Starting Now

As technological wonders increasingly dominate our lives, it becomes harder to concentrate

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The news each day is bad enough. As the Internet, mobile devices, and many other technological wonders increasingly dominate our lives, it becomes harder to concentrate on any single idea, item, or issue.

Understandably, people everywhere find themselves being besieged by competing demands for their time and attention, practically commanding them to practice multitasking. “Answer the phone.” “Click here.” “Push here.” “Open me.” “Complete our survey.” “Switch me on.” “Do it all at once!”

Equally unfortunate, multitasking is often promoted as a way for us to meet the complex demands of modern society — and accomplish more in the same amount of time. Have you ever attempted to work on two things at once? You don’t accomplish much, and time mysteriously disappears.

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Juggling Tasks is not Pretty

If your like most people, you often find yourself perpetually attempting to do many things at once: continue reviewing a client’s records, handle email, be ready for an important phone call, etc. Yet, attempting to do many things simultaneously can actually have the opposite effect; it makes you less efficient and contributes to stress.

No matter what analogies or metaphors you might have heard, a human being is not a computer. Computers can multitask with ease; the Windows operating system, for example, is capable of running any number of programs without sacrificing accuracy or peace of mind.

While there are some low level tasks here and there in which you can multitask, such as eating and watching television, for you and me, multitasking is an idea whose time should never have come.

Potentially Dangerous

The primary cost of multitasking is, ironically, exactly what you are often desperate to save: time. Multitasking is not only ineffective, it’s also potentially dangerous. On the highway, concentrating on a phone call inevitably detracts from a driver’s ability to focus on the road, putting them at dire risk of injury.

Several studies have found that cell phone use while driving leads to an increased risk of automobile accidents.

Back in the office, how can handle your daily tasks without becoming so stressed or frustrated that you cannot finish any of them? The short answer: less is more. Science has shown that your brain works best when it gives sharp attention in one direction. There is no greater efficiency than focusing on the task at hand and giving it your full concentration.

When an airline flight is canceled and people rush to the reservation desk and scramble to catch the next plane or some other connection, does the gate agent attempt to take on five or 10 people at a time? No.

He or she looks at the computer and handles a particular customer’s rerouting, looking up only sparingly. The attendant is not fazed by a 20-person line because it is practical to proceed through it one customer at a time.

Seek Completions

Suppose you are continually interrupted by the phone whenever you try to work at your PC. You cannot do your best work because when the phone rings you lose your concentration and focus. How can you handle that situation so that both jobs get the best of your attention? The key is a process called “mental completion.”

When the phone rings while you are working on your computer, silently recognize yourself by thinking, “I acknowledge myself for coming this far on this project.” Then save the work on your screen and turn to the phone.

Give the caller your complete and undivided attention; take notes, even smile into the phone. Do whatever you need to do in order to be successful on that phone call. At the end of the call, put the phone down, acknowledge yourself for handling it, and turn back to your earlier task.

The process of giving yourself a mental completion on all tasks, or even thoughts, sets up a mental partition. You gain more energy, more focus, and more direction for your next task. Both your productivity and your peace of mind will improve. And that is worth experiencing.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Life

Work-life Balance, Integration, and Harmony: Essential for Well-Being

Those who feel like they have work-life balance are better off than those who might actually have it but don’t perceive themselves to have it

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Organizations everywhere proudly proclaim that their people are their most important assets. Human resource departments, populated by human resource specialists, are assembled to ensure that the best people are brought on board, given the training and education that they need to be successful, and have an array of competitive benefits.

Over the years, however, as I speak at conferences and conventions, in person or online, it has become quite clear that while organizations proclaim that the work-life balance of their human resources is important, actually it is given short shrift.

Many times, when I’ve been booked to give a presentation or workshop on attaining work-life balance, integration, and harmony — and delivered more than 1060 of them — my session was scheduled by the host organization merely to placate attendees. These staff people then go back to an oppressive work environment, hoping for some type of respite as the weeks progress.

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Misery Leaves Clue

What are some of the hallmarks of a workforce not in balance?  For one, credit card debt per capita remains high, meaning that people are spending more than they’re earning. If they had sufficient funds to pay off their credit cards, and avoid the exorbitant interest, most surely would.

Our workforce is gaining weight, which one might imply means that they have no time to exercise. Most people do have time to exercise but they choose not to, instead indulging in activities that require only armchair-related movement.

Perhaps worst of all, the reliance on chemicals – in liquid or pill form – is at alarming levels. Generally speaking, individuals who achieve a sense of work-life balance don’t need to pop pills for this and that.

Carve Out Space and Time

If your organization values work-life balance, you are fortunate. Whether or not that is the case, here are a few strategies, out of dozens, from my book Breathing Space. These strategies will help you to carve out a little space and time for yourself, if not every day, then at least several times per week:

1) Arrive at your workplace early. Don’t leave home at the last minute required to arrive on time. Depart 10 or 15 minutes earlier, even if not necessary. Why? When you arrive earlier than usual, you have a chance to center yourself, reflect on the day ahead, and make small changes to your immediate environment.

All things being equal, the employee who arrives even five minutes early has a better chance of starting the day more focused than the employee who arrives with only a minute to spare.

2) Is it tough for you to eat breakfast at seven and last ‘til lunch at 12, with nothing in between? If so, bring healthy snacks so that you can take that break as needed and maintain your blood sugar level. Otherwise, you might have a craving for the kinds of foods that you don’t need: highly sugared, salted, or fat-laden snacks.

Yes it takes a little time in the morning to cut carrots or put peanut butter on whole wheat crackers, but the payoff comes over and over again as you feel more productive and energetic at work and your performance reflects that.

3) Linger occasionally, 30 to 60 seconds, before going to the restroom, before and after meetings, before and after lunch, and so on. Those extra seconds can make a huge difference in your mental health for that day, and cumulatively, for the days and weeks that follow.

4) When you’re at lunch, be at lunch. Don’t bring work with you, and don’t fret about what you have to do when you return to work. Consume a good, nutritious lunch.

Actually taste the food, and chew it thoroughly. In short, do everything your mother told you to do several decades ago. It makes a difference.

Perception Matters

The personal quest for work-life balance is based more on perception than anything else. Those who periodically feel like they have work-life balance are better off than those who might actually have a balance between their work and personal life but don’t perceive themselves to have it!

So, acknowledge the good things going on in your career, at home, and everywhere in between. Your recurring positive thoughts lead to even greater positivity.

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Life

For Equal Treatment, Behavior Overrides Skin Color

Those who say they’ve faced discrimination because of skin color often take little responsibility for their behavior

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Amidst all of the Biden Administration’s debacles, in a mere eight months, let us not forget that it wasted no time in seeking to undermine and dismantle the “1776 Project,” which was designed to offer a balanced perspective on American history. Meanwhile the Administration supports the misdirected “1619 Project,” which is false history and fans the flames of racial dissonance.

Straight from the New York Times: “The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”

Human Nature?

In the midst of this wrangling, one aspect of interracial understanding and relations has long been  overlooked… I was watching television, years back, in a Washington, D.C. hotel room, the night before I was scheduled to give a speech.

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A news feature on a local animal shelter revealed the preferences among dog adopters. Light-colored and multi-colored dogs are popular. The darker the dog, the longer it stays in the shelter. Black dogs are the least popular and have the hardest time attracting an owner.

When selecting a pet, if black fur is the least desirable, is there an implication for a dark-skinned person in this world? Are they born to a life of inherent bias, even when others firmly seek to avoid being prejudiced? All of the anthropological and human behavior books and articles I had ever read leapt forward in my memory.

Blinded by the Night

Is it hardwired for human nature to be attracted to light and be repelled by dark? Light, white, and mild colors are traditionally equated with positive attributes, while dark often is not. Such pairings are primarily subconscious, likely persisting in the human psyche for thousands of years.

Diversity is the fate of species everywhere, not simply on earth. If life is ever discovered on distant planets, the variation in human appearances will more than likely be mirrored by wide variation in whatever species populate those celestial bodies. It’s our ongoing challenge to rise above physiological differences and even the resulting psycho-physiological variations in human behavior, outlook, and disposition. Individually and collectively, we have the ability. It is within our grasp.

Behavior Matters

As we acknowledge our ancient, inherent bias away from dark, and toward light, we must recognize that discrimination should not be attributed to skin color. What is at issue, and is seldom discussed in the mainstream media, is the effect of a person’s behavior on another person. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Author Shelby Steele has written such insightful books as White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era; The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race In America; and A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America. He eloquently argues that often, those who claim that they’re being discriminated against because of skin color, claim little or no responsibility for their behavior.

Black or white or anything else, if you attend public schools for grades 1 to 12 and learn precious little, largely because you didn’t pay attention in class, thought it was cool to goof off, didn’t see the value in conjugating a verb, felt that science was boring, or disdained learning in general, why blame others?

If you seem unable to enter the economic mainstream and land the kind of job and salary you want, who is to blame? A vanishing throng of ‘discriminatory’ employers who don’t hire you because of skin color? Or, discerning employers who don’t hire you due to your academic underachievement, which renders you as under-qualified?

Humans Discriminate Based on Behavior

Discrimination based on skin color is morally corrupt. Discrimination based on behavior is something that all human beings have done since the beginning of time and to this day, and will continue 1000+ years into the future.

It behooves each of us, daily, to do our best, to relegate skin color as non-issue, while recognizing that behavior, along with aptitude, performance, and on-the-job results are the measures most vital to employers.

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