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Slow Down this Day

Most of what you experience each day, in terms of the passage of time, is based on your perception

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Did you do a double-take when you read the title of this article? If so, read on. Most of what you experience each day, in terms of the passage of time, is based on your perception.

You can slow down time if you choose. How? Whenever you feel you’re racing the clock or trying to tackle too much at once, try this exercise:

Close your eyes for a minute. Imagine a pleasant scene. You might be surrounded by trees or with a loved one. It could be something from childhood. Let the emotions of that place and time pervade you. Get into it! Give yourself more than a minute for the visualization to take hold.

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Open your eyes and return to what you’re doing. Whatever care or task you’re working on is not quite so bad and your pace is never quite so feverish.

Pause and Reflect

Imagine you’re flying on an airplane. You have a window seat, and it’s a clear day. As you gaze down to the ground below, what do you see? Life passing by. Cars the size of ants. Miniature baseball diamonds. Rivers the size of streams. There’s something about being at great heights that enables you reflect on your life.

The same phenomenon can take place from the top of a mountain or skyscraper. As often as practical things seem to be racing by too fast, seek higher ground, literally, for a clearer perspective.

If you’re among the lucky, perhaps you regularly allocate time for reflection or meditation. If you don’t, it’s no matter. There are other ways to make it all “slow down.”

After the workday, listen to relaxing music and close your eyes. A half hour of your favorite music with your eyes closed and no disturbances can seem almost endless. When you re-emerge, the rest of the day takes on a different tenor.

An effective method for slowing down time and catching up with today is periodically deleting three items from your “to do list” without doing them at all. Before you shriek, consider that much of what makes your list is arbitrary.

In most cases, eliminating three items won’t impact your career or life, except for freeing up a little time for yourself in the present.

A Change in Medium

I have long used water to reduce stress. For eleven years, I lived in a high-rise condominium in Falls Church, Virginia, complete with its own 25 meter pool. No matter how hard I worked during the day, even if I did a 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. stint, at 6:05 p.m. I was in the pool. After 30 minutes of laps, I had swum out many of the stresses and strains of the day.

Now that I live in North Carolina, more rural by comparison, I have lakes! Here I can swim for a mile in one direction and rarely encounter anyone else. Find the swimming hole nearest you!

In the Animal Kingdom

If you have a dog or cat and do not consider it a drain on your time, here’s a little something about Rover or Mittens that you may not have known. In recent years, as reported by U.S. News & World Report, scientists have found proof for what was only once suspected: Contact with animals has specific and measurable effects on both your body and mind.

The mere presence of animals can increase a sick person’s chances of survival, and has been shown to lower heart rate, calm disturbed children, and induce incommunicative people to initiate conversation!

The exact mechanisms that animals exert to affect your health and well-being are still largely mysterious. Scientists suspect that animal companionship is beneficial because, unlike human interaction (!), it is uncomplicated.

Animals are nonjudgmental, accepting and attentive; they don’t talk back, criticize, or give orders. Animals have a unique capacity to draw people out.

Even if you only have goldfish, sometimes simply staring at them in their silent world can help deaden your hectic pace.

Catching up with Today

1. Constantly read your list of priorities and goals.
2. Challenge and defeat your own ritual behavior.
3. Consider the outcome of not handling something.
4. Convincingly, but politely, say no.
5. Call rather than visit.

6. Clear your desk of all but the task at hand.
7. Clear your files of everything that can be recycled.
8. Cancel something you had already scheduled.
9. Choose from what you already have.
10. Choose to get a good night’s sleep every night.

When you consider all of the ways you add unnecessary pressures to your day, you begin to see many ways to catch up with today or, at least, with this week.

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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

Too Tired for Your Own Good

The realization that you are fatigued is the first step to resolution

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It’s Sunday. Go back to bed and then return to this article!

Based on what you do an average day, it is understandable that sometimes you feel very tired, but when is the tired feeling that you have bordering on danger? Many signs exist, among them these:

    1. Your fatigue is prolonged. Getting several nights of extra sleep in a row or sleeping for an entire weekend doesn’t seem to put a dent in your feeling of fatigue. Perhaps worse, you feel as if you “will never catch up.”
    2. You experience indigestion or lack of appetite. You normally look forward to meals, but when highly fatigued, you have trouble getting them down. Maybe, you’re eating less.
    3. Loss of sex drive. This isn’t as obvious a sign as you might think. Loss of your libido usually takes place a little bit at a time, such that you don’t notice what’s going on. Your partner probably will, though.
    4. You begin to experience trouble getting to sleep, if not outright insomnia. During the night, you find yourself waking more often or tossing back and forth, and then to exacerbate the situation, you spend the rest of the night worrying that you’re not getting good sleep.
    5. You feel tired in the morning even after getting a full night’s sleep. Realistically, there’s no reason for this. If by 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning, you can hardly keep your head up, it’s time to take heed.
    6. Your ability to focus on the task at hand is diminished. Your powers of concentration are not what they have been in the past. Generally, this is not due to your aging.
    7. You feel that you’re no longer in control. In many ways, this is the most insidious of the signs. You doze at highly inopportune moments, such as in an important meeting, or when driving.

Not Enough Sleep, but Otherwise Functional

Here’s a second list of indicators showing that you’re not getting enough sleep, but perhaps you’re not at the danger level:

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  • Your eyes are red.
  • You’re not mentally sharp.
  • You avoid tasks that involve adding up numbers.
  • You find yourself daydreaming often.
  • In situations with others you simply go through the motions.
  • You don’t want to handle any phone calls if you can help it.
  • You watch the clock frequently throughout the day, hoping it will go by more quickly.

Before I learned how to keep my stress level in check, I used to look forward to going to the dentist. When I got to the dentist’s chair, and they tilted the seat back, it was one of the few times during the day where I actually reclined and had relatively little to do. If there wasn’t to be any drilling or serious poking during the session, such as a routine visit or cleaning, in some cases I became so relaxed that I didn’t want to leave. For me, that was an indication that I was highly fatigued.

You probably have your own personal corollaries to this. The realization that you are fatigued is the first step to increasing your efficiency and defeating the problem.  A life of constant exhaustion, no matter what else you accomplish, is not a desirable situation. No one, however, is coming to bail you out.

The road back from exhaustion starts with self-awareness, then resolve, then action. Will today be that day?

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Life

Work-life Balance and the Five-Mega-Realities

Work-life balance is the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home life with needed leisure

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In the 1st edition of my book Breathing Space which appeared in 1990, I discussed five major trends – what I called mega-realities – that influenced every aspect of our being, and from which no one was immune. Briefly, these five mega-realities include:

* an expanding volume of knowledge
* mass media growth and electronic addiction
* the paper trail culture
* an over-abundance of choices
* population growth.

Knowledge – In one way or another, everyone fears being under-informed. The enormous volume of new knowledge broadcasted and published in every field exceeds our ability to keep pace. More words are published and broadcast in a day than you could ingest during your lifetime. America leads the world in sheer volume of information generated and disseminated.

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The impasse of this over-information era is that the time necessary to learn the rules for effective living now exceeds your lifetime. This is why management books so often miss the mark: they list dozens — if not hundreds — of rules, when you are already grappling with more rules than you can handle.

Mass Media – The effect of the mass media on our lives continues unchecked. More than four out of five American households own DVD players. In 1972, three major television networks dominated television – ABC, NBC and CBS. Now, there are more than 500 full-power independent television stations. Many cable TV subscribers receive up to 200 channels that offer more than 72,000 shows per month.

With its sensationalized trivia, the mass media glut obscures fundamental issues that do merit concern, such as preserving the environment or feeding the poor.

Paper Trails – Like having too much data and eyewitness reports, having too much paper to deal with makes you feel overwhelmed and overworked. Americans today are consuming three times as much paper as ten years ago. There are two basic reasons why society spews so much paper:

* We have the lowest postal rates in the world.
* We have the widest base of paper-generating technologies.

The typical executive receives more than 200 pieces of unsolicited mail each month – about 12 pieces daily. The average family receives more than 100 catalogs that they did not request, on top of those they did request.

An Overabundance of Choices – Having choices is a blessing of the free market economy, but it’s overwhelming, increases time expenditure, and is a mounting form of exhaustion. More than 1,260 varieties of shampoo are on the market. More than 2,000 skin-care products are for sale. An excess of 75 different types of exercise shoes are available, each with scores of variations in style, function, and features.

Population – From the beginning of creation to 1,850 AD, world population grew to one billion. It grew to two billion by 1930, and is now approaching eight billion. Every three years, nearly 250,000,000 people are added to the planet.

Each day, world population (births minus deaths) increases by more than 265,000 people. Geometric growth in human population permeates and dominates every aspect of our earth, its resources, the environment, and all living things.

The Quest for Work-life Balance

Against this backdrop, the quest for work-life balance is more vital than ever. Predictably, a preponderance of speakers, trainers, authors, journalists, and others whose professions entail regular communication with the masses, proclaim the virtues of achieving and maintaining work-life balance.

However, a glaring question arises. What, exactly, is work-life balance? Compared to the legions of instances in which the term is cited, surprisingly little has been written in articles and books about what the concept actually entails.

During my 33 years in pursuit of understanding why the pace of society has sped up, what the impact has been on the typical individual, and how each of us can forge our own sense and experience of breathing space throughout our lives, I have honed and refined the tenets of what I consider work-life balance.

What Exactly is Work-life Balance ?

For several years now, those who apparently have no idea what work-life balance is and have virtually never experienced it are proclaiming that it is passe — in favor of work-life harmony or work-life integration.

The truth is, these terms all mean approximately the same things. You can split hairs anyway you want, and I suppose that’s a good way to differentiate a program if you’re seeking to offer one to clients, but the reality is work-life balance is the overarching issue of our time that all career professionals strive to achieve.

Work-life balance is the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home life with sufficient leisure. It is attaining focus and awareness, despite seemingly endless tasks and activities competing for your time and attention.

Work-life balance entails having some breathing space for yourself each day; feeling a sense of accomplishment, while not being consumed by work; and having an enjoyable domestic life without short-changing career obligations. It is rooted in whatever fulfillment means to you within 24-hour days, seven-day weeks, and however many years you have left.

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