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Thriving Despite the Noise, Crowds, and Clutter

If you want to avoid being stuck in traffic, waiting in line, and scrambling with the masses for goods and services, some obvious strategies begin to appear

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The next time you head out on the highway, (whether in a gas guzzler or not), and notice that traffic is moving at a crawl, remember it’s not only your city or state, it’s happening across the U.S. and across the globe. Author Nina Tassi, in Urgency Addiction, observes that many people express worry and frustration about transportation, ostensibly because “every busy person’s life is taken up by getting from here to there.”

Too Much of Everything

You read about drivers getting into quarrels during commuting time. The anger and hostility people feel towards one another when they get behind the wheel is a mirror of the overall feelings that increasing numbers of people are beginning to experience with living in a society that is getting too politically polarized, too crowded, moving too fast, and becoming too congested.

Professor Richard Williams, at Duke University, says that, “Each time we slam the steering wheel when we’re cut off in traffic or blow our stack at work, we’re endangering our future well-being because of our evolutionary past. When we feel threatened, the brain sends an emergency call to the nervous system. If we dress in animal skins, staring down a saber tooth tiger, as did our most distant ancestors, the body’s response would serve us well. The sudden burst of stress hormones would shift our circulatory system into high gear, sending additional blood and energy stores to our waiting muscles.”

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Today, rather than the random saber-toothed tiger, our frequent stress comes from endless miles of chugging along at five miles an hour, or ridiculously slow supermarket check-out counters. The repeated release of stress hormones proves dangerous as it accelerates the development of clogged arteries.

Getting Unstuck

If you want to avoid being stuck in traffic, waiting in line, and scrambling with the masses for goods and services, some obvious strategies begin to appear:

1. Live closer to your office. I can’t think of anything that makes more sense. If you work for an organization, regardless of the metro or suburban area in which you work, undoubtedly there are good neighborhoods a reasonable distance away. When you live closer to your office, you benefit in many, many ways:
* Less commuting time, less gasoline cost.
* Less wear and tear on your car in general.
* More flexibility in departing for the office and for back home.

2. Telecommute. You might have gotten lots of practice during the pandemic. If you can work at home as little as one day per week, perhaps a Wednesday, you cut your week of commuting in half.

3. Become a contrarian. If everyone vacations on holidays, use that day to work. Take your time off when everyone else is working. If everyone heads into the city between 7 and 9 a.m., then head in between 5 and 6, or 10 and 11. If this sounds too stark for you, experiment with it a little at a time. People who arrange their schedules to avoid competing with the masses in terms of travel and leisure feel good about it.

4. Do more of your shopping online. Rather than fight with all the other people for parking spaces at the mall, order by online catalog. Many vendors have liberal return policies as well. It’s a great way to shop because you can sit and think about what you’re doing, without getting jostled, overwhelmed, and unfocused in a hurry.

5. Be more selective as to what information you take in. Remember, in a world of eight billion people, there will be more books, articles, movies, plays, commentaries, opinions, and points of view. Unless you actively limit what you allow to compete for your time and attention, your days will race by faster than you care to live them.

6. Give yourself recurring sanctuary. How do Japanese, in a country the size of California, but with five times the population of California, find any breathing space? Everybody needs to have some time for themselves, if only to “zone out.” Undoubtedly, there are places you’ve already carved out – your rec room, study, backyard, or favorite vacation spot. The key is to use these places, and get some of the rest and relaxation you so fervently need.

Seek Summaries

Finally, forsake day-to-day tuning in. Instead of trying to ingest everything that the media has to offer, seek summaries of news and information. Much of what’s presented to you is not news, anyway.

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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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Business

Four Reasons to Be Reflective at This Time of Year

Regardless of what kind of year you have had, there were undoubtedly many triumphs as well as setbacks

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As one season ends and we make way for the next, it is the perfect time to reflect on our careers and our personal lives.

Regardless of what kind of year you have had, there were undoubtedly many triumphs as well as setbacks. If you are a career professional, particularly if your career is thriving, you have many reasons to be thankful.

Perhaps you get to arrange your office in the way that you choose. You work with people who share, presumably, your vision in terms of advancing the organization. Perhaps, you are able to take off numerous weekends, not to mention have some extended vacations.

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A Little Reflection

It behooves each of us to stop and reflect as to how lucky we are. Regardless of any current challenges, on balance, most of the time, each of us experience a life that intermittently contains excitement, disappointments, wonders, triumphs, sorrows, and moments of pure joy.

If it has been hard for you to be reflective over the years, but you nevertheless recognize the benefits, here are four reasons why it makes sense to do so now:

1) If you have your health, it has been said, you have everything. While that might not be exactly so, health is still one of the individual treasures of our existence on earth. Everyone who deems themselves to be healthy, myself included, should acknowledge this truly great gift on a continual basis.

2) Consider your family, friends, peers, coworkers, and other professional associates. Within that broad swath of humanity, clearly there are people whom you care about deeply. There are people who make a difference in your life. There are good friends and peers who add great value on a regular basis. For this, we can be thankful.

3) Whether you live in the U.S. or abroad, presumably, you can be thankful for the many benefits of living in your respective country, where you are allowed to pursue your livelihood, make a decent income, are a respected member of the community, and look forward to years more of being held in esteem by those around you.

4) In anticipation of the next few months, and all the adventures and triumphs that are forthcoming, who would not be thankful? Right now represents a time of opportunity. We are not merely robot clones proceeding in life, looking through the rear view mirror, exhibiting only the behaviors and characteristics that we have previously exhibited.

Many Chances

We have many chances to proceed in new ways – to make new explorations, take on new challenges, assume new types of behaviors, and, indeed, even wholesale reinvent ourselves. For that capability alone, we can agree about the importance of being reflective and thankful.

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Break Free from Your Electronic Shackles

You owe it to yourself to have quiet, uninterrupted stretches throughout the day

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As the end of 2021 draws near, it’s as good a time as any to reassess our relationship with our personal technology. I encounter career professionals in all types of endeavors who cannot bear to be away from their smart phones or mobile devices for any protracted period. Their fear is the risk of missing a vital call, one that could lead to, say, a huge business contract.

Today nearly everybody proceeds as if they are constantly at risk of missing out on something by not being near their smart phone or other communication device. Sadly, such individuals can’t consistently muster the concentration levels necessary to executive their tasks. The notion of being immersed in a project with no possible distractions is seemingly out of the question. This mind set represents irrational thinking for many reasons.

Jumping for Every Call

On most days, most of the time, no call is coming that is so critical that you have to be attuned to commutation devices around the clock. Even when a big opportunity comes your way, if you position your business correctly, you don’t need to be overly concerned with having to answer the phone call or the inquiry the moment it comes.

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Establishing notable differentiation in what you offer in your target niche increases the probability that callers and inquirers who are seeking your product or services will not abandon ship merely because you weren’t available the first moment they made contact. Indeed, my entire career, as a professional speaker has been based on this concept.

When someone calls my number to book me for a speaking engagement at their conference or convention, fortunately, they usually are calling because they want me in particular. I hold the registered trademark as “The work life balance expert” and have established this niche over the last 24 years.

Typically inquirers are not seeking a “time management speaker” or a “stress management speaker,” although on occasion that does happen. My strategy has never been to be perceived as a rank and file time management or stress management speaker. The inquirers I receive invariably are from those people who wanted something different and, in particular, wanted me.

Differentiate or Die

Likewise in your business, or in your career, when you differentiate what makes you unique and or better than the competition, the obsession with being available the moment anybody inquires vanishes.

Suppose you haven’t clearly differentiated your product or services. Even then, you don’t have to be totally attentive to smart phones and mobile devices around the clock. You merely need to establish a trade-off between the times when it makes sense for you to concentrate on the task at hand, versus those times when you are available to all inquiries.

Especially for entrepreneurs in solo or small companies, you can offer automated or posted messages that tell inquirers the best times to reach you. Most people can understand and respect that. Yes, there will be instances when the inquirer goes on to the next party down the list and you lose that opportunity. That, however, cannot be the rationale for your being a slave to communication technology around the clock.

A Lost Prospect Equals Death?

Years back in a course I attended, the instructor said that if you’re in sales, for example, and you’re overly focused on making this one sale, you won’t be at your best. The prospect can feel your anxiety. Why would you be so anxious about this sale? The presenter said, too many people unconsciously contemplate a string of potential disasters. If they don’t make this sale, they might not make quota and their income will suffer. By not having considerable earnings, they may have to do without. Their spouse might be upset. Their children might starve.

If other sales prospects fall through, they could lose they could be in dire financial straights. They could lose their home. They could imperil their company. As a result of this, they might fall ill. They might not have the funds to take care of themselves, and then they might die.

In other words, amazingly, many sales professionals, as well as entrepreneurs and executives in a wide variety of companies, approach a current opportunity with the subconscious mind set that if they are not successful at this particular juncture, it leads to death.

The Larger Toll

Missing an opportunity is not the end of the world, even missing a large contract because the inquirer went to the next party on the list. Conversely, what is the toll taken on you for being available 24/7? How effective have your solutions been clients when you are not able to focus on the task at hand, offer your complete and undivided attention, and hence do you best work?

As we proceed into an ever faster future of greater technological capability, the risk of missing something important versus being able to do our best work will become a larger issue. It’s vital to establish parameters now as to when we will maintain “an open door policy” of being accessible via electronic communication, and when we will safeguard our ability to focus and concentrate by removing or at least limiting any such intrusions.

You owe it to yourself to have quiet, uninterrupted stretches throughout the day and the week when you can think, evaluate, and make the kinds of decisions that propel your company forward.

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