“Stress is the negative whirlwind of emotions that gets imposed on top of our stimulation and engagement.”
Andrew J. Bernstein
I’m commencing the New Year with a conversation during the month of January looking at Albrecht’s Four Types of Stress. Each week I’ll discuss one of the four types of stress that affect our lives in some way and how to better manage these common pressures.
Time, invariably the lack of it, is one common thread that appears to connect those who find themselves suffering from stress. Most stressed people are ‘time poor’.
Time management is easy for some of us in life and difficult for others. For me personally, it is a major stressor that I have to constantly work on each day in my life. I constantly find that I have too much day and not enough time to complete the daily schedule I have set myself. I constantly need to come up with innovative solutions.
In life, whether it’s a stay at home parent or a corporate executive, worrying about deadlines or rushing to avoid being late to collect the kids from school or making an important meeting can be a major stressor.
Ways to Manage Time Stress
- Create To-Do Lists for your daily tasks with time lines. Be realistic!
- Create an Action Program for managing several tasks at the same time
- Allow more time than you anticipate is needed. I call this my ‘Contingency Time‘ and it is a huge stress reduction tool.
- Prioritisation helps you separate tasks that you need to focus on now from those you can safely put off to another day.
- Check your energy levels, are you more productive in the morning or the afternoon? Once you identify which it is, load your day accordingly so your production is high when you are really feeling ‘switched on’.
- Your energy levels will assist you in either starting your day early and finishing early, or starting late and finishing late. You choose.
- Using the magic word NO! Declining certain tasks that can be better handled by others or handled by you at a later time, becomes very empowering. Being NICE does not serve you if it creates stress in your life.
You are now ready to start your own personal time enrichment plan to see time stress as a thing of the past.
This blog was written by John Hinwood and republished here with his kind permission. See more at: Stress to Strength.
Effective time management is so important in today’s hectic modern society.
People are constantly on the go dealing with so many different priorities all the time. Particularly with the dominance of smart phone technology, it can be difficult to ever really switch off and have separation between work and personal life.
Because of this, we often feel like we are constantly in a juggling act of impossible multi-tasking just to get everything done. While it can feel productive to do many tasks at once, it is actually degenerative to mental and physical health to multitask too often.
In fact, moving from task to task can actually mean that you are being less productive. We think that we are saving time by doing a million things at once, but this can actually be slowing us down. Each task that we set out to achieve requires a specific mindset. Doing multiple tasks at once can hinder this thought process. It is much better to pay your bills, and then attend to the emails waiting for you. Otherwise the thought processes can intersect and confuse the understanding of the task. For example, if you have four bills to pay and seven emails to reply to, you have eleven tasks. Ordering these tasks 1 – 11 sets out a structured pattern on how to attend to each task. Jumping from task 3 to 6 then back to 1 and then to 11 confuses the order and requires more energy and concentration to remember the step you are up to. A distracted mind can often lead to more mistakes, which is exactly what we want to avoid. There is a real cost to your productivity when you keep switching tasks.
Quite often, the reason we multitask is because we see a back log of tasks that are waiting for us and we stress. Of course it is natural to stress when sorting out so many different aspects of life. But if you think that trying to type a text while unpacking the groceries and thinking about the household chores that need be done is going to reduce stress, it might be time to think again. Breaking time down into categories and sections is more effective than multitasking. Give different tasks a certain priority number and attend to them in order. Ultimately, each task on your mind isn’t going anywhere. You can try to scramble three tasks at the one time, but it doesn’t save time. If you do each task properly and take it one step at a time, you’re still completing the same three things. The only difference is that the latter approach means you can focus properly and not feel completely frazzled about doing three things at once.
So next time you’re trying to text and walk or flicking through twenty tabs open on your internet browser, have a think about what you’re really do. Take time to do one task properly and dedicate your energy to one thing at a time to really get the best out of everything. After all, you want to live in the real world, to be mindful, to be present and enjoy the moments of life without being caught up and stressed about doing everything at once!
I very much want to hear your thoughts and feedback on multitasking, please add your comments below.
Buddhism encourages you to focus on your breathing or on a single principle of Buddhism to calm the monkey mind. But then the annoying thoughts creep back in. You know what I’m talking about. Boring thoughts, really mundane mental memos. “Did I turn off the iron?” “I must remember to send that email to my boss.” “What was that idea I had when I was going to sleep last night?” “I know I’m forgetting something.”
The reality is, when your mind is full of chatter, you can’t just shut it up by trying to shut it off. You have to ask yourself, “Why is this on my mind?” and “How can I log my thoughts to release my mind from the burden of remembering?”
Our brain is a bad and unreliable filing system. Everything big and small is jammed in there. These thoughts become clutter in our head. By living a life of distraction (thank you Social Media and smartphones), we are pushing out the deeper and creative thoughts, along with any hope of real calm.
When looking at the effort required to effectively juggle between home, work, finances and other demands, the modern world seems to have forgotten to be Mindful. Becoming more conscious, being more present, in our own thoughts, feelings and sensations may not sound useful. Yet the principles of mindfulness is to be able to stop, for a moment. To consider things without preconceived judgement, to view things objectively from a different angle. Applying this to a business allows for you to let go of the ‘this-is-the-way-we’ve-alway-done-it’ mindset.
The more you release the burden on your brain, of habitual thinking, of fixed ideas, of remembering and doing everything, the more you are able to be in a state of Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to and observing clearly what is happening, right now.
As mentioned earlier, Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment non-judgmentally. Mindfulness does not come quickly, but the more you practice, the easier it gets. When practicing mindfulness, everyone will experience thoughts creeping into their heads and it is inevitable. In a business context, this can be allowing past experiences to cloud our mind.
You need a systematic approach to extricate the things from your mind. Here are some simple steps to help that process.
- Adopt a reliable capture method to get thoughts out of your head (I love Evernote).
- Create actionable items and next steps on your daily to-do list.
- Review regularly your list to decide what must be done today and when you’re going to do it (on the train, at home etc).
- When you have the time, prioritise as you go and complete the tasks on the list.
- Develop ways to track and monitor along the way. Was there a good return on your resources? (Time and money)
If we don’t clear our mind of all our business, we get annoyed for not being able to retain focus, we stop paying attention and get distracted. Multitasking means that you are not giving mindful attention to the task at hand. Give each task your undivided attention.
Being continually focused on the present and what is happening around us, is the essential attribute of mindfulness. By learning to live the present moment, we build up the ability to step away from habit, from chronic unconscious emotional and physiological reactions. These may be reactions to everyday events, behavioural habits that have formed over time and stuck with us. A moment of mindfulness, allows us to be objective, to look at things from another perspective to either find an alternative way of doing things or to value and build upon something being done well. We are able to respond to things wisely rather than on auto pilot.
Mindfulness enables you to live in the present and improves the quality of your work. With focused effort, we can;
- Observe, slow down and stop automatic decisions;
- Respond more effectively to complex difficult situations;
- See situations more precisely;
- Balance work and home.
Ways of Being Mindful
Mindfulness isn’t just 10-minute morning meditation. It can be incorporated throughout your everyday life by simply paying a little more attention to your daily activities as you’re performing them. To list a few:
- Pay attention to your breathe-Calming your breath is the key to calm your brain. Are you starting to feel wound up? Are you taking a break, a breather, a walk away for a moment. Smokers have the misconception that it calms them (it’s actually a stimulant) but the old “smoko” is a method of taking a breather and allowing some mental down time from the job at hand.
- Multitasking can be the enemy of focus. The time it takes for our brain to switch from one task to another can take valuable seconds away from the task. We would achieve all the tasks much quicker if we did them one at a time. A recent study reported in the Journal Of Experimental Psychology found that it took students far longer to solve complicated maths problems when they had to switch to other tasks – in fact, they were up to 40 per cent slower.
Getting outside- Spending quality time with nature allows you to increase your focus. (It’s that smoko thing again!)
- Being Happy – Laughter and meditation have similar effects on the brain.
The moment you become mindful and start living in the present, you will become the curator of your world. It is always good to a keep a watch on what you think, how you think or what you say as the world swivels on the law of attraction.
Share with me what you feel is a method for clearing your mind and staying focused?
If you’d like to try a complimentary coaching session to see if Time Management Coaching is right for you, CLICK HERE to make an appointment at a time convenient for you.
About the Author:
Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a time management & stress management enthusiast based in Alice Springs, Australia. She has spent over 20 years working in time precious and stressful industries such as film, hospitality and marketing. She has always had a burning passion for creating order and making sense of things. She is sought after like a beacon in a sea of chaos to provide professional development in the business environment through workshop training, coaching, mentoring, online training programmes, webinars and as a guest speaker around Australia. Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care, Universities, Health Services and Cruise Ships. Follow Barbara on Twitter @barbclifford.