Archive for November 2011

It’s that time of year again – have you got the Burnout Blues?

Have you got the Burnout Blues?What is it about this time of year that pushes 'busyness' over the top? Artificial deadlines appear for things that must be finished by the end of the year. Then there's the Christmas preparation overhead.  No wonder we feel like we're running on empty.

If you’re feeling stressed and time poor, rest assured you’re not alone.  Latest figures from the Race Against Time Report, show that balancing work and family remains a big issue for Australian men and women, with around 40% of women and 30% of men feeling often or always rushed or pressed for time.

The report shows how the sharing of household tasks, longer working longer hours (including more early starts, late finishes and weekends at the office) and more time spent commuting  are all impacting the quality of our lives.  It also seems that the more we earn, the less free time we have, with those in the upper quartile having between 1.5 and 2 hours less per day to play than those in the lower quartile.

Seems like ‘busyness’ is a way of life but it’s not necessarily good for us.  Left unchecked, this state of being can lead to a nasty dose of the Burnout Blues.

What are the Burnout Blues?

The Burnout Blues (BBs) are a side effect of relentless 21st-century living. They feed on society’s expectations, an unhealthy lifestyle of too much work, lack of direction, time and purpose, loneliness, and disempowering beliefs.

Put simply, the BBs create an abiding and ever-increasing sense of despair, discontent, disenchantment, and disconnect. Rarely attributable to one definable cause, they start slowly and gradually pervade every part of a sufferer’s life.

A chronic, insidious condition, the BBs have become a way of being for many people. They feel powerless to control or change anything, yet often invest a lot of energy, time and emotion ineffectively trying to control and change everything. Nothing they do alters the outcome and prolonged sufferers inadvertently become sitting duck victims.

The BBs are a common response to the pressures of juggling work and life, though not a clinically diagnosable mental condition.  However, failure to recognise and address them can lead to prolonged anxiety, exhaustion, physical illness and depression.  So… how are you feeling?  Let’s see if you’re suffering from the Burnout Blues.

Top 5 Burnout Blues Symptoms

While there are over 20 common symptoms of the Burnout Blues, here are five that may be familiar.  If you had to rate how often you’ve experienced these over the last year    (0 = never ? 5 = all the time), what score would you give yourself for these:

Symptoms                                  Beliefs                                               Typical feelings

1. Stress……………..…….  too much to do, too little time  …………………… pressured

2. Demotivated…………..  whatever………………………………………………….. bored

3. Frustration……………..  my best is never good enough………………………. irritated

4. Controlling……..    if it’s going to be right, I have to do it myself…………….. inflexible

5. Guilt………………….   I can’t say no or let people down……………….. compromised

If you scored 3 or above for any of these, don’t despair.  We all inhale the exhaust fumes of life yet it is possible to filter out those which contribute to the Burnout Blues.  By identifying the cracks in your life that need attention, you can take out the polyfiller and repair them.

Top 3 Tips for Beating the Burnout Blues

Simple life repairs and renovations now will prevent major problems further down the track.   Here are some actions you can take right now to stop the rot setting in:

1.  Step back and notice how you respond to events

One of the most common reasons we suffer the Burnout Blues is that we ‘buy in’ to the drama and invest precious emotional energy in it.  Notice how you feel when your work phone rings while you’re having dinner with the family at night.  When work pressure increases, the stress levels of those around you quickly rise.  Before you know it, you’re also time poor, stressed out and struggling to maintain perspective.  This often leads to an instinctive reaction, driven by your fight or flight reflex as you go into an auto-pilot survival mode.

Mentally step back, as if you’re a fly on the wall, and simply notice what’s happening, without reacting.  Take a walk outside and give yourself space before consciously deciding how you will respond to the situation.  Ask yourself, how do I need to be to manage this situation effectively?  By consciously choosing how you’ll respond, you create the ability to conserve your energy, maintain perspective and know that ‘this too will pass’.

2.  Instigate a ‘Be Kind to Me’ Strategy

The busier we get, the more we tend to neglect ourselves.  Believing it to be ‘selfish’ to put ourselves first, we mistakenly focus on helping others while our own energy bucket empties out.  Before you know it, you’ve become tired, unfit and struggling to get everything done.

Although it may seem initially counterintuitive, putting yourself first is vital.  When you carve out time each day to do something that refills your energy reserves, you’re much better placed to help others.  What’s more, when your wellbeing is regularly nurtured, you have more capacity, opportunity and perspective.

What’s one thing you can do every day to take care of you?

3.  Keep what’s working well and ‘ditch’ the rest.

Nothing’s all bad and it’s important to recognise the parts of your career and life that are working well.  What parts are OK or even terrific and what have you done to make them this way?  Having identified your success strategy for these parts of your life, how can you apply them to the other areas?

For example – I’m pretty successful at resolving problems at work by taking time to understand them first, involving and listening to others and agreeing on what ‘fixed’ looks like.  This is a strategy you could also use at home to encourage your partner and children to share more of the household tasks.

Whatever’s not working has to go or change.  Identify the main contributors to your Burnout Blues.  Specifically, what’s the main cause of your anxiety, exhaustion and discontent?  If it’s your job – what’s within your control that you can change?  If the work is no longer fulfilling, interesting and enjoyable, maybe it’s time for a career change.

Consciously reducing tasks that add little value is immediately liberating.  Seriously, if you don’t check your emails every 5 minutes, will it really matter in a hundred years?  Close email and check your messages 3 times a day instead and notice how much more you get done.

The pressures of 21st century living are not going away anytime soon.  However, there’s far more within your control than you may think and living with the Burnout Blues doesn’t need to be inevitable.

So what’s one small thing you can change that will make the biggest difference today?

Carpe diem

Caroline Cameron

 
This blog is an extract from THE GREAT LIFE REDESIGN – change how you work, live how you dream and make it happen TODAY .  Available online and in all good bookstores.

A Simple Solution to the Work/Life Balance Puzzle

It seems like the harder we try to solve it, the busier, more
stressed and exhausted we become.

A Simple Solution to the Work Life Balance PuzzleYou only have to Google ‘Work Life Balance’ (over 32 million results) to know it’s something we all aspire to yet struggle with.

Reality Check:  Work/Life Balance is actually an unattainable myth and the quest to achieve it is futile!

Think about it.  The idea of a ‘balanced’ life is actually flawed. Taken literally, balance suggests equal amounts of everything you’d love to cram into each day and it’s simply not possible.  If we spend 8 hours sleeping, this leaves 16 hours for everything else.  Do you really want or need to devote equal time to your work, health, family, leisure, daily incidentals and other priorities?

The other flaw in the work/life balance proposition is the inherent assumption that work is ‘bad’ and the rest of life is ‘good’ and we should therefore strive for less work and more of the rest of life.  Once you uncouple work from life, it all starts to unravel.  If you didn’t work, how would you support the rest of your life? Besides, many people actually enjoy their work which provides challenge, social connection, variety, routine,
certainty and financial stability.

Lifestyle pressures pull the pieces apart.  These are often self-imposed and it’s relatively simple (not to be mistaken with ‘easy’), to change them when you know how.  Like a jigsaw, all the parts of your life interlock and you are the common denominator.  So now you’ve been freed from the struggle, let's see how to piece together the puzzle and create a seamless picture of your life.

An Integrated Life – a realistic and attainable alternative

Rather than striving to achieve balance by enforcing strict boundaries between work and life, it’s much easier to integrate your life and treat it as a whole. Once you’ve mastered the art and skill, all the parts work harmoniously to support rather than compete with each other.

How to live an Integrated Life:

  • Decide what's important (our priorities often get lost amidst the 'busyness' of everyday life) and let go of that which isn’t.
  • Consciously devote time to what's important – scheduling self-appointments in your diary to get things done; learning to say 'no' without guilt, planning and responding rather than reacting.
  • Change your expectations – many of us are notoriously hard on ourselves believing we can and should 'do it all'. Be kind to yourself and take the pressure off.  You can have and do it all once you’ve decided what ‘all’ is, how much you really want it and what’s possible.

Living an integrated life is vital for your physical and mental wellbeing and once achieved, creates a positive impact on the lives of those you care about.  This includes
being a great role model for your children, friends and colleagues.

If creating an integrated life seems hard, these 3 steps will make it easier:

  1. Check in on what you're telling yourself.  For example, if you believe you have to  work a 50+ hour week, how do you know that? What evidence is there and who said so? We often fail to challenge work place norms and in doing so hold fast to limiting beliefs such as, I have to be at work before the boss arrives and stay till after he/she has left.  How do you know that?  Have you actually asked him or her directly?
  2. Turn statements and beliefs into better questions.  Instead of I have to work long hours to be successful, ask yourself If I could be successful by swapping the long hours for working smarter, how would I do that?
  3. Learn how to influence others constructively.  Creating an integrated life requires compromise and effective negotiation techniques are a powerful skill to master. Positive conversations with your boss (eg about working shorter hours or working from home), partner and children (to help out more around the house) are simple when you know how.

All puzzles are easy to solve once you have the solution.  Remember, you don’t have a ‘work’ and a ‘life’ – you only have one life. Don’t you owe it to yourself and those you care about to integrate the parts to make it work well for you?

Find out more about how to create an integrated life in my book, The Great Life Redesign – change how you work, live how you dream and make it happen today.  It will be available from all good bookstores and online in January.

Carpe Diem

Caroline Cameron

 

 

 

Unexpected Life Lessons from an Unconventional Teacher

So much wisdom from one small vegetable!

Unexpected Life Lessons from an Unconventional TeacherOK, so I’m not the world’s most gifted green thumb but when I planted my winter veggies back in April, I did expect to be harvesting a few fresh cauliflowers by the end of June. The label even said they’d be ready within eight weeks.

By the end of July I had promising looking leaves but no cauliflowers.  In late August the leaves were even bigger but nothing more.  By September I’d forgotten all about them and given up.  It looked like a self-fulfilling prophecy – I’m hopeless at growing veggies and this proved it!

The vegetable patch was soon taken over by enthusiastic weeds as I resigned myself to failure and other priorities took over.  The cold wet winter gave way to warm spring sunshine and towards the end of October, I decided to give up on the winter crop.
Besides it was time to plant fresh lettuce, baby cucumber and sweet tomatoes and transfer my hope to the lovely tastes of summer.

Approaching the veggie patch to clear it all out and start again I suddenly stopped.  There, to my amazement, was a perfect cauliflower, peering up at me amidst the weeds!  A few days later, two more beautiful cauliflowers appeared.  Nearly seven months after they were planted, they'd finally decided the time was right.

Here’s what I’ve learnt from such a seemingly mundane event:

  1. Don’t give up too soon – success could be just around the corner
  2. Surprises happen when you least expect them and are all the sweeter for waiting
  3. Expectation often generates disappointment
  4. Many things happen in their own good time if you simply ‘leave them be’
  5. Patience is a seriously underrated virtue

These are all timely reminders for anyone experiencing change.  Whether you're redesigning your life – changing jobs, relationships, where or how you live or going through change in your workplace, pearls of wisdom will make the transition easier.

Who knew I could learn so much from a cauliflower?  Now that my conscious awareness is switched on, I’m looking for learning and timely reminders everywhere.

What unexpected life lessons have you learnt from an unconventional ‘teacher’?

Carpe diem

Caroline

 

 

Is your personal brand shooting you in the foot?

How you're perceived can make or break your success

Is your personal brand shooting you in the foot?Whether you’re a senior executive, working mum, public servant, small business owner or large corporation, your personal brand matters.

As Qantas grapples with the daunting task of rebuilding its credibility, it’s a great time to do a reality check on your brand.

When you think of successful, reputable companies such as Google, Apple, Disney, BMW and Lego (Top 5 place holders in the Global RepTrak 2011 consumer study into the reputations of the world's most prominent companies), what comes to mind? Each does what it claims to do consistently, predictably and exceptionally well.

Likewise, Oprah has created a strong brand that is so trustworthy, relatable and credible that when she endorses a book or individual, success is almost guaranteed.

Why your personal brand is so important

What you do and the way that you do it tells clients, employers, colleagues, friends and family everything they need to know about you.  Getting your brand wrong is the quickest way to kill your reputation, credibility, career and relationships. Your brand is what makes people to decide whether they want to work, socialize and spend time with you, or not…

Having a clear and consistent brand:

  • improves your ability to influence and make a positive difference
  • makes it easier and quicker to get things done
  • leads to greater fulfillment and wellbeing as you achieve what’s important to you in a way that feels right.

Define your personal brand

The 3 vital and interconnected keys to your brand are Image, Integrity, and Trust.
The following questions will help you define your brand and identify what you need to change to make it even stronger.

Image

Image is all about aligning your intention with how people perceive you.  It
includes how you look, what you say and how you behave.  Ask yourself:

  • How do I want to be perceived? I want to be perceived as someone who …
  • How am I actually perceived and how do I know this?
  • How do those who are successful in this field project themselves?
  • What do I need to project for people to have confidence in me?

Integrity

Closely linked to honesty, Integrity encapsulates your personal values and how well you ‘walk your talk’.  Those whose actions consistently align with their values and beliefs make a point of always doing what they say they’ll do.  They are highly regarded and always in demand.  Ask yourself:

  • What does integrity mean to me?
  • What do I stand for and what am I 100% committed to?
  • How do I demonstrate integrity in everything I do?
  • Where do I struggle to do what I’ve committed to do every time, without fail?

Trust

Your credibility (how believable you are) is based on the degree to which people trust you.  To trust you people first need to know and then like you.  Not to be confused with
being the ‘same’, we all like people ‘like’ us. This includes the degree to which you demonstrate respect for others.  Ask yourself:

  • What do I share and how do I share it to enable others to get to know me?
  • How do others predict what I am going to say and do?
  • What can I best be relied upon for?
  • How do others know, with absolute certainty, that they can trust me?

If you had to summarise your answers to these questions in a short, pithy, compelling sentence to articulate your personal brand, what would it be?  Weave this into your resume, LinkedIn and other profiles to help others get to know you better.

Your answers to these questions will help you communicate who you are, your strengths, abilities and priorities.  Consciously strengthen your brand based on the responses you get and notice what happens. Opportunities more closely linked to your passions and who you are will increase.  It will also become easier to  synchronise your work and life with your values and beliefs.

If you need help to develop and strengthen your brand to achieve your personal and professional goals, contact Possibility to Reality today.  It’s much easier than you think!

Carpe diem

Caroline Cameron