Archive for Time Management

The Workstation Warrior’s Guide to Freedom

Had a bad day at the office?

The Workstation Warrior's Guide to FreedomAs a child, when someone asked you “What do you want to do when you grow up?”, it’s unlikely you would have said, “Oh, I’d love to spend my days in a small, beige laminate 3 x 3 space with my very own lockable cabinet.”

Yet many of us do and regardless of whether you’re doing a job you enjoy or not, your work space has the power to suck the very life out of you! Arriving early, you boot up your computer and wander round to the kitchen to let your sandwich hang out in the fridge with mouldy lunches long forgotten.

By the time you’ve trawled through the sea of red emails crowding your inbox (that appeared seemingly out of nowhere overnight), it’s time for a heart starter coffee.

Grabbing your regular coffee buddy you make your way to the usual cafe. While your skinny latte’s making its way into a polystyrene cup, you shoot the breeze with the other workstation warriors you see most mornings.

Back at your cubicle, you try to get your head into that report you’ve been writing for days. Just as you’re starting to make progress, it’s time for an important meeting. (Oh joy, another hour of your life to be wasted in a windowless meeting room, listening to endless discussions about who knows what.) You look interested whilst pondering how to make it across the road to your next back to back meeting on time.

After downing your lunch at your beloved workstation and catching up on the latest online news or Facebook goss, it’s time to do battle with those now even more out of control emails. (Doesn’t anyone pick up the phone or get off their bottom and come round to talk anymore?) By 2pm it feels like you’ve spent more time looking for things than getting them done.

An urgent request to prepare slides for your boss’ presentation to the board tomorrow suddenly shoves everything else onto the backburner. Yes, it was scheduled 3 weeks ago, but for some reason it slipped his mind and now it’s up to you to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat. And if he could have the preso by 5pm so he’s got time to read it over, that would be great thanks.

By the time you head out the door to battle the peak hour traffic, you’re exhausted.  You’re racing to pick up the children and you’ve no idea what’s for dinner! Somehow none of this was part of the plan when you started your career and surely there’s more to life…

Sound familiar? Read on!

These Workplace Warrior Survival Tips will make life bearable while you hatch your freedom plan.

#1. Take Control of Your Space

Make time to clean up your workstation and ruthlessly biff anything you no longer need. Keeping your physical space uncluttered goes a long way to regaining your overall sense of control and freedom.  Within the boundaries of your work place, personalise your workstation or desktop with images that inspire, amuse and motivate you.

#2. Schedule Self Appointments for the Important Stuff

Given how much our workdays are dictated by electronic calendar invites, I’m constantly surprised how few people book an appointment with themselves to get the real work done.  Block out Real Work Time, get your head down and instantly feel more fulfilled by what you are able to get done.  If you need to work uninterrupted, book a meeting room or work from home, disappear and focus on the task at hand.

#3. Decide what Meetings You Really Must Attend

The ‘need to be needed’ and ‘in the know’ drives many people to attend meetings they can neither learn from nor contribute anything meaningful to.  If the meeting invite doesn’t state a clear purpose nor included an outcome oriented agenda, politely decline and reclaim productive hours back into your week.  If the outcome of the meeting you declined is important, you’ll find out about it one way or another.

#4 . Get Out at Lunchtime

The work will always be there and heroically downing your sandwich with one hand whilst answering emails with the other, won’t get it done any quicker. Research shows that those who clear their heads with a brisk walk or go for a run during their lunch break, are significantly more productive in the afternoon. Use the headspace time to regroup or decide what you’re going to cook for dinner!

#5. Plan Your Great Escape

If your current job isn’t remotely linked to what you really want to do, it’s time for a change. Decide what your dream work looks, sounds and feels like.  Find out what it involves and research the options. Create a plan to bridge the gap between now and your ideal future. (The Great Life Redesign provides a simple blueprint to make this easy).

#6. Change How You Look at Things

Once your Great Life Redesign vision and plan are crystal clear, the work you’re doing now becomes your ticket to freedom! Having clearly decided your future, your current role becomes a necessary, temporary transition job, rather than your life’s work. When each day is deliberately bringing you a step closer to your dream, today’s job takes on a whole new meaning.

Better still, when you’ve packed your Thrival Kit with resilience, perspective, courage and success, each day becomes noticeably easier.

Life’s too short to be chained to a workstation merely marking time to pay the bills.  Focus on what you really want, play to your strengths by doing more of what you love and do well.

Plan your escape and enjoy each day as it comes.

Do you have a favourite workplace survival tip that gives you more freedom?  If so, please share, I’d love to hear it.

Carpe Diem
Caroline Cameron

 

Be Careful What You Wish For

What’s your job really costing you and is it worth it?

Work Trap37 year old Mary had everything she could wish for or… did she?

Always ambitious, she’d finally scored her dream job heading up a $75m, international project for a construction company. The luring package included a generous, multiple six-figure salary, all expenses paid business class travel, ipad, iphone and a number of other glittering perks.

But it came at a cost.

Whilst taking a short break with her family over Christmas, her days were constantly interrupted by streams of urgent phone calls from her manager, anywhere between 7am and 10pm. Emails couldn’t wait so she logged on down at the beach while her beautiful, eight year old daughter Ellie played in the waves and built sandcastles on her own. Her demanding client didn’t ‘get’ the time zone difference and the sound of incoming text messages echoed through the darkness while her family slept on.

Yes, she could have turned the phone off and refused to log in – after all, she was on annual leave. However, Mary’s company had an unwritten rule and unspoken expectation that senior executives would be on call and contactable 24/7. Besides she didn’t want to let her client, manager or team down and was committed to being ‘on top of it all’.

Her husband Dave was resigned to but unhappy about the constant interruptions and their arguments were becoming more frequent. Even when she was with her family, she wasn’t really. Totally conflicted, by the time she returned to work Mary was stressed and exhausted.  If nothing changes, she’ll pay the ultimate price losing her health, closest relationships and happiness.

It seems as though we’ve spent the last 10 years striving to become more efficient, mobile, contactable and indispensable – but at what cost? Latest figures from the Race Against Time Report, (National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling and AMP Financial Services) show that balancing work and family remains a big issue for working men and women, with around 40% of women and 30% of men feeling often or always rushed or pressed for time. Worse still, you probably won’t be paid or adequately compensated for ‘out of hours’ work.

It’s your life – hop into the driver’s seat and take control

If Mary’s story sounds familiar to you or someone you’re close to, maybe it’s time to take stock. Ask yourself:

  • What are the real expectations of the job (rather than the assumptions)?
  • What price am I really paying and is it worth it?
  • What am I prepared to do to get the job done and have a life?
  • What boundaries do I need to keep my job in perspective and priorities in focus?
  • Who can I call on to share the workload and how else could we get the job done?

Set up a meeting with your manager and team, go prepared with creative solutions and be open to new ways of working. Remember, your colleagues have a life outside work too. While work demands are ever-increasing, the pressure on companies to reduce stress and foster wellbeing is growing too. But the ultimate responsibility for yours rests with you.

Get clear about what’s important, decide what you are prepared to do (or not) and take deliberate action to make it happen.

Life’s short – it’s time to get moving and create the life you really wish for.

Carpe diem.

Caroline

 

 

If you’re wanting simple ways to reclaim your life, my new book, The Great Life Redesign will show you how.  It’s now available in all good bookstores and here.

How to Love the Festive Season, no matter what!

A Thrival Kit – your secret weapon against festive season gremlins

Have you ever noticed how quickly the festive season can turn pear-shaped? In spite of meticulous planning, great expectation and fever pitched excitement, it only takes a poorly chosen gift or misplaced, thoughtless comment for ‘peace on earth’ to be shattered! Before you know it the kids are grumpy, the adults have declared war and what you hoped would be a happy family time has disintegrated into bitter arguments that could last a lifetime.

If this is your worst Christmas nightmare, relax – help is at hand. A well-packed Thrival Kit is the secret to sailing through this time of year with your goodwill to all men, sanity and happiness intact.

The Thrival Kit – this year's 'must have' gift

A Thrival Kit is a small but powerful set of tools that are easy to access and use, whenever you need them. Consisting of keys, questions, symbols and pearls, your Thrival Kit is free of charge and light to carry. Once packed with the right tools, it becomes your constant companion through the good and not-so-good times. Whilst being particularly handy for beating holiday season stress, once you’ve packed one, you’ll want it beside you all year round.

The contents of a Thrival Kit are like multi-vitamins. Taken daily, they become new habits and a new way of being that will ensure you thrive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Let’s take a look inside a typical Thrival Kit, see what these tools are and learn how to use them.

Three essential thrival keys:  your purpose, values and inner resources

Your purpose, values and inner resources are the most powerful keys available to you. They provide direction, the ability to prioritise and achieve whatever you set your mind to and heart on. Even better, you already have them! These are already inherently within you, you just may not be aware of them. Consciously accessing these ‘thrival keys’ will unlock previously shut doors, open up new possibilities and ensure you have everything you need to choose how you want things to be.

Whilst your purpose (reason for being here) and values (core principles, standards and ideals) guide your decisions and actions, it’s your inner resources that will help you thrive, regardless of what’s happening at your place this holidays.

Engage your inner resources

Limitless and super powerful, your resources are inner states of being that you can call on at any time, in any situation. Whether you are feeling sad, happy, doubtful or certain, inner resources reside in everyone. Once identified, you’ll soon master the art of recognising which you need in any situation. From here you can effortlessly call on the best inner resources to achieve your desired outcome.

Your inner resources provide instant light when it is dark and energy to take action. They are the power source for your purpose and values. Engaging them means you never need feel disempowered, angry or stressed ever again. Whether you are confronting a challenge, keeping the peace or determined to make the most of a magical moment, there’s a resource for every situation.

The 12 most powerful inner resources to keep close at hand over the festive season include:

  1. Acceptance
  2. Caring
  3. Calm
  4. Caution
  5. Contentment
  6. Flexibility
  7. Fun
  8. Joy
  9. Maturity
  10. Peace
  11. Perspective
  12. Spontaneity

What else can go in a Thrival Kit?

Basically anything that will help you sail through potentially stressful moments and take on new challenges. Thinkg about adding:

  • Powerful questions to help you make the best decision in the heat of the moment – eg How do I want this to be and what can I do to create it?
  • Strength symbols provide a physical stress reducer – these include special items such as a piece of jewellry that create instant calm when you touch them.
  • Pearls of wisdom – a phrase or saying to adopt as a calming mantra (one of my favourites, accompanied by a deep breath, is 'Keep Calm and Carry On').

Be Prepared for Anything

Holidays are a time when family legends are often written! Events good and bad are remembered and recalled by everyone for years. How you choose to be will determine whether you buckle under the pressure and ‘lose it’ or love every moment, regardless of what happens. A well-packed Thrival Kit will ensure you’re armed and ready for anything.

What else will you be packing and pulling out of your Thrival Kit this festive season?

Carpe diem

 

 

P.S.  To find out how to create more empowering tools for your Thrival Kit, grab a copy of The Great Life Redesign – change how you work, live how you dream and make it happen TODAY!  Available here and in all good bookstores.

Rat Race Feeders – the sneaky truths that keep you stuck

Is what you’re telling yourself really true?

Rat Race Feeders - the sneaky truths that keep us stuck

I’ve yet to walk into an office where everyone isn’t really busy! Busyiness has become one of many well-worn ‘truths’ – a cultural norm that weighs us down and holds us back. We rarely think about or question the commonly used phrases that keep our stress levels in the red zone. But beware – these Rat Race Feeders are unconsciously undermining your potential and outlook on life.

Simple comments take off like wildfire and before you know it they are accepted as stress-inducing facts. Here are a few of my favourite Rat Race Feeders, which are guaranteed to keep you running faster and harder on life’s treadmill, no matter what.

  • Everything’s a priority (a management favourite!)
  • I haven’t got the bandwidth
  • It’s out of my/our control
  • I’m/we’re so busy/flat out
  • My inbox is a ‘sea of red’ (unread emails)
  • I’ve got back-to-back meetings all day
  • We have to do more with less/work harder
  • It’s too early/too late to …
  • I’m/he’s/she’s really stressed
  • My client/customer/manager is always shifting the goal posts/expecting more
  • What work/life balance?

The problem with Rat Race Feeders is the way they often inflict unwarranted limits but few benefits. Before you know it, you too are ‘flat out’, ‘really stressed’ and feeling like you’ve little control over what’s going on around you. What you tell yourself is absolutely true for you in that moment.

Question the ‘truth’

Who says, ‘everything’s a priority’ and what’s that based on? If you had to decide what was most important right now, what would it be? Stepping back to question the reality behind a throw-away statement, will help you realise how baseless it really is and discover new options to take control of any situation.

Greg was putting in long hours at work and struggling to keep his head above water. No matter how hard he worked, new tasks continued to pour into his in-box. He just didn’t have the ‘bandwidth’ to get it all done. He was seeing precious little of his wife and children and when did, was often tired and abrupt.

It seemed like he was buying into the stresses of a high pressured work environment and felt powerless to change it. Besides, Greg didn’t like to say ‘no’ and never wanted to be seen as letting the team down.

You decide the truth

The ‘truth’ came to Greg when he realised he has far more control over his workload than he believed. Setting up his calendar to schedule his work; consciously deciding which meetings he really had to attend and turning automatic email off gave him fast relief and instant control.

Then he set up a meeting to play back the well-worn, stress-inducing phrases his team used often to raise awareness of how they were driving them to work harder but not necessarily smarter. They were surprised and amused, not realising how often they disempowered themselves and each other with throw away lines. Their favourite was “we’re under the pump and really stretched.” (Seriously, what ‘pump’ were they under and what’s actually ‘stretched’?!). The following week they set up a ‘rat race feeder radar’ team challenge to call out and question the validity of their common office cliches.

Within 2 months everyone in Greg’s team reported less stress, higher productivity and more fulfilment from their work. Rather than being ‘too busy’, they now agree the priorities every week and focus on the tasks that will make the biggest difference in the time available. Best of all, Greg’s achieving a lot more and enjoys his family time without worrying about work.

Over the next week, listen out for the unquestioned ‘truths’ used by your colleagues, friends and family. The words may differ slightly but their meaning will be the same. Once you start noticing them, you’ll be amused at how many pop up each day.

What are your favourite Rat Race Feeders?

Which limiting generalisations or hackneyed phrases are lurking around your office or home? Share them below – I’d love to hear your favourites!

Carpe diem

 © Caroline Cameron 2011: extract from The Great Life Redesign – change how you work, live how you dream and make it happen … TODAY

 

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.

Too much to do, too little time – are you busier than ever?

Something’s puzzling me and I can’t quite work it out.

Too much to do, too little timeToday, we have more time-saving, convenience creating, effort reducing resources than ever before and yet we seem to be busier, more stressed and time poor.

I just don’t get it.  There’s now an app for everything and you can DIY or outsource pretty much anything so in theory, life should be getting easier, right?  Wrong!

As as an executive coach visiting clients in various city offices, I notice an insidious, entrenched and common theme.  My clients are smart people working for  corporate, government and non-profit organizations, all with very different purposes and yet one way or another, they all lament their lack of time.  Here are some of the expressions I hear often – maybe you relate to them:

  • I don’t have the bandwidth
  • I’m in back to back meetings all week so won’t have time…
  • My inbox is killing me
  • We’re really stretched at the moment
  • There isn't time (the common cry of a pressured project team juggling multiple priorities as they stare down the barrel at a ‘go live’ for their system in 3 weeks)

The ‘inbox’ one was interesting.  One guy had over 2,000 unread emails in his inbox and his way of surviving the email tsunami was to ignore them until the sender spoke to him directly.  “I figure that if it’s important enough, they’ll come around and talk to me or pick up the phone.”  Hmmm, sounds good in theory but I wonder how that works if the email is from the CEO.

Yet, he’s also onto something here – he's Filtering.  By prioritizing his emails based on a set of criteria (in his case the personal contact effort made by the sender), he’s filtering in what he believes is important and ignoring the rest.

With millions of bytes of information coming at us every second, we’d soon drown in overload if we didn’t filter it.  Our natural reaction is to distort, delete or generalise as a mechanism to keep control of our lives.  Yet, if that was an effective technique, why are we all still so busy?

If this is how it is for you, it's time to spring clean your filters.

Like every other useful resource we can call on, our information filters need routine maintenance.  Over time they become clogged with the exhaust fumes of life.  Rather than consciously and regularly sifting out the obsolete and unnecessary crud whilst keeping the important, they become blocked.

Understand what’s driving your ‘busy’.

Our actions are driven by an underlying cause that often isn’t connected to the activity or its outcome.  This can include ‘a need to be needed’, a determination to be seen to be 'on top of it all' ( superwoman/man syndrome – a common one for perfectionists and high achievers), or procrastination because we’re not sure what to do or how to do it.  This can lead to aimless ‘fluffing’ and before you know it, you’ve blown hours or days and achieved little more than frustration.

Recognising the real cause of your lack of time helps you take steps to reclaim it.  Think about it – if we valued time as much as we value money, wouldn’t we have more rather than less?  Imagine how different it would be if you had plenty of time in the bank and were time rich rather than time poor.

Decide what's important

The best way to get the ‘busy’ under control is to check in on what’s most important and ensure you’re focus is largely on your main priorities.  Do you really need to attend that meeting that you know will go round in circles or is it just that you don’t want to
miss out on being 'in the know'?

Know what matters most

Check that your priorities will make a real difference.  One of the best ways to identify this is to ask, “Of all the things I’ve got on my plate, which will make the most difference a hundred years from now?” Chances are not many, but it’s a sobering thought.  If it doesn't really matter – don't do it!  Choosing not to do something is surprisingly liberating.

Identify the best return on your time investment.

If there were no limits, what would you choose to be doing right now?  Yes, you do have a choice as to how you spend your time, far more often than you realize.  Which task is going to pay back far more than the time you'll invest in it?  This is a great way of stripping out the time wasters from your day.

Clogged filters are making us busy.  That’s my theory but I’m sure it’s not the whole story. With so much more at our fingertips to ‘save time’, why do you think we’re still soooo busy?

Carpe diem

Caroline Cameron