Archive for Work Life Balance

Discovering the Delicious Delights of ‘Slow’

What happens when you unwittingly stop and smell the roses?

Discovering the Delicious Delights of SlowMy father never really seemed to sit still for long.  Even on holidays there were always things to do and places to see.

Not surprisingly, the classic Type A, high achiever mould fitted me like a glove. This conditioning was even more deeply ingrained as I pounded the corporate treadmill, juggling single parenthood, peak hour traffic and never enough hours in the day.

A good day was one where I ‘got lots done’, preferably ahead of relentless deadlines, until recently…

As a big fan of the ‘brisk daily walk’ it came as a sad realisation that Sherry, my 17 year old Soft Coated Wheaten was struggling to keep up.

From puppyhood to middle-age she’d always possessed way more energy than me and was still raring to go, long after I’d collapsed in an exhausted heap!

Our daily goal used to be to knock minutes or even seconds off the walk and get home quickly, a challenge she relished as much as me.

Gradually, over the last six months, my beautiful Sherry has been forced to slow down.  Now showing all the signs of doggie dementia (a bit like the ‘7 signs of ageing’), she’s very deaf, nearly blind and increasingly forgets to tell me when she needs to go out!

Yet she’s still happy following me around, tail wagging as she waits patiently near the coat rack to have her leader put on.

But the cold, damp morning that greeted us as we ventured out this morning, seeped into her old joints, rendering us virtually stationary as we pottered around our neighbourhood.

Our excruciatingly slow pace reminded me of a childhood game called Dolly Steps where rather than rushing to the finish line, the aim was to take tiny… slow… short-strided steps.

If you stopped completely, you were ‘out’ and the winner was the last to arrive. As an eager 7 year old, it was a game that infuriated me and seemed rather futile.

Yet rather than being infuriated, our enforced slowness has uncoverd delights I’ve never noticed before.

First we stopped to watch a pink, wriggling worm inch slowly across the footpath. Given the distance such a small creature had to travel, I have a new found respect for its focus and determination to reach its destination, no matter how far away it must have seemed.

A little further along I noticed that one of my neighbours had planted some new and colourful shrubs in his front garden. He was about to hop in his car to go to work. Waiting for Sherry to catch up, I called out, “Your garden looks great!”

He smiled in acknowledgement and wandered over to tell me what he’d planted. We’d never had time to stop and chat before.

Seemingly out of nowhere, I heard a cacophony of birds competing to see who had the best call. Their chorus rang out over the street as if they were making some important announcement.

I stopped to listen, identified at least 5 different birdsongs and realised I’d never really taken any notice of them before.

Rounding the corner, a bunch of tradesmen were ready to start their day’s work on a new build.

Although I’d noticed the old house being demolished and the block cleared some months before, we usually hurry past to avoid the trucks, vans and muddy footpath.

Today we stopped for a chat with a couple of plumbers, leaning on their shovels, drinking coffee, waiting for their foreman to arrive.

They bemoaned the soaking rain that had held them up for the last week and yet, when they leaned down to pat Sherry’s soft head, their weather beaten faces softened into a smile.  “She’s pretty good for an old dog.  We notice you going past every day no matter what the weather and reckon that’s what keeps her going,” said the older of the two.

Sensing that we’re on the ‘home stretch’, Sherry’s pace picked up to a trot and as we turned into our drive she abruptly stopped.

An irresistable smell near the letterbox grabbed her attention and she was determined to investigate. Looking down I noticed an envelope wedged between the letterbox and a thick shrub next to it. Disappointingly for Sherry, it wasn’t full of dog treats, but I wonder if I’d even have seen it on my usual mail box dash.

Spring bulbs are peeping through in the front garden and while Sherry sniffed and pottered, I wandered around pulling out a few stray weeds, marveling at how the number of bulbs have doubled with no help from me.

Our daily walks used to take us 15 minutes – today it had taken nearly 40 and I didn’t begrudge a single one of them. I’ve lived in this street for 14 years and yet today the deliciousness of going slow brought a raft of new delights and a calming sense of peace.

Curiously, I’ve achieved a lot this morning at work, even though I’d been late getting started.

Who knew that ‘going slow’ could actually increase productivity!

Have you ever consciously slowed down?  If so, what did you notice that in the usual mad rush of life, you’d not otherwise have experienced?

Leave a comment below about the ‘delicious delights’ of going slow you’ve discovered.

After all, the moral of this story could be, ‘don’t wait until you’re old to slow down – you never know what you might be missing.’

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 Your Job

7 simple ways to love the job you have.

How to love you job

There’s something kind of corny about the concept of loving your job, isn’t there? Besides, we’re often more likely to ‘put up with’ our job – a far cry from loving it! Yes, most of us work to pay the bills but that’s only part of the story.

Research shows many of the upsides of work, besides being paid, include challenge, variety, fulfilment, social connection and validation that your effort makes a positive difference.

Take a moment to rate your job against each of these criteria (Great, Average or Poor). How does it fare?

If you answered ‘Great’ to each of these, congratulations – you’re obviously in the right job and loving it. If your job didn’t rate so high, you may be feeling slightly disheartened.

It’s tempting to think about jumping ship and looking for a new job. However, this isn’t easy and can often take months or even years to achieve.

Fortunately you don’t have to change jobs to find one you love! The following tips show you how to love the job you have and best of all, it costs nothing but a change in mindset and action.

#1: Adopt a positive attitude

Boredom, frustration and stress are insidious and rapidly become self-fulfilling prophecies. Check in on how you’re thinking and what you believe. Turning problems into opportunities and focusing on what’s within your control has an immediate and positive impact on how you feel. Ask yourself, ‘How would I rather feel instead?’ and actively seek ways to create the better alternative.

#2: Connect your job to your purpose and priorities

What were you put on this earth to do and what specific difference do you want to make? Yes, it’s a ‘big’ question but once you have the answer, you can uncover opportunities to fulfil that purpose through your work and other parts of your life. Identify your core values and write down what’s really important to you and change how you work to a align it with what you believe.

#3: Identify your 8 key strengths and use them

Actively using your key strengths every day and in everything you do will shift your focus to doing more of what you like and are good at. For example, if you are a strong leader, create ways to unite people around a common goal. If you have great organisational skills, consciously use them to get things done efficiently. Strengths can be applied to any role, regardless of whether you’re a receptionist or CEO.

#4: Make life easier – understand your preferences

We all have preferred ways of working and behaving and there are many tools available to help you understand your preferences. If you’re not enjoying your job, chances are you’re being compelled to work in a way that doesn’t sit right with you. There are many different tools for discovering your preferences including Myer-Briggs, DiSC, Herrmann Brain and Social Styles.

Once you know your preferences you can flex your style to better suit what’s required and/or enlist the help of your manager and colleagues to work in a way that fits your style.

#5: Change how you work, rather than what you do

Every job has stuff that we’d rather not do, given the choice. However, they are often unavoidable and procrastinating about them won’t make them go away. Once you understand your preferences, you can create challenges in the seemingly most boring of tasks. This could include report writing, administration, handling emails etc.

Consistently set yourself the challenge of completing the task ahead of time, more efficiently and to a higher standard (going beyond what’s expected) and notice the higher level of satisfaction you feel.

#6: Apply judgement carefully

Sound judgement is an essential skill for analysis and decision making but often falls short when applied to our working relationships. Judging people based on your own personal values (They never… or She always…) rarely results in them changing to be more like you and less like them! More often, it leads to frustration.

Replace judgement with acceptance and notice how much easier it is to work with someone who operates differently from you. Parking judgement opens the door to constructively resolve issues that arise from behavioural differences.

#7: Set long term goals and work steadily towards them

Taking a bigger picture view makes it easier to keep things in perspective. Cast your mind forward 5 years – what would you like to be doing, if it were possible? Once you’ve established your professional vision, create a career plan with goals, actions and timelines to realise it. Actively build your knowledge and experience in that area.

Many skills are transferable and you may be surprised what development opportunities your current role holds, that you haven’t yet tapped into.

Applying any of these tips will make a big difference to how you feel about your job. Hold yourself accountable for your own levels of satisfaction; take daily action to experience it and notice how much more you love the job you have.

Do you have a handy strategy that helps you love the job you have, regardless of what you do?  Please share it – your simple tip could make a big difference to someone who’d love to love their job… if only.

Carpe diem

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.

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

 

 

 

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