Your brain is not designed to hold ideas, your brain is designed to have ideas.” – Robert Allen, ‘Getting Things Done”
An informal survey of 150 senior managers who participated in the most recent Sustainable Leaders Strategic Planning workshop revealed the biggest challenge they faced was “having too much to do in too little time with fewer resources than ever before… and having to make the right decisions quickly.”
The often unbelievable demands to be both highly productive and accurate bombard us daily. What’s different? The speed with which business must get done today is light years faster than even 15 or 20 years ago. In many industries (technology), change happens too quickly and if you only strive to keep up, you will be out of business faster than you can say “Buck Rogers.”
There are only 24 hours in a day and you cannot create “more time” in a day. The solution for most is to work longer and harder to get the job done. The only problem with that solution is that it is a recipe for burn out.
Let’s break the rules and shift your perspective consider this: Time is a limited resource and energy is an infinitely unlimited resource. You cannot create more time. You can, however, create more energy by taking control not only of your time, but where your attention is within that time frame.
My personal observation is that productive and sustainable leaders who feel happy and satisfied at the end of each day actively focus on BOTH how much they DO and DON’T DO to conserve brain power and leverage energy successfully.
Say “No” 100 times for every time you say “Yes.” If saying “No” is hard for you (as it is for most people), add “No, thank you” so you can get the added benefit of being grateful and appreciative, if not polite.
The latest studies in brain based learning prove that multitasking is not only impossible (we switch attention, our brains are incapable of focusing on two things at once), but to make matters worse, the reduction in accuracy for even the “best multi-tasker” doing the simplest of tasks is almost 50%. Pretty scary when you think about the complex tasks you do simultaneously (driving a car, talking on a cell phone or talking on the phone and typing an email response). Try to focus on doing one thing at a time. Notice how much less time it takes, especially because you don’t run the risk of hitting “send” prematurely then spending time on damage control.
Bottom line, people will feel heard and be able to find their own solutions more easily without unnecessary interference from you. And, you will conserve your brain power for more important challenges that lie ahead.
When you delegate, trust and offer challenges to people, not only will it benefit you, but also they’ll feel better about you if you do. We all know the importance of delegating so that you aren’t seen as the control freak in the corner office. But did you know that when you delegate responsibilities and tasks (with their buy in of course), the meta-message (as long as the deadline is reasonable or they are involved in setting the deadline) or message under the message, is “trust.” The receiver feels you believe in them enough to give them the opportunity to rise to the challenge. Win win.
Indecision happens when we have too many thoughts getting stuck in or out of sequence in the cognitive pipeline. Often we can get thoughts flowing again when we ask ourselves “What’s the one most important thing that needs to be decided and acted upon before that decision can be made?”
Whether you are a list maker or mind map fan, get every thought bouncing around inside of your head OUT of your head and onto paper, a whiteboard or computer program you are in the habit of checking or using regularly (“Freemind” is a simple and free example). Robert Allen’s “Getting Things Done” is a must read for “How To’s” when it comes to being more productive so you can take quick, effective action.
The Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC for short) is the part of your brain responsible for your ability to avoid distraction, make decisions, reason, understand and memorize. Think of it as powered by rechargeable batteries, not a 220v power cord plugged into an outlet in the wall. It needs frequent recharging (among other ingredients) in order for high performance. Taking a short 20 minute walk inside or outside your office building at the most hectic time of day will not only benefit your metabolism and your waistline, but also your brain. Try shutting off your brain for 5 minutes just two or three times a day, talk to a co-worker about a non-related subject (this is probably why gossip is so enticing), play a game of angry birds or juggle.
Think of how many “mindless” automatic patterns you have every day. Repeatedly doing routine tasks (like shaving, putting on your pants or brushing your teeth) the same way every day, doesn’t do your brain any favors. You are just deepening the same brain groove over and over. You are wasting valuable real estate! If you normally put your right leg in your pants first, put your left leg in first instead. If you begin shaving your face left side first, try starting your first swipe on a different part of your face. Do you have stairs in your office building? Which leg do you typically start with as you start up a flight of stairs? Try what you think I’m going to suggest next ….
If you are paid to think, treat your brain and your energy as precious commodities that need daily TLC to function most effectively and with ease. Pick one of these 7 Tips to practice each day and notice what happens to your mind and your mood; you too will become a Sustainable Leader one small step at a time.
Have you ever had a moment where you’ve said something and as you’re saying it you kind of can’t believe what you’re saying? You’ve heard yourself telling the same story about how you endured a soul-sucking job, tolerated your obnoxious boss or felt exhausted and stuck in your business.
I was catching up with some old friends this weekend about some of our experiences and how our lives have changed over time. I was telling the story of when I first started my private counseling practice how I was contracted by Social Services to help clients who were “unmotivated and unwilling” (i.e., court ordered) referred by social services who were at risk of losing their children to the court system.
And especially about how I was on call 24/7 (remember pagers?) and we couldn’t take a family weekend away because there was no one else who could be “on call.” Sometimes I needed a police escort to my appointments. How every Monday morning I’d find myself thinking “why am I doing this?”.
Since the social services contract made up 90% of my private practice, I was very busy. I did the “crisis counselor” thing as an in-home-intensive-family-therapist for about 8 years. And for the last six of them I’d be thinking “why am I doing this?”
As I explained this it dawned on me that it had taken rather a long time for me to go from realizing I wasn’t enjoying it to actually doing something about it. Over 6 years. Wow. I was being held hostage by my own habits.
Much of the work I do today with business and executive coaching clients these days gives them a new perspective on their business and their impact. Shows them possibilities and solutions they just hadn’t thought of before.
But often, just like me on a Monday morning, they already know they need something different. Sometimes they even know what that different thing is. But they feel stuck. Held hostage by habits.
Because when you’ve done something for a long, long time it becomes part of you. It’s just what you do. For some, It’s who you become. A mindless habit. It’s easy. It’s familiar. It’s certain. You know how to do it. I’ve heard it all (and done it myself).
Even though you don’t like it, or it’s not really getting you the results you need, it’s a lot less scary than something completely new that might not work at all. Or might make you look silly. Or you might fail.
It took over six years (and a lot of encouragement from my husband) for me to get the courage to give up the certain income that came with that counseling contract and do what I really wanted to do.
Don’t let it take you that long to try something new in your business (or career).
You don’t have to change everything. But pick one thing you don’t think is working well and drop it for a few months and do something else instead. Stop saying “yes” to every request and say “let me give it some thought and I’ll get back to you.” Stop taking on new clients who don’t fit your ideal client profile and say “Thank you, but it’s not a good fit, let me refer you to someone who could be a better fit for your needs.”
If it works, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, try something else – sooner rather than later.
Not rocket science. Obvious on paper. Trickier to do in real life. Therefore the six years.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Don’t you waste six more years, or even six more months doing something that constantly drains you, leaves you feeling exhausted or fails to bring you joy.
What’s one small thing you are willing to do (or stop doing) today so you aren’t held hostage by habits?
Christina Haxton, MA LMFT is the Chief Potential Officer & Founder of Sustainable Leadership. An executive coach, business consultant and speaker, Christina assists busy business owners, high potential managers, key executives and CEOs to achieve successful work/life balance and peace of mind to become exceptional leaders who are built to last.
To apply for a confidential Strategy Session to explore your business or career goals or to inquire about a professional development program for your team, meeting or conference, contact Christina at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 387-8935.
Stress just comes with your job and the good news is that stress isn’t necessarily “bad.” Here’s what you need to know about how chronic stress effects your brain and your ability to fullfill your responsibilities.
As a supervisor, manager or CXO, you are paid to think and make the right decisions quickly. You are also responsible for managing and motivating others, which isn’t always easy (or fun!). And you still have to deliver on time and on budget.
Next to your heart, your brain will be your most valuable asset or your biggest liability. Given all of the constant pressure from every direction, how are you supposed to get it all done, do your best work, answer to your boss(es) and be a good boss yourself, too? Stressful, right?
If you are paid to think, your greatest asset might just become an endangered species. And if you don’t learn to adapt quickly, you and your career might just become extinct, too. the Manchester study found almost 50% of newly hired or recently promoted executives get fired or quit within the first 18 months in their new position. Wonder why?
As an executive coach and leadership development consultant (and a licensed therapist), I have seen more people’s lives come crashing down around them as a result of unrecognized or unresolved stress that leads to overwhelm that leads to burn out, then often bouts with anxiety or depression. They get the wake up call from their doctor “If you don’t slow down you’ll have a heart attack.” Or the wake up call from the board “You’re under-performing” or worse “you’re fired.” Or the spouse“I want a divorce” because they are burning the candle at both ends and their relationships have been suffering for far too long.
The speed with which we get information, process information and take need to action today is light years faster than even 10 or 15 years ago. Because of the globalization of business, fierce and fast competitors, the digital age and social media, the expectation is business gets done 24/7 365. There is no down time. Our human, fragile brain is powered by rechargeable batteries, not 220v. We can no longer keep up the pace, much less effectively or efficiently process the 40 million pieces of information that’s being hurled at us every waking hour.
Many people believe that stress in our “crazy busy” lives is a “given” and we should be able to “just deal with it.” Recent discoveries in brain science tell us we aren’t doing such a great job. Not only is stress increasingly affecting our physical health and our mental health, stress negatively impacts our ability to think, to make decisions and to communicate. Very critical skills for business owners, managers and leaders at all levels.
When I am speaking to audiences I ask, “What’s your biggest problem at work today?” and the answer is often “I have too much to do, not enough time to do it and not enough resources to do it right.” Yes, that’s a problem, but is not the problem. Because we can’t create more hours in the day, the solution that has now become the problem is to work harder and longer. And now “overwhelm” is a state we visit frequently. Our tolerance for stress is increasing and it’s comfortably familiar … the “new normal.”
And it’s getting worse. Many of us are now addicted to the powerful brain chemicals produced by chronic stress. We can’t get things done and need higher and higher levels of these chemicals to motivate us. Our immune systems are on overload resulting in disease. My personal observation is we feel more disconnected, from ourselves and from each other. As a result we are experiencing more interpersonal conflict and dis-ease at home and at work than ever before. Bad news.
Stress leads to chronic overwhelm and ultimately to burnout. If you ignore the early warning signs, chronic stress will quickly derail you, your career and your personal relationships. If you only strive to “manage stress” (which is no longer possible or feasible) you will slip down the corporate ladder faster than you can blink an eye.
Denial will not serve you when it comes to learning how to transform your relationship with stress. The bad news? Most people will nod in agreement, yet continue with their same habits and take no action.
If you are paid to think, you must treat your brain and your energy as precious commodities that need daily TLC to function most effectively and with ease.
Do you know the early warning signs of burnout?
If you are a business owner, senior manager, director or CXO interested in identifying the early warning signs (7 will surprise you) click here to take a brief stress survey to avoid burnout. The first 5 people each month who complete the survey will receive a personal review (not just a computer-generated score) and 45 minute complimentary and confidential Strategy Session by a licensed professional (yours truly) to see where and how you can take steps now to transform stress into peace of mind.
The good news? Transforming stress is easier than you think and absolutely possible! My coaching clients tell me that when they learn and apply practical tools to manage their energy and attention instead of trying to manage their time, the results are almost immediate. Now instead of feeling chronically stressed out and overwhelmed, they feel confident they can make a difference AND feel happy, satisfied and productive at the end of each day. The result is they become Sustainable Managers & Leaders. Click here now to take the survey.
When you, focus instead on responding rather than reacting to stress you will be able to transform “bad stress” into an opportunity to be a much more effective business owner, manager or CXO. You, too can become a Sustainable Leader: A person who is in a position of authentic influence that creates value and who is built to last from the inside out and for the long haul.
What do Sustainable Leaders are do differently? Hint: They learn and practice skills to actively focus on both how much they DO and DON’T DO to successfully conserve brain power, transform stress and become very efficient with their energy.
P.S. Stay tuned for the next post: The 7 Habits of Highly Sustainable Leaders, then pick one of the 7 tips to practice each day for two weeks. Notice what happens to your mind and your mood. You can learn new habits to transform stress, be more productive and have peace of mind at the end of the day knowing you’ve done your best work and helped your team do their best work, too. Don’t want to wait? Get started now: Click here now to take the survey.
Christina Haxton, MA LMFT – Speaker, Author & Executive Coach, CEO & Founder of Sustainable Leadership, Inc. For leadership speaking, leadership coaching or leadership training inquiries, contact Christina at email@example.com
For your free video: 7 Simple Strategies to Eliminate Stress for Busy Managers & Leaders – Get access now by signing up for access to the video to your right:
Here’s a terrific article on how to manage work stress for everyday or extraordinary leaders:
How ordinary (and extraordinary) leaders can use the practice of mindfulness to feel happier, satisfied and more productive at work. Oh, and leave WORK at work so you can truly enjoy your family time … read Judy Martin’s blog post on Forbes.com here: 5 Daily Rituals to Manage Work Stress
Post below and share your favorite daily rituals to manage work stress:
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