Lately, I swear, there is an epidemic of massive change and stress. Almost everyone we know (including us) is in the throes of something very stressful. Personal and business losses, health issues, betrayal, divorce, death. You? For me It's like slogging through water, hard to walk and run with all the resistance. Energetically, life feels darker than usual, sticky and thick. What to do?
Well, #1 advice I got from I don't remember where: "When you are walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death do NOT stop and buy real estate." In other words, when the going gets tough, keep going. Don't get mired, don't stop, don't invest in something you don't want. Just. Keep. Going.
Even with our normally busy lives, along with stressful times, It's easy to end up having what author Max Strom calls a "near-life experience." Chris Kresser (whom I greatly respect) wrote about it in his article "How to Avoid a Near-Life Experience." When you are distracted and can't focus well, feel anxious and overwhelmed, never seem to get everything done, and the days go by in a blur, you might be in danger of having a "near-life experience."
What can you do about it? Chris lists six steps that have been very useful in my own life, both personal and business. Read more details in the article. In the meantime, starting thinking about his six steps:
- Be mindful:
An ancient Buddhist philosophy now being taught in hospitals and Fortune 500 companies, "...mindfulness simply means being a aware of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrouning environment on a moment-to-moment basis."
There is a large body of evidence to support mindfulness, showing that it can reduce stress and negative emotions and increase our ability to focus. I've been working on this, and it's true. Once I'm being mindful I notice much more and can avoid those very stressful but not really necessary situations. I realize that those thoughts and emotions are temporary, and not welcome additions to my life and work.
- Stop multitasking (it doesn't work anyway):
It's a myth that you can get more done by multitasking. Checking email and social media while working on something important actually slows you down and makes you less efficient. Besides, you're not really multitasking, you're just switching from one task to another. So, just focus on one thing at a time.
I once read about the head of a company who was very calm and very efficient. His life had the potential for major amounts of stress, and yet, he seemed to handle it all very well. His secret? He scheduled his day in 90-minute increments, saying that there isn't much in life or business that can't wait 90 minutes. Emergencies really are rare (and worthy of an interruption), but most of the time focusing on one thing only for 90 minutes really made his day more productive and less stressful.
- Batch your email and social media:
That means don't be constantly checking email, voicemail, and social media and responding to each and every one. Do you know how many times an hour the average employee checks their email? 36 times an hour. That's 288 times per eight hour work day! Phone interactions? 221 times a day.
Seriously. You are NOT required to immediately respond to everything that comes your way. When you reduce those numbers mentioned above, you reduce stress and increase productivity. Limit time for phone calls and email to 2-4 times a day. This should increase your productivity (and reduce your stress) dramatically.
- Turn off notifications on your phone and computer (and iWatch if you buy one):
I ran into this issue recently after updating my operating systems on my computer, iPad, and iPhone. I was getting notifications for just about everything! Ping. You have a text. Ping. You have an email. Ping, you have a voicemail. Ping, you have a calendar event. Ping. Ping. Ping. It was the total opposite of mindfulness and made me crazy. Ack! I learned pretty quick how to shut it all off, and it was blessed relief.
Of course, I want to get SOME notifications because they really help me go smoothly through my day. Fine-tuning the settings has enabled me to receive what I want and silence the rest.
- Go off the grid:
When you are constantly connected to your electronic devices, it's harder to be mindful and present. It's distracting, and you can't fully relax when you need to. To go "off the grid" don't check email, take calls, use your computer, watch TV or use electronic devices at all.
A whole day per week is great if you can manage it. Me, well, not so much. However, a half day away (like I will be doing this afternoon) is extremely helpful. Yes, I will glance to see if there is any communication from the kids. But not every ten minutes. Once this afternoon is enough.
- Do less (but accomplish more):
I sooooo agree with Chris on this one: "One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in living a happier and more productive life is focusing on what is most important and letting the rest go. This has meant learning to say no to projects and tasks that are not important."
I keep a to-do list, and every morning I make sure that the most important things are at the top of the list. It reminds me where I need to place my time, energy, and focus. I've learned to say no to many things when they don't contribute to my life and long-term goals. Results: Better focus, less stress, increased productivity, increased income (!), and more time to relax and deal with important things that come up.
Try it, you'll like it! :-D