Often people try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.
I’ve always been a believer in using technology to assist us and to not become a slave to it, but at some point it got the better of me and sucked me in. I’m not even sure when it happened. It was slowly but surely eating away at my well being and sanity.
With 2 personal email accounts, work email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, my website, Messenger, text messages and many other apps, my phone was constantly buzzing to alert me about the latest and greatest communication that had been received. I was “smart” though, and used technology to change the tones of the various apps, which ones would vibrate, how many vibrations, and even had different coloured LED flashes to differentiate them. It was an engineering masterpiece! It was great the way I utilized technology to bring audible order to my mayhem of social media notifications!
Overtime as I added more apps it became out of control. My stress levels were going up. I’m not talking nervous breakdown levels, but nevertheless, my focus and concentration was constantly being broken and I found I had a heightened level of constant irritation. I didn’t even know it was there really and when I did notice it I didn’t realize the source.
So what did I do?
I simply turned off all the notifications for all my apps, except my phone itself.
For many of you perhaps this is as obvious as your natural instinct to breathe, and for you kudos! I’m happy for you. However, this post is to help the many others that I know and see daily falling slave to our technology. Like me, they likely don’t even realize it nor the negative impact it is having on them.
It is widely accepted that once interrupted, it takes 20 minutes to get back in focus and be productive. Now stop and consider how many alerts you are getting. Even if you don’t open the app, that “ping” is usually enough to snap you out of your train of thought, pause during a conversation, or lose focus on the task at hand, as your eyes sneak a quick peak at the text alert flashing on the display.
Recently, a teacher in the U.S. had her students turn their phones on loud, and every time they received a notification they went up and put a tally mark under the correct category. The flip chart indicates the number of notifications received in one class, one period. Incredible!
Of course we all have responsibilities that we can’t ignore and I’m not suggesting that. Schedule times throughout your day to check and respond to emails and other necessary communications. Request your team and family to call your cell phone if urgent. Establish and communicate a response SLA (Service Level Agreement) to which you will respond and commit to it.
It was shocking to me the difference turning off the notifications made to my state of mind! It truly was amazing! Try it! You’ll like it!
What simple changes have you made to reduce your stress levels?
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With it being a new year, I think it fitting to discuss setting goals and objectives. Over the next few weeks, we’ll discuss the process I go through each year to set personal and professional goals and objectives. In this way you can follow along each step of the way yourself resulting in the creation of your own goals and objectives for the year. I’ve been doing this for years now and I’ve found it to be motivational and rewarding. In fact, my wife and I began setting family goals and objectives before we had children. Now with them grown to young adults, it’s great to see they actually did absorb some of this process and have adopted this important life skill. Initially it was a forced process whereby they set simple goals and objects such as hosting 2 tree house sleepovers per summer, or organizing a camping weekend with their Grandparents. However, they have created their own methods building off the fundamentals we will discuss, and now set more challenging and important life goals and objectives. Who would have guessed? Hey, one of our objectives has been achieved!
If you haven’t yet read the post Reflections Vs Resolutions – It’s That Time Of Year!, I’d encourage you to do so before going about setting your goals and objectives for the coming year. Reflection is a critical first step that is necessary before setting new goals or objectives.
After completing your reflection process, the next step is to create Mission statements. Whether you are doing so as an individual, family or organization, establishing your mission is a critical step and will act as your compass which sets you in the desired direction. There a many definitions of a mission statement but simply it is:
A short written statement of your goals and philosophies. It should define what your, the family, or the organization is, why it exists, and its reason for being.
The making of an effective and meaningful mission statement takes time, patience, and very careful consideration. The choice of words is important because they must be easily and clearly understood by all and need to stand the test of time of describing a future state or meaning intended. Although the individual mission statements may not have been achieved yet, they should be described as though already accomplished and written in the present tense.
For additional information on vision and mission statements, see Lead with Vision.
Below is an example of one of our family mission statements:
Our health is most important, as it is life. We eat well, look after each other and maintain a physically active lifestyle.
Having a mission is one thing, but how you will achieve it is another. So it is important that you also define the values that the organization, family or individuals will have and demonstrate while setting about achieving the mission. Without the values well defined, the mission may very well be achieved, but not in the way or method originally intended. There is a right way and a wrong way to almost everything! Many leaders have gotten themselves and/or their organizations in big trouble because although they have remained true to the mission, they strayed on their values. Values are the moral principles and behaviours that all involved will exhibit while on the journey to accomplish the mission.
When my wife and I created our family mission and values, it took many hours of thinking, discussing, revising, wordsmithing and healthy debate. However, once it was done we framed it and hung it in our house as a constant family compass which has guided us now for many years. We review it carefully every year. Although we have only made few changes over the years, we use it each year to check our direction and alignment to what is most important to us and use it as part of our goals and objectives process for the year.
This is an example of one of our family values:
Close Relationships: Spending quality time together experiencing life – “People before things”
Although I’ve used the example of our family mission and values, the same process holds true for an individual or an organization. When creating mission statements and values beyond an individual, it is important to be as inclusive as possible in creating and aligning everyone involved to increase buy-in and commitment.
The creation of a mission is important because it is what your goals and objectives need to be based upon. Otherwise, without a mission, any goals and objectives you set are just a bunch of things you want to get done that may not lead you on the desired journey to your intended destination. Without a mission, it is difficult to prioritize and ensure you are focusing on the most important activities. Without a mission you are wandering through life wherever it takes you, not necessarily where or how you want to get there.
Do you have a mission and associated values?
In the next post, we’ll review goal setting.
In the last post we discussed whether work-life balance is a myth and explained it is more like a teeter-totter. In this post we’ll review 10 steps you can take to help yourself achieve a better work-life balance.
1. Look after you first – Sleep, exercise, diet, relaxation
The absolute most important thing you have to do is look after yourself first. If you are not healthy, fit, or well-rested, there is no way you will be effective at work or in life. It’s not dissimilar to the emergency message on a plane advising to put your air mask on first. This is to keep you safe but also so you can help others that may not be able to help themselves. It’s the same in work-life. If you are not at your best, you will not be most effective to support your family, friends, or team at work. This really should go without saying, but look around. Many people do not treat this as the #1 work-life priority at all!
2. Clearly define your life’s passions
We’ve all heard the saying that when lying on your death bed, no one says “I wish I worked more”. No matter who you are, you will retire some day, then what? You no longer have that big title or position. So, figure out what your passions are both within your work and your personal life. Define them clearly as to what they are and who you are relative to them. Then set goals and objectives to pursue those passions and go get them. When done right, these are what define you, what motivates you, satisfies you, and lasts your lifetime far beyond your career. They will become who you are.
3. Set long term personal goals and the aligning annual objectives
This is such a powerful tool but it surprises me how few people actually do it. Life just happens and steals our time if we don’t deliberately spend some of our time on the things most important to us. My family and I have set long term family and personal goals for years. It’s amazing how many of our goals we have achieved either as a family or individuals. We have a well defined process of setting our long term goals, then each year develop specific actions or objectives for that year that move towards the accomplishment of the longer term goal. Many people have goals and ideas, but they stop there. They don’t figure out how to actually achieve them. I’m not sure if they think they will just happen? In setting these goals, you are more likely to do and achieve the things that are most important to you rather than let life take you where-ever it takes you!
4.Start your day early (~1 hour before you have to get up)
This can be tough, particularly if you treat Step 1 as the top priority, but I swear by this one! Many people start their day stressed right out as they have hit snooze three times, figured out every minute they can cut from their morning routine to save time, skip a proper breakfast in favour of a coffee and donut at the drive through, and perform a trial lap worthy of the Indy 500 as they race to work in fear of being late. Day after day, after day. Getting up one hour before you have to get up can be so invigorating and stress reducing. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in this time. To get up without having to rush, exercising, getting your personal and work life organized, listening to the news or weather, checking your social media, or simply enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee, is wonderful… try it!
5. Have a plan, adjust the plan
Have a plan for both your personal life and work. This is different than Step 3 goals and objectives and is more about a plan of how you will go about doing things. Be deliberate and don’t leave things to chance. Plan ahead by scheduling events and blocking the time in your calendar for professional and personal priorities. Be prepared to adjust your plan as things will change. The point here is to adjust, not cancel or abandon.
6. Get the top priorities (Big rocks) done first
Another common sense practice that isn’t so common; get your top priorities done first. This applies to work and personal life. The rest will get done. They won’t happen by accident, you have to make time for them and put the effort in to get them done. Determine what your top priorities are and re-evaluate them at least weekly. The priorities won’t necessarily change, however, your focus on them may need to change and adjust over time. For more on this check the post Effective Leadership Skills – Personal Planning.
7. Don’t let other people’s procrastination become your priority
From early in my career I remember a sign in one of the buyers cubicles that said “Procrastination on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency purchase order on my part!” I’ve never forgotten this and now have a much better appreciation of it. Don’t let yourself be distracted or have your time taken away by others that are not organized or procrastinate until the last minute. That is their problem. Stay focused on your top priorities. Now this not to say you abandon and ignore your team, but it also doesn’t mean you have to drop what you are doing or be interrupted on a whim. Establish “office hours” and rules of engagement that satisfy your priorities while being there to help/support others and your team, but on your terms.
8. Watch out for avoidance activities or excessive relaxation
Work hard, play hard is a great saying that I do believe in. In addition to this, we all need to relax and do other things now and again. What we have to be aware of though and watch out for is avoidance activities that we convince ourselves are important and necessary but in reality are just a distraction and deterrent from the really important activities we need and want to get done. They may serve a purpose and need to get done, but we have to watch that we don’t overdo it to avoid or procrastinate from getting to the more important. Similarly, we all need to relax, rest, and rejuvenate, but there is excessive relaxation that can steal hours away well beyond the good they initially provided.
9. Minimize the line between work and the rest of your life
This is somewhat dependent upon the amount of autonomy you have in your job, but the idea is we are all one individual so why is there sometimes such a definitive line between work and life? This includes being of the same character at work as you are at home, allowing personal things to sometimes overflow into your work space, and vice versa. Too much segregation between the two just creates stress. It’s not different than a relationship with your partner; it’s all about compromise and give and take.
10. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Easier said than done I realize but just think for a minute of all the things you have worried about over the years. Now think of how many times what you worried about actually happened. Not very many! I’m not suggesting you become carefree and not give a @$!& about anything, but rather seriously consider, what is the worst that can happen? What is the likelihood of this happening? Can I control it? If your answer to any of these questions in inconsequential, then stop worrying about it and don’t sweat it. Generally your imagination is far worse than the reality, so don’t waste your time worrying about it. Most “small” things can be undone, repaired, or don’t really matter in the long run.
What steps do you take to help with a better work-life balance? Please share your suggestions by leaving a comment.
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