Career 16 October 2016
Feel like you’re riding in a one-horse open sleigh? Or slipping and sliding from one problem to another, trying to plow through mounds of issues – and losing your footing trying to solve all of them? As a budding entrepreneur, one of the hardest things to do is learn the right way to balance. Another challenge is staying focused when you have so much to do. It's easy to feel like all you’re doing is simply putting out fires – and getting nothing accomplished.
I know this is an all-too familiar topic for many of you. The good news is that you can stay focused, even when it feels like you have no time to spare and you’re extinguishing whatever fire seems to be burning brightest. Here, a blueprint for staying focused from the experts who made it work.
Turn Off The Phone, Close Your Email & Shut The Door To Regain Focus
Ever hear of a digital detox? A lot has been said about the importance of disconnecting from technology from successful women like Arianna Huffington to hotel executives, who are beginning to fold a “detox package” into their offerings. Instead of a shoe shine or dry cleaning, participating locations give guests a chance to “cleanse” by dining on a special diet and engaging in a fitness plan.
Digital detox packages have been called the “next big trend” in the hospitality industry.
Another option is a mini-detox. Rather than spending days detoxing – make a few changes and see a big difference. Close out that email, turn off your phone, and shut the door to focus on what’s really important, rather than trying to decide whether or not you should post "Happy Birthday" to your ex on Facebook.
We all have the same amount of hours – so instead of trying to use your energy on dozens of tasks, target your energy on a limited number. Focus on what will give you the biggest bang for your energy buck!
Many people say yes to avoid confrontation or to save face, but as Holly Weeks writes in Harvard Business Review, you can take the middle of the road option: the neutral no. “A neutral no is steady, noninflected, and clear. It is mostly notable for what it is not: harsh, combative, apologetic, reluctant, or overly nice," says Weeks.
Saying “yes” to everything is one of the fastest paths to burnout. Practice makes perfect on this one, and for some people, saying “no” can be really hard. Just keep practicing until it becomes comfortable for you. When you do this, you’ll gradually feel more and more empowered and confident.
Take A Deep Breath When You See Something On “Fire”, Then Take A Closer Look
Although there may be another fire burning somewhere right now, just waiting for you to come put it out, it is imperative to take a minute and prioritize. Is it really something that needs your attention now? Has it turned into a total conflagration, or is it just a flare-up?
If it’s actually something that can wait, even if it’s just for a little bit, that extra time may allow for the fire to burn out on its own…and if not, that bit of added time allows me to look at the issue with a clearer mindset.
Allow yourself to set boundaries with technology.
Reset Your Expectations
Sometimes, because we have such high expectations of ourselves, we assume other people have the same expectations of us. Oftentimes, however, it’s our own expectations running the show – and rarely do we live up them.
“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation – but your thoughts about it,” author Eckhart Tolle has said.
Reset your expectations and be real – and by taking an unbiased second look, the situation can end up looking totally different.
Free Yourself By Delegating
This strategy is unfortunately often under-utilized by many people who think they have to “do it all”. In the Harvard Business Review Amy Gallo says if you’re working long hours and feel you’re the only one who can do the job while your staff keeps regular work hours, you may not realize that you’re hoarding your work.
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"More grapes, please," my daughter asked, as she continued to color her Peppa Pig drawing at the kitchen table.
"What do you say?" I asked her, as I was about to hand her the bowl.
I shook my head.
I stood there.
"I want green grapes instead of red grapes?"
I shook my head again. I handed her the bowl of green grapes. "Thank you. Please don't forget to say thank you."
"Thank you, Momma!"
Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children?
Many of us are busy training our young children on manners on the other side of the Zoom camera during this pandemic. Reminding them to say please, excuse me, I tried it and it's not my favorite, I am sorry, and thank you. And yet somehow simple manners continue to be undervalued and underappreciated in our workplaces. Because who has time to say thank you?
"Call me. This needs to be completed in the next hour."
"They didn't like the deck. Needs to be redone."
"When are you planning on sending the proposal?"
"Did you see the questions he asked? Where are the responses?"
"Needs to be done by Monday."
Let me take a look. I didn't see a please. No please. Let me re-read it again. Nope, no thank you either. Sure, I'll get to that right away. Oh yes, you're welcome.
Organizations are under enormous pressure in this pandemic. Therefore, leaders are under enormous pressure. Business models collapsing, budget cuts, layoffs, or scrapping plans… Companies are trying to pivot as quickly as possible—afraid of extinction. With employees and leaders everywhere teaching and parenting at home, taking care of elderly parents, or maybe even living alone with little social interaction, more and more of us are dealing with all forms of grief, including losing loved ones to COVID-19.
So we could argue we just don't have time to say thank you; we don't have time to express gratitude. There's too much happening in the world to be grateful for anything. We are all living day to day, the pendulum for us swinging between surviving and thriving. But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?
If you don't think you have to say thank you; if you don't think they deserve a thank you (it's their job, it's what they get paid to do); or if you think, "Why should I say thank you, no one ever thanks me for anything?" It's time to remember that while we might be living through one of the worst recessions of our lifetimes, the market will turn again. Jobs will open up, and those who don't feel recognized or valued will be the first to go. Those who don't feel appreciated and respected will make the easy decision to work for leaders who show gratitude.
But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?
Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children? Remind them with flashcards? Bribe them with a cookie? Tell them how I proud I am of them when they say those two magical words?
Showing gratitude isn't that difficult. You can send a thoughtful email or a text, send a handwritten card, send something small as a gesture of thank you, or just tell them. Call them and tell them how thankful you are for them and for their contributions. Just say thank you.
A coworker recently mailed me a thank you card, saying how much she appreciated me. It was one of the nicest things anyone from work has sent me during this pandemic. It was another reminder for me of how much we underestimate the power of a thank you card.
Apparently, quarantine gratitude journals are all the rage right now. So it's great if you have a beautiful, leather-bound gratitude journal. You can write down all of the people and the things that you are thankful for in your life. Apparently, it helps you sleep better, helps you stay grounded, and makes you in general happier. Just don't forget to take a moment to stop writing in that journal, and to show thanks and gratitude to those you are working with every single day.