Time Wasting

This would appear to be a straight forward title, and obvious problem, hardly worthy of a blog post. It would seem that way, but no matter how much I read or see about time management, a subtle problem remains for many an ongoing issue, due to external and internal experiences

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Key Time Wasters
External time wasting relates to the situations and experiences we encounter that we did not directly create, but invariably impact us, because they are demanding our time, interrupt or disrupt. There are several reasons for this, but the key items tend to be:
1. Over-extending ourselves for situations that do not match directly with key objectives.
2. Not saying “no” (double negative intended) to unimportant things.
3. Failing to be assertive with others, and therefore letting the unimportant intrude on the important.

Internal time wasters include:
1. Not having enough personal discipline to do the things that are best.
2. Choosing things that are not substantive to devote ourselves.
3. Spending inordinate amounts of time obsessing over needless details that add no value.
4. Not having the confidence to initiate our own course. Letting other things dictate this.

As you can see, the time wasting concept is a deeper issue, and sequential in nature. It is not just a matter of choosing unproductive things in our lives, or being lazy. Many very capable people, who have a capacity and willingness for good action, often fall into traps where they find themselves experiencing lost time. Just because you relax, does not mean that is wasting time. The point is whether the activity is serving a higher purpose, improving capacity, outcomes, or your personal guiding line. You have to decide this, based upon important values, ideals, and goals. Time wasting can be minimized, if we decide to take action.

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Letting Go – Reducing the Unnecessary in your life

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A common problem that I often encounter in the behavioral health clinic these days is the difficulty that others have to let go or move beyond emotional blockages to growth. Typically, these are a root cause of the anxiety, stress overload, and depression that generally presents as the problem. Non-clinical populations also exhibit the common problem of letting go, and may never manifest all the symptoms that lead to presentation for treatment. It appears that cultural conditioning, the social mirror, and the myriad of expectations both internal and external contribute to the problem.

Today, there are many, many influences in our lives. Some of them are simply taking up emotional and mental space, and thus need to be cleared, so we can focus on the most important things in our lives.

In the business and organizational world, the problem of letting go, is pervasive. In our driven world steep in high expectations, and underlying demands – both internal to the person and from others, it is sometimes a hidden problem that keeps us hostage to the things that we can simply let go of.

The problem is widespread, but like a computer CPU, we need a little soft reset, and that requires us to delete a few “unnecessary files” in our brains, thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. The work required on a personal level goes well beyond the suggestions here. There is often a journey required to let go of unnecessary issues, feelings, thoughts or behaviors. The items below are a sampling of things that may be key things to “let go”:

1. Personal slights
2. Old mistakes, guilt, shame
3. Unmet expectations
4. Current mistakes (what can we learn from them?)
5. Difficult personalities
6. Relationships – both personal and professional that are dragging us down
7. Excessive spending, poor diet, self-sabotaging habits
8. The past – which does not add positive memories

These of course, are not exhaustive. But you get the point. The concept to remember is that: The items above are preventing positive movement ahead. They are holding us hostage emotionally, behavioral, or through our thinking patterns. They are dulling our senses.

    Beginning steps to letting go of the unnecessary can include the following:

1. Identify what needs to be let go – Is it a thought, behavior, or a change in your job?

2. Ask yourself: What impact on my life will this make? Why is it important to let go?

3. Identify your support system. Create an accountability system that can support you through the changes that will occur once something is changed. More difficult things to let go – require more support. Supports can be personal and professional. Perhaps consulting with a trusted colleague.

4. Stressors, personal slights, negative cognitions, require more fortitude. It may require us to stop our negative thoughts, change a self-sabotaging behavior, or simply apologize to someone and rebuild a relationship.

Finally, consider the enormous payoff you will feel and experience when you let go of unnecessary things and situations in your life that weigh you down. Sometimes thoughts about the prospective payoff can be very motivating to make the change. Having deeper values and mission about the why, will help drive you toward how and what of any change you make.

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Do You Live Your Existence in the Red?

The financial “bottom line” is often a marker for mere survival, or measuring success in a business. Doing the right kinds of things help a business prosper, and likewise making bad decisions or not investing can lead to a company’s financial position to “be in the red”. In other words, you’re running your company with a deficit. This can translate to both emotional, physical or financial deficits.

Our lives and the way we run them, can be quite similar. We can either focus on significant things, and build equity, or we can be held hostage to insignificant things and merely exist, or run our lives “in the red.”

How does one really measure what is significant vs. what is less than significant? These days the importance of “demands” has slowly and intrusively taken on more significant place in people’s lives. Often measuring what is seemingly important is more about survival and distraction than about truly engaging the important.

Maintaining an awareness of these issues has become a chore – because we’re too busy meeting someone else’s expectations, and create so little time and value for our own. It’s not really about being selfish, but rather having quality of life. The parable of the slow boiling frog has become a common ailment, and seeking quick rescue is the way that others react.

How many of us question what we do on a daily basis? Does it provide joy? Are we even satisfying ourselves, or are we chasing a never ending set of demands that squelch out the significance from our lives. The following exercise may be important for you to try:

1.) Name the significant things you have done this week. Why were they important?

2.) Identify the insignificant things you felt drawn into this week. Did they add or subtract? Do you live your existence in the red, or do you have reserves?

3.) Did you feel too tired this week? Why? Was it for someone else’s purpose, or did fatigue have real meaning behind it?

4.) What personal or artificial barriers keep you living your live in “the red”?

From these questions, you should be able to gain insights into your actions, intentions and expectations. Determine whether it’s time to move your existence out of the red.

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Learning to Decipher the Big Things from the Little Things (in life)

In the course of the day the average person is bombarded with several dilemmas big and small. The problem of stress is an ever present danger when we fail to properly separate the “Big vs. Small Things” in our lives.

For some, learning to decipher what is insignificant and what is really important requires real skill. The same goes for leading teams, organizations, families, and our personal responsibilities. If we have a frail sense of who we are it is often difficult to decide what we should keep, and what we should let go.

In the end, we have to learn to accept ourselves so that we can put in proper perspective what we should be concerned with, and what small annoyances in life we just need to let slide by.

Unhealthy stress (most stress is unhealthy!) is often a product of paying attention to things that are incongruent with who we are – almost to the point that effectiveness suffers so greatly.

Deciphering what the (important) things are in our lives, requires the following questions:
1. How much, and to what extent does it contribute to our lives, the common good, our families or our reputations?

2. Is IT something that belongs to someone else?

3. Did we create the issue, or are we just the person in the middle?

4. What purpose does the problem have?

Hopefully the answers you receive, provide the right guidance to your heart. Learning to separate the big things from the really insignificant can be a great skill, and one that will help you fulfill your tasks wisely. It is also a great way to inoculate yourself from the daily stressors that almost everyone faces on a daily basis.

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Keeping It Real

There is a pervasive problem in our society: A reluctance to keep it real. Denial, minimizing, fudging, or simply being engaged in presentation over substance are common methods to influence.

Those that engage in moving away from being real often do so for the following reasons:

1. A loss of personal control. Credibility is important, but those that shade reality about themselves often feel that something is slipping away from them.

2. Self-denial. It’s simply too painful to admit a mistake. The ego and sense of self are too sensitive.

3. Not knowing what you don’t know. Ignorance is a self protective and welcome state. Think about how many of us deny or block off the “knowing” associated with right eating, and lifestyle choices.

4. Our negative obsessions actually have control of us. In a sense there is a part of us “that does know” we are off the mark. The gravity pull of turning that situation around is perceived as too hard.

The main problem for living in fantasy, is that it often requires more energy to maintain the presentation, than to actually change it. Ultimately our facades will be seen through, and we will be at a crossroads. Achieving realness means a willingness to be real. Stop covering. Stop creating images that are not real. Begin the process of exploring who you really are.

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Perseverance Is Just A Step Away

In my counseling practice, a daily task is the process of change. Individuals seek out professional counseling and therapy because they perceive that the problems they face are insurmountable. Making change requires perseverance, and this is often difficult to see when change is so often difficult to see.

Another difficult barrier for many is understanding the change has to be made by them, and not someone doing something to them. It also requires a commitment to do something.

Perseverance requires one to look at the problem one step at a time. Change is not an instant process. It requires taking the first step, then another, and another. Just taking that step “ahead” is often enough to motivate and encourage further movement for change.

The concept is simple: We manage adversity by implementing small changes over time, on a consistent basis. There are no shortcuts.

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Seek Clarity

Today’s world is saturated with information, knowledge and multiple demands. It is certainly popular to be the one that can engage multiple priorities. The reality is many of us live in a world of overload. It’s not necessarily a nice place.

How do you seek clarity amongst the interference? The following are definitive ways to gain clarity in your “world of overload”:

1. Know yourself. Have a clear idea of what you are good at, and what contribution you want to make.

2. If you are not sure about who you are, do deep thinking about your vision for yourself, and what good things you stand for. Use this as the template for which everything else is decided.

3. Avoid being a demanding, “help-rejecting-complainer.”. Take your lumps, move forward. Prepare to drop some balls out of the air. Be with other people, and let yourself be influenced.

4. Connect with those that inspire you. Let that guide your daily reflections.

5. Just be. Life is not perfect, and neither are you.

6. Find the right place to reflect. Exercise, nature walks, reading good literature, or reading your favorite blogs…stay productive, build a reservoir of clarity.

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Expectations = Understanding

One of the biggest problems in human interaction is improperly communicated expectations. As a manager, leader, parent or friend, you’ll likely be confronted with situations where clear communication is required.

Breakdowns in communication is often equal to unclear communication. Here are the key sources of failed expectations:

1. Information communicated does not always equal information understood

2. Your perceptions about what is being said is based on your own home movies, and not the meaning of the other person.

3. Personal distraction, disruptions, interruptions.

4. The receiver of the “expectation” is self-absorbed, or simply has a different agenda.

5. The person receiving is not receiving, just listening to respond.

Any of these situations will lead to potentially failed expectations – in other words:

Expectation success – must meet (or =) Expectation understanding.

In our management teams, groups, family units, or organizations, how many of us actually try to ensure we have “Expectation Understanding?”

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Problem Solving

Problems are a part of life. If we did not have some kind of barrier, human beings would not learn to innovate, grow, and persevere beyond them. It is when problems become overwhelming, complex, and misunderstood, that creates stress and personal difficulties. Frequently the major problems in life are perceived as issues beyond our control. The key word here is perceived.

More times than not, the way we look at problems is the crucial element as to whether we persevere and manage the problem, or fall further into a problem which is most complex. Obviously, this simplifies the matter, and problems often cannot be explained in simple terms. The purpose of this discussion is how to mobilize your energies to address, and hopefully eventually solve problems. Below is a set of criteria that describes different kinds of problems.

1. The problem involves interactions with others and expectations.
2. The problem is perceived to be a certain way.
3. The problem has been created by a violation of responsibility, trust, or unfaithful behavior.
4. The problem is a natural consequence to societal expectations and generally recognized responsibility.
5. The problem is the result of something or someone changing.

Generally financial, personal and social problems include these elements. How do we tackle the situation when it arises? Below is a list of important steps that can be applied:

>Examine the root causes of the problem. Using the assumption that everything is a natural system, there is usually cause and effect in action somewhere.

>Evaluate your assumptions (beliefs) about the situation. Remember, the way you may be looking at the problem may be incorrect at first. Be able to test your assumptions to either validate or discard them. Keep the ones that can be backed up. Now you have a baseline for approaching the problem in a targeted way.

>Don’t guilt trip yourself, but truly examine the problem using the five elements noted above. Some of it you may own, other parts may be totally outside of your control.

>Now determine action steps that you can take to begin to intervene and resolve the problem. The intervention may require additional assistance from others, or simply some tangible changes from you. Remember, problems happen usually as part of cause and effect. Find the sequences in the system that can be modified.

>Conscious effort is required. Determine if the action plan requires you to eliminate an undesirable behavior, change a habit, or let go of something that is holding you back. All change should be socially respectful, lawful, and moral.

Apply this methodology the next time you have a complex problem. Evaluate the results. The approach is helpful on both an individual and organizational level.

20120209-144003.jpg (photo by: Doug Butchy @dougbutchy)