One of the most obvious examples of “workaholism” is simply over-working. Over-working means that you continue working after you are no longer productive. You might do this out of guilt or frustration. You might just be completely overwhelmed. And that’s precisely why you need to force yourself to stop working and recharge your batteries.
Here’s the thing about too much work: Eventually, everything floats to it’s natural level. So if you exhaust yourself, your body will eventually collapse and you will catch up on sleep whether you want to or not. Or maybe you will get sick, forcing you to slow down.
Here’s what happens when you work too much. As we all know, there are “diminishing returns” from too much work. You focus too closely on what you’re doing and your brain gets tired. That’s why people who work on heavy equipment and critically important jobs (like airline pilots) are forced to take breaks. Accidents happen much more frequently when people are tired.
And tired doesn’t have to be eight or ten or twelve hours. Depending on the combination of physical and mental activities, you might be worn out after only a few hours.
Most of us don’t work on those critically important jobs. For most of us, when we get tired, there are no dire consequences. No one dies. No one is injurged. But we ARE less productive. We DO make more mistakes. And the overall quality of our work is lower. That’s why it’s important to take breaks throughout the day.
As you work day goes along, you gradually become less productive over time. So you are most productive during the first hour of work and least productive during the last hour of work. Everyone has a threshold of productivity. There is literally a point where you move from productive to un-productive. If you keep working, you will eventually be counter-productive.
Most of us are vaguely aware of the line between productive and unproductive. We tend to tell ourselves that we’re really just “less” productive. In reality, we’re making very little progress except in a mechanical sense. For example, we’re not able to write a coherent memo, but we thing we can sort files or clean up minor tasks. We don’t realize that we’re maknig mistakes.
The line between unproductive and counter-productive is essentially invisible. This is where mistakes happen. We do work that has to be thrown away, un-done, or completely re-done. We are creating re-work and don’t even realize it.
But we feel productive because we’re still working! And we feel like we’re doing something instead of nothing.
One of the biggest culprits in over-working is anxiety. You might have a deadline for work or home. (Most often, it’s work and not personal.) You may have stress related to money problems or a big project. Anxiety and worry raise the levels of cortisol in your system. (Strictly speaking, they reduce your body’s ability to regulate the production of cortisol.)
Stress and anxiety are related to sleep disturbances, early death from all causes, occupational injuries, heart attacks, suicide, risk of type 2 diabetes, divorce, breast cancer, and just about every bad thing ever in your life.
With stress, anxiety, and high levels of cortisol, your body gets “stuck” trying to address the panicky feeling you have. Your physical body wants to be “on” and to solve the problem. In some cases, this is good behavior. But the classic example of fighting off a saber tooth tiger should be enough for you to realize that you almost never find yourself in a true fight-or-flight situation.
As a long-term, chronic condition, this is very, very bad.
Physically, your body is 100% ON and wants to stay on. At the same time, you are unproductive, tired, and probably irritable. When you slip into being counter-productive, you don’t even realize it.
You’re essentially in a panic. You can’t sleep because your body is filled with natural chemical stimulants. You are making no effective progress. And you’ve into the counter-productive zone.
You can’t relax. You can’t stop.
… And that’s exactly why you HAVE TO stop. You have to force yourself to NOT WORK.
Breaking the Cycle
The best way to get yourself out of this high-anxiety over-working situation is to train your body to relax. Here are a few tips:
1) Physically put the work down. Wrap it up. Put it away. Go in the other room. Whatever it takes to be out of the work area, do it.
2) Engage in a non-work activity. This might be reading, watching TV, writing, or even playing a game of solitair on your phone. Your brain might only be half-engaged, but it’s not engage in work.
3) Meditation can train your brain to slow down. Meditation reduces stress. In fact, studies show that it reduces cortisol quite significantly. Meditation also increases endorphins – the feel good chemicals associated with love and pleasure.
4) Pour yourself a cup of tea – or a glass or wine. The ritual, along with the senses of smell and taste, will become a powerful signal to your body that work is done for the day.
Relaxation is a habit. Once you train yourself to relax, your body will learn to respond. After you learn to relax, your brain will literally pick up the signs of relaxation and help you to get there quicker. Once you’ve broken out of the anxiety/work cycle, you need to rest. Whether that means sleep or play, you will recharge your batteries as long as you are not trying to work.
And don’t try to cheat! If you say “Well, I’m *just* reading, or *just* doing this one thing …” your brain still knows that you’re working. Any attempt to work will prolong the stress and the anxiety. You have to really stop working in order to break the cycle.
Tomorrow will always be there. And it will always have work to do, and bills to pay. Tomorrow will always bring temptations to over-work.
In the long run, you will get more productive work accomplished when you are well rested. But that’s a habit you have to create.
A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with RA – Rheumatoid Arthritis. This Fall is the 15th anniversary of my diagnosis for RA. I wrote the following notes to help my friend with this disease, which she will have for the rest of her life.
If you are newly-diagnosed with RA, or you are close to someone with RA, I hope this is helpful.
– – – – –
First, I am very sorry that you have R.A. There’s no fun here. I hope you were properly diagnosed by a good doctor. The single biggest problem with R.A. newbies is that they are mis-diagnosed. Either they are told they have something else, or the R.A. diagnosis is made late. In some cases – such as Kathleen Turner – patients are mis-diagnosed for years. The result is usually crippling deformity.
Here are my thoughts on treating R.A. Take it all as one person’s experience. I have been diagnosed with R.A. for 15 years this Fall. And it is pretty well under control. I have some level of pain every day, but it’s quite tolerable.
Second, I highly encourage you to ignore all “natural” medicines, potions, etc. I don’t know what your opinions are about western medicine, vitamins, or homeopathy. But here’s the truth: If you do not properly treat R.A., you will become crippled. There’s an excellent chance that you will get your disease under control with the right medications. If you treat yourself with vitamin supplements, etc., that’s the same as no medicine at all. You will become crippled if you ignore this.
Everyone you meet will tell you about glucosamine, chondroitin, bananas, akai berries, and magnets. They all mean well, but you need to nod politely and listen to your doctor. Also – remember that R.A. is nothing like osteo arthritis. R.A. is an immune disease in which your body attacks itself. Osteoarthritis is one of those diseases that everyone gets if they live long enough. It has to do with the wearing out of your joints. Whether or not you have R.A., you will probably also get osteoarthritis some day.
Third, the real medicines that actually get the disease under control are very nasty. They will make you tired. The disease will also make you tired. Some medications will make it hard for you to sleep. The pain will come and go with or without the medicines. It will just “go” more often with the medicines.
The medicines fall into two categories: Control the disease and control the pain. Do not confuse these. And always be very clear what each medicine is for. For controlling the disease you may be prescribed medicines such as Plaquenil, Methotrexate, and Arava. Each of these has side effects. Everyone responds differently.
As for pain, I highly encourage you to do everything you can to minimize the pain medication you take. Pain is not the same as suffering. You will live with pain the rest of your life. You can learn to live with it or numb yourself. Just be aware that being permanently numbed will affect every aspect of your life and can lead to drug addiction and alcohol abuse in an attempt to escape the pain.
Personally, I prefer Aspirin for pain. As long as you are religious about taking food with your aspirin, you can safely take very large amounts. It is the safest pain reliever you can find, and has almost zero side effects.
Work with your doctor. Be attentive to whether the medicines are helping, and which side effects you are experiencing. The most common approach to R.A. newbies is to crush the disease into submission with a series of horrible drugs. Keep working on it. It may take years to get under control. Ideally, at that point, you’ll move to something like Arava or Enbrel, which are true miracle drugs.
Fourth, you need a good Rheumatologist (“Rheumy”) who takes you seriously. Good means that they keep up on the literature and research. It means they understand the role of exercise and stretching/yoga as well as pharmacology. It means they listen to you and respond in a timely manner. If you have doubts about your doctor, get another one ASAP. Especially early on, time is your enemy. You need to take this disease seriously and your Rheumy needs to be your ally.
Fifth, you need to educate yourself. Subscribe to Arthritis Today. Check out web sites that are run by legitimate medical outfits. Join an email list or web forum and read what other people are going through. When you’re comfortable, talk about your symptoms and experiences. It helps to know that you are not alone in this.
Sixth, I have found that daily meditation is a GREAT way to handle R.A. Meditation has many benefits. The most important here are 1) It reduces inflammation, and 2) It can help you manage pain. There’s a great audio program by Shinzen Young on using meditation to manage pain. I highly recommend it.
I was just exchanging notes with someone about the pain I experienced in yoga today. She asked whether it was good or bad. Pain is neither good nor bad. It is just pain. Sometimes the pain makes you limit your movements. But, really, it’s YOU limiting your movements, not the pain. When you sit differently or limit your movements, you will have a temporary change in the nature of pain, but you may be permanently limiting your movements. Be careful.
Seventh, you should do yoga. Personally, I love the hot Bikram yoga for several reasons. The heat makes everything in my body feel better. In addition, Bikram yoga consists of the same postures each time, in the same order. That means I can learn what to expect and I can gauge how I’m doing today vs. some other day.
I am told endlessly (by everyone at every opportunity) that yoga is a “practice” and that I shouldn’t worry about getting it “right.” That sounds great, but I’ve been doing yoga for fifteen years and I only do one pose consistently well: Savasana.
Yoga strengthens the muscles in a gentle way. It reduces inflammation. It has a meditative quality. It can make you sore in the short term, but will reduce pain overall in the long term.
The best part about yoga is that it teaches you a mindfulness about your pain. If you do two sets of each pose, one on the left side and one on the right, then you will have four opportunities to check in with your body. In many cases I find that I can’t do the first (right side) at all; I can do the second (left side) a little; I then do the third very well; and can’t do the fourth well.
The point is: you pain moves every minute. The last stretch, which seemed unproductive, loosened things up. Don’t stop because you couldn’t do something two minutes ago. “How do you feel now?” means NOW. This instant, not two minutes ago.
Eighth, you need to work on exercise and weight control – for the rest of your life. As with yoga, all exercise is useful. You need to do what you can do. More and more, you won’t be able to jump, slam, hit, or play hard. So a lot of aerobic exercise is out. Weight lifting will probably be severely limited.
But you need to keep moving. Riding a bike, walking. Whatever keeps you moving.
Exercise reduces inflammation, strengthens muscles, and burns calories. Weight control is very important with R.A. because you can’t exercise as much as you used to. And added weight means added pressure on your joints – especially the hips, knees, and ankles.
Obviously, that means you need to watch your diet because you can’t burn as many calories as you used to with exercise. So you need to manage in-take very carefully.
Ninth, you will experience flare-ups (flares) that are worse than your normal level of pain, discomfort, sleeplessness, exhaustion, etc. As you work to get your A.R. under control, you will gradually have fewer and fewer flares.
No matter what, you need to take flares seriously. Don’t push yourself too hard. That can make the flare worse, and make it last longer.
Every flare represents a (temporary) step backward with the disease. Each flare is an opportunity for your joints to be damaged a little before you get back on track to a stable state. If you have too many flares, you will eventually have the kind of joint damage you’re trying to avoid with medicines, diet, and exercise.
Keep track of your flares and tell your doctor. If they become too frequent, it may mean that your disease is no longer responding to your medicine. This is VERY common. You may need to be switched to a different regimen. Again, take it very seriously.
I have found very few things that I can associate with flares. One is very acidic food (like vinegar and cucumber salad). Another is lack of exercise.
Overall, there’s a lot you can do with R.A. It is a chronic disease. That means you will have it for the rest of your life. Right now we don’t have a cure. So you need to manage it, even if you never become friends with it.
Consider getting a hot tub. Absolutely the best monetary investment I ever made in my health.
And remember, with all the advice on exercise and yoga and eating right: It’s okay if you forget. It’s okay if you get off track. It’s okay if you’re not perfect. Just remember to start over, get back on track. When you don’t do the things you’re supposed to do, you will have more pain, more inflammation, and more weight. When you do the things you’re supposed to do, you’ll have less pain, less inflammation, and less weight.
Again, this is all based on my experience. Your mileage may vary.
Comments off · Posted by karlp in Balance, Beliefs, Business, Challenges, Exercise, Family, Goals, Meditation, Muscles of Success, Patience, Positive Attitude, Relax Focus Succeed®, Vision or Mission, Wealth, Workaholism
Relax Focus Succeed®
Balance Your Personal and Professional Lives and Be More Successful in Both
Five Mondays – July 28 – Aug. 25, 2014
Registration includes a copy of the book Relax Focus Succeed® by Karl W. Palachuk.
Save $50 right now with code RFSClass
This course will show you how to master the concepts of Relax Focus Succeed® – a program for balancing your personal and professional lives and finding more success in both.
This course is intended for anyone who is stressed out, over-worked, and ready to take their whole life to the next level. We all lead busy lives, filled with too many demands. Many of us donâ€™t get enough sleep or exercise. We fight to be successful at work and at home.
Taught by someone who’s been there. Karl Palachuk was diagnosed with debilitating Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 39 and spent several years getting the disease under control. With two businesses to managed and a young family, he found himself unable to work more than a few hours a day. That’s when he developed a process for achieving goals at a very high level without working himself to death.
Many of us chase the entrepreneurial dream – but few of us reach our entrepreneurial vision.
This is an intensive teleseminar course over a five week period. All assignments are voluntary, of course. But if you want feedback on assignments, please complete assignments during this course and email them to the instructor.
Topics to be presented include:
- Balance your personal and professional lives
- Focus on the single most important things in your life
- Develop your vision for self-fulfillment
- Relax – in a meaningful way
- Be the same person in all elements of your life (overcome Jekyll/Hyde syndrome)
- Put the past – and your present – in their place
- Build your muscles of success
- Stop working 50- or 60- or 70-hour weeks
- Avoid being interrupt-driven
- Slow Down, Get More Done
- Work less and accomplish more
- Define Goals: Long-term, Medium-term, and Short-term
- Build quiet time into your life
The course will include a number of recommended do-it-yourself exercises.
Save $50 right now with code RFSClass
Enter code RFSClass to bring this price to only $149
The bartender is surprised to see a grasshopper and says, “Say, you know we have a drink named after you?”
The grasshopper responds, “You have a drink named Stanley?”
Some time ago I saw a reprinted Peanuts cartoon in the newspaper. One of the kids asks “What do you do when you feel that life is treating you unfairly?” Snoopy responds “Learn to bake your own cookies.”
There’s a lot of truth in that. After all, what are cookies except the ultimate comfort food? When we were kids, we learned to comfort ourselves with a blanket. We all need engaging and distracting activities to keep our lives balanced. As grown-ups we need to find our own blankets (or blanket substitutes).
When we take the time to stop and consider it, life is a continuing series of actions and reactions, constantly intertwining and affecting each other. When we don’t stop to think about it–when we let the events of life begin to overwhelm us–we begin to view things as “me against the world.”
When we start down that path, we begin to see life as a series of events that happen to us rather than a set of things we can influence and control.
When the world comes crushing down (when life treats you unfairly), the solution is a little perspective. Taking time to bake cookies might be just what you need. Or gardening, or reading, or any other “puttering” activity.
When you pick an activity, remember that it must be engaging and distracting. It should be something that keeps you from focusing on the problems and worries of life. Doing one kind of work to keep yourself from focusing on another kind of work is not the answer. You need to do non-work in order to keep yourself from focusing on any work.
It’s fine if your work is also your hobby. You’re lucky if that’s the case. But you still need something else to do to when the worries of work start to grow too large.
Exercise is a great distraction. Running, bicycling, lifting weights, aerobics, swimming, or whatever you enjoy. In addition to helping you get some perspective on life, it will help you live longer! Even non-aerobic exercise is proving to be extremely beneficial for your health. You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to get benefits from exercise. You just have to do something.
And let’s not forget the final element of baking cookies (or whatever distraction you choose): comforting yourself. If you hang around new parents you may hear them discussing whether a child has discovered a way to “comfort himself.” Very often this means thumb-sucking or some other very simple activity.
When a baby learns to comfort himself, then he can calm himself and go back to sleep after being startled or waking up and realizing that he’s alone. This is a wonderful skill. Unfortunately, many of us seem to have lost the skill of comforting ourselves as we get older. Sometimes we just never try. We ignore or avoid uncomfortable situations.
At other times we simply react to the situation at hand without thinking about it. We’re frustrated, so we respond with frustration. We think the service is bad and we respond with anger. Traffic is tied up and we respond with rage.
The traits of self control and “think before you speak” seem to have been lost by modern society. We’re always going and never stopping. We need to give ourselves that minute to think.
We need to feel comfortable slowing down and taking in life.
We need to slow down just enough to process things and decide how to react. That way we participate in life rather than merely react to it. Slowing down and processing events are habits that need to be cultivated.
Start today. Take a few minutes to spend quiet time thinking about how you react to the world–especially when you feel a great deal of pressure. Do you react the way you’d like to? If not, why not?
Work slowly. Don’t worry. You don’t need to be perfect (soon or ever). But the process of working on yourself automatically makes you happier and more in control. It’s like making your own cookies.
There’s a great British mystery series from the 1990s called A Touch of Frost, starring David Jason. As with many of these shows, Inspector Frost is a little odd. He doesn’t quite fit in with what everyone else wants him to be. And, of course, that’s part of his success.
“That’s all right.” says Inspector Frost, “I’ll tell you one little trick, though. Out of order is no good to anyone. Out of step is much better. That way you tread on the bits the other people miss.”
I love the idea that being “Out of Step” is a good thing. After all, we each have our own weirdness that makes us unique from all the other people in the world. And as Frost says, when you’re out of step you see things other people don’t see. Not only do you have permission to BE different, you have the ability to SEE differently.
My brother Manuel likes to say that everybody is somebody’s weirdo. No matter how “normal” you think you are, you still have unique differences that make you special. And someone’s going to see your different-ness as strange or odd. That’s okay. We all live both sides of that equation every day.
Maybe life’s a little more fun once we accept our different-ness.
As social beings, we have a tendency to want to fit in. By definition, that means tamping down part of our uniqueness. Fully expressing your uniqueness can be scary. But at the same time, we all look for people in our lives who are just different enough from the masses that they’ll be fun to be around.
Consider adding this to your search for balance: How can I enjoy more of the authentic “me” that’s out of step with the rest of the world?
Remember: the more authentically you act, the lower your stress because you don’t have to put on a mask for other people. Building that authentic uniqueness into the roles you play (parent, friend, lover, boss, employee, etc.) will help you enjoy more of the life you’re building for yourself.
I was in a meeting today and one of the attendees is a tax professional. It’s tax season of course, so she was explaining that she will be working until midnight.
Maybe I’m odd, but my first reaction is that I don’t want my taxes to be prepared by someone at midnight. Or 11 PM or 10 PM. In fact, I don’t want my taxes prepard by someone who was up until midnight last night either!
I want my taxes prepared by someone who is fresh and well rested – and on top of their game.
I don’t want my accounting handled by someone at 11 PM.
I don’t want my tech support handled by someone at 10 PM.
I don’t want my surgery to be performed by a doctor in the last two hours of a ten hour shift.
I don’t want my legal documents reviewed by an attorney after ten hours at the office.
Do you see the pattern here? We all see this behavior in others. We know that they have diminishing returns. We don’t want them at their worst. We want them at their best. We don’t want to pay full price for the ninth or tenth or eleventh hour of work.
When you see someone working like this day after day, you know that they are mostly spinning their wheels and becoming less productive every hour. And after several days of overworking, they are becoming less productive every day.
It can be very frustrating when my flight is cancelled because the pilots sat around waiting for delays until the FAA says that they have to go home because they’ve been on duty too long. But the FAA knows a very clear truth: People make more mistakes when they are tired. Mistakes can kill people.
And What About You?
It’s easy to see this behavior in others, but what about yourself? Are you overworking day after day? How productive are you in the last hour of your long work day?
When most of us make mistakes, no one dies. But that doesn’t mean that we are doing good work, or that our clients are getting their money’s worth. Certainly, our families are not getting what they deserve when we are working eleven or twelve hours in a day.
When you collapse at the end of the week and are “useless” to your family, then you really need to re-evaluate why you’re working so hard.
Under-serving your clients (or boss) while under-serving your family is the only long-term result of chronic over-working.
If you’re a thoroughly modern person, you are probably pretty well tethered to your technology. That means you are never far from your email, cell phone, text messages, and social media. Generally speaking, these are good things. But you might be too connected.
If you are too connected, your addiction to these technologies is actually detrimental to your success, detrimental to your peace of mind, and detrimental to your health. Really. More and more research is revealing that constant tethering to technology is resulting in a new kind of neurosis or addiction.
If you can’t ignore email, text messages, and Facebook for two hours with without feeling agitated, you have a problem. This might sound funny – unless you’ve experienced it. From time to time we all legitimately wait for a special email or a special text message. But addiction comes in when you aren’t waiting for anything in particular – you just crave some kind of interaction on your phone that will make your brain produce some neuro-chemicals that give you a little a positive “hit.”
The Pew Research Center reported in 2012 that 44% of respondents said they would experience “a great deal of anxiety” if they lost their phone and couldn’t replace it for a week. My guess is that the number is higher today. For many of us, a little beep or tweet from the phone actually causes a chemical reaction in our brains.
Dopamine is a chemical created in your brain. Often called the pleasure-seeking neurotransmitter, it creates and enhances pleasure-seeking impulses. So when you get some little indicator of pleasure, dopamine pumps into the pleasure center of your brain and you go seeking more. Remember Pavlov’s dog? When the bell rings, the dog starts to salivate.
How about you? When your phone beeps, do you start to salivate? Do you rush to see whether it’s a text message or a Tweet or a Facebook alert? Dinging computers, email pop-ups, and instant messages are all the same. A little taste leads to a larger desire.
And what really happens is that one little ding results in fives minutes pleasure seeking. You make sure you’re all caught up on the alerts and emails and other activity. When you’re sure you’ve got it all, you can put your phone down. But for many of us, we start seeking the next electronic-inspired hit of dopamine as soon as we put the phone down.
Whether it’s just a habit or an actual addiction, you can get carried away with being tethered to your technology. Let’s look at how this behavior affects our lives.
On the business front, constant interruptions just make you less productive overall. Really. I’ve written many times about the fact that multi-tasking is a myth. Human beings cannot focus on two things at once. Again, more and more research is demonstrating that the best we can do is to jump between tasks doing each of them less effectively. And interruptions cause us to lose time as we switch gears. We think we’re doing more because we confuse busy-ness with productivity. We might be busier switching tasks all the time, but we are far less productive.
You need to turn off the distractions. You need to silence the alerts. You need to disable the pop-ups and instant messaging. You need to take control of communication and decide when you’ll check those things. Do not be interrupt-driven.
I am not trying to be preachy here. I really take this very seriously. That’s why I can’t ask you to just drop it all at once. If you’re addicted to the BEEP, you need to slowly ween yourself off of it. You need to un-tether, but you need to do it in a way that decreases your anxiety instead of increasing it.
The goal is to be able to ignore your disruptive technology so you can be more productive and more focused. Here’s a plan to do that without guilt, stress, or temptation.
Step One: Believe and Commit
First, you need to accept that the world really is going to be just fine even when you are not monitoring it 24/7. Intellectually, you know that you can watch a movie at home or in the theater and everything will be just fine if you don’t check your text messages during that time. And the same is true with dinner, and with sleeping at night.
So we know in our intelligent brain that we can ignore email, social media, and text messaging for hours at a time. But when we have access to these technologies we tend to turn them on and keep them on – ready to interrupt us at any time.
You have to accept that ignoring these technologies for longer periods of time is okay and that nothing bad will happen. A big piece of this is that YOU will control the entire process. You will decide when to look at email or check the phone.
Step Two: Plan Out A Morning Routine
The morning is key because it gets you up and going and sets the tone for the day. The biggest change here is that you will not check your phone (or email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.) first thing when you wake up.
You need to actually wake up, acknowledge the new day, and calmly enter the world before you choose to tether yourself to technology. That means you will want to make sure that the phone is left in the kitchen or the study at night – not in your bedroom. Not next to your head. Not where you can reach over and get your first hit of dopamine before you crawl out of bed.
A good morning routine for everyone includes a gentle start. Wake up. Make coffee or tea. Have a very light meal or snack. Like a small yogurt. Just enough to give you a boost of energy. Then exercise for 30-60 minutes. Of course I recommend quiet time (meditation, prayer, etc.). Then you can shower, have breakfast, and get ready for your day.
THEN you can check your email and phone.
Step Three: Create a Regular Schedule for Email and Phone
I know it sounds drastic, but I encourage you to totally silence your phone and turn off all reminders and alerts for email and social media. In other words, nothing in your environment should be beeping and tweeting and buzzing. YOU will decide when to check these things. They do not have the right to interrupt you.
Whatever you are doing right “now” is absolutely more important than whatever interruption happens to occur. You’ll prove this to yourself in the next step.
For now, set yourself a non-interruption policy. Turn off all the alerts.
Then, set yourself a schedule. For example, let’s say you go through the morning routine above and check the phone, email, and text messages between 7:30 and 8:00 in the morning. If you are heading to work at an office, I highly recommend that you do NOT check email until you get there. The first email session of the morning usually involves filtering through a lot of crap you’re going to delete anyway. The rest of the day, email can usually be handled in 5-10 minute sessions.
What’s your schedule? The best is probably 60 or 90 minutes. That means that you check all of your electronic communications, and then close it out or ignore it for 60-90 minutes. Do not check email every few minutes. Do not have a Twitter (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) feed scrolling on your screen. Do not have pop-ups or audible alerts.
YOU decide to check your email after 60-90 minutes. I think you’ll be amazed that you’ll catch up on everything in 10-15 minutes. Then you can go silent again for 60-90 minutes.
Eventually, you’ll stretch out this time. Maybe you’ll end up checking email at 8:00 am, 10:00 am, 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm, and 4:45 pm. That’s much better than twenty times an hour. Really.
Step Four: Keep a Log of Important Communications
One of the lies we tell ourselves about the technology tether is that we’ll miss something important. But the reality is that 99.999% of the time, the phone call that interrupts you is LESS important than whatever you’re doing at the time. Email is even less likely to be more important than what you’re doing. Twitter and Facebook less than that. Instagram less than that. And so forth.
Here’s a sample log format. Simply mark down the time you you check email, etc. and then log the number of emergencies and high priority items that you did not respond to in a timely manner. For example, if someone is stuck on the side of the road in the rain with a flat tire and they decided to call you instead of AAA, did you respond to them quickly enough?
Time Check . . . Emergencies High Priority ----- ----------- ----------- -------------
8:00 AM Voicemail 0 0 Email 0 0 Social Media 0 0
9:30 AM Voicemail 0 0 Email 0 0 Social Media 0 0
11:00 AM Voicemail 0 0 Email 0 0 Social Media 0 0
12:30 PM Voicemail 0 1 Email 0 0 Social Media 0 0
2:00 PM Voicemail 0 0 Email 0 0 Social Media 0 0
3:30 PM Voicemail 0 0 Email 0 0 Social Media 0 0
5:00 PM Voicemail 0 0 Email 0 0 Social Media 0 0
Note: There’s no need to track Medium and Low Priority items since they can wait 60-90 minutes. They are not, by definition, Emergencies or High Priority.
Keep a log like this for a week. You can track it during the business day or all day from when you get up until you go to bed at night. What you’ll see is self-proof that you don’t need to camp out on your phone waiting for urgent tweets.
. . . Or Do Something Different
This approach might not be right for you. But if you look at your technology tether and decide that you need to be less tethered, please come up with a different plan that does work for you. I don’t know what the future holds regarding technology. But I know this: We will only become more tethered to more technologies as time goes on.
Take control of your communication. Separate the entertainment factor from the work factor and focus on what needs to be done. Focus never happens by itself. You have to choose to focus. Which means you have to choose to un-tether.
Yesterday I had a particularly painful Bikram Yoga* workout. I always have some pain due to my Rheumatoid Arthritis. But this was a bad day.
Other than Yoga, I never go barefoot. You see, walking barefoot for me is a bit like walking on a floor where some kid has scattered Legos. You know those little 1×1 pieces with really sharp corners. And the pain isn’t in a specific spot, so I can’t avoid it. I never know when I’m going to step on a Lego.
Then at random intervals I get a shooting pain like a needle sticking into my foot very suddenly.
Some days my toes feel like they’ve just been hit with a hammer. That usually doesn’t last more than a few minutes.
The joints in my hands hurt when I put pressure on them – like interlacing my fingers and making a fist. Or holding my feet in Head to Knee pose. Oh, and standing on my fingers in Hands to Feet pose? Not happening.
In general, R.A. makes me feel fatigued a lot, and sometimes my muscles are just tired. So don’t worry if I’m twitching or getting cramps or spasms. I’m fine. It will pass. The heat helps.
I currently take two medicines that affect my equilibrium, so I’m just a little dizzy when I try to stand on one foot. Luckily we only do that for half the class!
Outside the yoga studio I walk or bicycle for exercise. Both of those are pretty hard on my joints, especially feet, knees, and hips. So if I do that kind of exercise, I’m more sore and my muscles might be more fatigued during yoga.
But I DO Exercise
So why go through all that? Well, about ten years ago I was walking with a cane. I could NOT interlace my fingers and make a fist. It took me three years of Bikram Yoga to accomplish that.
I no longer walk with a cane.
Back then the joints in my back were so immobile that one would occasionally pop during a back bend and I would suddenly go back an extra inch. Instructors were frequently alarmed if they were near me when this happened.
I am no longer popping like that. My spine happily moves all the way forward and quite a ways backward. And it works pretty well side to side.
I get to do all that because I exercise.
I danced at the Halloween party last night. It was great fun. And my hips are sore this morning. But 1) I danced, and 2) I got to dance because I did Yoga in the morning.
Pain Is Just a Physical Thing
Fifteen years ago I found out that I had R.A. The doctor warned me that they have to be very aggressive with this disease to get it under control, otherwise I would be too crippled to work in ten years. Well it’s been fifteen and I am not crippled. I’m not disabled.
I’m just in pain sometimes.
My first reaction to being in constant pain was to move less and try to minimize the pain. But that’s very deceptive. Not moving leads to weight gain, loss of flexibility, and more pain. So avoiding pain is actually bad for someone with a condition like this.
Working through the pain of exercise reduces pain in the long term. It helps me keep my weight down. It keeps me flexible – which reduces pain more.
Think about all those athletic types out there (I am definitely not an athletic type): They are constantly icing knees and shoulders and heads. They seem to be in pain all the time. If one thing isn’t hurting, something else is.
So why don’t they all give up? It would hurt a lot less . . . in the short term. My assumption is that they don’t give up because they know it will hurt less in the long term. AND they get to HAVE a long term. They get to be in pain for an extra 20-30 years because they go through the pain now.
Pain is the pill you take to live longer and feel less pain over time.
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*For those unfamiliar with Bikram Yoga, it is a program with 26 poses that you move through in 90 minutes in a very hot room (over 100 degrees). It is strenuous, but the heat is great for such exercise.
The Revised Edition of Relax Focus Succeed is now available to purchase in both paperback and as an e-book. Very soon we’ll have the audio version as well as Kindle and other e-reader formats.
Also check out the free 60 minute recorded seminar I posted on The Book page.
Focus on the positive, make some plans, and start heading in the right direction today!
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