RFS Blog | by Karl W. Palachuk – Relax Focus Succeed. Learn more at www.relaxfocussucceed.com

One of the hardest things to do these days is to unplug. Technology keeps us so connected all the time that we never feel like we’re off work. This is particularly true with people who are self employed. And with people who work in big companies. And everybody else, too. :-)

Unplug

We have email on our phones, on our tablets, on our computers, and maybe even on our wrist watch. It’s literally everywhere. And our calendar is on most of those devices as well. And Facebook, LinkedIn, and whatever pop-up messaging apps you subscribe to.

It is very hard for some people to turn all that off – but you need to. A friend recently told me, “I need to be a lot less Pavlovian about work email, but I can’t help myself.”

It’s an addiction. And all that evening distraction has two primary characteristics: 1) It’s unproductive work, and 2) It robs you of the recovery time your brain needs to be productive the next day. You are using your “time off” from work being distracted by work!

I have a home office. Actually, two home offices. One is in the big front room where employees show up. The other is my study, where it’s just me. Those are my work areas. When I’m in other parts of the house, I’m “home.”

Many years ago, I started a routine of declaring, “I’m going home for the day” at about 6:00 PM. Then I stand up, turn off the lights, and leave my office to go home. I even do this when employees are sitting at their desks working. New employees find this humorous, until they realize I’m serious.

This is a great way to end your work day – even if you work at a “real” office. Here’s the whole end-of-day routine for me:

– Review tomorrow’s schedule. What is happening and when? Are there hard time commitments?

– Review email for the last time. Move it, delete it, answer it, flag it, etc. Close Outlook.

– Close all programs. Be done with all productive work for the day.

– Say “I’m going home for the day.”

I just read Deep Work by Cal Newport and he describes a very similar routine. It’s a great way to officially be done for the day. It’s a bit like plugging in your cell phone. You need to charge your personal batteries for the day. The routine also helps you check the box that says, “These things will get taken care of.” Just not tonight.

There’s lots of research (and common sense) showing that our energy levels, will power, and work quality are highest at the beginning of the day and lowest at the end of the day. So why keep trying to work when you’re low energy, low will power, and you’ll only spit out low quality work? You actually know that your work is lower quality, but you’re tempted to keep going.

Shut off. Power down. Play a video game. Read a book. Watch something stupid on TV. Listen to music. Enjoy your life. Recharge your batteries.

So many people tell themselves, “I can’t shut off.” But you can. You just have to do it, get used to it, and learn how to shut off. It really will improve your work if you take time to NOT work.

Try it. Let me know how it goes.

:-)

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Jun/18

4

To Ponder

Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?

:-)

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I am a firm believer that you must control your schedule, your availability, and your communication. These things are absolutely essential to your productivity and success. If you don’t control these things, someone else will. Guaranteed!

The two most common questions I get are some variation of the following:

1) How do you accomplish so much? How do your produce so much? How do you get so many things done?

and

2) How come you never answer your phone? Are you ignoring me? Why don’t you answer text messages? Are you really offline or just pretending to be?

Some people are genuinely irritated that I am not available 24×7 to respond to tweets and text messages and emails. But here’s the key to success: 99.9% of the time, 99.9% of the people have no idea that I’m unavailable.

Perhaps the wisest thing I’ve heard in the last ten years comes from my friend Arlin Sorensen, who thinks he heard it from his dad:

“Don’t worry about what people think about you, because they probably don’t.” It’s so true. People don’t spend their time thinking about YOU. Sorry. In our nihilistic, social media-focused society, people might believe that the whole world is looking at them and waiting for them to Tweet out the next funny post. But it’s not true.

Essentially nothing on social media is productive for you. In fact, almost nothing in your life is productive. Most email is not. Most phone calls are not. All tweets are not. All of Facebook is not. Most YouTube is not. In fact, most of the Internet is not.

We fool ourselves into believing that these things are productive, but they’re not. At all. In fact, all of your productivity happens between these distractions. To become more productive (and less stressed), you need to decrease the length and frequency of distractions and increse the length and intensity of the productive periods in your day.

If you want to learn to unplug and become more productive, here are some tips. This is what I do so that I appear to be active to others, but I’m actually “off the grid” most of the time.

Step One: Commit to doing one thing at a time.

You cannot multitask (That’a a whole different topic, but trust me, you can’t.), but you CAN time slice. Time slicing simply means you do one thing and then another and then another. When you do this, you give all of your attention to one thing. This focused attention makes that one thing go faster.

Step Two: Determine the minimum number of times you need to do unproductive activities in a day.

For example, you might think you need to check email every five minutes but you really don’t. For most people, checking email once per hour is enough. You may even be able to check it first thing in the morning, 30 minutes before lunch, and once in the middle of the afternoon.

Facebook and other social media are the same way. You might only need to check them once an hour or less. In fact, if you’re perfectly honest, you don’t really need to check them much at all.

Step Three: Set a routine to cycle through each activity block.

This will help you identify a large block of time that can be spent on a single focused task.

I always remind people of the time they were in a meeting and couldn’t answer their phone. An hour later, they checked their text messages, checked their voicemail, checked their email, etc. And guess what? No one noticed that they were unavailable for an hour. The world kept spinning. There were no crises.

Here’s what I do on a daily basis to unplug as much as possible and yet appear to be online a lot. I simply make a list of things to do on a rotating basis. For me, this includes:

– Check email (Inbox, employees, clients, etc.)
– Check text messages
– Check Facebook. Interact.
– Check to see if I have anything scheduled
– Focus on the most important project I have

With rare exceptions, I simply rotate through this list all day long. Think of it as a cross between a pie chart and a clock. Allocate a time slice to each activity. Repeat all day long.

It is very important that you silence your phone, close Outlook (email), close Facebook, close everything except the one project you’re working on. What you’ll find is that email might take fifteen minutes at 8:00 AM, but it takes five minutes at 9:00 AM, and only one minute at 10:00 AM. Once you focus on this, you’ll realize that you really don’t get that many truly important messages in a day. The same is doubly true for voicemail and infinitely more true with social media.

The result is that your hourly period of productive labor grows from 30 minutes to 40 or 50. And once you realize that you can check email every other hour (along with text messages, etc.), your block of productive labor grows to an hour and fifty minutes. That’s enough time to dig deep into an important task and get a LOT of productive work done.

I know this sounds hard if you’ve programmed yourself to believe that busy work is real work. Once you realize that the world is divided into productive blocks and interruptive blocks, it becomes easier to focus on the productive.

Try it. I’d love to hear your feedback.

:-)

 

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May/18

24

Sheep Food

What’s a sheep’s favorite kind of food?

Bah Bah Que

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Jan/18

6

Meditating . . . on a Pebble

I often meditate with pebbles. Well, one pebble at a time, really.

I’ve mentioned this from the stage and had several people inquire about exactly what that looks like. So I’ve put together a free audio program. It is delivered as a zip file with two MP3 files and a couple of photographs.

 

The first MP3 is a description of what the meditation is about. Basically, I use a physical object (the pebble) as a focus of attention. This makes it very easy to ignore distractions that come through my other senses. I also like the physical focus of the pebble because it makes it easy for me to “name” what I am experience.

One form of mindfulness meditation is to clear your mind and then name interruptions. For example: the sound of a bird or a car driving by; the thought about taking the car in for an oil change; or the feel of wind on my face. Once you name the distraction, you set it aside.

With a pebble, I simple name the sensations of hard, smooth, cracked, etc. I find it very easy to keep focused on the object of my choice.

I have several small bowls on my patio with pebbles I have collected over the years.  Most are from beaches I’ve visited as I travel. A few are from mountains (The top of the Andes; The top of Mt. Kilauea volcano.). One I bought. A few are gifts.

Taken as a group, it’s a wonderful collection of textures. Perfect for a little meditation.

You can download the 30MB file here: My Free Stuff Page.

Note: Free stuff has to be processed manually, so when you order, there’s a slight delay as either Kara or I process orders. Thank you for your patience.

I welcome your feedback on the audio program.

Happy Meditating!

:-)

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Jan/18

6

Titanic Humor

Q: Do ships like the Titanic sink very often?

A: No. They only sink once.

:-)

 

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In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins starts with the premise that Good is the enemy of Great.

The argument is that it takes a lot of hard work and organization to create a good company, hire good employees, have good policies, etc. And once all that hard work is done, people have a natural tendency to feel good about the good company they have created. And so they stop trying to improve beyond the “good” they have.

In order to achieve greatness, companies need to move past the good. They need to strive for greatness and not be satisfied with Good.

In this video I discuss how you can apply this to your personal life. After all, many of us have achieved many good things – personally and professionally. But if we’re happy with that, we might miss the opportunity to take ourselves to the next level and become Great in some areas of our life.

You know the things you do well, and the things where you are really good. You might even have a few things in your life where you know you’re great. Now, consider where else you can move from good to great in your life.

:-)

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I have friends whose dream was to build a custom home exactly the way they want. Most of them achieved that. Some are still working on it. I have other friends who dream to climb every significant mountain peak in their state, or to start a charity, or to run 100 marathons.

Those aren’t my dreams. And most or all of them are not your dreams. I don’t want a “perfect” house or to build a large company. My dream is to build a life that allows me to inspire success through a balance of serving myself and serving others.

To that end, I want my life to be filled with travel, reading, writing, teaching, speaking, and helping others to improve their lives.

That’s a very odd dream, I know. But it makes me happy. And it’s not easy or clear to many people. And that’s okay. It’s mine. And the only one who can ever achieve it or hold me accountable for it is ME.

 

What’s Your Dream?

Do you have one? Well, here’s the sad reality: If you don’t have a dream, it can’t come true.

I’m not talking about goals. Most people (about 97%) don’t have written goals. In fact, only about 14% have UNwritten goals.

You should have written goals!!!

But goals aren’t the same as dreams. Dreams are bigger, grander, and more engaging. A dream grabs you and pulls you into a better tomorrow. Dreams are also extremely personal. You can’t get them wrong. Your dream is your dream.

I suspect more people have what I would call a dream for their better life. They think about it from time to time. It’s always changing and always over the horizon. And the start-date for working on it? Well, that’s in the future as well.

Having a dream can bring focus and energy to your life. It can help you to improve many other aspects of your life. It can move everything in the right direction. When you have a dream, you can literally go back to it again and again. You can fill out the details and change it in any way you want.

I highly encourage you to spend at least 15-30 minutes per week just sitting in a chair and thinking about your dream. If you don’t have one, start there. Dream about your better tomorrow. Dream about what it will look like. Dream about the biggest, most visible aspects, and the smallest details.

Don’t worry about making it come true at first. Just dream about what you really, really want your life to be like. The very act of having a dream will change your life. You’ll start to unconsciously think about it at other times. And before you know it, you’ll start working on goals to make it come true.

As I always say: You get better at whatever you put your attention on. Once you start building a dream, and thinking about it, you will naturally start working to make it happen.

 

Now A Bit of Reality Check

Making your dream come true will take actual work. That comes later. Right now, just work on creating the dream. Later, you’ll have to start working on the goals that will make it happen.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1) Make it your dream. Don’t worry about what society thinks, what your spouse thinks, what your kids think, etc. Dream your dream. If it’s not personal, then it’s not your dream.

2) When you’re ready, write it down. You don’t have to show it to anyone, but you should write it down.

3) If it sounds stupid, that’s okay. Human beings flying through the air was stupid for a long time. Now we do it every day.

4) Escape to your dream from time to time. Dig in. Explore what it might actually look like. Enjoy working on it. The more you do this, the more real it will become.

5) Don’t worry about “reality” and the big challenges that will become obvious as you start thinking about the details. If you can imagine an obstacle, you will someday be able to imagine a fix for it.

6) Dream BIG. Again, your dream is not my dream. What BIG, awesome, amazing thing do you want to come true? Say it out loud. Make it part of who you are. Then start working on it.

7) Your dream will change over time. That’s totally ok. You don’t have to commit your entire life to it just because you dreamt it. There is no failure in dreaming. You just change to a new dream and make that come true!

I am in the middle of successfully fulfilling a massive dream. And in the beginning stages of working on the next one. Is my life perfect? No. Could it be improved? Of course. That’s the human condition.

Everyone dreams at some level. I challenge you to take your dreams seriously, formalize them, and make them come true.

Good luck!

:-)

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Aug/17

6

Brain Transplant

My friend was considering getting a brain transplant.

Eventually, he changed his mind.

:-)

 

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Silence Means Nothing

One of the truisms I live by is that we should strive to avoid having both sides of a conversation. For example, we are often tempted to say things like, “He would never agree to that,” or “She wouldn’t pay that much.” We tell ourselves that other people will act or think a certain way. As I say in the book Relax Focus Succeed, you need to let the other person have their side of the conversation!

Somewhat related to this is the human tendency to write meaning into silence. Silence means nothing.

Worry

I catch myself in this all the time. I send a text and don’t get a reply. Is that bad? Did I offend someone? Is silence a yes or a no? Then . . . I finally decide to text again and see that I never pushed send, so the text never left my phone.

If you’re waiting to hear back about a loan or a job offer, you might be tempted to write meaning into the long silence. Don’t.

Once you tune into this, you’ll see examples everywhere. A client takes a long time to make a decision. Then you find out they went on vacation. You really need feedback on an email. Then you learn that the person was sick. You’re waiting to get started with a project. Then you find out that there’s a company reorganization in the works.

The ultimate example is when people speculate about a jury taking a long time to deliberate a verdict. Is it better for a short deliberation or a long one? Which favors the defendent?

Silence means nothing.

So what do you do about it? Well, you need to practice a little mindfulness here. What do you know and what do you not know? Then stop worrying about it. Spending your time worrying about something you cannot control (or affect in any way) is a waste of energy.

Have you noticed how often stuff like this gets built up in your head and then turns out to be nothing? Most of the time, the stuff we worry about doesn’t happen. So we literally worry for no good reason.

Worry brings anxiety, which gets our brains all hyped up – and keeps us from paying attention to whatever else we should be doing! As you can see, it’s really worth limiting this whole process before it goes too far.

How do you do that? Step One is simple awareness. Recognize when you’re worrying over something because you’re trying to determine what the silence means. Step Two: Say to the words to yourself: Silence Means Nothing. Step Three: When it’s over, label the worry. Was this legitimate? Was it worth worrying about? Virtually every time, the answer will be NO!

If you do this a lot, it’s worth drawing a sign and putting where you can see it. Silence Means Nothing. And, if you do it a lot, imagine how much better your life will be when you remove that unproductive worry and anxiety.

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