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Ways to conserve your personal energy

In previous blog articles I discussed energy sources and activities that deplete your personal energy. In this article I suggest how you might conserve your energy. Much of the information is summarized from my eBook, Manage your personal energy, published by Bookboon.com.

The more you use your brain the more energy you consume. The brain draws fuel, oxygen and glucose, from blood delivered via 400 miles of blood vessels. When certain brain areas work hard at something, more blood flows to those regions to help them refuel. They do this by dilating near spots that need a supply boost. This widening causes blood to reroute. The more active your brain, the more energy is consumed. If more blood is not delivered when neurons needed, those cells might starve and cognition could suffer.

Managing your energy is like increasing gas mileage in your car. If you run the air conditioner with your windows open, exceed the recommended speed limit, drive all night, and periodically drive with your emergency brake engaged, you are going to consume a lot more gas. Similarly, you will burn more energy if you push yourself when you are tired.

You must pace yourself when you work. European experiments have shown that short, three-minute breaks every hour helps rejuvenate people more than two fifteen-minute breaks.

Whenever you use your head, you use energy; but you certainly don’t want to stop thinking. So it’s important to tap into those energy sources mentioned a few blogs ago, and prevent those energy drains referred to in last week’s blog. And if you can conserve energy as you go along, so much the better. Here are a few more tips.

Maintain an active lifestyle.

Tom Rath, in his book Eat Move Sleep, (Missionday, 2013) called sitting “the most underrated health threat of modern times.” He claims that sitting more than six hours a day greatly increases your risk of an early death.

Get up and move around, as we were created to do, rather than lead a sedentary life. Walk around while you talk on the phone, work at a stand-up desk, have stand-up meetings, take the stairs instead of the elevator and walk to the local mall instead of taking the car.

Tom Rath claims that as soon as you sit down, electrical activity in your leg muscles shuts off, the number of calories you burn drops to one per minute, and enzyme production, which helps to break down fat, drops by 90%. And after sitting for two hours your good cholesterol drops by 20%.

Staying physically active, socially connected and mentally stimulated has been shown in studies to help keep brains sharp.

Don’t rush needlessly.

Speed is the enemy of both time and energy management, Life is meant to be savored, not dispensed with as quickly as possible. Slowing down will result in fewer errors, fewer accidents, a healthier lifestyle, improved relationships, and more energy for an enjoyable and memorable life.

According to Matthew Edlund in his book The Body Clock Advantage, those who don’t rush through the day in a panic, but pace themselves & work efficiently, actually survive longer. That’s a greater time management strategy than working more efficiently.

Speed consumes energy. A frantic level of activity can generate busyness without the concomitant results. And there is a difference between working fast because you want to and working fast because you have to. If you want to, it’s more relaxing and consumes less energy. So it is important to have a job that you enjoy.

Don’t skip breakfast.

Sure that cup of coffee will give you a short energy boost; but for sustained energy throughout the day, you can’t beat a good breakfast. Several studies have shown that people who eat breakfast have more energy throughout the day. You can get by just fine on a helping of low-fat yogurt, a slice of whole-grain toast and a banana or handful of nuts. But any energy gained by a coffee or doughnut will quickly dissipate.

Keep on top of your workload.

The more things in your life that you think should be done but that you leave undone, the more anxiety and stress you experience. And stress depletes your energy. Being in control of your work does the opposite. Seldom would a person think of a project they had completed or a meeting they had attended or a phone call they had made and feel stressed as a result. The opposite is true. They would feel good about themselves for having completed those things. Unfortunately that feeling doesn’t last if they think of the dozens or hundreds of things that they have yet to do.

If some things don’t get done, rest assured it’s not your fault. Your job is to do what’s possible, not what’s impossible. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Worry or anxiety weakens your immune system as well as your executive skills, and leaves you open to energy loss.

Develop routines.

Few people balk at the morning routine of taking a shower, getting dressed, brushing their teeth and so on before starting their day. It’s necessary groundwork upon which to launch their significant activities. Neither should they question the validity of developing routines for planning their day, dispensing with email, making calls, and working on their significant projects in chunks of time throughout the day.

Develop the habit of scheduling time for the priorities in advance of the day. Relegate the less important tasks to your To Do list, preferably on the same week-at-a glance planner page.

You must manage your energy in order to gain control of your time. Routines require less energy, leaving plenty for creativity, decision-making, and the mental demands of your significant projects and tasks. And the tendency to procrastinate is reduced to a minimum.

Maintain a healthy attitude.

A happier, healthier lifestyle is more important than ever, and along with it, an attitude that tends to stress-proof your life. It’s important to get sufficient sleep, daily exercise and social support. But it’s equally important to be aware of the good things that happen to you – those positives amid negative events.

Be more conscious of the things that go right in your life, and remember that when things look bleak, humour helps. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugher reduces stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, aids immunity, changes mood for the better, helps you think – and improves memory. Exposure to non-stop negativity can disrupt learning, memory, attention and judgment according to Robert Sapolski, professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University. Researchers have linked negative emotions to increased risk for illness, and positive emotions to health and longevity.

It takes less energy to be happy and well than sad and dejected. So if you’re down in the dumps, climb out as quickly as possible and put a smile back on your face.

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Activities that drain your energy

In the last blog article I discussed energy sources, and this article, drawing on information from my eBook, Manage your personal energy, published by Bookboon.com, indicates how our energy is quickly depleted.

Excessive use of technology.

We seem to be obsessed with the need to stay connected, check email every few minutes, respond immediately to every email and text message we receive, interrupt ourselves from important tasks to answer our smartphones, and continually disrupt family plans and scheduled events.

Getting more things done faster is no longer limited by technology, but by our brain. Our brain has a limited capacity for processing information, and this limit is being approached and frequently passed by the ever-increasing rate at which it is being assaulted by new information.

Absorbing new information burns energy. And it takes more energy to multitask, make decisions and work on demanding tasks. To maximize brain efficiency, we must protect our brain from energy- draining activities encouraged, if not caused, by technology.

Technology was meant to speed up the completion of tasks, not the behavior of people. We must continue to use technology and all that it has to offer in order to improve both our performance and lifestyle. But we must do so in a manner that protects our health – including the health of our brain. This involves judicious use of the Internet, control of technology, and the practice of moderation as opposed to excess.

Multitasking.

In studying how the brain uses energy, scientists have learned that it’s virtually impossible to do two things at once with equal amounts of attention. And attempting to do so consumes energy.

Dr. Amir Allen Towfigh, a neurologist with Weill Cornell Medical Center claims that multitasking can jam up your brain processing. He says our frontal lobes are the main engines directing our attention, and they Whether hiring new employees or deciding to go with a new product, executives sometimes go with their gut feeling rather than plow through all the accumulated information and comparing the pros and cons In business there seems to be a preference for the quick over the right; because there are so many decisions to be made.

Daniel J Levinson, in his book The organized mind, claims that multitasking also disrupts the kind of sustained thought usually required for problem solving and creativity. He also indicated the impact of interruptions when he said the awareness of an email waiting to be answered can reduce our IQ by 10 points.

Interruptions.

Interruptions, which are a form of multitasking, also help to use up your daily supply of energy. The average smartphone user checks his or her device about 150 times a day according to the 2014 book, Thrive, by Arianne at Huffington. And according to a study conducted in 2005, it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to a task once interrupted, and people spend only 11 minutes on a project before being pulled away. In addition to self-interruptions are the hundreds of daily distractions resulting from your working environment, including décor, clutter, and other people.

Distractions waste our energy; concentration focuses it. If we have reduced external distractions to a bare minimum by turning off smart phones, engaging voicemail, and working alone in the home office devoid of other people, the bulk of the distractions will still remain. The tendency of our minds to wander or daydream is a function of our reactive brain, which is always on the alert for unusual or sudden motion, sound or sightings.

Disorganization.

One U.S study mentioned in an article by Leah Etchler in The Globe & Mail (April 6, 2013) found that employees lose 76 hours per year as a result of disorganization so you have more than just energy drain to be concerned about if you are disorganized.

Disorganization definitely consumes energy, whether by searching for misplaced materials in your office or scanning dozens of folders left unfiled on your computer desktop. Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen, authors of YOU: On a Diet, claim that visual clutter slows down the brain. They say that’s why clusters of road signs double the chances of missing the one you’re looking for. It also explains why website designers aim for simplicity. So clearing clutter from your desk, office and home and leaving more wide open spaces also helps to clear your mind so it will be more productive and consume less energy.

Organizing your office and home not only helps you to find things, it helps you to find purpose in life as well. According to recent research reported in the July/August, 2015 issue of Scientific American Mind, an ordered life lays the groundwork for the pursuit of larger goals, purpose, and significance.

Stress.

Fatigue and information overload tend to weaken executive skills, lower your energy level and make you more susceptible to distractions.

Excess cortisol impairs function in the prefrontal cortex – an emotional learning center that helps regulate the “executive skills,” including working memory. The overproduction of cortisol was found in seniors who were experiencing memory loss. And it is believed by many neurologists that memory loss experienced by seniors is largely a factor of stress, not age. Prolonged exposure to cortisol has been shown to shrink the hippocampus by up to 14%.

In stressful situations, your weakest executive skills fail first and become more pronounced. Fatigue and information overload tend to weaken them further. Avoiding, releasing or being able to manage stress is important.

Avoiding, releasing or being able to manage stress is important. You should re-examine your workload. Simplify if possible. Delegate and outsource. Pace yourself.

Decision-making, problem solving & willpower.

They all consume energy. As far as your brain is concerned, less information frequently results in better decisions. Too many choices and too much information taxes the brain and depletes your mental energy. Researchers have found that coming to a decision often involves listening to two parts of the brain – one that relies on taking advice and the other on experience. The brain considers both views, sometimes conflicting, and makes a decision.

Experiments show that there is a finite amount of mental energy available for exerting self-control, willpower, problem solving and decision-making. Making decision after decision eventually leads to poor decisions. Similarly it has been shown that exerting willpower reduces your energy.

Too much mental exertion without breaks taxes the executive skills. In fact studies described in Scientific American Mind (May/June, 2011) have shown that people who exert themselves mentally, such as resisting the temptation to eat chocolate or whatever, gave up on problems sooner when presented with them immediately afterwards.

In the next blog article I will suggest some ways to conserve your energy.

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Tapping energy sources for peak performance.

Managing your energy is as important as managing your time. The next few blog articles will be discussing personal energy management. Most of the information was excerpted from my book, Manage your personal energy, published by Bookboon.com. Consider taking advantage of the following sources.

Sunlight

Norman Doidge, in his 2015 book, The brain’s way of healing, explains how cytochrome in all our cells converts light energy from the sun (originating 93 million miles away) into energy for our cells to use. Our eyes are not just used for sight. Every morning light-sensitive cells send electrical signals on a pathway separate from the one used for sight to cells in the brain that operate our biological clock. It’s difficult to imagine that sunlight not only warms the surfaces of our body, but is actually transported to our brain – where it sets in progress a sort of “human photosynthesis” that supplies us with energy. Not until about 2005 did researchers prove scientifically what Florence Nightingale had already shown – that natural sunlight can reduce pain, accelerate healing, and even cure some depressions. It’s a “wonder drug,” when it comes to energy.

Exercise

Although you might think exercise would consume more energy than it produces, it actually helps you to sleep better, and you feel more alert and energized as a result. A study from Northwestern University, in Chicago, showed that insomniacs who did about 40 minutes of moderate cardio between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. four times a week got an average of 75 more minutes of sleep a night.

Exercise also helps us to expel negative thoughts, and those who free their mind during exercise have more energy. According to research from California State University at Long Beach, a 10-minute walk can increase your energy for up to two hours.

Nutrition

There is little doubt that the food you eat has a significant bearing on your level of energy. Many years ago eating enough protein was suggested as a key to optimal energy. But according to a lengthy article in Prevention.com magazine, August, 2015, it’s is the good bacteria that aid in digestion and are helping you to retrieve energy from the food you eat. The author of the article, The way to a woman’s energy is through her gut, claims that the bacteria manufacture about 95% of the body’s supply of serotonin, a key hormone for boosting energy – much of which is produced in your gut, not your brain.

Water

To keep yourself energized, drink plenty of water. It will help improve your mood as well as your energy. According to research conducted at the University of East London in the UK, researchers believe that bringing water into an exam room can raise students’ marks. Studies indicated that those who drank water while writing exams out-performed those who didn’t. In one study, the scores averaged 4.8% better. One explanation is that students are in a mild state of dehydration when taking exams, and drinking water corrects this. Perhaps some of us should be drinking less coffee and more water.

Working environment

Your surroundings not only impact your energy level and personal productivity, they can also affect your health, mental attitude and general well-being. For example, studies have shown that the presence of potted plants improves productivity, creativity, performance and learning ability. And researchers have also found that plants act as vacuum cleaners, removing pollution from the air. Exposure to indoor and outdoor pollutants in both home and offices has been linked to anxiety, depression, irritability, fatigue and short and long-term cognitive decline among other afflictions.

Batching consumes less energy and increases efficiency.

Batching refers to scheduling blocks of time in your planner for tasks that are similar in nature and require similar resources. Batching consumes less energy and causes less mental fatigue since you are using the same areas of the brain and not switching back and forth from one task to another or putting demands on your energy supply by having to make frequent and unrelated decisions. It also increases productivity since you are wasting less time locating materials, interrupting yourself or deciding what to do next.

Coffee

Coffee is a “good news – bad news” energy source. Although drinking too much coffee has been associated with anxiety and stress, in moderation it seems to give energy and memory a boost. A brief article in the spring, 2014 issue of Health magazine describes a link between caffeine and memory. Michael Yassa of John Hopkins University asked 60 people to view a series of images of different objects. Then, five minutes later, after receiving either a placebo or 200 milligrams of caffeine, were tested the next day on their ability to recognize images from the day before. More people from the caffeine group recognized that an image was similar to rather than identical with one they had viewed earlier. Separate research published in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition also showed that one or two cups of tea a day can boost brain power and athletic performance. This held true for children as well.

Sweets

Consuming glucose when you are given a problem to solve will likely improve your performance. At least that’s what studies indicate. Glucose goes directly to the brain and feeds the neural circuits that are working on the mentally demanding tasks. Unfortunately doing this too often could lead to diabetes and sugar crash – not to mention your waistline. The brain burns glucose like a car burns gasoline, a little extra energy could be useful. But avoid a steady diet of sugary drinks and candy bars. Like most things, moderation is the key.

Building sound relationships

Strong friendships give both your physical and mental health a boost. The February, 2014 issue of Scientific American Mind reported on a quantitative review of numerous studies, concluding that having few friends is the mortality risk equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. People with a close friend at work are more productive and more innovative. Strong social connections are the biggest prediction of happiness in general – and happiness has been linked to do an increase in longevity.

 

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How to say no

A small word like “no” can have a huge negative impact on our mental and physical health, energy level and the accomplishment of meaningful personal goals.

Getting involved in business, community and social projects can be a great way to expand your personal relationships and your areas of competence; but it can also catapult you into a busy, busy life where you are so occupied with other people’s projects that you don’t realize you are neglecting your own ambitions and the needs of those closest to you.

There is a reason people say that if you want to get something done, you should ask a busy person. It’s usually because a busy person hasn’t learned to say no.

It’s so much easier to say yes to other people’s requests. We don’t hurt their feelings, it avoids conflict, it satisfies our need to be liked, and it actually feels good at the time. Every time we say yes, we are momentary heroes. But most often, what we agree to do at the moment torpedoes what we really want to do the most.

Just because someone asks you to or three times doesn’t mean you have to change your answer to a yes. A polite no is a complete sentence; but you might want to add a comment that doesn’t leave the door open for a change of heart later, such as “but I’m flattered that you asked me.”

Definitely don’t say “Let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you later.” They will have false hopes, and you will have an even harder time saying no as they continually press you for your decision. And giving an excuse such as, “I’m too busy right now; perhaps in the future” would leave the door open for negotiation. You may get, “That would work out okay; the project doesn’t start until the spring.” Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Holding a definite “No” in abeyance is both stressful and energy draining.

If you feel you must give a reason for saying no, mention how saying yes would impact other people. Few people would argue against spending adequate time with your family or fulfilling ongoing obligations, for instance.

It’s important to have your personal goals as well as your personal policies in writing and in your mind. Focusing on your goals insures that you have a good reason for refusal always on the tip of your tongue. For example, I can readily respond with sorry, “I’d love to help you out; but I have a commitment to get 10 more e-books to the publisher in the next couple of years and I just don’t have the time to spare.”

Saying no at work tends to be more of a struggle for women than for men, according to studies done by Katherine O’Brien at Baylor School of medicine in 2014. Age is also a factor. Seniors find it easier to say no – probably due to experience and because they have less need. The majority of people are somewhere in between, with the less assertive people being more likely to say yes.

Practice should help everyone. Thinking how you would word a refusal, and actually speaking it out loud a few times, will at least make it more familiar and a little easier. And the more you say no, and discover that people don’t resent it half as much as you had imagined, it won’t be such an ordeal.

 

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Measuring the results of time & organization training

Getting Organized Action Plan - Personal Organization Quiz

The closest instrument that I have developed to a quantifiable measurement of results obtained from a time management and personal organization workshop is the Personal Organization Self-Analysis Quiz. It attempts to evaluate the individual’s current state of organization (or disorganization) by applying point values to each component. For instance, under the area of Procrastination, it makes the statement, “I feel pressured because of all the things I have to do.” If the individual feels this is true, she or he gives it 2 points, if only partially true, 1 point, and if not true, 0 points. After completing the entire quiz and calculating the total point value, the clients have a quantifiable indication of their current degree of personal organization.

The higher the number of points, the more disorganized they are. Then I issue a companion instrument, the Getting Organized Action Plan, which provides 15 suggestions in each of the same eight key areas being measured – for a total 120 suggestions. A month or so after putting into practice the ideas that workshop participants feel will help them, they can take the quiz again and see whether their total score has dropped. Just seeing a measurable improvement motivates them to continue to make further changes.

I recall one attendee coming into my office a few years after attending my workshop and excitedly telling me that he initially had a score of over 300 and that it had dropped to close to 200 a few months later after he had introduced some changes into his life. His goal was to get it below 100. Another client told me she repeated the test every few months, after applying a few more ideas from the Getting Organized Action Plan, and saw an improvement each time. This is the type of feedback that is rewarding.

The eight areas measured by the Personal Organization Self-Analysis Quiz are setting goals and prioritizing, planning and scheduling, writing things down, procrastination, packrat tendencies, environmental organization, work habits, and the tyranny of the urgent.

The companion Getting Organized Action Plan is simply a listing of 120 suggestions broken down into 15 suggestions for each of the eight key areas being measured. Many of my clients have used only the Action Plan to issue to their employees so they can put it into use immediately.

Everyone wants to be able to measure the results of training. Corporations are reluctant to spend thousands of dollars on training without knowing whether they are getting an adequate return on investment. They want to be assured that the new skills are being applied on the job with resulting increases in productivity.

Individuals in a home environment also want to get their money’s worth, but they are less concerned with return on investment than they are with realizing an improvement in their current situation. If one of your recommendations results in more free time or less stress or a greater feeling of control—or anything positive—they will be motivated to try more of the suggestions and to stick with them.

As a trainer, you obviously want to be able to measure results because that’s your job—to get results. You want to know that you are truly helping people to gain control of their time and their lives. It also results in more enthusiastic testimonials, referrals, higher ratings on evaluation sheets, and ultimately more business. And there’s nothing more rewarding than having someone tell you that your presentation saved their marriage or prompted a change to a more rewarding vocation or helped them discover their true passion.

It is not easy to quantify the results of time-management training. But you should do everything in your power to do so. It will set you head and shoulders above those who deliver a workshop or spend a half-day with a client and then disappear.

Effective 2018, I am offering organizations and individuals the rights to reproduce both instruments in unlimited quantities for a one-time fee of $149. They are available for immediate download at our website, taylorintime.com in the “Shop” area of our drop down menu items.

 

 

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Got a problem? Sleep on it.

Do you find yourself mulling over problems and reviewing the day’s activities as you try to sleep at night? You’re wasting your time and depriving yourself of sleep. Your brain won’t start working until you’re out of the picture. Once you are asleep, your brain can take over. It never sleeps.

That’s why your brain consumes up to 25 percent of the oxygenated glucose and nutrients distributed by your body’s circulatory system – even though it is only 2% of your total body’s weight. It’s a powerhouse – both during the day when you are directing its power, and at night when you’re supposed to be sleeping.

At night it repairs and replaces old neurons, decides what’s important to you and what isn’t, and consolidate memories. Oh yes, and in the morning it provides you with fresh insights on those problems that were keeping you awake, and frequently gives you a bonus of a truly creative idea – an “Aha” moment.

But you have to let it do its job. You can’t expect it to solve problems at night (when you’re stressed out and tired) that you were unable to solve when you were fully awake and alert.

We are programmed to spend about a third of our lives asleep. It’s not wasting time. During sleep those amyloid proteins – plaques and tangles – indicative of Alzheimer’s – are washed away. Sleep keeps us mentally sharp, creative and productive.

Don’t feel badly about all you’re fussing at night. We all tend to do it. It’s what we call “thinksomnia.” We’re so busy during the day fighting fires, flitting about from one job to another, fielding problems and crises that night-time seems to be the only time there is to really think about a problem and be really creative. But the thinking keeps you awake.

And you are anything but creative. Your job is to relax, let go of the day’s problems, and go to sleep. Sleep is as critical to life as the air you breathe. Don’t trade for it for anything – not even that million dollar contract that may be at stake if you flub that presentation in the morning.

That part of the brain that you rested will be rejuvenated, in addition to having completed its essential work during the night. You will be mentally alert, creative, optimistic and energetic in the morning. That’s worth more than another night of anxiety mixed with preparation. Believe it.

We need between seven and nine hours of sleep to be at our peak. That’s sleep-time, not bed-time. Less than six hours sleep and you are sleep deprived, which means you will not be at your best. Although a sleep deprived brain my tell you the opposite, your thinking skills will be way below average and your personal productivity will plummet.

There are ways of freeing up your mind and getting a good night’s sleep – and that’s not by taking sleeping pills. You might want to take a look at my brief e-book, Sleep: a time management strategy, published by Bookboon.com. It contains many suggestions that are based on actual research.

There is a list of 25 suggestions in the book for improving your sleep habits. Here are a few of them:

  • Keep the bedroom cool. Scientific evidence indicates that 65°F to 68°F is the ideal temperature for sleep.
  • Skip the caffeine. Avoid coffee or other caffeine drinks at least six hours before bedtime. It can actually stay in your system for 12 hours. Avoid alcohol and cigarettes as well.
  • Stick to a routine. Where possible go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. It helps regulate the body clock. When people try to catch up on sleep on the weekend the quality of the extended sleep is quite low.
  • If you can’t sleep, don’t stay in bed. Don’t spend too much time trying to sleep; it reduces the sleep drive. Read a book, listen to calming music or engage in relaxation exercises.
  • If thoughts of all the things you have to do or specific worries linger in your mind, write them down on paper so you can put them out of your mind.

Don’t fight your biological clock. There is a time to work and a time to sleep. Don’t confuse the two.

 

 

 

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How to handle the stress in your life

Being able to manage stress is critical since it can weaken the immune system, raise cholesterol levels, accelerate hardening of the arteries, disrupt the digestive system, and lead to overeating and obesity. And according to Tiffany Chow, in her book, The memory clinic, it can also increase the risk of developing dementia.

When you’re under stress, you don’t think clearly. You could find yourself in the state of panic, getting more stressed by the minute. But once you have calmed down and feel in control once again, things go back to normal.

The source of our emotions is believed to be the amygdala, two small almond shaped regions of the brain. It’s our “fire alarm” that signals danger both real and perceived. It really can’t tell the difference between a life-threatening emergency or simply the need to get to a meeting before it starts.

When you feel stressed, you don’t have to immediately start deep breathing or meditating. You merely have to take control of the situation. This involves looking at the stressful situation objectively and determining how critical it really is. For instance, if you can’t find the agenda you received for the morning’s meeting, is it really going to matter? You could probably share a copy with someone else or even take a quick snapshot of someone else’s copy with your iPhone.

Once you know that you can deal with the situation, and you calm down, it’s amazing how often you will then remember where you placed the original agenda in question.

That sudden feeling of panic when you can’t remember something or feel unprepared for a presentation or think you may be late for an appointment cannot be prevented. It’s a product of your automatic nervous system, which regulates the release of adrenaline, blood pressure, heart rate, hand temperature and other physiological changes. It’s an automatic response to a perceived danger, real or otherwise. Don’t expect the part of your brain that pushes the panic button to distinguish between a slight concern and a major crisis. That’s not its job. You have to activate another part of the brain located in the prefrontal cortex to take on that task.

You have to use your brain’s executive centre in the prefrontal cortex to pay attention to the alarm, think it through clearly, focus on what is really important and take any necessary action. You don’t relieve stress by taking deep breaths and telling yourself to calm down, you have to pay attention to the signal, and take control of the situation.

The opposite of stress is not being relaxed calm or half-asleep, it is the feeling of being in control. You’re in control when you feel that you are able to handle whatever life happens to throw at you at the time.

There is such a thing as building stress tolerance. That’s one of the brain-based executive skills discussed in my ebook, Strengthen your brain’s executive skills, published by Bookboon.com.

To build stress tolerance, make sure you schedule adequate leisure time, build quality relationships with others, laugh often and keep healthy and physically fit. Get plenty of sleep, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Meditation or mindfulness can also help you change the way you perceive potentially stressful situations. A Newsweek special issue, Your Body (October, 2014) suggested that taking 15 minutes a day for silent meditation can help lower stress levels and prevent it from increasing in the first place. Studies have shown that even taking a few deep breaths can lower cortisol levels. And it helps to maintain a positive attitude

Don’t be a slave to your cell phone. According to the Newsweek article referenced above, studies show that taking three or four hours each day away from the Internet and digital communication is not only a healthy distraction, but also a partial antidote to stress.

And believe it or not, orderliness seems to help as well. UCLA researchers discovered that the sight of clutter can induce the production of stress hormones. So be sure to organize both your working and living environments.

The secret to handling stress is to take charge. You do that with your mind – the real you.

 

 

 

 

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22 ways to get more sleep

If you haven’t heard or read something on the importance of sleep within the last month or so, you haven’t been paying much attention to the media. Magazine articles, blogs, books, newsletters, newspapers, TV specials and radio reports have all covered some of the consequences of inadequate sleep. I have even written an eBook on the importance of sleep from a time management perspective titled Sleep: A time management strategy, published by Bookboon.com.

I have already written past blog articles covering many of the consequences of inadequate sleep – everything from stress and obesity to diabetes and premature aging. So I decided to summarize in this article all the ways you may be able to gain more sleep – and I am referring to actual sleep time, not the amount of time spent in bed. If you get less than 6 hours actual sleep a night, you’re in trouble.

 Make sleep a priority. It’s as important as exercise and diet.

  1. Make your environment as comfortable as possible for sleep. This may involve a softer pillow, comfortable mattress and even the habit of wearing socks to bed or having relaxation tapes or classical music playing in the background.
  2. Determine your required sleep time and add about a half hour to allow time for getting to sleep and getting up during the night.
  3. Never go to bed earlier than your normal bedtime. If you are not sleepy, don’t go to bed until you are.
  4. Stick to a routine. Where possible go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. It helps regulate the body clock. When people try to catch up on sleep on the weekend the quality of the extended sleep is quite low.
  5. Don’t go to bed during the day if you’re sleepy; take a power nap instead.
  6. Skip the caffeine. Avoid coffee or other caffeine drinks at least six hours before bedtime. It can actually stay in your system for 12 hours. Avoid alcohol and cigarettes as well.
  7. Go light on dinner. Heavy meals keep the digestive system working and delays of sleepiness. It’s best to have a heavier lunch and lighter dinner.
  8. Use your bed for sleeping. It’s not a good idea to use your bed for watching TV, checking your e-mail, working on your laptop or other activities not associated with sleeping or resting.
  9. Control technology. Turn off your computers, laptops, smart phones, iPad’s and other electronic gadgets at least two hours before bedtime.
  10. Exercise daily. It’s best to exercise earlier in the day but avoid strenuous exercise at least two hours before bedtime. You may feel tired immediately after exercising but over the course of the day people who exercise actually have more energy.
  11. Keep the bedroom cool. Scientific evidence indicates that 65°F to 68°F is the ideal temperature for sleep.
  12. Keep in the dark. Light inhibits the production of melatonin, the body’s sleeping pill, so you might even turn off the night light.
  13. Don`t be a clock-watcher in bed. If necessary face the alarm clock the other way so you won`t be tempted or disturbed by the fluorescent screen.
  14. Crash early. The optimal bedtime is between 10 PM and midnight. It is generally recommended that you go to bed by 11 p.m.
  15. Have a transition routine. Have a half hour or more of relaxation away from the bright lights and work activities. This could be light reading, walking, yoga or a warm bath.
  16. Researchers at Wesleyan University found that sniffing lavender oil before bedtime increased slow-wave sleep, the deepest form of slumber, by 22 participants in study participants.
  17. Don’t linger in bed when the alarm clock goes off. More time in bed than needed increases the time that you’re awake in bed and produces poor quality sleep.
  18. Avoid shift work if possible. Working rotating shifts or in a regular sleep schedule weakens the circadian clock that regulates sleep. Even varying it by an hour is the equivalent of traveling across one time zone.
  19. If you can’t sleep, don’t stay in bed. Don’t spend too much time trying to sleep; it reduces the sleep drive.
  20. Make your bed. Terry Small reported in one of his bulletins that the National Sleep Foundation found that those people who make their beds tend to sleep more soundly than those who don’t.
  21. Organize your day, and go to bed with an uncluttered mind and the knowledge that you have the next day planned.

There are probably others. Experiment a little until you find something that works for you. And never regret the time needed to get a good night’s sleep. It’s an investment in your health, increased productivity and longevity.

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Be smart when using your smartphone.

Years ago we were warned about the dangers of using a cell phone while driving. One recent article reported that about one quarter of car accidents in the U.S. are caused by texting and talking on the phone while driving.

Then it became obvious that the increase in screen use and digital technology in general was impacting our ability to focus. People were becoming more easily distracted, ADHD symptoms appeared to be increasing, some of us were becoming addicted to email and/or the Internet, and evidence seemed to suggest we are becoming less empathetic, more shallow in our thinking, and more open to health problems such as obesity and heart disease.

Soon there were indications of physical problems emerging as a result of overuse of digital technology as well. The first of these to become evident was carpal tunnel syndrome and many of us have already made adjustments with the way we use our mouse, position the hand, and support our wrist.

But research published by Kenneth Hansraj in the National Library of Medicine, and reported in the Toronto Star, November 24, 2014, indicates that bending your neck over a smart phone for hours a day could lead to early wear and tear on the spine, degeneration and even surgery. And smartphone users spend an average of 2 to 4 hours a day hunched over, reading e-mails, sending texts or checking the social media sites.  

Known as text neck, this problem is caused by an increase in the weight of the head as it bends forward. The average human head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds, according to an article by Adam Popescu in the January 25, 2018 issue of the New York Times. The weight on the cervical spine varies from 27 pounds at a 15° angle to 60 pounds at a 60° angle according to Kenneth Hanrai’s research mentioned earlier.

Since posture is known to affect mood, behavior, personal energy and memory in addition to the physiological impact mentioned above, the way we are tethered to our smartphones can cause even more problems.

Adam Popescu, introduces the antisocial aspect of smartphones in his article by asking us to observe how much time passes the next time we’re sitting among a group of friends before someone grabs their phone to look at it. This antisocial behavior is bound to negatively impact friendships as well as the effectiveness of communications. And yet, according to the Pew Research Center, 75% of Americans feel their use of a smartphone doesn’t impact their ability to pay attention in a group setting.

This denial is even more disturbing. I shudder to think of the negative impact this could have on important business meetings or family life.

We’re at the point where over half the world’s population owns a smartphone and the Internet has surpassed the 4 billion mark. And many of us are quick to adopt a new technology, regardless of its merit, for fear of being left behind.

It’s more important than ever that we control the use of our smartphone – or any other electronic device – so that it remains a useful tool to increase efficiency and does not become an addiction that negatively impacts our physical, emotional and mental well-being.

 

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Holistic time management revisited.

In the past I have described holistic time management, as I see it, as the application of strategies necessary in order to lead a happier, healthier, longer, and more productive and fulfilling life. It addresses the person as a whole as opposed to simply their management of time.

But many time conscious people could be turned off by this definition; because they want to simply focus on efficiency and effectiveness and getting more work done in less time.

Either they think they are already happy, healthy, and destined for a long, fulfilling life – or they are not at that stage of life where those things seem important to them. After all, why would they be concerned about such things as exercise, getting more sleep, building personal relationships and spending time in the garden or walking in the park? These things consume time rather than save time, don’t they?

The short answer to that last question is “yes.” The long answer is that they only consume time on a short-term basis – just as organizing your office, training staff members so they can take over jobs that you are currently doing, and learning to use available technology all consume time. But these are all investments of time, which soon pay off by freeing up even more time that you can spend on those priority personal and organizational goals that will ensure your success.

For example, getting more sleep could increase your energy, boost your memory, improve your creativity, reduce lost time through illness and even extend your productive time by two or more years. Wouldn’t that be considered a time management strategy? Get less than six hours sleep a night, and you work as efficiently as you would if you were drunk. And if you think you can get by just fine on five hours sleep a night, remember it’s your sleep deprived brain that’s telling you that.

If you want scientific evidence of these things, refer to my e-book, Sleep: a time management strategy, published by Bookboon.com. There are plenty of references there. I’m just a reporter, not a researcher.

Similarly it has been shown that attitude, exercise, environment, mindfulness, stress management, relationships, music, volunteering, laughter, diet, nature, memory training, purposeful living, and even scenic views can increase your personal productivity – as well as umpacting your longevity. All these and more are discussed in my most recent book, How to grow older without growing old, a 147-page book now available as a download at my Taylorintime website.

It summarizes the relevant information in at least half of my 21 e-books that have been published to date by Bookboon.com. Although it is directed at fellow seniors, I believe it’s an even more important read as a time investment for those sixty-five and younger.