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Mindfulness and life balance go hand in hand


You cannot achieve life balance without mindfulness. Mindfulness involves being in the moment mentally as well as physically. For example you could be at home or on a golf course and yet mentally be back at the office thinking about the project you are working on or worrying about the work piling up in your inbox. Likewise, you could be working on a project at the office and yet be concerned about something at home. In either case your body is be in one place and your mind in another.

Mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience. To enjoy your experience of being with your family or on a golf course or lounging on a beach, your mind must be centered on what you are doing at the time – not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Our minds are frequently working in the future or the past: they seems to be its default settings. You can be mindful at any time, and dwell on the present as it happens. But it takes practice.

Mindfulness is critical to the attainment of a balanced life. Mindfulness precludes multitasking, which is a bane to balance. It forces you to focus on whatever you are doing at the time. For example, if you are physically present with your spouse, you should not be mentally at work.

Mindfulness improves your attention span and concentration – factors that are critical to resisting the lure of technologies and other interruptions in this digital age of speed. You could refer to the “gorilla test” described in the book, The invisible gorilla, where many of the students so intently watching players passing a ball back and forth, never even noticed a fake gorilla walking onto the court.

Mindfulness has been proven to decrease stress and relieve the pressures of a busy day – factors also at odds with a balanced life. Stress has been associated with health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Because of this you might want to start with some mindfulness practices such as meditation or yoga. Or get organized first. You should find it easier to stay organized once you have purposefully set your direction in life and have learned to live with stress.

There are many ways to develop mindfulness, including more formal meditation, yoga, and controlled breathing and relaxation exercises.  But you can also practice on a daily basis simply by being “in the now” as you go about your activities both at and away from work.

Using an example of driving or walking to work, you might try observing the street names, location of the various stores and service stations, and generally being aware of your surroundings. Be in the moment. Living in the moment, defined as mindfulness, is a state of active, open, intentional attention to the present. And it will move you from peak performances to peak experiences.


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Balance your life by making wise choices.

Balance has its rewards. It reduces stress and provides greater intrinsic rewards, such as a sense of satisfaction and peace of mind. A survey of 2500 male and female senior executives by the Families Work Institute and the Boston College Center for Work & Family showed that executives who give equal weight to work and personal life feel more successful at work, are less stressed, and have an easier time managing the demands of their work and personal lives.

As Richard a Swenson says in his book In search of balance, “Balance is not the panacea and it cannot work miracles. But balance can help people sustain in the midst of stress and overload by keeping the highs and lows from swinging wildly.”

Thom and Art Rainer, in their book Simple life, described a survey they conducted of 1,077 individuals, most of who still had children living at home. The individuals were asked what they needed to happen in their lives for greater fulfilment. The majority of the answers revolved around simplicity and work balance, including time for the things in their lives that really mattered, and having better and closer relationships with others.

Employers also benefit from having employees who are able to effectively balance the demands of work and their personal/family life. They have more motivated employees, reduced turnover, and improved staff morale, among other things.

To balance your life you have to examine your personal values. What is really important in your life? Build in the time for what is most important to you. It’s important that you allocate your time properly. You could keep track of your daily activities for a few weeks to find out how much time you are spending on the different activities.

As Arianna Huffington, writing in her 2014 book, Thrive, commented, “It was very liberating to realize that I could ‘complete’ a project by simply dropping it – by eliminating it from my to-do list.”

You can’t do everything. Life balance is the process of working at all the significant areas of your life – such as work, family, social, personal and spiritual – so you can enjoy life and fulfill all these roles without experiencing undue stress. You can be a good parent, spouse, friend, and boss, with a healthy outlook, healthy body, and healthy mind. But you can’t always be great in every area. You have to choose the significant areas, and you have to choose how much time you will dedicate to each.

Life balance is a matter of making wise choices.

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The single most effective strategy for managing email

Email management strategies

Email management strategies

Is it the end of personal time?

The single most effective strategy for handling email is to control it and not allow it to control you. Personal life coach Valorie Burton, author of How Did I Get So Busy (Broadway Books, 2007) relates the story of a woman who sleeps with her BlackBerry. Her reason? If she gets an idea in the middle of the night, she can email it before she forgets.

That’s not such an uncommon story. Stefan Klein, in his book The Secret Pulse of Time (Marlowe & Company, 2007) talks about the constant stream of emails that prevent us from finishing our projects. He cites an AOL study that indicated people are addicted to email. Three quarters of all Americans spend more than an hour a day on it. 41% of those questioned retrieve their email first thing in the morning even before brushing their teeth – and almost as many admit to getting out of bed at night to check their email. 4% even read their email on their laptops while seated on the toilet!

One of my own clients told me that he was proud of the fact that he could reach any of his managers at any time – even if it were midnight Sunday – because the company had issued BlackBerrys to all the managers.

Valorie Burton referred to a Wall Street Journal article titles “BlackBerry Orphans” that discussed how these gadgets intrude on families and how children are feeling neglected.

Email is one of the reasons that work is no longer a place but a state of mind. It’s also one of the culprits in an out-of-balance life. And it contributes to the number one time problem as we will soon see as well.

It’s not email itself, but our lack of control. People check it from the time they get up in the morning until they go to bed at night. That is, if they don’t sleep with it! And it frequently takes them on tangents, checking recommended websites, reading attachments, responding to queries and keeping them from working on their priority projects. Some people even have bells and whistles that tell them another email has arrived so they won’t miss another distraction.

If you want to gain control, set up a time and a procedure for handling email. Don’t allow it to control your day. You might check email twice per day, for instance – more frequently if your company’s success depends on a quick response to emails. Checking your email every ten minutes or so is both costly and time consuming.

Timothy Ferriss, author of the book, The 4-Hour Workweek, published in 2007 by Crown Publishing, checks his email no more than once per week. He insists that any lost orders or other problems are overshadowed by his gain in efficiency. Personally, I wouldn’t go to this extreme. But twice per day does not seem unreasonable.

It’s not generally a good idea to check email first thing in the morning. You could easily get distracted from your plan. Make sure you get your top priority done first. We recommend you schedule one or more priority tasks each morning and not check your email until about 11:30. You could check it again about 3:30 in the afternoon. You might want to turn off the automatic send/receive option so that email doesn’t pop up in your inbox the moment you sign on. Email programs seem to be designed to control us rather than the other way around.

I encourage everyone to at least give it a try. Check your email twice per day for at least a couple of days and then assess the impact on your business. I’m sure most people have experienced a computer crash or an Internet access problem or a vacation when accessing email was impossible, and yet have survived the experience with no earth-shattering problems.

When you do check your email, make sure that you have enough time to dispense with all the email messages in your inbox. You might want to allow a half hour for instance every time you check your email. Either delete it, forward it to someone else for reply, file it, answer it, move it to an action file or To Do list, or (if it warrants it) schedule time in your planner to take the necessary action before replying. It’s a similar process you would use with paper. Handle it only once where possible and never leave it in the inbox.