‘Stress’ Category

Multi-tasking – It’s Not the Answer

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

There is strong evidence emerging that multitasking is not all it’s cracked up to be. Surprised? Well in fact Dr. Edward Hallowell, a Massachusetts-based psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, describes it as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.” Hallowell titled his book, rather aptly, “Crazy Busy”.

He claims “Attention Deficit Trait” is rampant in the business world as a result of our attempting to use our brain in a way that evolution has not developed it to act. In simple terms, we have evolved to be single-focused in our tasking, and any attempt to multi-focus appears to strike a “response selection bottleneck”.

So What’s the Cost?

The cost of that bottleneck can be frightening: In a 2007 New York Times article Jonathan B. Spira, an analyst at the business research firm Basex, estimated that extreme multitasking (or “information overload”) costs the US economy $650 billion a year in lost productivity.

The sometimes-fatal consequences of attempting to multitask mobile phones with driving have been clearly recognized – and legislated against – but that has not stopped us breeding a generation who exhibit technical and intellectual ability coupled with extreme impatience, dissatisfaction with slowness, and discomfort with silence: “I get bored if it’s not all going at once, because everything has gaps – waiting for a website to come up, commercials on TV, etc.”

Even those who believe we will “evolve out of this” and eventually master our input-overloaded environment, have found that multitasking contributes to the release of stress hormones and adrenaline which, if not controlled, can cause long-term health problems and contribute to a loss of short-term memory. The reason that memory suffers, appears to lie in the fact that, when multitasking, learning is less flexible and more specialized and so information retrieval is more difficult.

Less, Not More Efficient

For those readers over the age of 16, the last word probably goes to Russell Poldrack, a psychology professor at the University of California who said, “We’re really built to focus. And when we sort of force ourselves to multitask, we’re driving ourselves to perhaps be less efficient in the long run, even though it sometimes feels like we’re being more efficient.”

For those who are hiring 16 year olds, however, the future may be a bit brighter: They may be adapting through “acquired inattention” – the habit of ignoring much of what is going on around them to – guess what – focus on the task at hand!

That’s not multi-tasking. That’s single-tasking in a multi-distracting universe.

Call to Action

So, is it time to look at your own work habits and those you influence around you, and see if there is anything that you can do to minimize the temptation or demand to multi-task? Could you trial a “Single Tasking Day” one day a week and measure the effect on everyone?

On output?

On stress levels?

For a real solution to multi-tasking, that will let you get twice as much done, on time, in time, and with half the stress, why not ask me to assist you with a real solution to your Time Management challenge?

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Begin here to accelerate your success: http://www.ignition-pathway2growth.com/

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

“No Cost” Productivity Strategies

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

How often have you looked up and realized that you missed lunch? Maybe even missed dinner? Today’s “work…work…work” mentality has taken a toll on employees performance, job satisfaction and health.

Today’s 24/7/365 world of technology and instant gratification has transformed every aspect of modern life – most dramatically how we work. While technology and automation has made many tasks easier, it has also bred a whole host of issues in the workplace.

We need to dispel the myth that more hours spent at work leads to more productivity. I am going to make a case for taking physical and mental breaks throughout the day, and how these breaks will transform teams from upper management to support staff.

The average American worker spends 9.2 hours per day at work – and approximately 30% are skipping lunch or eating at their desk. The vast majority of workers can access their email and desktops on their smartphones. This has now become “normal”. Furthermore, it has become expected in many companies that key team members make themselves available anytime, anywhere. This change in work structure and expectations are linked to increased stress and employee dissatisfaction. This then snowballs into increased absenteeism, increased health insurance costs, loss of productivity, and staff turnover. Not exactly the direction leading to higher productivity and performance.

There are some simple changes that can be made to reverse what ails the modern workplace. The easiest solution is to take breaks throughout the day. Here is a breakdown on how breaks can increase productivity, performance and decrease healthcare costs:

• 15 seconds – decrease mental fatigue and preserve eyesight by looking away from the computer for 15 seconds every ten minutes.
• 30 seconds to 5 minutes – can increase mental acuity by 13%, increase focus and productivity.
• 2 minutes – stand up and stretch for 2 minutes every hour to increase circulation, decrease muscle tension and overall fatigue.
• 5 minutes – away from typing on a keyboard or clicking a mouse can combat hand, wrist and forearm pain.
• 6 minutes – the optimal amount of time spent every 80 minutes, taking a break from all types of work to increase productivity and mental acuity.
• 20 minutes – while not always an option, a 20 minute walk can help to mentally recharge and decrease physically fatigue.

The average manager spends 2 days per week in meetings, many longer than they need to be. In addition to taking breaks, the structure of meetings can also be changed to increase productivity, participation and efficiency. Conducting standing meetings – physically standing – will increase focus on the agenda, garner full attention of the attendees, and perhaps allow for less time in the boardroom, more time implementing what was discussed.

When weather permits, having outdoor meetings with one or two staff members can increase not only focus, but can have benefits that are realized throughout the day. Fresh air and change of surroundings will increase mental acuity and mood. Employee satisfaction and retention can also be positively impacted by taking business outdoors.

The BIG takeaway: take little breaks throughout the day and changing how you conduct meetings to get a dramatic effect on your, as well as your team’s, mental acuity, efficiency, and thus productivity. Lead by example, take a break from the computer and phone, get up and take a walk around the office. While you are stretching, encourage your staff to do the same.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Begin here to accelerate your success: http://www.ignition-pathway2growth.com/

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Stress and Communication – Part 2

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Stress

In small doses, stress can help you perform under pressure. However, when stress becomes constant and overwhelming, it can hamper effective communication. It disrupts your capacity to think clearly and creatively, act appropriately. When stressed, you’re more likely to misread other people, send confusing nonverbal signals, and lapse into unhealthy knee-jerk patterns of behavior.

Quick stress relief for effective communication

When stress strikes, you can’t always temper it by taking time out to meditate or go for a run, especially if you’re in the middle of a meeting with your boss or an argument with your spouse. By learning to quickly reduce stress in the moment, you can safely face any strong emotions you’re experiencing, regulate your feelings, and behave appropriately.

First, recognize when you’re becoming stressed. Your body will let you know so learn to recognize the cues.

Next, the best way to rapidly and reliably relieve stress is through the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Find things that are soothing to you. A TIP for instant stress release:

Pick one thing that inspires a sense of calm, balance and peace within you. One example would be a calm ocean on a clear day. If you live near enough to the beach to be able to physically go there then that’s helpful, but if not, you can use a photo, image in your mind or video. Once you find yourself in a relaxed state – preferably whilst strolling along the sand taking in the smell of the salt on the cool breeze as it gently brushes over you, or otherwise just while meditating or relaxing at home, gaze in a relaxed way at the ocean or image and allow a sense of peace and calm to pervade you. Feel yourself expand with joy, then say over and over to yourself a mantra or verbal cue that you are associating with that image and that feeling for example “calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean”. Breathe slowly and deeply.

Repeat this process as often as possible to really cement it into your mind and body. These are your cues, so the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation that you can’t escape from, take a few slow deep breaths and repeat your mantra to yourself “calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean.” Allow it to infuse a sense of calm as it soothes your adrenals and nerves. You can do this with whatever imagery appeals to you. Some other examples are a green lush forest, a butterfly, a yacht sailing off into the distance, a gentle stream, or fish swimming in a tank.

Stressful conversations

Some practical ways of diffusing a stressful conversation include:
Acknowledge the other persons point of view, “I can see that this is something that you are very passionate about” or “I can feel how frustrating this has been for you”, or “I recognize that you have put a lot of time and effort into this.” Sometimes the acknowledgment and validation can be enough to start to shift a person from stubborn argumentativeness into a softer place of negotiation. We all want to be seen and heard and validated.

Put it on hold. Take a quick break and move away from the situation. Go for a stroll outside if possible, or spend a few minutes focusing on your breathing. Sounds obvious, but try it and see what happens. Breathe in for a slow count of 5, hold for 5 then breathe out for 5. Allow a slight pause between the out breath and the next in breath. You should only need to do this for 1 minute to feel a result.

Physical movement can quickly reduce stress as well. Try going into your office, if it’s private, or into a toilet cubicle. Now this may sound weird, but shake your hands around in front of you, move your arms back and forth like a birds wings, jump up and down and stamp your feet. Shake your head and stretch your jaw like you are doing the worlds biggest yawn, literally shake that stress off of you. Make sure you do this in private lest people think you have lost it.

To make sure communication is one of your strengths, why not try a couple of these tips.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Begin here to accelerate your success: http://www.ignition-pathway2growth.com/

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Stress and Communication – Part 1

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

We all come across stress and we all need to communicate. Let’s face it there is no avoiding either of these in our hyper-connected world. Here are some tips and insights that may help to improve both your stress levels and communication.

Communication Tips

  1. Behave. According to Susan Tardanico, CEO of The Authentic Leadership Alliance, “your behavior is your single greatest mode of communication, and it must be congruent with what you say. If your actions don’t align with your words, there’s trouble. And it can turn into big trouble if not corrected swiftly and genuinely. Since it’s often difficult to see the say-do gap in yourself, rely on a few trusted colleagues to tell it to you straight and flag discrepancies.”
    Pick your feedback team and give them explicit permission to be brutally honest with you, you are looking for people who will call you on your BS and call a spade a spade.
  2. Clarity is king. People these days are bombarded by information. Simplicity has never been more powerful or necessary. Effective communications distil complex thoughts and strategies into simple, memorable terms that people can grasp and act upon. If you’re having trouble distilling something to its essence, it may be that you don’t understand it. So get clear and look out for technical jargon and business speak, which add complexity. Say what you mean in as few words as possible.
    One way of testing this is by asking yourself, could this be understood if I had to explain it to a 12 year old.
  3. Listen. A very gifted and highly intelligent scientist once told a story about one of his university professors telling him “you have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a very good reason – listen twice as much as you speak especially if you know you’re not the smartest person in the room. By the way, if you can’t figure out who the smartest person in the room is – then it’s not you”.
  4. Body Language. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Remember that effective communication is two-way. It’s easy to be so focused on getting your message out – or persuading others – that you don’t tune in to what you see and hear. You need to read between the lines. Look for the nonverbal cues. Sometimes a person’s body language will tell you everything you need to know. Look at nonverbal communication signals as a group. Don’t read too much into a single gesture or nonverbal cue. Consider all of the nonverbal signals you receive, from eye contact to tone of voice to body language. Anyone can slip up occasionally and let eye contact slip, for example, or briefly cross their arms without meaning to. Consider the signals as a whole to get a better “read” on a person.

Experts recommend using body language to convey positive feelings even when you’re not actually experiencing them. If you’re nervous about a situation-a job interview, important presentation, or first date, for example-you can use positive body language to signal confidence, even though you’re not feeling it. Instead of tentatively entering a room with your head down, eyes averted, and sliding into a chair, try standing tall with your shoulders back, smiling and maintaining eye contact, and delivering a firm handshake. It will make you feel more self-confident and help to put the other person at ease.

Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk – Your Body language Shapes Who You Are, demonstrates the power of this.

Make communication one of your strengths.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Begin here to accelerate your success: http://www.ignition-pathway2growth.com/

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.