10 ways to reduce anxiety and stress levels

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Below you will find 10 ways to reduce anxiety and stress levels in your personal and professional life. Anxiety and stress are loyal companions of anyone who works in the business world. Today you have to make a special effort to reduce anxiety and stress levels to protect your health and to enhance your performance.

We have tried all these techniques and know they work. So this is based on research as well as our own experiences.

The 10 techniques presented below can significantly help to reduce anxiety and stress levels in your life:

1 – Solution-focused attitude


One of the best ways to reduce anxiety is to have a solution-focused attitude. In other words, it is essential to be focused on the solution rather than the problem. For example, let’s use my own real-life example when our luggage was lost by the airline and delivered only 1 month later. Moreover, when the luggage finally arrived, it was visible that all the bags were damaged beyond repair.

Getting really angry at this point is pointless since it already happened. Moreover, I could not learn anything from this situation since I had done everything right and it was completely out of my control. I did not panic or complain. Such negative emotions spill over and could increase my anxiety and stress levels. I needed to find ways to reduce anxiety and stress levels, not increase them.

I immediately adopted a solution-focused attitude, to reduce anxiety levels. The problem was clear – it is unfair that my luggage was damaged and I had to bear the cost. What could I do to correct it? A solution that I accepted was to send a formal letter of complaint to the airline and try to have them compensate me for the loss incurred.

Using this example, the steps to follow in adopting a solution-focused attitude to reduce anxiety levels can be summarized as follows:

1) Try to learn from the situation (if possible) to ensure that it does not happen again in the future.

2) Accept that it is a sunk cost (you cannot change it, it is in the past).

3) Focus on solving the problem. What can you do right now to improve this situation? Come up with a number of actions, don’t just stop at one (This is only appropriate for important problems. Insignificant problems do not deserve a large time investment and any good-enough-solution will be acceptable). Sometimes, as you continue brainstorming, you may come up with even better ideas than your original ideas.

4) If you struggle to find an appropriate solution, consider asking others for advice on what could be done to solve this problem (if relevant). You can ask your family, relatives, colleagues or post your question on Internet forums. Other people are likely have experienced the same problem and can share their lessons with you.

2 – Always forgive everybody and for anything


You need to do it for yourself. You need to do it to reduce anxiety and stress levels in your life. It does not mean that you will trust this person again, especially if this individual have not changed and does not deserve to be given another chance. You need to forgive so you do not carry a huge load with you and do not continue damaging your health.

If you will not make an effort to forgive everybody for everything than it will negatively affect your life by creating anger and unhappiness due to past events. To live up to your real potential and be truly effective as well as successful in your career, you need to ensure that you do not carry around this baggage.

Make this effort and it will greatly help you to reduce anxiety in your life.

3 – Responsibly live in the “now”


Eliminate worries about past events and things in the future that you cannot control. Yesterday ended last night. Tomorrow may never come. It most likely will come but there are no guarantees. Today is all you have for certain.

4 – Anticipate and prepare


Think of ways to reduce anxiety and stress levels in your life prior to unpleasant events occurring. Some stressful situations can be easily anticipated based on experience and general knowledge.

For example, the end of a work project is usually the most stressful time because the team often has to work late nights and weekends to deliver the document before the deadline. As a project manager or, even as a team member, you may prepare for such a situation by working harder at the beginning and setting internal deadlines (which occur before the external deadline) to ensure the deliverable is ready without any significant stress placed on the team or yourself.

You can talk to your co-workers about how to structure the project and plan better to reduce anxiety and stress levels by reducing the “crunch period”, and hence, reducing anxiety and stress levels on the team.

Another example is preparation for university examinations. Students know that examination preparation periods are highly stressful. Therefore, one can start working a little bit harder and much earlier to reduce anxiety and stress levels during the examination period.

5 – Delegate


Certain tasks can be delegated. Delegation makes your “to do list” shorter and helps to reduce anxiety and stress levels in one’s work and personal life. Delegation also allows lower level employees an opportunity to grow. Therefore, if done correctly, it is mutually beneficial.

If you do not have yet anyone reporting to you then delegation is still possible. In such a case, the task can be delegated to someone at the same level, usually with approval of your superior.

However, it is important to remember that delegation must be mutually beneficial. When delegating, it is important to delegate some authority together with responsibility. What this means is that you need to delegate the task together with the authority to make decisions to achieve the task. Only such delegation brings real value to both parties. If responsibility is delegated, but every minor decision about the task must still be made by you, than your time will not be freed and the other party will also not benefit from the exercise.

You may actually create more work by having to double-check everything. Your stress level is also likely to go up. And the lower level employee will not gain the true developmental benefits that delegation can offer. Moreover, his/her stress level is also likely to go up.

So, to reduce anxiety and the stress levels of all parties concerned, the next time you try to delegate – remember to delegate the appropriate amount of authority together with responsibility.

6 – Eliminate tasks


To reduce anxiety and stress levels in your life, some tasks can be completely eliminated. In other words, some tasks can be left undone. It is very important to eliminate unnecessary tasks, which do not bring any value or which bring value that is not worth the investment of your time and effort.

Eliminating such tasks generally does not have any tangible disadvantages but saves time for more important tasks. An example of such tasks could be reading junk email, carefully reading and replying to every email you are cc’d on, attending every “let’s go out for drinks” event with friends and handling tasks which are not your responsibility (such tasks should be redirected).

7- Learn to see the good in things


Learn to see the good side of any situation. In other words, try to see the glass half full rather than half empty. For example, if you were asked to present to an important client with only 24 hours notice, you can try to remind yourself that you were asked because you are a valuable part of the team and seen as a capable individual who is able to deliver at such short notice.

Moreover, after a successful presentation, you will further strengthen your reputation with your superiors because everyone will know the short deadline that you were presented with and how you still managed to prepare well and impress the client. Remembering that this is an opportunity to enhance your career growth will help to reduce anxiety and will allow you to focus 100% on the task to make sure you can take advantage of this opportunity.

8 – Use support you may have


Learn to use your support group to reduce anxiety and stress levels in your life. If you are in the middle of a very stressful situation at work, it may be very helpful to speak about it with somebody who cares about you and will have your best interests at heart. Just sharing your experience may help you to reduce anxiety and stress levels.

9 – Breathing correctly is important


Learn to breathe deeply and slowly in stressful situations. This will help you to reduce anxiety and stress levels and will facilitate more clear thinking and better decision-making. When breathing deeply, mental clarity improves due to increased oxygen intake. One breathing exercise that you can use follows:

Breath in – count slowly 1,2,3,4 (mentally)

Hold – count slowly 1,2,3,4 (mentally)

Breath out- count slowly 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 (mentally)

Repeat 5 times. Try it now – you will see the difference.

10 – Establish a stress-management routine


It is also helpful to establish a routine that you could follow to reduce anxiety and stress levels in your life. For most people, the daily activities are often similar. We follow certain more or less similar patterns during the workdays and undertake similar activities during the weekends.

You can think about the most efficient and pleasant way to do activities that you repeatedly do and try to use the new routine to reduce anxiety and stress levels in your life.

For example, if it feels that you never have enough time in the day to complete all your work and you know that your most productive time is in the morning (which is common), than try to block out your time in the mornings from all distractions and focus uninterruptedly on the most difficult work at that time. Make it a routine and try to ensure that others work around it (as long as it is professional and feasible to make such a request). This way you can complete your work on time, which will help you reduce anxiety and stress levels.

If you want to be truly successful then you have to accept that you will be in stressful situations. You cannot avoid it. Business is tough.

Therefore, to reduce anxiety and stress levels, you need to develop or adapt techniques to effectively manage anxiety and stress. The points above are techniques that are a good start in selecting your own arsenal of tricks that you can use to strengthen yourself.

Healthy Food and Superior Performance

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Healthy food choices essential to achieve your study and career goals. To perform at your best, you need to make healthy food choices.

A healthy diet allows your body to feel at its best and to perform at its full potential.

The following healthy food choices and diet preferences will help you achieve better performance:

FRUITS and Vegetables


Fruits and Vegetables significantly contribute to healthy diet. Eat at least 4-5 fresh fruits and vegetables a day (some sources advise 70% of your daily diet should be fruits and vegetables). Someone even said, “If you want to stay alive – eat food that is alive”.

Moreover, you need to have a variety of vegetables and fruits. Some experts suggest eating a “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables each week. This refers to the fact that your diet, over the week, needs to incorporate fruits and vegetables of all colors of the rainbow.

Organic food


Try to eat organic food when possible. This will allow you to stay away from hormones, antibiotics or sprays added to traditional food, as well as from genetically modified food.

Clean Water


Drink a sufficient amount of clean water (at least 3-5 glasses a day). The rest of the water you need will come from fruits and vegetables.

Supplements


Take in supplements, but in limited doses. Ginkgo biloba and omega 3 are popular supplements for improving brain functionality. Multivitamin and mineral supplements are also important. Supplements fill in the gaps in your nutrition and contribute to good diet.

No heavy food after 6pm


Try not to eat heavy food after 6pm. It is more appropriate to have light snacks such as a yogurt or a fruit. Heavy food can disrupt your sleep patterns and significantly contribute to an extra weight problem. Therefore, it pays off to have it as a rule to not have heavy food after 6pm and especially not after 8pm.

Green tea, red wine and dark chocolate


According to research conducted by Harvard professors, green tea is very healthy and considered to be one of the 3 healthiest foods when it comes to longevity. The other two are red wine and dark chocolate.

Red wine has well known benefits but the alcohol in it is harmful for one’s health. Dark chocolate, according to the same research, apparently can decrease the possibility of a heart attack.

Avoid processed food


It is important to avoid processed food as much as possible. As one food expert recommended, – “if it is made from the plant – eat it, if it is made in the plant – don’t eat it”. Processed food should be avoided when possible.

Nuts


Raw nuts are very healthy and nutritious. Raw almonds and walnuts are especially highly recommended. Make sure to avoid roasted, honey coated or heavily salted nuts. These are all bad for you and the oil in nuts converts to a heavy saturated fat when nuts are roasted.

Semi-healthy treats


One needs to select a diet that is manageable and sustainable. This refers to a diet that still allows one to feel happy and satisfied with one’s food choices.

Therefore, some creativity may be required in building a healthy diet. Granola bars can be used as a substitute for sugary sweets. Organic popcorn with olive oil is another good light snack that provides fiber.

Probiotic yogurt is yet another option. By using your preferences and by being creative, you can find a healthy or semi-healthy treats for yourself that will allow you to overall healthy diet.

What you really do not want is to occasionally eat healthy but unsatisfactory food and at other times eat really unhealthy food to compensate for it. It is best to find a diet which consists of healthy food and semi-healthy food, and which is sustainable.

You can feel how differently your body reacts to healthy food choices. You can also feel the negative reaction of your body to poor food choices. One indication that you can use as to whether or not you are following a healthy diet is to see how energetic you feel. Above all, use your judgment and listen to your body.

Making healthy food choices is not as hard as it seems. Once you make an effort for 21 days or so to make healthy food choices, you will start forming a new habit and it will become increasingly easier to maintain healthy diet to fuel your success.

Writing Effective Emails

The ability to write effective emails is an essential skill. This skill will be required throughout your business career. It is required when applying for a job, throughout each day of your employment and up until your letter of resignation and good-bye emails are sent out. In other words, without the ability to write effective emails, you could enter a company at a disadvantage and leave at a disadvantage.

Being able to write effective emails which are concise and professional is a “must” for successful business career.

The way you write creates Brand “You”


In our day and age, the way you write emails comprises a large part of your communication with the outside world and contributes significantly to the way people see you. In other words, it is part of your personal style. Every time you send an email at the office, people form an image of you. This image is negative, positive or neutral.

Writing effective emails is one of the ways you market yourself and your skills. It has been the case where previously ignored employees rise in their employers’ eyes based on the power of one well-timed and insightful email. While not all emails present the opportunity for such career shifts, every email you send should be building the image you want to project and should be creating the right corridor chatter about you.

Example


Given the numerous priorities your colleagues face, an effective email should achieve its objective in the shortest possible time and with the least distraction to people. One way to do this is to be as explicit in the subject line as possible.

For example, if you want to see if a report is ready for the General Motor’s Efficiency project, some people will write “Project” or “General Motors Project” in the subject line. This is time consuming for a number of reasons.

Since the purpose of the email is unclear, your colleagues need to open it to read it. This takes time, especially if there are bandwidth problems at the office, they have older laptops, you have attachments in the email or if they are reading it on their Blackberry. It is much more effective to write the purpose of the email in the subject line.

Here are some examples:

1 – Will the General Motors Efficiency Report be ready by 5pm on Tuesday?

2 – Do you need any more help on the General Motors Report?

3 – Let me know if you can meet the GM Report Deadline? Not Urgent

Look at the examples above. They are specific. The recipient can quickly decide if he needs or wants to respond. The third example is even better. You are asking a question, but telling the recipient to respond when they have time. Colleagues appreciate this and see you as a person of action who values their time.

Here is an example of an effective email:

***

SUBJECT:

Feedback needed on GM Efficiency Project Extension, Deadline by 4pm today!

BODY:

Colleagues,

We are unable to include the financing numbers by the agreed deadline period. Given the importance of the numbers to the client, I am proposing I contact the client and move the deadline back by 48 hours. I have until 5pm today to do this. Is everyone in agreement?

These are reasons why the numbers are important and why we are unable to verify them in time for inclusion:

1 – The client cannot make a financing decision without the financing calculations.

2 – All other proposals will have the financing numbers.

3 – The client has stressed that we must include the financing numbers, even if we postpone the delivery of the proposal.

4 – We cannot finalize the financing numbers since marketing is unable to secure the market projection numbers from Reuters.

5 – Reuters can only get the numbers to us tomorrow due to a server problem on their side. We then need to check them before including them.

6 – There are no other available sources for the market projection numbers.

Given the above, I propose I will contact the client by 5pm to ask for a 48 hours extension. I will state the problem and request the extension only when Reuters can guarantee the new delivery time.

Best Regards,

Sylvia

***

Did you notice the following?


This is a very powerful way of writing a professional email.

1 – The subject is clear. Your colleagues can decide if and when they need to respond. They can understand the email without opening and scrolling through the text.

2 – The very first sentence summarizes the email perfectly. You state the problem. You list the solution and timing. You state exactly who is accountable for each step. There is no confusion. Again, this is a perfect summary and your colleagues can then read the details should they wish to.

3 – Notice the details are listed as succinct points. It is very difficult to read dense long paragraphs. Write for your audience and write clearly.

4 – Notice point six clearly states where the problem lies. You need to be effective at stating why something is changing without laying any blame. State it as a matter-of-fact (if it is) and be tactful about it especially if the delay was caused by a co-worker. If you are not clear why the delay occurred, state so and outline the steps you will take to determine the cause of the problem.

5 – Place enough facts in the email for the recipients to make a decision. This way there are no to-and-from emails which create an annoying email trail. Write just enough details for the recipients to understand the reasons for the change but not so much that there are unnecessary details.

The style you use in writing an effective email can differ, but always write clearly and concisely consider. This will show you are a person of action.

Simple Power Point Feedback

Have you ever sent someone a PowerPoint presentation and asked them for feedback? You are likely to receive the following type of feedback:

“Slide 15, line 3 from the bottom, text should be texts.

Slide 21, I am not sure Japan is a good example to use. Maybe try Spain.

Slide 22, headline is weird. Why do you use 55%?

Slide 23, Japanese does not sound right here as well; maybe you should use Portugal, two lines down second paragraph missing a link”

And on and on….

When you receive feedback like this you actually feel this is too much work and procrastinate as much as possible. Who can blame you? Who wants to sift through these dense comments and link them back to the main document?

For a lengthy presentation this can be up to a few pages long. You then need to print out this list, open the power point and work your way through the list. This is a tedious process and not the best way to polish a power point presentation.

Assuming a colleague sends you a power point presentation for review, how should you respond? How should you ensure that you are providing effective and simple power point presentation feedback?

Step 1 – Determine the feedback required


You first need to find out the kind of feedback they seek. Do they need you to review the styling, the overall messaging and positioning of the message, detailed review of the slides and text, review of the image, compatibility on your laptop etc? As you can see, the word “review” can mean many things and it is important you clarify this before proceeding.

If the co-worker needs a simple power point presentation review, then you can save yourself a lot of time by clarifying this in advance and providing the type of input that co-worker actually requires and not a more thorough check.

If they need a detailed review, then at least you know the requirements and can allocate sufficient time to meet such requirements. The ability to give effective and simple power point presentation feedback is part of your personal style. You will be surprised how these small things contribute to your image in the office.

Step 2 – Prepare feedback


The next step in giving effective and simple power point presentation feedback is to undertake the review and present it in the most effective way for your co-worker to use the feedback. The best way to do this is to place all your comments directly into the power point presentation.

You are probably thinking this will not work since your co-worker may want to review and change your comments. That is a wise assumption. However, when we say, place your comments directly into the presentation, we do not mean you should change the presentation. This is how you should do it.

1 – The reason all your comments should be placed in the presentations is to make it easy to work with the document. If your co-worker wants to forward the presentation and your comments, it is much easier to forward one document. When reviewing your comments and making changes, it is also much faster any more effective to work with visual remarks on the slides. Having to flip between the slides and comments in email is difficult. Time is lost and comments may be overlooked.

2 – When commenting on the overall messaging, styling or anything else where the comment pertains to more than one slide or all the slides, insert a blank slide at the very start of the presentation. In this slide or slides, insert a blue text box and write in your comments. This way your colleague can clearly see your comments. Mention clearly that they apply to all the slides. Write clearly and in bullet points. Succinct and clear writing is always appreciated over long and dense paragraphs of text.

3 – When commenting on each slide, it is advisable to insert a round colourful text box and write in your comments. The text box should be large and noticeable. It is okay if it covers parts of the slide content. It will be deleted later once the comments and corrections are captured. Now use an arrow to connect the comment to the text or image which needs to be corrected. This allows your colleague to quickly see the problem, make the adjustment and delete your comments and arrows once the proper corrections have been made.

4 – For simple spelling mistakes, you may simply highlight the text with a yellow marker or circle the text in a red circle. Whether you use a yellow highlighter, blue or red circle, the objective is to use a color which will not be confused with the rest of the presentation.

Remember the operating phrase is Simple Power Point Feedback. Simple feedback makes it easier for te user to work with your comments.

***

Remember the operating phrase is Simple Power Point Feedback. Simple feedback makes it easier for the user to work with your comments.

Focus! Read 11 tips to help you concentrate

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All students, even straight- A students, sometimes experience difficulties with their ability to focus. These challenges are exacerbated when the workload is too high, you do not have enough time in the day or you just cannot understand the material as well as you need to.

A strong ability to focus on study material, which is also commonly called the ability to concentrate, is one of the most important characteristics you need. As a skill, it can be acquired.

Below are 11 straightforward and helpful techniques on how to improve your ability to focus (concentration levels) during study times:

1 – Write down key points


Try to write down key points as you read or revise your work. This not only helps you to improve your ability to focus on the material but makes you an active learner and enhances retention of information.

2 – Work with a timer


Set a timer for 30 minutes or 45 minutes at a time. While you are working on a timer, do not allow yourself to get up or do anything other than study. Imagine that there is a connection between you and a task and do not break this connection.

Try to give 100% of your effort during the “timer period”. Then take a break, exercise or have some water. Thereafter, do another study session. Studies have shown that shorter periods of high concentration study advance comprehension and retention of the material.

3 – Summarize information


Make a deal with yourself that you will summarize in your own words every paragraph that you read as you read it. This makes you a more active learner and enhances your ability to focus on your reading. This also improves retention of new information. Students think this takes too long. In reality it takes less total time. Material you summarize usually requires less revision. While you may take longer to summarize the material you will take far less time overall.

4 – Test yourself


Create tests of the main concepts and formulas as you go through the study material and promise yourself to test yourself at the end of the day or week to check how well you are doing.

One helpful technique is to divide a page vertically into 3 columns:

1 – The first column should be small, enough for one number (from 1 to 5), leave it blank. This column is designed for rating your answers.

2 – The second column will contain the concept you are testing. For example, you can write down “Net Present Value” or “Internal Rate of Return”.

3 – The third column will have a brief answer for each concept from column 2.

While testing yourself using this technique, close the 3rd column and test each concept and formula in the second column. Compare each answer with the correct answer in the third column and rate your answer from 1 to 5. Rate an answer 5 if you answered it very well, 3 if your answer needs more work and had gaps and 0 if you could not answer at all. Be tough on yourself when rating your answers.

This technique allows you to identify gaps in your knowledge and allows you to specifically attend to questions which need the most work. For example, assume at the end of the week you have only 15 minutes available to test yourself on one subject, such as Finance.

This may not be enough time to test every question in your list, but you could go through all questions for which answers were rated between 0-2. This will allow you to attend to the biggest gaps in your knowledge.

Test yourself regularly. For example, you can briefly test yourself at the end of each week. Yes, it is difficult but you are making an investment over time so that before exams you can feel calm and prepared.

Moreover, it will improve the depth of your knowledge, retention of information and will positively contribute to your examination results.

5 – Water, sleep and exercise


Drinking clean water, getting good sleep and ensuring regular exercise will improve your ability to focus. Drink a lot of clean water. You need at least 5 to 8 glasses.

You also need to sleep at least 6-7 hours. Ideally you need 8 hours of sleep. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time. Try not to work after 12pm. This is when your body is designed to rest. Keep in mind that sleep that you may try to obtain during the day to make up for the lost sleep at night is not of the same quality as sleep that you obtain during the night.

You also need to exercise as much as you can afford. You don’t have to go to a gym. You can even run from one room to another and back for 5 minutes to get a good workout between your study sessions. Another good workout is dancing. Put on your favorite music during your study break and dance. Find an exercise which is not too time consuming, which you enjoy and which works best for you.

6 – Deep breathing


Learn to breathe deeply while you study. This will help in reducing anxiety and stress levels. This will also help you to increase mental clarity due to increased oxygen and, therefore, will improve your ability to focus.

7 – Dealing with anxiety


Anxiety can be a very bad distracter. If it is something significant, such as an unanticipated family problem (eg your husband losing his job and he is the sole bread-winner), try to find some kind of solution or find a way to make a peace about the situation.

If uncertainty is involved and there is nothing you can do to improve situation, tell yourself “I don’t know how it will work out, but I know that it all will work out great”.

Every time you worry about this major problem – repeat this phrase to yourself.

If you have many little worries that keep on surfacing, put them in a worry list. List them as they come to you and set some time for yourself to think about all of those little problems and find a solution for each. You can use “dead” time for this activity, such as when you are taking a shower or as you are walking to classes or to the store.

8 – Find a trigger word


Every time you feel your mind starts wandering, tell yourself “be in the now” or “stop”. Find a word that works for you and use it to bring your attention back to the task at hand.

9 – Switch subjects


Switch from one subject to another as soon as you feel that your ability to focus is deteriorating. This will help keep your mind alert. This is especially useful when you start studying a lot for a prolonged period of time. Effective concentration becomes more and more difficult.

10 – Take breaks


Take breaks away from your study. Do something that will involve laughing and joy. Watch a comedy, laugh with your friends and loved ones or read a funny book. Although, you may be doing enough reading at the moment, so it is better to do something other than reading.

This will give you energy and will make you feel more rested. Stay away from sad or scary movies. This is not what you need right now. You need something where you can get emotionally rested. Once you take your mind of your studies for a few minutes, it increases your ability to focus on the material.

11 – Find a study buddy


You may be able to improve your ability to focus by finding a study friend. You need someone with motivation, expectations and ambitions similar to or higher than yours. You need a positive influence. If you are a straight-A student, a student who only cares about passing will drag you down. You need someone of your own caliber or higher, if you are inspired to do even better. Than together you can discuss points, search for information to fill the gaps in your understanding and test each other.

As with any relationship in your life, try to make sure that this relationship is mutually beneficial. It is the only kind of relationship that is productive and sustainable. Keep in mind that this strategy will work well if you are an extrovert. If you are an introvert than studying alone may be a better option for you. Introverts may find it difficult to work with someone and this will negatively impact their ability to focus.

***

A strong ability to focus on the study material, along with mastering reading and other necessary skills for smart learning, is absolutely crucial for achieving academic success in business studies and for ensuring a superb business career . These 11 simple techniques are very effective in improving your ability to focus. Try them and choose what works best for you. Ultimately, you need to develop a bag of your own tricks that will help you succeed.

Can you lead yourself? If not, don’t expect others to follow you

Author, life coach, and motivational speaker T...

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To be a better leader, the first thing you need to do is to learn to lead yourself. Leadership and learning to lead yourself go together. If you cannot learn this important skills, you will not be able to lead others. Below are some ideas on how to develop this skill of internal leadership.

Ask: “what is the right thing to do?”. Then do it!


Learn to guide your choices, big and small, by asking yourself: “What is the right thing to do?”. And then do it.

At first, it may take extra time. Thereafter, as you will continue with this activity, the new healthier habits will form and you will not need to spell this out question to yourself. You will do “the right thing” by default.

Moreover, as the habit develops, it will become easier and easier, and you will begin to feel and see the difference it makes in your life.

Remember that, most of the time, you already know what is the right thing to do. The trick is in actually doing it. This is what separate top performers at work from under-achievers, great life partners from inferior ones and straight-A students from C students. Imagine the difference it will make in your life if you actually do it?

More importantly, you are doing it and not just expecting others to do the right thing. You are behaving as you expect others to behave. You are taking steps to effectively lead yourself.

Determine the “musts” in your life


This advice is intuitive but was clearly verbalized by Tony Robbins. The reason some people do not go above a certain physical weight or the reason some students do not get B’s but only A’s is because a certain weight or certain academic performance is a “must” for them.

Everyone has things they should do. They know they should do it, they know how to do it, but they just cannot find strength in themselves to do it. The reason for this is because it is a “should” for them, not a “must”. When something is a “must” for you – failure is not an option.

Therefore, examine your life and determine which aspects of your life must be classified as “musts”. Then reinforce those “musts” every day as an activity where “failure is not an option”, until it becomes second nature. Once you break the old habit – based on research old habits take 21 days to break – the new approach will feel more natural to you than the old approach. This simple technique can significantly contribute to success in your life.

For example, imagine that instead of “you should study at least 5 hours a day” you determine that “you MUST study at least 5 hours a day”. Then make sure that you follow it vigorously. Do not allow yourself any excuses.

You are developing your discipline now, so you have to be strict with yourself. You will see that in 2 or 3 weeks it will become a habit. You will also notice how your new positive habit brings you to new levels of achievement, which will give you further strength to continue with your new positive habit.

Thereafter, as you develop the new “must” in your life, you will have the first victory to keep on giving you strength in disciplining yourself.

Determining “musts” in your life and vigorously ensuring that you keep up with them is part of an effort to lead yourself. Incidentally, the goal to lead yourself needs to be a “must” for you as well.

Use one small improvement as leverage for change


Part of the “lead yourself” endeavor is understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and determining the causes of your strengths and weaknesses. If leading yourself and leadership are not your strong qualities at the moment, you need to change your beliefs. Your beliefs affect your actions and your actions affect your results, which further reinforce your beliefs.

If you have a belief that you will not succeed in your “lead yourself” goal – you need to change this belief. One way to change this belief is to achieve a result that will strongly contradict this belief. It does not need to be a big change. It can be something very simple. Just do it to prove to yourself that you can change and that your belief is wrong. Your mind needs evidence.

After you succeed with providing contradictory evidence to your belief, you have a leverage point. Every time you feel that you just cannot do something, always think back to this example to remember what is possible.

For example, take an area which is a struggle for the majority of people. A good example can be waking up in the morning. So many people struggle to wake up in the morning. If you will be a person who always wakes up at the very same time (whichever time this may be) every single morning, on weekdays and weekends, you will have at least one result which contradicts your current belief of not being able to lead yourself.

It may sound like a really simple example, yet it means something to you and that is what is important. You need simple examples to build your confidence and this creates a snowballing effect.

Above are just some thoughts on improving leadership and attaining your “lead yourself” goal. This will give you a good start. Remember that it will not be easy. If it were easy – everyone would be successful.

Now that you have read the article, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Can you trust you to lead yourself?
  • If you cannot lead yourself, why are you learning to lead others?

Take some time to think about this and write down the answers. Use the guide provided above and develop an action plan to lead yourself.

Drowning at the office…improve your time management with these 15 tips

The Alarm

Image by Burns! via Flickr

To understand time management, think about what a wise person once said, you can live your life any way you want, but you can live it only once.

We could adapt it to:

“you can live your day any way you want, but you can live it only once.”

If you don’t have an effective time management approach, your days are going to zoom by while leaving you with the feeling that nothing really gets done. Theoretically, it is not possible to manage time. But one can manage what one does with their time. Effective time management approaches are therefore needed. Below are some of the main principles that can significantly improve your time management and productivity.

1 – Do not deviate from your schedule


There are many distractions around you throughout the day. The more you deviate from your schedule to do something unproductive, the less you will accomplish. Be disciplined, develop a daily schedule and follow it. This is crucial for effective time management. If something comes up that is important, incorporate it into your schedule. If something is not important, then stick to your schedule. Remember that more often than not, your daily activities determine your success.

2 – Have programmed decisions


Programmed decisions are decisions made about recurring activities. Such decisions are made once and used every time the need for such a decision presents itself.

For example, if you are a very ambitious and driven individua, a time management programmed decision can be:

“I decided that I must only watch TV up to 5 hours a week, only between the times 6pm to 10pm on weekends”.

Now, all you have to do is to follow it.

Initially every time you think “should I do my report or watch a show on TV?” you will remember that your time management programmed decision does not allow you to have this option. As long as you are disciplined in following through, it will become a habit, and eventually you will not even have this question in your mind.

This example of programmed decisions also offers you an additional time saver – less TV. Another example of a programmed decision can be:

“I must exercise 30 minutes, 3 times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 6.30pm”.

Now you no longer have to spend any time planning and deciding on when you should exercise. The decision is already made. Time management programmed decisions can save you an enormous amount of time, which can be invested in value-adding activities.

3 – Manage your energy


It is important to do the most challenging tasks when your energy is at a high level.

4 – Respectfully say, “I wish I could help but I do not have capacity”


It is very important not to take on more tasks than you can handle. It is an important skill to learn to say “No” when you do not have the capacity to incorporate additional activity into your schedule.

5 – Keep a positive attitude


This may sound irrelevant to time management, but it is. If you have a positive attitude and see opportunities rather than problems, you will not waste time and energy on worry and regret. Instead, you will focus on solutions rather than problems, and opportunities rather than threats and unpleasant events.

6 -Email routine


Emails can be a significant time waster. It is vital, if at all possible, to set a specific time during the day when you will attend to your emails instead of continuously checking them as they arrive.

You could, for instance, make a time management programmed decision about allocating 10 minutes in the morning to attend to urgent emails and 20 minutes in the afternoon to attend to the rest of emails.

Only respond to emails addressed to you or where your input adds value. The novelty of being copied on thousands of emails soon wears out but the time you already wasted on them can never be recovered.

The morning is generally when you have the most energy. Therefore, it is not productive to spend this time handling non-urgent emails. Do not let other people decide how you should spend your most productive time. You should spend it on the high priority tasks.

7 – The “Pareto” rule (80/20)


The “Pareto” rule refers to the tendency for 20% of your effort to account for 80% of the impact. For time management, it refers to the tendency of 20 percent of your activities to account for 80 percent of the positive impact from your work.

Therefore, it is an advisable and smart thing to identify those activities with the highest impact. Spend the majority of time on them while cutting down or cutting out unnecessary activities (activities with no or very little impact).

For example, if you are a student and your main job is to earn a degree, then you should be spending the majority of your time on things which help you obtain your degree. Focus your time on your studies and cut out things which add no value to your studies. You should definitely not be spending less than 50% of your time on your studies if this is your main objective.

8 – Delegate and delegate often


It is important to delegate what can be done by others. This will save your time for high priority items and gives lower level employees an opportunity to grow. When delegating, it is critical to delegate some authority together with responsibility. That is, you need to delegate the task together with the appropriate level of authority to make decisions. Only such delegation brings real value to both parties. If only the responsibility is delegated but every minor decision about the task is still made by you, then your time will still be used up on this task and the lower level employee will not gain the true developmental benefits that delegation can offer.

In fact, you may spend more time on the task should an extra problem be created due to the poor delegation of authority.

9 – Lower standards for lower priority tasks


Some tasks should just be done at “Good enough” level. Striving for perfection in low priority tasks is generally a waste of time that can be spent on more important goals. Time management is also about eliminating the obsession to make everything perfect, even things that do not need to be perfect.

10 – Alarm snooze time waster


Many people search for ways to get up in the morning. You probably know that resetting the alarm or putting it on snooze in the morning can lead to significant time wastage. Moreover, the quality of your sleep during such periods is very bad so you do not get a good rest.

It is, without doubt, very hard for many people to get up in the morning. It is customary not to hear the alarm or not remember any of the reasons why you should get up before you absolutely must get up. Yet, later in the day, many people regret  lost hours that they could have spent more wisely.

The best way to break out of this insanity is to train yourself to wake up exactly at the same time every morning. Our bodies go through what is known as basic rest activity cycles. When you awake a few days in a row at the very same time – your body will adjust your basic rest activity cycle so that it feels natural to be awake at specific time.

It may be helpful, especially in the beginning, to leave the alarm in another room so you physically have to get up when you hear it.

After you start waking up at the same time every day, a pattern develops, and you may not be able to sleep beyond the  time set by your “body-clock”.

If you miss a day or two and will wake up later than your normal set time, you will have to again train yourself to wake up at the set time and it may be almost as hard to train yourself as the first time. Therefore, it seems better to take a nap during the day if you need extra rest and get yourself out of bed at a set time in the morning.

11 – Group similar activities together


It is important to group similar activities together. For example, if you need to make a few phone calls, it is better to do them all at once. One simple rule that can be used to save time is never to leave your desk for just one thing. In this way, you are forced to group a few activities together before your work is interrupted and, therefore, work will be interrupted much less. This is a simple but very effective time management technique.

12 – Work passionately


Time management can be improved not only by reducing the time spent at the office, but also by enjoying the time spent at the office. Constantly look for ways to be interested and passionate about your work. This way you can do your best work and you can be more focused and accomplish the task faster.

13 – Avoid disruptions


Avoid all kinds of disruptions such as drop-in visitors, telephone calls and emails, magazines and newspapers, and news websites. Those activities can take up a large part of your time if you are not careful. Allocate some time from the least productive part of your day to deal with these type of activities.

14 -Avoid procrastination


There is a saying, if you have a frog to eat, eat it the first thing in the morning and, if you have two frogs to eat, don’t start from the small one.

It is a good time management habit to do the most difficult and unpleasant activities earlier in the day. This way it will be done once and for all and you no longer will have to occupy your mind with the thoughts on how unpleasant and difficult it will be do engage in such activity.

15 – Assign a “dollar” value to an hour of your time


You need to assign a “dollar” value to an hour of your time. Time is an even more precious resource than money, but, for some reason, people are generally more careful with their money then with their time. By keeping in mind how much each hour of your day is worth, you can be much more accountable for the way this time is utilized.