3 Courageous Questions To Eliminate Double-Booking Calendars

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It’s Monday morning and you are starting your day by looking at your calendar. As you scan the days ahead, you notice that, once again, you are double-booked. This has become the norm for you and for your organization. How can you be expected to be in two places at one time? And when you make a choice of one meeting over the other, what is the cost of your decision? How much precious time is wasted with explanations about why you can’t attend a meeting, or with chasing down information from the meeting you missed? And how often do you sit in meetings that are boring or irrelevant to your core responsibilities?

 

Is it time for you to ask some hard questions and take the courageous leadership actions needed to challenge the status quo and eliminate some meetings -for you and for your colleagues? If so, start with these three questions:

When you are the organizer of a meeting:

  1. Do you need a meeting? Is it simply a routine meeting that no longer serves its purpose in its current form? Is there a more efficient way to distribute information or gain consensus? Technology, like polling or video messaging, may be a helpful ally here.
  2. Are the right people in each meeting? Too many people create cluttered confusion and make it less likely that the best decisions will be reached. Do you need more than one person from the same department? Are there people in attendance who have historically been invited but really play no active role? Can you disseminate notes to those not needed for a decision?

When you have been invited to a meeting:

 

  1. Why are you attending? Is ego the only reason? Can attendance be delegated to someone who can benefit from learning something you already know? Can you ask if notes can be distributed? Do you have the courage to ‘decline’ the invitation so you can prioritize what is important over ‘what screams the loudest’?

 

Imagine the gift of giving yourself and your colleagues some space by cancelling meetings, or enhancing a meeting’s effectiveness. Take another look at your calendar for the week. Where is one opportunity to eliminate or modify a meeting? Be courageous!

Five Simple Ways You Can Bring Mindfulness To Work

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Mindfulness training is about learning to be awake for the moments of your life. This sounds easy, but is it? For most of us, our daily lives are so jam-packed with meetings and constant distractions, that we are more often on auto-pilot than awake. We just put our heads down and plow through the day as best as we can.

 

When we begin mindfulness training, we usually learn to practice while sitting quietly. This is an important part of the training but it is not enough. We also need to learn to bring our training right into the midst of our day. And the good news is that you can explore this aspect of the training without adding anything on to your ‘to-do’ list. I call this part of the training Purposeful Pauses and it has been an integral part of the Institute for Mindful Leadership’s training for more than 15 years.

Purposeful Pauses invite you to notice what is here to be noticed when you intentionally bring your attention to a moment in your day. For example, you notice that you are drinking a cup of coffee-the warmth in your hand, the aroma, the taste on your tongue, etc. Your full attention is on the experience of drinking that cup of coffee. And, it is also about redirecting your attention when it takes off into the future or the past while you are taking a Purposeful Pause. For example, while you are paying attention to your coffee, you notice that your mind starts to worry about tomorrow’s presentation. In that moment, you redirect your attention back to the taste of the coffee on your tongue. A Purposeful Pause only takes a couple of minutes but it breaks the autopilot way of living and helps to train your mind to be awake.

These mini-trainings are a continuation of the attention training you experience when you are practicing meditation on your cushion or in your chair. Purposeful Pauses allow you to turn off the autopilot and find some spaciousness in the day to make conscious choices…when you are awake, you are present for your life.

Here are a few other examples to get you started:

 

  1. Choose to start your day rather than letting the day start you-begin each day be noticing the sensations of the breath for a few breaths before jumping out of bed. What is your intention for the day?
  2. Use transitions wisely-choose to drive to and from work without listening to music or phone messages. Just drive-pay attention to what you see, hear, smell and touch. What do you notice about how you arrive?
  3. Nourish yourself-mindfully eat your lunch without looking at your computer screen or phone. How are you taking care of your body’s needs today?
  4. Just walk between meetings-no emails or texts. If you are telecommuting, use the time between meetings to take a few breaths, stand up and stretch or walk down your hallway. In just a few moments, you can let go of the last meeting and feel more centered and ready for the next meeting.
  5. As you turn off your computer for the day, ask yourself What Went Well? We have a tendency to focus on what didn’t go well so we need to be intentional about bringing our attention to what did go well.

What other Purposeful Pauses can you find? Look closely, where would a break in your day serve you?

2 Mindfulness Steps To Setting Boundaries

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Do you feel as if there is no delineation between work time and personal time? Has the culture of your workplace made it seem that being available 24/7 is the ‘norm’. If your answer is ‘yes’ to one or both of these questions, you are not alone. The demands of working (on site or from home), connecting with loved ones, caring for children or elder parents, and attempting to stay connected with friends can be overwhelming. The days and nights seem like a blur of computer screens and smartphone notifications. Your body and mind begin to feel under siege and, without setting some boundaries, you will feel exhausted and burned out.

Learning to meet life in a more compassionate and productive way is possible. All you need is an intention to explore some new ways of learning to be more mindful, and the discipline to follow through with some small steps.

This simple mindfulness approach to boundaries comes in two forms:

 

  • Transitions between segments in your work schedule:

Look for the natural breaks in your scheduled day and create an intentional boundary. Boundaries require conscious, disciplined choices. For example, your 10 am conference ends at 11 am. When you leave that meeting, take a few minutes to stand and stretch at your desk. Take a few deep breaths and exhale with a sigh each time. Invite your mind to let go of the interactions in that meeting and pay attention to how your body feels as you stand up and stretch. These few minutes belong to you. Use them to care for yourself and re-center your mind and body so it is ready for the next segment of your day.

A second example involves making the choice to really nourish yourself during the day. When it is time to have lunch, it is also time to transition away from work. Close the computer, leave your phone on your desk and mindfully walk to the cafeteria or kitchen. Feel your feet on the floor of the hallway and redirect your attention to those steps every time your mind begins to pull you back to work. If you are home with other family members, invite them to join you as you prepare lunch and connect with one another over a meal.

These short breaks are important ways to help you cultivate resiliency in a hectic schedules. Look for the ones that support you and make a conscious choice to integrate them into your schedule.

  • Transitions between tech time and no tech time:

Although it may seem strange to even think about it, your smartphone and laptop have off switches. Choose to use them. At some point in your day, at least 2 hours before bed, and ideally more, turn them all off. And keep them out of your bedroom. If you have been relying on them to wake you up in the morning, consider investing in an alarm clock. Having tech right next your head while you are trying to sleep often interferes with deep, restorative sleep because a part of your brain is waiting for it to be ‘notified’. You take great care to keep your technology recharged. Do the same for yourself by disconnecting from technology for set periods every day.

This choice to leave tech behind for a while also will allow you to connect more deeply to yourself, family and friends. For example, trying to authentically connect with someone during a conversation or meeting with one eye on your phone is disrespectful. Think about it, when you are speaking with someone and they keep glancing at their phones, how does it make you feel?

Finally, create a ‘no tech zone’ for your house, and set aside ‘no tech hours’ for your entire family. You will all soon find that tech connections are no substitute for human connections.

Taking these small steps to draw some boundaries between work time and replenishment time is not a ‘nice to have’, it is an imperative if you want to live your best life.

3 Steps to Cultivate Resilience in Difficult Times by Janice Marturano

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3 Steps to Cultivate Resilience in Difficult Times by Janice Marturano

The toll of CoVid19 on our physical and mental health has led to a veritable avalanche of calls to ‘cultivate resilience’. We know we are feeling worn out and we are grasping for a ‘tool’ or ‘technique’ that will make us better able to get through the day. Of course, there are those who look for, and find,  yet another app that is supposed to help, or another color-coded priority process that claims to be the answer. But, aren’t those things just more distractions that add to an already too-long ‘to do’ list?

What if the answer is much simpler and requires no technology? What if the actual way to begin to cultivate resilience is through an act of kindness?

Let me explain.

When we are moving through our lives at warp speed, it is easy to ignore the signals from our own body and our own wisdom. The signals that tell us that something is missing, or something is wrong. Instead, we forge ahead, ignoring what is here and draining all reserves until we find ourselves so depleted that we are unable to do anything more than go through the motions of our lives. If this sounds true for you, you are not alone. Most of the professionals I work with would agree that they have many days where it feels as if they are living on autopilot.

The good news is that you can learn to listen again to those signals, and when you do, you are likely to feel a pull toward an act of kindness toward yourself. If you are ready to explore this possibility, try these 3 simple steps:

  1. Find 5-10 minutes to sit comfortably in a quiet place. Allow your eyes to close and bring your attention to the sensations in your body.
  2. What do you notice? Do you feel warm, cool, tired? Are you noticing any areas of discomfort? If your attention wanders away, bring it back. Let your body sensations take center stage. Listen.
  3. When you are ready, ask yourself this question: what act of kindness is called for today? Be patient and listen for the answer to arise from your inherent wisdom.

Now for the hard part…having the courage to act on what you learned. Perhaps you noticed a deep tiredness and the action is to learn to say ‘no’ to some requests, or to go to bed earlier.

Or, perhaps you noticed tightness in your neck or lower back and the act of kindness that arose was to let go of something in your life that is not nourishing you.

Each time you choose to practice with this reflection, you make room for looking at what drains your energy, and you take a positive action to build back the life you want to live. You can begin to bloom again!

 

Is Your Story-Telling Derailing Your Career? Two Mindful Steps To Get Back On Track

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Is Your Story-Telling Derailing Your Career? Two Mindful Steps To Get Back On Track

Near the end of his life, it has been reported that Mark Twain was asked to look back and offer an assessment. He noted that ‘my life has been one tragedy after another but thankfully, most never happened’. If you stop for a few moments and consider this observation, you might also note the many times you told yourself a story that something terrible was going to happen, but it never did.

We are creative beings and so we can imagine many outcomes or scenarios. Our minds can write full-length feature films and we can become certain that the worst is going to happen. Or we can limit our potential by telling ourselves that we will certainly fail, or not be good enough. Too many careers stall before they need to, solely because of the stories we create in our mind.

I’m not talking about full assessments that look at all possibilities. I’m talking about the much more common assessment that only looks at all the things that might go wrong, or that might make something challenging, often with little or no facts to support those conclusions. These are the thoughts that can keep you from soaring, or reaching your full potential.

Here is a simple approach to cultivating a more skillful approach to moments when your own thoughts may be holding you back:

1. Write down the thought that seems to be holding you back or cultivating anxiousness or fear, and then read it aloud. What do you notice?

2. Now, intentionally choose to hold the thought with some spaciousness and note that ‘this may or may not be true’. There is no need to push the thought aside or try to bury it. Just hold it lightly. In the spaciousness you have created around these thoughts, they begin to loosen their grip. How do you want to meet those words now? What is the skillful choice to live your best life?

This simple practice takes just a few moments but it can be a powerful way to interrupt the thinking that has limited your career and your life.