Taking a brief moment to breathe calms us. It slows down our thinking. Our best ideas, reflections and revelations come from slowing down and taking time to think and listen. This holiday season, when life is hectic all around you, remember to stop and breathe.
In those brief quiet moments, reflect on what one or two things you can do to nurture yourself in the coming year. Consider kicking off the year with your personal development by attending Creating Your Career Opportunities: 3 Key Skills To Getting What You Want™. You’ll connect with and learn with a small group of women. Come away feeling more confident in your ability to navigate the year ahead.
I wish every one of you a happy, safe and healthy holiday season!
Take a Moment to Breathe
When I begin a session with a coaching client I start by asking the client to “breathe deeply and slowly three times.” One day, I forgot to use the word “slowly”. One, two, three…my client was breathing…and sounded like she was hyperventilating. “Whoa!”, I told, her. “Slow down and try it again.” “Oh, that feels much better!”, she responded. “Now I can focus.”
Given a task, our goal is often to get it done as quickly as possible. While we’re at it, we do two or three other things at the same time. It feels like we’re getting more done when we rush and multitask. We’re not. The brain can only do one thing at a time. In the book, “Make Your Brain Smarter” by Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD. the author shows us how multi-tasking leads to lower productivity and lower quality decisions.
Let’s look at an example in my career from many years ago. It was the worst period of my career. I was in a job where I was inexperienced for the role and I had no support systems in a new company. There were so many business issues externally and political issues internally that I didn’t know where to start. Every day I left the office exhausted and overwhelmed.
This went on for several months before I had a wake-up call. I was experiencing health issues, relationship issues and, in spite of all my hard work, I was not doing the job well.
If I had followed three simple tips cited by Dr. Chapman my productivity and effectiveness would have greatly improved. She calls them The Power of None, The Power of One and The Power of Two.
The Power of None: Our brains need a break. Pausing to rest allows us to approach a task with a new perspective. When I was in this difficult job, I didn’t stop, even on vacation. From waking up until going to sleep, all I did was work. What I needed was time for my relationships, time for exercise and time for me. It felt like I didn’t have time to take a break, yet my colleagues made time for themselves and their families. It was my perspective, not the job, that was keeping me from taking badly needed breaks. Dr. Chapman’s brain paradox: “Your brain works smarter when you make it slow down.”
The Power of One: According to Dr. Chapman, multi-taskers have difficulty blocking out irrelevant input from their environment. This leads to a less efficient brain. In my example, my “to do” list every day was very long. I was constantly interrupted and my meetings were back to back. People would try to get my attention as I walked down the hall. I never gave adequate attention to the issue at hand but instead jumped from one to another. The result was I missed key details that would have helped in my decision making. Give your full attention to one task at a time.
The Power of Two: Multi-tasking dilutes our strategic attention. In my situation there were so many big issues that I couldn’t tackle them all. But I tried. The consequence: I was unable to clearly discern the top issues that needed my attention. Chapman’s Tip: Everyday devote the majority of your time to two “elephant” tasks.
Do you know what your elephant tasks are? As the year comes to an end, take time to reflect and think about the priorities for the year ahead. Make your personal growth and development one of your priorities. If you need support in prioritization, strategic focus or advancing your career, contact Susan@WomenLeadingTogether.com for a conversation about your career.
Free Webinar: Boost Your Career in a Business Downturn – December 16, 11:30 – 12:30 CT Click here to register.
Susan Hodge created Women Leading Together in order to provide seminars, workshops, and coaching circles to help career women move forward to create fulfilling careers. Visit our website at www.WomenLeadingTogether.com.