Don’t Be Distracted by Style over Substance

 

sense

 

 

 

Don’t Be Distracted by Style over Substance

Guest Blog: Jane Heineken

 

We know that our ancestors spent most of their days fighting for their very survival without the benefit of automation, climate control, sanitation, modern medicine, or any of the technological advances we now enjoy. The few pauses they took from the unrelenting task of feeding, clothing, and sheltering their families had to do with religious or social rituals marking major life events and the passage of time: births, deaths, marriages, and holidays.  Each culture around the world developed customs that made their people feel celebrated or comforted during particular times along the hard road of life. Sometimes there were artists or storytellers to capture these moments for future generations, but mostly, memories were made in the minds of those who lived the moments: laughed, cried, danced, ate, and prayed intensely with their communities.

Cut to modern times, when the entrepreneurs of a commercialized society realized that there was lots of money to be made off of these celebrations: suddenly Martha Stewart was dictating your kid’s destination birthday party and Zales was hinting that your husband should be looking at a “push present” and Bridezillas terrorizing their girlfriends had actually become A Thing. When I had my senior high school yearbook photo taken, I drove to a studio in August, sweated through a series of posed, seated shots in a stifling hot, velour sweater that was to be “all the rage” that fall, waited several weeks to see proofs, and chose the one I found the most flattering—end of story. Then came my daughter’s turn: “on location” in a public botanical garden over several hours, with at least four different outfits—and I was STILL sweating as I tried to help her change into them behind a blanket so that she wouldn’t acquire an arrest record at 18 for indecent exposure. “This is CRAZY,” I kept muttering as I swatted off bees and mosquitos; it got even worse when we were paralyzed by the overwhelming quantity and shocking expense of possible photos from which to choose. Whenever I questioned the new protocol, I was told over and over again, “But this is how it’s DONE now.” The peer pressure had shifted from wearing the “right sweater” to being “the right kind of parent.”

I heard a similar story from a friend who attended a perfect cinematic tableau of a wedding: sunset at the beach, balmy breezes, chirping birds, and lapping surf. The happy bride and groom stood clutching hands, ready for the ceremony to bind their lives together…when suddenly the peacefulness of the moment was completely destroyed by an overly ambitious wedding photographer clicking her way around and across the altar space. She then proceeded to force her way between the bridal party and the audience, turning around to the front rows to jam a large lens into the faces of loved ones, trying to get “candid response shots” from people attempting to witness and enjoy the sacred ceremony. What the photographer got instead was my friend giving her the evil eye, gesturing a “cut” motion and hissing at her to “GO AWAY,” much to the relief of those sitting around her!

Meanwhile, a recent news report cited the latest trend in wedding photography: hiring drone operators to send cameras overhead for a bird’s-eye perspective of outdoor ceremonies. Seriously? Now we’re going to be buzzed and dive-bombed during everyone’s vows?? Add to this the rash of overly elaborate, flashmob engagement proposals going viral, and professional photo sessions booked for everything from school dances to once-private passages such as gestation and childbirth. I hadn’t realized how out of hand some of these practices had gotten until people began to parody them: check out one dad-to-be’s “pregnancy photo shoot” (http://www.buzzfeed.com/mikespohr/this-man-took-maternity-photos-of-himself-when-his-pregnant#yx14a1 ) and the couple that inserted their dog into the modern family album trope (http://www.lifewithdogs.tv/2014/08/couple-does-newborn-photo-shoot-of-rescue-dog/  )!

Perhaps because technology and trends have been changing so quickly, people have become more concerned with micromanaging the presentation and documentation of life events rather than simply experiencing them, in the moment, with merely the human senses granted to us from as far back as when we were in the womb. It’s not just the hosts of events who are guilty of this; attendees, too, are often caught up in demonstrating their own participation in things that are really “not about them.” I received one wedding invitation in which the bride and groom felt the need to request that their guests focus on the ceremony rather than on photographing it with their camera phones. Have we really become so distracted by the trappings of occasions that we forget to focus on their deeper meanings?

It’s easy to feel controlled by all of the things that are possible these days, as well as by what “everybody else” is doing. However, we have the right—and sometimes, the obligation—to examine and question how we want to mark the special occasions in our lives. What is the most important aspect of the event we are hosting or attending? How best do we honor that aspect? How can we balance planning, presentation, and preserving memories with the actual opportunity to connect and engage in ritual and community in the moment? If you are the subject of the event, discuss these things with your photographer, videographer, family, and guests so that expectations are clear and your wishes are respected (as well as those of others who may prefer not to be photographed or filmed). If you are a guest at an event, take a few moments to see beyond the style—stunning as it may be—in order to appreciate the substance of the occasion. A beautiful photograph or video clip is a lovely momento to treasure, but in the end, it is still a collection of pixels filtered through the distance of a lens. It’s much more powerful to have the smell of the flowers, the warmth of the hug, the power of the music, and the light in the faces of your loved ones imprinted on your heart.

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The Fidget Factor

 

 

Fidget

The Fidget Factor

 

Like a racing mind, your body may feel like it is always in high gear.  For example, are you a person who taps a spoon throughout meal times, or whose body seems always on the go?  If yes, then you may have excess physical or mental energy that reveals itself through fidgeting. Some people just seem to be more “fidgety” than others; fidgeting can be a relatively positive way of dissipating excess energy or tension.

 

However, excessive fidgeting can become an issue if it becomes disruptive in some way. Your fidgeting may be a problem if your actions undermine your ability to effectively communicate or interact with others. Fidgeting is one of the most common non-verbal behaviors that others use to judge you, especially in the workplace. Are you creating noise and distraction in an otherwise quiet atmosphere? You might get labeled “rude.” If you fidget during a job interview, you might project nervousness, untruthfulness, or lack of self-control—even when none of these things are true. When you fidget during conversations with a co-workers or friends, they might read your body language as a sign of boredom, disinterest, or disrespect, and become angry with you.

 

If you suspect that excessive fidgeting has caused you problems, the first step is to pay attention to your own behavior: how often is your fidgeting noticeable? Does your fidgeting help or hinder your attention or concentration?  Does your fidgeting bother others? When you catch yourself fidgeting, try to notice how you are feeling: is it merely a physical feeling of “antsy-ness” or are you stressed or troubled about a particular issue? Excessive fidgeting can develop from simple “bad habits,” or for some people, it might be part of a general cluster of symptoms of an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disability or an indicator of some other medical issue. Your medical provider can help you sort out possible causes and recommend positive steps to take.

 

To become more aware of all the different ways that fidgeting appears in your everyday life, use the following chart to examine your “fidget factor.”  Check any item that describes you.

 

 

 

Self-Check: The Fidget Factor

 

___ 1.  I shake my foot (and leg) often.

 

___ 2.  I feel antsy or jittery if I sit too long.

 

___ 3.  I chew gum, eat mints, and chomp on pencils a lot during the day.

 

___  4. I whistle and/or hum more than most people.

 

___  5.  I drum my fingers, or tap with dining utensils, pencils, or other objects while dining or conversing.

 

___  6.  I jiggle coins or swing objects such as my keys during conversations or when waiting.

 

___ 7.  I walk quickly, although it is often not necessary.

 

 

 

If you experience more than a few of these behaviors, review or ask others about the effects of your fidgeting.  Ask, “Is my fidgeting a distraction to you?” You may be surprised at their reactions.  For example, one professional talked with his sister after a family function that didn’t seem to go very well. She replied, “David, of course it’s distracting! I’m talking to you and you’re leaning and rocking on the dining room chair or banging your spoon on the table—while at the same time, you’re sniping at your son to stop playing with the salt shaker! It’s rude and inconsiderate!” David was shocked to hear that his family thought he wasn’t listening to them respectfully.

 

 

 

10 Ways to Manage Your Fidgets

 

1. If you are dealing with the fidget factor, plan ways that you will try to better manage your fidgeting:

2. Observe and note the times or conditions that seem to exacerbate fidgeting. Is it only at work? More likely in the late afternoon? A reaction to stress?

 

3. Get regular exercise to rid yourself of some excess energy.

 

4. Reduce caffeine intake.

 

5. Fold or sit on your hands, fold your legs, or cross your feet to quiet them for a time.

 

6. Stand during some portion of a lengthy meeting.

 

7. Take a mini-break to refocus your attention.

 

8. Replace an annoying behavior such as tapping a cup with a spoon with something less noticeable, like tapping your fingers on your thigh.

 

9. Consider replacing your desk chair with a large exercise ball to expend excess muscle energy while you sit, or ask your employer about providing a standing-desk or treadmill desk as an office option.

 

10. Listen to others if they ask you to stop.

 

Visit a medical or mental health professional if fidgeting consistently interferes with your or other’s attention or concentration.

 

Excessive fidgeting can negatively affect your performance at work or in social situations. Understanding your body language and how it affects your life can lead you to more constructive ways to relieve excess energy and tension. Whether your fidgeting is a habit or an aspect of a condition or disability, you can learn to exert greater control over your actions.

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The Blank Page Exercise

 

Blank Page ExerciseUsing the Blank Page Exercise to Actively Learn Lecture Notes

Geraldine Markel, PhD

You can hear all of the post-mortems as students emerge from their exam rooms; Janice tells her lab partner, “I was sure I had memorized all the chemistry formulas—but that didn’t go so well.” Meanwhile, Tom is commiserating with his history classmates: “I went over my notes so many times, but I still couldn’t remember the details to put in the essay section.”

 

These student comments illustrate the less-than-optimal results of a particular passive learning behavior: rereading notes.  Although reviewing notes feels productive, the act of reading alone does not ensure learning.  In Janice’s and Tom’s cases, simply looking at what was written did not help them remember the amount of detail required to get the grade they desired.

 

If you watch students passively rereading their notes, you may see them nod and say, “Right,” or “Yeah.” As you read, you do confirm that the information is familiar and perhaps recall the main ideas and examples from lecture. However, merely passing your eyes across the text doesn’t guarantee that your mind has assimilated details like dates, definitions, or formulas. Without using more active learning strategies, you won’t know if there are gaps in your retention of the material or a lack of depth in your understanding of the ways in which it can be applied. Failure to integrate all of these aspects of studying can really hurt your test performance, especially during situations like timed exams.

 

The Blank Page exercise provides a form of active learning that illustrates what you actually know at any given point in the study process. It leads to greater levels of memorization and builds confidence in your ability to perform under test conditions. The more active the learning, the better your test scores and grades.

 

Follow these steps to use the Blank Page Exercise to actively learn information from texts, lectures, or class notes:

 

Read the title of the lecture or class and visualize the topic.

Before rereading the notes, write main ideas, key words, concepts, definitions, or details on a white board or notepaper. Use whatever form is most useful to you: a paragraph, table, chart, or diagram. This helps you access prior information and lets you see how much of the lecture you actually remember.

Check the completeness and accuracy of what you have reproduced with your lecture notes or slides.

Check if the sequence in which you wrote the information or steps is accurate. Identify any relationships that are essential.

List the topics that you knew and the degree of detail you remembered.

List the topics not understood or remembered, and any details or examples that were missing from your version.

Identify the order in which you need to relearn those concepts and facts. Project the amount of time you might need for each topic. Remember to begin with the basics and main ideas. This provides a framework for more advanced material.

Revisit the material you could not reproduce on your own. In addition to rereading it, add an action such as moving while you read, speaking the words out loud, fitting the information into a mnemonic or catchy song, or taking turns with a study partner to recite and discuss the information.

Repeat learning and testing yourself on the Blank Page or White Board.

Allow no more than 45 minutes on this type of learning before taking a short break, since it is intense and energy draining.

After a break, use the Blank Page technique to review and check your retention of learned material over time.

 

You can ensure better understanding, retention and application of material such as your lecture notes when you use active learning like the Blank Page Exercise. In addition, your confidence level goes up and your stress level goes down once you prove that you can summarize the main ideas and provide important facts and examples in a written format, be it a paragraph, chart, illustration, or graph.

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Pay Attention to Avoid the Mess of Memory Slippages

4678110_f260On the Go? Be vigilant about distractions and memory slippages when you go to the gym or other places where you need to change clothes.

At home, you have probably got it down to a science: the last possible second you can roll out of bed, run through your morning rituals and be out the door. Everything is where you need and expect it to be, even when you’re bleary-eyed and half asleep: favorite conditioner in the shower stall, toothbrush next to the sink, vitamins on the kitchen counter, keys by the door. But what happens when your intimate hygiene routines take place outside of your home?

It’s going to be a busy day, but Natalie pushes to get to the gym at 6 am for her Zumba class. Afterwards, she’s a sweaty mess but elated that she got in her workout. She rushes toward the locker room, her mind racing, “Shower…conference call…lunch meeting…” Opening the locker for her flip-flops, she smiles because she didn’t forget any clothing; last week she forgot clean underwear and was forced to wear her undies inside out. In the shower stall, Natalie hangs her watch on the hook next to her towel. She pauses, thinking, “Put the watch in your sneaker so you don’t forget it,” but she gets distracted and ignores her inner voice as the scalding water hits her skin and needs to be adjusted. After she has cleansed, she feels refreshed, but pressured to throw on her clothes and get going. Later that morning, she glances at her wrist—but it’s empty. “Oh, no!” She can see herself holding the watch, telling herself what to do to avoid forgetting it—but not following through because of her distraction. She skipped a step in her routine and overrode the caution of her inner voice. She left the costly watch in the stall—and it was stolen.

How many times has a variation in your routine or a sudden distraction caused you to forget or lose something? Maybe you agree to house-sit for a friend for a couple of days, or your boss arranges an off-site training session and suddenly you’re trying to carry your life or office around with you. “Wait, where did I put my…?” Sometimes you catch yourself, refocus, and avert loss; but often, you’re not so lucky. Other times, the problem is failing to expect the unexpected. Perhaps the weather turns ugly during a visit to your family so you have to spend the night there, or you show up for a routine medical appointment and get sent on to another facility for a night’s worth of monitoring. How do you plan ahead for your needs and keep track of your possessions in a public or unfamiliar environment?
With today’s constant pressure to do more and be everywhere, you’re vulnerable to the kind of distractions and memory slippages that occur when your routine is broken. What can you do to reduce or avoid them? Here are some tips:

1. Become aware: test yourself by trying to visualize each step in your morning and bedtime routines. On a day when you are not rushed, go through the sequence and see if you missed anything. Perhaps you want to make a laminated checklist card to hang on your workout bag, or a note stored on your cell phone.
2. Note the little things that you take for granted at home: health and beauty supplies; hygiene items; accessories like belts and jewelry; charging cords for shavers, etc. What will you need in other situations? Some things may be optional, like using a hair dryer, but others, like medications, are not.
3. Think ahead: when you know you will be getting dressed or staying over somewhere else, try to picture going through your routines there. Visualize an outfit from top-to-bottom and inner layer-to-outwear to prevent those missing unmentionables or socks. Get in the habit of asking yourself, “If I got delayed or stuck, what would be good to have with me?”
4. Redundancy is your friend! If the situation allows, have an extra emergency hygiene kit packed for your car or office. Many drugstores sell small travel kits with deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc. Keep an extra bag of older workout gear in your car just to use in a pinch, or a neutral outfit for work in case of some kind of wardrobe malfunction. See if your health insurance and pharmacy will give you a vacation override to have an extra few days worth of your medications.
5. When a system works, stick to it! Do the same thing every time. Natalie started her shower before securing her stuff as usual, and it cost her dearly.
a.For instance, frequent business travelers are very picky about their luggage and accessory kits: a place for everything and everything in its place. They restock for the next trip as soon as they get home.
b. Fold-out, hanging accessory bags with clear pockets can help you see if you have forgotten something; you can use a label maker to designate each space.
c. If you wear eyeglasses, request an extra eyeglass case from the optometrist for when you shower at the gym or sleep on somebody’s couch.
d. Friends and internet resources can lead you to tricks and merchandise to solve travel-related problems.

Listen to your inner voice. Those warnings in your head telling you to be careful, to slow down, and to focus your attention on the task at hand are important. Don’t let your incessant cell phone, demanding boss, or needy family drown out the one person who should be looking out for you: you.

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New Study about Stress in Our Lives

If you want some insights about the impact of stress today, read this:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/07/07/327322187/stressed-out-americans-tell-us-about-stress-in-their-lives.

Besides major problems involving health or death of a loved one, many people feel overwhelmed with too many responsibilities and problems at work. What about you? After you read this article, take a few minutes to think about these results and then, think about your work/life stress.  Too much stress results in poor performance and a variety of health problems. If you have stress, are you using strategies to reduce it? You might ask questions such as:

To what degree is stress negatively impacting my work/life? How can I better manage stress? Are there strategies and resources that I could use, but avoid?overwhelm

Work/life stress is more prevalent than ever and it’s not going to go away. Now’s the time to identify a few strategies that can be used to decrease the stress you are experiencing. Here are a few tried and true strategies:

1. Get more sleep. The more fatigued you are, the more vulnerable you are to stress. The more rested you are, the more energy you have to ward off  or deal with everyday stressful events.

2. Take frequent, but brief breaks. This is especially important when tasks are difficult or boring, or tensions abound. Even a short nap can restore your energy, motivation and patience.

3. Add a bit of humor to your work/life. Humor and laughter are instantly powerful stress busters. When you have a good laugh, you relax tense muscles and take deep breaths. Besides, you’ll be sharing a positive experience with another co worker or friend.

4. Take a walk. Bright sunshine and fresh air can work wonders to calm stress. If possible, access nature: enjoy the trees, birds, flowers and open space.

5. Infuse lovely colors, sounds and scents into your work/life. It is easier to relax when you are surrounded by soft colors and often, easier to perk up with vibrant colors. Feeling low, perhaps a song or lively march will interrupt those stressful feelings.

You can these are but a few suggestions to provide stress relief during these stressful and challenging times.overwhelm

 

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Don’t Get Distracted at the Copier

UnknownCommunal printers, copiers and scanners are commonplace in most workplaces since they offer economies of scale for employers. Unfortunately, they also present dangers to distracted employees. Tales of drunken office party pranks aside, there are plenty of horror stories about sensitive or inappropriate items left behind on the glass platen or paper catcher.

Elaine, a charge nurse at a corporate-run skilled nursing facility, got caught up in an administrative restructuring ordered by headquarters. Powerless to intervene as poor decisions began to compromise both staff morale and the quality of patient care, she finally reached her breaking point and spent one of her lunch hours typing up a scathing letter citing all of the ways in which her center had become “completely dysfunctional due to idiotic dictates” by those in positions of authority. Her intention was to get all the venom out of her system and then to rip up the printed letter in a symbolic act of purging the negative emotions from her system. However, she was interrupted by a patient crisis before she could complete her personal protest—and her supervisor found the letter. A quick and abject apology saved her job in the short term, but diminished her prospects for advancement long after the reorganization had settled into place.

Here are some tips to help you avoid this type of embarrassing situation:
• If you’re feeling frustrated or angry with a coworker or supervisor over an incident, think before you write—whether it is a letter or a possible email.
• Visualize the possible negative outcomes that might occur if you were to actually send a nasty note.
• Use a separate, bound notebook or journal to describe your feelings and thoughts. Some people just list or brainstorm random ideas, while others write long and descriptive paragraphs. Reread your notes after 24 hours.
• Mull over any lessons you’ve learned and some possible, positive ways to communicate your message or deal with the situation.
• You may want to discuss the situation with a trusted friend or resource.
• Decide if the incident is worth doing something about. If so, decide on a positive way to deal with the situation or avoid future pitfalls.
• If you are using a copier to transmit your message, do it at a time when you are alert, non distracted and relatively non emotional.

Remember: What you write, email or post today can come back to haunt you tomorrow. Pay attention at the copier and prevent unnecessary mistakes.

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Stress, Haste and Fatigue UP, Accuracy DOWN

stress15n-1-webRay is a small business owner who does most of his bookkeeping after hours from home.  In the last quarter of the year, he’s getting some phone orders. He knows he shouldn’t be posting hand-recorded charge slip amounts to the credit card company late at night when he’s exhausted, but he desperately wants to feel caught up for the week and post the payments. In fact, he’s busy arguing with his wife about the hours he’s been keeping as he taps the figures into the remote virtual terminal: “I just want to finish this up!”  However, the charge won’t go through; his screen keeps telling him that payment is “DENIED.” It’s not the first time Ray has lost money on a credit card transaction, and he is furious to be left holding the bag again. He can’t reach customer service until business hours, so he shuts down his system, grumbling all the while, and goes to bed. He wakes up angry but decides to try posting one more time before calling and giving someone a piece of his mind. In the fresh light of a new day, he discovers that he tried to collect $9500 instead of $95—no wonder the system performed an override!

productivity-working-at-homeHere are some suggestions to avoid making mistakes when working on tasks requiring accuracy:

  1. Schedule tasks requiring high accuracy when you are alert; not late, when you are tired.
  2. Schedule brief work periods for tasks that are detailed or boring.
  3. Take the extra time to check your accuracy prior to clicking send, especially if you are tired or irritated.
  4. Take frequent breaks when you are doing important legal, medical, or financial tasks.
  5. Stop multitasking when you need to complete tasks with speed and accuracy.

During the last quarter of the year, take special care to complete your business chores when you are not fatigued, distracted or highly stressed. You’ll be amazed by the amount you can accomplish in 20-minute work sessions when you are alert and focused. Ray learned his lesson:  fatigue and distraction can result in clumsy fingers and wandering eyes.  When the stakes are high, you need to bring your A-game to the process of inputting important information.  You can’t rest easy on the (information) Cloud unless you’ve made sure that the data you store there is correct.

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To Err about the Divine is Human

In 2013, popular hip hop musician Kanye West released a new album which he titled, “Yeezus.” He seemed to enjoy the ensuing media debate about whether the deliberately-chosen moniker was a religious reference, a twist on his nickname—or none of the above. The Vatican, however, had no intention of causing controversy when it recently commissioned 6000 bronze, silver and gold commemorative coins honoring Pope Francis. Imagine the embarrassment of officials there when the newly minted medals contained the name “Lesus” instead of “Jesus” imprinted in a Latin phrase on each one!

Jesus misspelled

According to the The New York Times, neither the Church nor the Italian mint managed to flag the error during the design, mold-making, production or delivery stages; it wasn’t until the medals hit retail outlets that the misspelling was discovered. Vatican officials were forced to recall most of the coins, although the few lucky collectors who snagged one will undoubtedly find a silver (or gold or bronze) lining in this clouded situation. Could it be that even in a place as exalted as Vatican City, modern life has gotten too stressful for everyone? Pope Francis is, after all, the first Pope on both Twitter and Instagram. The British newspaper The Independent agrees that Demons of Distraction may dare to tread on holy ground when they quipped that the mistake must have occurred because, “It seems the devil is indeed in the details.”

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

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Don’t be Distracted by Disappointment and Frustration

“I didn’t get accepted into the show.”

“I didn’t make the cut for the team.”

“I wasn’t picked for the promotion this year.”

You’re disappointed. You expect a “Yes” and, instead, receive a “No”. Sometimes you think you’re a shoo in, other times you raise the bar and take a risk. In either case, you fall short.

What does this all mean? Now what? You might get distracted by feelings of disappointment, frustration, or in some cases, humiliation. However, after you suffer the shock and sadness (or anger) and the sting wears off, it’s important to move past the paralysis of your negativity. You need to reframe, refresh and refocus on your goal. Decide to view the experience in a larger perspective.

Philosophically, to grow, you must take risks, stumble, learn from experience and move to a higher level. How many times do youngsters fall before they walk? A child’s physical growth and development doesn’t happen overnight. Neither does an adult’s learning curve. Regardless of the field, you need to find challenges, take appropriate risks and use the feedback to decide how, when, why and with whom to further develop.

Failure doesn’t prove that you’re not good enough. A failure is one experience, not an evaluation of your worth as a person or professional.  The learning from mistakes, blunders, failures and frustration comes as you review your past actions and attitudes in light of the current situation.

Here are some questions to address after a frustration or failure:

  • Did I know the requirements?
  • Did I have most of the prerequisite skills or experiences?
  • Did I have a friend, coach or mentor to help me prepare?
  • Did I react and respond in constructive ways?
  • What lessons can be learned from this experience?

Here are some actions to take:

  1. Give yourself a break or time to calm down and relax. Reaching a state of lowered stress and emotionality will allow you to use your logic and view the larger picture. You ask, “Is this an experience that requires a total shutdown? How will I view it in 5 months or years?”
  2. 2.      Recognize and respect the courage and effort you demonstrated to take the risk and throw your hat into the ring.
  3. Ask yourself, “How consistent is this experience with my most important goals? Should I continue to pursue?”
  4. Evaluate whether you need more knowledge, skill or experience.
  5. Construct a plan that includes the actions and timetable that are needed.

There are scores of famous people who dealt with frustration and failure.  A commonly used example is the story of Thomas Edison, who conducted more than 9,000 experiments before he was successful with the light bulb. He said, “If I find 10 thousand ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is just one more step forward.”

Edison was a scientist. He set goals, kept records and learned from failures and mistakes. You can do the same on a less intense basis. The key is to look at disappointments as a source of feedback on your performance. Ask, “What aspects of my performance need to be maintained or modified?” 

However, a word of advice: unless you’re a scientist, don’t make 9,000 attempts.

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Did Not Disturb: Express your gratitude to those who minimize interruptions and distractions

My friend, Happy F., sent me this image and it made me smile. The lovely message reminded me of the importance of letting others know that you appreciate the positive things they do—especially when they help you fight interruptions and distractions.

For example, here is a great interaction between co-workers:

Colleague: “I waited until tonight to call because I know you’re busy finishing your project.”

Project Manager: “Wow, that’s terrific. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. It’s so hard for me to ignore a ringing phone. I feel the pull even when the phone is set on vibrate and I’m in the library.”

In a busy office, interruptions may occur every few minutes. At the end of the day, you wonder what has really been accomplished. One report states, “The average office worker is interrupted seventy-three times every day. And the average manager is interrupted every eight minutes.  Once there is an interruption, some statistics tell us that it takes up to 20 minutes to get back to the level of concentration that we were at prior to the disruption.” (http://interruptions.net/literature/CubeSmart-productivity-wp1.pdf )

The Others Demon is insidious and triggers distractions all day, and sometimes, all night. People want to “just ask one question,” “just tell one quick joke” or “just touch base.” Your job is to let others know when you are and aren’t available. Their job is to not interrupt or distract you. When others are sensitive and considerate of your time and attention, you need to express your gratitude. Too often, you may get so exasperated and irritable that you forget to accentuate the positive. You might replay the negative situations and forget about the few—but important—instances where those around you were helpful. However, if you don’t take the time to recognize those who promote your productivity, they might not feel encouraged to continue doing so.

You’ve probably noticed that almost every book published has a clearly defined section for “acknowledgements.”  In everyday situations, you can create opportunities to acknowledge the help of others. Some channels are formal, such as a letter of praise in a personnel file or a “thank you” included in the agenda of a staff meeting. But there are also informal and spontaneous ways to show your appreciation for the considerate behavior of others. Whether you send a photo, a personal note, or provide a simple compliment, let others know how much you appreciate their help when you are attempting to concentrate and need peace and quiet.

Here are a few ways you can tell others, “You’re awesome because you help me focus and be productive.”

  • Written messages: send an email, thank-you note, greeting card, cartoon or photo.
  • Verbal messages: Provide a thank you with a face-to-face, phone or Skype conversation:

“Thanks so much, I really needed to concentrate so I could finish the…”

“It’s probably surprising that calling during the evening rather than the work day means so much to me.”

  • Special recognition: Salute a professional colleague in a newsletter or other correspondence.
  • Give a small, but meaningful or humorous token of appreciation. For example, The EASY button from Staples, a Solar Dancing Flower, a light activated flower that swings and sways when in a window (www.shopwiki.com/l/Solar-Dancing-Flower), or a candy bar wrapped in a ribbon.

When recognizing thoughtfulness, it’s the thought that counts!

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