Archive for ◊ January, 2013 ◊

• Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

High levels of stress affects our ability to think and perform at our best and can actually start to make some areas of our brain deteriorate. Fortunately, rest helps the brain ‘grow back’ to normal function. How much rest do we need? Coincidentally, it takes four weeks for some brain regions to grow back to normal size. If you haven’t taken four weeks holiday in a while, now could be a good time to start.

In a study of medical students who crammed for three weeks before final exams, it was shown that their cortex (the part of the brain that learns, controls behaviour and helps us to think critically) actually began to shrink. A smaller cortex means less ability to do all the things that make you valuable in work and life and help you achieve your goals.

The student’s brains eventually returned to normal size, but only after four weeks of rest. While some long weekends and a few short breaks here and there help us to recharge in the short term, our long term brain health and our ability to perform requires us to have some longer breaks as well.

Here are some tips for making this more effective:

1)     Get away

If possible, get away. Away from work and away from home. This makes sure that there is no feeling of ‘oh, I really should be doing x’ around the home or home office

2)     Turn off the office

Set up your auto-responder and divert your phone. You might still see your email on your smart phone, but if you’ve set up an auto-reply, then you set the expectation for people that you won’t be getting replying until you are back from holidays.

3)     Spend time slowing down

Don’t go flat out every day on your holiday. Trying to cram things into your holiday can sometimes be as stressful as cramming them into your work day. Make sure you take time every day to stop and slow down. Maybe a long walk on the beach, or an hour reading a book – anything that takes your mind of


• Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Take a look at your day and see what you complete. What we actually get done during our workday says a lot about where we focus our attention and what priorities we are carrying. The question is: do you like what your day says about you?

Our lives are filled with espoused priorities – the things we say are most important: things like our health, our families, being a good leader, being productive so that we can spend time on the most important things (whether that means work things or other things).

Do this quick exercise: make a list of just four things that are important to you – it can be at work or outside of work – it’s up to you. These should be the top four things that you feel are most important. Now, go back and have a look at your calendar or task list from yesterday (or the last work day). Take a good look at these. How many of these things actually helped you achieve those four ‘most important’ things?

If you’re like most people, this is a little frustrating. Quite often we find, through this exercise, that people spend a good deal of their day doing things that don’t get them closer to their goals. In some cases they do things that actually get them further away. In many cases, we can go the whole day (or whole week) completely neglecting one of those ‘most important’ things.

If you’re one of those people, take these simple steps to rethink the way you work and the things that get your attention:

1. Be clear about what is most important:

Think of the simple question that was asked earlier. What are the four things that are most important to you. If you had to think long and hard about that, then it is no wonder you don’t prioritise those things. When we are clear about what’s most important, then it becomes easier to factor those things into our days and weeks

2. Highlight simple behaviours that get you closer

Try to do something every day that impacts all four of the things on your list. These should be simple things that, when done regularly, will make a big impact in the long term. Don’t wait for opportunities to do huge things that make an enormous difference. Doing smaller things every day will eventually make a big impact.

3. Review every day for two weeks To embed the behaviours and keep you on track, review your most important things every day for two weeks. Answer this simple question for each one: ‘What did I do today that got me closer to …….?’

We all make choices every day about where to focus our time and energy. Sure, there will be things that you simply have to do, but there are always small choices along the way. Make sure you choose behaviours that will have the biggest impact on the most important things.