Stop Multi-tasking

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Multi-tasking and stress

            We all are very busy individuals.  We all have phones, computers, tablets, oh yeah and we all have our own personal lives to live away from this technology also. Our work and our play have become so streamlined with technology that there is a fine blurry line between work and play. We use our gadgets all the time, everywhere we go.
Individuals have gotten so used to having the convenience of checking emails, texts and doing other work-related tasks right on their phone, in their hands, that it is just a natural, common-place occurrence.  Individuals have started doing these things while with their family at the dinner table, while watching TV before bed and even in the bathroom. Individuals feel empowered and accomplished as they “multi-task” at and even away from work.

The Problem with multi-tasking

                 The main problem with multi-tasking is that it simply is not real. Scientific studies continue to confirm that what is really happening in your brain is maddening! When multi-tasking,  your neurons (in the brain) are switching between two or three tasks very, very quickly. In all reality, you are not really ever doing two things at once. Your brain is just focusing on one thing at a time, but it does this for every little detail and then switches quickly to the next task and then switches back to the other task and then switches again very quickly. Talk about draining!
Multi-task enthusiasts have simply come accustomed to having your brains cells stressed out and fired on a daily or even moment-by-moment basis. They may even have an addicted to stress, anxiety or adrenaline. Or they may have a fear of boredom, despite exhaustion.  This is where it may be time to detox from multi-tasking and even consider taking a break from electronic devices for a hiatus.

Get Real

           Honestly, the problem that multi-tasking is not real, may not do anything for you. That is okay. Let’s get real about the real problems associated with multi-tasking. The real problems are with boundaries. We have attempted to adapt as our technology has evolved. This is a reasonable dilemma. Being able to accomplish more with technology is a great idea and it does happen. Although, we need to draw a line in the sand at some point and decide where the boundaries are in our life.
Moderation is key. It is important to set limits and priorities in one’s life. If family time is important, it may be time to set a rule that there will be no technological device at the dinner table during dinner time. This is a sacred time to spend with family, catching up, talking, eating and enjoying each other’s company. For others, a good idea may be to put away the devices for an hour and go for a walk with your significant other. Maybe for your own well-being, focus on one task at a time and do not move to the next task until every detail is complete.  Instead of watching TV, playing on your phone and trying to write a paper, try prioritizing the tasks. Finish the paper first, then move to the next device.

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Learn Time Management

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Stress and Time

Life is full of time commitments. We are all only given 24 hours in a day, everyday. Despite how many things need to get done, 24 hours is still an equal for all of us. We all have several roles and responsibilities to fill, whether they are related to our jobs, our family or our hobbies. With so many things that need to get done,  priority-setting and  timemanagement are essential skills to learn in this fast-paced busy age.

An age-old approach for priority setting is the “urgent vs. important matrix.” When we are able to prioritize tasks, we are more able to use our time more effectively. The chart at the beginning of this post explains this matrix. There are 4 quadrants to the box:

1. Urgent, Important
2. Urgent, Not important
3. Not Urgent, Important
4. Not Urgent, Not Important

Think through a typical day in your mind and place each activity that the you do in one of the four boxes. Here is how to decide where each item belongs:
1. Urgent, Important – Putting out stressful fires, Crisis or deadline. Work deadlines, family emergencies, project/homework is due, major complaint from large company.
2. Urgent, Not important – red herrings (plausible but not important or relevant) , Interruptions like phone calls, some office meetings, some mail, chose of colors on a wall.
3. Not Urgent, Important – Creative pro-activity,- quality time/production, Preparation, prevention, planning, career development, long-term strategy, relationship building, personal fulfillment, family time, going to gym…
4. Not Urgent, Not Important – time wasting. TV, Internet, Video games, Fun, relaxing, does not add much of any other value, distractions, trivial activities, “escape.” We need to spend some time in all of these areas but you are going to make a lot of money spending more time in the important category.

The trick is to find a proper and healthy balance. Living only in the urgent category will burn you out quickly. Living in the not urgent box  can be unproductive which can lead to more stress down the road.

Many type “A” personalities, can easily become workaholics who do not give time for themselves. This could mean spending more time doing things to relax that are not important and definitely not urgent. This could be enjoying some TV or time on social media. These can be therapeutic in some cases. So it is okay to have some time wasters in your life. But I suggest also spending some time on the “not urgent, but important” box, this could be going to the gym, spending quality time with family, because taking care of yourself is IMPORTANT. It is often just neglected.

While it is normal for  people to often feel guilty for leaving work early to spend time with family (as an example),  and it  is okay to feel that way, but what is more important is working through that guilt. Think of it this way, you are going to be even better employee once you have taken care of yourself and your family. You will be more energized and fulfilled if you, yourself are taken care of.

Another major issue can just be learning how to say “no,” especially for people pleasers. They love to serve and help and get things done but hate to disappoint people. We can work through this in session also with assertiveness training.

To-Do’s

 1. Define your goals. Goals give us the following:
a. meaning and direction for our lives
b. a means in which we can evaluate our progress
c. a plan to follow

2. Create a to-do list. Organize what you have to do. Split up large projects into small parts. Create a to-do list for each part. Take your goals and break them down into small, measurable steps.

3. Finish what you start If interrupted, return to finish your task.

4. Identify your time wasters. Time wasters are not only actions in Quadrant IV, but also can be indecision, lack of planning, jumping from project to project, a disorganized desk, procrastination, insisting on perfection. Finish one project before starting the next. You’ll save time not having to re-acquaint yourself with each project.

5. Use email filtering software. Stop wasting time scanning for junk email and deleting them.

6. Be project specific before you sit down at your PC . Have you ever sat down at your PC to work on one project, but after a half-hour or an hour passes by, you have accomplished nothing towards your goal? By being project specific at the computer, you can focus on one item and be more efficient. You can also avoid wasting time on Quadrant IV items.

7. Practice the “two-minute pick-up” every time you leave a room or your desk. Before you leave a room, turn around and quickly put away everything for two minutes. The more you put away before you leave, the smoother your transition when you return and the less you have to distract you at your desk!

8. Avoid procrastination. You can do anything for 10 minutes. To get yourself started on something that you have been procrastinating on, grab a timer and set it for 10 minutes. Then do that one thing for 10 minutes. If you continue on after that, great! If not, you at least put 10 minutes into that task.

9. Delay gratification. Give yourself some rewards for completing tasks. Treat yourself to dessert after you have avoided procrastination. Don’t go out to eat until you have completed items off your to-do list. At the same time, don’t allow yourself to buy that new pair of jeans if you haven’t completed your tasks.

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Focus on breathing

Breathing

Breathing in oxygen is an essential habit for human living. We need O2 for survival and basic organ functioning. Oxygen enters through our lungs but does not stay in our lungs.  It is transferred to our blood stream where the heart then pumps the freshly oxygenated blood to the rest of our body. With this fresh oxygen, all of our organs function healthier, including our brain.

Breathing and Stress Management

The number of scientific benefits  of proper breathing is countless. Many of these benefits play a part in lowering stress to the human body. Let’s first describe how it feels when we are stressed. Adrenaline raises our heart rate and we, without thinking about it, begin to take rapid and quick shallow breaths of air.

Fortunately, our bodies have this built-in stress-reliever, lungs. We can learn to manage our breathing, even during stressful occasions. When we can learn to slow breathing down by taking deep, long breaths of oxygen,  we encourage our nervous system and body to relax, which in-turn brings about a range of health benefits. The very basic ones are lowering heart rate and bringing oxygen equally to all parts of our body, helping our brain to focus.

Deep or Belly Breathing

Even if you are not into yoga, belly breathing is for you. And it is simple.  First get comfortable in a chair or bed, you can do this standing too. Though, in any case, keep your back straight. We are going to simply breath, but really slowly and only focusing on this exercise for a few minutes.

As you inhale slowly (through your nose) count to 5 or 6 in your head while taking in air. See if you can make it to 7 or beyond! As this is happening your entire belly should stick out a bit more than usual, because you are not just using your diaphragm, but your entire belly!  Next as you exhale (through your mouth), you need to also go really slow. Also see if you can count to the same number as oxygen leaves your body. Do this at least three times and you will begin to see results immediately. In future posts, I may refer to this as deep or belly breathing.  There are other exercises that build upon this to also reduce stress!