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15 Tips on Maintaining Balance

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If trying to maintain balance in your life makes you feel like a tightrope walker, you’re not alone. Most of us have so many demands on our time and energy, life can feel like a three-ring circus. Read these statements to see how well you are meeting responsibilities, while also recognizing and fulfilling personal needs and wants. For an extra-look into your self-awareness window, think about the questions below each statement.

1. The only way I can successfully manage my life is to take care of myself physically and emotionally.

Is this true for you? How are you living this statement?

2. Nurturing myself enlarges my capacity to help others.

Does your inner voice agree with this statement? When was the last time you said, "My needs are as important as your needs."?

3. I eat healthfully and exercise regularly.

Do you sleep well? In what ways are you using food or exercise to cope with emotions?

4. I get check-ups, go to the dentist, and take preventative precautions.

Are you worried about health insurance? What can you do today to relieve that stress?

5. I set aside personal, quiet time for myself, whether I’m meditating or simply letting my thoughts drift.

How are you dealing with the need to get things done? When was the last time you did nothing?

6. I experience the gifts of each season: ice skating, sledding, bundled-up beach walks; gardening, hiking, more time outside; camping, swimming, barbecues; harvesting the bounty, gathering wood, spending more time inside.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you consider yourself in touch with nature?

7. Creativity nurtures me, too. I do what I love, whether that’s cooking, drawing, painting, writing, dancing, singing or another creative pursuit.

Writing counts! Imagination counts! If you haven't bought a little journal to doodle in, go out and get one today!

8. Reaching out to others enriches my life. I spend quality time with family and friends.

Are you an introvert who gets his energy from the inner world of thoughts and ideas? Your point of view is valuable, please share it with others close to you.

9. Contributing to the world provides connection and purpose, so I give my time, energy and experience where it is most useful.

How much time can you set aside for volunteering? You might be denying yourself the opportunity to experience pure bliss and happiness for giving without expecting to receive.

10. I notice and heed the emotional signals that tell me I’m out of balance: irritability, overwhelm, resentment.

What are your triggers? How do you get out of your funk the fastest?

11. If I feel that I’m catching a cold, I realize I may have stressed my immune system with over activity, so I stop and take care of myself.

What are your thoughts about adults napping? How many pills do you take a day? Would you consider swapping out pills for foods richer in vitamins and minerals, and have one cold shower per week?

12. When I need or want to, I say no to requests for my time.

Which strategies do you use for setting your boundaries?

13. I listen to and honor the requests my body makes for such things as a nap, a walk, green vegetables, hot soup.

When was the last time you stopped to listen to your inner voice?

14. I’m busy, but I find time to do the things I want to do.

How are your organizational skills? Is the calendar you're currently using doing its job?

15. I’m happy. I regularly experience well-being, contentment, even joy.

Look at yourself in the mirror and say this statement out loud. What does your reflection tell you?

If you felt some of these questions were too personal or sounded accusatory, it means they've probably hit a nerve. I invite you this week to try and incorporate the message of the statement that most bugged you into your life.

Please don’t hesitate to call if you’d like to explore any of the questions further, and leave a comment below to share how you're maintaining balance in your life.

(Re-post from the archives, first published in April 2010.)

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9 Tips and 5 coaching questions on Slowing Down


9 Tips and 5 coaching questions on Slowing Down

Leo Babauta is quite the expert on creating a certain kind of lifestyle. Simplicity is the name of the game, and for some of us, that might mean slowing down. He recently made a beta-version of his upcoming book available online, and with permission, I'm sharing his tips on slowing down the pace with you today:

Tips for a Slower-Paced Life

I can’t give you a step-by-step guide to moving slower, but here are some things to consider and perhaps adopt, if they work for your life. Some things might require you to change some major things, but they can be done over time.

  1. Do less. Cut back on your projects, on your task list, on how much you try to do each day. Focus not on quantity but quality. Pick 2-3 important things — or even just one important thing — and work on those first. Save smaller, routine tasks for later in the day, but give yourself time to focus. Read more.
  2. Have fewer meetings. Meetings are usually a big waste of time. And they eat into your day, forcing you to squeeze the things you really need to do into small windows, and making you rush. Try to have blocks of time with no interruptions, so you don’t have to rush from one meeting to another.
  3. Practice disconnecting. Have times when you turn off your devices and your email notifications and whatnot. Time with no phone calls, when you’re just creating, or when you’re just spending time with someone, or just reading a book, or just taking a walk, or just eating mindfully. You can even disconnect for (gasp!) an entire day, and you won’t be hurt. I promise.
  4. Give yourself time to get ready and get there. If you’re constantly rushing to appointments or other places you have to be, it’s because you don’t allot enough time in your schedule for preparing and for traveling. Pad your schedule to allow time for this stuff. If you think it only takes you 10 minutes to get ready for work or a date, perhaps give yourself 30-45 minutes so you don’t have to shave in a rush or put on makeup in the car. If you think you can get there in 10 minutes, perhaps give yourself 2-3 times that amount so you can go at a leisurely pace and maybe even get there early.
  5. Practice being comfortable with sitting, doing nothing. One thing I’ve noticed is that when people have to wait, they become impatient or uncomfortable. They want their mobile device or at least a magazine, because standing and waiting is either a waste of time or something they’re not used to doing without feeling self-conscious. Instead, try just sitting there, looking around, soaking in your surroundings. Try standing in line and just watching and listening to people around you. It takes practice, but after awhile, you’ll do it with a smile.
  6. Realize that if it doesn’t get done, that’s OK. There’s always tomorrow. And yes, I know that’s a frustrating attitude for some of you who don’t like laziness or procrastination or living without firm deadlines, but it’s also reality. The world likely won’t end if you don’t get that task done today. Your boss might get mad, but the company won’t collapse and the life will inevitably go on. And the things that need to get done will.
  7. Start to eliminate the unnecessary. When you do the important things with focus, without rush, there will be things that get pushed back, that don’t get done. And you need to ask yourself: how necessary are these things? What would happen if I stopped doing them? How can I eliminate them, delegate them, automate them?
  8. Practice mindfulness. Simply learn to live in the present, rather than thinking so much about the future or the past. When you eat, fully appreciate your food. When you’re with someone, be with them fully. When you’re walking, appreciate your surroundings, no matter where you are. Read this for more, and also try The Mindfulist.
  9. Slowly eliminate commitments. We’re overcommitted, which is why we’re rushing around so much. I don’t just mean with work — projects and meetings and the like. Parents have tons of things to do with and for their kids, and we overcommit our kids as well. Many of us have busy social lives, or civic commitments, or are coaching or playing on sports teams. We have classes and groups and hobbies. But in trying to cram so much into our lives, we’re actually deteriorating the quality of those lives. Slowly eliminate commitments — pick 4-5 essential ones, and realize that the rest, while nice or important, just don’t fit right now. Politely inform people, over time, that you don’t have time to stick to those commitments.

Coaching questions:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to simplifying your life?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do these tips scare you?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to giving at least one of them a try?
  • How can you deal with these levels of anxiety or fear? (Remember, fear is an acronym for false expectations appearing real, or finding excuses and running!)
  • If you're an expat moving from a task-oriented culture like Germany or the US to a more relationship-oriented one like Mexico or India, how can you prepare for the fact that spending time with people and being personable takes more time than simply giving instructions and receiving a result?

Thank you for leaving some comments below! :-)

Til next week, have a peaceful one! xx


Image by Ralph Arvesen, flickr, Creative Commons License.



Work-Life Balance

stacked pebbles on the beachThe Human Resources Executive magazine online published an article on work-life balance programs in early February. "Employers are not as quick now, as they were in the recession of 2001, to cut work/life programs. In fact, some employers are actually adding more workplace-flexibility programs as a way to reduce costs, one expert says." I want to know from you if this is true for you now, eight months on. When was the last time you benefited from a work-life balance program, and how?

The author Kristen B. Frasch starts out by saying that "It's still too early to tell just what effect, if any, this recession will have on corporate America's evolving commitment to work/life balance. What is becoming clear to both employers and employees are the ramifications of cutting those programs -- something employers learned from the 2001 recession."

She continues quoting Jackie James, research director for the Boston College Center for Work and Family, who said "many are now preparing to go before top leadership in a very proactive way to argue that work/life offerings already in place be spared (the cost-cutting ax)."

Let's not forget that companies also benefit from offering flexible working hours and location. "Or as Jim Bird, CEO of Atlanta-based consultancy, puts it, 'workplace flexibility makes money and saves money.' Such flexibility would include shorter work weeks, telecommuting and job sharing."

If you're an employee and have an idea how to cut costs and introduce flexibility into your life, by all means, go ahead and discuss it:

"This kind of environment does present options on both sides," says Rebecca Mazin, human resource consultant and president of Recruit Right in Larchmont, N.Y. "I'm seeing employers offering cuts to the work week, without pay, to save costs," and employees agreeing to such plans to help their companies avoid layoffs.

Bottom line, she says: Employers will be just as happy to discuss cost-cutting, layoff-avoiding approaches in this downturn as employees will be to spend more time with their families and keep their jobs intact. "What's different about these discussions this time around," Mazin adds, "is that the notion of working from home is not being viewed as just a temporary thing anymore; it's now a serious and permanent work option. It's now commonly accepted. Most all of us have high-speed and wireless capabilities at home. That wasn't the case in 2001."

American culture in general has always viewed a strong work ethic as something commendable. The more hours you spend in the office, the better you look and feel. "Early bird catches the worm," "self-made man," "from dish washer to millionaire," and all that. This is the land of opportunity, milk and honey, and all you have to do is work hard. When is hard too hard? After the first ulcer? Or does it have to be a heart-attack?

It seems that needs are a-changing. Many people have developed a preference for actually taking a two-day weekend off, and if you check local listings you're sure to find crackberry support groups. In an ideal world we would all pursue our passions to a point where spending 40+ hours a week on it wouldn't even seem like work, but pleasure. Alas, that's not quite reality yet.

I would love to know what you do to keep your work and life in balance. Is it paradoxical that companies offer perks like an on-site gym or a dry-cleaning pick-up services, supposedly to make your life easier, when really what that means is you can stay at the office longer hours and get back to your desk asap when an idea hits you on the treadmill?  Is it true that after spending 30 minutes on facebook you feel more relaxed and concentrated to continue with your work, or could using social media in the workplace be a distraction after all? How efficient would you say you are during the course of a normal workday, 60 % of the time? 80?

Thank you for leaving a comment and sharing your experience! Cheers to Serghei for the free pic.

Til next week, have a good one!

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Career Coaching

work1The job we choose and why we choose it says a lot about ourselves and our attitude toward work in general. We are more likely to accept a fulfilling and deserving position when we believe in ourselves and in our strengths. At the same time, limiting beliefs like “time is money,” “only the early bird catches the worm,” and “hard work never hurt anyone” influence our attitudes.

Career planning, not having a job or wanting a new one are all situations that cause stress. The levels of stress can be significantly reduced by an appropriate coaching process. During coaching, a client has the time and space to explore personal and professional situations in a confidential and respectful environment and analyze them from different angles. The client’s position in various surrounding systems, his own and outside perceptions can be reflected. The client clearly holds the expert position and is solely responsible for the shaping of his future. The coach supports and accompanies the client through the process of identifying needs and wants and making future-oriented decisions. (cf. Richardson, Nussbaumer)

Does this sound like you?

Question: How can I make the best use of my time abroad?

“My spouse has been offered an international assignment and we have decided to keep the family together and move abroad together. I’m giving up a career that I have worked many years to establish, I’m not sure whether I’ll even have a work-permit in the new country, and I’m anxious to find out what not contributing to our family’s income is going to do to my self-confidence. Goal: I want to explore the options I have of applying my skills and strengths in a new environment, find out how to thrive in a new culture, and expand my repertoire so that my career can continue its path in the most suitable direction when we repatriate in three years’ time.”

Question: What is my dream job and how can I get it?

“My job doesn’t make me happy anymore. I don’t feel fulfilled, but I depend on the monthly cheque and am scared to consider a change. A new company would probably turn out to be the same anyway, and I’ll surely find myself stuck in the same rut before long. Goal: I’d love to find out which profession would keep me motivated and looking forward to getting out of bed for in the morning! Isn’t there a way to discover what my passion is, how I can use my strengths, have fun, and make a decent living?”

The focus of a career coaching process depends on the client. Sometimes questions are more future oriented, sometimes they are more reflective of the past, drawing on experience that in turn influences possible development goals. Depending on the age and lifestyle of a client, there are countless different scenarios and priorities. However, it is recommended for all life- and career chapters to define personal development emphases. This is especially the case for the recently laid-off or otherwise unwillingly unemployed.

We recommend expanding the coaching process to include cross cultural topics whenever an international or even cross-country move is involved. Like with any Coaching process, the client defines the scope of the assignment, gives continuous feedback about the effectiveness of the Coaching, and takes sole responsibility for his decisions. The Coach places all of her available resources at the disposal of the client to ensure the goal can be reached as soon as possible.

Contact me today to find out how I can help you find the answers to your questions!

Til next week, have a good one! Thanks to Timur for the free pic.

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Do you feel well rested?


Do you feel well rested?

According to the Gallup World Poll, 72 % of male and 65 % of female respondents feel well rested, the remaining 28 and 35 % respectively do not. How's your work-play-rest balance shaping up lately?

During my recent trip to Chicago I was reminded that one of the contributing factors to our perceived stress and relaxation levels might be our preference for and attitude to managing time. How we view time and the way we tend to manage it has actually been identified as one of the seven cultural indicators Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner have explored during their extensive cross-cultural research, documented in their oeuvre, "Riding the Waves of Culture." They highlight the differences between more primitive and more educated societies, that view time "by simple notions of "before" and "after" moons, seasons, sunrises and sunsets" vs. more complex schedules. (Daily planners, email alerts and PDA's, anyone?)

Accordingly, some view time as a scarce resource, some see it as plentiful; some are more oriented towards the past, others towards the present or future. You know which is which by the people in those cultures who tend to be punctual or more flexible, and those who have a rich history and value tradition compared to more modern, goal-oriented cultures. Let me stress at this point that there's no one best way, I'm simply describing / citing differences in attitudes and preferences.

The point that I think plays into the whole stressed - rested notion is that of sequential vs. synchronic organization of activities, or in other words, do you prefer to do one task at a time or juggle various things at once? Again, we're all juggling to some extent, and we all have certain limits to our attention-span. When left to your own devices, do you prefer starting one thing and finishing it before beginning another? Personal psychology like the MBTI's Judging vs. Perceiving preference also play a role here. It is fair to say, though, that if you have a preference for sequential one-at-a-time organization but live in an environment or work in an office or in a job that requires you to do multiple tasks simultaneously, you will feel  more stressed and as a consequence need more time to wind down before you feel relaxed and your batteries are charged up again.

Would it be nice if we could have things happen one at a time? Alas, life doesn't work that way. Sometimes, your house will be struck by lightning at the same time you're busy planning and studying and training for other things, and then you have to re-plan, reschedule and be flexible. Appointments might be missed, emails not returned as promptly as usual, laundry not laundered - and even though that seems disgraceful and impossible, beating yourself up on top of it all and holding yourself to standards so high you cannot reach them won't help matters much. On the contrary.

So what do you do to recharge? How do you relax, and when do you feel rested? Have any secret remedies you'd like to share? Let 'em rip in the comments section!

Image by pinguino, flickr, Creative Commons license.




Last week we talked about stress and how too much of it can lead to a forced time-out. There are many stages leading from stress over frustration to an official burn out syndrome, and every person experiences them differently. These stages are not necessarily sequential, nor are they always experienced with the same intensity. Let's have a look at what those stages roughly translate to, and where you might be at right now.

Imagine you're in a new job, just started a new position, of course you want to leave a great first impression with your employer, your colleagues, and not least of all yourself. You might even feel like you've got something to prove to your parents, your partner, or your former employers, so it's natural that you put in many hours in the first few weeks or months to find your footing. I've once been told that it's the actions of the first 100 days in any new position (or relationship, or city, or country) that count and set the pace for the long-term future. If you prove yourself during those first 100 days, you're good to go.

But what if you can't find a way to dial it down after that time? What if bosses and co-workers alike got used to having you there at all hours picking up the slack with a smile on your face? You can't start complaining or asking for a more detailed job description now, honey, after you've been doing such great work all these past weeks! Well, yes and no. Let's have a look at the burn out clock (modified from material I received during my first coaching):

The stages 1 through 12 are not meant to represent a certain time interval, although the first three months as described above might coincide with the three motivation and fun stages of "euphoria" as depicted above. So, how do you know that the fun part has stopped? Only you can answer that. Do you find yourself thinking about work all the time? Do you take your laptop home to get stuff done after dinner or on the weekends? Has your partner started complaining? Are you having trouble getting a good night's rest because you're worrying about work projects? Do you think that's normal? Do your colleagues have the same going on in their lives? In my humble opinion, just because it's happening to many other people you know doesn't make it right, and you always have a choice to change at any time you so decide.

If you feel overtired and overworked, a friendly chat with your neighborhood coach might be in order to see how they might help you prioritize, organize your time better, and strike a balance between all that is important to you. If you're actually starting to develop physical symptoms, suffer from ulcers, migrane headaches or heart palpitations, it's high time to see the physician of your confidence. Stress and burn-out might be sniggered at in your circle of colleagues as lah-di-dah complaints for the lazy and faint-of-heart, but they're certainly to be taken seriously. Prolonged periods of stress will wear your body and your mind out to the point where you will fall ill. With stress-related and burnt out patients, that illness is the bodies' desperate attempt to force them into relaxation. Why let it get so far, when a strategically timed hot bath, gossip session with the boys 'n girls, and trip to the movies/beach/spa of your choice can take the edge off and recharge your batteries quite effectively? Besides, you don't need me to tell you that your hand-held telecommunications device has an OFF-button, do you?

Writing this gave me ideas about more related subjects, like learning to say "no", psychosomatic illnesses, general balance exercises, and relaxation techniques. Which would you most like to read about? Let me know! For more information about stress and burn out, you can also refer to the American Institute of Stress and pages like Revolution Health.

Til next time!

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Your health

Last week we looked at the different areas that make up your life. You may not usually think about them at length, so the exercise might have helped you identify all those different balls you're juggling in the air, and which of them are slipping out of your grasp.

I'd like to look at the one that our client wants to improve this week, his health. He's already taking care of the "general requirements", as we might call them. He doesn't smoke, he limits his alcohol consumption to a glass of wine (and maybe a few beers, but only on the weekend when he's out with his mates), he takes the stairs at work and goes to play squash once a week. His diet is balanced; his wife is preparing healthy breakfasts and dinners, and he found out by trial and error that choosing sensible lunch portions at the office cafeteria actually makes him feel less sluggish and more alert in the afternoons. Nonetheless, the client complains about a general feeling of dis-ease and nervousness.

As stated in the disclaimer, a coach is not in a position to prescribe medicine or diagnose illnesses. However, in talking with the coach the client did uncover that his last check-up with the general physician is overdue. Also, he's not been to the dentist in a while, and daily flossing before bed, sadly, has given way to a last-minute checking of the basketball scores. The coach also inquired about stress levels, and the client conceded that he hasn't been sleeping well and is always anxious driving to work. In the following conversations, the client establishes strategies how to lower his anxiety and limit the stress.

When was your last check-up? Are you maybe in an age-range that warrants regular checks for cancer, like mammograms or prostate exams? There are many things you can do to prevent major health risk factors, and seeing your physicians on a regular basis is only one of them. As Dr. Oz points out, even things like driving with your seatbelt on and adhering to speed limits influences the stress your body perceives. I invite you this week to take an inventory of your body. Where does it hurt? Which bits are uncomfortable? Talk to your physician about what you can do every day in order to stay well. Take the time to figure it out and get healthy; all the other areas in your life will benefit as a result.

Til next time!

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Wheel of Life

Though our lifestyles may differ, it is fair to say that every person's life comprises a variety of areas. These include health, romantic relationships, career, personal development, spirituality, family and friends, physical environment, to name a few. I'm not quite sure of its origin, but you may have come across a "Wheel of Life" exercise, where you decide which areas of your life are most important to you, and how your satisfaction rates in each area. The following is an example, where the client has identified eight areas, of which his "health" and "career" are the ones he would like to improve.

I believe that genuine satisfaction and happiness can be found once all areas are perceived to be in balance. In this example, the client enjoys a trouble-free relationship, finds joy in his family and friends, is at peace with his spirituality, and lives in a comfortable home environment. He is not satisfied when it comes to his health and his career, and in his mind he could do with a little more free time. He would therefore benefit from a coaching process that helps him achieve a similar level of satisfaction in all areas, without losing ground in the ones he's already happy with.

I invite you this week to think about which areas are important in your life, and which ones you might wish to work on. You may also want to modify the wheel and fill it, for example, with important people in your life and how satisfied you are with your relationships with them.

Til next time!

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