How, doing nothing can help you thrive ? Check these examples !

How, doing nothing can help you thrive ? Check these examples !

Original publication in Thrive Gobal on October 2nd 2019

Many of us are so accustomed to a packed schedule that when we finally find a bit of free time, we don’t always know what to do with it. With the pressure to be “always on” and the prevalence of hustle culture, it’s easy to feel bad when you have even a little time to dedicate to yourself. As a result, you can become too wrapped up in the guilt to actually enjoy it. But downtime is good for everyone, no matter how busy you are — studies have shown that embracing a quiet moment or time off can lead to increased productivity, focus, and energy. 

We asked members of the Thrive community to tell us about a time they overcame the anxiety of “doing nothing” and used that time to their benefit. Check out the different ways they turned it into an opportunity to thrive, and how you can do so, too. 

Add some color to your life

“For me, doing nothing has lead me to a fruitful space where my often over-stimulated brain can thrive. I have taken up coloring, which I always enjoyed as a child. The creativity that it allows, and the simple joy I derive from the activity allows for moments of pure pleasure. I go back to work refreshed after I’ve had my coloring time.” 

—Jennefer Witter, CEO, entrepreneur, and public speaker, New York, NY 

Tune into a greater purpose

“I took a year off after college to recover from the burnout of operating with an ‘always on’ mindset for so long. During this time, I still had many commitments and projects, but focused on developing a more balanced approach to productivity, which included being more intentional about doing nothing. The key for me was realizing that time spent doing nothing can still have a purpose, whether it’s self-care, health, or just having fun. Although these things may not further our endeavors in a literal sense, they have a great impact on our productivity and creativity.”

—Andrew Gobran, people operations generalist, Minneapolis, MN

Read for greater empathy 

“I work from home and it’s easy to feel like you have to be ‘on’ all the time. A few months ago, I decided that I would  use the time I’d normally spend commuting to tune back into my favorite hobby: reading. I used to read all the time, and it always helped me better understand people and lead with more empathy. Now that I’ve committed to this downtime, I have much more energy, and it’s done wonders for my stress levels and overall outlook. I make better human connections, and I’m doing better at my job, too.” 

—Rebecca Taylor, sales, New York, NY 

Plan quiet moments 

“I can’t remember the actual moment I surrendered my control over everything. It was more like a gradual deconstruction. It could have started with the realization of how much I had lost in terms of time. I may not have associated value with space until it seemed gone forever. I’m still an overachiever, a mother of three, and a business owner. But having felt a loss so great, I now plan moments where I am doing nothing. This involves letting everyone around me know I am having a moment — my phone will go on silent and nothing will be scheduled afterward. That’s the key: Surrender to the mess, say no, and create space.” 

—Ali Davies, entrepreneur, New Zealand

Let your mind wander

“I have such an ‘on’ brain. Earlier this year, I found myself completely burned out — I was uninspired and completely devoid of joy in my work.  At my lowest, I reached out to my business community and offered to volunteer one day each week to help me find my mojo, but to also give my brain some off time. I helped my friend who is a ceramicist clean her studio and mix up glazes, and helped another friend make dog food, of all things! Through the process of standing on my feet, using my hands, and freeing up my mind to wander away from creative or strategic mode, I slowly came back to life. I’ve since stuck with the one day of helping or volunteering per week. I still get the same amount of work done in my business on a four day week, and I’m more creative after the day of chatting, marinating, and just “being” in manual labor.”

—Odette Barry, publicist and agency owner, Byron Bay, Australia

Spend time outside

“My husband and I became empty nesters in 2012. Initially, it was hard to deal with, especially since my husband had recently taken a new job and traveled for most of the week. I was truly home alone. At first, we started going out with friends and traveling together when he was home. We were trying to make up for all the quiet and alone time we now had. After a couple of years, we were even more exhausted than we were when we had the kids at home. Finally, we decided we could live wherever we wanted with his job. So we bought a small house and some land in the country. I found gardening, and I love it. I have also gotten back into reading. We have a hammock, and enjoy it under the moon and stars, and in the shade on a sunny day after working in the garden.”

—Becky C., office manager, Huntsville, TX

Embrace white space

“As a business owner, I used to think any time I didn’t spend working on — or thinking about — my business was time wasted. Then I suffered from burnout. I realized that no one is going to give me permission to slow down but me. Now I incorporate more white space — time where nothing is scheduled — and downtime, where I totally relax, into my schedule. I feel more creative, energized, and motivated every time I come back from a period of ‘doing nothing.’” 

—Stacey Hagen, coach and consultant, San Francisco, CA

Listen to what your mind and body tell you 

“I couldn’t wait to start an active daily schedule after I finished cancer treatment, but my body wasn’t ready to run — literally and figuratively. I had to learn to stop, slow down, and listen to what I needed. Though it was incredibly difficult at first — and sometimes still is — the lesson to slow down and do less completely changed my life for the better. I learned how to meditate, how to cook food that nourishes my body and soul, how long walks get me the movement and mindfulness I need, and I even started practicing calligraphy. In turn, my stress is much lower, my relationships with others are deeper, and my days are more meaningful. I can’t recommend learning how to ‘do nothing’ enough.”

—Calisa Hildebrand, communications, San Francisco, CA

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Are you Ready to move from FOMO to JOMO? Disconnect to better connect!

Are you Ready to move from FOMO to JOMO? Disconnect to better connect!

Originally published in Huffington Post on January 27th 2019

There is joy to be had out there in the real world, so embrace it, welcome it with open arms.

You know that nagging feeling you get, that nervous twitch that makes you check your phone for new messages or that has you relentlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed?

I’m talking about the fear of missing out, or FOMO as the cool kids like to call it, one of an endless list of negative side effects to come out of our social media reliant society. In the same way that people get addicted to alcohol, or get a buzz from gambling, our social media addiction is controlled by the power of the like button; that instant gratification of knowing someone approves of what you have posted. That urgent sense of immediacy, the power of knowing absolutely everything about everybody at any given time, and yet real time seems to almost stand still as we spend minute after minute aimlessly scrolling and swiping for fear of missing out.

But what are we so worried about missing out on exactly?

Well, that is the big question. And as more and more of us are starting to see the benefits of switching off and stepping away from the screens it seems that FOMO has metamorphosised . We‘re no longer concerned about being seen to be hanging out with the right people, at the right place, wearing the right clothes. That kind of life is way too hard to sustain. For starters it costs too much, but then there’s the time and effort it takes, not to mention the detrimental effect it has on our mental and emotional wellbeing.

 

Turning A Negative Into A Positive

There is a now a new acronym on the block, JOMO – the joy of missing out, which actively encourages people to find pleasure in chilling out, turning down invites, saying no and choosing instead to do exactly what they want for a change.

JOMO is the digital detox we’ve all been craving. It allows you to appreciate the simple pleasures in life, to stop comparing yourself to others, to be grateful, to be right there in the moment. To use the famous Kondoism, it is about finding that spark of joy in what you already have. And when the penny finally drops, that by ‘missing out’ on fake digital lifestyles we actually start to create one which is wholly involved, inclusive and real, only then can we truly say we have reached a state of JOMO .

It may sound daunting, however there are steps we can take to help embrace the JOMO way of life:

 

Disconnect

Having a break from social media is one of the best ways to switch off and avert your mind away from other people’s business. It doesn’t have to be a forever thing, but there are small habits you can adopt that will help. For example, keeping your phone downstairs when you to bed each night, switching off the WiFi for a weekend every once in a while, and when you go on holiday keeping the phone for emergency phone calls only. Another thing to consider is whether you need to be using as many platforms as you are. Ask yourself the following questions – do you need a Twitter account as well as Instagram and Facebook? Does one cause you more anxiety than others? Could you live without one of them? If you answered yes to any of these questions, choose one and shut it down today.

 

Reconnect

Having disconnected from your online life now is the ideal time to reconnect with your real life, after all you‘ll have plenty more time to do so now. Make arrangements to see that friend you haven’t seen for ages. Take your mum shopping, visit your Gran, spend some quality time with yourself doing something you haven’t done before but have always wanted to.

 

Reflect

Start your morning on a positive note by setting your intentions for the day and creating healthy wellness habits. Whether you do this by mediating, sitting quietly with a cup of coffee, taking the dog for a walk, or reciting a personal mantra, finding out what mindful practices work for you enables you to take control and to find purpose in your own life.

The only ones who are missing out are those who are caught up in the tangled web of lies that are spun to us in our every waking moment online. They fear they are missing out on something that is, in reality, not as it seems. And the only thing they are missing out on is their own precious life. There is joy to be had out there in the real world, so embrace it, welcome it with open arms and find joy in a life where you are most definitely not missing out.

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7 steps to nailing it (with your eyes shut): optimising sleep = better leadership

7 steps to nailing it (with your eyes shut): optimising sleep = better leadership

Originally published in Inside HR on August 22nd 2019

There are a number of important steps busy leaders can take to optimise their sleep – which will, in turn, improve a range of factors that make for better quality leaders, writes Stuart Taylor

In today’s globalised, hyper-connected, and “always-on” working culture, many of us are working longer hours with less sleep, compensating for less time in the office with more time in front of screens. Rest is becoming increasingly difficult for the average professional, with a plethora of meditation apps and podcasts to assist us in habitualising relaxation and restoration in our digital lives.

But before we reach for the smartphone yet again, it’s worth revisiting one of the most important relaxation exercises that so many of us fail to do right. That’s getting a good night’s sleep, which seems to be more elusive than ever before.

Sleep deprivation
People need to stop treating their sleep deficit like a professional achievement and instead evaluate how it’s affecting their overall productivity in the workplace. Swapping sleep to send emails late at night shouldn’t be worn as a badge of honour, and it proves only to be a hindrance to your work performance later down the track.

Sleep plays an integral role in how effective you are in a work capacity, your ability to make sound business decisions, and how engaged you are with your colleagues.

As our opportunity to recharge, regroup and establish an efficient mindset for the day ahead, most of us can only tolerate and recover from short periods of sleep deprivation with long-term sleep deficit having negative implications on your ability to perform at work long-term.

“A good night’s sleep will increase alertness, improve memory, allow you to make better decisions, allow you demonstrate a measured response to challenges and better handle stress – all factors that make you a better leader”

Aside from being an invisible contributor to our individual productivity at work and overall health, a study by Deloitte Access Economics health survey found that sleep deprivation costs Australian businesses $17.9 billion a year in lost productivity, with 46 per cent of the world’s sleep-deprived individuals frequently missing work or committing more mistakes in the office than those who practise a good sleep routine.

How much sleep do you need?
While sleep requirements will vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between 7 to 8 hours per night to function at their best. Yet studies show that 4 out of 10 Australians aren’t getting the sleep they need to get to focus throughout the day.

There are a number of factors that could be causing poor sleep quality, including our obsession with technology and the tendency to face high levels of pressure in our roles at work. But the most successful leaders understand that there is a distinct link between quality sleep and optimal performance, recognising that good sleep routine can be a daily welcome boost to those who continually function at a fast pace and high-performance level.

If you are attempting to work effectively among a fog of ongoing tiredness, you’re tackling a losing battle and your social, emotional and psychological wellbeing will suffer as a result.

If that’s not enough to convince you to push sleep back to the top of your (long) list of priorities, consider the fact that a good night’s sleep will increase alertness, improve memory, allow you to make better decisions, allow you demonstrate a measured response to challenges and better handle stress – all factors that make you a better leader.

“If you are attempting to work effectively among a fog of ongoing tiredness, you’re tackling a losing battle and your social, emotional and psychological wellbeing will suffer as a result”

Tips for establishing quality sleep

  1. Discover your sleep rhythm. Our circadian rhythm ticks away in the background dictating our hormone levels, influencing when we are most productive and when it’s time for us to fall asleep. Over time, you will become aware of the optimal time you need to be in bed.
  2. Digital downtime. The blue light at dawn naturally stimulates our brain to wake up and keeps our biological clock in tune. Blue light, like the screens of phones and laptops, affects your circadian rhythm and makes falling asleep difficult. If you find yourself tossing and turning in bed, try limiting your mobile use an hour before bed, or use blue light filters on your phone. It’s time to reinstate a traditional alarm clock.
  3. Aim for seven to eight hours a night. Regularly sleeping less than six hours a night puts you at risk of ongoing productivity problems.
  4. Consistency. Commit to a strict wake-up time seven days a week. If you know you have to wake up at 7am during the week, sleeping in on the weekend effectively jetlags you, making your Monday morning wake-up even more challenging. Sleeping also affects heart health – evidence shows that Monday mornings have the highest incidence of heart attacks due to this.
  5. Don’t drink coffee past 2.00pm. While a late afternoon coffee may revive you in the short term, it will impact your ability to fall asleep quickly. For a 3pm pick me up, opt for a protein snack or a healthy smoothie instead.
  6. Avoid eating too close to bedtime. Eating too close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep, mostly because it stimulates stomach acid production. If you’re really craving a late-night snack, try a bowl of cereal with milk or cheese and crackers. These types of foods are rich in minerals, such as tryptophan and calcium, which helps promote sleep.
  7. Put your work aside before you to go to bed. Ruminating about work won’t help anything, and there comes a point in the day where you are no longer productive. Mindfulness practices and other stress-reduction techniques such as breathing, and meditation are helpful for learning how to relax your body and mind before bed.

Written by Stuart Taylor

When is your next micro-break?

When is your next micro-break?

A micro-break, from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, offers your body an opportunity to release built up tensions and reduces the risk of keyboard-related injuries. It helps combat tiredness and has a positive effect on productivity, problem solving and creativity.
So here is a resilience practice we invite you to cultivate this week:

I practice rejuvenation during my workday by taking regular micro-breaks.

Christmas Presence

Christmas Presence

Somehow throughout December I kept myself busy, dealing with the daily. Forgetting to look around and connect, forgetting to check my course.  I only half noticed the shops starting to fill with Christmas fare, the familiar sign of nativities, trees, and decorations beckoning… tiny lights flickering and glistening everywhere I turned.

I remember the crammed supermarket. I would smile, merrily humming along to the music dreaming of a white Christmas while filling my shopping trolley with only the regular shop, pushing straight past the baubles and puddings.

christmas-tree

Then suddenly one day, I was taken aback. Unexpectedly, right there in front of me, ’twas the night before Christmas. Surprised and unprepared, I felt disorientated and wondered where December had gone. Not a creature was stirring, not a stocking in sight. I jumped up and dashed and pranced into action. I rushed through the motions, preparing the house, buying Christmas food, and finishing the gift wrapping.

In no time, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas. My clean and tidy house ready to welcome the guests who would never know about my last minute pop up Christmas.

But a part of me felt sad, and robbed, and something was missing. My heart longed for the season I had almost missed. Distracted by life, I had missed the usual turn off, forgotten to notice. No inner preparation, no festive evenings by the tree. No community browsing, smiling and nodding merrily at those who dare to wear Santa hats in public.

No silent nights at home, holy nights of gratitude, nor evenings in, when all is calm as the tree sparkles, and my heart celebrates and awaits.

Looking back, Christmas day was lovely. Candles, holly, crackers, bubbly, turkey and money pudding. Jokes and chit chat. After lunch conversation. The clean up. The hugs and the farewells.

Was that really a year ago? I remember sitting in my lounge, in the warm glow of another Christmas passed. As the dishwasher hummed, I remember gazing out of the window cradling my warm cup of tea, reflecting on another Christmas Day. Phew. I thought, only just made it this year. In a twinkling it was over. In a few days, I will pack down the tree, hiding it away, in it’s big box in the garage for another year.

pexels-photo-225224

In that moment I made a decision. To be certain to always linger over Christmas. To savour every Christmas moment and to live slowly.

Never again, I vowed, would I miss all that December has to offer. Never again would I rush past Christmas, failing to connect, or miss the big red stop sign, or ho hum at the commercialism… yes, tempting me to spend, but also, inviting my heart to prepare.

So this time last year, I made a diary entry for a year in advance. December 1st, 2016. It read “Tree decorated, shopping finished, linger this Christmas season”. And here we are. Another year lived. It’s almost December again, and Christmas is coming!

[clickToTweet tweet=”“Tree decorated, shopping finished, linger this Christmas season”” quote=”“Tree decorated, shopping finished, linger this Christmas season””].

I look around and smile. I greet the season.  This year I will be ready. I will prepare my home and my heart. I will not procrastinate as if December goes on forever. It doesn’t. Time waits for no one. I love this life cycle of seasons. Yes. This year I will slow down, remember Christmas, and connect.  And I will give myself, and others, the precious gift of presence.

santa-claus-christmas-beard-celebration-41963

Christmas Connection Workouts

Christmas Connection Workouts

The Point

Coming to the end of 2016, NOW is the time to work on connection. All too often we crash exhausted into Christmas holidays. Combined with unrealistic expectations we are irritable and prone to excess. Conflict erupts, anger and sadness leave us isolated and disconnected. An opportunity for rejuvenating connection and joy can be lost.

The Solution

We know that it takes time to adjust the body, emotions and brain. At this time of year many of us are at a low ebb. We are hanging on to the end. The holiday season is an event that requires training. We have concrete evidence for what we can do to get fit and celebrate meaningful connections. There is just enough time between now and 24 December to get fit.

Here is HOW

Make a PLAN

You have 30 days before the bell rings. Starting today, allocate a few minutes a day for deliberate practice. My suggestion is 15 minutes each day that you dedicate to building your connection muscles. These may be short bursts adding up to 15 minutes. Get them in your diary.

Define your PRACTICE

The smarter and more effective your practice the quicker your physiology, emotions and brain circuits will show sustained change. Each of us must find the right practice but we have good science to support five key practices to shape up and work on every day.

1. Be PRESENT

If you are caught up in the mental storm of pressure, worry and regret, you will only find suffering. The first practice is to exhale slowly, drop your mind into your body and fully sense, feel and observe the moment. Each time you do this your blood pressure and heart rate will drop, you will activate vagal tone (relaxation and connection), and allow your mind to be fully attentive. You have activated the right physiology for connection (1).

Practice Tip: take a minute to do this before every meeting over the next 30 days. When you are actually in a dialogue use the same practice.

2.  Be OPEN

Connection starts with your body. Research shows that an open body posture changes your hormone status within minutes. Your second practice is to remind yourself to sit upright, roll your shoulders back, and open your arms (palms visible). Your goal is to signal warmth (oxytocin) and strength (testosterone). During periods of connection, stay facing the person and maintain your presence (2).

Practice Tip: build a couple of oxytocin-pumping moments into each day. Give your pet a serious cuddle, hug your kids in the morning, get or give a massage, and when you can make time for touch in your partnership.

3.  FEEL emotions

Emotional empathy is the ability to feel the emotions of another in your own body. This is done by your mirror neurons (anterior insula). They are trainable. Once you are in the presence of another, work on really feeling how they are feeling. Watch body posture, note each change in facial expression and listen carefully to the tone of voice. See if you can map some of the same signals into your body. Notice carefully what you are feeling. This can be pretty intense (3). Work slowly. Breathe out some more.

Practice Tip: take care of yourself. To empathise emotionally takes calm, inner strength. You want to notice, engage but not be overwhelmed.

4.  SEE others

Cognitive empathy is being able to know how another is thinking. We can also call it perspective-taking. Prof Tania Singer has been able to show that this happens in a different part of the brain (temporoparietal junction). Other have named spindle cells (von Economo Neurons). In short it is worth trying to think the thoughts of others (4).

Practice Tip: take a moment to check with another if you have read their perspective or point of view accurately. Given them a moment to acknowledge your accuracy or help you correct your reading.

5.  Do GOOD

At the end of the day it will come down to action. This may be making a call to someone, saying thank you, sending a birthday note, or simply picking up some trash. Research clearly shows that taking positive action – even if a little random – helps us and creates a virtuous cycle of generosity and trust. Don’t wait for Christmas ‘prize-giving’.

Practice Tip: keep it authentic you will find yourself feeling so much better. It is a good addiction to develop. Be good by doing good! This is the purpose of the Christmas Season. Connect……

References:

  1. Porges, Stephen, The Polyvagal Theory, 2012
  2. Cuddy, Amy, Presence, 2015
  3. Ricard, Matthieu, Altruism, 2016
  4. De Waal, Frans, On Empathy, 2009 and Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?, 2016.