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Pause Gem #14 – Margins

August 1, 2012

Reflection & Action: Imagine a page with text spilling off the edges. Imagine a schedule crammed solid with meetings from morning to night. Imagine your clothes fitted so tightly there’s no room to breathe. Imagine a car without bumpers. The result? No place to rest your eyes, no ease, no grace, no protection from the bumps and bruises of life.

So it is in a life without buffers. Dr. Richard Swenson6 suggests that in our preoccupation with speed and progress we end up sacrificing our margins. Margin is that difference between your load and your limits (i.e.- physical and emotional energy, finances, and time). Think of it as the reserve space, or leeway in your life.

Living a ‘just in time’ existence at the edge of your resources can be exciting, but it comes with a cost. It leaves no cushion for tough times, surprises, unexpected problems or opportunities. And, as any high speed adventurer knows, crash without padding, and you will come to know pain on a first name basis.

Do you know and honor your own limits. In handling resources of time, money, or energy, at what point do you shift from swimming with strength, confidence and direction to drown-proofing, and then to drowning?  Even tiny margins (a few extra minutes, a few extra dollars, or a few extra winks) can make a big difference in how fast and how often you hit bottom.

Build in margins in small, doable ways. Leave a few minutes early for your next appointment. Stop working on a project before you reach the point of complete exhaustion. Make your next purchase well within your means rather than pushing to the outside limit of your bank account. (more…)

Pause Gem #13 – Relax…Don’t Rage

July 25, 2012

Reflection & Action: It was a poor day to renew my driver’s license. At the insurance office, problems with the phone lines made credit and debit card transactions impossible. Customers dug for cheques and scrounged spare cash, or dashed down the block to the cash machine.

The cashiers did their best, but progress was slow. A fellow who arrived just moments after I entered the queue did not appreciate the delay. Like a bull in the paddock, he shifted from foot to foot, snorting and pawing the ground.  Jingling the change in his pocket and rustling the papers in his hand did nothing to calm his jangling nerves. Neither did repeated checks of his wristwatch. Even the disgusted glares he zinged at the cashiers brought him no relief.

Just a couple of minutes after his arrival, a newcomer fell in line behind the restless rustler. In the loudest possible voice, the raging bull cautioned the woman that he hoped she’d brought a book and planned to spend the day, because he’d been waiting in line all morning!!!

In less than five minutes, it was my turn at the counter. I leaned in close to the cashier and told her I hoped she had 911 on her speed dial, as I thought our friend, the raging bull, was about to pop an artery. She chuckled and rolled her eyes, clearly relieved to find an understanding customer with a sense of humor.

Life is full of delays and detours. We ought not to be surprised when we hit a speed bump. When life does not unfold as expected, forget snorting and pawing the ground. Look for the humor. Empathize with others caught in the bind. There are always other responses beyond the first frustrated reaction. (more…)

Pause Gem #12 – Speaking Up

July 18, 2012

Reflection & Action: When the load is too heavy, and life is not as you wish it to be, it’s tempting to hope that someone else will read your mind, and solve your problems.

As much as you might dream of a dramatic rescue, white knights on chargers are hard to come by these days.  And, a lot of potential white knights are having a tough time staying on their horses. The ride is just too wild.

If you really want a different outcome, you cannot bite the bullet, suffer in silence and hope for the best.

What to do? Collect and share real information about the situation. Actively negotiate options, set reasonable limits, shift deadlines, and draw on extra resources. Talk directly to those who control the situation – don’t just complain to those who are game to commiserate but who have little or no power and influence.

If you are the one ‘in charge’, make it ‘safe to say’. When you react positively to those who speak their minds and hearts, more people will be more direct. You will hear about real concerns and have access to real information – not just want others think you want to hear. This will help you make clearer assessments and helpful adjustments to ease the frustrations of the moment.

Together with those who really tell it like it is, you create better circumstances now and build more trust and capacity for the future. (more…)

Pause Gem #11 – Racing Or Dancing?

July 11, 2012

Reflection & Action: As I set up for my early morning seminar, one of the attendees arrived in a very sorry state. He was literally shaking and vibrating. I stopped my preparations to see if he was all right.

It turned out he had just navigated one of the busiest freeways in the city to get to the program. He lives in a rural area, and the non-stop, high-speed, horn-honking traffic had pushed him far outside his comfort zone.

What bothered him most was the way the other drivers cut in front of his vehicle. When I asked why people cutting in front irritated him so much, he looked at me like I was from Mars and exclaimed, “Because they’ll get there before I do!”

Now the real source of his frustration was apparent. In his mind, he’d run and lost a race, and he was livid.

I suggested he think about freeway driving as a dance rather than a race. Someone cuts in front … presto, new partner! One driver cuts from the left and another from the right … and doh-si-doh, you’re dancing the butterfly! Tail lights flash up ahead … brake dancer!

In truth, whether he raced or danced, the trip would have taken the same amount of time.  However, his state of mind on arrival would have been completely different. He would have been present to the more positive aspect of the experience.

Instead of having run the Indy 500 and lost, he would have danced all the way to the conference room and been entertained. Sometimes the pressure is all in our minds! (more…)

PAUSE – 12.18 – Catch And Release

June 13, 2012

Reflection:  Chances are good that the last time you meandered through the tall grass or took a stroll in the woods, your pants and socks picked up more than a few sticky burrs. They’re those pesky seeds that eagerly stick their claws into you, and hitchhike a ride from there to who knows where. The very same critters that inspired Velcro.

Attacked by burrs is how I feel these days as I move through my office, our home and the garden. Each time I turn around, it seems another undone task insinuates its way into my consciousness, stakes a claim on my brain, and plants a hook in my mind. Answer this email, finish that article, call that client. Fold that laundry, fix that appliance, clean that corner. Fertilize those plants, prune those shrubs, pick that rhubarb.

Most time management references advise keeping a series of lists on which you place all of the items clamoring for your time and energy. Then you focus your attention and narrow down the list by choosing your priorities for the week and the day. Neat and tidy, eh? Still doesn’t account for the attack of the burrs!

It’s true, writing things down does minimize the mental reminders (‘Remember this, don’t forget that!”) that trampoline their way through your brain. And prioritizing does focus attention. However, I still notice the undone as I move through the day, and am oh so easily hooked on my way by.

 

Action: So, here’s my new practice: catch and release! I figure if it works for anglers, it could work for someone angling for a new take on a sticky situation. (more…)

PAUSE – 12.12 – Crossing The Line Can Be A Very Good Thing!

March 28, 2012

Reflection: As long time subscribers would have noticed, last week the Pause e-zine launched a fresh new look for spring. The feedback on the new format has been overwhelmingly positive; and I thank all of you who took the time to share your reactions.

The revamp has been a long time coming. It’s been a few years since I last surveyed readers. At that time, many of you urged me to take a flying leap (figuratively, of course) into the future. You recommended jazzing up the look of the e-zine saying,“Give us some color and a bit of a design to go with the excellent content.”

I got the message. And, I dawdled. Maybe this happens with projects in your life, too. You see a need. You set an intention and a direction. Then you dance around it for a very long time.

In the case of the e-zine, I collected examples and tinkered with designs. I flirted with the idea of asking for design help. I knew shifting to a more visual presentation was going to mean moving to a different list management service, which could mean changing providers. Complications! What seemed to be a small project loomed large. I danced elsewhere.

With the writing of each weekly message, that intention lurked over my shoulder, and I continued to note my lack of progress.

When I finally worked my way through the inertia to get the design and new service arranged – and launched it last week, I felt a tremendous sense of relief and accomplishment. More than that, as a writer, I harvested that burst of energy that comes with what amounts to a fresh pen and a brand new sheet of paper. It was a wonderful reminder of how crossing a finish line can be a powerful energizer. (more…)

PAUSE -12.05- Step Away From Your Desk

February 7, 2012

REFLECTION: “I’ll just eat lunch at my desk, save a bit of time, save a little money, and catch up on my email.” Have you ever said that to yourself or heard that from someone else?

A 2011 survey by the American Dietetic Association found that 62% of workers eat lunch at their desks and 50% snack there through the day. In the world of ‘nose to grindstone’ this might seem to be a positive approach. But, really – not so much!

Foregoing a lunch break cheats us of a chance to rest our brains and return to our problems with fresh minds and new perspectives. Staying stuck behind the keyboard, prevents social interaction that could lift our spirits and lighten our load. Eating while working means we may be less aware of how much goes in our mouths, making it way too easy to overindulge. And, more sitting, is of course, more sitting! Recent studies emphasize the health risks of spending too much of our day chair bound and not enough of our day moving around.

Still, if you need any more evidence to build a case that would have you pushing away from your desk for lunch, this just might do it. The same survey noted above found that only 36 percent of respondents clean their work areas—desktop, keyboard, mouse—weekly and 64 percent do so only once a month or less. (more…)

PAUSE – 11.31 – Reconnecting

June 28, 2011

REFLECTION:
It’s been an active spring here with program design and delivery, travelling for work and pleasure, shepherding my next book through its the final stages of design, and tending the yard and garden. As a result, I’ve been feeling twinges that tell me I’m growing out of touch with friends and family.
And so, over the last few weeks I’ve been consciously making efforts to reach out – to act on those urges to reconnect. When J left email and phone messages on my birthday, I called her back and we had a great voice to voice visit that ended in plans to get together later this summer. When C responded to the contents of a Pause message with an email message carrying news of her own, I picked up the phone and we had a great half hour catching up voice to voice.
When I realized how long it had been since L and I had visited, on spec that she might be in town, I called to see if she was up for lunch. She was, we did, and I remembered why face to face visits and time spent with friends are so uplifting and affirming. When I noticed my sister in Saudi had just posted a message to Facebook, I messaged to see if she was free. She was, and we enjoyed a one hour Skype visit – voice to voice and face to face – catching up on each other’s news.
In every case, I ended up delighted with the exchange that followed from acting on that urge to reconnect. And, I’m feeling much more in touch and in tune.
ACTION:
With whom are you longing to connect? Who is so often on your mind and on your radar, but so rarely on your call list or social calendar?
Pick one person. Make that call. Lift your spirits – and theirs.
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QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
“Go often to the house of your friend; for weeds soon choke up the unused path.” – Scandanavian proverb
“Friends, family, and a quiet mind are your true wealth.” – Robert Allen
“There are people who take the heart out of you and there are people who put it back.” – Elizabeth David
_________________________
RESOURCE OF THE WEEK:
For more good ideas on regaining balance in life, check out this HealthQuest article from WarrenShepell sharing ideas for how to Take Control Of Your Life! at http://shepellfgiservices.com/articles/takecontrol.asp
_________________________
READERS WRITE:
Last week’s Pause message, “It’s All Good…Or Is It?” generated quite a strong response. I’ve pulled together a sampling of comments and posted them all together on the Pause Blog. Hop on over for a closer read at: http://www.pauseworks.com/wp/?p=2339

Cheryl & Pat-wREFLECTION: It’s been an active spring here with program design and delivery, travelling for work and pleasure, shepherding my next book through its the final stages of design, and tending the yard and garden. As a result, I’ve been feeling twinges that tell me I’m growing out of touch with friends and family.

And so, over the last few weeks I’ve been consciously making efforts to reach out – to act on those urges to reconnect. When J left email and phone messages on my birthday, I called her back and we had a great voice to voice visit that ended in plans to get together later this summer. When C responded to the contents of a Pause message with an email message carrying news of her own, I picked up the phone and we had a great half hour catching up voice to voice.

When I realized how long it had been since L and I had visited, on spec that she might be in town, I called to see if she was up for lunch. She was, we did, and I remembered why face to face visits and time spent with friends are so uplifting and affirming. When I noticed my sister in Saudi had just posted a message to Facebook, I messaged to see if she was free. She was, and we enjoyed a one hour Skype visit – voice to voice and face to face – catching up on each other’s news.

In every case, I ended up delighted with the exchange that followed as a result of acting on that urge to reconnect. And, I’m feeling much more in touch and in tune. (more…)

PAUSE – 11.28 – Take The 33:30 Challenge

June 7, 2011

Oven Keypad-wREFLECTION: I love it when seminar and conference participants share their stories and struggles with balance. It helps ease the pressure for us to hear of each other’s challenges and to know we’re not alone in our wacky responses to life’s stresses.

At a recent conference, I shared a few examples of the crazymaking things people do in their attempts to speed their way through the overloaded demands of the day. (If you’d like a refresher on this, check out my ‘Crazymaking World’ video clip on the Pauseworks website. )

During the morning break it was attendee Carol’s turn to make me laugh. She told me that when she wants to give something a half a minute in the microwave she punches in 33 seconds. She swears it’s faster to punch the same digit twice than to waste time looking for the 3 and the 0! I’m pretty sure 33 would be slightly faster. But the real question of importance is: “Does it make life slightly better?”

Carol also responded to a vignette I’d relayed of a busy parent screaming through the front door at day’s end – kicking backpacks and jackets out of the way and shouting out homework and supper instructions to the kids. Apparently this had been her style of re-entry, too, until the day her teenager asked, “Mom, do you walk through the door yelling even when there’s no one home?”

It was one of those ‘hold the mirror’, ‘dagger to the heart’ moments that caused Carol to stop and take a closer look at herself through the eyes of those who matter most. (more…)

PAUSE – 11.20 – Surviving Mini-Marathons

March 15, 2011

Runner-wREFLECTION: Have you run any mini-marathons lately? Not the athletic type – just the plain old challenging lifestyle version.

I’ve just come through an especially active couple of weeks, myself. During the first ten days of March, I was on my feet speaking at conferences and facilitating seminars for seven of those days. Two days each included an opening keynote and three follow up sessions – for a total of 13 individual presentations during that span of time. I usually limit myself to no more than two or three days of presenting each week, so this was extraordinarily compressed.

No one forced me to book this work in this way.  As someone who is self employed, I’m directly responsible for what makes its way on to my calendar. This time around I agreed to this number of sessions because: the travel and timing pieces fit well together, the work itself was very appealing, I knew I could carve out prep time in advance and set aside recovery time at the end of the run, and because I’m aware that an upcoming planned get-away will limit available spring programming days.

Yes, there were surprises – crazy weather and dental emergencies amongst them. (more…)