Tag Archives | time management

The Only One Syllable Word We Struggle to Pronounce, Guest Post by Royale Scuderi

Photo courtesy of Marc Falardeau

It’s hard to say no.

It’s even harder when we really want to say yes! It can be excruciating when it costs us financially or emotionally to say no. But…

There’s always a “but”, isn’t there?

I believe that the toughest no is often the most necessary and the most valuable – at work, at home, in every area of our lives.

What do I mean by a “tough no?” How about when you are offered an exciting project at work, but just can’t fit it in and juggle your other work successfully? Or when you are asked to volunteer for that special cause that is near and dear to your heart, but your plate is already full? Maybe you are offered your “dream job,” but there’s a catch, you have to travel all the time and you have small children? Or maybe it’s a fabulous career move that sounds wonderful, but isn’t really the direction you want to go. How about the potential client, partner, friend that looks good on the outside, but just sucks all of your energy?

You know what I’m talking about. You’re beginning to sway, your arm is being twisted either by money, pride, or guilt – but deep in the pit of your stomach, you just know that saying yes is the wrong decision – or maybe now just isn’t the right time.

Can you say no? Should you?

Yes, you can! Yes, you should!

I have struggled with this from time to time and have always been glad when I managed to choke out the “NO” even if it half killed me to do it. I just recently wrestled hard with a “tough no” that might have cost me financially in the short run, but would have taken me down the wrong path and stood in the way of long-term goals. It was the right choice for me even though it was incredibly scary and heart wrenching to utter that no and then follow through and stand firm on it.

If something is not a good fit for you – the best answer is no.

If something doesn’t quite feel right – the best answer is no.

If something takes you off your path, veering from your vision and beliefs – the best answer is no.

Stay on course.

Know where you’re going.

Have your priorities straight.

Listen to your gut.

And most importantly – when the decision is made and the NO is given, move on and don’t look back!

The beauty of the tough no is that in having the courage to dig down deep and honor your soul, you open up the space for new wonderful opportunities to flow into your life and you’ll be able to confidently offer the joyous “Yes!”

Royale Scuderi is a life fulfillment expert, consultant and freelance writer who specializes in personal and professional growth, life satisfaction, and success. She is a curator of ideas and strategies that support a productive and purposeful life. Visit her at Productive Life Concepts .

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How to Beat Burnout Before it Beats You

Photo courtesy of The U.S. Army
There are several professions that tend to have high rates of burnout, and in my lifetime I’ve been deeply ensconced in two of them. For seven years I taught elementary school, and I can tell you that teachers everywhere are dropping like flies. That job is tough.  People in professions that involve helping others are highly likely to burn out because of the amount of emotional attachment that develops, causing an incredible amount of mental strain.

I’m now considered an entrepreneur, in that I’ve started up my own business and I’m my own boss. Studies show that entrepreneurs are also more likely than most “typical” professionals to experience burnout. This is due to the fact that there is no limit to how much success we can attain, and because of that, we have a hard time turning down opportunities.  Before we know it, we’re exhausting ourselves by taking on more projects than we can reasonably handle.

If you’re making your living in a job that has the potential to evoke excessive amounts of stress, involves a high level of responsibility, or demands long hours, be proactive about avoiding burnout. If you’ve started to feel the first twinges of distress surrounding work, use the following list as a guide to avoid causing a major professional setback.

  • Pin point the source of any discontent and fix it. It’s not the job itself that will bring you down, but its interference with the things you love to do most – like spending time with family, working out, or getting a good night’s sleep every night. What do you wish you had time for?

  • Set boundaries for those above events to ensure that they will always come before work in order to refresh your energy and motivation.

  • Make sure you’re keeping it interesting! Even as an entrepreneur, if your projects all start to look the same, you’ll get bored fast. Pick and choose a variety of assignments, or simply make a change to your daily routine.

  • Pace yourself for the long haul and don’t expect miracles.
  • Take vacations! If you have a corporate job, USE your paid days off – don’t just bank them. If you’re self-employed, start setting things up so that your business can remain successful even when you take a few days off.

It’s extremely important to be able to recognize the early symptoms of burnout so that you can attain the level of success that you’re reaching for while remaining in good physical and mental health. Once burnout occurs, it can spell disaster and is quite difficult to reverse. Always keep that fire extinguisher nearby and at the ready, because if you don’t beat burnout first, it can most certainly beat you.

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Why Life Is So Much More Than a Paycheck

Photo courtesy of Colton Witt

I recently jumped on the Game of Thrones bandwagon; it was inevitable, really. As a fan of other epic fantasy works, like Tolkien’s Middle-earth, I was surprised to find there was a whole unexplored mythology from the mind of writer George R. R. Martin that covered a disturbingly gritty place unlike other fantasy worlds. After watching the first season of the excellent HBO TV series, I delved right into Martin’s books. For those who aren’t familiar with the Song of Ice and Fire series, these books (or which A Game of Thrones is the first) are huge, sometimes spanning over a thousand pages, so I was aware that they were going to cut into my already busy schedule quite a bit.

After reading through a hundred or so pages of the first book, I realized I was hooked. I’d become so drawn into Martin’s writing – the despicable characters and harsh, bloody settings – that I was trying to find little pockets of time here and there between working hours to fit in extra reading sessions. I also couldn’t stop telling people about it. It was probably quite annoying, but I wanted to share how thrilling the journey had been for me so far. I told my friends and siblings—basically, anybody I knew to have a preexisting interest in large fantasy works.

When I told one of my closest friends about the TV show and books, he was clearly excited by the concept and said that it reminded him of when he was a child and read the entire Lord of the Rings series. Because of this interest, I offered to loan him one of the Game of Thrones books, and his expression suddenly changed. “I could never get into this – how would I get anything else done?” he told me. After thinking about this for a moment, I asked him if he was reading anything else at the moment, or tuning in to watch a TV show on a regular basis. He admitted that he used to do these things, but that his work was now taking up too much of his time, and when he returns home from work each evening, he’s too tired to focus on anything.

For me, this was a bit of an eye-opener. My friend was basically denying himself things he agreed he would enjoy simply because of his work schedule. In addition, he thought that if he found something he truly enjoyed, he wouldn’t have the restraint to plan his work hours around it. I think a lot of people have this view of things that are deemed “less important” than making a living. They neglect small pleasures because they are too focused on working, and can’t find the time to enjoy themselves. I’m not saying that people should cut back on work in order to have fun, but with a little forethought there is room for both.

People spend plenty of time scheduling their work lives so that any time that is left over for personal things like reading a book or going for a mountain hike gets almost no thought at all. Planning out your personal time with as much detail as you use to plan out your work hours could offer you far more fulfilling opportunities in the future. Life is not all about working to make a living, so make use of the little spaces in-between.

If you gave yourself more time to indulge in a personal hobby, what activity would you choose?

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Are You Using the Best Tools to Develop Your Ideas?

Brain cloud
Photo courtesy of Thomas Lieser

A powerful tool that is often neglected when it comes to developing new ideas is mind maps.

For those not in know, mind maps are diagrams of interconnected words, symbols, tasks and ideas, that flow from a central idea in a series of paths. That may sound a little confusing, but mind maps are actually incredibly intuitive when you get down to them. There are no set rules regarding how you’re supposed to lay out your ideas (like, say, with a pie chart); you simply make connections between different elements much in the same way that the human brain does when it makes associations between similar items.

Whenever I need to lay out ideas for a new project I’m working on, I’ll begin by writing the central idea on a blank sheet of paper. Then I’ll gradually fill the page with headings, subheadings and concepts, all stemming out from the central idea. I find that the act of simply writing these elements down in this way helps me recall them a lot better later, and it can also be a great time saver when you need to organize your thoughts quickly.

Mind maps can be used to develop pretty much any concept you can think of, from planning a birthday party to planning the next forty years of your life. Although there are several good mind mapping software packages available online, I would recommend using the less costly pencil and paper method instead, for better retention of the facts.

How do you organize your ideas? Do you use mind maps, make lists, or find that brainstorming with other people helps make better sense of your ideas?

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How to Use One of the Seven Deadly Sins to Your Advantage

Photo courtesy of Ricardo Vacapinta

Several months ago, I spent an entire day in my bathrobe, doing absolutely nothing aside from playing computer games. I literally did not leave the sofa except for trips to the bathroom and trips to the fridge. This was very unusual for me, and occasionally I felt a pangs of guilt when I thought of all the things I “should” have been doing. Those feelings, however, were never quite strong enough to wrench me away from killing a few more zombies with peashooters.

The week following Robe-a-palooza was the most productive I’d had in recent memory, more than enough to make up for the time off, and yet I still felt guilty about “losing” that one particular day.

My point is not to assert that a day or two off from your regular schedule can lead to rejuvenation – you already know that. That’s the whole idea behind weekends, after all. However, I think we (me included) tend to downplay the value of using at least some of our time off as an opportunity to get disgustingly sloth-like and really shut down, at least for a few hours.

When people say they want to make the most of life, usually what they mean is they want to cut down on the number of things they do that don’t apply directly to their main life goals.  Even on their days off, they train themselves to feel bad if they’re not constantly accomplishing something “useful.” Weekends are seen as a time to get all the errands done that didn’t get done during the week, or to participate in a hobby that will make them a more educated or well-rounded person.

And that’s fine, errands and hobbies are great. But sometimes watching DVDs and eating ice cream can be just as worthwhile. That doesn’t mean you have to be a couch potato every weekend – for most of us, that would get pretty boring. It just means that you don’t have to have an “acceptable” justification for occasionally taking a complete day off and doing nothing at all.

Psychologically, this can be difficult to get used to, especially if you consider yourself an active, ambitious person. I’ve been making an effort to schedule a complete rest day at least twice a month, but it’s been hard to embrace the idea, even though physically I feel much better and overall I’ve been getting more done. When people phone me on one of my sloth days and ask me what I’m doing, my first impulse is to hide the fact that I’m watching trashy reality TV marathons in my underwear. I feel like I should say, “I’m catching up on my Italian lessons,” or “I’m just heading out the door to go rock climbing.” Over time, I’m hoping I will adjust to the frame of mind where I don’t feel slightly embarrassed at doing nothing, because I think in general it’s doing me a lot of good.

In a society where we’re constantly bombarded with the ideas of pushing forward and achieving, it’s more important than ever to make sure there’s some balance. Try scheduling in a sloth day or two next month and see what positive changes happen for you.

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How a Few Minutes a Day Can Earn You Freedom for Life

Freedom for Life

Photo courtesy of Bohari Adventures

Last summer, I had steady stream of friends staying with me as house guests. One evening, one of my guests was gazing over my shoulder as I went through my nightly ritual of typing up my to-do list for the following day. After watching me for a minute or two, eventually he shook his head and said, “I couldn’t live like that.”

Er, live like what, exactly?

“With every aspect of my life planned out to the last detail, no room for fun or spontaneity. I would find that extremely boring.”

At that moment I realized just how misunderstood to-do lists are, as I’m one of the most spontaneous people you’ll ever meet. I’ve been known to move to another continent on a whim (twice, in fact), and I frequently drop everything to accept last-minute invitations to hang out with friends, or pop over to Munich for Oktoberfest just because I feel like it, or jump on any other crazy opportunities that come my way.

The only reason I’m able to do these things is because I’ve intentionally built a life structure that allows for that level of freedom, by making sure that all the essential tasks get done and shifted out of the way in the most efficient manner possible. If you’re always staying several steps ahead, which is what a high level of organization allows, then you can easily jet off for a few hours (or a day, or a week) whenever the mood strikes you, without stress or guilt.

I see people who repeatedly take all day to do things that could easily be done in a couple of hours, providing that they would set aside a few minutes the night before to create a plan and a list. When you don’t have a detailed plan, you can spend your whole day not knowing exactly what to do next, backtracking when you realize you forgot to do something, and generally wasting time that otherwise could have been spent on the things you really want to do.

Left to my own devices, I’m pretty much your standard, disorganized, right-brained creative. This is where to-do lists come in handy – allowing me to sculpt that life of freestyle creativity, by ensuring that I get the essential foundation work out of the way first. It’s reasonable to want a life defined by personal freedom, and it only takes a few minutes to put the structural supports in place to allow that freedom.

Do you have a personal organizational system that helps you get things out of the way so you can enjoy your life?

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