We live in a digital time. Our rhythms are rushed and relentless, our days carved up into bits and bytes. We celebrate quick reaction more than considered reflection. Expectations related to response time have shrunk from a few days to a few minutes. There is little opportunity to consider decisions or the content of communication. We race through our lives without pausing to consider who we really want to be or where we really want to go. We’re wired up but we’re melting down.

Most of us are just trying to do the best that we can. When demand exceeds our capacity, we begin to make expedient choices that get us through our days and nights, but take a toll over time. Faced with relentless demands at work, we become easily distracted and feel exhausted. The term 24/7 describes a world in which work never ends. We use words like overwhelmed to characterize our everyday lives. We spend much of our time reacting to unplanned events and making quick decisions with minimal analysis. Feeling forever starved for time, we assume that we have no choice but to cram as much as possible into every day. Job satisfaction is becoming merely a concept.

Considerable research has been conducted on the topic of stress in a variety of settings and disciplines. A common definition includes the negative impact on performance due to stress e.g. caused by information overload and is measured by decision-making ability. If a decision-maker (and we all are) obtains more information than he can process, overload occurs and decision-making ability decreases. Any information received beyond that point will not be processed, may lead to confusion and could have a negative impact on the ability to set priorities as well as remember previous information.

It is not difficult to imagine the affect this has on both individuals and organizations. It is common knowledge that stress, over an extended period of time, has a negative impact on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, including the following symptoms:

  • Poor concentration due to the overloading of short-term memory
  • Multi-tasking often resulting in diminished rather than increased productivity
  • Hurry sickness, which is the belief that one must constantly rush to keep pace with time
  • A chronic state of irritability or anger
  • “Plugged in” compulsion or the strong need to check email and the internet in order to stay “in touch”
  • Lowered immune response, endocrine imbalance, depression and the experience of “burn out”

The causes of these situations will not disappear by themselves. They require thoughtful solutions. An awareness of what is better, combined with an understanding of the symptoms will allow us to generate useful and practical solutions to the problem of stress.

Join us next week when we will explore some solutions to minimize and eliminate STRESS.

Hugo Van den Bergh PEPworldwide Belgium

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør

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Increased availability, are you handling it, or is it handling you? Solution!

Last week I wrote about some of the negative effects  of “always being available” ? This week let us look at some of the solutions.

Firstly, if you think this is challenging, know that there is hope. You can most likely do something about the situation by a few small steps. Though you should also know that the way you perform your work today has created a pattern and a way of working that actually has become a habit. This is your habit, and if you have read anything about changing habits, or as most people you have tried to change a habit, you might have realized that it can be quite hard. You need to force yourself to do (or not do) the thing you have decided upon quite a few times before it starts to feel natural. Psychologists say it takes 21 consistent days on the average to change a habit.  If you miss a day you must start over again.

Now back to what you can do about the increased availability. You need to be assertive and protect the time that you do have available for doing important high value work.

How do you to do this? One way is  to put in chunks of time in your calendar that belong only to you. We call them “appointments with myself”. These chunks of time should be respected by yourself and also others as if it was a client meeting. Unless something really urgent and important occurs of course. When you do this a couple of times per day, realize that you have actually organized yourself so that you can more easily follow your plan.

Another way is to turn off all your notifications announcing new emails arriving. Oh, you say “that is not possible for me! It could be something important…” I agree, then try to create agreements with your colleagues so that urgent and important tasks don’t arrive by email. These items are often better handled by phone or face to face. That way you will not be checking your mail every 5 minutes.

Improve your planning, and stick to what you have planned. Remember that when you once made the plan, it probably made perfect sense, so when it is time for the planned activity, it is time to act, and not start debating with yourself whether or not you should do it. Re-planning, reorganizing or reprioritizing should be done when  conditions change, but don’t go looking for it, because you will always find a reason for not doing something.

Good luck.

By Jojo B. Holst, PEPworldwide Norway

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør

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Increased availability, are you handling it, or is it handling you?

You may not think much about it today, but we have for many years strived to increase our availability. We got cellphones to be able to reach each other outside the office or home, but we still had to go to the office to access the client database or to send an email. This is for most really old fashion thinking in today’s business world. Our availability or accessibility has over the years increased so much that we now with a smartphone in our hands can do about anything anywhere.

What a great thing! We can do whatever we need to do wherever we want to do it and at any time during our 168 weekly hours. Amazing! Or is it? From different opinion leaders we are told that it has never been more difficult for us (in this lane on the information superhighway) to stay focused at the task, or subject, that an increasing amount of people are spending more and more time jumping (mentally) from one thing to another without being able to finish the first one.

The reasons for not finishing a task can be many, but one clear reason for this is because we have become more and more accessible: firstly always being available ourselves and secondly expecting that others should also always be available for us. Or maybe it feels like the other way around? And that is exactly the issue. We have become so available for everyone else that it can be hard to focus on our own priorities, our own tasks  and follow our own plans. If you don’t make and follow your own plans you will most likely be a part of someone else’s plan. Am I saying that this increased availability is not a positive contribution in our mission to do, or perform our daily tasks? No, and let me just be clear, I am not saying the problem is the increased availability itself, it’s what we do with it, and how we choose to handle it, or rather lack of doing so.

What are your thoughts about this? Please share your experiences with us.

By Jojo B. Holst, Man.dir. PEPworldwide Norway

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør

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