When I was a young woman living in New York City, I made a check-up appointment with a medical doctor whose office was two blocks away from my Bay Ridge apartment. My appointment was at 3:00 and as I already knew that doctor office appointments in New York were historically lengthy, I took a ½ day off work to accommodate the doctor. I showed up 10 minutes early to fill out paperwork. I was surprised to see the office filled with patients, wall to wall. I asked the front desk attendant when she thought I was going to be seen. She said she didn’t know; that the doctor wasn’t in the office yet and some of these people had been there since 12:30.
I looked around and replied, “You know; I live two blocks from here. How about I go home and you call me about 10 before you think I can be seen, and I’ll come right over.” The front desk attendant didn’t like that idea at all, and told me I’d have to wait in the doctors office or reschedule, but I’d be charged for the appointment regardless. I couldn’t take another day off my new job, so I waited.
It wasn’t until after 5:00 when I was finally allowed to see the doctor. In the examination room, I waited another 15 minutes until the M.D., head down, asked why I was there. I said I was there for my annual check-up, and he promptly scribbled something on his chart. Without saying another word, he left. Ten minutes later, presumably a nurse or physician assistant came in and quickly drew my blood and took my blood pressure.
That was it. I had questions and thought I would have another chance to converse with the doctor, but know. At 5:30, I was shooed out of the room to the front desk where I was told, “That’s it.”
I don’t remember who the M.D. was, primarily because I never really saw his face. I don’t remember who the staff was. But I do remember that my time and my health wasn’t respected. I never returned. That was 1990. It is now 2013. Twenty-three years have gone by and I can’t remember what my concerns were, but I remember well how little I was valued.
How do you want to be remembered?
That question follows me into my office every day. The lesson I learned in Bay Ridge Brooklyn in 1990 has never left me. I try to do everything I can to respect my patients time and personhood. I spend quality time trying to understand their concerns and goals, and to let them know they are more to me than just a commodity on an insurance submission.
Still, if I were perfect, I would have sublimated from this world into the starry heavens by now. My wonderful patients teach me every day lessons about life and business that are invaluable to me. They are my greatest teachers in life, love, and success. I’d like to share some of their wisdom with you so that you might benefit from them as I have. So, without further ado, here are 8 business lessons I have learned from my patients.
1. Patients (and Customers) Come First
This should be just rote common sense, but when you and your staff is faced with a full schedule of meetings, marketing, records, chores and district manager evaluations, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the very reason you exist. This is never a sustainable policy..
Chances are you work either directly or indirectly for a service industry. Unless the client or customer is clearly unreasonable, If a client or customer request comes your way and your task is to take care of a question, concern, or job order, that request comes first, no matter what. Either you fulfill the request yourself or you make sure that members of your team fulfill the request.
This is never more imperative than for a doctor’s office or hospital. We provide a service for which the need is often immediate. All-too-often we hear stories of insurance hang-ups, passing-the-buck problem solving, and just plain dropping the ball somewhere in the line of patient management. When it comes down to priorities, the person who has an appointment at 4 is not an item on a “to do” pile. It is a person who needs our help, and the entire reason our jobs exist.
No matter what, in whatever profession, never forget that the whole reason your job exists is because someone needs your help. Paperwork be damned! Meeting with sales rep: I say nay! If someone somehow made it to your office for help and you’re open, then go help them.
2. Be Honest
Patients know if you’re not sure about a diagnosis. They can smell it on you. They whisper about it in the examination room and discuss it with friends and family. However, they’ve been trained to obey your assessment, even if they sense that you’re not sure. So you have a duty as a caregiver to be honest with them and tell them how sure you are about their diagnosis. Patients, in the long run, just want to know you care enough to be honest with them. If I’m not sure of an assessment or outcome, I will admit it. At least they know where I am and we can work together to find a solution from a basis of trust.
3 Avoid the Offensive and the Defensive.
Back in the day…you remember: pre-Bauhaus…there used to be a saying: “The Customer Is Always Right.” Well; of course the customer is not always right. The customer is not always well-informed, so they cannot always be right.
The statement is more of a guideline than a rule (thank you, Captain Barbossa). It is a guideline to help you listen to your customer, client or coworker. We often develop a knee-jerk defensive attitude when a person comes at us leading with disapproval. It is easy to react by saying, “you should have done this,” or “That’s not the way we do things around here, Sir/Mam.”
By the way: just a regional note regarding the terms, “Sir” or “Mam:” I grew up in North Carolina and spent a few years in the Midwest, so I know that the use of the formal address in these regions is traditionally employed as a respectful way to address someone. However, I’ve lived in the Northeast now for close to twenty years. If you are from the Northeast – in particular, New York – using those terms to address someone is viewed as a passive-aggressive insult, and is usually met with a bristling retort. It doesn’t matter if you are fifteen and the person you are addressing is eighty; take note of the accent of the person you are addressing and respond accordingly.
It is no fun to take it on the chin, and very emotionally gratifying to put people in their place – but it is not the smart thing to do. Winning the battle is not worth losing the peace, unless the person you are dealing with is truly malicious. Most times, the people with whom you deal are simply carrying around injuries that pop out from time to time.
As a doctor, I find that people in pain are usually quite pleasant when they first meet me, mainly because they really hope that I can help them. I’ve been lucky in that there has only been one patient in my career who read me the riot act, and it regarded an employee who worked my front desk. This person perceived that this front desk person was rude to him, and I am the one who received the resultant rage. I gracefully dealt with it calmly and to the satisfaction of everyone involved *whew!*; however, I have colleagues – particularly my medical colleagues –who have not been so lucky. What they experience is that the minute a patient in pain suspects that their needs are not addressed thoughtfully, they turn and attack likes a wounded animal.
Confusion often leads to emotional hostility because our brains are primarily information-gathering devices. The brain has one directive: to seek out problems wherever we may find them in order to protect ourselves from that problem. Luckily, we have developed forebrains that help us filter input and learn peaceful responses, but our hindbrains are much older than our forebrains. Millions of years of evolution have led the human animal to react to perceived injuries first and ask questions later.
Without enough information and when left to their own devices, our brains can imagine all sorts of creative oddities, like conspiracies and thoughtlessness and outright malice.
It is well for doctors to remember that a patient in pain is a wounded animal. It is well for business leaders to remember the same can be true of a reactive client or coworker. Make sure you’re not adding to the problem as one of walking wounded throwing your pain vicariously on them. The only time I’ve have gotten away with occasionally flying off the handle verbally is with people who love me and who care enough to work things out with me (thank you, family!). Clients and coworkers do not always care that much for you, and sometimes it is hard to keep your trap shut…but keep your trap shut.
Our problem is not whether or not we are right. Our problem is a customer, boss, client or coworker who feels they have been wronged, and they will most definitely show you how they feel. If we are lucky, they will calmly try to resolve the misunderstanding, but we are not usually that lucky. Usually, when people are confused, they formulate opinions based on an archetype they have developed. When people objectifying us like that, they end up either talking (or yelling) at us instead of with us; voting their confidence with their feet; and complaining to at least ten different people what an awful experience he or she has had with you. Worst-case scenarios are physical confrontations and law suits.
It takes thoughtful leadership to recognize that sometimes, when an angry customer, client or coworker who presents him or herself in a manner you find displeasing is just suffering from misunderstanding. It takes thoughtful leadership to listen artfully to their position before telling them yours, and to find a solution cooperatively.
You can start by not jumping right away to a defensive or offensive position. Take note of the person’s stance and do more listening than talking. Take time to get past their attitudes. Get to know them, their expectations, their history, and their pet peeves. Through active listening, you can better determine where the miscommunication occurred. Chances are you have the solution they are looking for but for which they just don’t know how to ask.
Which leads us to #4.
4. Ask meaningful questions.
I was reminded of this lesson after reading John Cramp’s Riverstone Group blogpost: “The Simplest Leadership Lesson I Ever Learned but Use All The Time http://www.theriverstonegroup.com/2013/07/30/the-simplest-leadership-lesson-i-ever-learned-but-use-all-the-time/.” In the post, he describes using the 1-10 scale to measure the subjective weight of a problem among his team. 1 stands for horrible, and 10 stands for perfect. When someone comes to him with an issue, he asks him or her, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how critical do you feel this problem is?”
The reasons he uses this scale is to help clarify the weight, height, and width of the issue in the eyes of the complainer. It gives him an idea the weight he needs to give to the issue. He then responds in kind as to where he is on the scale and why, so the person understands where he’s coming from. In doing so, they can work on solutions in an integrative manner with increased clarity as to how to address one another. It is just one tool in the toolkit of a skillful leader, but an effective one.
We health care providers are trained to ask a patient to rate on a scale of 1-10 how pressing their health issue is to them, so that we can gain insight into the seriousness of the issue. It is often difficult for a patient to articulate the personal importance they place on a particular issue to their health care provider, mainly because they just don’t know the nature of the problem they are facing. The rating scale helps them to do that.
It is one of a number of tools we use that help us fine-tune accurate diagnoses and develop appropriate treatment plans. It also helps us evaluate the effectiveness of a treatment plan when we revisit the issue later and evaluate the level of progress by comparing scores. When I read Cramp’s blog post, it reminded me that I could integrate that tool in regular communications with my team and even my personal relationships.
Other examples of meaningful questions to patients include: “What are you expecting to gain from your experience with us?” “How important to you is it that you meet your health objective?” “What is the primary reason you wish to succeed in meeting your health objective?” The last one may be tricky, because a patient may not know how to articulate the real reasons behind wanting to get better. For instance, they might articulate that they want care in order to feel better, but the real reason is because they want to be able to sit on the floor and play with their children or grandchildren. Try to guide their evaluation of their expectations toward a truly meaningful reason to get better, and have them revisit this reason when commitment becomes difficult.
In the same way, we can come to understand the expectations of your client and coworkers. “What do you want this item/experience to do for you?” “How important is getting the right experience to you?” “What is the primary reason for which you need this to happen?” When we determine clear reasons for our objectives, we can articulate them back to them in order to show them we understand their needs. In this way, they will be more willing to work with us toward attaining these positive outcomes.
5. Use the three-times rule.
People remember things in threes. When patients come in, I tell them what is going to happen during this visit. “The purpose of this visit is to determine what is happening with you and whether or not you are a candidate for chiropractic care. You will receive full orthopedic, neurologic, nutritional, fitness, and chiropractic evaluations. If we determine that your case is appropriate for chiropractic care, we will determine together a treatment plan that meets your health care goals. If not, we will refer you to a health care provider that we think is more appropriate for your case. Sound fair?” The last question is important, because it will encourage active engagement from the get-go.
Then, as the examination progresses, I tell them what we are doing. “All right; now we are performing the neurologic examination. Now we are moving on to the orthopedic exam. Now we are…” and so forth. When we are done and I’ve determined a report of findings, I start with, “The purpose of the exam was to determine if your case is appropriate for chiropractic care. We performed an orthopedic, neurological, nutritional, fitness, and chiropractic exam. Based on my findings, I am recommending…” and then I go over the findings to explain.
Again, people remember things in threes. When people are in pain they are scared. They won’t remember what happened later and may think that nothing happened. By telling them what is going to happen, what is happening, and what just happened, there is a better chance that they will retain the information the way you intended to deliver it.
This is the same in business. While your position may not carry the same level of emotional authority as a doctor’s might, they still may be intimidated given a new situation, especially if they aren’t sure what they want nor how to proceed yet. The “Tell It In Threes” rule lets them absorb the information better so that they can respond in a more informed way. Ultimately, it builds trust.
6. Ask them to repeat what they just heard and to ask questions about what they just heard.
This is critical: get them to repeat what was covered so that you know if you were understood, and ask them if they have questions about what was covered. When they respond with questions, listen to the whole question without interrupting and take a breath before answering.
It may sound silly to proceed this way, but people get confused in a new situation and are easily intimidated by doctors. Most people are eager to please, and sometimes they will agree to treatment without fully understanding what happened to them and why they agreeing to a certain course of care. It also fools the practitioner by thinking that their patient is on board with them, when really they are just too overwhelmed to take in what is happening to them.
Don’t rush this last step. For doctors, this is the most important step in successfully concluding an examination and gaining their commitment to a course of action. The breath will allow you the moment you need to take in the fullness of their question. Early on in practice I found that I was so eager to help, I sometimes jumped in and finished their questions for them – often with the wrong conclusion. They wouldn’t correct me; they were too intimidated and they wanted to please me. But they didn’t quite trust my opinion after that experience, and rightly so. People need to know we care about what they think; and if we answer a question they didn’t ask, they will understandably distrust us.
The same is certainly true in business. If I think anyone has a set agenda they are trying to sell me, an agenda that is beyond my expectations and understanding, I personally will not proceed further without clarification. But others will nod and act like they are on the same page as you, and then leave uncommitted to your vision because they think you haven’t a clue as to how things really are with them. You don’t want your team thinking that, and you don’t want your customers feeling that – because they won’t be your customer for long.
7. Mirror body language and speech patterns to engage them effectively.
Not everyone is like you. If you are excitable and wave your hands around when you speak and you are lucky enough to be sitting across from someone who communicates the same way, great. But if you are sitting across from a demure individual, they are going to think you are a crazy person and high-tail it out of there as fast as they can safely escape.
Or, you could be the kind of person who feels it is important to use just the right tone to communicate an idea. However, if you lean back in your chair, stare at the ceiling to find the right words, and speak slowly and carefully with attention to your tone while they are leaning forward and looking purposefully at your face, they will either believe you couldn’t care less about the subject and are uncommitted to what is coming out of your mouth, or their brains will already be on getting out and meeting their friends for handball.
Health professionals are advised and trained to mirror someone’s behavior when they come in so that they can establish rapport with that individual. People process information on a spectrum of visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic input. Most people are visually dominant – about 65% of the population. They like graphics and pictures, and they like to take notes even when notes are given. They look you in the eye, and when bored, assess your hair, dress, rings, shoes, and the way you present yourself. They are easiest to spot when they are uncomfortable about answering a question, because their eyes dart or fall to their hands. They say things like, “I see what you’re saying, Doc; but break it down for me in bullet points.”
Auditory dominant people account for about 30% of the population. They rely more on what you say and how you say it, as opposed to pictures and models. They may stare past or right through you while you talk, because they focus on the sound of the message. They are often articulate and speak using a range of pitch when conveying ideas. They might say things like, “I hear what you’re saying, and it seems you have given this a fair amount of thought; however, I wonder whether there are alternatives approaches worth exploring.”
Tactile/Kinestetic dominant individuals account for about five percent of the population. This is the group of people who have a hard time sitting down and listening for a long time to a detailed explanation. They fidget and move about when in a room too long; they pace and talking with their hands when conveying an idea. This is the gang who will not remember what was said, but will remember how they felt about the experience. They appreciate models and learn best by physical examination of materials. When they speak, they like to touch your arm while conveying an idea, and appreciate a hug or a pat on the back. Sometimes people think they are “slow learners,” or suspect that they have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but this is not the case. They just like action over words. They might conclude a meeting saying, “So, what should I do?” Many chiropractors fall into this category. Little wonder, because we work with our hands all day.
This is a base minimum of personality profiling when communicating with people. However, if you can learn to recognize just these characteristics, it will go a long way to conveying your ideas to them. For visual people, use a lot of pictures and give them time to take notes. For auditory people, try to vary your pitch and speak with emotion and meaning. For kinesthetic people, make it quick and lively. Talk with your hands and don’t be afraid to pat their shoulder when shaking their hand.
8. Follow up.
This is the rose on the icing. After each initial office visit, at the end of the day, I’ll call my new patients and say, “Hello; this is Dr. Fitzpatrick. I’m checking in because I know we covered a lot of ground today and I was wondering if you have any questions.”
When you follow up, it lets your clients and customers know that you are committed to giving them over-the-top service, and that you really care about what you say and do. Even if they don’t have any questions or you just leave a message on their voicemail, that kind of caring goes a long way toward building trust and a positive working relationship.
A chiropractic coach named Dr. Bob Hoffman of The Masters Circle teaches his clients that people leave you before care is finished because either they didn’t love you enough or you didn’t love them enough. At the end of the day, it’s about how someone feels about how they are treated. Whether you have the same interests or not, everyone appreciates respect and courtesy. Old-fashioned manners go far these days in a world where manners can often seem as rare as snail mail.
so let’s repeat the eight key business lessons I’ve learned from my patients:
1. Patients (and Customers) Come First
2. Be Honest
3 Avoid the Offensive and the Defensive.
4. Ask meaningful questions.
5. Use the three-times rule.
6. Ask them to repeat what they just heard and to ask questions about what they just heard.
7. Mirror body language and speech patterns to engage them effectively.
8. Follow up.
What are the most valuable business lessons that you have learned from your clients, coworkers, or patients?
By now, we recognize the wise distinction that Michael Gerber makes in his book E-myth Revisited: to work on your business as well as (or instead of) work in your business. I have lived that great lesson myself from all points in the business spectrum, and I’m still sliding myself hand-over-hand toward the happy end of that scale. I remember reading that book back in 2005 and musing how that book’s three-pronged approach to business could be applied to life in general. How often do we go through life doing what we think needs doing, all the while ignoring that which can’t be ignored? As I have matured as a doctor of chiropractic, I can see now where that lesson can be applied to one’s approach to personal health as well.
I have a patient who is an obsessive extremist. He’s got one of the biggest hearts you’d ever want to meet. He loves people, he loves life, and he’s a true defender of humanity and a patriot. When he sees a goal he needs to get, he goes for it, and does not hold back. He pushes himself past his limits in every aspect of work and play.
He decided to lose 40 pounds and 5 inches around the middle, and despite my best advice to take it easier, insisted on running four times as much as I had advised, lifting weights four times as aggressively, and ate 1/3 less food than he should have to keep up with that kind of effort. After a month, he was exhausted, light-headed, weak, and had plateaued. When he asked why, I told him: he put his body in panic mode! He was so stressed out about getting to his goals that he was throwing off his adrenal glands! His body was holding on to stores for dear life because it thought he needed them for the terrible crisis he was in! Once he began to eat more and was kinder to his body, he began to lose weight on schedule and regain energy.
I have another patient who is on the opposite end of this spectrum. She is in her early 50s. She’s a spunky, awesome lady who loves to enjoy her life and sharing great gobs of happiness with everyone around her. She has entered the intermediate stage of osteoarthritis in her spine; she has rounded shoulders and underdeveloped muscles from avoiding exercise on a daily basis. Consequently, she has bouts of debilitating pain in her spine. She also smokes and loves to eat and drink lots of the best food and drink she can procure, so the excess weight that she carries is centered on her abdomen. Abdominal fat is a danger sign for a stressed pancreas and heart.
When she comes in for her monthly spinal check-ups (for which I do commend her vigilance), I, being the loving nag that I am, ask her if she’s done the exercises, the stretches, visited the yoga place I told her about, quit smoking, yada yada…I get the same cheerful, “nope…nope…nope…”
But sometimes the spasms come – the, “I-can’t-even-get-out-of-bed-from-the-pain,” spasms. Those days are long days in the chiropractic office for my dear patient, and I end up seeing her quite a bit for a few days. I tell her, “It would be a lot cheaper on you if you just stretch, exercise, drink lots of water, quit smoking….” “Yeah,” she acknowledges…
This has gone on for years. Then, wonderfully, at this month’s check-up, I noticed an extreme difference in her spine! The muscles were suppler, there was movement in the individual vertebrae, and the adjustment was smooth as butter! I said, “What are you doing right?” She grinned and said, “I’ve been swimming in the neighbor’s pool almost every day after work!”
Swimming! The holy grail of exercises. If there were only one exercise you could do in the whole world, swimming, is the overall best. You get aerobic exercise as well as universal strength training, and the cushion of water is great for anyone’s joints. You exercise your lungs, swimming movements naturally massage your viscera (your organs in your gut), and you come out of the pool feeling refreshed. Swimming is just fabulous.
That one little change over the course of four weeks improved her muscle tone, her posture, and her spine. She looked fresher and had a nice bounce in her step that matched her spirit. Thank goodness for summer and that pool!
However, autumn will be here in a few months, and although it is my fervent wish that my patient continue to swim…well…we’ll see. Maybe, just maybe, her good health will encourage her to continue.
It isn’t fair to single out my patients, though. More often than I care to admit (that’s why I am), I am guilty as charged for not living mindfully. When I get into a project, I let my healthy exercise habits slip, and it can get me in real trouble when that happens – because, my body is my work instrument. If I can’t use my body, I can’t work! I have a blog post documenting the time I let bad desk habits really throw me for a loop. This is the link to it if you want a good laugh and tips on great posture: http://wp.me/p1.
I love living life, too; I love accomplishing my goals, and I love getting “to it,” whatever “it” happens to be. I have to make myself be mindful to keep balance in all areas of life, and to move on when I spend too much time on one thing.
Life is a series of moments, and they add up. We make the most impact on our bodies, our health, and our life, doing the things we do every day. Grand demonstrations of effort yield only fleeting changes if your efforts are not steady and consistent. So, if you slump in your seat steadily and consistently, you will get osteoarthritis and muscular weakness in key points in your back. If you sit up and get up to move around consistently and on a steady basis you’re going to have a healthy spine and musculature.
This example may seem like it has nothing to do with business and life, but consider:
Mechanical back pain – and I’m just talking about back pain caused by stuck vertebral joints and muscles that aren’t in healthy condition, not herniated discs and rheumatoid arthritis and conditions like that – account for most of the debilitating back pain that people experience.
Think about that word: debilitating. That means you hurt so bad that when you try to move, your pain keeps you from moving. Unlike the lady I described in the last blog post, you are able to move but the pain you experience is so vast, you can’t will yourself to move! That includes breathing, that includes bearing down to go to the bathroom…everything!
The trigger point problem I had in my intercostals – just one silly muscle knot – and I had every symptom of a heart attack. How many people go to the emergency room with symptoms of a heart attack and end up with nothing to show for it but thousands of dollars of medical bills for examinations they didn’t need?
Well, I’ll tell you: Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain1—and that’s for diagnosis and treatment for the pain, as well as workers compensation payments and time lost from work. That’s not considering people who go to the hospital or doctor’s office looking for more serious diagnostic worries like a heart attack, like an ulcer, like a brain tumor, and goodness knows what else that end up being just back and neck pain.
It also doesn’t assume the personal income you lose due to the inability to perform your job because of pain, nor does it account for lost revenue for your company because you or your employee couldn’t work due to medical absence. So, aside from your health insurance and workman’s compensation premiums skyrocketing, how much more are you losing…from back pain? In most cases, back pain that’s not even from a “serious” back injury that chokes off the full expression of your nervous system and leads to real weakness and loss of use. That’s even worse!
The realization is astounding, isn’t it? It’s hard to believe unless you have lived through that kind of pain. Then you get it.
Back and neck pain is like no other pain. Because the spinal cord and peripheral nerves exit through the spine, when your joints aren’t working well and the muscles of your back are not conditioned well, when they are pushed to that brink, the resulting inflammation affects nerves that run every system of your body. Nothing can work right. You can even get hot and cold flashes, heart palpitations, hyperventilation, and weak bladder. It’s just ridiculous.
And what about when we put too much unhealthy stress on our bodies at the expense of equilibrium? Pulling all-nighters, beginning Friday with Thursday happy hour, and even trying to compensate for bad behavior with obsessive, stressful, dieting and exercise will cause short-term delays in your goals and long-term damage from self-induced hormonal and visceral dysfunction. Remember: the body is a beautiful servant of the mind. If the mind is in a state of disequilibrium, the body follows.
Luckily, health care spending growth seems to be slowing overall for small businesses (not including spending for the newly-insured); however, it is not reversing, and legislation is only part of the issue. The other part is us and our lifestyle behavior.
For small businesses, smoking and obesity are the top direct and indirect health expenditures for employees. Our government has estimated that annual health care costs for these populations are about $96 billion in health care and a $97 billion a year in indirect cost, including lost productivity for smokers2. For obesity, it is $147 billion3 in medical costs and an additional $68 billion in indirect cost, including lost productivity. Associated health care costs for these health care issues are partially paid by small business people and corporations, as well as fellow employees whose rates are higher in a business setting because of the overall risk. In fact, the Affordable Care Act allows a $0.50 increase per smoker increase by insurance companies, and some legislators are calling for a similar levy for obese people.
It is important to remember that both smoking and overeating are addictions, and they are both physical and psychological addictions. The way that we manufacture our food and cigarettes in this country has a lot to do with their addictive qualities, and the social suggestion that eating and smoking equal happiness are tremendous. So if you suffer from either, please remember that. These problems are not impossible to overcome, and the blame is not entirely yours. Our bodies were never built to ingest the quantity and quality of food that is most common and most affordable in America today, and the food and tobacco industry has their own dirty history of which we are becoming all-too-well aware.
So I hope I’ve made a case that getting lost in your day to day has serious financial and personal implications for you, and given that 1 in 5 of us smoke and 1 in 3 of us is overweight-to-obese, I hope I’ve shown that working on your life is just as important as working in your business. In fact, they are interrelated.
Here’s some ways you can work on your life as opposed to in your life:
1: Be conscious of what you put on and in your body, and how you use your body every day.
This may sound like a nuisance suggestion, but given the amount that you can save yourself, your colleagues and your family in heartache and dollars, keeping a journal where you jot down the brands, types and amounts of food you eat, as well as the brands of products you wash with and use as cosmetics. Keep a ledger of the amount of times you walked and got up to walk, exercised, and just straightened up your back. If you smoke, be aware of how many cigarettes you are smoking, and when you seem to smoke the most. As far as eating is concerned, your goal is to eat 5-6 small meals a day, about the size of your fist, and a wide variety of foods. See how close you can get to that. When you get a chance, read the ingredient list of what you put on and in your body. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients and you have no idea what they are, it’s time to take an inventory of what’s in your house and office.
2: Take an inventory of what is in your house and office.
First of all, if you wouldn’t eat what you put on your body, it shouldn’t be on your body. You don’t always eat your nutrients or poisons. Your skin absorbs lotions, gels and liquid materials, and transports their ingredients into your blood stream via a complex combination of nervous and lymph channels. Your skin also excretes waste through your pores; that’s why you smell bad if you don’t wash after a day or two. Without getting too far off topic, I’m going to make an argument for reverse osmosis water filters in your home and office. Your skin even absorbs water in the shower or bathtub, and every chemical compound in it. In fact, when you inhale, you ingest just as much as when you wash6. Some of those chemicals include antibiotics and pesticides from farming, so those lower your immunity and resistance right there.
The more unnatural chemicals that go in and on your body, the less resistance you can acquire in fighting unwanted habits and addictions. In fact, a lot of these chemicals produce the addiction to begin with! So chuck out any food and cosmetics that contains ingredients that you can’t pronounce or easily identify as safe by a simple online search. Two great websites are veritey.com and environmental working group ewg.com to do that.
3 Take an inventory of your motivation for continuing harmful habits.
I know what I’m talking about here. I smoked for twenty years, and loved every minute of it. I didn’t really want to stop when I did, but my checklist of what was at stake if I didn’t convinced me I ought to stop. So consider: given everything I know you already know and more, do you really want to smoke? Do you really want to eat as much as you do? Why are you doing it? Are these habits really more important than everything else that you know is true? What is the cost of not acting on what you know you need to to? How happy are you going to be if you continue to alienate every other principle that is important to you if you continue? Can you really stop when you want? If you know you should stop, when are you going to stop?
None of these questions are easy, and all are vital to every aspect of your life. You know they apply to drug (illegal as well as prescription) and alcohol addiction too, but I figured I had better just say that to drive the point home. If you find yourself grappling with this suggestion, keep in mind suggestion #4.
4 Don’t do it alone.
You don’t have to be alone in this process. In fact, addictions speak for themselves using your voice, so it’s actually very important to get help in overcoming them. I already referenced my friend and colleague Meg Tocantins, who is a hypnotist extraordinaire and who is on a personal mission to demolish the smoking industry single-handedly. I told her she needs help to do that, too; so you folks can work together!
Work out with a buddy. In know you hear that all the time, but you hear it all the time because its true. You know someone who wants to get moving as much as you, so go do activities with them. There are lots of things to choose from. Go dancing! Play golf or go to a bellydancing class. Or better yet: go swimming! The local Y has a pool all year round, and so do many gyms. If possible, find a pool that is cleaned via oxygenation rather than chlorine or other chemical methods, for the reasons stated above.
If overeating and/or eating the wrong things for your body is your problem, first, go to your health care professional and find out what type of dietary effort is best for you. Not everyone is suited to the Atkins diet, nor is everyone suited for a raw juice program. Find out your metabolic type and go from there. Find a system and a support to get you through. I have a list of folks you can contact in my show notes, but there are literally thousands of health coaches and support groups everywhere. Go to your church, temple, mosque, tribe or synagogue; check the local library or event listings in your town. Go to Meetup.com and see if there are any groups listed there. Make sure the group you attend isn’t or doesn’t devolve into a useless gripe session with no useful support structure.
If you are an employer who is reading this, if you haven’t already, institute a program at work for these efforts. Many insurance companies will actually offer discounts and benefits to companies who institute wellness programs for their employees, and a multitude of health and wellness professionals would literally love to help you with this. I’m forming a party of health missionaries right now to get started on this type of quest, and so are many others in many places.
5. Continually remind yourself why you are doing it.
Make a list of every benefit there is of taking charge of what you put in your body to remind you when times are tough. Keep these reasons handy every time you feel like you are going to slip. Read continually. Read as much as you can from experts in the field (I recommend some good books in my show notes). For employers, I already hinted at the financial and productivity benefits; take an inventory of your staff’s behaviors and your insurance premiums, and weigh the cost of the projected savings when you successfully initiate in-house wellness programs. You may even find that your staff is grateful that you care. I mean, beyond the cold numbers, no one wants to see their friends and families suffer from the effects of ill health, hopelessness and depression – because these problems cause plenty of depression and self-esteem issues, believe me. Just knowing you care enough to help may go a long way in building a corporate culture that will benefit you in the short and the long run.
How can you go wrong? Thanks Smilecalm!
I’m here for you. The First Mantra ~Thich Nhat Hanh
First Mantra, I’m here for you. This is for generating your concentrated presence. It should be a statement of fact. Using awareness of breathing we know we are truly present.
The Second Mantra, My dear, I know you are there and I’m so happy. To recognize the presence of your loved one. Your loved one may be a partner, child, friend, flower, anything.
The Third Mantra, My dear, I know you suffer and I am here for you. Used when you notice something is not right, not well.
The Fourth Mantra, My dear, I am suffering and I want you to know. I’m doing my best. Please help me. This can be difficult because it’s when you are suffering and you think you’re loved one is the cause. We want to punish. After you have tried to cool the flames, maybe 24-hours, then…
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There are plenty of behavioral and practical steps that can be applied to achieving optimum productivity; however, often overlooked are the day-to-day healthy habits that are easily incorporated into your day to day habits. It is true that the body is the greatest servant to the mind; it is also true that when the mind is not engaged and directing the body’s habits, the body will plod along without your intentional help.
The body’s natural tendency is to find the path of least resistance – in other words, to avoid work. We need healthy stress to grow and maintain a healthy metabolism, and we all know that avoiding work entirely is detrimental to health and productivity. Having said that, purposeful relaxation and mindful habits to promote calm and focus are not laziness. They are, in fact, the very keys to promoting the best environment for productivity. The following seven easy steps help you and your team do just that.
1: Get enough sleep
This is number one for a very good reason: if we don’t have enough rest, our usefulness is diminished on almost every level. Emotionally, we develop tripwire mood swings or depression; physically, our bodies do not have enough energy to get us through even a normal day; spiritually, we have very little enthusiasm for the tasks at hand, and what motivation we do have is anxiety-based. All of this adds up to decreased productivity and morale.
Most of us need 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. Some of us are in the “unusual” category and can work well with only a few hours of sleep, but that’s not true for the majority of us. Also, ideally, you should schedule a 45-minute siesta between 2-4:00 p.m. Make sure you give yourself at least 45 minutes of uninterrupted rest. If you’re the boss, I would recommend that you implement this into your corporate culture.
Try to time your sleep patterns with nature’s day and nighttime patterns, and to shut off as much light as possible when sleeping. “Early to bed, early to rise,” is quite accurate. Our bodies produce melatonin, a neurotransmitter/hormone with many health benefits, not the least of which are healthy sleep, excellent moods, strengthening mental acuity, and encouraging a healthy immune system. Melatonin has an inverse relationship with times of light and darkness. During daylight, its production diminishes (with a brief rise at siesta time); at nighttime, its production increases.
Sleeping in irregular patterns and with unnatural light will throw off melatonin production. It has been widely proven in clinical trials and generally accepted in the health care community that even a little bit of light in a room lowers your production of melatonin, and computer and mobile devices are especially detrimental to melatonin production. When you go to bed at night, turn off all lights and the monitor on your computer. If you live in an area where artificial light streams into your room at sleep time, consider using a black eye mask when you sleep.
2. Use full-spectrum fluorescent light bulbs during the day.
Full spectrum fluorescent bulbs give off light that is as close to midday sunrays as possible without causing sunburn. The frequency of these bulbs promote good health, increases your energy, and can even increase Vitamin D levels. This very important, because of the prevalence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) among people who do not spend enough time in the sun during the late fall to early spring.
Full spectrum fluorescent bulbs make certain your staff and you receive the gifts of the outdoor sun during your workday. Like getting enough melatonin by eliminating artificial light at night, full spectrum sunlight helps regulate your circadian rhythm during the day by helping your body slow down melatonin production during these hours. Light with yellow (soft white), blue, or green-dominant hues tells your body stimulates the pineal gland to produce more melatonin than it should during the day. This aids afternoon drags and drowsiness, and insomnia at night.
Installing full-spectrum lights in your home and office can give you and your staff a simple, healthy dose of inspiration, creativity, energy, drive, and focus while increasing health and reducing fatigue, early aging, depression, dissatisfaction and inertia. It’s worth a few extra dollars for this kind of return!
There are facts you should know about full-spectrum fluorescent light bulbs versus other types of fluorescent and iridescent light, and some myths that you need to discard.
First of all, all fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, so be careful not to break them, and use extreme care in removing and replacing them when they do break.
Second, full spectrum bulbs emit all the colors of the rainbow, plus infrared and ultraviolet light in the appropriate frequencies. They should have a Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) of 5500K (K stands for Kelvin) and a Color Retention Index (CRI) rating of over 90. You also want an electronic ballast as opposed to a magnetic ballast to reduce “flickering” and electromagnetic activity that can be harmful for your overall health.
There are fluorescent bulb brands that will bill themselves as full spectrum but do not meet the two requirements listed above. There are others that try to appear appealing, calling their bulbs “soft white.” The latter may sound nicer and the price tag is more appealing, but these bulbs cause eyestrain and fatigue and need to be replaced much more often than well-made, full-spectrum light bulbs.
3: Anticipate interruption as a fact of life and restart promptly
We all know that no matter how good a plan we have going for us, Life happens. It is especially true for business leaders and entrepreneurs. How many of us parents have had to abandon a deadline because a family member required attention? Or, when we’re about to launch a new product, our key production person gives her two week notice? Worse, just prior to the product release, legal comes back at the 11th hour with real concerns? How about the juice cleanse to which we commit ourselves and the “Very Important Client Dinner” that we must attend at their home, where they are serving steak tartar?
Believe me; I am not downplaying the importance of goals here. But there is a hierarchy of importance that, when an emergency strikes, will not wait for you to complete your task by deadline. The first in this hierarchy is #1: Health of self and family; #2: Crucial missed details; and #3: Social duty. The easiest way to keep on point here is to just accept Murphy’s law as a prophesy: that whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and that you make time for what could go wrong.
In the first case, there’s nothing for it. If you or your family have a health emergency, there’s nothing else you can do except address it immediately. Unfortunately, this very obvious fact is often ignored when it comes to ourselves, especially when we are so focused on achieving our goals that we ignore the obvious.
I was recently at a networking event in Manhattan. One of the attendees saw from my nametag that I was a chiropractor, and she introduced herself. She told me she had been in a horseback riding accident recently and was thrown from her horse headfirst onto the ground. She walked away from the incident, but a few weeks later, she woke up to find herself unable to use her arms and legs. Literally, she couldn’t move. Her question to me was, “Is it normal when your arms and legs just stop working?”
Let me repeat that question, because it may surprise you to know that I get absurd questions like this more often than you might think: “Is it normal when your arms and legs just stop working?”
I blinked, and thought that I hadn’t quite understood her question because she was standing in front of me with almost perfect posture, so I asked a bunch of clarifying questions. “Are you feeling numbness and tingling? Are you feeling weakness because of pain? Can you point to your arms and legs and show me where the problem is?” She came back with, “No; it’s all over both my arms and legs so I can’t point to it, but the tingling came when I was able to move six hours later. If I let my posture relax, it comes back. If I look down…” she looked down… “There. I’m feeling the tingling again, in my arms and legs.”
What she was describing was a textbook presentation of a broken C1 and/or C2 vertebrae, the atlas and the axis, the top two vertebrae and the reason we can turn our heads and nod up and down. These breaks are rare but can occur during serious sports injuries, just like the one she described. Hers might be a relatively stable variety of this type of break, and that she was not completely quadriplegic was yet another miracle I’ve witnessed in my years as a doctor; however, that injury needed medical attention the moment she fell on her head.
I told her to put her glass of wine down and go to her doctor for an examination and MRI right now.
To my astonishment, she replied that she wanted to wait six more months because she was launching her new product and couldn’t be interrupted. So I countered with something even more astonishing.
I told her that the reason she met me was because God was speaking through me, and God said to stop what she was doing and go to her primary care physician or the emergency room right now. Either her vertebrae were fractured, wildly out of alignment, or both; and they were choking her spinal cord. She needed to get her head and neck examined pronto. If there was no fracture, she had to go to her chiropractor to get her spine adjusted. Either way, she had to go get it checked out, or she could end up like Christopher Reeves. “Put down that glass of wine and go now,” I repeated, this time with the voice of Moses on the mount.
Over the years, I’ve learned that with some people, subtlety is useless.
We can’t wait until we’ve met your goals to address serious injuries, unless your immediate goal is to hobble to safety away from a vicious animal, a natural disaster, an explosion, or The Terminator. This is a Natural Law. The project has to wait.
Having said that, despite the fact that you and your family’s priorities come first, you don’t have to abandon your goals for the sake of your family. Indeed, the achievement of your goals will help fuel your presence with your family, both physically and emotionally. So take care of health emergencies but see your productivity as part and parcel with your commitment to taking care of yourself and your family.
As for crucial missed details, there are two things we can do: make sure we have our staffs go over every possible scenario up front, and give each department a deadline for making changes that at a much earlier date than the launch. Legal or design does not get to say, “wait, I think…” a day before launch. Too late. No one gets to say “don’t launch” at the last minute, unless the flaw is life-threatening in which case it falls under the health emergency clause.
As for social duty, the Buddha warned against the pull of that temptation. Nothing can sabotage a project like the perception that you have to let someone else’s agenda take precedent over yours. Of course, there isn’t a cookie-cutter solution to this one – perhaps someone else’s agenda is definitely more pressing – however, I’d say that in the majority of cases, this is not true. Really be on point with this one, and examine your feelings when faced with this, and be prepared to reject it if you know that delaying your goal for their agenda is not worth the cost. Be honest and let them know what is at stake for you, and that you cannot fulfill their needs until your goals are reached. If they cannot see the obviousness of the truth, ask yourself whether or not they should be in your circle of influence.
All three events (and eventualities) have one standing guideline: don’t let them derail you. Adjust your course accordingly and get back to reaching your goal as soon as you can.
4: Keep organic brain-boosting foods and eliminate non-organic, brain-draining foods at the office
Healthy oily foods and brightly-colored fruits and vegetables all have brain-boosting benefits that you can experience almost immediately when you start to eat them, while unhealthy oily, processed, and white foods do much more harm than good to your focus and energy, and therefore your productivity.
Brain boosting foods are full of natural vitamins, minerals and amino acids that promote the healthy, richly-oxygenated flow of blood to your body and brain and the expression of neurotransmitters like dopamine and noradrenalin, which help keep you alert and enthusiastic. Brain draining foods may feel satisfying when eaten, but promote arterial plaque and heat disease, gas and indigestion, insulin resistance, fatigue, and emotional irritation and depression – none of which is going to keep you on point and emotionally adjusted to the tasks at hand.
For breakfast at work, keep steel-cut oats with refrigerated black flax seeds, bananas and fresh berries handy. Eat a plate of organic eggs cooked in extra-virgin coconut oil; get rid of the bagels with cream cheese, bacon and white potato home fries. Keep cold-formulated protein shakes and spiced natural teas handy.
For lunch, munch on avocados, baby spinach, kale and arugula salads with cranberries and pecans with vinaigrette or a nice plate of plain yoghurt with berries and agave-sweetened granola. Skip the pasta, white breads and processed meat sandwiches for brown rice and stir fried veggies and hearty root vegetable stews. For some great recipes, see my Pintrest show notes folder.
For mid-morning and afternoon snacks, keep raw nuts, tea, and dark chocolates handy, along with lots of fresh filtered water. Cut out the high-calorie energy drinks, sodas, candy bars and chips.
It may feel like exercise will take away from your productivity, because to exercise properly you need to set aside at least 45-minutes-2 hours a day, 4 days a week, for dynamic warm up stretches, exercise, and cool-down passive stretches. All that time spent exercising can feel like time wasted, given the list of things you need to do for yourself.
But consider: science has shown time and again that exercise stimulates every physical attribute necessary to increase your capacity for productivity. And truthfully, while the above weekly timeframe is what I recommend, even minimal exercise can increase your health and ability to perform at your tasks efficiently. “A little is better than nothing,” is true in the case of exercise.
Exercise, even on a limited level such as brisk-walking 30 minutes a day, stimulates and balances the production of neurtransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine; all of which produce feelings of well-being and positive stimulation. Prolonged exercise also stimulates the production of enkephalins and endorphins — neuropeptides that have a natural opioid and analgesic effect on the body. They produce what is famously known as “runner’s high.” This feeling can be so good, with regular exercise one can actually crave physical performance. Finally! A good addiction! Well, it’s good unless you over-exercise injured body parts, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Regular exercise is good for your heart, your sex life, your glucose levels, your emotional stability, and your capacity for mental clarity and focus. Regular exercise not only promotes a healthy, happy brain and body, but leads to increased performance and precision in all areas of life.
“Can you make yourself do something you don’t want to do in order to get something you want?” — Andy Andrews
As with any task that needs doing, keep the goal in mind. Establish a primary goal with a definitive timeline, inclusive of mini-subgoals on the way to the main goal. [ give examples of definitive goals ] There is no growth without stretching your comfort zone [mention Allison Black and example of working muscles to fatigue]; that is true for any task, and most especially exercise. If you find it difficult to enjoy exercise, keep in mind the result of the task: you’re going to increase your enjoyment, precision and performance in all areas of life. It’s a win-win-win all around.
6: Clear the cache
When we work on projects and rightfully assign them to a deadline, it is easy to fall into them and work ourselves into a lather. The paradox of doing this is that there is an inverse relationship between the amount of productivity achieved and the amount of time we give ourselves to decompress and regroup.
Take measured breaks. I call this “clearing the cashe,” as you would from your computer. When you feel yourself working yourself into a lather, take a walk. Make yourself get up and get away. Find a place to sit quietly, close your eyes, and breathe purposely and slowly into your belly, if only for 10 minutes. If you work in bursts of productivity and relaxation, as opposed to marathoning through your tasks, you will increase your productivity exponentially.
7: People have their strengths; multitasking is not one of them.
Matthew Kelly referred to Albert Einstein when he said in his book, The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid…” – It may or may not be Albert Einstein’s quote, but the truth is self-evident. Multitasking is a myth; it has been shown time and time again that multitasking reduces productivity and creativity, and increases feelings of overwhelm and inadequacy.
We are less productive when we focus on that which is not our forte. Delete the term “able to multitask,” from your job description. Focus on your strengths, and prioritize your tasks in order of importance. If you have a task in front of you and you just don’t have the skillset to accomplish, hire someone appropriate for that task.
Take these suggestions to heart and your productivity and health will benefit greatly.
Let’s hear from you? What do you do to increase productivity?
A lot of people marvel at the amount of things that I can get done in a day. Often my patients tell me that they do not have enough energy to get through the day. They tell me, “Dr. Claire, you have the most incredible energy. How do you get that kind of energy?”
I love that compliment. I usually get it when I am doing something I love to do, like treating patients and teaching in front of an audience who is motivated to change their lives for the better. Believe me; it is not always the case that I have this kind of energy for everything. Very often, I suffer a lack of energy when faced with performing tasks that I don’t enjoy.
Whenever my patients tell me that they lack energy, I ask them questions that are not only lifestyle related, but also about what they believe. Very often, they believe that they do not have time in the day to do everything that they set out to do. Coaching experts know that if you are able to boost your energy level, you will have the energy to find the time.
But the question is: Do you want to find the time?
Personal story: I find that when I do tasks that I do not enjoy doing, my energy level drops like a thermometer on Neptune. For instance, I can’t stand accounting or talking with insurance companies. I find that I allow those tasks sit as opposed to facing them, which ultimately is a detriment to the financial functioning of my company.
Another thing I dread is cold calling, or even cold emailing. I am great in front of an audience who knows it is me they are coming to see, or even a topic for which they want knowledge. However, I have a nagging voice in me that says, when it comes to communicating with someone who doesn’t know me or my services, that I am an annoyance to them and that I am intruding on their lives rather than providing them with something that they need. In these cases, if I don’t take steps to replenish my energy levels, I am emotionally and physically drained by the fifth communication, and I end up leaving the other 15 that I committed myself to doing untouched.
I find that oftentimes, a drain in energy is a physical expression of fear. It is the body’s way to let a task slide that needs doing. The body is a servant of the mind. If the mind says, “I don’t want to do this,” the body will respond in kind and promote a state of being that is conducive to avoiding the dreaded task –i.e., dropping into a slump at mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
But let’s not forget the most malignant form of procrastination: the dream not realized.
What about the painting that you’ve left for months unfinished in the spare room? Or the manuscript that is gathering dust in the To Do pile? Or the guitar in the case in the back of the closet, or the basketball at the bottom of the bin in the garage? What about the map of the world yellowing in the attic, the map that still has the Soviet Union and East and West Germany on it, the map you pasted to poster board before computers were an everyday item, the map in which you carefully and lovingly stuck tacks marking the places you always told yourself you would go?
Those things are easy to put aside but not easy to forget, because they are our unrealized dreams. They are expressions of who we are deep inside, a commitment we made to ourselves as children that we have not honored. Someone told us that they weren’t for us, and we believed them, so we have not put a personal import on completing them. They “aren’t practical.” They are “pipe dreams.” We “are too old for that stuff.” We “have more important things to do.”
This is the saddest and most devastating kind of procrastination possible, because it is an expression of self-contempt and self-hatred. This kind of procrastination leads to real health issues, both in our bodies and in our relationships with others and the world.
Physically, this propensity toward personal procrastination can lead to a lifestyle that encourages energy drain, which feeds the procrastination. Have you ever known that you need to go to bed, but stayed up flipping channels for hours instead? Have you opted for the grand mocha caramel frappe with whip cream or giant soda for an artificial energy boost at eleven, only to be face down on your desk at two in the afternoon? Do you seek out a big cheesy wet burrito over a dairy-free Mexican salad? Or, ironically, do you ever say to yourself that you have no energy to go to the gym or cook a healthy meal for yourself? All of these behaviors that, whether we know it or not, lead to a fatal drop in energy and a rise in procrastination and avoidance.
Procrastination is itself a symptom of an inner conflict. It not only reflects anxiety, but the act itself produces and exacerbates anxiety. Prolonged, chronic anxiety can show itself in many forms like:
- substance abuse
- irritable bowel syndrome
- memory loss
- loss of libido
- headaches and backaches
- muscle wasting
- increased urination and dehydration
- pancreatic stress
- high blood pressure
- early menopause or andropause
- early aging
- gall and kidney stones
- auto-immune disorders
- abusive behavior and suicide
Procrastination can lead to interactive conflicts at work that can affect your job status and your ability to lead effectively. It can also lead to impatience with those who love us most — our children, our parents, our spouses, and our pets. This impatience can manifest in emotional and even physical abuse of those who only ever meant us well.
Procrastination is also a form of fear. What are the consequences of completing the task? Or of not completing the task? On page 46 his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, “What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do (in fact, he suggested that we tattoo the statement to our foreheads).” If upon reading the quote and the previous description of anxiety you felt a sick sense of empathy, annoyance or even anger (all signs of emotional dodging), the following healthy suggestions might be for you.
1) Make what is urgent secondary to what is important. This may sound counterintuitive to avoiding procrastination;, but many times, we spend so much time wringing our hands about hated tasks before us that we never get to do the things for which we have a passion. Vice versa, we worry so much about not pursuing our passion that the everyday tasks that we fall behind the everyday tasks we need to do for personal survival. Allot a fair block of time first in doing that task that is important to your heart’s desire, and then get to your daily tasks.
In his book, The War of Art, — which I highly recommend you inhale once a month — Steven Pressfield makes a compelling case to pay most attention to that which matters most: our personal mission. On page 65, he tells us, “I’m keenly aware of the Principle of Priority, which states, (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first. What’s important is the work. That’s the game I have to suit up for. That’s the field on which I have to leave everything I’ve got.”
“The work” of which he writes is that which drives your passion most. If building card houses is your passion, then build a magnificent card condominium before you get to the bills. If your passion is saving the cheetahs from extinction, do everything you can to save the cheetahs before you vacuum the foyer. You aren’t only building works of art that inspire others to achieve what they thought was impossible, or saving cheetahs; you are saving yourself, your family, and the world. Cleaning the living room can wait.
2) Outsource. You’re a grown-up now. Whoever said you had to do the tasks you hate by yourself? Did you ever hear the saying, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure?” Well, one man’s or woman’s nightmare task is another’s dream job. Really. I know porters who have to wear gas masks while their coworkers nap, lunch, and play cards in refuse rooms. Outsource the jobs you can’t stand, or if you have to do them, at least get help doing them. Either hire a full-time employee or get yourself a freelancer to do odd jobs that you’ve been avoiding. Websites like Elance.com, Taskrabbit.com, GetFriday.com, and CatchFriday.com connect you with thousands of people all over the world just sitting on the edge of their desk chairs waiting for you to hire them. If you can’t afford to hire someone right now, barter. If you hate cold-calling but love to build web sites and apps, find someone who loves happy confrontation but hates to build web sites and apps and exchange services.
3) Eat Organic Whole Foods that Emphasize Healthy Fats and Cut Out Processed Foods. Why? Because contrary to popular belief, healthy fats supported by good proteins and complex carbohydrates feed your brain and energize your body while calming your mind. Healthy fats do this better than simple carbohydrates and actually help you lose unwanted body fat! Also, drink plenty of fresh, filtered water, which will help deliver good nutrients and flush out bad, stress-related junk from your body. With a calmer mind, you can focus on your motivations for your actions as opposed to running around like a chicken with its head cut off. When you know why you are doing what you are doing, you have the tools to get out of your own way.
By healthy fats, I mean organic avocados, nuts, and extra virgin cold-pressed oils like olive and coconut oil over commercial butter, margarine and name-brand heat-treated oils. You don’t have to eat a bag of corn or potato chips for your mid-afternoon snack. Eat some organic raw nuts, agave syrup, and whole raw milk yogurt from grass-fed animals.
There are plenty of options. You don’t need to buy your hot dogs, chicken and beef from the supermarket or superstore because the health food store is miles away. Farmers markets are everywhere now, and you can get to know farmers and food producers right nearby. Go to www.localharvest.org to find the one near you. Also, new online venues like http://www.greenpolkadotbox.com/ http://www.greensburymarket.com/ and http://www.dr-cow.com/make it economical and easy to get the good stuff delivered right to your home or office.
You want your good food prepared and delivered right to you? Healthy entrepreneurs are galvanizing their passions and springing up everywhere. Here are two just in NYC: http://www.sakaralife.com/ and http://happens2b.com/. You have a computer or mobile phone. Do a search! Open your mind!
4) Change your workspace. I mean this literally. If you find yourself starting to panic and bash yourself because you’re not doing what you are supposed to be doing, get up and go someplace where you can think straight. Go to a new café or a park, or a library. If you are able, switch offices or move around the stuff in your workspace to a new configuration. If you break up the monotonous repetition in your life, you are mentally telling yourself that you are not a prisoner of circumstances – that you have choices. You will be able to gather more perspective as to what is possible for you.
5) Move around. Get up and shake your tooshie! Stretch and breathe. Take a 5 or 10-minute walk around the room or the office. If you eat lunch at the same place every day or at your desk, go somewhere new; eat lunch outside, or in the lobby. Jog in place. Make yourself yawn. Yawning stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system – the relax and think portion of your nervous system – which will calm the mind enough so that you can organize your thoughts and actions.
You might as well strengthen your low back muscles while you’re at it. Do your Kegels at regular intervals during the day, but change those intervals and routines every two weeks. Kegel Kat and Daily Workout are two apps for Android that will remind you to do your Kegels during set times. Kegel Kat in particular is hysterical.
Make time 4-5 times a week to keep yourself healthy with regular exercise.
6) Keep your workspace and work time sacred. Let everyone in your life know that this allotted time is your time. Say it out loud, even if it is to yourself. Keep your workspace clean. Arrange it with flowers or paintings, light it with appropriate lighting, play inspiring music or keep it absolutely quiet. Have the window shades open or closed; whatever you need to make the space perfect and sacred for you. However, make sure it is well ventilated and cool (not cold), so you don’t drift off.
Don’t you dare check your emails or social media when you have allotted the time to work for yourself. Turn off your phone, hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, and reverently approach your task the way you know how.
7) Don’t fight the drift. This may sound surprising, but if you feel yourself beginning to drift off, don’t fight it. Take a nap. Don’t drink coffee or have sugary stuff or “energy drinks” to work through it. A ten minute to forty-five minute nap may be just what your body needs to galvanize it for the task at hand. Make sure you know this about yourself and schedule the nap.
Give yourself ample time to sleep and rest mentally. Keep to a set sleep schedule that works for you and give yourself time to sit quietly and breathe (see my post on prayer/meditation).
8) Seek help from people who you trust help you. Many people have lifelines available to them and don’t realize it. Call your daughter, your son, your mother, your friend, a spiritual counselor, a coworker – anyone who loves you and supports your efforts. Get a teacher or business coach to help you complete what you start. Hire a professional organizer to help you unclutter your desk, house, and workspace so you can see things clearly (my personal favorite in the New York area is Matt Baier at http://mattbaier.com/).
Form a MasterMind group of individuals who are trying to achieve their own success and keep each other on point every week. Hang around successful people in your field and go to seminars that will teach you how to do what you need to do. I love this quote from Michael Dell: “Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room.”
9) Take care of your health issues. Health issues, as I indicated before, accumulate with prolonged anxiety. Get your spine adjusted by a good chiropractor so your nervous system can operate at maximum. Get a massage to break up built-up adhesions in your muscles, and go to a physical therapists if your joints need reviving. Go to a holistic dentist regularly. Find a naturopathic physician, an acupuncturist, a homeopath or an ayurvedic physician to assess any chronic concerns, and a holistic medical doctor or osteopathic physician to assess for health concerns that may have progressed to a life-threatening stage. If you need help in these areas, visit www.aquariusnyc.com or www.fitzpatrickspinecenter.com.
10) Be patient with yourself. Procrastination is often habitual, and sometimes it takes time to break old habits. A good hypnotist can help you conquer deep-rooted bad habits, and a good psychologist or support group can help if you have emotional troubles beyond those that your friends and family can help with. Ultimately, it is up to you to nurture yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve the productivity level you wanted at first. Keep at it and be patient. You’ll get there. Just don’t give up.
I would love to hear from you! Please share what you do to conquer procrastination in the comment section below.
Until next time, good health!
Harvard Health Publications
Forbes, Billionares’ Advice for New College Grads
Steven Pressfield Online
The Blog of Tim Ferriss
“To hell with circumstances. I create opportunities.” — Bruce Lee
Guest Post Wednesdays — Will Schwalbe: 9 Tricks for Getting a Table (and Being a VIP) at Hot Restaurants
This was written in 2008, but I just came across it in Tim Ferriss’s blog. Part of my personal mission is to overcome long-standing irrational fear. I’m going to try some, if not all, of these tips — particularly #9 — if only to shut up the “doubter” who lives in the back of my head. Let me know if they work for you!
9 Tricks for Getting a Table (and Being a VIP) at Hot Restaurants — Written by Will Schwalbe
An evening out should be special, especially if it’s an expensive evening.
But too often it’s a disappointment. Does the following scenario sound familiar? After weeks of trying to score a reservation at that new restaurant that just got a great review, you finally get one – only to find yourself waiting until 9pm for the table you were promised at 8pm. When you’re finally seated, you find yourself waiting – for a drink, for your food, for your check, even for your coat.
It might be somewhat tolerable if you looked around and saw that everyone was treated the same, but that’s rarely the case.
There always seems to be at least one table getting the VIP treatment. It’s like a little oasis: The diners aren’t kept waiting; the waiters are particularly attentive; and the chef may even come out to say hello or send over some extra desserts at the end. Who doesn’t want to be treated like that?
I’m not fussy and I’m not high maintenance. I think those are two reasons I stumbled upon the secrets of being treated like a VIP…
For years, I was editor in chief of a publishing house and edited cookbooks by some of the world’s best chefs – so my friends always assumed that’s why I got treated so well. But the truth is – the restaurants where I was treated best never knew what I did for a living. Trust me: If you get pitched books all day, the last thing you want is to be pitched books over dinner.
Here are 9 tips for becoming a VIP who skips lines and gets tables. Test even a few and you’ll almost always get amazing treatment at the very restaurants others can barely get into.
1. Start at the bar. Try having a meal there. Chat with the bartender a bit; introduce yourself to the Maitre d’ and get her or his card. Ask if the owner is around and introduce yourself to her or him.
2. Ask the waiter to ask the chef two questions: First, What does everyone order, and Second, what does almost no one order but the chef thinks everyone should. Then order them both. Chefs want to show off their popular dishes, but often have an item on the menu they are really proud of, and really want people to try. I first did this at The Slanted Door in San Francisco. A cook actually came out to say hello because he thought it was so unusual.
3. Be one of the first customers. If you read local food-blogs, or visit sites like chow.com or zagat.com, you’ll know what’s opening and who’s opening it. If it sounds good, go. Businesses frame their first bucks and treasure their first customers.
4. If you like it, come back for two more meals that very week. I went to a great NYC restaurant called Union Pacific for lunch the week it opened. I loved it and came back for dinner that night, lunch the next day, and dinner later that week. They never forgot me. After Union Pacific became white hot, I could score a reservation any time I wanted – even if I hadn’t been there for months. Even though the restaurant is sadly gone, I’ve kept up with some of the alums – and they now work in some of the city’s best restaurants.
5. Be forgiving. Even VIPs sometimes have to wait, get spilled on, or get the wrong dish. VIPs are often simply people who were good sports when all didn’t go as planned. You don’t have to be a milquetoast – but if the restaurant knows it messed up, you can score major points by not making a big deal about it or using it as an excuse to try to score freebies.
6.compliments to the chef – especially when you are specific about what you like. I know it sounds dorky – but it’s almost always appreciated. If you really love the place, send a note to the chef. Very few people do this.
7. Tip 25% if you like the place and got pretty good service. At very fancy restaurants, tip the Maitre d’ too. If you can’t afford to tip properly, then you can’t afford that restaurant. Go someplace you can afford.
8. Choose the cheapest wine. Or choose a wine you know and like. Or one that intrigues you. Or just ask for help. But don’t choose the second cheapest wine, unless it’s a wine you know and like. (The cheapest is often a good, smart value; the second cheapest is sometimes a sucker’s play – a bad deal put specifically on the wine list for all the people who don’t know wine, don’t want to ask, but don’t want to look cheap by ordering the cheapest).
9. Ask to be treated like a VIP. Okay, I saved the most obvious for last. But it works. There’s a restaurant called Matsuri in New York. I went and loved it. So I called the manager, told her that I was crazy about the place, and would entertain there a lot if I could be pretty sure that I would be nicely looked after. I’ve been treated like a prince there ever since. And I do entertain there whenever I can – both for business meals and with friends. There may be new restaurants cropping up all the time, but Matsuri is still one of NYC’s best and has me for life.
Will Schwalbe is the author of The End of Your Life Book Club (Knopf 2012, Two Roads/UK 2012). He is also the founder and CEO of cookstr.com, a recipe site featuring great recipes from many of the world’s best chefs and cookbook authors. Prior to that, he was SVP and editor in chief of Hyperion Books. He has also worked as a journalist, writing articles and reviews for such publications as The New York Times, the South China Morning Post, Insight for Asian Investors, Ms. Magazine, and Business Traveller Asia. Will is the author with David Shipley of SEND Why People Email So Badly and How to Do it Better (Knopf 2007, 2008). He serves on the boards of governors of the Asian American Writers Workshop, Yale University Press, and the Kingsborough Community College Foundation. He lives in New York.
To be consistent, or to not be consistent. That is the question. Actually, this is the cop-out question.
The answer to the cop-out is: Be consistent in effort but not consistent in method.
What does that mean? It means in order to produce the effects of your dreams you must work consistently toward them. But change your game along the way to suit the challenge.
I am the first to admit that consistency is one of my greatest challenges. But I also know that nothing of worth will ever materialize without consistent effort toward its attainment.
For example: I want to gain muscle. I am in my mid-forties now. I knew all along that after age 30 muscle mass deteriorates quickly. But I had no idea of the reality of that statement until now. My muscle is receding like a coastal waterline just before a tsunami.
Okay. I have been known to be a little hard on myself sometimes. However…
“…NOOOOO,” I say! I need to build my muscles! If I had been consistently working out throughout my adult years, I wouldn’t be in this scrawny position. To the contrary of what I know I should do, I get on a “kick” and go to the gym for six weeks, quit for a year, then go back for six weeks, quit, etc… Suddenly, I went from 21 to 46 years of age. What happened to the last 25 years of potentially consistent workout time? When my patients come in for a visit and say to me, “Damn, Dr. Claire. You need to eat a burger,” I know I’m in trouble.
I have once again completed the 6th week of going to the gym, and I am once again starting to see the results I need. I am also getting that familiar, “ugh; it’s raining out and I have a lot to do,” muttering in the back of my mind.
Let me tell you: the back of my mind has never had good advice for me.
Bottom line: if I am not consistent now, I am going to follow the fate of many who never consistently did what they needed for themselves. I could very easily live the remaining 20, 30, 40, 50 years of my life in constant pain, tottering around with the help of a cane or walker.
What’s more, as a chiropractor, I make my living with my body…so what the %&$* am I thinking? Get to work, lady! Working out is part and parcel with your job!
We all make our living with our bodies. Isn’t sitting in a chair hammering away at a computer using our bodies? Isn’t truck driving, sales calls, tending to bedsides, running behind children and their activities, international travel and meetings, surveying, contracting, cleaning house, sculpting and piloting using our bodies?
I can’t go to the gym, work out a little, skip years, go back and work out a little, and expect results that are lasting. I’m wasting my time not being consistent, and if I am not consistent I’m going to die in pain and suffering and as a burden to my husband and daughter. Nice way to ruin more lives than my own.
The same goes with eating right. Eating right for some reason has never been a problem for me, but for many of my patients, it is a real problem. 85% of people who lose weight gain it back within a year. What do the 15% who keep it off know that 85% of people don’t?
Here’s the answer: once it’s off, you have to develop consistent patterns of eating well in order to keep it off.
The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. According to Marketdata, this year it is up 1.7% to $61 billion dollars.
Let me repeat that. $61 billion dollars (click here for a link to PRweb’s article on the matter).
Why so high? Because 85% of people who want to lose weight are not consistent in habit with keeping the weight off. There are big dollars in stop-and-start weight loss efforts.
The only magic formula to a healthy life is consistency in effort. Once again, I refer back to The Nine Essentials of Health as a guideline for what we should do every day to be healthy.
This is what the skeptics of consistency mean. Your body gets used to a routine and will not change in accordance with your will unless you change your tactics along the way. If you work out using the same weight in the same order for more than two weeks, your body acclimates to the routine and ceases to improve. You “plateau.” Similarly, if you eat the same meals every day, your body acclimates to them and ceases its progress.
This is a universal truth that is applicable to every area of life. The only thing that grows in a stagnate environment are pathogens and parasites. You can apply this adage to your financial situation, the growth of your business, your relationships with others, your relationship with God and spirit, the seasons, artistic efforts, and your body.
What’s more, we need to cultivate growth and change in all areas of our lives. Dan Miller, an excellent business coach, made up a diagram of the different areas we need to cultivate in order to live a full and vital life. He says (and I agree) that we must grow equally in the following areas in order to make a positive impact in our lives and in the world: spiritual, career, financial, social, family, physical, and personal development (click here to download your own copy).
We must all be consistent in our efforts toward our goals, but must not get caught in a set routine. If we do, we become inconsequential. We become insignificant. We become expendable. Nature does not need us anymore, except as food for the living. We stagnate, cripple, die, and make room for more vital people and ideas.
Okay. I am off to the gym. I am on week 7. Hooray for me!
This is the second time I’m writing a post about my love for the folks at Google. They never cease to amaze me with the poignancy of their logo substitutions. This time, I choked down tears for the better part of an hour.
Ms. Brady, a senior now in high school, entered Google’s Doodle 4 Google 2013 contest, the winner of which receives $30,000 college scholarship and a $50,000 technology grant to the student’s school. Not a bad deal at all.
Congratulations, Sabrina. And thank you. Your depiction of your “Best Day Ever (the theme of the contest)” reminds us all that there is a war going on, and that this country has been at war for 12 years now at great personal cost to our families and friends. The media rarely talks about it anymore, and rarely brings home the stunning horror of the Orwellian situation in which this country, through its policies, finds itself.
Your picture of running toward your father is especially touching in that, right before you hug each other, you both take a moment to make the reunion real for yourselves. I am so happy you were able to reunite with your father. While Ryan Germick of Google, in his May 22 2013 blog post, rightly praises your “…creative use of the Google letters to illustrate this heartfelt moment,” I am more breathtaken by the openness in which you shared such a universally personal experience, and the brilliant manner in which you simultaneously invoked the elation of the return with the heartbreak of the time apart.
See? I’m vklempt again!
Thank you, Google; because, even as you frighten me with your monopoleon strategy to corner absolutely every facet of our communications, you manage to keep me human. How very Disney-like of you.