Sunday, March 27, 2011

Singularly Focused

Crash, Boom, Screech, WAAAAAAH!, may not be as a typical distraction as background noise. “So did you hear what Sandy did last night? Can you believe she said/did that?”

Things like slow internet, [which can be easily be resolved with Wireless Internet] will stop your speed and raise your ire. Everyday creaks or buzzes, each with their own dire stories, suddenly become very intriguing. All vie for your attention in the same manner. Especially when you are working on a pressing project. Distractions will seemingly come out of the woodwork. Never fear. Whatever is distracting you from your duties at hand may be combated with intention.

Intention can be defined as “to have in mind a purpose or plan, to direct the mind, to aim.” When we have in mind a purpose or plan, it becomes easier to direct our thoughts to fit our ultimate aim. It is very similar to what is called Mental Toughness, though one yoga teacher prefers the term “mental suppleness.”

1. Create your intention.
Find your inspiration, and realize that it comes more from the heart than the head. Once you have created your intention, you take steps to prepare for it. I do a lot of work online, so I know I need a reliable internet connection, so I prepare for it, using Wireless Internet.

2. Use doubt as a tool. Realize that the reality may not match your intention. Bring your focus back to what is going on. Plan for the task, but realize that you are planning for a trip you’ve never been on before.

3. Detach from the outcome.
While it’s important to acknowledge an ultimate goal, it’s important to focus in on the process.

When you are interested in a project, distraction is rarely a problem. Intention can often override interest. When you are performing the tedium, the mundane, distractions are more likely to hijack your attention. Intentions are like momentary goals that will get you through the project.

Distractions and disruptions are inevitable. Accepting the distractions, being thankful for the awareness of them will make it easier to go back to what you were working on.

Realize that not all distractions are bad. A distraction used in the right way can reframe a concept in a way you hadn’t thought of before; taking you down a path you ordinarily might have ignored, a path which might give an insight you wouldn’t have considered, thus guiding you more smoothly to your ultimate goal.

You can eliminate all foreseeable distractions beforehand. For instance, we can combat slow internet by switching to Wireless Internet, among other preparations. But even when you have all of that under control, there is the matter of your own wandering mind. How do you focus? You intentionally bring your mind back after any diversions; as many times as you need to.

c. 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Waiting to Exhale?

I was instructing Mary, one of the ladies I coach at Curves,’ on how to do the yoga pose, “tree.”

“It looks absolutely perfect, but you’re not breathing.” I told her.

After I told her that she needed to take a deep breath all the way in through the nose, and out through the nose [if you breathe out through the mouth, it will dehydrate]; she did it 100% better. She no longer looked like a stone statue, but rather a living, breathing being.

We started to compare notes on anxiety, and I began to wax philosophical, comparing the “tree situation” with life.

As a writer, I depend on my computer, or at the very least, a notebook with paper on which I can record and save my thoughts and ideas. When I imagine what would happen to my writing performance if either of these necessities were taken away. It would most definitely thwart me.

Likewise, my brain needs oxygen to function properly. When the brain is not receiving enough oxygen, it has no choice but to go into panic mode. The primitive reptilian brain, or brain stem, leads the way. It is unable to “upshift” to more cerebral functions, therefore we are always in “attack” mode.

I told her I went through probably 2 decades of my life breathing shallow breaths, and wondered why I was always so anxious. It was because I was “reacting” instead of “reasoning.”

This is a very simple solution to a seemingly more complicated problem, but in my case, it made all the difference in the world.

c. 2011 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Clarifying Expectations


One way to eliminate a great deal of stress at the onset is to make sure expectations are clarified. Your own, and others’.

It sounds silly, because it seems so intuitive. But it goes on everyday. I cannot tell you the many instances I have run into on a daily basis, that would have been made so much more simple, had I asked exactly what was expected of me, or simply told the other person what I expected of them.

When we assume, expectations go un-clarified, and often misread. As a result, everyone gets frustrated. What may seem obvious to you, might not be as clear to those you are communicating with.

I have found that in many instances, people just aren’t measuring up to my projections on them, many of which I just don’t communicate to them. Since they have no way of reading my mind, they are probably not going to grasp what I am expecting of them before I snap at them for being dense, or they snap at me for being ambiguous.

It pays, literally, to make sure all bases are covered in contracts.  I had one potential  client, with whom we were both on different wavelengths in terms of payment. He had even cited one price as an “example” of what I might charge. My price wasn’t too far off from his example. When I quoted him my price, it turned out to be much higher than he could afford to pay. Using the logic, he wouldn’t have quoted such a price, even as an example if he wasn’t prepared to pay it, would have been dead wrong, in this instance.

Especially with group projects, I’ve found that everyone needs a clear, exact vision of what they are to do. Few are going to dig deeper to do extra if they think they don’t have to.

A friend who is taking an evening college course, has told me with angst about a group project that he is working on.

There are several people who aren’t doing anything, which leaves the few of us who are with all the work.

I remembered back to my own group projects. It is true that there were people who didn’t hold up their end, so to speak. But how much of it was because things weren’t clearly defined? When there is a clear plan with individual assignments, it is harder to shirk off duties. It still happens, to be sure. But at least it is easier to point out and harder to dodge.

c. 2011

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Interview with Kristen Ayers

Kristen Ayers
I met Kristen Ayers at our neighborhood Starbucks. To look at her, you wouldn’t think that she has a bit of stress; she is so poised. As a fellow customer so aptly put it, “she is a ray of sunshine.”

As I got to know Kristen, I found that she does indeed have her share of stress. She is a mother of 3-year-old, Taylor. She is also an immigration lawyer. So I was curious about how she led her seemingly stress free life.

To look at you, you don’t look like you have a bit of stress. You always look very relaxed and never frazzled.

I really like everything I’m doing. I like spending time with my daughter. I really like what I do. I like my clients. All of the things that make my life hectic, I really like. You always see me at Starbucks, so I’m relaxing. I do get stressed when I’m at home. When I don’t have anyone to help, I do get stressed.

How do you handle the times you do have stress?

I try to ask for help with Taylor or delegate help and schedule my work.

Stress can be self-created. I often start to feel more stress than is necessary, so when I divert my attention to Taylor, it often helps, so I can refocus when I get back to work.

Taylor is my first priority, so I have people to help that I can call on if something is really pressing at work. Sometimes I can reschedule work for later in the day and that lessens my stress. I also have office staff support for work.

How do you separate work from family?

You hear people talk about balance. I call it juggling. Some days it works; you can switch seamlessly from one thing to another, other days, the juggling doesn’t work.

I haven’t found a magic solution yet to conquer the stress of juggling, but I try to focus on how much I enjoy both my time with Taylor and my work and that seems to help reduce stress. Also, I have a really specific niche, immigration law. I can work in my office or at home or Starbucks or wherever I happen to be. My clients can be anywhere in the world, so I rarely meet with them in person. My work life works because of its flexibility. I’m often not hemmed in by a strict time frame, so I can
do work at my convenience and almost always by telephone or email and on the computer.

I see many women set up work-family juggling or balancing. People wonder if it’s possible to do both. Some women choose to put their children in daycare or hire a nanny and work full time. That works for them. What works for me is having a really flexible work schedule so that I can do both.

My doctor, Kathryn L. Moore, MD, at Columbia Women’s Healthcare, was a mother of two, while still maintaining her practice. So I asked her how she did it. She told me she chose to cut back her hours when her children were young in order to make more time to be at home.

Can you have it all? You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at the same time. You have to find a way to fit both into your schedule. Accommodate your schedule to include both. I decided that owning my own law firm would work best for me because it allows me the flexibility I want to spend time with my daughter. I’m trying to have as much time with Taylor as I can, while also continuing my career on
my own terms.

My advice to parents who have less flexibility in their work schedule is to try to find resources, family or friends who can help or support you during the day. Or help for an hour so you can have some time to yourself, some downtime, time to recharge. But try to leave work at work. Keep things separate.

You have to take bits and pieces of what works for others to find what works for you.

Do you have any techniques for de-stressing?

Finding a relaxing place like Starbucks is a great way to de-stress, so I look forward to that.

And for other techniques and ideas, well, that’s why I read your blog!

c. 2011