We live in times of unprecedented busyness. The demands and pace of work and life are at an all-time high, and they don't appear to be slowing down. Whether our loads are self-imposed or put on us by others, most of us are doing our best to squeeze it all in-and we're starting to burst at the seams.
In Ease, author and certified coach Eileen Chadnick offers a prescription for these busy times with a toolkit of hundreds of tips and strategies to bring more ease into your work and life. The strategies-tried and tested through Chadnick's personal experience with herself and her clients-draw from the wisdom of neuroscience, emotional intelligence, positive psychology, leadership, and coaching.
In Ease, Chadnick divides the tools into three areas of focus to leverage the mind-brain connection, empower mindful thinking strategies, and highlight the positivity advantage.
Ease is about more than just getting things done; it seeks to help you alleviate overwhelm, reconnect with your work-life mojo, and experience greater personal and professional well-being.
"Rooted in science, research, and common sense, Ease is a powerful and thoughtful book to help us all manage our frenetic lives. Best of all, it reads like you're in the room, one-on-one, with coaching pro Eileen Chadnick. And I can tell you from personal experience, that's a wonderful place to be."
-Terry Fallis, award-winning author of The Best Laid Plans and cofounder of Thornley Fallis Communications
"Eileen has done us busy people an enormous service with Ease. It is quite one thing to know what the neuroscience and positive psychology research says about dealing with times of 'crazy busy,' but quite another to apply the strategies to our own lives. Eileen bridges both and lays out a smorgasbord of solid ideas that are easy to grasp and to customize to one's own needs."
-Linda J. Page, PhD, president of Adler International and coauthor of Coaching with the Brain in Mind
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Read an Excerpt
MANAGE OVERWHELM IN TIMES OF "CRAZY BUSY"
By EILEEN CHADNICK
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2013 Eileen Chadnick
All rights reserved.
Get to office for early morning meeting. Check the fifty-four emails that came in since last night. Book flight for business trip next week. Finish proposal. Complete performance-review notes. Talk to colleague about key deliverables due today. Attend strategic-planning session. Prepare analysis. Pick up dry-cleaning. Get kids to soccer game. Buy flowers and card for anniversary. Start research on residences for Mom. Call Realtor. Prep for tomorrow's work. Review notes for volunteer board meeting. Buy dog food, and call vet. Bring car in for tune-up. Schedule vet appointment ... !@!#
Ever Feel like Life Is a Blur?
Do you ever find yourself asking, "Where did the day go? Where did the week go? Where did the years go?" Do you look at the stuff you have to do and ask, "How the heck will I get all this done? How will I survive this week, month, year? Where did all the fun go?"
Do you sometimes feel bogged down and overwhelmed by it all?
I do. We live in times of unprecedented busyness. The demands and pace of work and life are at an all-time high, and they don't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Work is frenetic. Change is constant. And life is as well. We are juggling it all: careers, families, volunteer and personal pursuits, and more!
Of course, the busy factor is not all imposed on us. We choose much of what's on our plate. If you are like me, you want to work hard, produce, and contribute. You want your life to include family, friends, meaningful pursuits, hobbies, volunteering, and learning. You want it all. Why, oh, why can't we have a nine-day week to fit it all in?
Whether our loads are self-imposed or put on us, many of us are doing our best to squeeze it all in, and we're starting to burst at the seams.
I wrote this book because I found myself feeling overwhelmed more oft en than I'd like, and I noticed that far too many others felt this way as well. While many of my clients come to me for different agendas related to their careers, lives, or leadership development, all too oft en, the theme of feeling overwhelmed comes up. Many people struggle with the following thoughts: How will I get this done? The pace is just gett ing unbearable. I have no time. I'm exhausted—and more.
I'm not referring to laggards or people who can't cope—quite the opposite, in fact. They (and I) are successful and accomplished professionals who are gett ing things done, stretching and adapting to ever-increasing change—but at a cost. In times of sustained "crazy busy," the feeling of overload has become an equal-opportunity issue for leaders and others alike. It's taking a toll on far too many of us.
In March 2012, I had an opportunity to suggest a theme for a webinar I was to present to members of the accountancy profession in Canada. Hosted by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA), now called Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA), the opportunity was to focus on either a personal or professional development issue. I suggested the topic "Bogged Down with Too Much to Do? Tips and Strategies for Handling It." The timing was just before the cusp of tax season, so I didn't know if tax professionals would take an hour out of their day to listen to what they might consider a soft topic. However, more than 3,500 people registered for the presentation! Afterwards, I received scores of emails acknowledging the value of the tips and asking me for more. This response affirmed to me that the issue of overwhelm was becoming even more salient than I had imagined.
Are Times of "Crazy Busy" Now the New Normal?
We used to have seasons that were busier than others. Today, it seems every day is the season of rush. We might not notice this, because we hunker down and focus on the demands of the day. Perhaps you are doing much of what you set out to do. But underneath the surface of high performance, perhaps you are noticing a few signs of wear and tear on your personal and professional well-being. The damage might be subtle—like a small crack in veneer.
Do you recognize this in your own life? Ask yourself these questions:
Do you catch yourself feeling more bogged down than inspired or energized? Do you find yourself saying you will catch your breath once this one last project is complete, but then, no sooner than the project (or particular life challenge) ends, you are on to the next one and once again hope for that day when you'll catch your breath? Have you accidentally missed any appointments lately? Or woken up and suddenly realized you had a meeting scheduled that day, but because you forgot, you were not prepared? How's your reservoir of creativity, resourcefulness, and energy? Feeling a bit depleted? What about sleep? Are you having trouble getting enough sleep? Staying asleep? Getting quality sleep? And how's that affecting your work? Your mood? Your sense of well-being?
Perhaps it's time for something different.
When I owned up to the fact that I had been working and living with what I refer to as "overwhelm static" in my life for too long, I knew I needed to change something. I didn't want to disengage from the activities of my life; I have goals, plans, and dreams, and I want to work hard and live full out. But I also knew I wanted to feel more at peace and energized on a more sustained and consistent basis. I wanted to work hard but with fewer struggles.
I wanted to feel more ease in my life. And I have had many clients who have expressed this same desire.
Interestingly, the definition of ease is to remove what burdens us.
To free from something that pains, disquiets, or burdens
To take away or lessen, alleviate
To give freedom or relief (as from pain or discomfort)
Life isn't going to slow down; the pressures will likely continue. So we have to adapt. Realistically, it wouldn't be possible to simply remove all sources of burden, but we can learn new ways to engage with them and with ourselves to create more ease.
But I want more than that—more than simply removing burden. Our brains, bodies, and spirits need to work towards something, not just away from something. I want to up the ante on well-being.
The state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous
How to work and live with more ease and experience greater well-being—that's what this book is all about.
The heart of this book is a toolkit filled with strategies and ideas to navigate the demands of work and life with more ease and well-being.
Like you, I live a fluid, dynamic life and recognize there is always room for improvement. In looking closely at my own habits, I found many strengths that were helping me, but I also discovered gaps that were like leaks in my own well-being bucket. I bet this is the same for many of you. I see this with my clients. We do a lot right, but some of our habits (or non-habits) can become a critical source of drain on energy, resilience, and potential to be fulfilled. From my experiences in my life and with clients, I compiled a volume of strategies and ideas that I refer to as tools.
None of the ideas I offer are difficult or complex. In fact, some are embarrassingly simple and might be reminders of what you already know. Yet despite their simplicity, they work.
The rationale behind most of the ideas (i.e., tools) I present draws from an army of expertise from the fields of positive psychology, neuroscience, leadership, emotional intelligence, coaching, and more. Some are my own, and some come from others. All have been tried and tested in the field and also in my own "kitchen"—with myself and hundreds of clients over the years.
I would have liked to write a book that promised three easy steps to wipe out overwhelm—it would have sold millions! But I know better. This business of overwhelm is multifaceted and personal to each individual. This book does not offer a prescribed system. Each individual is unique and most likely will need to tap into different areas for his or her own situation. So rather than a prescription, I provided a toolkit—a repository of ideas and tips that can be customized into your own personal wellbeing plan.
Here's what you'll find in this book:
Deconstructing Overwhelm: The first thing we are going to do is get our arms around understanding overwhelm from a mind-brain perspective. Many of the strategies (i.e., tools) are designed around current understanding related to the mind-brain connection. I'm sure you've heard the expression "It's all in your mind." Well, this is quite right. But that doesn't mean it's in your imagination and not real to you. Our brains and minds are powerful forces, and we need to better understand them so that we can intentionally work with them rather than against them if we are to experience more ease, success, and fulfilment. Despite the simplicity of the tools presented, there is a backbone of some neuroscience, some mindfulness, and both emotional and positive intelligence supporting the ideas.
Toolkit: The toolkit is designed around a few major themes, and together, these themes round out a holistic approach to working and living with more ease and experiencing well-being during times of "crazy busy." The three main themes include the following:
Mind Full? Organize and Focus with the Brain in Mind
Mindful: Develop Conscious and Empowering Mindsets
Mood Matters: Hone the Positivity Advantage
Being mindful is essential to working with more ease and experiencing greater success and well-being. The opposite—having an overly distracted or excessively full mind—can lead to a first-class ticket to feeling frazzled and overwhelmed. Our starting focus in the toolkit will be to help you manage the volume of stuff on your plate (and in your head!) so as to avoid that trap.
Next we'll move on to developing more empowering thinking strategies. Being mindful is no longer the exclusive domain of Buddhists. Anyone who wants to be on his or her best game needs to make the mind a friend, not a foe. In this section, we will dive into strategies to develop conscious mindsets that can create powerful shift s in how we engage with ourselves and the challenges present in work and life. Small shift s in perspective can powerfully boost our capacity to get things done—and with more resilience, optimism, and creativity. This mindset is not only about being more effective; these mindful approaches are also brain-friendly ways to manage the biological responses that occur with stress and reap the rewards of more conscious, reflective mindsets.
In the last part of the toolkit, we will focus on developing positivity habits. Once upon a time, it was a guilty pleasure to pursue happiness and fulfilment. Now there is a bounty of research affirming how important positivity is for our mental, emotional, and physical well-being and our ability to flourish at work and in life, especially in times of challenge. We'll explore some of the essential habits that come from fields of emotional intelligence and positive psychology. These tools are easy to do and offer powerful results.
Along the way, you will meet some people in the "Stories at a Glance" sections. In some of the stories, the individuals and issues represent aggregates of clients or people I know; in other cases, the stories come from a particular individual. In most cases, I have changed their names to protect their identities. I've also shared many of my own personal stories too—even a few embarrassing ones!
The parts of this book are intentionally not assembled. The game plan is to give you ideas that you can choose from to meet your personal needs. In the last section of this book, I will offer you additional exercises and further guidance to help you create a customized approach that works for you. You can draw on the ideas that resonate with you to design your own personal well-being plan.
If you identify with any or all of the points above, then welcome aboard. And get in line—right beside me. Remember, I'm with you on this journey of taming overwhelm and living with more ease and well-being.CHAPTER 2
Overwhelm erodes our well-being—our ability to flourish personally, professionally, and organizationally. Running too long on overload can derail even the most successful among us. It is also important to recognize that overwhelm angst is an equal-opportunity player and, increasingly, a reality for all, including leaders and high performers. People who set their sights high and engage fully in work and life are prime candidates, as they take on increasing loads with equally high expectations for handling it all.
Is this mind over matter, or is something else going on? Naysayers (or perhaps even your own internal voice of judgment) might say, "This is all in your head. Get over it!" Well, in reference to this feeling being in your head, you might be right—at least partially. There certainly is a mind-brain-overwhelm connection. But can we say it's not real if it's in our head? I don't think so. The feelings of overwhelm are not imagined, nor are the consequences. In fact, something very real is going on.
It is helpful to understand the experience of overwhelm from a brain and mind perspective. The last decade has seen a groundswell of research revealing a much greater understanding of how our brains operate and influence our abilities for thinking, feeling, responding to and managing stress, and so much more. Advancements in fields such as neuroscience, emotional intelligence, leadership, and positive psychology have opened up the doors to a significantly greater grasp of what the necessary conditions are for flourishing and, on the flip side, the derailers that impede us. It's a complex world out there, and survival of the fittest now means we need robust emotional, mental, and physical fitness to successfully navigate the challenges of work and life.
The mind-brain connection is central to all of this. Let's look at a couple key concepts related to our brains so that we can set the foundation for the ideas and strategies introduced in the toolbox.
Your Brain: The Original Model
When we consider the evolution of our brains, there's good news and bad news. First, the good news: in the last decade or so, research has revealed that our brains have a lot more plasticity than we once thought possible. This means that our brains can adapt and create new neuropaths (connections) that can be helpful in developing new habits and ways of thinking and feeling. This is fantastic news for anyone wanting to learn new ways to cope with challenging work and life demands and to feel more positive about his or her life. It's because of this plasticity and the ability to change the brain (with new habits) that many of the tools you'll read about in the toolbox have proven their worth. The unfortunate news is that despite the brain's ability to adapt, we are still working with the original-model brain that our ancestors had, which served well in the days of hunting-and-gathering society.
This means you are working with a brain operating system 1.0. Unlike your last computer purchase, our brain's essential operating systems have not changed since the beginning of time. In the days when we had to hunt for food, we had to contend with constant life-threatening risks, such as lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!). Our brains were—and still are—wired to scan for and protect us against those threats. The amygdala, part of the brain in the limbic system, is primed to detect any hint of danger and protect us by instantaneously preparing us for fight or flight. This is our fast brain, and the reaction it incurs is known as the stress response. Our amygdala reacts immediately and catalyzes critical biological reactions, such as the release of cortisol and adrenaline, to enable us to run, fight, and survive. The operative word here is react.
In contrast, in our modern-day and knowledge-based economy, most people spend their work days thinking and relating with people, ideas, and information. These tasks are different from hunting. While we still need the good work of the amygdala to protect us in the face of danger, most perceived threats of the day (toxic bosses, unreasonable workloads, busy lives at home) don't compare with sabre-toothed cats. But our brains don't know or care about that —that is, unless we get our higher-thinking brain wired up.
Meet your higher-thinking brain. In simplistic terms, the prefrontal cortex drives much of our higher-thinking brain functions. This is the part of the brain that helps us with tasks such as problem solving, analyzing, prioritizing, distinguishing, and reflecting. Unfortunately, this part of our brain works best when there are no threats—or, rather, no perceived threats. When we perceive risk, we send an alert signal to the fast brain (amygdala), which quickly shift s gears and gets priority over anything else. When the amygdala is fired up, it tends to suppress the prefrontal cortex (higher-thinking brain). An interesting metaphor is to picture yourself trying to think about something that requires concentration while a fire alarm is blasting.
Excerpted from EASE by EILEEN CHADNICK. Copyright © 2013 Eileen Chadnick. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsPart I: Managing with Ease in Times of "Crazy Busy",
Chapter 1: Introduction, 3,
Chapter 2: Deconstructing Overwhelm, 11,
Part II: Toolkit,
Chapter 3: Welcome to Your Toolkit: Operating Manual, 23,
Chapter 4: Mind Full? Organize and Focus with the Brain in Mind, 25,
Chapter 5: Mindful: Develop Conscious and Empowering Mindsets, 57,
Chapter 6: Mood Matters: Hone the Positivity Advantage, 87,
Part III: What's Next?,
Chapter 7: Parts Not Assembled: Build Your Well-Being Plan, 113,
About the Author, 133,