Chair Chat: Lesson Learned?

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From the desk of Jackie Sheffer, WBC Chair

About 4 years ago a came up with what I call my life boxes, Family, Building my Business, Sharks and Running. I created these boxes to help me say no to things that were not important to me if they did not fit in one of my boxes. Creating the boxes felt like a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders, this exercise allowed me to remove myself from activities that were causing me stress.

Over the past several years I have revisited my boxes annually to write out goals and have felt pretty strong in some of my boxes. Sharks are in my philanthropy box.  My heart belongs to both Sharks and Girls. I have been volunteering with a running group for girls and with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.  Running is in my health box. I started running again and have my personal trainer scheduled on my calendar 3 times per week. I do not cancel my time with her, the time may move from a Monday to a Tuesday, but I see her 3 times per week.  Work is always front and center, family, who are they?

I feel that my work box is about to explode and my family box is empty. The first thing that may pop into one’s mind is a work-life balance. I believe in work-life integration and feel I need to take a step back and see where I am spending my time. Over the past weekend, I made a list of all the activities I do outside of my family box, along with the amount of time spent participating in these activities. I then made a spreadsheet of my 4 boxes and listed the activities in the box they represent.

Activities that do not fit in a box will have to go, I will then prioritize the remaining activities in their respective boxes, this may also require letting go of less critical activities.

More important I will review my boxes monthly to assist in maintaining a healthy level of activity in each box.  Going forward I will work on taking the following steps when deciding whether to take on a new activity:

  • Thank you for asking, can I get back to you tomorrow?
  • Which box does this activity fit in?
  • Where does this activity fit in the list of priorities currently within that box?
  • How much time will this new activity take?
  • Send a Thank you but No response as soon as possible.

I am not sure what I am afraid of when it comes to saying no? I believe that it is an honor when someone asks me to participate. Don’t I want to give it my all? Saying no today does not mean I have to say no tomorrow when the time is right and the yes fits into one of my life boxes.

 

Spring Cleaning for a Hectic Life

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It’s Spring already. Well, this year escalated quickly.

They say time moves faster the older we get, but maybe it’s just life that moves faster. We all get so busy with work, school, family and other commitments that days become a blur, we’re exhausted and left wondering; “How did this happen?”. Again.

Everyone has had the experience of trying to do too much at once. While women haven’t cornered the market on over-achieving we do seem to be the gender who’ve turned it into an Olympic sport.

But as we begin our annual Spring cleaning rituals, purging our homes of the inevitable disarray that magically occurs when the thermostat drops, why not do the same for our lives?

It feels harder than organizing the family junk drawer, but we all have time-sucking life-clutter that we can afford to ditch.

Unfulfilling Relationships

Every human connection we have constitutes a relationship of some sort. Friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers and fellow volunteers all represent people to whom we’ve made commitments. But how many of them are meaningful? How many do we do we truly enjoy?

A Cornell study, found that out of 2,000 people surveyed, 66% stated that they had one or two people with whom they had discussed “important matters” in the last 6 months.  On average, participants had 2.03 confidantes. We need these friends. Friendships can actually keep us healthier. But at a certain point we need to step back and consider what’s real, and which ones are we hanging onto like an old pair of pants that we swear we’ll wear again someday.

The harsh truth is, some of our relationships may be bringing us down. Unhappy friends can decrease our happiness by 7%. That doesn’t mean we should  bail on the friends who are going through a tough time or the friends struggling with depression or other health issues. Support during hardship is a critical role of a friend. This is about those perpetually unhappy friends. The ones who are never satisfied and always have something to complain about.

We all know someone, an old friend or a coworker that we’ve been propping up. There’s a time where we have to stop taking responsibility for people that we like or want to like or used  to like. When it comes to relationships sometimes sucking it up is easy. It’s harder, but healthier, to be objective about real value added. When we release these relationships from our lives we free ourselves up to spend time on things we actually enjoy, or to put more time in into the relationships that really matter.

Reducing Obligations

Even with a few less friends in our lives, we may still have a calendar full of obligations. Show of hands, how many of us have said “yes” to doing something we knew we didn’t really have time for? It’s OK, put your hand down. It happens to all of us.  

“Can you bake cupcakes for the bake sale?”
“Can you squeeze in that report by Friday?”
“Can you work the 50/50 raffle this Weekend?

“Sure, I can do that”

We all agree to do things we don’t want to for various reasons. Feeling guilty for saying “no”. Feeling like we should be able to make time for what is being asked. Feeling like declining a request is somehow admitting failure or ineptitude. We all have triggers that lead us us to over-committing.

There are great reasons in life to say “yes”, like learning, love and adventure. We should say “yes” to the opportunities that come into our lives that will lead to enrichment and new experiences.

But should we say “yes” every time we’re asked for something?

No.

We have a right, even an obligation, to set personal limits and boundaries on our time and energies. You can’t possibly give your best to anything when you’re giving a little of yourself to everything. Especially when you’re giving none of it to yourself.

So look at your day, week, month and find something that you’re dreading. Something you could live without. Even if you can’t wriggle out of it this time, use that task as your “red flag” of sorts. What kind of commitment is it? Why is it stressing you out?

Identify those characteristics so you can spot the next one when it comes along. Amp up your positive self-talk, remind yourself you have nothing to prove and if necessary, practice saying a polite, “no’” in the mirror.  This spring, throw out a compulsive need to please along with the space heater that stopped working in January.

Shaking Bad Habits.

Believe it or not, saying “yes” too much is a bad habit. But there are others that are sapping our time. In fact anything we’ve gotten “used to” that is undercutting our efficiency is bad habit.

These take on all shapes and sizes and can affect our health and happiness. Things like not getting enough sleep, skipping exercise and convenience based diets that offer little nutritional value all constitute bad habits that can leave you run down.

We also tend to have an unhealthy attachment to our electronic devices that could use a little pruning. A Neilsen Study reported that US adults spend over 10 hours a day looking screens, between phones, computers, televisions and similar technology.

Think about that. That’s 41% of your day. If you deduct 8 hours for sleep that goes up to 62%. Then factor in that the average US commute time is 25.4 minutes. That means another one of our few, non-device dedicated, hours is spent looking through a windshield.

Even if you don’t believe you’re one of the worst offenders, think about that friend who couldn’t stop texting or checking their email during your last brunch? Side note, see unfulfilling relationships.

Just by consciously reducing your screen time by 15% it would put 90 minutes back in your day. What would you do with an extra hour and a half? Take a walk? Read? Catch up with a real friend? Make some healthy plan-ahead lunches? SLEEP!?

We could all benefit from fewer Top 10 lists, Facebook updates, Netflix shows… pick your poison.

It seems like being tuned in to all things, all the time, has become a social imperative. But a digital disconnect may be in order. Try saying “no” to being reachable at all times or being caught up on the latest TV show that everyone is talking about. Really, it’s all just more clutter that needs to go along with the chairs in the basement your great aunt gave you when you moved in five years ago.

person-looking-searching-cleanThere’s no time like Spring to unburden yourself of things you no longer need. With the reemergence of the sun and the color green we all find ourselves a little inspired to seek a “fresh start”. This year, make yours more about your life than your closets. Try throwing out your draining relationships, unpleasant obligations and bad habits. You don’t need them and nothing feels quite as good as getting rid of old junk. And OK, clean out your closets too.