Energy-draining forms of resting

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Yes, you read this correctly. Some activities seem to be helping us to relax but actually drain a lot of our energy because they need a great deal of attention and focus.

For example, using the Internet may seem like fun but as you know it’s a really huge time waster and energy and attention drainer! Funny videos on You Tube may feel like a great way to relax because they make you smile or laugh but it’s a bit like eating chocolate—it works only for a moment and after such a break you actually feel more tired.

The Apple company confirmed in 2016 that their device users unlock their phones 80 times a day on average. This means 6 to 8 times an hour! Sounds unbelievable, right? Make a simple experiment. You can check how much time you waste on your phone by using one of these apps: Checky, Menthal or the recently created AntiSocial. These apps will allow you to see a lot of different interesting information about your phone usage. For instance, AntiSocial will show you if you use your phone or social media more or less when compared with someone who has a similar demographic as you. Researchers advise the use of one of these apps for around 2 weeks to be able to see a more accurate reflection of your real habits.

It is important to be aware how much time we waste on the Internet or on our phone, especially when it’s associated with factors such as low self-esteem, depression, insomnia and, of course, contributes to our delaying or failing to achieve our personal goals.

Many of us say that we have NO TIME. Check the results of your phone, tablet and PC usage and think again – do you really lack time or can you use your time more effectively?

Spending time with SOME people is another activity which looks like a form of resting but may actually drain a lot of your energy. You perhaps don’t feel like meeting some people but at the same time you think you probably should see and speak to them (family friends; a colleague that you see once or twice a year because neither of you feel you should call each other more often; a work colleague that you don’t really like or can’t trust but you feel you should sit with them during lunch time). Meeting people just for the sake of it and having some meaningless conversations can be really energy draining. It is often more about being polite and pretending than being really interested in socialising or what another person wants to tell you.

Try a brisk walk, mindfulness, stretching, or reading a book instead! Did you know that only 6 minutes of reading can decrease your stress level by nearly 70%? 

If you think of different activities during your usual week you may find more things like that. Surely watching TV is one of the examples.

What activities actually make you feel better, more confident, stronger, more optimistic and creative? Think what things make you feel like you have more energy and do them WAY MORE OFTEN!

What about unimportant meaningless stuff—don’t waste your precious time on it. Don’t let others decide what may be good for you. Don’t do things just to satisfy others and just because something may look good. Often no-one will remember and care. You have only one precious life and really, you should live it the way you want to.

 

 

JUST DO IT? WAIT!

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JUST DO IT – the famous phrase from NIKE’s advert has become popular in motivational posts, videos and speeches. Why wait? Stop thinking about it for ages. Stop procrastinating. Just do it! Right? No. Not really. Not always.

Some people tend to dwell too much on prep and planning stages or postpone things too much but taking actions mindlessly just to do something related to their goals is not the smartest move either.

You need to have an action plan; a good, well-thought-out action plan where you write down your goals, particular actions, steps and tasks.

Only 3% of adults actually write their goals down.

This is one of the reasons why over 90% of people fail working on their New Year resolutions by 15th January each year!

There have been a number of studies which indicate that people who write their goals down are 50% more successful in achieving what they plan.

You should always keep the note with your goals with you; for example, in your wallet. Why is it so important? If you keep your goals and action steps in your mind (especially if you have an active lifestyle):

  • you may forget about some of the goals or actions sometimes; an average human being has around 1,500 thoughts per minute – you can’t always ensure that your goals are kept on top of all these thoughts; often there is no energy & time for it
  • you may often feel that there are other more important or urgent things that are written, for example, in your emails
  • you won’t treat your personal goals as seriously as work or college/university-related assignments and projects (a lot of these are given to you in a written form or you are expected to write these things down!)

You need to come up with deadlines so your personal goals matter and are treated as any other, for example work goals. Once you have these important aspects sorted out then yes, take action!

And remember to book some time for reviewing your goals and plans because you will notice quickly what mistakes could be avoided, what works and what doesn’t, and what you can do to improve your working style.

Don’t JUST mindlessly DO IT!

Avoid the 3 Biggest Productivity Traps

  1. CATCHING UP

Working more hours often to catch up with the demands at work, or while working on your personal projects, sometimes ends up as a normal working pattern that lasts weeks or months. Working some extra weekends may be a good solution once in a while. It’s really satisfying to feel we are ahead and everything is nicely organised and ready for Monday morning. However, if you do it for a longer period of time, for example a few weeks, your productivity, attention and energy will decrease enormously. According to studies, working approximately 40 hours a week, is ideal in terms of our productivity. Working more than that is a great recipe for burnout, depression and exhaustion! If that’s what you need right now then keep going! … but I’m sure it’s not.

2. EXTRA ACTIVITIES
Many pieces of advice about productivity come down to one thing: try to squeeze in various productive, healthy and personally beneficial activities into your day, whenever you can. I’ve read tonnes of them by now:

  • if you are on a break you can quickly check and reply to your personal emails
  • read and watch news while eating your breakfast
  • listen to audio books while doing gardening/cleaning your house/looking after children
  • write, read and work while you are on a bus or train
  • use an app to learn a foreign language while waiting in a queue

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Some of the advice may be really good and useful for you as long as you don’t try to squeeze in too much. Otherwise you will end up:

– without any breaks and time for recharging your batteries

– with no opportunities to do something without using many of your cognitive skills, such as walking without occupying your mind with work and foreign language courses. Even cleaning house or gardening can be great opportunities to let your brain rest a bit from hundreds of emails, tasks and queries related to your work and projects.

If you forget about your needs to rest and disconnect you will feel tired more often and become a lot less productive.

3. LOW IMPACT VS HIGH IMPACT TASKS.
Every work has some more and less important tasks. You are probably familiar with the 20/80 Pareto principle, which believe me actually works! And it’s pretty straightforward. It says that:

20% of your input on tasks and effort translates into 80% of results.

Make a list of tasks that you need to do on a regular basis – to make it simple choose a maximum of 10 tasks that you tend to do most often. Then think which 2 tasks from this list give you actually the most meaningful and biggest results.

We often tend to spend a lot of time on things like answering emails and making phone calls – and although these things are important, we usually do them way too often. For example, on average most of us check emails every 15 minutes while studies show that to be most effective and productive you should do it only 3x a day if you do an office job. If you can check and reply to your emails only 2-3 x a week, then that’s even better. Of course, your personal email can be checked daily but hopefully you don’t use it as well as a work email.

If you are writing a book your high impact task will be writing and then maybe editing or researching your materials. Plan ahead to do your high-impact tasks when you have most energy, for example, 2-3 hours every morning. Try to do everything to avoid interruptions then. Maybe you can get up earlier, switch your mobile to airplane mode and let others know that this is a very important time for you when you need to work and can deal with their questions and requests later? Whatever you do try not to skip the planning stage which is crucial.

Science & happiness: Does having children make us happy?

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Do you think that having children can increase our happiness or subjective well-being as scientists like to call it?

According to science having children who are up to 5 years old or teenagers makes us actually LESS HAPPY! However, children can make our life more meaningful and what’s interesting (in spite of all the stress and worries), parents live on average longer!

One of the reasons for the drop in happiness levels is that many people who have children feel less happy because they believe that if they were only more organised or could improve their work-life balance they would be better parents. They feel that this is an individual problem but nowadays it’s a bigger social issue particularly in developed countries where people seem to work longer hours and take work home.

In 2016 The Independent indicated that according to studies in the USA parents report they are 12% unhappier than non-parents. In the UK the number is slightly smaller as of 8% parents feel less happy. For Poland, the result was nearly a 5% drop in happiness level compared to non-parents. There are however a few countries where people feel happier when they have children, for example, in France, Norway, Spain or Portugal.

Researchers looked at differences between the countries to try to find out why in some countries parents are happier than in others and they found that government policies or lack of them, and less support from the government contribute a great deal to the increased cost, stress and anxiety felt, for example, by American or British parents.

It was estimated “that a middle-income American family is likely to spend $234,900 to raise a child to age 17.” If the teenager then decides to go to college, that figure may even double.

What makes parents happier in other countries? For example, in Norway or France there are more supportive family policies. In Spain and Portugal extended family networks seem to be very helpful in taking care of children.

I must say as a person who is about to start maternity leave in the UK, I feel happy but at the same time quite anxious about the lack of sufficient support for parents.

How does it look in the UK then?

  • for most women (depending on if and where they work)– very low maternity leave pay (around £500 a month) that is given only for 9 months (then you can have 3 months of unpaid maternity leave if you like)
  • only 2 weeks of paternal leave (for fathers)
  • unpaid parental leave (4 weeks a year, max. 18 weeks in total)
  • in many companies unpaid sick leave/careers days
  • no support from government in terms of childcare until the child is 2 years old
  • although the country is regarded as a developed one, in some companies taking sick leave by women during pregnancy is perceived negatively by employers because some believe that (although we assume that we all know that every pregnancy is different) “pregnancy is not a disease” and women should “get on with it!”

To compare it with Poland, mothers there receive:

  • 12 months paid maternity leave
  • 500 zlotych per month per child for parents who have more than 1 child (imagine that you live e.g. in the USA and receive $500 for every child except the first one on a monthly basis and this doesn’t depend on your earnings at all)
  • paid sick leave during pregnancy

Are you a parent or planning to become one? Are you satisfied with the support given by your government in your country?

 

 

Busier than ever before

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Some people say that being busy is an illusion and it is just a matter of choices and priorities. What do you think about it? I agree only partly with that.

People with fewer responsibilities have more choice with regard to arranging their activities, and thus it’s easier for them to find time for things that matter to them. But there are also working parents or single, working parents who study and these are probably the most extreme examples where the lack of time is a real struggle.

Studies show that on average a working parent has only around 2 hours a day for himself or herself. Due to lack of energy this time is often used for watching TV or using Internet.

“Every day we get 24 hours to live our lives in a meaningful way. But once you account for all the obligations each of us has, there really isn’t much time left; a paltry two and a half hours for most of us, to be exact.”

(The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey)

It’s impossible to compare or judge everyone in the same way—everyone has a different lifestyle and circumstances but my point is that being busy is not always only a matter of priorities. My priority is my family and work but even so I don’t think that personal development is just a luxury. It is something of a necessity to keep one sane and happy and maintain or improve one’s well-being—and what’s most important, it doesn’t need to be very time-consuming.

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I have the impression that every year I’m getting busier than the year before. It started a few years ago when I was doing my first degree (psychology) and I needed to work. Fair enough—that’s manageable. My psychology degree was distance learning but I missed the traditional (full-time) way of studying.

That’s way after a year I also enrolled for a business-related degree, this time full-time. I was doing both degrees while working in a medical centre as a receptionist and stop-smoking advisor. Most of the time I had to do full-time but I was given flexible hours which was super helpful. In my spare time I took part in different projects, wrote articles and helped organise events in my city. All these tasks kept me busy.

Then my husband and I decided that we’d like to start a family and while pregnant I was finishing the full-time degree, doing another one and working. I switched to part-time work but still, I felt really active and busy.

The real challenge to carry on with my interests and personal growth came when my daughter Nathalia arrived in this world 4 years ago. I didn’t sleep much for the first few months but soon I had to continue to study my distance-learning degree, and after the maternity leave I had to go back to full-time work as well. That was a very difficult time for me. I’ve managed to complete both degrees while working, looking after Nathalia and occasionally getting involved in some research, events or projects, but it was a real challenge. This was the time when I started to divert my attention more to articles and books related to work-life balance because that’s where I started to struggle. I learned a great deal and managed to improve my situation, especially when the degrees were done!

My hobbies are time-consuming so I’ve often felt that I struggle to find time for it. I started to familiarise myself with the topics of productivity and time-management.

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This New Year will be even more challenging than my previous years, I guess, because we’ll welcome our second baby to this world! I can’t even imagine how much my life will change but I know that maternity leave isn’t a straightforward period in a woman’s life especially with two small children. I know that I’ll be in a ‘zombie mode’ a lot, without being able to sleep and think straight sometimes. I know that I’ll have a lot on my plate and will need to take a break from kind of … everything if possible for a while.

On the other hand, I know that after some time, if I organise myself well and create a good routine, I will be able to manage my life well. I believe that having a family doesn’t have to stop us doing something for our personal development, such as reading, for example. Personal growth doesn’t need to take a lot of your time and it doesn’t mean that you need to start a new course or a degree.

Looks like 2018 will be full of joy (BABY!) but also big challenges (see previous blog posts about personal development project for 2018).

I’ll probably feel busier than ever before again but, well, I know I can try to manage this in different ways.

How busy do you feel on average? 

How do you find time for your passions & personal growth?