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10 Ways to Reclaim Your Mental Space Amidst a Busy Schedule

10 Ways to Reclaim Your Mental Space Amidst a Busy Schedule

Is today’s landscape of over stimulation (media, smart devices, multitasking, high-stress work environments) making you increasingly anxious? Do you find yourself fleeting through a busy schedule, meeting tight deadlines and being constantly contacted while barely getting the time to be present, enjoy an experience, or live in the moment? You’re not alone. And what’s more—living in such a state of excessive stimulation can leave you mentally fatigued and lower your productivity.

Try these easy tips to find your calm and reset and reclaim your mental space amidst any busy schedule.

1. Start an easy breathing technique.

This simple 4-2-4-2 breathing technique increases focus, energy and promotes relaxation. Inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 2, exhale for a count of 4, hold for 2. Feel the air fill your lungs as you breathe in and feel the air leave your lungs as you exhale. Repeat this 5–10 times and feel your mind and body instantly relax. Do it at least once a day to get your body and mind in a calmer and more focused state of being.

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2. Less is more.

If you’ve got a schedule that doesn’t allow you any wiggle room any day of the week, then you need to do less. Rushing from task to task without  a break can lead to multiple unwanted outcomes. You could start to burn out. Mental fatigue can make you to take longer to complete your tasks, getting even more anxious. As you rush through your activities, you may not complete one or more the way you would like to because you’re moving on to the next. You’re impatient and snappy when that’s not the real you.

So, start to prioritize your tasks and let a few of them go. Perhaps move some to another day. They will always be there for you when you wake up tomorrow. You’ll find yourself being more productive, more efficient, and more content.

3. Reclaim your morning.

If your morning starts with reading the news or checking your email while sipping your first cup of coffee or tea and solving problems on your drive to work, then you might be jolting your body into a state of over-stimulation before it is ready. Ease it in and reclaim your morning. Enjoy your shower. Sip your beverage slowly. Nourish the smell and taste. Take a moment to enjoy your breakfast. Start your work activities only when you’ve moved through your morning space.

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4. Do something fun every day.

We’re generally wired to give 100% attention to something we consider fun to do. Even spending 20–30 minutes on something you enjoy—like gardening, wood carving, cooking, baking or whatever hobby you cherish—can have you unwinding from your day’s stress and training your mind to focus wholly without distractions. Shifting your thoughts to something totally different from what you generally do all day will also help you unwind completely and feel mentally refreshed.

5. Rest your mind with sounds of nature.

Anxiety surmounts when we’re surrounded by a lot of activity and navigating a bustling world every day. You need to get away and clear your mind without having to go on a vacation. If you can get to a park, lake, beach or river, then sit by the water and listen to the sounds and environment. If you can’t, then step back anyway. Put those headphones on and listen to calming sounds like trickling water, waves washing ashore or other sounds. Zone out the world and listen to sounds of nature. Feel your stress melt away as you realize and appreciate nature.

6. Try a few yoga stretches.

Yoga is an age-old proven technique for disciplining mind and body. Many yoga websites offer easy poses with pictures and instructions for a beginner or even the advanced yogi. Try a few simple stretches to start your day with energy of even relaxing stretches to unwind at night. Whatever you fancy, you’ll start to slowly develop a rhythm that will help you clear your mind and enhance your focus.

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7. Connect with friends.

We’re social beings. Human interaction is paramount to our wellbeing. Positive human interaction is comforting, soothing, and even calming. Friends do just that. Step out and meet a friend for coffee or dinner. Listen to them talk and appreciate the safety net of friendship and have a good laugh. Get a good mental reset.

8. Unplug from devices.

We’re always “plugged in” and this is one of the main culprits of over stimulation in today’s culture.

Disconnecting can be hard. Start with ½ a day every week to be unplugged from your phone or computer.  Fill that time with something, or someone, fun. Take a walk or sit at a café and watch people go by. Browse an old bookstore or antique shop. Maybe you’d like a long drive out to the country. Let the time pass without Wi-Fi. Enjoy the space and feel your inner Zen bloom.

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9. Read a book in bed—the old fashioned way.

Good sleep rests your mind and body. Lack of sleep increases anxiety, reduces concentration and interferes with your productivity. When you’re getting ready for bed, your brain triggers the production of Melatonin, a sleep hormone that signals your body to get ready to sleep. Blue light emitted from your tablet or phone can suppress melatonin production. Over time, this leads to disrupted sleep/ wake cycles (circadian rhythm) or a restless night. Try an old fashioned page-turner instead. Keep your room dim and cool. Create a cozy environment to get the best sleep you can so you wake up well rested and alert.

10. Identify your “happy place” reset.

There’s something that makes you happy—a place you loved, a place you long to be or an experience you cherished so much you would love to have it again. Whatever your happy place is, it’s your mental safety net. Think about this once in a while. Take a good 5 minutes at least to visualize your happy place. Imagine yourself there, taking in the sights and sensations. This will reset your thoughts and help guide you to what you really want and what you really enjoy.

Conclusion

Disengaging and anchoring your thoughts to achieve mental well being is a step by step process. Don’t worry about being perfect. You’ll get better at it with practice. As part of the safety briefing on airplanes, they always tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. Your mental well-being is just as important so you can be your best for all that rely on you. Don’t ever give up your mental space.

The whole purpose is to reach a state of happy gratitude and calm, a state that you can control and command at will so you can be well while you’re being productive.

Featured photo credit: Jill Wellington via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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