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Your “personal stress detox program”

Your “personal stress detox program”

I have been thinking recently about the importance of taking enough vacation to get a real break from work. Here’s how to use the upcoming vacation season to make a huge impact on the load of stress that you’re almost certainly carrying around.

  1. Make sure that you take a long-enough vacation for the program. You need at least seven days, preferably more if you can manage it. Any less won’t give you the time to make a real impact on your mind or body.
  2. Make a list of what you must leave behind: your laptop, your BlackBerry, your PDA, any paperwork from the office, any work-related reading matter. You must treat those as a recovering alcoholic should treat beer, wines, or spirits: absolutely forbidden!
  3. Give your cellphone to someone whom you can trust to prevent you using it during your vacation, except in the direst emergency. No “checking in” with the office. No telling colleagues they can contact you if they need to.
  4. Make it clear to everyone at work that you’re not contactable. If necessary, tell them that there’s no cellphone signal where you’re going, no Internet links, and no possibility of getting anywhere where electronic communications are available. (Consider the message you give when you resolutely remain in contact during your vacation, or make others check in with you. It says: “I don’t trust you not to mess up, because you’re a moron, you’re incompetent, or you’re such an asshole that you’ll stab me in the back as soon as I walk out the door.”)
  5. Travel these days is very stressful.Try not to travel too far. Make plans that include lots of lay-over time, so you won’t be fretting about making that next flight.
  6. While you’re away, ask that trusted person to answer all phone calls. Never pick up the phone yourself. The rule is no contact from anyone concerned with work, save in a genuine emergency (and I mean genuine, like the office burned down).
  7. Pick a vacation that includes lots of places to go, things to see and do, and fresh experiences to keep you fully engaged. Don’t lie on a beach or hang around the pool. Boredom will send you mind scurrying back to work-related issued and have you imagining all kinds of problems waiting for you. Then you’ll try to find some way of getting in touch.
  8. Stay in the moment. No past. No future. Simply pay attention to what is happening right here and right now. Most of us spend nearly all our time worrying about what’s going to happen, or analyzing what did. You can do nothing to change the past and the future is unknowable. But both can prevent you from enjoying what’s here, right now.
  9. Let go. Let go of worries, fears, hopes, expectations, anxieties. they will still be there when you get back, so try to ignore them for the period of your vacation.
  10. Get plenty of sleep. Most people are chronically sleep-deprived. Make sure you can have 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at might. Maybe throw in a few siestas as well.
  11. Accept how things are. Don’t try to imagine the perfect vacation. Don’t judge it against any preset ideas, or against past vacations, or against other people’s ideas of how it should be. Just accept whatever comes.
  12. Don’t watch TV. None. If you want to watch a film, make sure it’s the kind you get on a special channel, not one on a regular network. Let the world look after itself. No checking up on the stockmarket either.
  13. Reading is fine, but must not include anything even remotely work-related. Try to choose something other than typical pulp fiction. Something to stimulate your mind and challenge your habitual ways of thinking.
  14. Listen to music. Better still, play some music. Sound and rhythm are great healers.
  15. If you find yourself feeling bored and with nothing to do, do something energetic that won’t let you sit and think about work, or about how bored you are. Play some sport. Go for a walk. Swim. Go to the gym.
  16. If you find yourself spending hours just enjoying what you’re doing and thinking about nothing in particular, congratulations. Your program is a success!

Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life, The Creativity Class: a place to discover the best ideas on having the best ideas, and Working Potential, where you’ll learn about great ideas for self-development. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization

    , is now available at all good bookstores.
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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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