“A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.” -Chinese proverb
On days we’re filled with dread, or even apathy, we need hope, a little bit of a nudge, maybe some comfort, or a dose of courage, to go conquer the world, if only for a day. Pocket one of these short books to read on your commute, or pop in a book-cd to listen on your drive – for some quiet words of wisdom, or a kick in the pants to help you drive in the direction of your dreams.
These are a few of my favorites that helped me on my journeys. They range from spiritual to self-help, fiction to poetry, in no particular order. See how many of these short books (200 pages or less) you read, and I’d love to know what your favorites are in the comments below.
1. Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Wise, soothing, and graceful. Words that every woman (and man) can relate to, contemplate upon, and learn from. One of my favorites of all time.
2. The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield
For anyone who ever felt a creative crisis, a writer’s block, or struggles to follow a calling, the author helps us see the power of “Resistance” and how to overcome it.
3. Code Name: God, by Mani Bhaumik
This one is 225 pages but I thought it deserved a chance on this list. An autobiographical rags to riches story of a Bengali boy who became a Bel Air millionaire. When he inevitably crashes into a midlife crisis, he goes back to his spiritual roots that were planted during his barefoot days, and ties them with the scientific knowledge he gained over the years. Fascinating read.
4. Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke
Beautifully written in lyrical prose, by Rilke to a young aspiring poet who asks for his insight. Soulful advice that speaks to the aspiring poet (or writers, painters, anyone who feels a calling) in us all.
5. Gandhi the Man, by Eknath Easwaran
This is a spiritual look into the actions and teachings of Gandhi who inspired a nation to act out of nonviolence and love. Eknath Easwaran, who is himself a spiritual seeker, and teacher, provides the perfect voice. Truly inspirational.
6. The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran
A collection of philosophical and spiritual poems about love and marriage, work and worship, joy and sorrow, pain and passion, religion, and self-knowledge, and many other topics. A masterpiece.
7. The Untethered Soul, by Michael A SingerAdvertising
Simply written, yet profound. No esoteric words, or confusing concepts. Just practical spirituality. If you haven’t read it, don’t miss it!
8. One Hundred Days of Solitude, by Jane Dobisz
This may not be for everyone, but I loved Zen teacher Jane Dobisz’s solitary meditation retreat into the woods in Upstate New York, for one hundred days of winter. Sitting, walking, chanting, bowing, chopping, Repeat. It’s warm, funny at times, completely candid, and glowing with zen-gems thrown in now and then.
9. The Stranger, by Albert Camus
This is a strange book to put on this list about an “accidental” murderer who remains detached, disengaged and dispassionate throughout the story as the jailers, judges and lawyers are talking around him. The reason I put it on here is because it makes us think and look at ourselves from an outside perspective. Are we strangers to ourselves?
10. 84 Charing Cross Rd, Helene Hanff
I know – I’m a romantic to put this on the list. It’s a true story – a book of letters in fact – of an American writer’s correspondence with a London bookseller. Not exactly life-changing, but sweet, subtle, and a reminder that we all need a touch of romance in our lives.
11. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
This is Aldous Huxley’s description of a future Utopia, where the inhabitants are programmed to be content, conditioned to a class system, and are offered psychedelic drugs to fight off depression. What could possibly be wrong with this Dystopia? I mean Utopia? A classic science fiction that’s completely relevant even today.
12. How to be an Adult, by David Richo
When you read the definition of an Adult according to David Richo, it makes perfect sense. What’s sad is when we realize that most of us are not adults – yet. This is a short book, but full of wisdom and guidance. You won’t regret reading it.
13. Peace Is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh
We know this already: peace is not somewhere out there; we need to create it within ourselves. In our walk, in our talk, in our every choice. Peace is in every step we take and this little book shows you how, subtly, yet simply. It is written by a peace activist who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Don’t miss it.
14. The One Straw Revolution, by Masanobu Fukuoka
This book is fondly referred to as the “Zen and the Art of Farming”, and even though most of us are not farmers in real life, I’m adding it on this list because of Fukioka’s revolutionary approach to food and farming. It’s not a how-to book, but a thoughtful book, and the gardeners at heart may learn something from it.
15. Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
This is another one of my favorite books ever. It’s truly life changing. Read it in small doses so you can savor the depth of Thoreau’s thoughts.Advertising
16. Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse
This is a novel about a boy named Siddhartha (not the story of the Buddha), set in India. It follows Siddhartha on his journey as a seeker of enlightenment. The ending of the story might come as a surprise, but not unwelcome. An enlightening read.
17. Night, by Elie Wiesel
An autobiographical narration of a Nazi death camp survivor. Heart-breakingly poignant. The author agonizes over a God who can allow such horrors, and yet remains hopeful in humanity – to ask the questions, to act when necessary, and to remember so we will never forget. No happy endings, but important questions for all of us. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
18. Silas Marner, by George Eliot
This is the portrait of a simple weaver who was betrayed and accused of a crime he didn’t commit. He becomes a loner and a recluse, but what’s fascinating to read is the story of how he slowly softens with the arrival of an abandoned child. An old masterpiece, but a touching tale of the human spirit.
19. Meditation and Its Methods, by Swami Vivekananda
This is an introduction to meditation from the famous Swami who brought Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world. This book is born out of a compilation of several writings and speeches, and even though it’s not a manual for meditation, it’s a good read for those of us who want to be inspired. Vivekananda’s voice carries command and common sense.
20. Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom
This is a series of Tuesday conversations – warm, intimate, and sometimes funny – between a dying mentor and his student. And what we get from these conversations is Morrie’s deep wisdom, his faith in life and people, and his dignity even in dying. Morrie touched so many of us with his wisdom, and continues to inspire us to live a life of meaning.
21. Franny and Zooey, by J. D. Salinger
Franny and Zooey are two of the children in the Glass family, an intellectual, neurotic New York family who rail at the world for not behaving reasonably. The brilliance of this book is in Salinger’s fast paced, unpretentious dialogue, even though the dialogue is about an existential, ethical crisis. This book makes us all think about those profound questions of life and living.
22. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This is a portrait of America in the Twenties, an age when excess and greed was a national obsession. Fitzgerald’s writing is brilliant and poetic, and even though the story was set in the Jazz Age, it is just as relevant in today’s world of excess and greed.
23. Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl
Dr. Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived Nazi concentration camps, writes a psychological perspective of the prisoners of Auschwitz. In opposition to Freud’s belief that man’s primary drive is pleasure, Dr Frankl’s theory is that each person thrives to find the meaning of his life, and that’s what keeps him going, especially when hit by a tragedy. This is a must read.
24. The Lorax, by Dr. SeussAdvertising
Can you believe this beloved children’s book was once banned? It’s a story of the devastating consequences of consumption when trees are cut down to satisfy a bottomless pit of greed. Written in the seventies, the Lorax is just as relevant now, in the days of global warming and environmental pollution. Read it to your children, but it’s just as whimsical and inspiring reading it to yourself.
25. The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
Another beloved children’s classic based on friendship between a boy and a tree, not much different than a relationship between a mother and her child. A spiritual reader cannot fail to see the lessons of giving, love, and acceptance. A tender and touching story.
26. Food Rules, by Michael Pollan
A practical “manual” of food rules to help figure out what to eat, what kind of food to eat, and how to eat. A simple, slim volume that includes chapters like “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
27. American Primitive, by Mary Oliver
An exquisite collection of poems that won Mary Oliver a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Wild and primitive, yet tender and transcendental, you’ll feel alive when you read this book of poems.
28. Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach
This is a little story about a lone seagull who loves to fly (instead of eat), but faces ridicule and rejection by the rest of the seagull community for his love of soaring to great heights. There’s a powerful message in it for anyone who wants to give up, to have faith in themselves.
29. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
This is the story of an unlikely friendship between George and Lennie who plan to buy a little land, grow all their food, build a shack of their own, and live happily ever after. But their American dream goes horribly wrong. Their own fears, insecurities and miseries bind them tighter and tighter until the dream shatters and leads to a strangely satisfying ending.
30. 1984, by George Orwell
We all feel it in the air – Big Brother is not too far away. George Orwell’s last novel is a chilling classic and is still entirely relevant even after 1984 has come and gone.
31. The Great Divorce, by C. S. Lewis
A powerful little book that gets to the core of human beliefs and choices. Anyone who reads it will glean many little and large truths about good and evil, heaven and hell, sin and temptation. The writing is eloquent, imaginative and fantastical, in a way only Lewis can write.
32. Thou art that, by Joseph Campbell
This is a sampling of Campbell’s writings which can serve as a short, introductory book to his other weightier works. As always, thoughtful, thought provoking ideas and interpretations of religions and rituals, myths and metaphors are offered from the man who urged us to “follow your bliss.”Advertising
33. Strengths Finder 2.0, by Tom Rath
This is version 2.0 of what used to be Gallup’s Now Discover Your Strengths. I love the premise of this book to find our strengths and pour our attention into making them work for us, rather than trying to improve upon our weaknesses.
34. The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
Profound but practical. Four simple agreements with ourselves: to Be Impeccable With Our Words, to Not Take Anything Personally, to Not Make Assumptions, and to Always Do Our Best. This book really prompts us to take a deeper look at our every thought and word. Powerful advice.
35. Practicing the Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle
This is an extension of the original Power of Now for those who are looking for practical guidance on how to practice the Power of Now. Perfect for carrying in your pocket on your commutes. If you haven’t read the original though, I’d recommend reading that first.
36. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
Imaginative characters, unique settings, endless adventures, lots of lessons for the soul, and a happy ending. What more would we want? No wonder this book became the American fairy tale.
37. Who Moved My Cheese, by Spencer Johnson
This is a simple story with a big message. Change is something we all have to deal with, and yet we are not usually comfortable about it. A little over-dramatized but a quick read. Give it a try, especially if you work in a corporate environment.
38. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki
A collection of talks by Shunryu Suzuki who was one of the original Zen teachers in America. I love the depth and intensity of each sentence in the book. I do have to add this warning though: this is not exactly a beginner’s Zen book (if you’re very new to Zen teachings, you should probably start off with a different book).
39. The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
A whimsical, witty, inter-planetary story of a conversation between a pilot and a prince. While they become friends, we learn lessons of love, truth and friendship. Poignant and tender. It is suitable for children and the child in all of us.
40. Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
This short book gives a great taste of Whitman’s poems. Powerful, profound, panoramic. Even as you’re making your way to your glass buildings you’ll feel the leaves of grass dancing in the wind. An American masterpiece.
Featured photo credit: Saiisha via NestInTheForest.com
Published on January 16, 2019
How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work
We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.
You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.
You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.
That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.
Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:
1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All
Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.
We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.
To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.
At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.
The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.
2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.
The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.
In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.
It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.
It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.
So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:
- Are you a great strategist?
- Are you an effective planner?
- Is Project Management your strength?
- Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
- Are you the ideas person?
- Is Implementation your strength?
Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.
3. Use the Strengths of Your Team
One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.
Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.
Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.
Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.
4. Take Time for Planning
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln
One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.
You can take the time to think about:
- What’s the purpose of the project?
- How Important is it?
- When does it need to be delivered by?
- What is the best result and worst result for this project?
- What are the KPIs?
- What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
- Who is working on this project?
- What is everyone’s responsibilities?
- What tolerances can I add in?
- What are the review stages?
- What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?
Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.
5. Focus on Priorities
Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.
Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.
One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:
- Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
- Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
- Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
- Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).
James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box
The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.
If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.
If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.
6. Take Time Out
To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.
If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.
Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.
In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.
Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.
7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.
I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.
Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.
If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.
8. Stop Multitasking
Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.
So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.
When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.
If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.
9. Work in Blocks of Time
To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.
I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.
Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.
Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.
Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.
Then take another 10-minute break.
Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.
By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.
10. Get Rid of Distractions
Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.
“Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”
Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.
If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.
11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks
You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.
Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.
Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.
12. Take a Time Audit
Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?
Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.
You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:
Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.
Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.
At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.
If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.
13. Protect Your Confidence
It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.
When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.
Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.
When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.
A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.
The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.
If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.
Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com
|||^||Gloria Mark: The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress|