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When You Start To Read More, These 10 Things Will Happen

When You Start To Read More, These 10 Things Will Happen

I have a confession. I’m an addict.

It’s almost a lifelong thing, really. Since I was a kid. I should be embarrassed… but I’m not.

I should get help… but I won’t.

I’ll just go back to the bookstore. Back to the library. Back to my endless queue of ebooks. Back to my stuffed shelves.

They know me. They love me. I’ve got everything I need here. Why would I stop?

And why wouldn’t you start? When you read more, life expands. Here’s how.

1. You will find a safe way to escape when your own life is depressing, overwhelming, or just boring.

No need to turn to drugs or alcohol. Save your money. Get a library card, or start downloading some of those thousands of ebooks in the public domain. Get wrapped up in a story. Get lost in another world. Get into a character’s head and out of your own.

It’s instant. It’s economical. It’s portable: your own personal escape route when things get to be too much.

And who’s going to look down on you for reading a book? You smart thing, you. I won’t tell them what’s really going on. Promise.

2. You find out that you have a family.

Okay, I know. You have parents and maybe siblings, and maybe a whole slew of aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and whatnot.

Or maybe not.

Maybe you do feel alone in the world, bereft.

Whether you’re a literal orphan or you simply feel like you totally don’t fit into the family you’ve got, becoming an avid reader is a way to find the family you can fit into.

It’s a worldwide, totally open, and really awesome family.

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It’s the family of readers. Book lovers. Literary addicts. Bibliophiles. Become one of us, and you have an extended family that you can find anywhere. There’s a signal, of course, like a secret family handshake. Just pull out that latest book and read it. That’s all it takes.

We’ll see you.

We’ll know.

We’re always nearby, whenever you need us.

3. You will become part of a timeless, global conversation.

Books are the way that the past communicates with us. And books are the way that we communicate across cultures and national boundaries, across social lines and class divisions.

Books let us enter into each other’s lives and worlds in a completely unobtrusive but immersive way.

Yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

Have you ever wanted to be someone else, to go somewhere else, to experience some other life than the one you got?

Books, baby. What are you waiting for?

4. You will learn to talk pretty.

Reading is the most painless way to improve your vocabulary, spelling, and grammatical proficiency.

Did you catch how I just spelled “proficiency” without even looking it up?

Yeah. That comes from reading.

Read more, and you’ll be able to snicker smugly when your friends post status updates with egregious spelling errors. You can correct their misuse of common words. You can be the Grammatical Tyrant you’ve always dreamed of being.

5. You will look forward to lines, layovers, and waiting rooms.

This could be the biggest turning point of your life, actually. Instead of tapping your foot impatiently, huffing and sighing like dyspeptic cow, or otherwise displaying your wrath and frustration in a socially acceptable way, you can simply… read.

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Whatever book you’re currently lost in should be with you, in your pocket or purse. Pull it out and you’ve got entertainment, companionship, and intellectual stimulation. All in one handy portable package.

My friend Leigh says that reading gives her “the ability to be happy anytime, anywhere, even when waiting ridiculously long amounts of time.”

That’s a superpower everybody needs.

6. You will be a nicer person.

You might not care about being a nicer person, but the other people in your life probably do care.

Reading, as my friend Christine put it, “allows me to experience another’s emotions, which in turn makes me more sensitive to those around me.”

And she’s right.

Maybe you’ve never been a victim of racism, abuse, or poverty. Maybe you don’t know what unrequited love feels like. Maybe you find it easier to criticize than to sympathize.

Reading won’t take that away entirely (my Criticize-O-Meter is still in good working order, even after decades as an avid reader) but it will help you to slow down a little bit on the judging.

And speed up a lot on the empathizing.

Because when you live other lives through books, you begin to see the other lives happening in the world around you. The lives you know nothing about.

And you begin to have a little more understanding. A little more interest. A little less “us versus them” and a lot more “we’re all in this together.”

7. You will learn stuff.

Even if all you read is fiction, you can learn quite a lot about cultural influence, relationships, history, fear, human psychology, the various expressions of spirituality, the effects of war, the way robots will definitely take over the world, and how superheroes manage to keep their capes clean.

All very useful information.

Want more? Branch out into non-fiction. Biographies, history, current events. No, just kidding; skip the books on current events. Read history instead; you’ll learn more about current events that way.

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Philosophy. Psychology. How-to books. Memoirs. Science. Exploration. If you’re interested in it, you can find a book about it. Probably you can find an entire section of books about it.

And hey, if you can’t find a book about it, maybe you should write one.

8. You will discover that you were dumber than you knew.

In the time prior to your avid reading addiction (also known as “The Years Which Must Not Be Named”), you thought you had a pretty open mind, didn’t you?

Go ahead, you can admit it. I won’t laugh.

You thought that you knew kind of a lot, and that you had a broad perspective on life, and a pretty accurate view on the world and how things worked.

And then you started reading.

Maybe the first few books weren’t such a big deal. They probably kept you safely in your comfort zone. But then one of the members of your new reading family gave you a recommendation.

“You’ve got to read this,” she said. “It’s so great. Really.”

So you did.

And you realized that something you thought you knew—really knew, truly and certainly—was not right at all. You felt the edges along your mind begin to crack open a little bit.

You felt a little light seeping in and you started seeing the interior of your mind the way it really was: dim, dusty, and crowded with a lot of assumptions.

You kept reading, and the more you read, the more those cracks opened up. One by one, those assumptions slipped and slid out of the cracks. The light grew. The air cleared.

You started populating your mind with different things: images, conversations, perceptions, insights, data. Poetry. Fragments of lives you didn’t live, but somehow experienced through a book. Emotions that didn’t belong to you, but that you felt just as strongly.

Real things, from the real world, instead of that crumbly old stack of assumptions and expectations.

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9. You will be more creative.

As you fill your mind with fresh material from all these books, something wonderful starts happening.

Your mind wakes up.

Creativity is really all about making connections. The creative people in life, the ones we admire for their ingenuity, are the ones who can make those connections really well. They have a broad database of knowledge, and they don’t bother keeping the categories separate. They let poetry seep into science. They let faith and history hang out together.

They understand, in fact, that all those categorizations are imposed. We put labels on things so that we can feel like we understand them, but sometimes the labels are counterproductive.
Reading helps you tear the labels off.

Reading helps you to fill your mind from as many sources as you want, and then let all of that beautiful stuff mingle and mix in anyway it wants.

10. You will become more imaginative and less afraid of being weird.

When you read books that are the product of someone else’s imagination, you start to trust your own imagination, and use it.

What a great idea! Using that brain, in all of its crazy, unnerving, glorious potentiality.

Reading will help you do that. If you feel like your mind is strange, start reading. After a few runs through the world of surrealism or science fiction (or surrealistic science fiction), you will feel like the most normal person in the world. Who are these crazy people who come up with these weird, fantastical ideas?

Of course, you’ll want to read more. So you will. And then your own imagination will start to blend what you’ve read with the real life you’re living, and you’ll add in your own unique collection of information, experience, education, and personality. Who knows what will result?

Don’t you want to find out?

Why don’t you have a book open yet?

Featured photo credit: David Blackwell via flickr.com

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

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.

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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:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. 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

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    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.

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    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.[1]

    “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.

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    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.

    Final Words

    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

    Reference

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