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If You Want to Change the World, This is How You Do It

If You Want to Change the World, This is How You Do It

If I told you making your bed every morning was a good way to change the world, would you believe me?

Early summer always seems to produce an influx of inspirational content on the Internet. There are commencement speeches being given at universities all over the world, and the Internet always seems to find the best ones. This one in particular has garnered a lot of attention and for good reason:

Here are the 10 lessons McRaven learned from basic seal training that will help anyone who wants to change the world.

1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

Every morning the seals are required to make their bed to perfection. Why is this important? ”

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and encourage you to do another task, and another, and another.

Though it’s a seemingly small task, it has big implications.

“If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right.”

Plus, if your day sucks, you still come home to a made bed.

2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

In basic seal training, students are broken down into boat crews of seven people. Every day they gather on the beach and are instructed to paddle through the surf zone and then several miles down the coast. Each paddle must be synchronized and exert equal effort or the boat will turn and be thrown back by the eight to ten foot waves of the surf. If you try to make it through life on your own, you’ll never make it. Be grateful for those who help and help others in turn.

3. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not by the size of their flippers.

The best boat crew in McRaven’s class wasn’t the one with the biggest, tallest men. It was a group of diverse men who were no taller tan 5′ 5′. The crew was nicknamed the “Munchkin Crew”. The other students would often make fun of the “teeny tiny” flippers they would put on. However, they always out-paddled, out-ran and out-swam the other boat crews.

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“Nothing matters but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education, not your social status.”

4. If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

Uniform inspection happened often in seal training. Students would put excessive effort into starching their hat, pressing their uniform and shining their belt. However, no matter how much effort they put in, the instructors would find something wrong. If you failed inspection, you had to run fully clothed and submerge yourself in the surf zone. Then you had to run onto the beach and roll around in the sand until you were completely covered. The result was appropriately deemed a “sugar cookie”. You had to stay in that uniform the rest of the day. Many of the students couldn’t accept the fact that no matter how hard they tried, they would fail. They didn’t understand the purpose of the drill.

“You were never going to succeed; you were never going to have a perfect uniform – the instructors weren’t going to allow it. Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or preform, you still end up as a sugar cookie. It’s just the way life is sometimes.”

5. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

There are certain time requirements students are expected to reach in their daily training. If you fail to reach a time requirement, you are invited to “the circus”. The circus was two extra hours of calisthenics designed to break you down and force you to quit. It meant you would be more tired and have less energy the next day to meet the time requirements – meaning another invite to the circus. However, over time, those students who were in the circus got stronger and stronger. The pain built inner strength and physical resiliency.

“Life is filled with circuses. You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.”

6. If you want to change the world, sometimes you have to slide down the obstacles head first.

Twice a week trainees are required to run the obstacle course. The most challenging of the 25 obstacles was the “slide for life”. It was a 30 foot tower at one end and a 10 foot tower at the other. in between was a 200 foot rope. You had to climb the 30 foot tower, grab the rope, swing underneath and pull yourself hand over hand to the other end. The record for the course had stood for years and seemed unbeatable. One day a determined student decided to go down the slide for life head first. Instead of swinging underneath, he bravely mounted the top. It was a risky move. Failure could mean a fall to the ground below and injury. He didn’t let that possibility stop him from trying. Instead of several minutes, it only took half that time. He broke the course record that day.

7. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

One of the required swims the seals had to do was a night swim off the coast of San Clemente. The waters there are filled with all kinds of sharks. Though the students were told no student had been eaten by a shark – that they knew of – they were also taught that if a shark began to circle, to stand their ground. They were not to swim away. If the shark did swim toward them, they had to summon all their strength and punch the shark in the snout, and it would swim away.

8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moments.

Underwater attacks on enemy ships is practiced often in training. You are dropped outside an enemy harbor and required to swim over two miles, under water, using no more than a depth gauge and a compass. During the approaching swim, there is some visibility from light that shines through the water. However, as you approach the ship, all light becomes blocked by it. To be successful, you have to swim under the ship and find the keel. At that point, it becomes so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face and the noise from the ship’s machinery is deafening.

“Under the keel, at that darkest moment of the mission, is a time when you need to be calm. When you must be calm. When you must be composed. When all your tactical skills, your physical power, and your inner strength must be brought to bear.”

9. If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

Hell week is 6 days of no sleep. You are under constant physical and mental harassment. On Wednesday of hell week, they went to the mud flats, an area between San Diego and Tijuana. The mud flats was a swampy patch of terrain where the mud will engulf your whole body. You have to paddle down and spend 15 hours surviving the freezing cold, howling wind and incessant pressure from instructors to quit.

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On this day, as the sun was setting, McRaven’s training class had committed some infraction of the rules and was ordered into the freezing mud up to their necks. They still had eight hours of until the sun came up. Instructors told them if only five men quit – just five – they could get out. It was obvious some students were about to quit. At that time, one of the students started singing with great enthusiasm. One voice turned to two and two into three until everyone was singing. That one voice of song brought hope to the group and a renewed strength to endure.

“If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person. A Washington, a Lincoln, King, Mandela, and even a young girl from Pakistan, Malala. One person can change the world by giving people hope.”

10. If you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

There is a brass bell hanging in the middle of the training compound for everyone to see. If you didn’t want to wake up at five every day, swim in the freezing cold, run for miles, complete the obstacle course or endure any of the hardships of training, all you had to do to quit was ring the bell. It was that easy.

Featured photo credit: Texas Exes YouTube via youtu.be

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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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