Monthly Archives: March 2016

Spend Time to Boost Energy and Gain Productivity

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

bigrocks2Time – how to maximize and better manage it – is a popular discussion in our workshops, no matter if we’re talking about awareness in Stop & Think or stress in Success With Stress. We all yearn, if not for more time, then more productive time. In a previous post, we discussed time and balance, and how raising our awareness of why we do what we do when we do it can boost the quality of how we spend our time.

But let’s take the discussion further with an additional perspective on time. For me, asking why I do the things I do when I do them revealed new opportunities to insert activities I value into ordinary tasks. Now, for example, I listen to podcasts while getting myself ready each morning. I love this opportunity to learn something new while completing a mundane task. (Right now, I’m absorbed in Seth Godin’s Startup School.)

This simple insertion somehow boosts my energy and contributes to my overall sense of productivity. In fact, in the book, The Happiness Track, author Emma Seppälä argues the real commodity of productivity – not to mention happiness – isn’t time, but rather energy. It’s the simple – but not always easy – practice of ensuring our to-do lists include activities that recharge our energy. Typically, these are the “important” things we too often push aside: undistracted thinking time, exercise, building relationships, self-reflection. Instead, we spend a lot of time addressing “urgent” items that ultimately drain our energy and sap our productivity.

Start your day with a vigorous workout or centering meditation, and the connection between energy and productivity is easy to appreciate. But when managing energy is too abstract a route to greater productivity, a good time management tool can provide something more quantifiable.

I recently learned an old, but still relevant productivity tool, Stephen Covey’s “Big Rock” theory, which essentially says: Put first things first. Schedule first your highest priorities, the important things that make the biggest difference to your success, however you define it. These are your big rocks. In so doing, you’ll have time for the urgent things – the gravel, sand and water that fill in the spaces around the big rocks. See a demo of how this works here.

Looking closely, the two ideas build on each other. Prioritizing our big rocks ensures we accomplish what’s most important, in turn boosting our energy for even greater productivity.


Balance Isn’t About More Time

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.]

timeAs a teacher and speaker on the topic of imbalance, I often hear people express their desires to have more time. Time to do more things – work things, personal things and relaxing things. People are often disappointed when I tell them balance has very little to do with quantity of time and more to do with quality of time.

The quantity perspective is simple math. There are 168 hours in a week. If you sleep eight hours a night, you have about 130 hours each week to spend on work and personal things. Generally, that splits into about 40 hours of work and 90 hours of non-work time each week. The question then becomes: How do you spend this time you have? Or, what’s the quality of your time?

Each of us can find more time in our day if we are willing to examine quality of time. And this requires the skill of awareness, which is our ability to see the world and how we show up in it. As it relates to time, awareness means observing without judgement how we actually spend our time. Just as we might eat empty calories that offer no nutritional value, most of us spend empty time on actions that don’t support our values or move us toward desired outcomes.

Empty time is not be confused with down time, which is intentional and serves to help us unwind and just be. It’s also not flow time, when time seems to stop because we are connected to our passions. Rather, empty time is when there’s no intention or awareness around why we do what we do when we do it.

For example, if you ask me if I watch television, I will tell you I do not. In reality, I spend a couple hours each night watching shows, about 14 hours a week. I don’t identity with spending my time this way, but I do. The same might be true for you, whether it’s television, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Candy Crush, or gossip magazines. We all experience empty time, at least occasionally.

This isn’t to say don’t watch television or disengage from social media. Rather, ask yourself why you do what you do when you do it. Consider if what you do supports your values – or if it’s empty time. Most of the shows I watch are about music, which is something I value, so I understand why I do what I do. At the same, I’m aware of my desire to spend more time watching live music and less time watching it on television. With this awareness, I have more information to make a different choice.

By asking yourself why you spend time the way you do, you can begin to create awareness and seek opportunities to shift your relationship with time. When people act without awareness they tend to feel a lack of time to do things they wish to do. It is through living with awareness that people begin to gain time to spend on things that invite more joy into their lives.

If you seek more time, examine how you spend the time you have and where you can dedicate more time to doing activities that support your values and bring you more joy.

The choice is yours. You can choose how to spend your 168 hours each week.


For Loyalty’s Sake

By Chelsea Elkins, Simple Intentions Marketing Manager

millennialLet me start by saying that I am by no means the voice of the millennial generation.

Let me also say that the word “millennial” deeply irks me (understandably so). I believe that we, as a global community, often get into trouble when we classify every individual from a certain group or demographic as being a certain way. People are just people, after all.

However, my colleagues here at Simple Intentions have repeatedly expressed interest in a post from a “millennial viewpoint,” so I’ll do my best to oblige. Here’s the take of one millennial in this very vast world on the specific topic of loyalty in the workplace.

The “loyalty challenge” came up in the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey. Many employers are facing higher rates of attrition with their millennial employees, and some young workers were polled as having “one foot out the door.”

Though there are many factors unique to the millennial generation that could be contributing to a shorter job life span, I believe the loyalty challenge mostly stems from deeply embedded values that are either not being met or not being communicated.

A lot of “millennial values” in the workplace are things that people of any age typically value (livable income, company integrity, purpose, a place to utilize their skills). The key difference seems to be that (more) millennials are quicker to look for a job change if they feel they are having to sacrifice their values at work. Indeed, one of the biggest values that is continuously threatened for many is work-life balance, and as a result some feel they have to go to extremes to get it back.

This is one big reason why there is more lateral movement among millennials than in past generations. Instead of taking the traditional route of climbing the corporate ladder, millennials are more willing to laterally move or jump to a similar role at a new company, if they feel that culture better aligns with their values.

For the sizable chunk of millennials who have stayed at the same organization since undergrad, climbing to higher roles and becoming leaders in their companies, I would guess that many of them have found (or founded) an organization that is in synch with their core beliefs. They are therefore able to invest in their work each day without feeling that they are violating any part of their being.

In response to the question of loyalty, it seems that, for many millennials, honoring their values is simply the higher priority. Not to mention that loyalty for loyalty’s sake strips much of the integrity from the trait. Though this may be a frustrating explanation for the time and cost associated with employee turnover, I believe this scenario is actually a rare case of positive attrition. If an employee feels they are sacrificing their values day in and day out, it is, from my own experience, very difficult to be productive and successful in that role. Long-term, the company will operate better and be more lucrative when staffed with people who are in synch with the company’s priorities and values.

I’m sure many will continue to shake their heads at the millennial loyalty challenge. In these instances, it may be helpful to imagine a world where everyone works in a place that mirrors and even strengthens their unique set of beliefs and core values. May I be so bold as to say that we might be better off in a place like that.

Personally, I was taught from a young age to live my values and to never compromise that part of myself. And I have taken that to heart – and to the workplace.


Success With Stress Begins With Conversation

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

stressed at workLast week we premiered a revamped version of our program, Success With Stress, a workshop format that helps participants become more aware of the specific stressors in their lives and learn proactive strategies to lessen the level, frequency and duration of negative stress.

Simply stated — and considering most of us are chronically stressed — our primary intention for this program is to open a conversation that helps people manage chronic stress that too often – and too significantly – leads to productivity issues in the workplace and health issues in our lives.

And indeed, this preview event spurred an engaging discussion. Interestingly, we spent as much time discussing the physiology of stress as we did the preventative strategies. People wanted to know: What happens to our bodies, physiologically, when we encounter stress? Importantly, what happens when stress lingers, chronically, in our bodies?

The short answer is: Our stress response is the same, whether from a physical threat or a relentless workload. Our heart rate accelerates and our blood pressure increases among other physiological responses. What’s key is releasing the stress, eliciting our relaxation response, which calms our bodies and returns us to balance.

You can see where this is going. Acute physical threats typically pass, naturally allowing the relaxation response to kick in. Somebody nearly sideswipes you in traffic, but once he passes, you breathe a sigh of relief and drive on. Our workload, on the other hand, may seem forever unrelenting. Who can relax when there’s always more to do?

The question came up during the workshop about how stress impacts our brains. We talked about the links between chronic stress and such diseases as high cholesterol, cancer and obesity. But especially for the high-achieving managers and business owners in the room interested in maintaining their intellectual edge, there was also concern about the impact of chronic stress on our brains.

In fact, emerging research reveals our greatest fear: Chronic stress may be shrinking our brains. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, as well Yale have studied the impact of chronic stress on brain structure. This TED-Ed video, How Stress Affects Your Brain, explains it well. Altogether, the research links chronic stress to:

  • Increased activity in the amygdala, our brain’s fear center
  • Decreased activity in the hippocampus, where learning, memories and stress control take place
  • Decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex, the center of concentration and judgement
  • Decreased brain volume and brain cells

It’s our belief, based on years of client feedback, that chronic stress and its detrimental effects have gone too long unacknowledged and unaddressed, especially in the workplace, where negative stress can impact productivity, engagement and performance. And while there are proven remedies for releasing stress, including exercise and meditation, what’s less often discussed are proactive measures to approach stress and lessen its impact — things like giving up control and saying what we mean. These are foundational strategies to Success With Stress, and we’re excited to relaunch this program and start new conversations about stress at work and in life.