Attention + Intention = NO Tension

attention-pleaseInformation overload is distracting everyone. We are all busier than ever and constantly attempting our best to satisfy connections on an escalating level of immediacy. If you are always available to everyone else, when are you truly available to yourself? Does your calendar include space for YOU? If your response to that has anything to do with wishing for an 8th day of the week, then it is clearly time to put the brakes on and give yourself a real break.

We are each allotted 168 hours in a week. Some things are not negotiable. Assuming that work/commute can take up to 60 hours, sleep another 50 hours, general daily life activities are an additional 30 hours and we are still reasonably left with 25 hours. How intentional are you with that time? Does it melt into recovery from the overstimulation of your daily routine or do you designate specific periods to activities you enjoy and feed your soul?

According to Linda Stone, blogger and former Microsoft executive, we pay “continuous partial attention” as we skim furiously, hoping not to miss anything. We multi-task frantically yet the “to-do” list takes on a life of its own, morphing into an out of control, anxiety producing document, further proof of our inability to manage life as we should.

Not so fast with the blame game and impossible comparisons to what we assume other people are accomplishing in the fantasy life we have constructed for them. The turning point for a client was driving away from her favorite coffee shop and not realizing that her special latte had taken a nosedive from the roof of her vehicle miles earlier. She had been more attentive to her cell phone than to her unique AM caffeinated order kick start and more importantly, to her own safety! Together we created a preliminary plan to identify the habits that drove her multi-tasking engine and ways to modify those behaviors.

• Pre-plan your day the night before
• Prioritize. Take on the most challenging task first. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and more energy to attack whatever is next.
• Schedule a break that includes some change of geography; a quick walk, a short phone call to a friend, or enjoying a beverage of choice
• Most importantly, staying in the present focuses your attention on what you are doing NOW through its completion. Remember, multi-tasking can take up to three times longer to finish the same task.


Sleep More, Improve Performance = Worry Less

sleep-deprivedThe brain does not have enough connections to do two complex tasks at the same time, yet we seem to take great pride in referring to how adept we are at multi-tasking. It’s a myth! In fact, not only does it deplete the brain’s resilience, but we actually have less resistance and discipline in the PM hours after a day of multi-tasking. No wonder people often turn to snacking and eating foods they would not choose earlier in the day.

Research has found that women  who tend to multi-task more during the day, use more brain power and need more sleep than their male counterparts. They also feel the effects of sleep loss more acutely. Altering your sleep patterns may reduce anxiety according to researchers at SUNY Binghamton. Of 100 people polled, those who went to bed later and slept for shorter periods had the most severe symptoms of worry and negative thinking.

Everyone knows the sleep warriors, those people who brag about only needing minimal hours in bed, sometimes as few as four. They say that they can accomplish more by rising at 5:00am to hit the ground running and continue at a brisk pace through the day. For the rest of us, six to seven hours of sleep is recommended and of course, eight if possible.

However, sleep plays an important role in our physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

So, who’s right and is there a true debate around what is necessary to maintain good health for everyone? A simple starting point is to check-in with yourself. Do you find that you are exhausted, irritable and anxious? Do you regularly hit the snooze button or take a long time to get going in the morning? Are you feeling sluggish and not fully engaged until mid-morning?

A new routine could be the answer and good sleep hygiene includes consistent behaviors that signal a slowing down at the end of the day. Setting an alarm for a bedtime as well as a wake-up time may be the additional reminder to help you begin a more disciplined approach to sleep.