Anger Is Often Pointless

Buddha on Anger (Dhammapada)

Anger is often nothing more than an intense emotion caused by an apparent injustice. The destructive outcomes of anger are well known. When even a slight annoyance arises, it is capable of growing quickly and overwhelming your state of mind.

Anger results in (1) a loss of perspective and judgement, (2) impulsive and irrational behavior that is destructive to both yourself and others, and (3) loss of face, compassion, and social credibility.

Anger is often pointless, as the following Buddhist parable will illustrate.

Often, there’s no one to blame

Once upon a time, a farmer was paddling his boat upstream to deliver his produce to a distant village. It was a sultry day, so he was covered in sweat. He was in a great hurry to reach the village market.

Further on upstream, the farmer spotted another boat rapidly moving downstream toward his vessel. It looked as though this boat was going to hit him. In response, he paddled feverishly to move out of the way, but it didn’t seem to help. He yelled, “Hey, watch out!” The other boat seemed to approach him swiftly. The farmer shouted, “Hey, you’re going to hit me! Adjust your direction.” He got no response and continued to yell in vain.

As a last resort, the farmer stood up angrily waving his arms and shaking his fist. The other boat smashed right into him. He was hopping mad and cried out, “You imbecile! How could you hit my boat in the middle of this wide river? Couldn’t you hear me asking you to get out of my way? What is wrong with you?”

Then, all of a sudden, the farmer realized that the boat was empty; it had perhaps cut loose of its moorings and floated downstream with the current. He calmed down and realized that there was no one to blame but an empty boat and the river. His anger was purposeless.

Anger depletes energy and leads to loss of perspective and judgement

When you lose your inner peace, you expect that your anger can help you get even with the offending person or amend the vexing circumstances. However, responding with anger is illogical. The offending deed has already occurred, a fact your anger fails to negate. Also, your anger cannot thwart or diminish the perceived wrong.

In the New Testament, Ephesians 4:26–27 advise, “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

How to Free Yourself from Anger

Free yourself from anger

There is no benefit to anger at all. All anger can beget is negative energy, which can aggravate an already volatile situation. Anger can also impede sound judgement and inhibit your ability to consider the negative consequences of your abrupt reactions.

The next time you’re angry, consider the following response:

  • Stop. Don’t respond immediately. Walk away from the situation that has instigated your anger.
  • Breathe deeply. Become fully aware of your state of mind. Assess what’s going on.
  • Calm down and compose yourself. Invoke mindfulness to appeal to your wisdom. Anger and other emotional arousals often stem from a lack of self-awareness or mindlessness, and can simmer down if you just wait long enough.
  • Consider the matter from other points of view. Ask if there could be other possible explanations for what happened.
  • Identify the reasons for your anger by asking three questions: (1) “Is this matter serious enough to get worked up about?” (2) “Is my anger necessary and warranted?” (3) “Will getting angry make a difference?”
  • Reflect about what response will be most effective. Try to develop a wise and measured course of action.

Idea for Impact: A low-anger life is a happier life

Patience is the definitive antidote to anger and aggression. With patience, you may not always be able to eliminate anger, but you can usually control it. Patience can build and fortify your intellectual and psychological resources.

As Proverbs 19:11 tells in the Hebrew Bible, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” Ultimately, developing greater patience enhances your romantic, personal, professional, and casual relationships—as well as that all-important relationship: the one you have with yourself.

Book Summary of Pico Iyer’s “The Art of Stillness”

The Practice of Stillness

Escape from the Mayhem

Our everyday lives are so busy. Our days are so full. Our world is so noisy.

We fill our lives with activities. We are at the mercy of our commitments. We have an incessant need to be occupied. We hasten. We seek to do something—anything.

Often, our identities are defined by mere ‘doing,’ not ‘being.’ Many of us struggle to find a few minutes to just sit quietly and clear our heads. We cannot afford some space to think and just be. We hardly ever pause to contemplate our experiences or reflect on the life we’ve been missing in a world overwhelmed by distractions.

Distractions disrupt our peace. The French scientist and Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in Pensees, “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries” and added that “the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.”

To counter all of our exhilarating movement, we must balance it with an escape. We need space and stillness. When we remain still, we are struck by the realization that our noisy outer world is nothing but a reflection of our cluttered inner world.

Stillness: “Clarity and Sanity and the Joys that Endure”

Celebrated globetrotter and travel writer Pico Iyer’s “The Art of Stillness,” an expansion of his TED talk, is an inspiring analysis of the need to escape the persistent distractibility of the mundane. Iyer makes a persuasive argument for the startling pleasures of “sitting still as a way of falling in love with the world and everything in it.”

Pico Iyer and his family lives in a modest home in the countryside near Kyoto without internet, television, mobile phones, or even cars.

The book’s promo includes excerpts from Iyer’s talk:

We all know that in our undermined lives, one of the things most undermined is ourselves. Many of us have the sensation that we are standing about two inches away from a huge canvass. It’s noisy. It’s crowded. And it’s changing every second. And that screen is our lives. It’s only by stepping back and holding still, that we can begin to see what the canvass means.

One of the first things you learn when you travel is that nowhere is magical unless you can bring the right eyes to it. I find that the best way I could develop more attentive and more appreciative eyes was, oddly to go nowhere … just by sitting still.

In the age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still.

The Importance of Taking a Timeout From Busyness

Subtitled “Adventures in Going Nowhere,” Iyer’s insightful 64-page book provides several examples of stillness in practice. Iyer gives us glimpses into the lives of a privileged few who have found peace.

For example, legendary singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen discovered the supreme seduction of a monastic life. In 1994, after constant indulgence as an incessant traveler and international heartthrob, Cohen moved to the Mt. Baldy Zen Center in California, embarked on five years of seclusion, served as an aide to the now-107-year-old Japanese Zen teacher Kyozan Joshu Sasaki, and got ordained as a Zen Buddhist monk.

Leonard Cohen, Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen had come to this Old World redoubt to make a life—an art—out of stillness. And he was working on simplifying himself as fiercely as he might on the verses of one of his songs, which he spends more than ten years polishing to perfection. The week I was visiting, he was essentially spending seven days and nights in a bare meditation hall, sitting stock-still. … Sitting still, he said with unexpected passion, was “the real deep entertainment” he had found in his sixty-one years on the planet. “Real profound and voluptuous and delicious entertainment. The real feast that is available within this activity.” … “This seems to me the most luxurious and sumptuous response to the emptiness of my own existence.”

Typically lofty and pitiless words; living on such close terms with silence clearly hadn’t diminished his gift for golden sentences. But the words carried weight when coming from one who seemed to have tasted all the pleasures that the world has to offer.

Sitting still with his aged Japanese friend, sipping Courvoisier, and listening to the crickets deep into the night, was the closest he’d come to finding lasting happiness, the kind that doesn’t change even when life throws up one of its regular challenges and disruptions.

Going nowhere, as Cohen described it, was the grand adventure that makes sense of everywhere else.

From the Mayhem of Thought & Action to The Stillness of Being

Iyer contends that the best place to visit in these frenzied, over-connected times is nowhere:

'The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere' by Pico Iyer (ISBN 1476784728) At some point, all the horizontal trips in the world stop compensating for the need to go deep, into somewhere challenging and unexpected; movement makes most sense when grounded in stillness. In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing could feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.

Going nowhere … isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply.

It’s only by taking myself away from clutter and distraction that I can begin to hear something out of earshot and recall that listening is much more invigorating than giving voice to all the thoughts and prejudices that anyway keep me company twenty-four hours a day. And it’s only by going nowhere—by sitting still or letting my mind relax—that I find that the thoughts that come to me unbidden are far fresher and more imaginative than the ones I consciously seek out.

Iyer’s “The Art of Stillness” isn’t a self-help manual and doesn’t give specific, actionable advice on how to achieve stillness. Quiet reflection and mindfulness meditation could move one’s mind in the direction of uplifting tranquility and natural stillness.

Idea for Impact: Occasionally, Try to Not Do Anything and Just Be

Take a break from your day to reflect, to recharge and to reassess. Take a vacation from your accelerated life. Just be with yourself, genuinely center, and quiet the mind.

You can achieve this centered state and contemplate when your exterior is noiseless. Then, during those still and silent moments you can come to terms with your experiences and struggles, your hopes and despairs, your ideas and judgments, your fears and fantasies.

Feed the Right Wolf: An American Indian Parable on Cultivating the Right Attitudes

The two wolves inside us

A traditional American Indian story features a young Cherokee boy who once became annoyed that another boy had done him some injustice. After returning home, the young boy expressed his frustration to his grandfather.

The old Cherokee chief said to his grandson, “I too, at times, have felt a great hatred for those who have taken so much with no sorrow for what they do.

“Hatred wears you down, and hatred does not hurt your enemy. Hatred is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these emotions many times.

“It’s as though a fight is continuously going on inside me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

“One wolf is good and does no harm. He is filled with joy, humility, and kindness. He lives in harmony with everyone around and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so and in the right way.

“The other wolf is full of anger, envy, regret, greed, and self-pity. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone all the time and for no reason. When blinded by his anger and hatred, he does not have a sound mind. It is helpless anger, because his anger will change nothing.

“It is hard to live with these two wolves inside me. These two wolves are constantly fighting to control my spirit.

“Young man, the same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person on this earth.”

The grandson thought about it for a moment and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win inside you, grandpa?”

The old Cherokee chief smiled and replied, “The one I feed.”

Dear readers, which wolf inside are you feeding?

The Right attitudes beget the right attitudes.

The World’s Shortest Course on Time Management

There are countless things you can do.

There are numerous things you want to do.

There are several things others expect you to do.

There are many things you think you are supposed to do.

However, there are only a few things that you must do. Focus on those and avoid the rest.

In depth: Take my three-part course on time management—time logging, time analysis, and time budgeting. See also my 10-minute “Dash” technique to overcome procrastination.

When Work Becomes Alibi: Turtle Workaholics

Work as Alibi: Turtle Workaholics

Workaholics are often thought of as people who put in long hours out of necessity (“it’s the tax season” or “got to make the moolah”), because they are obviously inefficient, because they are suckers (“can’t say no to the boss” or “he knows when to stop, but doesn’t“), or because they are passionate and ambitions (“he is a prisoner of his own success.”) Less acknowledged are those workaholics who, under the guise of having a demanding job, seek refuge from persistent problems in their personal lives.

“Turtle workaholics” submit to work as a distraction from unhappy relationships and unresolved conflicts with spouses or children or to dodge substantial responsibilities at home. The coherence imposed at work makes it easier for them to concentrate on getting tangible results and feel more appreciated than they do at home.

Not surprisingly, many turtle workaholics cannot bring themselves to tackle the conflicts with their spouses or children even if they tend to be very competent in tackling professional problems. They would rather neglect the possibility that their close relationships might be falling apart than mend their unfulfilled personal lives.

If you have an inclination to prefer work as means for escapism from conflict and boredom, examine your reasons. Not confronting conflicts is no solution.

Stressed, Lonely, or Depressed? Could a Pet Help?

Pets and physical responses to stress

Getting a pet may be just what a doctor might order to help overcome stress, loneliness, and depression.

For reasons not completely understood, we need animals as much as they need us.

  • Scientific studies have confirmed anecdotal evidence that pets can play a role in taming physical responses to stress. Blood pressure is shown to drop sharply when people merely rub a cat or a dog. The presence of a loved pet can have a calming influence on blood pressure and heart rate, especially when performing a task that might induce physical and mental stress. Even watching fish in an aquarium can reduce anxiety in dental patients waiting for oral surgeries.
  • Pets can be great buffers against everyday stress, thereby improving long-term physical and mental health. After a hard day at work, playing with a pet can be an effective way of unwinding and reducing stress. Around the world, more delighted frenzies are welcoming people at the end of their hard days at work. An estimated 63% of American, 43% of British, 20% of Japanese, and 60% of Australian households have pets. The proportion of households with pets is growing in India, China, and other developing countries as the burgeoning middle-classes have greater disposable incomes.

Pets and children

  • Pets can be a great source of nurturance for children. Pets can provide children with many formative experiences in caring for others, including, possibly, the first glimpse of death and the chance to cope with the loss of a loved one.
  • Pet and companionship Pets are non-judgmental and accept their owners without qualification. They provide unconditional love and companionship. Having dogs encourages their owners to get out often, exercise, and meet more people. One study showed that people in wheelchairs got much friendlier responses in public places when they brought along their dogs.
  • Pet ownership can be a gratifying surrogate for human companionship, especially for people with limited social support systems. People with pets cope better with the impacts of adverse life events. At nursing homes, visiting therapy dogs lift the spirits of elders who tend to be sad or withdrawn.
  • The mere presence of somebody—even a pet—that one can care about can bring about a sense of purpose and great joy. [Look at this touching chronicle of an 87-year old grandmother in Japan and her beloved cat.]

Idea for Impact: Consider adopting a pet

Plenty of cats and dogs at humane shelters may die if not adopted. Choose a pet that fits your lifestyle. Understand that owning a pet is not for everyone; pets involve additional responsibility, which can be added-on stress. If your circumstances do not allow you to own a pet, offer to walk a friend’s dog regularly, babysit a vacationer’s cats, or volunteer at an animal shelter, clinic, or pet store.

You Don’t Have to Be Chained to Your Desk to Succeed at Work

The 40-hour workweek is a bygone. The workday is longer, the pace of work is faster, and most projects tend to be open-ended. A successful corporate career now demands a high-level of performance for sustained periods. At what cost, though?

The “Activity is Productivity” Fallacy

Regrettably, companies still tend to measure an employee’s commitment by how many hours he is willing to put in. In the absence of a meaningful yardstick for the productivity of knowledge workers, companies continue to cling to the outdated equation that time worked equals output, a residue from the mindsets of the Industrial Age. Late nights and shorter weekends have become implied signs of employee loyalty.

Companies strive to get more from their “right-sized” staffs and have come to depend on cadres of hard-working professionals. Therefore, companies look upon employees willing to put in long hours as assets. They bestow swift promotions and pay big bucks to employees who are willing to take on demanding assignments, be available around the clock, and forego a healthy separation between work and personal time.

The unspoken imperative is that employees have to work longer hours to get ahead, and defiant employees who wish for a balanced life may hurt their careers.

Long work hours just do not help

Our Society Endorses Overwork

As a society, we respect overwork. We praise hardworking, career-driven individuals, even if they have lost their sense of work-life balance. Canadian psychologist Barbara Killinger asserts in her book, “Workaholics: The Respectable Addicts,” that workaholism is now talked about as a virtue.

Overwork has become a social problem in many countries. Surveys have revealed that Americans put in more hours of work each year than employees in other countries put and do not use a fourth of their allotted vacation. Working mothers take shorter maternity leaves than they used to. Entrepreneurs sacrifice way too much for relatively modest payoffs.

In Japan, overwork has led to some of the highest rates of work-related deaths and suicides in the developed world. This social problem is rooted in the samurai culture that judged the allegiance and personal fortitude of its warriors by their willingness to work long hours and sacrifice self-interests. In the 1960s, the Japanese even coined the term karoshi to describe death by overwork. Currently, the Japanese government is considering regulating work hours.

Chinese employers have recently faced a spate of suicides and ill health caused by overwork and deteriorating employee welfare. Most newsworthy of these episodes is the deaths of many migrant workers at a factory that contract-manufactures iPods and iPhones for Apple. The Mandarin term guolaosi refers to the destructive consequences of this intense work ethic.

Long Work Hours Just Don’t Help

The all-work, no-play mentality is serving neither employees nor their employers.

Employees spend fewer hours at home, preoccupy their minds with work even when they are at home, ignore the emotional needs of their families, and ultimately strain their relationships with loved ones. Overworked employees suffer from a lack of sleep. Their unceasing fatigue debilitates their immune systems and results in serious health problems. Often, they resort to excessive smoking or alcohol and substance abuse, develop poor eating habits, and ignore physical fitness.

Long hours and lesser vacations are not good for the bottom line of companies either. Longer hours do not add up to better work.

Overwork weighs down on organizational effectiveness in terms of productivity loss, inaccuracies, poor relationships at work, and plummeting employee engagement. Employers also face increased medical costs from the decline in the physical and emotional health of their employees.

Please Stop Working So Hard

Please Stop Working So Hard!

Look, there is nothing wrong with working hard and having a passion for what you do. I agree that putting in the extra effort, undertaking challenging projects, and pursuing career growth are all very gratifying. Nevertheless, do not ignore the needs of the other aspects of your life. Here are seven suggestions that can help you work hard, but not indulge in overwork.

  1. Pace yourself. Do not think of your job as an endurance contest. As a knowledge worker, for the most part, you are paid for your intellectual work. Ingenuity and creative aptitude tend to spring in intense bursts. Therefore, your capacity for intellectual work drops dramatically when you are weary and stressed-out. Plan your day on how much you target to achieve before you can take a break and rest.
  2. Understand and cling to the critical path. Recognize the big picture of everything you work on from the customer’s perspective. Then, concentrate on the essentials. Remember, there are several things you can do, many things people want you to do, but only a few that you must do. Focus on what you must do, not what you can. Prioritize relentlessly.
  3. If you are struggling with managing your time, follow my simple, three-step process (time logging, time analysis, time budgeting) to discover how you tend to spend time currently and how you could focus on the things that matter the most. Remember, effective time management is truly about managing priorities, not about managing time.
  4. Stay on top of your tasks. Identify areas of inefficiency. Ask for help, delegate, outsource, or invest in tools and technologies that can help you achieve more in less time.
  5. Limit the amount of time you spend in meetings. Screen the agenda of each meeting for items that can be resolved by e-mail or delegation or a prior meeting.
  6. Learn to set limits on your workweek. Don’t take your time for granted. Reflect on what you would truly like to achieve and make the right work-life choices. No one can make the choices for you. Remember that the true yardstick of your performance assessment is not the number of hours you put in, but your accomplishment in these hours.
  7. Set aside personal time. Plan and use your vacation time meaningfully. Have the discipline to leave your laptop, blackberry, and other electronic devices behind. Disconnect from work and enjoy your time with loved ones.

The Right Choices for a Successful Career & a Balanced Life

Work as many hours as you think you need to achieve your goals, realize your aspirations and be happy. Do not overwork and let your career progression become an obsession.

The Nature of Worry

The nature and lifecycle of worry

Have you ever realized that most of your anticipated misfortunes never occur, that some of life’s difficult scenarios never come to pass, or that most of your worrying is ultimately fruitless and life goes on?

Below, I present a simple exercise to help you discover the lifecycle of worry. I encourage you to sit down at a quiet place, somewhere you can relax and reflect. If necessary, fetch yourself a journal, special notebook, or a piece of scratch paper.

Mindfulness Exercise

Consider a recent upheaval or stressful event. Go back in time and experience that moment for a minute. How do you feel? What preoccupies your mind?

Under the direct influence of your anguish, your mind is bewildered. You feel disoriented. Your mind is filled with apprehension. Bearing the burden of this stress, you cannot take your mind off the imagined ramifications. The wounds of your sorrow seem incurable.

Now, fast forward to a few days following the stressful event. What do you experience now? Your troubles no longer hold a grip on your life as before. You feel released from that moment’s immediate affliction. As you reflect the situation’s progress, you feel amazed by how your feelings have changed. What happened to the irreparable hardship?

Storms of Distress

Responses to distress are within your power Allow another interval of time to elapse. How do your feelings compare now? The original despair is diminished further. The event feels formless; your apprehensions are no longer recognizable. You may even find humor in your past misfortune.

A few days later, you are surprised by how easily these storms of distress passed. You wonder how these depressing emotions could have possessed you. The events are not undone and the external circumstances remain unchanged. What has changed is your mind’s condition?

Idea for Impact: “This too shall pass”

“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.”
Benjamin Franklin

It is your mind that relates external circumstances to your internal being. Joy and sorrow, hopes and despairs, elation and desolation, pleasures and annoyances are nothing but outcomes of your sensibility. Outside forces are challenging to conquer—our control over the exterior world is narrow, and merely illusory. However, the evolution of your thoughts and feelings and your responses to distressing situations are within your power.

The next time you experience a hardship—a conflict, a distressing situation, or annoyance, recall what happened with your prior hardships. Recognize that everything happening in your external environment is but impermanent. Say to yourself, “This too shall pass.”

Anxious or stressed out? Try deep breathing for instant relief

Anxiety and stress are the body and mind’s natural responses to anything that jeopardizes your sense of balance. Your nervous system releases cortisol, adrenaline and other stress hormones that make your heart beat faster, tense up muscles, rise blood pressure, and sharpen the senses to respond to physical or symbolic threats. Your breath becomes faster and shallower.

Deep diaphragmatic breathing: An obvious antidote to stress and anxiety

Deep diaphragmatic breathing for instant relief from anxiety and stress When you feel nervous, frazzled, overwhelmed or worried about something, try the following exercise:

  1. Sit quietly in a comfortable posture with your back straight.
  2. Release the tension in your face, jaw, neck, and shoulders.
  3. Softly close your eyes. Smile and relax. Breathe through your nose.
  4. Examine the inflow and outflow of air through your nostrils.
  5. Make a conscious effort to slow down the pace of your breath.
  6. Deepen your breathing by inhaling and exhaling more air. As you breathe deep into your lungs, flex your diaphragm, expand your belly, and feel the sensation of air filling up your lungs. Do not flex by flexing your chest. Exhale slowly.
  7. Repeat the inhale-slowly-exhale-slowly cycle five times.
  8. Reflect on how your mind is now more composed, stable and clear. Gently open your eyes.

Simple and powerful relaxation technique

Deep breathing from the diaphragm is easy to learn. It’s a technique you can practice anywhere, anytime to quickly get your anxiety in check.

Research has shown that deep breathing gets more oxygen into the brain and exercises the parts of the brain responsible for concentration and regulation of emotion. The brain regulates the release of stress hormones and reverses the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Your heart rate slows down and your muscles relax. Consequently, you can calm yourself down.

Self-Assessment Quiz and Recommended Reading

10 Smart Things You Can Do in 10 Minutes

1. Clear the clutter around you

Manage clutter Disorder and clutter are the primary sources of the feeling of not being on “top of things.” Messy workspaces can quickly get out of hand and drag you down. Conquer clutter by processing each paper or object at your desk by asking, “Why is this here?” Consider throwing things away; ask, “What is the worst that could happen if I dispose of this?” Organize, simplify, and setup an environment that works for you.

2. Stretch at your desk or brisk walk

Interrupt your deskbound lifestyle by practicing a few exercises right at your desk, walking up a few flights by stairs, or brisk walking around your office block. Simple workouts can revive your energy, prevent afternoon slumps, help you think more clearly, and help control anxiety.

3. Get caught-up on your email and remain caught-up

Given the pervasiveness of email in our lives, regulating email, remaining responsive and productive about email are critical soft-skills for any knowledge worker. Empty your inbox everyday by using following productivity guru Merlin Mann’s ‘Process to Zero’ and ‘Inbox Zero’ techniques. Systematize your email habits by deleting, archiving, responding or delegating every email in your inbox.

4. Embark on a “10-Minute Dash” to conquer procrastination

Fight Procrastination Not finishing what you have started can be a source of stress and anxiety. Pick a task that you have been putting off, turn on your favorite music, sip your favorite beverage, and work on that task for just ten minutes without any interruption. You will probably find that the seemingly difficult task gets easier once you start working on it. This “10-minute dash” technique can build momentum, get you into the “flow,” and motivate you to work and complete the task.

5. Write a “thank-you” note

In today’s fast-paced world, it is easy to forget to repay kindness with gratitude. Thank-you notes not only help people feel appreciated for things they do to for you, but can also motivate them to do more for you in the future (this secondary reason should not be the key motivation for your attitude of gratitude.) When writing a thank-you note, mention what the other person did for you, how it was relevant, and how much you appreciate their help.

6. Tend to your network

Tending to your professional and social network is not as time-consuming as you might expect. Invest ten minutes each day to email or ring a friend or two, perhaps even to say a quick hello. Cultivate and maintain a strong network. Remember people’s birthdays and anniversaries and reach out to them on their special days. Avoid contacting people only when you need something from them.

7. Update your résumé or your list of achievements

Most professionals tend to procrastinate on keeping their résumés updated. Do not expect to pull your résumé together when you need one and expect it to work efficiently. Spend ten minutes updating your résumé by adding details from your latest projects and assignments. Try to review each section and question yourself, “Is this section relevant? Is there anything more worthwhile that I could replace this section with?” Keeping your résumé updated can reduce the anxiety of preparing an impressive résumé at short notice.

8. Walk the floor, talk to your customers, and seek their ideas

Companies and leaders who excel at customer service talk to customers on a regular basis and follow-up scrupulously. Simply walk the floor for ten minutes or pick-up the phone and talk to a customer or two. Ask customers how your product or service has been of value to them, seek to understand their needs, run your ideas past them, and incorporate their views to design/improve your product or service. Going the extra mile to reach out to a customer can have a big impact on customer loyalty.

9. Look for easy ways to simplify your life

Differentiate between activity and achievement. Rather than finding ways to squeeze more activities into your life, find ways to leave out some things. Focus on things that actually need to be done and eliminate anything that does not fit your immediate priorities. Ask for help, delegate, and lower your standards. Plan for the next day or the week ahead and prepare to-do lists to get things off your mind.

10. Take a break and chill out

Put your own needs first When you feel overwhelmed, take ten minutes to rest, relax, and clear your mind. Meditate, listen to music, catch up on news or sports, play with your pet, take a short map, look out of the window, or do something else that can benefit you the most. Stepping out of the moment of busyness can lower your blood pressure, slow down your breathing and heart rate, and bring about psychological changes that can reduce the harmful effects of stress and worry.

Bonus: Put your own needs first

When you are overwhelmed with the demands on your time at work and at home, try to examine if you tend to succumb instinctively to the pressure and put others needs ahead of your own. While it is virtuous to be selfless and attend to the needs of others, devoting too much of your own time to others can become an impediment to your own happiness. Consider constructing boundaries on your time and try to think of at least one activity you can stop, or one task that you cancel at once. Do not become a victim of your own generosity. Taking care of your own needs first is not about being selfish; it is rather about being fair to yourself. Exercise your right to protect your own time and interests.