Category Archives: energy management

5 quick tips on getting enough sleep

Sleep debt adversely affects your health, limits your cognitive function, and results in fatigue, moodiness, impaired memory, and slowed reaction time. Sometimes sleep disorders and chronic stress can cause insomnia. Other times lack of sleep is self-created.  Either way, you won’t feel refreshed and ready for your day without sufficient sleep. 

Here are 5 quick tips on getting enough sleep:

1. Determine how much sleep you really need. The amount of sleep you need depends on various factors, including your age, genetics, and natural rhythm. The sleep duration recommendation by the National Sleep Foundation is 7 to 9 hours, on average, for adults between the ages of 26 and 64. But it’s better to know your individual needs. Pay attention to how the amount of sleep you get affects your wakefulness throughout the day. If you are generally cranky, feel like dozing off when driving, or zone out a lot during meetings, you could be sleep deprived. For a week, such as during a vacation, try waking up without an alarm. You will tend to rise when you’re fully rested.

2. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed at a set time, ideally at 10 p.m. (according to sleep experts). Or if you know when you must wake up, set your bedtime based on how much sleep you need. Here’s the basic sleep formula:

  • The average sleep cycle is 90 minutes long
  • A typical night of sleep includes 5 full sleep cycles
  • 90 x 5 = 450 minutes, or 7.5 hours
  • From your wake time, work back 7.5 hours to find your bedtime

Let’s assume you need to be in the office at 8 a.m. It takes 2 hours to complete your morning routine and commute. If you set your wake time at 6 a.m. and count back 7.5 hours, your ideal bedtime is 10:30 p.m. This means you need to be in bed and ready for sleep at that time. Travel, deadlines, family emergencies and unexpected issues can interfere with your sleep schedule, but do what you can to protect it.

3. Do a brain dump. Stress, worry and anxiety make it hard to fall asleep. Try daily mindfulness or meditation to observe racing thoughts without getting hooked by them. Write down unfinished to-do’s and big ideas to keep them from swirling around in your head. Have a plan and set a date for when to tackle them, drop them altogether, or move them to your someday list.

4. Create an evening ritual or routine.  Eat a light dinner a few hours before your bedtime, so you’re not too full or too hungry when you go to sleep. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Start winding down 45 minutes to 1 hour before you go to sleep. Shut down your electronic devices and keep them away from your bed. If you habitually check your smartphone, nix the mobile alarm app for a zen alarm clock (Now & Zen recommended). Stay away from emails, social media, the Internet, TV, and any type of work during your winding down period. Do gentle yoga, listen to relaxing music, or read uplifting literature.  Turn off the lights, wear a sleep mask (Earth Therapeutics recommended), release tension, and notice your breath as you fall asleep.

5.  Make sleep a priority. In our pseudo-productive environment, it’s tempting to cut sleep short to get more stuff done or to move ahead on a project. But getting enough high-quality sleep is essential to managing your energy and doing focused work. Sleep is more important than food and exercise when it comes to your personal health and productivity. Consult a sleep specialist if you have a sleep disorder or need help developing deeper sleep. Use feng shui to make a sleep sanctuary for yourself.

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Photo by: Rachel

Dealing with negative feedback

When you receive negative feedback, it can be hard to embrace it and process it skillfully so it benefits you. Some do amount to useless criticism that just tears you down, rather than help you identify blind spots and bolster your strengths.  But you can’t grow, be your best self, and reach your highest potential unless you’re willing to accept constructive feedback and recognize its worth.

Here are ways to deal effectively with negative feedback:

Realize opinions are not universal truths. Feedback reflects the giver’s opinion of you, your work and your performance. It has more to do with their expectations, likes and dislikes, perceptions of what should be, and how the world works.

When a person responds negatively to what you offer, it doesn’t mean others feel or think the same way. How you do things will please some people, but not everyone. Stay attuned especially to common themes that permeate different people’s feedback.

You can choose to make changes and tweaks based on other’s opinions that resonate with you, without considering them as universal truth. Or you can maintain your behavior, but switch to a more suitable environment (such as taking on a new role, becoming self-employed, or focusing on another target audience.) You get to choose when to incorporate advice and when to ignore it.

Receive the information without judgment.  Negative feedback can lead to feelings of anger, hurt, shame, and inadequacy. It’s tempting to stop listening or internally block out the information, take a defensive stance, or engage in counter-attacks to get rid of such feelings.

To truly benefit from feedback, however, you need to listen to it without judgement. Pause. Breathe. Stay curious. Ask questions. Refrain from agreeing or disagreeing right away. Even admit that the feedback is hard to hear. Simply allow your feelings to come and go, instead of fusing with them or giving in to the impulse to fix them.

Take time to process the information – even a day or more – before you give a response (if one is necessary or appropriate). Trusting your instincts is a good thing, but gut reactions or half-baked replies can get you in trouble as well. Giving an immediate rebuttal comes across as defensive, so it’s better to explain the challenges later to clear up misconceptions and address unfair criticism. Reflecting on the feedback allows you to create a workable plan of action.

Distinguish between feedback and criticism.  Consider the source. Some people really have your well being in mind and want to help you. Others just like to focus on the negatives without offering any tips or insights on how to improve. You don’t have to put up with or respond to insults, character assassinations, and name calling that are pure criticism and offer no constructive feedback. Stand up to bullies and ignore inflammatory, baseless comments that serve no real purpose.

Feedback is calmer, clearer and more specific than criticism. It encourages a dialogue on the benefits of change, rather than force change as the be-all and end-all.  It allows you to tackle key areas, rather than overgeneralize your mishaps and exaggerate your shortcomings.

Separate the content of the feedback from how it’s given. Providing an honest opinion is often uncomfortable. Not everyone is trained, skilled or experienced in giving feedback. And their approach to delivering feedback is usually the way they like to receive it, which might not match your preference. Assume people giving feedback have good intentions and thank them for making time to provide it.

Feedback that is carefully packaged and overly positive doesn’t do much besides feed your ego and tell you what you generally already know. Meanwhile, feedback that is delivered poorly can offer valuable truth and unique insights, even when it seems harsh and unduly negative. Be grateful for comments that help you break through to the next level, regardless of whether they feel good in the moment.

Don’t allow negative feedback to keep you stuck. The ability to receive and process feedback leads to greater self-awareness that boosts your performance – not self-consciousness that stops you in your tracks. Use feedback to empower you and steer you toward action, not cripple you and stifle your efforts.

Take negative feedback as an opportunity to build your resilience, increase your endurance, and enhance your self-reflection and understanding of others. The fact that someone gave you feedback means you’re making an impact rather than staying on the sidelines.

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Photo by: Emanuele Toscano

 

Clearing Out the Non-Essentials

About a week before Christmas, I watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things on Netflix. The film features Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, known as The Minimalists, and other minimalist thought leaders discussing how life could be better with less.

Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important — so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.” – Millburn and Nicodemus.

As the new year approaches, I’ve been contemplating ways in which I can practice more minimalism.

I spent a few hours, one December day, clearing out non-essentials from my home office. Old files, bills, knick knacks and the like. The task wasn’t hard; I run an (almost) paperless law firm and (usually) keep a clean desk.

As I scanned the rest of my home, and the personal possessions and family property in it, I found it much harder to decide on which other stuff to let go.

I didn’t choose a single toy, from my child’s pile, to give away or donate. And there were more goodies to be shared on Christmas Day.

I didn’t resolve to get rid of my car. Even though I no longer commute to work, I still need it to run errands, meet friends, etc. And I think it’s an overall bad idea for my husband and I to share his.

I didn’t talk to my hubby about selling our house and moving back to a smaller place. We have a toddler after all, and being spoiled suburbanites, we enjoy having ample physical space.

But I do stick with educational and creativity-inspiring toys that stand the test of time. I avoid trendy, heavily-branded, mass-marketed products. I choose quality and playability over quantity.

I will not replace my 2004 Toyota Corolla – which I bought while I was still in law school – with a newer and cooler car, any time soon. (Millburn and Nicodemus have the same car model and drove it around on their book tour across the U.S., which you’ll see in the documentary.)

I will not bring more things into my home unless they serve a real purpose or truly add value to my life or my family’s well being.

Side Note: In January 2016, after many years of resistance, I finally got rid of my old-school LG flip phone in favor of the then-latest IPhone. My IPhone turned out to be a useful tool in emailing clients and snapping photos of my kid. I consider it an intentional purchase and won’t be buying a new version when the current one works fine.

“There’s nothing wrong with consumption; the problem is compulsory consumption.” – Millburn

Minimalism involves more than just your material possessions. It also means saying no to unhealthy relationships and life-draining obligations to make way for positive, energizing ones.

Clearing out the non-essentials is consistent with having an internally-oriented approach to creating success. You can read more about this in my article, How to create success without setting goals.

Cheers to you and the new year,
Dyan Williams
Productivity & Purpose Coach

P.S. The car in the photo is a 1972 Valiant Ranger. My father, a natural minimalist, drove this car model for decades and, after it finally went kaput, never owned any other vehicle. The Ranger was essential. Another car was not. 

Photo by: sicnag