Welcome to the Managing Your Mind Newsletter, where you can find information and strategies to help you manage your mind and enhance your work, life, and/or school performance.
Feel free to contact me with your questions, concerns, and suggestions. Previous issues are archived in our Newsletter Archive. Sample checklists and diagrams are archived there under The Geri Checklists.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Please add firstname.lastname@example.org to your address book so you'll be sure to receive every issue. "Spam" filters may place future editions of this newsletter in your "junk" or "deleted" folder unless it is a recognized address.
You'll find the following sections in this issue:
- Goofs and Glitches
- Strategies for Success
- Student/Parent Corner
- Work/Life Corner
- Reading - A Positive Distraction
- On January 28, 2010, the University of Michigan Human Resource Development's Time Management program sponsored Geri's course, "Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction: Strategies to Increase Productivity and Reduce Stress." Geri zoned in on the issue of distraction and its effect on success at work and at home. A constant, high level of distraction can lead to feeling overwhelmed, irritable, and ineffective. Geri helped participants to recognize the 8 common distractions that interfere with personal productivity and time management, create a plan to improve efficiency so that critical goals are met, and apply techniques to stop the interruptions of others to focus on the task at hand. To learn about the many courses offered by UM HRD, visit http://www.umich.edu/~hrd/index.html.
- Geri has volunteered her services to assist military veterans on the University of Michigan campus. As a result of the New GI Bill of 2008, more servicemen/women have returned from military life to college campuses, and they face unique transitional issues. At the urging of the Student Veterans Association of UM, the university developed the Veteran's Assistance Program and Veteran's Connection website, coordinated by Philip N. Larson. This program, administered through the Office of New Student Programs, will sponsor Geri's presentation "Better Reader Skills Equal Higher Grades and Lower Stress" on February 10, 2010. She will focus on advanced strategies for enhancing comprehension and retention. To learn more about Veteran's Assistance Program at UM, click here.
Goofs and Glitches
If you intend to pursue another activity while something is cooking, the prevailing wisdom is to set a kitchen timer to remind you to check on your food. The critical part of the strategy is to take the timer with you if you are pursuing that activity beyond audio range of the kitchen. This photo provides a visual of the unintended consequences of leaving eggs to boil while exercising in the basement. The noise of the treadmill drowned out the ringing of the timer alarm. The nauseating stench of burnt egg permeated the upper levels of the house, but somehow failed to alert our intrepid exerciser until she emerged from her workout lair. Dealing with the lingering odor has provided an incentive to take the timer with her even if she is leaving the kitchen for just a few minutes.
Funny or inconvenient, let's share our experiences. If you have one to share, send it to email@example.com
Strategies for Success
Geri was interviewed by leadership coach Lisa Pasbjerg on her Blog Talk Radio segment, The Leadership Focus Radio Show, on Dec. 9, 2009. The topic was "Five Steps to Ensure the Downward Spiral of Fatigue - and How to Avoid Them." Geri discussed the effects of fatigue in the workplace and provided strategies to help employees keep fit, alert, and vital. Fatigue impairs leadership effectiveness. If the leader functions without energy and enthusiasm, she or he is not a good role model. Any negative effects of the leader's performance can cascade down through the organization. Fatigue saps the energy required to engage in critical leadership functions--energy to:
- Spark creativity: to think out of the box and to get the big picture and long-term perspective.
- Engage in analytical thinking, problem solving and decision making.
- Be lifelong learners. Who can read, remember and apply information when they are too tired to focus and concentrate?
- Have stamina so they can be resilient and persevere under stressful or crisis conditions.
Because of the "24/7 Warrior" mentality in the business world, leaders may not even be aware of the extent of their fatigue and its effects--but others may notice:
- Poor emotional regulation as seen with irritation, impatience, or angry outbursts
- Rigid thinking as seen in an all-or-none, now-or-never mentality
- Physical signs including slouching, walking slowly, yawning, or holding your head
- Work slippages including inaccurate, incomplete, or missing work
- Forgetfulness, disorganization, inattention, and poor time management
Here are five steps to stop the downward spiral of leader performance:
- Increase awareness. Ask, "How often am I running on empty? Is fatigue interfering with creativity, motivation or memory?" Keep a sleep journal; identify any problems such as snoring, sleep apnea, etc. Ask, "What is sapping my mental energy?"
- Take action. Reorganize your sleep routine so you can be better rested. Make sleep a top priority: get to bed earlier. Consider setting an alarm an hour before bedtime as a signal to stop activities and wind down. The bedroom should be a "No Fly Zone" for electronic devices that unnecessarily interrupt sleep (email alerts, for ex.).
- Stop the constant state of overwhelm. Be assertive. Say no nicely. Be ruthless about delegating. Consider a break or two during the day. Leaders need some quiet "think time." One strategy is to impose an electronic lockdown: a specific amount of time where no technology interrupts you.
- Stop multitasking. Don't buy into the myth that it helps you: recent research indicates that it's ineffective to do two things at the same time. It drains your mental energy.
- Consider fatigue and safety. When fatigued, don't drive, use power tools, or undertake risky activities such as climbing ladders.
Sometimes, the simpler a suggestion sounds, the more difficult it is to do. Start with one thing at a time. Even the smallest change can yield positive results.
Geri was recently a featured guest at an Ann Arbor area Boy Scouts leaders' training session on disabilities, including AD/HD. Boy Scouts of America (BSA) provides an excellent slide presentation which outlines definitions, behavioral characteristics, and recommendations for scout leaders and scout parents. The BSA presentation also educates leaders about accommodations for scouts with common AD/HD issues such as impulsivity, inattention, motor activity, and disorganization. To help participants apply the information and integrate it with their own experiences as youth leaders, trainers create several Buzz Groups in which four problem scenarios are discussed. Geri gives kudos to BSA for compiling and distributing these educational materials, and to the regional councils and district troops for dealing with this important subject - special thanks to John Squires for extending the invitation to take part.
Parents of children with AD/HD or other disabilities should definitely consider getting their children involved with the BSA or Girls Scouts of the USA organizations. Scouting programs provide structured, systematic, and supportive programming that can be particularly beneficial for youngsters with AD/HD. Scouting activities are sequential, presented in a step-by-step manner, and can tap into the hands-on, creative strengths exhibited by many children with this condition. As long as parents and scout leaders work as partners and share information, children with AD/HD can have successful and rewarding scouting experiences. To find a local BSA troop, visit http://www.scouting.org/LocalCouncilLocator.aspx ; to find a local GS USA troop, visit www.girlscouts.org/councilfinder.
Achieving work/life balance is difficult under the best of circumstances, but the presence of a chronic illness or other ongoing difficulty in the family creates even more strain and struggle. When a family member has a physical illness like diabetes, everyone else in the family is affected in one way or another. But what about AD/HD, which poses behavioral and educational issues? Author and online radio talk show host Claudine Struck recently turned to Geri to answer the question, "Is ADD a family disease?" Struck's program, "Stay Sane Now," runs Thursdays at 11 am Pacific Time (2 pm EST) on The VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network. On January 28, 2010, Geri and other guests addressed this topic. Click here to hear the show.
AD/HD is not considered to be a disease, and it certainly isn't contagious; rather, it is recognized as a neurobiological disorder that does tend to run in families. To know if a family member has AD/HD, they should get a clinical diagnosis from a psychologist or neuropsychologist. These professionals will evaluate how various areas of the individual's life are affected, and how chronic and pervasive those effects are. Often, once a child is diagnosed, parents may recognize that they have been struggling with the same issues in their own lives. There can be a ripple effect within a family when an overwhelmed, AD/HD parent can't manage all of the appointments, paperwork, and coordination needed to keep a child with AD/HD on track. Financial problems, marital disputes, and household chaos can also intensify to a crisis point when AD/HD issues are left unattended. Schools usually step in to help formulate learning and support plans for children with this condition, but if a parent also has AD/HD, he or she (or both) may also need coaching and/or counseling to better cope with their challenges.
- Coaching is now only a computer screen away! Using Mac's iChat or Skype, you can have audio and/or video coaching sessions with simultaneous text-based instant messaging. Skype is a free, downloadable service that provides free calls, video calls, and instant messaging over the internet (www.skype.com); for information about iChat, search www.apple.com for your particular model. Moderately priced computer webcams and microphones are readily available. Both domestic and international clients are taking advantage of this convenient and effective way to improve productivity and reduce stress levels. To inquire, contact Geri, or tel. (734) 761-6498.
- New book! Three experts provide their best college admissions advice in the latest publication from Managing Your Mind: College Admissions: From Chaos to Control by John Boshoven, M.A., M.S.W., Debbie E. Merion, M.S.W., and Geraldine Markel, Ph.D. Decide on the right schools for you, find your unique voice to write a compelling application essay, and score your best on high-stakes tests such as the ACT and SAT. John, Debbie, and Geri help families fit together the pieces of the college admissions process. Available on the website. $12.95, digital download $10.00.
- Attention! The second edition of Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction: Proven Strategies to Increase Productivity and Decrease Stress has now been published by iUniverse. Copies can be ordered from the publisher's website, www.iuniverse.com, from www.Amazon.com, and from www.managingyourmind.com. Books can be special-ordered at Borders and Barnes & Noble, and are on the shelf in Ann Arbor at Nicola's Books. Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction can be purchased in e-book format from iUniverse or as a download through www.managingyourmind.com.
- Recognize and reward progress! Are you a speaker, consultant, coach, or business owner? If you need memorable and useful gifts or incentives for your clients, consider the products below. The tips and strategies to help people accomplish more in the New Year are available in several handy formats: paperback, pocket-sized deck of cards, and 16-page concise booklet. Check out all of the "Defeating the Demons of Distraction" products.
Reading: A Positive Distraction
Do you belong to a book club? Are your members having trouble finding the time to finish their monthly selections? What about a meeting to discuss the Demons of Distraction? For book clubs of ten or more members, Geri would be happy to present a session featuring her book, Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction: Proven Strategies to Increase Productivity and Decrease Stress. Learn how to reduce distraction and increase time for reading and other meaningful life activities. Visit Amazon.com to read summaries and reviews of Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction: Proven Strategies to Increase Productivity and Decrease Stress
Getting lost in a good book can be a wonderful distraction. Even fifteen minutes of reading time, curled up in your den or a cozy cafe, can really be rejuvenating. Here are some favorites that Geri and her staff enjoyed recently:
- The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker: Baker employs his quirky, slice-of-life style to discuss poetry, love, and the trials of middle age. The narrator, a barely functional poet who has seemingly torched his own academic career, spits out pithy and often hilarious observations as he stumbles through the months following a breakup with his girlfriend.
- My Life in France by Julia Child: the "real story" behind the movie "Julie and Julia." Just before her passing, Child collaborated with her grand-nephew to recount the magical years that she and her husband spent in Paris and other European cities. Their improbable love story and Julia's struggle to find her niche in the culinary profession make for an enjoyable and inspiring read.
Have a Happy Valentine's Day!
Feel free to forward this newsletter to someone else who might be interested.