Archive for April, 2014

How to Move Forward When You Feel Overwhelmed

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I was in a constant race to meet reporters’ deadlines. Each day started with a new crisis, whether it was a bombing, kidnapping, or arrest—the flow of information into my office was overwhelming. 

I discovered that 60 seconds is long enough to give a radio interview chocked full of information, and that five minutes is sufficient to prepare for a live TV interview. But, by the time I had replied to 40 emails, another 120 had appeared in my inbox!

I was under constant pressure from national and local reporters to comment on pending cases, yet if I inadvertently provided details of a case sealed by the U.S. Attorney’s office to the media it would be grounds for dismissal and possible prosecution.

Lunch was optional, as were bathroom breaks. One of my assistants came into my office one day and said, “I can actually feel the stress in this room.” I like adrenaline rushes, but the job was wearing on both my mind and body. 

Many people feel the pressure of responsibilities, getting tasks done, and the constant overwhelming volume of work that is placed on their desk.

Feeling overwhelmed can leave us feeling so paralyzed that we become less and less productive, not only risking our job but also our health as well. We need mental toughness to put mental disciplines into place so we can move forward when we’re feeling too much pressure.

Here are 6 suggestions: 

1. MAKE PRIORITIZING A PRIORITY

Your brain uses energy like every other part of your body: a typical person’s brain uses approximately 10.8 calories every hour. 

Since your brain is drained of power as you use it, this explains why it’s easy to get distracted when you’re tired or hungry.

Your best thinking lasts for a limited time. It’s good for a sprint but it cannot take you through the day at the same pace.

Knowing this, start your day differently: since prioritizing your priorities takes energy, make this your first task. Otherwise, you will end feeling overwhelmed when you cannot see a way to get through your day’s work.

2. USE YOUR MIND’S EYE

Visuals are a great way to activate the mind. That’s why storytelling, pictures, and metaphors work so well—they generate an image. 

Visuals are laden with information. They provide color, shape, size, context, etc. Since they take less energy than words, they are efficient ways for the brain to process information.

Use visuals to represent each priority so you can see how it will look as you approach your goal and again as you tick it off your list.

3. MOVE IT OUT OF YOUR HEAD

Grab a pen and paper and write down your prioritized projects for the day. This saves your brain from the need to recall and review each one. Save your energy for getting those task done!

4. FIND YOUR OPTIMAL TIME

The idea is to schedule the tasks that take the most energy for when your brain is fresh and alert. Not everyone is a morning person, so perhaps you’re most alert after you’ve exercised or taken a nap. 

Understand the rhythm of your own body so you are aware of your own mental energy needs and schedule your priorities around them.

Most people respond to issues as they arise; instead, divide your day into blocks so you can schedule projects that require an agile mind during those times when your mind is freshest. Block out other times for routine tasks.

5. LET GO OF NON-URGENT TASKS

Most non-urgent tasks can wait until you have time to do them. These tasks might be good ones to delegate to others. Learn to say “no” to projects that are not among your priorities.

6. SIMPLIFY COMPLEX IDEAS

Most successful leaders have learned how to simplify complicated ideas into a few core elements. It’s the best way to make complex decisions. The elevator pitch was created to encourage entrepreneurs to succinctly summarize their business idea to investors into no more than 3 simple sentences. 

This is incredibly difficult to do, but when you reduce complex ideas into a few simple concepts, it’s far easier to access those ideas in your mind.

Salient, succinct, and specific points take less energy for the brain to process and provide effective visuals for the mind.

By following these steps, you can use mental toughness to learn how to  discipline your mind and prevent it from feeling overwhelmed. 

What tips do you have to keep from becoming overwhelmed?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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How Self-Awareness Can Make You A Successful Leader

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

FBI agents who work undercover are given a series of psychological tests to determine their level of self-awareness. Self-awareness enables agents to predict their responses when confronted with the unknown that accompanies undercover work.

These psychological tests were constructed and administered by the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. I attended classes for a week as FBI instructors assessed me. The goal was to drill into me the importance of self-awareness if I was to become a successful undercover agent.

Everything you say and do can affect those around you. Self-awareness allows you to manage your actions and reactions so you aren’t at the mercy of negative behavior patterns. Emotional responses operate below the level of our conscious awareness—from a part of your brain called the basal ganglia. If your emotional responses are defensive or negative, you need to modify them. Before you can change an automated emotional response, however, you have to be aware that it exists. You need self-awareness.

If we have self-awareness, we know what we’re feeling and can take steps to control our emotions. Without self-awareness, we don’t understand how we impact other people.

Self-awareness is the ability to accurately perceive your own emotions. You effectiveness as a leader rests on your ability to stay alert to them so you can modify your behavior in different situations.

A high degree of self-awareness requires a willingness to tolerate the discomfort of focusing on feelings that may be negative. It can take mental toughness to move through that discomfort. It’s essential, however, because the more you know about yourself, the better you can predict your reactions.

He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened—Lao Tzu

It’s important to understand, however, that self-awareness is not about discovering deep, dark secrets about your inner world. Instead, it is about developing a straightforward and honest understanding of what makes you tick.

Successful leaders understand why they do well, what motivates them, and which people and/or situation push their buttons. If you are self-aware, you are far more likely to pursue the right opportunities, use your strengths, and keep your emotions from holding you back.

Here are 5 tips to help you use emotional intelligence to become a self-aware leader:

1. Stop Treating Feelings As Either Enemies or Friends

It’s far too simplistic, and childish, to divide your emotions into two piles: good and bad. So stop labeling them; instead, become aware of each and every emotion without judging it. Observe it, let it run its course, and remind yourself that the feeling was there to help you understand something about yourself.

2. Be Bold and Lean Into Your Discomfort Zone

The biggest obstacle to observing the entire range of your emotions is the tendency to avoid the ones that produce the most discomfort. If you try to avoid certain emotions because they are uncomfortable, you are caught off guard when they do rear their ugly head. Avoidance is a short-term fix. You’ll never be able to manage yourself effectively if you ignore how to deal with the unpleasant stuff. 

Don’t minimize an emotion because it’s not comfortable. You are being arrogant if you think you can control it by using this tactic. Instead, be bold and learn about the emotion so it no longer controls your behavior.

3. Learn What Pushes Your Buttons 

We all have buttons that produce predictable reactions. When the right ones are pushed, we can scream, throw tantrums, or burn with anger. Knowing who, or what, pushes your buttons and how it happens is critical to developing the ability to take control of the situation.

Knowing where your buttons are opens the door to managing your reaction to their triggers.

4. Keep A Beady Eye Focused on Yourself At All Times

Personal surveillance can produce a mother-lode of important information about how you tick. Observe how you react to situations in conversations, meetings, or one-on-one. 

Notice your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors as each of the situations unfold. Slow yourself down so the fast-thinking emotional part of your brain doesn’t overtake the slower-thinking logical part of your brain.

You are in the best position to surveil yourself in all situations, so take the opportunity to notice what your hot button looks and sounds like. Again, this self-awareness will enable you to calibrate your reactions.

5. Stop and Ask Yourself WHY You Do the Things You Do

Your emotions often show up uninvited and unexpected, so stop acting surprised when they do. Emotions serve an important purpose—they are clues you need to pay attention to in order to fully understand yourself.

Even when the emotions are painful, you need to trace them back to their origin to understand their purpose. Pay attention to them, spend time looking for why this emotion surfaced at this time, who triggered it, and in what context?

Self-awareness provides you with the ability to understand why you do the things you do so you can choose your responses instead of reacting to situations around you.

We can all become more self-aware leaders if we learn how to read our own emotions.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

How could self-awareness help you become a more effective leader?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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