Take the High Road

Take the High Road

Hi team! It’s your friend, Mary, with The I in Team Series where you can find, be, and build your positive influence. This week, I want to focus our attention on what it means to take the high road. Taking the high road is subjective to each of us; at The I in Team Series, we believe the high road is when you take the path that helps the most people and hurts the least amount of people. Sometimes taking the high road means leaving someone or something behind so you can continue to grow in your positive influence. It can mean swallowing your need to speak when the timing isn’t right or being patient while you give someone an extra five minutes of your time. Taking the high road is always taking the right road, but you must understand what that path means and how to find it.

Finding the High Road

The high road is always the right road, but sometimes finding it can be difficult. First, you must weigh the paths you have in front of you. Ask if these choices, and subsequent decisions, influence anyone other than you (most decisions do), and then ask which choice will produce the most positive influence. When taking the high road, remember to put yourself first if the decision will influence you the most. We believe that in order to give people your most positive influence, you must live life for yourself and put yourself first. Some may find this selfish; some will say this is taking the low road. Taking care of yourself so you can have a positive influence is anything but selfish. So, when considering the high road, you will need to take yourself into account first, and then evaluate which decision will positively influence the most people.

Making decisions can be difficult when you don’t know what the outcome will be, but you have to trust yourself to weigh the pros and cons and analyze the information you have. Be diligent and seek out more information and trust your instincts. Ask people you can trust for their opinion if you need an external source to weigh in. You may find that one day, you are walking on what you believe is the high road, but you may find yourself standing alone.

Walking the High Road

Walking the high road can be a lonely road, as most people find it difficult to take the high road. You may become unpopular and shunned by peers for the decisions you make in life, but if you know that it is your high road then you must stay true to yourself. Let’s digress to a story about a man named Nicolaus Copernicus, who was a mathematician and astronomer in the 1500s, and the first to suggest that the Earth and all the planets revolved around the sun, rather than the Earth being the center of our solar system. He made several great strides in astronomy, including correctly hypothesizing why planets go into retrograde.

However, this was at a time when everyone believed that the Earth was the center of the universe and that everything moved around a stagnant Earth. Copernicus was utterly rejected by society, thrown in prison, denounced by his faith, and all but killed for his ideas (which, most, were later proven to be true). At no point did Copernicus waiver from his findings, and he spent his life trying to help others see the truth about our world. He died being mocked and shunned by society and faith. We now know that the Earth does in fact revolve around the Sun. This is one of my favorite stories of human strength and will. It would have been easy to retract his statements to be accepted by society and his church, but he refused. He knew what was right and he died trying to teach others. There are high roads that you will walk alone, but you must keep empathy in your heart for those on the low road.

Observing the Low Road

Choose curiosity over judgement. Do not judge those who cannot see the high road, be curious as to why they can’t or why they refuse to walk it with you. Having empathy for those who are walking the low road is another form of taking the high road. Like Copernicus, the best you can do is speak what you believe to be true from your perspective. Educate others and encourage them to be curious. Do not view others as being judgmental when they ask questions in a tone that questions your position; appreciate that they are looking for knowledge and view them as curious, even if they can’t control their tone. Being on the high road means holding empathy for those who are not with you, whether they choose not to be or don’t know how. Just because others haven’t joined you on the high road yet, doesn’t mean they won’t. Taking the high road is the mark of a leader.

Conclusion

Taking the high road is always taking the right road. Whether it is to benefit yourself or to help others, your high road is always right. When faced with an opportunity to take the high road or the low road, envision your hands with one up and one down; the one up is the high road, the road that will bring the most positive influence to you or others, and the hand that is down is the low road, the road you take when you are not your best self (most likely to induce feelings of guilt later on). Taking the high road may seem scary, difficult, or impossible at times, but if Copernicus could do it in the 1500s, you can do it today.

Prepare for the Future, Focus on the Now

Prepare for the Future, Focus on the Now

Hi team, it’s your friend Mary! During one of my meditation sessions to help alleviate anxiety, my guide discussed the importance of staying in the now and focusing on the present moment. She said that if we focus on the now, we will always be ready for the future, stating that most anxiety comes to us as we anticipate the future or review the past. This has helped me immensely and my hope is to explain how we can slow down and get into our now. As Brian wrote in Find the “I” in Team, “Live in the present; the most important moment in your life is the present moment. It is in the present that all things are learned, lost, and forgotten.”

The Past

The past only serves to teach us. Reflecting on the past is encouraged but becoming trapped in an illusion of reflections doesn’t help you learn or grow. The past can trick our minds into believing we are reliving the experience again, coupled with the same emotions we felt as the memory occurred, but it’s only a reflection of what once was. Don’t let your mind fool you into thinking this is real again or that you have to observe the memory in the same state as it occurred. You can observe memories from afar, detached from their emotions, in order to learn and grow.

The best way to avoid this trap is to get ahead of it. When you start to feel your emotions rise as a memory comes to you, immediately question those emotions. Questioning the emotions tied to the past serves you by helping you learn from the experience in a more pragmatic way. Only you have the power to retrain your brain, but you can only do so if you do the work and that means getting ahead of your reactionary thoughts. Question what your mind tells you is reality because your mind is the only reality you live in. Your mind is the only trap you have, and it’s excellent at trapping you in negative or untrue thought patterns. What you tell yourself is what you will see. This is your reality and you’re in control.

The Future

We cannot control the future; we can only influence it. Dreaming of the future, planning, and being strategic are not the same as fretting about what is to come. If you are being deliberate in your thoughts, whether they be past or present, time is not wasted. However, concerning ourselves with how others will react to us, what others will think, or what may or may not happen to us or those around us in the future is time wasted when it causes unnecessary anxiety. We fret about the future because we fear we may not be ready to handle it. I promise you, that if you stay in the now, you will always be ready for the future. The future is now.

The Now

Yes, the future is now. And now. And now. And so on. Time is a social construct we use to stay organized and to make sense of this rock that we are on. There is no future. The only future is in your mind. There is no past. The only past is in your mind. There is only now. The future and past do not exist now, but the future and past can only exist now if you allow it to in  your mind. You only have the now, the present moment, to hold onto and view as reality. We easily become trapped in our minds with thoughts outside the present moment, but that isn’t real. It’s only real to us because we live inside our own created realities.

One of the best ways to focus on the now is to get out of your mind and into your body. Move your awareness to your heartbeat (that never stops, without you asking), your breath (that continues without consciously thinking “take a breath”), your blinking eyes, feel your extremities and wiggle your fingers and toes, or feel the roof of your mouth and taste what’s going on in there. Take long, slow, and deliberate deep breaths as you focus on moving your awareness from your mind down into your body. This feeling, this stillness, is your present moment. This is your now. Your only opportunity in life is to seize your now, whatever your now may bring.

Slow Down

Slowing down is something that we discuss redundantly at The I in Team Series, but it’s the most useful tool for any situation. We know that, in the heat of the moment, slowing down may seem impossible. To be honest, retraining your brain to stay focused on the now is difficult, but not impossible. You have to slow down, be deliberate with your thoughts and actions, and put effort towards slowing yourself down and being present.

Learn More: The Benefits of Slowing Down

Conclusion

I’ll be honest, staying in the present moment really isn’t easy. I’ve been working on this for five years and I can say with certainty that I’ve made progress, but I’m not yet where I want to be as I still deal with crippling anxiety and depression. It doesn’t help that we are coming out of a devastating pandemic that increased anxiety and depression fourfold in our country (USA). I will promise that staying in the present is worth it. Every time you interrupt your engrained thinking patterns, every time you pull yourself out of your mind, every time you TRY you are making progress. You can absolutely change your life and your way of thinking, but you need to give yourself permission. Encourage yourself and others to live in the present moment.

Dealing with the Communication Debt

Dealing with the Communication Debt

Hi team, Mary here! After almost a year of living in the pandemic, many of us are still finding ourselves burnt out, exhausted, and maybe even unmotivated. I’ve been asking myself how I can be feeling more burnt and stressed out than when the pandemic began, when I read an article discussing the communication debt. Communication debt isn’t a new concept, but it’s become much more severe as we have all entered working spaces that are far more digital than they once were.

Communication debt is, essentially, the negative emotions you feel when you are unable to respond to communications, whether they be emails, texts, direct messages, or even group chats. “Communication” refers to the various types of communication you receive throughout your day, and “debt” refers to the growing mound of responses you have to get to at some point. This can usually create feelings of anxiety or avoidance and can cause issues in productivity. Dealing with your personal communication debt will take some time, practice, and willpower. Below are our top tips for dealing with your communication debt.

Put the “No” in Notification

By this, I mean, turn off your notifications (I just couldn’t resist the catchy sub-header). You don’t always have to keep your notifications on. For me, it really disrupts my deep thought work if I see a message bubble pop up on my screen from Microsoft Teams or I hear an email come into my inbox. We discuss the issues of multitasking a lot on The I in Team Series, but even if you’re not intending to multitask you can experience the same issues of multitasking because of the communication debt. If you become distracted by a group thread, either on your phone personally or one you are included in at the office, that line of communication is forcing you to multitask as you either think of a way to respond or worry about having to respond to that later (adding a task to your to do list).

The best way to combat this issue is to silence your notifications! Utilize the technology you have to work with you and not against you. If you have children or those who depend on you for emergencies, set a special ringtone for them to go off only if they call you (and set this expectation that calls during business hours are for emergencies only). Use Do Not Disturb on your phone and anywhere else you can (I love DND on Teams). You don’t have to be available for everyone 24/7 and you shouldn’t be! This is where communicating healthy boundaries comes in.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Setting boundaries so that you can deal with communication debt more easily is better for everyone. When you set boundaries, you protect yourself and ensure you are getting what you need to be your best self. One example of a set boundary that is universal is the closed door. When someone’s door is closed, you know they are in Do Not Disturb mode. However, we don’t have the luxury of closing our door when we are all working from home and connected solely via technology. One way you can offset this is by either blocking time for yourself to answer emails and only answer emails during that time, or by blocking time for yourself to do deep mind work and then alerting everyone to those times. Be sure that if you block time for yourself to do deep mind work that you also set reminders for when that time block will end (or, ask someone to get you at a certain time).

Again, set the expectations you have with those around you. Healthy individuals will respect these boundaries and work with you to ensure all needs are taken care of on everyone’s terms. Sometimes you might have to sacrifice a little bit for the sake of your own comfort, but that’s okay! As long as those around you are doing their best to respect and acknowledge your boundaries, you are in good company. Plus, pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is always encouraged to promote personal growth!

Conclusion

You might already have a system for tackling your communication debt, like zeroing out your inbox or unsubscribing from junk emails, but you’re always going to have more communications to respond to. Therefore, you need tactics to lessen the severity of the negative influence of the communication debt. First, you need to know yourself. Who are you and what do you need? Second, you need to love and respect yourself enough to set boundaries, including saying no to notifications. Finally, practice self-love. The world around us is becoming increasingly more demanding as we all work harder and longer days to keep up with that demand. If you practice self-love, know your worth, and strive to have a positive influence, you can tackle the negative effects of communication debt.

The Benefits of Slowing Down

The Benefits of Slowing Down

Hi team, Mary here! I think we can learn a lot by watching animals. Or, at least, we can better ourselves and find new standards to reach by comparing some of our behaviors to theirs. For example, my dog, Bilbo, is extremely loyal. He is a pack-dog through and through. His personality makes it seems like he is much bigger than he is! The love he shows, even to strangers, amazes me. Once someone is in our “pack,” he will protect and defend them. (I mean, he’s seven pounds. But he tries, which is what counts!) I think the trait of loyalty, love, and devotion is something to admire.

There are tons of animals we can learn from if we slow down and take the time to observe them and appreciate their efforts. Ants are hard workers and work well on a large team. Deer are cautious but still curious. And then we come to the three animals in our graphic for this blog: Turtle, sloth, and snail. All known for being slow, diligent, and mindful. There is importance in slowing down our fast-paced lives. If we don’t start today, our lives can pass us by in a blink. The way our world is currently set up is to make you fast paced. Get here faster. Send this faster. Give me what I want faster. But what if we just took a moment to breathe, be in the moment, and slow down?

Physical & Mental Benefits of Slowing Down

Slowing down isn’t just for your mental state, it’s for your physical state too. Sometimes I think we have a tendency to forget that our brains are part of our bodies and we need to take care of them like we do our body. The faster we are, the more likely we are to feel stressed and anxious. When we are stressed and anxious, our bodies create cortisol (stress hormone) and it ravages your body’s immune system and mental clarity—leading to anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, and more. If you want to learn more about how stress and cortisol affect your body, read this article from the Mayo Clinic.

The benefits of slowing down are as follows, but are not limited to:

  • Reduces stress
  • Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • Reduces chronic pain
  • Improves sleep
  • Increases mental clarity and thinking
  • Increased awareness, attention, and focus
  • Increased brain function

Techniques to Slow Down

Slowing down isn’t an intuitive task. It takes patience and willpower to learn how. For those that have never slowed down, it may be harder to silence your mind at first but slowing down requires dedication and practice. Although, anyone can slow down if they try! Slowing down is about getting out of your head, phone, TV, games, etc. and getting into the present moment. It’s all in your mind and you have the power to control it!

Start with taking a few deep, slow breathes. Try to focus on your breathing: Feel your rib cage and lungs expand and contract as you bring in and release air. When your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath. If it helps you, you can count your inhales and exhales. To calm your nervous system, make your exhales twice as long as your inhales. This may be as far as you want to go to slow down your mind and focus on the present moment.

If you want to go further, next you will want to do a sensory check. What can you feel, see, hear, smell, or taste? Don’t attach any thoughts to those senses, just observe them as they are happening to you. You don’t have to interact with the sensations; this is your moment to relax and let your brain take a rest. This exercise can be quick but give yourself at least five minutes to just sit and breathe. That’s only 0.34 percent of the time you have in an entire day! Easy, right?

Conclusion

Once you have dedicated yourself to slowing down, even just for five minutes a day (although, you should give yourself longer on the days that you can) you will begin to notice changes in your mind and body. You are allowed to put social media away, turn off the TV, and breathe. This is your life and your moment. Don’t wake up in ten, twenty, fifty years and realize you have nothing to remember. Start making memories now and that starts with slowing down. I believe in you and your positive influence! If you have any questions, feel free to message us on Twitter!

Make Time Management a Habit

Written by: Mary Smith
Original by: IA Business Advisors

Time moves at the same speed for all of us. That means that we all have the same amount of time in the day to complete all our personal and professional tasks. This can be a good thing if you are already proficient in time management. However, if you struggle with managing your time, over/under estimate the amount of time it takes you to complete tasks, or are always pushing tasks to the next day, then this blog is for you.

Starter Tips

When you’re first starting off trying to make time management a habit, there are a few things you need to note. First, it’s important to remember to have patience with yourself. It takes anywhere from fourteen days to more than two months (for some) to solidify a new habit. While there is some controversy over how long it truly takes to make a habit, it is generally accepted that the amount of time depends on the habit and the person.

Second, when starting your journey towards efficient time management, always overestimate how long it will take you to complete tasks. Generally speaking, when you first start to practice time management it will take you twice as long to complete a task than you originally think it will. If you predict it will take you thirty minutes to complete a task (one that you haven’t done before) it will take you about an hour to complete that task.

Once you are a few weeks into your time management process, you will be able to accurately predict how long it will take you to complete your tasks. Also, managing your time will get easier for you—making it second nature—as time goes on. You can start to practice a new habit any time you wish; it’s best to start when you think about it—now—as that is when you have the most motivation to see your vision through to the end.

Plan Out Your Day

The best way to practice time management is to schedule out your day with tasks in advance. Be realistic about how much time it will take you to complete each task. This will help you have a clear and concise vision for how your day is going to look, as well as helping you to keep your daily objectives high of mind. Also, be sure to read the rest of your schedule each time you complete a task.

Don’t forget about scheduling your social breaks! For every task, or for every hour you work, make sure to schedule some down time for yourself. This could mean checking your social media, text messages, taking a lap around the office or outside, doing some yoga, or whatever you enjoy doing in your down time. The key to these breaks is to refuse to engage in break-like activities during your scheduled task time. That’s why it’s important to schedule break time.

Practice

Make sure to practice your time management. Like all habits and activities, you can’t become good at something without putting effort in. Just like you would practice for a sport, you need to practice time management. This is something that you can teach yourself. With time, you will become better at it each day. Do your best to commit to planning out your schedule and sticking to it everyday as your daily practice. There will always be exceptions that you don’t plan for, but that is to be expected. As long as you stick to it more than 80 percent of the time, you will be able to make it a habit.

Slow Down

This may seem counterintuitive to practicing time management but slowing down and being deliberate in your tasks will actually make you more efficient with your time. By slowing down and focusing on your present moment, you allow your brain to be more receptive to ideas and information while you complete your tasks. We are pro mono-tasking.

If you slow down, practice, and put energy into making time management a habit, we are certain that you will gain several positive results. For one, if you are prone to anxiety or negative emotions when you are out of time to complete tasks, time management dissolves those anxieties. You will have more time for you, your family, friends, or whatever it is you care to do with your spare time. You will feel empowered at work. Take back the one thing we all share equally: time.

© Individual Advantages, LLC 2019

Scheduling Breaks in a Busy Day

Written by: Mary Smith
Original by: IA Business Advisors

Breaks throughout the work day are vital to all individual and team success. All individuals should aim to schedule one brain break every hour, or one brain break between every task, so that they can revamp and apply their best self to their next task.

Benefits of Breaks

PRODUCTIVITY INCREASE

It may seem counterproductive to take breaks throughout the day, but scheduling breaks actually increases your productivity. When you force your brain to focus without breaks for eight plus hours a day, your brain will eventually tire. Breaks allow your brain a little bit of time to revamp itself and prepare for the next task ahead. This makes you more productive because if you let your brain exhaust without breaks, it will take you longer to complete tasks closer to the end of your day. Also, breaks allow you to complete tasks more accurately, leaving less room for errors.

REDUCES STRESS

Stress can stem from many situations when you are at work; giving yourself some brain breaks can help ward off that stress. You can only take in so much information before your brain feels “overloaded” which can trigger cortisol (the stress hormone). Stress can lead to a number of issues such as fatigue, hopelessness, irritability, and other negative behaviors. You owe it to yourself and your team to keep your brain as stress-free as possible, so you can continue with your best influence.

GOOD FOR THE BODY

Taking breaks helps your mind and body perform at their optimal self. If you work in front of a computer all day, it’s important for your eyes to take a break from staring at your screens. Staring at screens for prolonged periods of time can lead to headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision, difficulty focusing, and all-around eye discomfort. Getting up and moving a bit during your breaks can help your circulation and muscles stretch out.

Productive Break Ideas

Here are some break ideas that you start applying to your work day, now:

WALK, STRETCH, OR EXERCISE

Physical breaks are important for your bodily and mental health. These types of breaks for individuals who find themselves sitting at a desk for eight hours a day will help ward off the risks of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. You can just get up from your chair, do a little walk to the water cooler or outside if it’s a nice day, stretch/yoga, or any other short physical activity you can perform in the comfort of your office. Even just a five-minute break every hour can significantly improve your health and well-being.

CHANGE OF ENVIRONMENT

You may decide that a good break for you entails moving your work to another location. Sometimes getting a change of scenery is enough for your brain to take a break and switch gears. You can go anywhere that has free Wi-Fi: libraries, coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, malls, and more.

TAKE YOUR LUNCH/SNACK BREAK

It’s important to keep your body well fed with wholesome, good foods throughout your entire day. This ensures your body gets the nutrients it needs to feed your brain, and you get a break. This way, you can feed two birds with one scone! (Pun intended.)

MEDITATE

You can either meditate, try alternate nostril breathing, or take a few deep breaths on your break to center yourself and your mind. Check out the link above to learn about the benefits of alternate nostril breathing and how to do it.

When Not to Break

Given our information above, sometimes it’s not the best time to take a break, even if you have scheduled it already. You may find yourself working and in a good groove; if you notice this, it may not be the best idea to interrupt your groove and lose your train of thought. Instead, you should finish the task you have at hand and take a break immediately after. You can always rearrange your schedule a bit and improvise.

Breaks are a win-win situation for every team (employers and employees). It boosts employee morale, productivity, and all-around company culture. It’s important to not push yourself or your employees past their limits to where they can no longer perform at their optimal self. Everyone deserves to recharge their brain so that they can bring their best influence to their team and tasks. Make sure you are scheduling brain breaks throughout your day and remain flexible.

© Individual Advantages, LLC. 2019