Category Archives: Resilience

How to Stop Working Too Much

Friends I haven’t seen in a long time usually ask what it’s like being in the Navy. Amid stories about Okinawa and an aircraft carrier, how my wife and daughter handle military life comes up. You know how tough families have it. At times my daughter didn’t see me for a week. I was out of the house before she woke up and didn't get home until after she went to bed. Of course, you don’t have to be in the military to be absorbed by work.

How to Stop Working Too Much?

Despite Surveys, Americans Work Too Much

A recent article in fastcompany.com carried the sub-headline, “A New National Study Finds Americans Work Reasonable Hours and Get Enough Sleep, Even if We Often Think Otherwise.” Based on the 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey, the article said, “The average full-time work week comes out at just a bit shy of 42 hours.”

Call me skeptical. But the data gathered is based on people’s recollections of how they spent the previous day. Do you remember the precise amount of time you spent sleeping, grooming, preparing meals and snacks, eating and drinking, driving to work, and working at your main job yesterday? Me either. The Internet and cell phones make us more productive. But they allow work to intrude into other activities. I suspect this didn't get factored in. The survey probably underreports work time by at least 10% to 20%.

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Set Boundaries to Help You Stop Working

Juggling navy duties, civilian work, and a 2-1/2 hour daily commute the past year, I’ve learned a few simple rules to reduce my working time:

  1. When told to take on another project or task, decline it. If that’s impractical, agree to “see that it gets handled” rather than “do it myself.”
  2. Delegate or rid yourself of all tasks except those only you can do. It may not be as hard as you think. Often coworkers would love to tackle something on your to-do list because it’s more interesting than their regular duties. Other tasks can sit uncompleted and no one will notice.
  3. Take care of loose ends before leaving work or on the drive home. Normal home cell phone mode should be off (or muted if you have to respond to emergencies), especially during meals.
  4. When you get home, leave your work in the car, mentally that is. No sense tempting fate by leaving your computer where it might get stolen.
  5. If you have to work at home, have a set place and time for doing so. You can complete your tasks more quickly without interruptions.

While the 40-hour workweek is much maligned, I think it makes a lot of sense. With only 168 hours in a week, at least 49 of which should be spent sleeping, working 40 hours takes up a third of your waking hours. Wouldn’t it be nice to confine them to 9 to 5? But there’s no use pining for what once was.

Hopefully, you’re not intent on having your tombstone read, “Worked Massive Numbers of Hours.” (If you are, please contact me immediately!) By learning to restrict your work you’ll find much more worthy words to place on it, and most likely have many more years before they have to be placed.

How many hours a week do you work? 

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below

How to Free Yourself on Independence Day

Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. Memories of picnics on the bluffs of Santa Barbara followed by fireworks and evocations of history resonate deeply. Nowadays, I gather friends at my home where we read the Declaration of Independence and have a barbecue. But aside from celebrating the rebirth of representative government on the world stage, this 4th of July can have deep personal significance for you.

How to Free Yourself on Independence Day

All of us are oppressed by something. It may be:

  • Fear: Letting go of the past to embrace a better present and future is a scary prospect. Even if your past is less than wonderful, it’s familiar. Change leads to growth and new opportunities. Are you living the exact life you want?
  • Victimhood: You may be a victim, in which case you need help and time to heal. But too often victimhood is used as an excuse for inadequate self-discipline. Is it really Hagen Daz’s fault?
  • Overcommitting: There’s lots of reasons you say yes too often: Good intentions, maintaining a relationship, belief that you can do it all. Do you really want to keep living this way? Would the world end if you said no sometimes?
  • People Pleasing: Related to overcommitting, consistently placing other’s needs ahead of you own will eventually destroy your ability to help anyone. You’re a person too. Why aren’t you making self-care a priority?
  • Procrastinating: If you’re putting off doing tasks you should not be doing in the first place, GREAT! But, if essential tasks remain neglected day after day, you’re paying a terrible price. What prevents your being motivated?
  • Failure: Talk to anyone who has done anything and you’ll find they failed. And while they may not broadcast it, most highly successful people have failed a lot. Coming up short is a part of life. Why do you want to make it permanent by allowing it to halt further progress?

My list isn’t complete. Take some time this week to figure out what burdens you. Perhaps you have several. Choose the one most easily overcome. Then, on Independence Day, declare your freedom from it. Commit to negating its influence on your life. Paste a big note on you bathroom mirror saying:

I am free from [burden]. It no longer tyrannizes my life.

Every time you see your sign, read it out loud. Congratulations, 4th of July has just become your personal independence day too!

How will you celebrate Independence Day? Please comment below.

How to Deal with Injustice

Periodically I find myself experiencing Don Quixote moments. If you’re not familiar with the title character of The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, he inspired Man of La Mancha, the great 1965 musical in which The Impossible Dream is sung. Don Quixote, who jousts with windmills, longs to “right the unrightable wrong . . . no matter how hopeless.” He’d find innumerable opportunities for such futility in the navy’s bureaucracy.

How to Deal with Injustice

Hindsight often exposes the folly of many of my fights. When someone does something unjust or malicious my default is to expose the perpetrator and have him punished. After all, if he gets away with such behavior it will encourage him to do it again. But such battles take a great deal of physical and mental energy. The resulting frustration inevitably spills over into other areas of my life, impacting my spiritual wellbeing.

Reality check: Even if the person is held accountable, I’ve made an enemy for life, one who will revel in having justification for further odious acts.

Balance is key here.

My running partner and I discussed proportionality last week. Response to a provocation must be in line with the larger strategic goal not the individual incursion. So too in your life. Before you level the 16” guns, is the campaign on which you’re planning to expend so much energy worth it in light of your personal mission and goals?

I’m not going to change the stagnant and insidious nature of navy bureaucracy any more than I am going to transform human nature. There will always be people who play petty power games corrosive to morale that detract from meeting the mission. My best course of action is to navigate around them. I’ll leave it for G-d to decide the appropriate punishment.

How do you bring this type of balance into your life?

  1. Be crystal clear about your personal mission
  2. Be equally clear about the goals that support your mission
  3. When faced with an obstacle, only confront it if it serves your mission and goals

This may sound selfish, but if your mission is sound then undoubtedly you are serving humanity in your own way.

I can understand Don Quixote’s attraction to hopeless causes. Unexpected victory in such a fight powerfully supports the belief that justice will prevail. Occasionally it’s necessary to sharpen my lance and take the field against an unconquerable enemy, if only to preserve my peace of mind. I suspect you feel the same way. If so, fight a battle that even though you lose it, will give you a lesson you can use in more winnable fights.

In the meantime, save your physical, mental, and spiritual energy for those you love and who love and respect you. Your white charger won’t mind resting in his stall a while longer, unburdened by heavy armor.

What hopeless cause must you fight for? Please comment below.

When Doing Nothing is the Most Productive

Have you ever kept an onion so long it grew green shoots? A few months ago I had one that sprouted stems a foot long. Rather than throwing it away I decided to plant it. Since potting it I’ve done nothing but water it periodically. About a week ago while leaving the house I noticed what looked like a seedpod had grown at the top of a three-foot high stalk. Coming home one evening the pod had blossomed into tiny, delicate white flowers. They are exquisite.

When Doing Nothing is the Most Productive

So often when something starts to go wrong or crisis strikes I feel compelled to immediately respond. Massive intervention before things get worse seems like the only prudent course of action. But of late, I’ve held myself back. Not the kind of procrastination where I'm avoiding dealing with an issue or am paralyzed by indecision. I intentionally take time to study and consider alternatives and at times consult with a friend or trusted advisor.

In doing so I’ve spared myself considerable emotional turmoil.

Some of the questions I ask myself before responding to a challenge are:

  1. Is there really a problem here?
  2. What is the challenge and what are its roots?
  3. Is it as big as I think it is? Put another way, will it make any difference a week, month, or year from now?
  4. If I get overly caught up in dealing with the issue, what other things will I be prevented from doing?
  5. Can I have a positive impact on the resolution?
  6. Will it distract me from the priorities in my life?

Living an intentional life might lead you to think you must intervene anytime something happens that isn't in line with your plans. But maybe this alternative path will get you where you want to go just as well as the original. Or maybe it will take you to a better place.

While neglecting a significant relationship challenge or the need to change a negative habit is rarely if ever productive, most of life’s challenges are not at that level. Benign neglect can often solve minor problems as well as intervention can and with a smaller investment of time and emotion.

Consider letting the onion slide. Maybe it will bloom into a beautiful white flower on its own.

What are your criteria for deciding to intervene in a problem? Please comment below.

How to Decide When You’ll Embrace Change

I became an Uber fan last week. My wife used it to go to a banquet a few days before and loved it. The ease and economy of Uber is irresistible. The hardest part was downloading the app and getting it set up, which took about 15 minutes. Unlike the times I’ve taken taxis, the driver showed up on time (the app tracked her arrival), she was friendly, her car was clean, and she drove me to me destination quickly.

How to Decide When You'll Embrace Change

I learned that Uber is controversial here in Los Angeles. The city council has considered banning it and airports trip are prohibited. Regrettably, the ugly history of licensing continues. Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, in their massive tome Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, show how over the centuries licensing has been used to exclude certain groups of people, including the Irish, blacks, and women, from various trades and professions.

Of course not every butcher, baker, cartman, and physician supported such exclusivity. Some overcame their financial self-interest and refused to fall prey to prejudice by remaining true to their values. They benefitted from the virtues of democracy and felt other should too.

So what does the plight of Uber have to do with personal development?

Articles extolling the virtues of change abound.   Earlier this year I wrote about how you shouldn’t fear change. I’ve also written about how not all change is good and that it should enhance your life.

So when should you embrace change and when should you shun it?

This is not an easy question to answer. Some guidelines will help:

  1. If you have a destructive habit such as overeating, not exercising, or spending more money than you earn you need to change it. The sooner the better.
  2. If your behavior is damaging a relationship, change it. A poor communication style must be improved. If you aren’t regularly and positively expressing connection to your spouse or children now is the time to do so.
  3. If the way you do something is unproductive or inefficient you probably should change it. Do you regularly use electronic devices before going to sleep or have an inconsistent bedtime? You’re sapping your productivity. In contrast, using Uber will help you be more efficient. (If you want a free ride use my code, kevinb5383ue. Full disclosure: If you use it I’ll get a free ride too.)

Should you change your values? As the example about licensees in New York City shows, typically the harder and better decision is to hold onto your values. Especially if the impetus for change is coming from outside yourself or from an untrustworthy source.

However, there may be times when you need to consider adjusting your values. If your worldview impedes your growth you should examine alterations. But before you change your values, recognize by altering your foundation you subject yourself to the law of unintended consequences. You will have an adjustment period while you work through all the dimensions of this change.

For more than a century society has urged embracing change, essentially for its own sake. As an Intentionalist, you decide when to Uber up.

How do you decide whether to change? Please comment below.

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