Initially, I thought “roller coaster”
would be the best subject line for this article, but I’ve learned I was wrong.
You see when we’re going through big changes personally or professionally such as taking on a stretch project, moving to a new city, starting a new job, opening a business, getting married, or having a child, you know that other people have survived–and thrived–in these situations. Yet to you, everything is completely new and unfamiliar, and it can make you feel anxious and insecure.
As I’ve worked through big new challenges, I’ve found that it’s MUCH better to “think tightrope” than to think roller coaster. Here’s why: When you think of what you’re going through as being on an “emotional roller coaster” you feel completely out of control and open yourself up to huge variance in your emotions and in turn your productivity. However, when you “think tightrope,” you can’t stop outside forces from shaking you, but you can rebound and recover more quickly. This mindset allows you to shrink the variance in your overall mental and emotional state so the whole day isn’t ruined by a relatively minor incident.
Here’s How to Stay On The Tightrope:
- Get Moving: When we stay in the same physical state, we tend to stay in the same mental state. When you notice panic or sadness start to overtake you, get up and move. That could look like going on a quick walk, stretching, getting a cup of tea (which one of my dear English friends says is the “panacea for all ill”), or even taking a quick nap. I love how Gretchen Rubin talks about taking care of yourself in her post, “Why I Treat Myself Like a Toddler. A Cranky Toddler.” Often taking care of the physical, will quickly break us out of being stuck in our mental angst.
- Talk Kindly: When I first start working with many of my clients, they tend to speak very critically to themselves. So instead of talking to themselves gently like they would relate to a little child who is upset and scared, they brusquely try to tell themselves to “just suck it up,” “get over it,” and “stop being a baby.” This motivation by self-intimidation may work for a short while but then leads to fatigue and burn out. Instead, I recommend that you take a more kind approach, or at least an analytical one to figure out what’s gone wrong. Here’s an example of how to do this from my 99U post on “What to Do When You Fall Back Into Your Old, Less Productive Ways.”
- Grab a Stabilizer: Just like a tightrope walker has a pole, you should have stabilizing forces that you can reach out to when you feel off balance. For me, that looks like positive music, happy texts from friends, Bible verses, conversations with advisers, or simply grabbing a cup of tea. Your comforts may look different, put you should have a handful of them available to you at all times so that you can reach to them for help when you notice yourself falling off track. (This Gratitude video shared with me by a coaching client is a great place to start.)
Keep At It!
I hope you found these tips helpful as you manage the ebbs and flows of each day. As I see time and time again with my clients, effective time investment is not as much about knowing what to do, but about consistently putting it into practice. Feeling more in control of your inner state is the biggest key to making that happen. That’s why the first three chapters of my first book are devoted to the paradigm shifts and tools you need to have the right mental and emotional foundation for success.
About Real Life E®
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder and CEO of Real Life E® a time coaching and training company that empowers individuals who feel guilty, overwhelmed and frustrated to feel peaceful, confident and accomplished. She is an expert on achieving more success with less stress. Real Life E® also increases employee productivity, satisfaction and work/life balance through coaching and training programs.
McGraw Hill published her first book The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress. Harvard Business Review is publishing her second book How to Invest Your Time Like Money. Elizabeth contributes to blogs like Lifehacker, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and the 99U blog on productivity for creative professionals and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox.