Holiday Stress: How NOT to Turn into a Burned Out Grinch!

Did you ever notice that we look forward to the joy of the holidays…but then are too exhausted and stressed out to really enjoy the festivities?  WHY does this (always) seem to happen?

In this video from my free eCourse, Destressing the Holidays:  How to Move From Bah Hum Bug to HoHoHoI’ll share the Top 5 holiday stressors:  by understanding what causes your holiday stress, you’re better able to avoid them.

For more information on overcoming holiday stress, click here in my on-demand holiday eCourse.  HoHoHo!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Why I STOPPED Over-Promising During the Holidays

Santa running

We all have expectations about the holidays…and often over-extend ourselves trying to meet them!  The result is holiday stress.

“Losers make promises they often break. Winners make commitments they always keep.” This quote by Denis Waitley, a well respected success coach and author, is not about winning and losing: it’s about understanding our capabilities, time commitments, and resources so that we CAN keep the commitments that we’ve made.

Trust and promises go hand-in-hand.

We’ve all had promises broken by our bosses, coworkers, colleagues, family, friends…and ourselves. While there may have been some very good reasons why we couldn’t follow through on what we promised to do, I sometimes wonder whether it’s really about two different things:

  • We focus too much on the reasons behind the broken promise, rather than the effects that our broken promises have on others.
  • We focus too much on making others happy by committing to something that we know we won’t be able to do.

Broken promises create shifts in relationships. It can destroy the level of trust that took years to build. It may increase our level of caution in future dealings with not only the person who broke their promise to us, but even extend to other people as well.

Truth is essential for building trust.

How to Determine If a Promise You Make Is a Promise That You Can Keep

Exercise care when making promises — particularly to family members and loved ones. Don’t over-promise!

If there is any doubt about your ability to deliver, then state these concerns directly and initially. In this way, the person who is relying on you to “make good” on your promise is forewarned and can decide whether or not to depend on you to take these actions.

Recognize that stuff does happen. It’s critical to notify the person who is depending upon you immediately if something unexpected threatens to undermine your ability to keep your promise.

Finally, be realistic about what you have the time and energy to achieve. You might want to prepare the entire holiday dinner — but that shouldn’t mean that you “forget” to sleep on the days before the meal! Enlist others to help you AND commit to enjoying the process with them.

The meal, the decorations, and the gifts may seem to be the “traditions” of your holiday — but it is really the relationships with the people whom you love that create the cherished moments.

Need help de-stressing the holidays?
Enroll in my FREE on-demand eCourse,
Destressing the Holidays:  How to Move From Bah Hum Bug to HoHoHo.  You’ll learn over 50 ways to reduce holiday stress at home AND at work.
Click here for immediate, on-demand, mobile-friendly access!  

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Why I STOPPED Trying to “Do It All” During the Holidays

Busy Elves

Does “having it all” necessarily mean “doing it all?”

In today’s fast-paced, chaotic world, we’ve developed a strong tendency to “go for the gold” in everything that we do — and we’re under constant pressure to do so:

It’s not enough to have a “happy” holiday…it has to be an AWESOME holiday!

It’s not enough to join our family and friends for a holiday meal, it has be the equivalent of a MICHELIN STAR feast!

While excellence is a worthwhile goal, I’ve come to believe that we can’t necessarily be “the best” at everything that we do — and that can be a good thing to help us really enjoy what we are doing.

So why do we apologize for our perceived lack of “perfection” — thereby forgetting to relish those things that we actually enjoy?

There are only 24 hours in a day – and we have to sleep at least some of those hours. But few of us get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night, so our energy falters even though we insist on continuing to do “everything.”

The result is higher stress and an even more insurmountable “to do” list.

So why do we insist — either consciously OR subconsciously — that it is imperative that we “do it all?” Even more important: why do we apologize when we CAN’T “do it all?”

Priorities, Importance, and the Unimportant 

The answer is to prioritize what’s important to us — because when everything is important, then nothing is really important.

The simple truth (albeit a hard one for many of us to accept) is that we can’t “do it all.” But we can do the important things — the things that represent our priorities — well. “Doing it all” inherently draws us off course as we attempt to also do the unimportant things in our lives.

“Unimportant,” however, doesn’t mean “unnecessary.” Unimportant tasks are those activities that might need to be done – but don’t necessarily have to be done…by us.

Therein lies the challenge: when we admit that a task that we have traditionally accomplished can be done by someone else, it often causes our ego to question our “value.”

One of the most valuable lessons that I have learned is to accept the fact that I am a human being. This is NOT a human “doing” nor is it a “superhero” who doesn’t need sleep, rest, and relaxation. It also means accepting the fact that I can’t do everything “perfectly.”

But, like many of us, admitting that I can’t do it all was and (to a certain extent) continues to be a challenge. At no time is this more evident than during the holidays.

When we believe that everything is important, we lose our ability to prioritize things into what’s really  important, what’s not important, and what’s “nice” but neither necessary nor enjoyable.

Trying to do it all leads to feelings of being overwhelmed. Failing in our attempts to do it all leads to frustration and a diminished sense of self-worth. When we exhaust ourselves trying to meet impossible self-imposed deadlines, we burn out.

Yet we continue in our misguided efforts to go beyond our very human limitations.

How to STOP Doing It All (and Not Enjoying It) 

There is a twopart cure for trying to “do it all”:

  1. First, we must prioritize what’s important to us…
  2. Then we must have the courage to focus our efforts on only those activities that are important to us

This means being able to say “no.” It also means being sufficiently confident of our own unique value so that we can feel comfortable delegating tasks to other people based on what’s important to them. 

If you love to bake, then by all means bake your family’s traditional holiday cookies!

Hate to decorate the tree? Then enlist your children, nephews, and nieces to “go wild” with their imaginations in the decorations.

Continuing to spend days preparing the Feast of the Seven Fishes for your Italian family? Then scale back and prepare only those dishes that your family really looks forward to. (NOTE: I did this in my family — surprisingly, the missing baccala was not even noticed!)

But the most important step to STOP trying to do it all is to stop apologizing when we can’t “do it all.”

It’s time to accept the fact that not only we personally but also everyone else CAN’T “do it all.” This insight drastically changes our perspectives of what is important, what is feasible, and what is just additional “stuff” that has little if any true importance.

FREE De-Stressing the Holidays eCourse:
How to Move From Bah Hum Bug to HoHoHo!  

Available NOW — enroll in my free 3-lesson eCourse to learn 50 ways to de-stress the holidays at home and at work!  Click here for more information.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  To learn more, please visit her blog for individuals at www.a-new-way-to-work.com or her corporate blog at www.changewithoutburnout.com.  For more tips and ideas, please subscribe to her weekly “Success @ Work” eNewsletter at https://drgeripuleo.lpages.co/success-work-opt-in-page

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end

Every beginning from other beginning's end - Seneca

Beginnings and endings:  are they really that different?  Or are they different ways of viewing the same event?

To begin anew means giving up what we did in the past in order to begin unfettered in creating a new future.  A fresh beginning that allows us to to move freely forward requires accepting that the events in the past have concluded.

Everything has a beginning…and everything has an end.  But letting go of the past can be a monumental task.

While past events may have laid the groundwork  for our steps into the future, the very nature of beginning marks the end of something else.

Too often we try to move forward while steadfastly clinging to the past.  But this is like driving a car by only looking in the rear view mirror — then wondering why we were unprepared for the roadblock in front of us.

Life has a great internal balance.  Everything that happens occurs for a reason.  And every beginning will eventually end in order to allow a new beginning to emerge.

Are you willing to accept what has ended in order to move forward?

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

 

Why It’s Time to Put an End to “Busy-ness”

Pet Hamster Holding A Blank  Sign

Is your business life burning you out – or is it the constant “busy-ness” that’s exhausting you? Is there REALLY a difference?!

Simply stated, YES. There is a critical difference that is based on the priorities that you use to determine your daily activities.

While it is noble, worthwhile, and even essential to actively participate in the strategic planning and daily operations of your professional life, don’t let your attempts to meet the demands of your business fall prey to “busy-ness.”

“Busy-ness” is analogous to a hamster constantly running on a wheel – but ultimately not getting any farther ahead. Still stuck on the wheel in its cage, the hamster nonetheless continues to do the same thing regardless of the result.

While the hamster might be enjoying the run, a business professional rarely sees the lack of movement as a good thing. Put another way, busy-ness is frantically treading water just to stay afloat.  

No One Consciously Strives for a Life of Busy-ness 

People generally like to see progress, results, or achievement. If you’re collapsing from exhaustion at night (but feel like your progress or results don’t match your effort), then you are a candidate for energy sapping “busy-ness.”  But why?

A life of busy-ness often results from a lack of priorities or time management. Let me explain.

While we all have worthwhile goals that we generally want to achieve, it is far too common for days, weeks, months, or even years to pass by with little or no progress toward their attainment. Because our priorities determine our actions, our REAL priorities are found in what we spend the most time doing.

This is closely akin to time management – which requires prioritization as the foundation of how we structure our days and lives.

I know what you’re thinking:

“You don’t understand!
I have work responsibilities AND personal responsibilities.
People depend on me – and I’m only one person trying to do it all!” 

This is the definition of crisis management – and crisis management is a contributing factor to burnout. Think of it this way: if you’re burned out, how are you going to have the energy to help anybody else – not even yourself?

But most of us DO have these competing priorities. The challenge is how to manage them.

The Culprits of Busy-ness

We don’t intentionally over-schedule our lives — that is, leaving NO time out between our actions to take of all these competing demands.  But we do have to recognize the insidious culprits that create a life of busy-ness.

#1 – Meetings. While some might be necessary, the purpose of many is just showing up. Does anybody really know what the meeting’s purpose is? Or what the desired outcomes are? Or why we’ve even been invited to attend in the first place? But standing meetings and ad hoc meetings are often time wasters that drain time away from the more important duties and responsibilities. As a result, the busy-ness leads to constantly playing “catch up.”

#2 – The Rush of Activity. Being busy feels good – but only if we are also being productive. Doing “stuff” that is unimportant or mindless can be a respite from an over-scheduled life. But when we have nothing to show for our effort of constant motion and activity, it’s a short skip over to resentment. The unfocused activities inherent in busy-ness are NOT productive action.

#3 – Perfectionism. Perfectionists are notorious for creating additional “must do’s” on their “to do” lists. Coupled with a belief that “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” perfectionists tend to subvert their priorities due to the constant struggle to do it all. Perfectionists fundamentally don’t trust other people to do what they say they are going to do OR do it in a way that meets the perfectionist’s high standards. Perfectionists may feel a sense of omnipotence even though their overscheduled calendars prevent them from meeting their true goals due to busy-ness.

#4 – Avoidance and Procrastination. Be honest: do you really want to clean the garage? Or tackle that monstrous report? Or deal with the communication problems in your team? Probably not. But the pervasive Puritan work ethic compels us to do something because we can’t just do nothing! So, we do the easy stuff. The mindless stuff. The stuff that takes time…but isn’t really that important. Then, when we miss the deadline of the avoided behemoth, we can honestly assert that we simply didn’t have the time – we were “too busy” with the other stuff.

#5 – The Absence of Planning. I once saw a cartoon where an employee was sitting quietly at his desk. When his boss asked him what he was doing, he replied that he was thinking – to which the boss replied, “Well quit thinking and get back to work!” In the cultures of many modern workplaces, thinking and planning are the equivalent of day dreaming – but activity of any kind is considered to be working! Unfocused activity that is done simply for the sake of doing something is busy-ness – and investing time in the unimportant is the result of poor planning.

3 Tips to Replace Busy-ness with Focused Action 

Instead of succumbing to action for its own sake, take a moment to decide what is truly important to YOU. What are the things that you need to do in order to create the legacy that you want to leave?  Remember:  you will leave a legacy even if you aren’t intentionally trying to do so.

Next, take stock of your weekly responsibilities in both your professional and personal lives. Estimate the amount of time that you think you need to complete each project – then be sure to include some “wiggle room” for unanticipated glitches or interruptions!

Finally, decide which projects must be completed by only you versus which can be delegated to others.  When delegating, even if they might not be able to do it as “perfectly” as you would like, you need to determine whether this level of perfection is actually required in order to achieve the goal).

Being busy in activities that bring you joy and lead to your desired goals creates the path toward actualizing your legacy. Plus you’ll be more energized and self-actualizing.

In contrast, permitting yourself to be victimized by a life of busy-ness leads only to exhaustion, regret, and resentment.

You DO have the power to give up busy-ness and get back on the track to the business of your life. All it takes is the courage and commitment to live your life by your priorities.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

We Are The Stuff on Which Our Minds Are Set

User's Guide - How I will get it

Throughout the ages, sages have advised us to monitor our thoughts — because they determine what we do and how we respond, which in turn determines the life that we experience.

So, what are YOU thinking about today?

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Workplace Compassion: What It Is, Why It’s Missing, and How It Contributes to Organizational Success

Compassion - Giving a hand up to another

Should we expect to find compassion in our workplaces – or should we check our emotions at the door in order to be more productive at work?   Is workplace compassion a “nice to have” bonus at work – or is it an organizational imperative for innovation and profitability?  According to recent research, compassion may be the key to innovation, learning, and adaptability in a constantly changing world.

Compassion:  What It Is (and Isn’t)

Compassion is defined as not only our caring response to another person’s suffering, but also to our attempts to help alleviate that suffering.  It is a hard-wired trait in humans – but one that many people feel is lacking in not only our personal relationships, but at work as well.

Workplace compassion is found in the interactions between employees.  It’s displayed in our willingness to help one another.  To understand that there might be reasons for a sudden change in performance.  To recognize that employees are human beings with lives outside of work.

In other words, compassion – whether it is in our personal or professional lives – is the resulting emotion of being conscious of another’s suffering or distress AND being willing to help them alleviate it.

Compassion is, therefore, not just a feeling but also an action.

And, according to many researchers, compassion can be learned.

Why Compassion Is Missing in Most Workplaces

In general, there are three causes that deter compassion in the workplace:

  1. The belief that professional and personal lives should be kept separate.
  2. The fear of appearing vulnerable and weak.
  3. The confusion surrounding how to offer support.

There is a long-held belief that emotions should be “left at the door” when we enter the workplace.  Whatever is going on in our personal lives should be compartmentalized in order to be “dealt with” when we leave work.

That may have worked when most of us worked a standard 40-hour work week and were essentially unreachable outside the office or work site.  But all that changed with the onset of technology.

While technology has been a great boon to many businesses and its workers, it has come with a price:  the 24/7 eLeash.  Today we are constantly accessible at any time of the day or night by email, text messaging, or even the “old-fashioned” phone call.  Workers often are unable to resist the technological call even if they are on vacation or celebrating a holiday with their families; some workers will “check in” even if they are hospitalized (but still conscious).

Because compassion requires the conscious acknowledgement of another person’s pain or suffering, it requires an emotional vulnerability that many workers are afraid to display in professional situations.

But this lack of compassion has deleterious consequences.  The employee who is attempting to balance a heavy workload with a family health crisis might be afraid to ask for help due to fears of being labeled as someone who “can’t handle” the demands of the job.  The resulting high stress levels negatively affect not only their performance, but also their emotional well-being and physical health.

Similarly, the manager who has excelled throughout his career may fear being labeled as “weak” if he responds compassionately (rather than autocratically or “by the book”) to a coworker’s need for some scheduling flexibility due to child demands from a recent divorce.  After all, wouldn’t this “softness” be transmitted through the office grapevine – with the result that he will be “taken advantage of” in the future?

If employees fear asking for some organizational help (or a little “slack”) when they are experiencing major challenges or changes, then they are more likely to become disengaged, unproductive, and burned out.

While the lack of workplace compassion is most frequently viewed as occurring between managers and their subordinates, it is also lacking in the interactions between colleagues and peers.

If the workplace culture is characterized by an obsessive compulsion to “win” and an aversion to “loss,” then employees tend to view providing any kind of compassionate assistance to their coworkers as an action that could undermine their personal ability to succeed.  In such an environment, even authentic offers to help may be viewed with suspicion:  what do they really want in exchange for this help?

Regardless of their formal structure of the workplace relationship, many people are uncomfortable when they are faced with someone who is hurting, in pain, or in desperate need.  How to offer support becomes a tricky undertaking:  would my offer to help make them feel that they are somehow inferior or then feel “bad” about themselves?

How Workplace Compassion Contributes to Organizational Success   

Displaying compassion to our fellow workers, subordinates, and managers requires an acceptance of our innate humanity.  In other words, compassion brings the “human” back into the workplace.

But compassion is not just a “feel good” workplace characteristic.  According to Worline and Dutton (2017), “compassion matters for competitive advantage.”

In an age in which innovation, collaboration, client customization, and adaptability are critical to organizational sustainability, there is an urgent demand for “bigger, better, and faster” – regardless of the goals’ reasonableness or achievability.  As burnout runs rampant in many organizations and employees choose to leave their employers (rather than continuously strive toward the achievement of these unreasonable demands), organizations must rethink their attitudes toward urgency.

Urgency was first touted as a way to create an adrenaline rush in employees so that they could work tirelessly toward the completion of tasks that were critical to organizational success.  But urgency and adrenaline are only healthy and sustainable in short doses; prolonged periods of urgent action that are not balanced with periods of respite and reward create not only burnout, but also emotional and physical health problem.

In other words, if everything is urgent…then nothing really is.

By instead rethinking organizational policies and processes in terms of their level of compassion toward workers, companies can reap the benefits of an engaged, energized, and loyal workforce.

I’m not kidding:  adding compassion as a criteria for policies and procedures has measurable benefits:

  • In a study by Jonathan Haidt of New York University, leaders who interacted with their subordinates in ways that were perceived as fair and self-sacrificing were rewarded with employees who were more loyal, committed, and collaborative in working to find solutions to problems.
  • Fowler and Christakis found that generous, compassionate, and kind actions created a chain reaction in workplaces – thus creating a cultural change toward compassion.
  • In a 2012 study published in BMC Public Health, compassionate acts built bonds between workers – which led to decreased stress levels and greater productivity.

Workplace compassion creates a culture of cooperation and trust.  Rather than a culture of competition, organizational cultures that exhibit and support compassion tend to have lower health care utilization rates, greater employee engagement, less turnover, and a culture of trust that supports learning and innovation.  (I told you I wasn’t kidding.)

5 Tips to Building Workplace Compassion

While I firmly believe that every employee desires to be treated compassionately at work, I also recognize that there are many hurdles to building a culture of compassion.

Based on my research, I have identified five simple ways that organizational leaders and individual employees can approach their work with a sense of compassion:

Tip #1:  Don’t respond based on implicit assumptions.  Bias is well-researched in the protected classes (e.g., gender, race, religion, etc.), but is infrequently acknowledged in the areas of human behavior.  While everyone has implicit biases through which we appraise the behaviors of others, it is important to step outside of these biases in order to see another’s perspective of the challenging situation.

Tip #2:  Be present and authentic.  Compassion should be given freely.  This is accomplished by becoming present in the moment – taking the time to see and listen to the people with whom you are engaged.  In other words, get out of your head and open your heart.

Tip #3:  Encourage employee conversations about non-work activities.  When employees are encouraged to socialize with one another, it provides greater insights into their motivations, fears, and aspirations.  When sharing such information, it can build trust and encourage a greater proclivity to help and support each other.  (NOTE:  Be patient with such sharing activities and NEVER force someone to share more than what they are comfortable with.)

Tip #4:  Create organizational initiatives that encourage employees helping each other.  Organizations that have a strong sense of community involvement may have an advantage in building a compassionate, collaborative culture – but don’t focus exclusively outside the organization.  Perhaps create an initiative that allows employees to provide assistance to other employees who might be in need.  For example, a fund which allows workers to donate their unused time off or make a financial donation to help a coworker.

Tip #5:  Recognize when employees act compassionately and help each other.  Formal recognition (e.g., awards, events) as well as informal “thank you’s” or even the offer to get an overworked colleague a much-needed cup of coffee are powerful ways to reinforce the importance that an organization places on compassionate activities in the workplace.

We humans are wired to empathize – which is an important aspect of compassion.  We’re wired to experience a visceral, emotional response to another’s suffering.  But compassion is more than empathy:  it is also the active response to help alleviate that suffering.

Additionally, compassionate action not only helps someone else who is in need but also makes us feel better and more hopeful.  Acting compassionately is a win-win.

So, even though pain may be an inevitable part of life, our feelings of suffering are not.  Compassion is what makes us human – and it’s a necessity in all of our lives.  Since we spend the majority of our time at work, we need compassion in our daily existence.  And it is through acts of compassion that companies can embrace the humanity of its workforce and harness the power of its only nondupulicatable competitive advantage:  its human resources.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com