When I was in my early 30s, my dad gave me a copy of Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
I was utterly fascinated at the idea of a crucial difference between urgent and important.
And then it blew my mind to learn that they were not opposites either.
Instead, they formed this cool quadrant.
Yes—the grid is cool!
These four quadrants are really fun brain-candy. The idea is to pay attention to which quadrant you are spending your time in. If you spend most of your time in Quadrant 2—yay! You win! You are a Highly Effective Person.
But urgency is compelling . . .
and women tend to be the ones who deal with the urgent, pressing problems of life and other people (bosses, colleagues, kids). Most women I know have days and even weeks fueled by adrenaline.
And truth be told--it actually feels amazing at first. When we are faced with a crisis or a deadline, that surge of adrenaline clears out the sludge and gives us a sense of focus, purpose and direction.
But our bodies are simply not made to run on adrenaline. Years ago, one of my friends shocked me when she said, in an airy yet tired voice: Oh yes! My adrenal glands are shot. My doctor says that's true for most women.
So it is an actual life challenge is to learn to fuel ourselves with plentiful sleep, nutritious food, and deep-focus (Quadrant 2) instead of the adrenal-gland-killing state of Quadrant 1.
Wait--breathe with me here.
Here are 3 tips to gently shift out of your addiction to emergency
TIP 1: Notice your body. Next time there’s a crash in the next room or you see your ex’s number on your caller ID, notice the tingly surge of adrenaline run through your body. After it is gone, do you wish you could feel energized like that again? Pay attention to your body's desire to create more of that juice.
TIP 2: Become curious: Hmm—am I chasing someone else’s urgency or emergency? If we are used to running on adrenaline, it may feel good to keep it going. Someone is always having an urgent moment, and if you are used to spending more time in Quadrant 1 than Quadrant 2, handling other people’s urgencies just becomes a way of life.
(But not the way of your life--so stay in that energy of curiosity and . . .)
TIP 3: Invite Discernment. Is something feels urgent, ask yourself: is this something I need to deal with now or not? If the answer is yes—deal with it. You are in Quadrant 1. But if the answer is no, you are in Quadrant 3—and you get to discern: Do I put this on a list to deal with in my Quadrant 2 focused time? Or can I just let it go?
And one final bonus tip! The traditional advice for Quadrant 4 is to eliminate or reduce. But it is more realistic to make a plan for those mindless clicks. You may decide to set a timer and spend 5-10 minutes on non-urgent, non-important tasks as a way to relax in a waiting room or as a wind-down into something more mindful: meditation or a relaxing bedtime routine.
If you want a deeper dive into Urgent vs. Important, join my private Facebook Group: The Bottom Line is You! I have a video on this very topic, plus a growing library of COVID-responsive videos on emotional hygiene and productivity at home.
CLICK to join my private FaceBook group: The Bottom Line is YOU!
You are on the couch. Your laptop is open. You are staring. You are clicking through your open tabs. Calendar. To-Do List. Trello. Facebook. Gmail. Zoom. Word. Mom? Where’s the dog toothbrush?
Wait--how did I get to the fridge? Something cold and sweet actually sounds good. Wait—I have an appointment soon. Where is my phone?
If you have a living memory of how you used to rock your multi-tasking, working-from-anywhere world, it may still feel shocking to you, how hard it is to be productive at home right now.
It’s a lot.
And yes, you all know that I have a whole bunch of free body-based emotional processing tools.
But today, I’ve got something a little different to share with you.
One small tweak to help your pandemic productivity problems.
I’ve used it for years.
And I’ve re-vamped it for the ever emerging whack-a-normal!
Back in 2008, my office was in a kitchen that I shared with my colleagues. Now, I’m an out-of-control extravert, so I was actually pretty happy.
But not productive.
I had heard about standing desks, and so, DYI that I am, I brought in a cardboard box, stuck my monitor on top, and got much joy from the sudden increase in my energy! My boss, being an angel, soon made sure that I had a more sturdy wooden tabletop standing desk, and now I have a decked-out, fully-automated standing desk that raises and lowers from standing to sitting.
I love that desk.
It's in my office at the university.
Where I am not working very often.
You know—because of possible contagion.
At home, where I am protected from contagion but have no cool desk, I found myself getting sleepy instead of energized.
And grouchy with my daughter.
And distracted by the cat and dog and dishes.
So here is my one little tweak to help your productivity problems at home:
Create standing workspaces throughout your home.
This does not necessarily mean a full-out standing desk (though if you have the money and space—fantastic!)
And fear about the future is the strange gift of being human. Our astonishing ability to think and plan and imagine and anticipate problems in the future makes us very good at doing things to prepare for what is likely to come next.
But it comes with a price: fear and anxiety.
The body has a complex system of fear responses, but we can understand the two basic responses as follows:
Identifying which state you are in can help you shift into a more relaxed and open state, like flow (being deeply and pleasurably immersed in a focused activity) or social engagement. (feeling safe enough to be genuine with others and open to new ideas).
So here are two quick tips to help shift your biological fear response into focus, flow, safety, and openness.
1) The Freeze-Faint Shift
One of my clients recently had a deep energetic emotional release. I encouraged her to move around to help the emotion fully exit her body, and I was thrilled to see that she was allowing herself literally to shake—her hands, her shoulders, her head. She got her whole body engaged! She was really shaking it out. I joined her, shaking my body as well, to encourage her to stay with her process until it came to a natural conclusion.
She beamed. She had begun the session unfocused and sleepy, and had left the session enthusiastic and energized.
What was happening?
My client had gone into a habitual freeze-faint response.
The freeze-faint response happens when, for example, a rabbit or a deer is startled into motionlessness. The instinctive goal is not to be seen or noticed—and the freeze-faint response shuts down the nervous system.
How do I shift out of freeze-faint?
To shift out of freeze-faint, you need to wake up your nervous system.
The most recent studies on trauma affirm that trembling and shaking after trauma causes the nervous system to reset itself.
So if you feel that your energy is drained (faint) or that your body is rigid (freeze)--allow yourself to shake/tremble/dance/move/look weird.
Your body is the boss of this, so let yourself look as weird as you need to!
2). The Fight-Flight Shift
Another client some years ago was going through a divorce. She was conflict-avoidant and simply left the room whenever her teenager began to get in her face. One day, her daughter bluntly told her bluntly that when she left the room like that, it felt like she didn’t love her.
What was happening?
My client had developed a flight response to conflict in order to keep herself from exploding in anger. This worked well when she was a child, but as a divorcing mom, she had learn to meet her daughter’s anger without fleeing and without exploding. That meant she had to shift out of fight-flight.
How do I shift out of fight-flight?
To shift out of fight-flight, you need to ground yourself and calm the nervous system.
By taking a sumo stance and consciously exhaling a few seconds longer than inhaling. The longer exhalation resets the nervous system to get out of fight mode, and the sumo stance keeps you feeling grounded, counteracting the impulse to flee.
—and within a week or so, she noticed a real difference in her relationship with her daughter.
My client's sumo-stance practice continues to serve her well during COVID.
She is able to stay productive, engage in creative conflict, and use healthy communication practices with her daughter, as they shelter-in-place together.
Getting stuff done is hard in normal times. It is especially hard now, when there is so much fear, and so much is outside of our control.
That is why I encourage you to download my free guide to identify and fix the 3 Invisible Time Leaks that almost everyone overlooks when they try to "be more productive."
Download my guide: 3 Invisible Time Leaks
Lynnea Annette is an executive life coach who supports professional women who feel the stress of working hard and being under-appreciated.