Nearly every diligent person, who is passionate about the work they do, struggles with balance. I have at different points in my career felt more balanced than at other times. I keep a list of “tasks” I need to do – behaviors I have focused on cultivating. The list is different from other task lists, however, because I do not check off any as completed. That’s why I want to call it my list of behaviors. It is a reminder to me that the process is ongoing. My list includes:
Declutter • Focus on one task at once • Allow myself to edit commitments to what I can do • Eliminate all but essentials • Don’t do everything at once • Declutter my mind • Do nothing for a moment • Eat more slowly • Have a purpose for each day • Focus on the big rocks, not the sand • Clear out the inbox • Clear off my desk • Be an early riser • Be motivated • Decompress after high stress situations • Cultivate more compassion • Escape materialism • Live the Golden Rule • Accept criticism with grace and appreciation • Have faith in humanity • Boost my self-confidence and respect my expertise • Live my life mindfully and more aware
I have been focusing on these behaviors for a long time now. There is still progress to be made, but I feel that I’ve come a long way. There are some behaviors listed above that I have improved and others with which I still struggle. However, awareness is the first critical step, as my mentor would say!
You have credibility; don’t lose it.
My mentor and I talked about my presentation skills again (I was on a panel discussion recently and asked him to watch the video and give me feedback). I repeated myself too many times. So the goal is to be succinct and concise. The audience will only give me a small amount of time, space, and attention. I repeat myself for two reasons:
- Anxiety: There are two types of anxiety: situational (it’s scary to be a on a panel – who knows what they’ll ask you and if you’ll be prepared?) and internal (am I good enough, smart enough, fast enough, eloquent enough to be on this or any panel?).
- Passion: I am excited about the subject matter and reiterate points I find to be important. My mentor said, “people repeat themselves because they want to drive the point home.”
The anxiety can be overcome with the result of a calm and deliberate presentation. I will have to prepare more, relax more, think more, give myself time, and eat lunch regularly. My mentor said,
“We’re not going for 100% stress free. If we did, we would die. You need stress to stay on your toes. You want managed stress.
According to my mentor, the passion I have for my field of expertise is a benefit. I have such a high degree of energy and passion that it’s contagious. Don’t stop it. He said,
“Harness the passion so it becomes more powerful.”
This applies to presentations because in addition to not repeating myself, I will want to stop where the passion is greatest. Once I’ve given a great presentation, I should stop there and “put a period at the end of the sentence.” I shouldn’t go on, eventually losing the once-piqued interest of my audience. The expert has credibility, but he or she can lose credibility if anxiety and unharnessed passion get in the way.
My mentor once said,
“Awareness – the first step toward transition to change.”
He said months later,
“Take note periodically today about how you are being in the moment. Is it how you want to be? If so, take note. If not, take note. Awareness is intentional.”
This morning on my commute I realized I felt very anxious about the work I have to do. I have projects, but beyond projects I have goals and I feel inundated with all the expectations I have set for myself. My anxiety comes across when I speak (I speak more quickly, perhaps less intentionally, and I don’t feel my thoughts are as organized as they should be). My energy level is reduced. I cannot manage interruptions as effectively. I need to reduce my anxiety: partly in focusing more on balance, partly in the unreasonable expectations I have set for myself.