What prompted you to write Overworked and Overwhelmed? Who should read this book?
Almost all of the leaders and professionals I work with as a coach tell me that life has gotten crazier each year for the past six or seven years. Most of my work has focused on helping executive leaders and other professionals strengthen their presence. It dawned on me a few years ago that demonstrating presence actually requires being present – physically, mentally and emotionally. This book is about the simple tools and plans leaders and professionals can use to be more present. It’s for anyone who is trying to do more and more with less and less and who can’t imagine life without 24/7 connectivity.
What message(s) do you hope readers take away?
Because of the demands on them today, most professionals are in a state of chronic fight or flight. That has a huge negative impact on their productivity, quality of life and their health. This book will help readers learn how to mindfully counteract that fight or flight response. The book helps them realize that they’re not going to change anything by doing more of what they’ve been doing. Working more hours isn’t the answer. The purpose of the book is to help readers identify and try simple mindfulness routines that will make a big difference in their quality of life.
What is mindfulness? What role does it play in work/life balance?
There are lots of definitions of mindfulness. For me, mindfulness equals awareness plus intention. If you can be more aware of what’s going on around you and inside you then you can be more intentional about what you’re going to do or not do in any given situation. I’m not a fan of the phrase work/life balance because I think balance is just a snapshot in time. You might attain it for a brief moment and then it evaporates into the ether. I encourage my clients to think about work/life rhythm more than balance. Mindfulness helps people find their optimal rhythm.
How have you incorporated mindfulness into your own life and what impact has it had on you personally?
Not to be overly dramatic but mindfulness has saved my life. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2009 and had a lot of serious side effects from the disease for two years after that. My wife encouraged me to try yoga to help manage my MS. Yoga, meditation and mindful eating have helped me not just survive but thrive with MS. Even with a full calendar of coaching, speaking, traveling, I do some combination of headstands, handstands and arm balances pretty much every day. Not bad for someone who had trouble walking around the block five years ago!
What advice would you offer for someone who is burned out?
Take a break. Give yourself a night, a day or a weekend away from email and the rest of the work. Relax a little. After you’ve gotten a little rest, take some time for self-reflection by asking yourself two questions: What am I really trying to do here? And, how do I need to show up to do that? Your answers will help you reconnect with the deeper purpose of your work.
How did you do your research?
My research is from interviews with over fifty mindful executives, professionals and thought leaders; an extensive review of the current academic research; my experience with my own clients; and my own experience in applying the principles of mindfulness to managing a chronic disease. One thing that really stood out for me in the interviews I conducted is that the highest capacity people know and understand that the only person who’s going to take care of you is you. Mindfulness begins with simple steps but you have to take those steps.
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My new book, The Culture Engine, guides leaders to create workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution.
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