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8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

Think of the last time you went a whole day without doing something that could be considered work. Whether this is catching up on emails over the weekend, working ahead on a project after the kids have gone to sleep or spending what should be leisure time overexerting yourself cleaning the house, tending to the garden or sorting out a closet.

If you’re lucky to have recently enjoyed a fully unplugged vacation, you are in the rare minority of people who can actually recall a day in which they have not worked. What’s worse is that most of this “work” is self-imposed when really leisure time would totally be acceptable. We are creatures of habit and work has become a habitual part of our daily routine that gives us comfort and security.

As Americans, our growing addiction to using every ounce of our day doing something productive has greatly impacted the way we view and distribute our free time. We are now wired to always feel like free time is this luxury we can never afford when really it’s surrounding us all the time. We simply cannot break out of our habit of busyness to enjoy it.

After some deep reflection on the way I personally view and use my own free time, I want to share with you 8 reasons why I believe we feel we never have enough free time (even when we do). Take a look…

We quite literally see time as money.

Back in the 18th century, the clock was first used to synchronize labor. Ever since then, our society has grown an increasingly strong correlation between time and money. We are paid by the hour, bill by the hour and even if we’re salaried or paid on a per project basis, we still know approximately how many hours we’re working and how that breaks down into dollars.

In our minds, time is money. This is why we worry more and more about spending, saving and profiting from time.

Busyness is a badge of honor.

Centuries ago, only the wealthy were afforded the luxury of free time. Now we no longer see free time as a luxury, but as a sign that we’re not working to our full potential or that we are not needed. Think of the typical office environment. The people who are deemed dedicated and successful are often the first to arrive in the office and the last one to leave for the day. Sometimes it even becomes of competition over who is willing to skip lunch, forgo bathroom breaks and steer clear of water cooler talk just to appear the busiest.

Our society now sees the busy person as the more valuable person. Clearly they must be more talented and in higher demand if they have nonstop work to do, right? With busyness as the new indicator of success, free time makes us question our self-worth.

The more we feel our time is worth, the stingier we become with how we spend it.

As we continue to link the relationship between time and money, here is one more reason why we never feel like we have enough free time. It’s because we overvalue what our time is worth. We keep moving the target for how much we should earn per hour, always striving for more. Because for many of us, this amount will never be enough, we struggle to find any leisure activity that is worth the opportunity cost of not working (thus not earning money) for this amount of time.

The thought of “wasting time” is causes more anxiety and stress than we realize.

And because we see time as money, it now has a real value to us. Anything that is valuable seems scarcer, therefore we see time as this resource we cannot afford to waste. When we have free time, our habitual minds tell us to use it to do something productive or something that will earn more money.

We feel comfortable and secure when we are spending time working. It’s what we know and what we ultimately crave. If someone were to take away your means to be productive for a day (cell phone, computer, tablet and internet connection), how anxious and stressed would you feel? See how long it takes people to realize the internet isn’t working in a coffee shop and you’ll see this scenario play out before your eyes. You would think the oxygen had been “turned off.”

Choices raise the opportunity cost of leisure time.

There are so many ways we can spend our free time and this often results in the paralyzing inability to spend it at all. We struggle to narrow down our options and stress over the opportunity cost of picking one thing over another. Simply put, we overthink how we spend our free time and then default to the easy and familiar option of work.

We can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

One of the biggest traps we fall into is deferring our happiness for this mythical moment in the future in which we will finally enjoy the fruits of our labor. The reality is, we will always keep pushing this goal further and further away with the promise that the end result will be even bigger and better if only we work a bit harder for a while longer.

As we work hard to earn more money to one day afford a life of leisure and happiness, we are using up prime hours that could make us very happy right now. The bottom line is that we can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

Instant gratification breeds impatience.

Yet another reason why we can’t seem to enjoy free time is because technology has us so high strung. We want instant access and gratification for everything we do. Leisure activities become stressful when we feel like we are being inefficient with our time – which is the whole point.

I know I personally feel annoyed or panicked when I try to stream a movie and the internet is slow. I get impatient and usually check emails or answer texts while I wait. Or think about spending a day at an amusement park. Not only does it cost a lot of money, it also requires a lot of time to wait in line, sometimes several hours for a single ride. For these reasons, many would agree that a trip to an amusement park feels anything but leisurely.

We are surrounded by constant reminders that our work is never done.

Even if we dare to take a break and use some of precious time to do something that is unrelated to work, we can never fully escape. Our phones, computers and tablets seem to always be within reach. Our deeply rooted habits tell us we should be refreshing our emails or answering any call that comes in “just in case it’s an emergency” (though it rarely ever is).

One of the biggest reasons why we don’t feel like we have enough free time is because we never actually experience being completely disconnected to the point we couldn’t answer a work email even if we really wanted to. If you haven’t taken a vacation somewhere where internet simply isn’t an option, I urge you to do so this year (think tropical island, secluded cabin, etc). Shutting off your phone and stowing it away for a few days is one of the best things you will ever do to find true relaxation and redefine your self-worth beyond your hourly billing rate.

Do you share in some of these reasons why we never seem to have enough free time? Do you have others to add to the list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 

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5 Ways You Are Spreading Negativity Without Knowing It

5 Ways You Are Spreading Negativity Without Knowing It

Would you consider yourself to be a positive or negative person? Most of us would like to identify with being a friend or co-worker who brings positive energy to the world around us. The struggle is that so often we allow negativity to creep into our thoughts and actions and before we know it, we are spreading these thoughts without realizing we are doing so!

What are the common ways we spread negativity and what can we do to consciously stop this bad behavior? Here are five examples that should ring true to all of us in some capacity.

Using the phrase “no problem”

Think about how we answer a request, whether it be for work or when talking to a friend or family member. A common response we use is “no problem.” This is often meant in a pleasant and helpful way, so then why are we framing it in the negative? Saying “no problem” implies that whatever you did for that person could have been a problem, but that you were willing to sacrifice or overlook that.

This phrase has become so much a part of our culture that we don’t often realize when we’re saying it or how often. Yet, as soon as you start to look for it, it crops up everywhere! It spreads negativity discretely and indirectly by making someone feel like you’ve done them a favor or that they might owe you in the future. Rather, we need to shift to responding with positive phrases like “my pleasure” or “I’d be happy to.” This small change can have a profound impact on the way you communicate with others and how they perceive your motives to help.

Focusing on the negative percent

Another sneaky way we let negativity creep into our daily lives is how we interpret percentages. Even though a 20% chance of rain also means an 80% change of sun, the weatherperson is more likely to lead with the dismal statistic even though it’s the smaller one. In this scenario, we might be able to give them a pass for wanting to boost their ratings with interesting news, but it’s a common practice that is carried over into many other areas of life.

When we look at health statistics, we often focus on how many people are diagnosed, die or suffer as opposed to the positive percentage of how many people are healthy, alive and well. There’s a time and place for taking negative statistics into account, but so often we allow our focus on the negative to cause anxiety about something that is pretty unlikely to occur. The lesson here is to always consider both parts of a statistic. If there’s a 15% change your worst fear will come true, remember that this is also telling you there is an 85% chance you will be just fine.

Saying something is “not bad”

Has someone ever suggested something to you and you responded with “That’s not a bad idea!”? It’s pretty likely you’ve used this phrase at least once in the past month. If you really think about what you’re saying to the person, it’s quite a negative way to respond to their effort to be helpful. Saying “not bad” implies that you might have been expecting them to come up with a bad or disappointing idea, and are actually surprised they didn’t. Moreover, this phrase doesn’t give any credit to the idea being good.

Culturally, the phrase “not bad” is often used with some sarcasm. It’s pulling that person’s leg that you would have actually expected their idea, their cooking, their creative skills, etc. to be bad when in reality you had full faith in them. I’m all for sarcasm at the right place and the right time, but we have to be mindful about also spreading positive encouragement when it’s needed. In a work environment, it’s far better to respond with a more direct statement like “That’s a great idea!” or “Good thinking!” Don’t make people guess as to whether you’re being negative or just sarcastic. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Using canned responses when someone asks how you are doing

Here’s another way you may be spreading negativity without knowing it. Think about how you respond when someone asks how you are doing. If it’s Monday, we’re likely to make a joke about getting back to the grind or feeling tired from the weekend. If it’s Friday we might say something along the lines of just getting through today and then maybe we’ll get a break on Saturday. We can find a reason to feel tired or overwhelmed any day of the week!

When someone asks how you are doing, it’s often a conversation starter. They don’t really want to hear about the moans and groans of your work week. Instead of spewing out negativity with your response (sarcastic or not), try and find just one positive thing to focus on and spread this positivity with the person who is asking. Keep it simple with something like “I’m having a really great day. How are you?” Or be specific while still keeping it short with “I enjoyed spending time with my family this weekend. Did you enjoy yours?” If you’re happy, share it! And if you’re having a bad day, sharing just one positive thing can actually help turn your day around.

Letting an issue leak into another part of your life

This final point can be the most toxic when it comes to spreading negativity. If you have an issue that you fail to compartmentalize, it’s going to leak into other areas of your life and it’s going to get messy! For example, if you got into an argument with a coworker right before heading home for the day, it’s easy to carry this burden with you throughout the evening and into the next day until it’s resolved. But in doing so, you’re bringing this stress and anxiety into your home and it will prevent you from fully engaging with your family during your off hours.

If you feel a weight on your shoulders, stop and address it. If it can’t be addressed right now (because you have to talk to someone at work or because it’s regarding an upcoming event) then you need to push it out of your mind, even temporarily, to continue living in the moment and enjoying the positivity that is around you right now. Don’t fall victim to spreading your own negativity to other parts of your life. Work on compartmentalizing these emotions and addressing them at the right moment.

Are you guilty of spreading negativity in any of these sneaky and unassuming ways? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
7 Comments

Posted by on February 15, 2016 in Happiness, Life

 

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8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

Think of the last time you went a whole day without doing something that could be considered work. Whether this is catching up on emails over the weekend, working ahead on a project after the kids have gone to sleep or spending what should be leisure time overexerting yourself cleaning the house, tending to the garden or sorting out a closet.

If you’re lucky to have recently enjoyed a fully unplugged vacation, you are in the rare minority of people who can actually recall a day in which they have not worked. What’s worse is that most of this “work” is self-imposed when really leisure time would totally be acceptable. We are creatures of habit and work has become a habitual part of our daily routine that gives us comfort and security.

As Americans, our growing addiction to using every ounce of our day doing something productive has greatly impacted the way we view and distribute our free time. We are now wired to always feel like free time is this luxury we can never afford when really it’s surrounding us all the time. We simply cannot break out of our habit of busyness to enjoy it.

After some deep reflection on the way I personally view and use my own free time, I want to share with you 8 reasons why I believe we feel we never have enough free time (even when we do). Take a look…

We quite literally see time as money.

Back in the 18th century, the clock was first used to synchronize labor. Ever since then, our society has grown an increasingly strong correlation between time and money. We are paid by the hour, bill by the hour and even if we’re salaried or paid on a per project basis, we still know approximately how many hours we’re working and how that breaks down into dollars.

In our minds, time is money. This is why we worry more and more about spending, saving and profiting from time.

Busyness is a badge of honor.

Centuries ago, only the wealthy were afforded the luxury of free time. Now we no longer see free time as a luxury, but as a sign that we’re not working to our full potential or that we are not needed. Think of the typical office environment. The people who are deemed dedicated and successful are often the first to arrive in the office and the last one to leave for the day. Sometimes it even becomes of competition over who is willing to skip lunch, forgo bathroom breaks and steer clear of water cooler talk just to appear the busiest.

Our society now sees the busy person as the more valuable person. Clearly they must be more talented and in higher demand if they have nonstop work to do, right? With busyness as the new indicator of success, free time makes us question our self-worth.

The more we feel our time is worth, the stingier we become with how we spend it.

As we continue to link the relationship between time and money, here is one more reason why we never feel like we have enough free time. It’s because we overvalue what our time is worth. We keep moving the target for how much we should earn per hour, always striving for more. Because for many of us, this amount will never be enough, we struggle to find any leisure activity that is worth the opportunity cost of not working (thus not earning money) for this amount of time.

The thought of “wasting time” is causes more anxiety and stress than we realize.

And because we see time as money, it now has a real value to us. Anything that is valuable seems scarcer, therefore we see time as this resource we cannot afford to waste. When we have free time, our habitual minds tell us to use it to do something productive or something that will earn more money.

We feel comfortable and secure when we are spending time working. It’s what we know and what we ultimately crave. If someone were to take away your means to be productive for a day (cell phone, computer, tablet and internet connection), how anxious and stressed would you feel? See how long it takes people to realize the internet isn’t working in a coffee shop and you’ll see this scenario play out before your eyes. You would think the oxygen had been “turned off.”

Choices raise the opportunity cost of leisure time.

There are so many ways we can spend our free time and this often results in the paralyzing inability to spend it at all. We struggle to narrow down our options and stress over the opportunity cost of picking one thing over another. Simply put, we overthink how we spend our free time and then default to the easy and familiar option of work.

We can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

One of the biggest traps we fall into is deferring our happiness for this mythical moment in the future in which we will finally enjoy the fruits of our labor. The reality is, we will always keep pushing this goal further and further away with the promise that the end result will be even bigger and better if only we work a bit harder for a while longer.

As we work hard to earn more money to one day afford a life of leisure and happiness, we are using up prime hours that could make us very happy right now. The bottom line is that we can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

Instant gratification breeds impatience.

Yet another reason why we can’t seem to enjoy free time is because technology has us so high strung. We want instant access and gratification for everything we do. Leisure activities become stressful when we feel like we are being inefficient with our time – which is the whole point.

I know I personally feel annoyed or panicked when I try to stream a movie and the internet is slow. I get impatient and usually check emails or answer texts while I wait. Or think about spending a day at an amusement park. Not only does it cost a lot of money, it also requires a lot of time to wait in line, sometimes several hours for a single ride. For these reasons, many would agree that a trip to an amusement park feels anything but leisurely.

We are surrounded by constant reminders that our work is never done.

Even if we dare to take a break and use some of precious time to do something that is unrelated to work, we can never fully escape. Our phones, computers and tablets seem to always be within reach. Our deeply rooted habits tell us we should be refreshing our emails or answering any call that comes in “just in case it’s an emergency” (though it rarely ever is).

One of the biggest reasons why we don’t feel like we have enough free time is because we never actually experience being completely disconnected to the point we couldn’t answer a work email even if we really wanted to. If you haven’t taken a vacation somewhere where internet simply isn’t an option, I urge you to do so this year (think tropical island, secluded cabin, etc). Shutting off your phone and stowing it away for a few days is one of the best things you will ever do to find true relaxation and redefine your self-worth beyond your hourly billing rate.

Do you share in some of these reasons why we never seem to have enough free time? Do you have others to add to the list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
8 Comments

Posted by on September 28, 2015 in Business & Success, Time Management

 

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5 Ways to Create a Culture of Empowerment (Guest Blog by Sarah Pike)

The following post comes to us from returning guest blogger, Sarah Pike. Sarah is a freelancer and teacher with a passion for sharing innovative ideas about entrepreneurship, productivity and company culture. Be sure to visit her author’s bio below to learn more and connect!

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5 Ways to Create a Culture of Empowerment

5 Ways to Create a Culture of EmpowermentIf you’re tired of obscure strategies about more meetings and holding monthly birthday parties, try out some of our ideas to help your team feel empowered (and maybe even a little inspired). While communication and making sure employees feel heard are important, they are hard to quantify. The five tips listed below can help you take empowerment out of theory and put it into practice.

Give Snaps

This idea is a twist on the usual public acknowledgement idea – and it was inspired (without any shame) from the movie “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde.” Everyone on the team writes down something positive about another member of the team and puts it into the “snap cup.” In my former office, it was a pineapple bowl.

Then the facilitator of the activity reads each compliment out loud, and everyone gives snaps (literally snapping their fingers) for the person being acknowledged. I sometimes ran entire snap meetings centering on just one team member. It may seem like a silly idea, but I saw my team start looking for positive things in one another – and then expecting great things. It was a simple, non-threatening way to create an environment of positivity and to form a stronger team.

Pass the Mic

As the leader or manager, it’s easy to monopolize meetings with all the important things you have to say. But when your team only hears one voice, they become stagnant and can start to feel disengaged. There’s no better way to get them engaged than to give them the floor. You can either ask for volunteers or make assignments, but every team meeting should include some kind of training from at least one team member.

You can outline parameters for the kinds of training you’re looking for, but if you really want employees to take ownership, leave it as open-ended as possible. I’ve seen employees read “The Giving Tree” or turn the culminating battle scene in “Braveheart” into an inspiring message about taking risks and going for it. And the best part of this practice is that you, who are usually the one filling everyone else’s cup, get a chance to be inspired as well.

Give Feedback on the Spot

Employee surveys are just fine, but if you want to see immediate results and truly empower employees you need to speak up when you see something happening. If a team member just went out of their way to make a customer happy, go out of your way to make sure they get acknowledged for their efforts. If someone found a creative way to resolve a recurring problem, give them props and ask them to put together a training to share at a team meeting so everyone can benefit from their resourcefulness.

And encourage everyone in the office to do the same. You shouldn’t be the only one giving feedback. This is a discipline, though – it doesn’t simply happen. Set alerts on your calendar to remind yourself to look for on-the-spot opportunities. Once you start looking every day, it will become a habit. And this habit puts that open communication you’ve been striving for into practice.

Use an App

When it comes to employee empowerment, there’s an app for that. Motivosity is a program designed to automate, track, and facilitate employee engagement and acknowledgment. To have a truly collaborative workplace, you need to have a culture of empowerment and creating or transforming a culture takes discipline. Motivosity helps you get there.

From birthday and work anniversary acknowledgments to peer-to-peer rewards, this website/app combo streamlines your empowerment program and reminds everyone to give props to their coworkers. Motivosity also provides a fun, engaging way to capitalize on the competitiveness of your team by turning company and team goals into a game. And the program tracks everything that happens, which helps you identify which strategies are working and which ones are a waste of time.

Give Them Some Control

One of the best ways to help an employee feel empowered is to give them control over some aspects of their professional life. Whether it’s letting them decide how to transform the office break room or giving them the option to work from home part of the time, a sense of control can be more powerful than a raise.

Letting employees have input – especially in regard to their work schedule – shows you trust them and value their contribution. Remote work is becoming more common, especially for PR-related roles like social media managers and bloggers who rely solely on the Internet. And the benefits in regard to employee satisfaction and productivity definitely outweigh any perceived risks.

Whatever you decide to do to create a more inclusive, empowered workplace, make sure to be consistent and keep it going. Stopping and starting random initiatives only erodes trust and enthusiasm. While there isn’t one magic answer for helping your employees feel appreciated, you can start making a positive difference by implementing simple, concrete strategies that get everyone involved.

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About the Author: Sarah Pike is a freelancer and teacher, with a slight productivity app obsession. When she’s not writing or teaching, she’s probably reading about career-pathing and wellness. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.

 

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When You Don’t Plan Everything, Everything Goes As Planned

I just took my first real vacation for the first time in two years. I’m used to working, or at least having some obligation, every day of the week—even including evenings and weekends.  It wasn’t healthy. Because of this ridiculous schedule, I would plan out everything the night before, from what clothes I would wear to laying out exactly what I needed to pack for breakfast, lunch and dinner (as I would usually be gone from 8am until 11pm…on good days). People who know me can attest to how crazy it is to see someone pre-assemble the ingredients in a coffee mug and lay out a bowl of dry oatmeal so that their Tasmanian Devil routine in the morning wouldn’t be disrupted. From the time I left my bed until the time I returned, every second of my day was planned.

But during these past 8 days, I again went to ledge and jumped off completely. I allowed my schedule to be dictated by no more than what I felt like doing during that exact second. No alarms, no itinerary, nothing. The only thing I had to be on time for was my flights and even they were so horribly delayed and disrupted that I was truly forced to roll with the punches. How did I do? Surprisingly great. I may have approached melt-down mode once, but I blame that on the Chicago heat wave and a 4am taxi ride for a flight that didn’t leave until Noon…more on that below.

This unplanned but completely perfect vacation will remain one of my most memorable travels. Here are some of my highlights from Chicago to Miami:

It wasn’t even 10am and already 105 deg in Chicago. Breakfast ran late and we thought for sure we’d miss the boat tour. As it happens, the boat tour schedule online wasn’t correct and we got there just in time to board.

Having never really visited Chicago before, I thought this statue of Marilyn Monroe was an everyday fixture downtown. Little did I know just a week or so before visiting, this statue was finally unveiled. It is truly quite amazing. Spoiler alert: she’s wearing underwear underneath.

Taking the boat tour of Chicago wasn’t a planned venture. It was something we saw online and thought would be interesting if time allowed. This experience may have single-handedly made the trip. I fell in love with how the city’s tall, hard buildings so boldly contrasted with the smooth, flat water which weaves between them.

Out on Lake Michigan was one of the most serene moments I’ve had in a long time. You can see the hustle and bustle of the city in one direction, but turn around and it’s just you and the calm, blue water.

Catching a game at Wrigley Field wasn’t at all in the plans. We grabbed breakfast, hopped on a city bus (which is a whole other story involving a screaming homeless man) and bought tickets from a stand outside the stadium. A sunny July day spent watching baseball in Wrigley Field–now that’s American.

I’m by no means an experienced traveler and when flying out of one of the largest airports in the U.S. I didn’t know what was ‘normal’ airport volume. But I feel like this is FAR from normal for 6am in O’Hare. Apparently the record-setting rain in Chicago all fell in one night–8” to be exact. No flights were leaving and even the airport staff was delayed in traffic. That morning Chicago had a new attraction, the O’Hare Zoo.

The view of Biscayne Bay from the balcony made the flight delays, endless lines, sleep deprivation and 11 hours of travel completely worth it. Welcome to Miami…

This was the night we did the “touristy” thing and hit Miami Bayside. A great span of shops, bars and restaurants, but the most memorable part of this evening was the culture. Looking at this photo I can still hear the music and see the locals dancing so effortlessly to the rhythm. I think more people were dancing on the street than they were inside the bar. This city is filled with genuine contentment–a souvenir I got to take home.

South Beach, Miami: the place that has inspired songs, bikinis, diets and soft drinks to be created it its honor. Overall, it was like most public beaches I’ve been too–but who doesn’t love a day at the beach? I was never set on having to spend a day here, but a free ride from the hotel and it just seemed to again work out perfectly.

The night we hit South Beach, we got out of the cab and simply started walking. No plan, no schedule. Walking down the entire strip was pretty amazing. All the restaurants were hustling us for our service, but we chose to eat at “Tap Tap” an authentic Haitian restaurant just a few blocks away from the craziness. In hopes of meeting the rapper Pitbull, we grabbed drinks at the staple of South Beach night life: The Clevelander. No such luck on being star struck, but a perfectly unplanned evening yet again.

 
10 Comments

Posted by on July 29, 2011 in Wisdom

 

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