Ep 35: Simple ways to feel less disengaged at work

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It’s easy to start feeling disconnected from your work. There’s so much going on at work that takes our focus and concentration away from what we do best.

All that can add up to real stress. You have the power to re-engage yourself at work.

Here are a few simple ways to reconnect with your work.

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

And don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes wherever you are! 

Full transcript 👇

Episode 35 - Simple ways to feel less disengaged at work - Cat looking out of a window with bars

Hi I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

Are you having trouble feeling personally invested in your work right now?

  • Maybe you have a lot of drama going on at work that’s distracting you.
  • Or maybe you’ve just hit a wall with what you can really do in this particular role.

Regardless of the reason, feeling disconnected from your work can be stressful.

After all, you spend most of your waking hours at work.

There are real costs to your productivity and your confidence when you don’t feel invested in what you’re good at.

There’s no room for that in today’s competitive work environment.

  • Struggling to have some control over the the direction your work is taking can easily turn in to cynicism.
  • Having more and more work put on you with already limited resources can lead to overwhelm and anxiety.
  • All this brings you to a pretty stressful place.

Engaging is hard because you have to fight to stay in the game. It’s even harder if you’re not sure exactly what you’re fighting for.

Sometimes it feels easier to just pull away from the fight.

Companies need to find meaningful ways to help employees feel more challenged, appreciated and forward-focused.

But really, whether or not you engage in your work is your decision.

And it’s a personal decision, not a business decision

When you don’t feel personally invested in your work it’s hard to grasp the purpose and meaning in your work days.

There is no line between personal and business anymore.

What affects you at work affects your livelihood.

And that’s very personal.

So being engaged in your work is ultimately your responsibility.

It is possible to feel more engaged.

You can find a few simple ways to reconnect with your work to help you feel better about the time you spend there.

  • You may discover a new direction for your work right where you are.
  • Or you may buy yourself some time until you can put a more definitive plan together.

Either way, making a decision to re-engage just a little bit can help you feel stronger and a little more in control.

Here are a few things you can consider.

Focus on the small stuff.

While you may have little control over the bigger decisions, you do usually have more mastery over the smaller parts of your job.

Find one strength or enjoyable skill you can hang your hat on right now.

This is something simple you can do just for the sake of enjoyment and that you can look forward to.

For example, if you like to write, maybe you can send a quick round up email to your coworkers where you share your perspective on the week’s industry news. This could be fun for you, and it won’t hurt your visibility.

Or maybe there’s a particular milestone coming up in a project that uses some of your very best skills. Lean into that one deliverable and put those skills on full display.

Find simple tasks or projects that will allow you to feel like you’re making a personal investment, even if it’s a small one.

This gives you kind of an intrinsic boost.

Seek out learning and training opportunities.

Maybe your company offers online training through an employee portal or a third-party learning platform. If they do, that’s amazing!

Carve out some time in your schedule to take advantage of this benefit to boost your skills.

Or find an introductory course online in a new area of focus that you have your eye on. This will put your focus on the future and take it off of what’s not working for you right now.

Learning is a great antidote to disengagement.

Offer to help someone else with their work.

I know you probably have more work than you can say grace over right now.

But offering to help a coworker with a simple task can help you feel needed and appreciated. You need to feel this way right now.

There’s nothing like knowing someone else is counting on you to make you feel energized.

Sacrificing a little of your time for someone else will go a long way to help you feel more connected.

And besides giving to others always makes you feel better.

Take regular breaks.

I’m a broken record on this one, I know. But when you’re struggling with stress, overwhelm and disengagement, you need to take time away to release that stress.

Feeling burned out for sure won’t help you feel more engaged.

Sitting for long periods at your desk is not just unhealthy for you physically. It also locks up your creativity and jacks with your focus and concentration.

Go do something else for a minute.

Then do that again in about an hour.

Regular breaks will help your days feel a little less intense and give them some rhythm.

There’s no one solution to employee engagement.

But you have a lot of power in your hands right now to reconnect with your work in simple and strategic ways.

For articles and videos about stress and mental health, visit my website at Lorimiller.me. You can catch Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Visit LoriMiller.me for info on how to subscribe.

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

  • Leave a note below or ask me a question in the comment section below.
  • Share this episode on Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn .

Help spread the message about good mental health!

 


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Ep 31: Make your weekend count with a vacation mindset

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It’s easy to let the weekend become another couple of days to get more accomplished. How can you make those two precious days truly help you recharge and refresh your outlook?

Here’s some research that found an interesting practice that can boost your weekend.

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

And don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes wherever you are! 

Full transcript

Hi I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

The weekend is finally here. If you’re like me you have a long list of things you need to get to this weekend.

Sleep is always on my list. I know you’re not supposed to catch up on sleep on the weekend because it’s not a good sleep habit. But I can’t help myself.

Sleeping in on Saturday feels like a little vacation day to me. I wake up when I’m ready. And I enjoy not one but two delicious cups of coffee brewed with love by my husband, so I don’t even have to make the coffee.

I get to enjoy reading without looking at the clock. I finally have time to fold and put away the clean towels sitting in the laundry room since last Monday.

And I finally have time to do some odd and end things around the house.

It all seems a little sweeter on the weekend.

Apparently my weekend approach is a real thing. Researchers call this the vacation mindset.

Recent research out of UCLA made an interesting discovery when studying vacation habits among working Americans.

You’ve probably heard this before.

Americans kind of suck at taking the vacation time they’ve already earned at their jobs.

Some studies show that we take just half of our vacation days.

Even though those same studies show going on vacation boosts happiness and makes you more productive at work. I’m not sure why you need a study to prove that, but there it is.

In this UCLA study, the researchers found that some of the folks in the study treated the weekend as if it was a little vacation.

It wasn’t necessarily that they just kicked back and didn’t take care of chores or ignored their kids.

They simply chose to focus on their present experiences and savored the moments in their weekend days.

  • When you’re on vacation, doesn’t the food taste a little richer?
  • Do you stop for a minute to think about how blessed you are while you watch your kids play Marco Polo in the pool?
  • Do you enjoy long conversations with your spouse, without worrying about all the activities you still have to check off your list today?

For this group in the study, the weekend wasn’t just another couple of days to focus on things you didn’t get to during the week. It was a break from the usual and a respite from the intense focus and forward thinking we get caught up in during the week.

Big surprise.

When the study was over, the control group who used their weekends as little vacations reported higher happiness scores on Monday morning than those who just treated it as the same old weekend.

I don’t know about you but I’m game to try anything that will make Monday seem brighter.

So here’s your charge.

This weekend, find ways to be present with yourself and with your family.

  • Look for opportunities to enjoy where you are.
  • Turn off that urge to get things done.
  • Save that for work.

Here are a few ideas to get you started this weekend.

  • Do something physical outside: take a walk, ride your bike, chase the dog, let the dog chase you. For some of you, after a long winter, spring is finally showing itself. Let nature cleanse the palate of this past week while you do something good for your body.
  • Text a friend a smiley face, or a heart, or a fist bump, or that salsa lady dancing. Your friend probably had a long week, too.
  • Cook something simple and delicious. Lose your #keto, #paleo, #howmanypoints voice in your head for a minute and just enjoy.
  • Remove some physical clutter. Clean out the linen closet of those hotel shampoos you’ve been saving for 8 years but never use. I always have a bunch of those. Donate them to a local homeless shelter. Even better…
  • Put some of the stuff you’re not using on eBay, Craigslist, Offerup, Facebook, whatever. You get the benefits of less clutter and also extra $$. Don’t underestimate how much people love buying your old stuff.
  • Write an outline for a book about a skill people are always complimenting you on. Once you see it take shape, next weekend you’ll want to start actually writing it.
  • Give a lot of hugs. This includes side hugs, bro hugs or full-on embraces (be selective with this one, though). Hugs release a chemical in your body called oxytocin that gives you a feeling of well-being. That feeling is what we’re shooting for here.

Use your weekend to recharge your focus and help you connect with what you love most about your life.

Give yourself a little vacation this weekend.

For articles and videos about stress and mental health, visit my website at Lorimiller.me. You can catch Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Visit LoriMiller.me for info on how to subscribe.

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

  • Leave a note below or ask me a question in the comment section below.
  • Share this episode on Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn .

Help spread the message about good mental health!

 


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Episode 25: Reduce stress in four quick ways right now

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Some days can leave you feeling so stressed out. How can you take some of the heat out of the day so you can reduce stress and keep going?

Here are four quick ideas you can try right now.

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

And don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes wherever you are! 

Full transcript

Hi I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

Are you having one of those days?

Some days just seem to have a mind of their own, don’t they? It seems like you got behind almost right away.

Now you’re scrambling just hoping to get a few things done before the end of the day.

And you still have the rest of the day to go at home.

What can you do to keep from feeling so stressed out?

Well, without leaving early and just calling it a day, here are a few quick and surgical ideas you can try right now to reduce stress.

Scratch one thing off your list right now.

Just take off that thing you know you’re not getting to but you feel obligated to include. You knew you weren’t getting to it when you put it on your list this morning.

Leaving it on your list just creates anxiety for you because you have to keep processing your internal conflict about it every time you look at it. Out of sight, out of mind.

Stand up, walk away from your desk and go … somewhere.

You have the time because you just took something off your list. 😂 You don’t need to meditate necessarily, and you don’t have to take a buddy if you don’t want to.

If the weather’s nice, just step outside and soak up some sun.  A lot of us are deficient in Vitamin D because we work inside all day and we wear sunscreen the rest of the time.

Nature is a huge mood booster, even if it’s snowy or overcast outside.

Take a minute to connect with the earth you were designed to spend most of your time in.

Take care of something that’s just for you.

Our lists are full of things for other people aren’t they? Is there one small thing you keep putting off doing for yourself that would make your life a smidgen better?

I’m not talking about a spa day or a manicure. Think smaller.

I’ve been out of washer fluid in my car for about a month. I bought a new bottle of fluid, but it’s just been sitting in my trunk sloshing around every time I make a turn. My filthy windshield started making me nuts.

So today, I went outside especially to put that fluid in my car. It made my drive home so much better and probably safer too. It was a little thing that made MY life easier.

Forget dinner.

Not completely. But do something dead simple for dinner. You don’t have to cook a full meal tonight.

Local grocery stores have so many options now for hot foods that are better than fast food. And a lot of them will even deliver it for you.

It may not be completely Keto or clean eating or whatever you do. But for tonight that’s gonna need to be okay.

Putting yourself under pressure on the principle of cooking your own food won’t cut it today. Now you can actually enjoy your evening.

Those are just a few examples. Find a few simple things of your own that will help you take some of the heat out of your day.

For articles and videos about stress and mental health, visit my website at Lorimiller.me. You can catch Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Visit LoriMiller.me for info on how to subscribe.

 

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

  • Leave a note below or ask me a question in the comment section below.
  • Share this episode on Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn .

Help spread the message about good mental health!

 


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How to go beyond positive thinking

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Stuffed toy sitting next to a coffee cup that reads "Today is gonna be a good day."

It’s no mystery that positive thinking is a valuable part of good mental health. You don’t have to be a genius to know that negative thinking will get you nowhere. So why should you go beyond positive thinking?

There’s nothing wrong with having optimism for the future.

It’s important to be able to believe that somehow everything will turn out okay. I believe we refer to that as hope.

But how do you make that hope tangible?

How can you feel invested in how things turn out instead of just hoping for the best?

I can remember when I was first exposed to the power of positive thinking. It was in my early married years when my husband and I became part of what was then known as Amway.

Amway was a multilevel marketing company that sold everything from toilet paper to vitamins. Not only could you buy products you used every day, but you could also make a little money and grow a business.

Well, we didn’t make a lot of money. But what we did do in Amway was make excellent friends.

Those excellent friends encouraged us to listen to cassette tapes each week. These cassette tapes had inspiring stories from people who had gone before us in business. They also contained positive messages from the big guns of positive thinking: Napoleon Hill, Norman Vincent Peale, Zig Ziglar, you name it.

The idea was that if you listened to these positive messages enough, you would just start to believe them. Your brain would naturally absorb these messages.

If you listened to them in place of negative feedback — for example the daily news — you would really start to see growth and progress in your business and your life.

Garbage in, garbage out. 🗑️

Makes total sense.

This was an earth shattering concept for me at the time. If I’m honest, negative thinking is kind of my default mode.

I’ll look at what’s not working before I try to figure out how to make things work. (Hmmm…..this might actually make me a good therapist. 🤔)

I’ve often been accused of always finding ways to shoot holes through things right off the bat.

I understand now that it’s part of my personality, but I know there is much power in trying to be positive first. So this was a real challenge for me to apply these principles to my everyday life.

I’m grateful for this time in Amway because I learned that I had the power to map out and visualize a life that I wanted with positive thinking.

I could choose to keep that picture in front of me. Using the power of my own thinking, I could march towards that picture.

But the hardest part about this for me was that every time I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “This is going to be the best day ever,” and “I am awesome,” I didn’t believe it.

In my perspective, there was too much evidence that said otherwise. It felt like I was lying to myself.

All I could see was that I had several issues I needed to resolve that day and being awesome didn’t really give me a roadmap for how to solve my problems.

I was just giving myself a whole lot of thumbs-ups. 👍

What I was missing was adaptive thinking.

Adaptive thinking goes beyond positive thinking.

You have to do more than just believe things will be okay.

  • What happens if they’re not okay?
  • What do I do then?
  • Am I still awesome even though I dropped the ball?

This is where anxiety can so easily enter the picture because you don’t feel like you have any control over the outcome.

In order to solve problems, you have to know what role you play and which of your strengths you will use to come up with a solution.

Adaptive thinking allows you to keep a positive attitude as your foundation and lets you build on that to actually generate solutions to your problems.

Adaptive thinking helps you form contingencies.

Being able to plan around unexpected stuff without losing your stuff is the biggest key in remaining flexible. Anymore, being flexible is everything, especially at work.

Positive thinking would tell you to hope for the best when something you didn’t expect flies in to your day. You got this!

Adaptive thinking would tell you to consider all the possible scenarios in front of you and come up with solutions based on how you’ve handled these things before.

Of course you should stay positive that you can handle whatever comes your way.

But adaptive thinking gives you some real data in the moment so you can see how this might actually turn out. This is how you calm yourself.

Adaptive thinking helps you create observable and measurable plans instead of going off of some vague feeling of trying to feel better about the situation.

Adaptive thinking focuses on your strengths.

We all have things we are really good at. Those strengths give us the confidence to solve the problems that may pop up in the day.

When you are faced with a difficult situation, using positive thinking to hope for a positive outcome can help you persevere.

Adaptive thinking, however, lets you focus on your specific skills that will help you power through this situation.

  • Are you good at bringing some order to chaos? Focus on using that skill to make a step-by-step list of the things you will take care of today.
  • Are you the person who can find solutions under a rock? Bring that strength to the equation to help you and your team see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Are you the empathetic one who can help keep the peace in tense situations? Please, yes, your strength is superhuman and can help your team survive some tough times. (Why is there no Superman emoji?)

Focusing on the strengths you’ve already developed builds tremendous confidence for the next challenge that comes along. You have results you can point back to. 👈

“I’ve got this because I’ve done this before.”

Feeling inspired or hopeful is a great place to start. But you will really succeed when you go beyond positive thinking to focus on applying your strengths and skills to a challenge.

Use adaptive thinking to paint yourself a track record of what you’ve already done really well.

Adaptive thinking allows you to be curious and forward focused.

Positive thinking is forward focused all by itself. It always points you to believing you can succeed in some future moment. This is great.

Adaptive thinking takes you to the next level by letting you create that specific future moment for yourself. It allows you to explore your own natural curiosity.

  • What questions can you ask to look at this problem from all angles?
  • What strategies can you look at now that will set you up for that next level?
  • What have I done before that didn’t work?
  • What did work?

Interacting with your strengths, skills, and investigative prowess helps you keep moving toward your goal.

How do you build adaptive thinking into your day?

Let’s say it’s time for your annual evaluation at work. Nobody really enjoys these, including and especially your boss.

But you have a bit more of a disadvantage of being judged by someone who doesn’t sit in your seat every day. Performance evaluations are ripe ground for positive thinking because you really have no idea how this may go. You want to feel as good as you can when you walk in the door.

If you’ve had a bit of a tough year in meeting your goals, you may already be a little worried.

So you tell yourself that things will be good. You’re a valued employee, you know that, and you can handle whatever your boss may bring up.

FAN-tastic.

But take that positive attitude a step further.

  1. Before the meeting with your boss, make a list for yourself of specific areas where you already know you missed completing some things.
  2. Ask yourself some questions about how and why you missed the mark. Don’t beat yourself up, but do come up with some data on what you could have missed.
  3. Generate some ideas for how you can come up with a plan to address those issues. What will you do differently next time? Who can you collaborate with in the future that might help complement your skills?

If those ideas come up in the meeting, you have some actionable and forward-focused stuff to bring up if you need it. Now you have a better chance of contributing good information to the meeting and being a little less on the defense.

This takes you much further down the road than just telling yourself things will be fine.

I wish I had done more of this when I was in the corporate arena.

When I did finally understand the importance of adaptive thinking, I came to the conclusion it was time to leave that arena.

So that prompted a whole new round of adaptive thinking.

But I was confident I could take the next step because I started a new chapter of my career based on the track record I had already built.

I was positive about my career change, but adaptive thinking helped me to be pragmatic about what I needed to succeed.

Think about it

What are some areas where you could apply adaptive thinking?

Drop me some comments below! 👇👇👇

 


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You’re busy at work and at home, and you take care of everyone else. You’re allowed to have a few minutes in each day to set your focus, regroup and feel a little more in control.

Join me every day as I bring you simple and practical tips you can use right now to gain a little more control over your life.

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How to simplify your week to reduce stress

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“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Steve Jobs

I’m not one to quote Steve Jobs too much. He was brilliant, no question. But I’m not sure he’s the model to follow for a low-stress life in the workplace.

He seemed to ooze complexity. At least that’s what it looked like from my judg-ey overstuffed reading chair and ottoman.

I think he was onto something here, though, in understanding how we can simplify one of our real stressors at work — our workload.

Simplifying your work helps you do work that matters

If we think about the Apple products we use, they are dead simple.

My iPhone requires almost no instruction. The apps on it reduce complicated processes down to one or two steps I can do while I’m in the bathroom. (Don’t judge me, you do it too. 🙃)

In spite of the challenges the smartphone era has brought us, it’s also made so many things in life easier.

  • Don’t you remember what it was like trying to find answers to life’s big questions on Yahoo using your two-inch-thick Compaq laptop?
  • Remember scribbling tasks in your Monticello-themed, double-binded Franklin Planner?
  • Have you forgotten just how complicated it was to take your own pulse by using two fingers on one hand?

This was the crazy world the iPhone entered back in that dark age.

Apples’ development team started with the simplest version of what they thought could work and built on it from there. I’m sure they had a veritable scroll of features they probably could have included in that first phone (known then sweetly as “iPhone”).

But we’d probably still be waiting for that first iPhone, clumsily walking around with two fingers on our carotids and using hash marks to count our 10,000 steps.

The ensuing versions of the iPhone — all the way to today’s iPhone XR — came about once humans started actually using the phone.

I mean, who knew one day we would rarely even use these things as a phone? Who saw that one coming? 🤷

Use an MVP to simplify your work

You business-minded folks may recognize this process as a principle called “Minimum Viable Product,” or MVP.

(Bear with me. The therapist is using a business principle to make a point here.)

Entrepreneur Eric Ries was the first to toss this definition of MVP around in his book, “The Lean Startup:”

A Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

In regular-people speak:

  • Build the simplest version of your product that will let you learn how people use it,
  • Gather feedback from them while they’re using it, then
  • Add new features from what you learned.
  • And so on, and so on….

This can save you time and energy because you’re not trying to build the best product ever by just guessing what might work. That’s so old school.

  • MVP gives you a real-life lab to build a product that helps people solve the annoying problems in their lives.
  • MVP helps you see what really helps people, not just stuff you and your team think is cool.
  • People tend to celebrate and buy stuff that helps them solve problems.

Maybe you don’t build a tangible product per se.

(Actually you do! Your work is your product. Make work your product!)

Apply the MVP principle on this Monday to simplify the rest of this week

This frees you up to do the work that solves real problems and creates forward momentum.

I don’t know about you, but nothing stresses me out more than doing work that doesn’t matter.

Here’s a little MVP roadmap I made for you:

1. Create and plan a wicked simple baseline for what you want to accomplish this week

I’m showing my INFJ skin a bit here, but planning is essential to reduce stress at work. Sorry.

You have to create some buckets, even leaky ones, to capture your important work or you’ll just end up with a messy pile of pointless doo-doo on Friday.

I know that may fly in the face of your possibly more spontaneous nature, but spontaneity and joy are not mutually exclusive.

Don’t go crazy and overplan (see also: procrastination).

But do plan, please.

Give some thought ahead of time about how you want this week to end up.

  • What do you want to hold in your hand on Friday (besides a cold beer)?
  • What MVP product can you produce this week that you can then build on next week?
  • Put everything else on a “next release” list of some kind.

Be honest about what you can really do. This is an area where we create a lot of our own stress.

Our work eyes are sometimes bigger than our work stomachs, if you will. 😋

Create a workable plan that is do-able with the time and resources you have this week and focus the week on that.

2. Protect your plan by establishing boundaries around your work

I know what you’re thinking. That’s great and all, but what about when my boss runs in with a little project on fire, and I’m the one who’s supposed to put it out? 📝🔥

What happens to my well-crafted plan then, sister girlfriend?

In many cases, you can give your boss some options on how you put that fire out.

“Sorry this project is on fire, Susie. Take a deep breath. Here are a couple of things we could do. Which one do you like?”

  1. Use the fire extinguisher. This will put the fire out immediately but it will also trash everything around us. It will resolve the problem immediately but we’ll spend two days cleaning up. This will delay all our other projects.
  2. Use the sweater slung over the back of my office chair to put out the fire. This will suffocate the fire and ruin my sweater, but it will most likely resolve the problem and preserve the working environment. We’ll need a minute to regroup, and I’ll need a long lunch to go buy another sweater. But we can get back on track today.

(Fire people are going to kill me on this one. It’s an analogy. If there’s an actual fire in your office, please be safe and follow your company’s fire safety plan.)

Of course there are plenty of unexpected things that pop up in the work week. But they don’t have to completely derail your work.

Unless they truly have to.

The best part about having a plan is how you can adjust it to meet changing needs.

But you can also protect it by offering other options besides you always having to set everything else aside.

And you still have a shot at maintaining momentum with your plan while getting credit for helping put out a fire, too.

3. Capture feedback to build your next version

In building an MVP, capturing feedback is what drives the best new version of the product.

Thoughtful and engaging feedback makes your work better.

If you work in a team format, you absolutely should be open to feedback. Unless you’re freakin’ Leonardo da Vinci, you need other perspectives to do great work.

Here’s the dealio with feedback, though.

You’re not necessarily required to convert that feedback into action items. And certainly not this week.

If the feedback is a game changer for where your work is headed right now, then be for real and change your plan.

But don’t feel like it’s always required. Put the feedback on your “next version” list and see how it may fit in later.

Put a little fence around your work and be your own gatekeeper.

This serves to focus your best cognitive energy on the feedback you can use now to do your best work this week.

4. Make it your task to understand how your work ties in to a larger goal

Why do you do the work at your job? I don’t mean to start you on an existential quest here, but really … why are you doing this work?

Part of an MVP is knowing that your work is accomplishing a specific outcome. You can touch it, define it and explain it.

Apple’s slogan for the first iPhone was “Apple reinvents the phone.”

Apple reinvents the phone - 2007 Macworld Steve Jobs introduces the iPhone

“Apple reinvents the phone” by Nobuyuki Hayashi is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Did the developers working then understand that? I hope so because they did reinvent the phone. They absolutely did.

This is where Steve Jobs’ focus on simplicity comes to bear. He was obviously great at painting a vision, not just for customers but for the people doing the work.

And it made all the difference.

Many leadership teams lack the skills to communicate business goals in simple ways.

How does Allison in accounting understand how her weekly report contributes to the company’s quarterly success? To her, it may be just a thing she does on Monday before lunch.

Yes, the burden of that understanding should really fall on Allison’s company.

But remember, the power to reduce stress is in our hands, not waiting for someone else to figure it out for us.

So Allison may have to ask that question of her boss or someone else at her company who’s in the know.

This is an excellent way to make sure the work you’re doing is needed.

If not, you can apply your efforts toward something that will.

Now what?

Companies who use the MVP approach have seen enormous, even overwhelming success. It allows them to put great work out there and let others help them refine it.

You can do the same in your workweek if you resolve to keep your stuff simple and workable.

  • Be honest with yourself and others about what you can do.
  • Don’t be afraid to set boundaries around your work.
  • Let others use their perspective and knowledge to inform your work and make it better.
  • Seek out the larger picture for yourself, and bring it back to your desk every day.

 


Check out my new Alexa Skill – Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller

You’re busy at work and at home, and you take care of everyone else. You’re allowed to have a few minutes in each day to set your focus, regroup and feel a little more in control.

Join me every day as I bring you simple and practical tips you can use right now to gain a little more control over your life.

Visit my Amazon page for more information.

Amazon Alexa skill - Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller


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Info and tips each week to help you improve and change your life!

Give yourself a Mental Health Moment every day!

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Amazon Alexa skill - Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller

Sometimes you need some encouragement right at the top of the day so you can stay focused on what will keep you energized and productive. 🌝

I’m excited to debut my Alexa skill, Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller.

It’s a little shot in the arm to start your day.

Every day I’ll talk about small ways you can inject a bit of sanity in your day.

If you have an Amazon Echo you can enable Mental Health Moment in the Alexa store. You can also download the Alexa app on your phone or tablet and enable the skill there.

Check out all the details on my Amazon skill page.

Feel free to leave me a review. I’d love to know what you think! 🤔

Why being authentic at work matters

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authentic at work

Do you ever feel like you’re trying to be a different person at work? Career literature is abuzz with the call to “just be yourself” and be authentic at work.

It’s true that feeling like you can’t relax and be yourself at work creates a lot of stress.

Maybe because it takes a lot of work and energy to act like someone you’re not. I assume you have real tasks to accomplish today that require your good energy.

Why do you feel like you have to create a persona so that others take you more seriously?

Some of this is good old-fashioned conditioning from the school days

How did your teacher most likely treat the “class clown?” You remember this endearing classmate, the person who had no problem yelling out a hilarious punch line during a teacher’s lecture.

How was that rewarded? Most likely in a punitive way.

While the whole class may have laughed at the joke (maybe even the teacher), the message was clear.

We are doing serious work here. Keep your funny for:

  • recess,
  • lunch or
  • playing in the backyard with your friends (kids used to do that).

In my day, schools even gave awards at the end of the year for “Most Humorous.” It wasn’t as prestigious as “Most Likely to Succeed,” but hey, at least you got some recognition for the special way you brought your game to an otherwise dreary academic setting.

So fast forward to the work setting. You enjoy using humor at work, but how does that fit in a more serious work environment? “Most Humorous” doesn’t get promoted over the more well-politicked “Most Likely to Succeed.”

So you suppress your genuine gift of humor in favor of what you think is more “professional.”

Authenticity in the workplace has come to be known with being obnoxious in telling the truth

You have those people on your teams who are like this. They are always the one to spout off whatever’s on their mind, usually with no filter.

When their comments injure or stir up trouble, what’s their response?

  • “I can’t help it if I just tell it like it is. That’s just who I am.”
  • “I’m not afraid to speak the truth. If people can’t handle it, that’s on them.”
  • “Someone had to say it!”

In turn, what do we say about these people?

We bristle at their words, but we hail them as authentic. Their willingness to say uncomfortable things, in spite of the consequences, seems like they’re being real.

So if you use emotional intelligence and try to measure the words that come out of your mouth, you might feel like you’re not being real.

What does it mean to be authentic at work?

1. Authenticity means leveraging the best parts of your personality in the work you do.

Are you the coworker who lends an ear to others who need to offload some frustration?

That’s hugely authentic because it allows you to show others in a very real way that you care about them. And it might mean that you helped them purge some negative thoughts so they can refocus on their work.

This can be a huge boon to your own productivity simply because it feels good to help others. Because of you, two people at your job feel better today.

Nice job.

Are you the funny one in the office?

Think of how your favorite comedian exploits shared experiences just for a laugh. We consider people “funny” because they find a different perspective to something we’ve all experienced and can all relate to.

Humor is a highly creative act.

Your comedic outlook can help you create and produce work that really stands out. Why would you hide this?

Also, please know that funny people help diffuse the effects of a toxic work environment.

You are our Obi-Wan. Please bring your funny.

We need you.

Are you the one who gets emotional about your work?

If this is you, you know that feeling. You go to bat for a project that your team spent real time and energy on. You feel the shakiness in your voice as you say more than you wanted to about why this project matters and why it shouldn’t be shelved.

You feel your heart in your throat while you’re talking, and you’re embarrassed because you felt like you couldn’t keep your cool.

Congratulations, you’re not a robot yet!

Your passion sets you apart from those who are just trying to check the boxes.

While it may be uncomfortable for you, it’s inspiring others around you who want to be just as brave. You are willing to be uncomfortable because you believe in the work. Don’t apologize for this.

That’s an advanced move.

2. Authenticity means giving real thought to how you speak your own truth. 

Being authentic does mean speaking truth to power. But it doesn’t mean throwing your power in the face of others or calling others out.

Just because you’re louder than me doesn’t mean you’re being more authentic than me.

Somehow we have to lose the idea that activism is the only way to be authentic.

We’re leaving out a whole bunch of people who want to be thoughtful and measured in how they approach the more human side of their work.

So how do you go about being authentic in the emotionally intelligent way?

Always speak to difficult issues from your own experience.

Always.

Your experience is unique to you, and it’s the only thing you know to be 100% true. You will never guess others’ real motives or expectations because you are not in their heads.

Saying something because “Someone had to say it!” is a terrible diplomatic strategy. It doesn’t present a path forward that everyone can feel comfortable with.

Speaking from your own experience also has the advantage of keeping others off the defensive. They might actually try to understand your perspective because you’re not combative.

Even if they don’t, you’ve put an issue out there that honors what you know, who you are and how you like to work with people.

3. Authenticity can be a career strategy.

The very things that make you who you are can actually help you craft an interesting career that you love.

If you are among the 70% of Americans who are disengaged from their work, then listen up.

Your career is less about the technical work you do and way more about who you are.

I would say that again, but honestly, you can just go back and re-read it. That’s how reading works.

Probably anyone can make the same widgets that you make. But they won’t do it with the same vision or passion, if you allow yourself to fly that particular flag.

The technical part gets you in the door. You as the complex human has to do the rest.

Using the skills and traits that come so naturally to you is the best way to stand out because it’s not forced. And you’ll find it pours out of you like melted butter with no effort at all.

Focus on those skills and put them together to create something unique. You may have to do some real work to put the puzzle together but it’s a super hope-builder when you pull it off.

Let’s use me, for example. I was always the trusted sidekick in my corporate career. Honestly, that’s who I’ve always been.

I can’t help but listen to people, ask questions and help them find different perspectives.

While I have a whole litany of more measurable skills in other areas, this is the one thing that people always seemed to appreciate about me.

After a while, I was no longer content to be a marketing professional who happened to be a good listener. As it turns out, there’s a whole profession of people who actually get paid to listen, guide and teach.

I flipped a very big switch to become a mental health professional and start a new career based mostly on the way I interacted with my peers at work.

You don’t have to flip a big switch like I did. You can bring to work those parts of your personality that crack you up or make you feel good about yourself.

People notice this and appreciate you for it. And it may inspire them to do the same because you were brave enough to go first.

You can create a new path where you’re at right now based on who you are. Being your authentic self may create opportunities you don’t know about yet.

You can’t leverage those opportunities if you’re hiding who you are.

So what do you think?

What are three things you can think of right now that ooze out of you every day that you can start elevating to be more authentic at work?

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Master your Monday to reduce stress

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Master Monday to reduce stress at work

One of the best ways to change your outlook on stress at work is to change how you look at Monday.

For whatever reason in our Gregorian calendar setup, we define Monday as the official start of a new week.

If the new work week started on Saturdays, we’d all hate Saturdays. Can you imagine hating Saturdays and feeling that dread on Friday night?

#DGIF (Dear God, It’s Friday) 🤣

Of course not. That would be weird.

We’ve conditioned ourselves to dread Monday, pure and simple.

Where’s the love for #TGIM?

Monday is the starting gate, the tone setter for the week. How you frame your attitude for this one day is the best indicator of how well the rest of your week goes.

If you master your Monday, you stand a chance to master the rest of the week.

Don’t get me wrong, you can always push the reset button if you have a crappy Monday. You just have to work a lot harder to get that Monday mojo back.

Starting your Mondays well is the key to the whole week.

How do you change your perspective on Monday?

Ask different questions about Monday

As a recap for all things mental health: your thoughts affect your feelings, which then affect the behaviors and actions you take.

Whatever you tell yourself about Monday will show up directly in how you live out this day.

This doesn’t mean you should become the Pollyanna who shouts “I  love Mondays and I don’t care who knows it!” when you walk in the door. Be positive, sure, but don’t annoy people, if you can help it.

Think about your morning. What questions did you ask yourself about how this day might go?

  • What kind of mood will my boss be in?
  • How much longer until the end of the day?
  • How many impromptu meetings am I going to get roped into?
  • Why do we have staff meetings first thing on Monday? (my personal favorite)
  • How will I get through four more days of this?
  • When will Friday get here?

In order to change your perspective on Monday, you have to reframe your questions on Monday.

What can you ask yourself on this day that will focus your mind forward?

What will help you look for answers that will move you toward your goals instead of focusing on Mondays past? 🤔

  • How can I find my boss’ pain points this week and help take some pressure off?
  • What are the best things I can do today that will position me well for the rest of this week?
  • What opportunities do I have today to showcase my expertise to a captive audience?
  • Who on my team can I encourage today that may be struggling with their work?
  • When will Friday get here? (I’m not sure we can reframe this one. We just love Fridays! That’s okay!)

Try this flip flop exercise and see if it doesn’t empower you and give you a little hope for the rest of the week.

Look for things that will help you win today

🎩 Hat tip to a great group of ladies I was with last week who shared this strategy. While you’re enjoying your early morning coffee, list five things you can do today that will help you win.

For example:

  1. Making healthy eating choices
  2. Taking a walk at lunch
  3. Sharing an encouraging message with a coworker
  4. Checking in with your boss
  5. Getting that weekly report in before noon.

It’s so easy to let the urgent tasks drive your day before you barely get started. By lunchtime, you’re flailing your arms trying to figure out just how you got off track.

Knowing these five things ahead of time will help you pivot back to what’s important. Taking care of what’s important helps you feel some autonomy over your work and positions you to win.

If you can win today, you can win the rest of the week.

Give yourself a mental health moment

Most of the time we literally race from place to place. That’s how we live now.

If you’re a driving commuter, you most likely drove in the parking lot on two wheels, barely dodged fellow coworkers walking in, lurched into a parking space, piled all your bags on your shoulders (you really need a cart) and raced into the building.

Whoa, slow down turbo. 😫

You most likely just defied death at 80 mph on a busy highway and maybe even took some calls already.

Give yourself a few minutes in the car to reset your focus before you go in.

  • Take some deep breaths
  • Enjoy putting your favorite lipstick on
  • Watch a funny YouTube video
  • Listen to that one song that fires you up (my current one is “Never Give Up,” by Sia from the terrific movie, “Lion”), or
  • Review your “Five Things to Win Today” from this morning.

You get to have a few minutes to shift gears and focus on your best performance.

Athletes and performers do this all the time.

You will never see Tom Brady rush out of his expensive SUV right before the game starts and hit the field with Cinnabon bits still in his teeth.

No doubt he has a specific mental process that helps him stay focused, and I would imagine he has a ton of little refocus moments on game day.

Maybe he puts on his lipstick in the car, too. 💄

If you feel rushed and frazzled, people notice this the minute you walk in the door.

It’s all around you.

A well-placed mental health moment is an easy way to be that person who always brings the calm into Monday morning. Master this one skill and you can absolutely confound your coworkers.

Besides, feeling rushed and frazzled doesn’t help you feel resilient for the challenges that may come your way on this fine Monday morning.

You’ll spend at least 480 minutes at work today. Take a measly five of those minutes to set yourself up for success.

It’s all about you

Want a quick way to reduce your stress at work? Stop viewing Monday as the enemy. Look for ways to make Monday your ally in the workweek.

Monday can be your Winston Churchill, the wise, direct and purposeful elder statesman that helps you soldier through this week with wit and purpose. 💪 (Why are there no Churchill emojis??)

You’ll notice all of these tips have nothing to do with anyone else but you. Yes, you can have a good Monday in spite of your circumstances at work.

This particular ball is in your court.

How powerful is that?

Happy Monday!

Manage stress by living in the present

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Manage stress by living in the present

By default, we are all in the present, but not necessarily present, if that makes sense. This is where much of our stress rears its gnarly head.

We’re burdened with the constant pressure of what’s to come in a world that is almost exclusively forward focused. 

  • Create your own future!
  • Prepare for retirement!
  • Get ahead at work!
  • Develop a life plan!
  • Raise healthy and productive children!
  • Become the ____ you know you can be!
  • Get stuff done!
  • Be happy!
  • Change the world!

No pressure. 😳

What’s cool is that we have more opportunity now than at any other time in human history to actually accomplish these noble tasks. 

Previous generations didn’t have access to the technology and freedom that living today can bring. This particular age would have blown their minds.

To accomplish any one of these noble tasks would have been enough for them, let alone all of them at the same time.

We are in uncharted territory.

We scoot around, sometimes mindlessly, to try to take advantage of it all. We are so anxious to “get there.”

But once we get there, how then do we appreciate who we are in that moment and what we’ve already become?

Where are the master classes for that?

We just keep going to the next task, the next forward motion. ⏩

So many of our anxious and depressive thoughts stem from this constant focus on an ambiguous future moment.

These future moments can feel like a moving target. As we grow, change and develop new abilities, we decide we may want different things. 

So we may change and pivot.

Our future feels like it’s always “out there” because it is.

And even if you achieve all that you want, that future moment you aspire to will — one day — become your present moment.

Ah, the irony.

How will you even appreciate that moment? Have you thought about how you will mark and celebrate it?

Here are a couple of things that work for me:

Enjoy a “Done” list

There are a million and one ways to keep a to-do list. You can track it in a sweet little app that classifies, tags and whatnot. Or write out a list on a steno pad and keep it on the fridge (old school, I know, but it works).

But what about a list that captures what you ACTUALLY did?

Do you feel anxious and annoyed when you see how many things are still left on your list at the end of the day? Where did the time go?

You immediately start plotting those things for tomorrow, giving short shrift to your little worker bee 🐝 tasks that buzzed around so hard for you today.

The things you did get done you relegate to a checkmark or a strikethrough. Or worse, tag them as “Completed” and watch them disappear from your list completely.

Don’t just look at the checkmarks or the line throughs on your list. Separate them and give them their own list. They deserve it!

Those are the things you got done! ☑️

The present moments that you engaged.

So now you know you have the ability to take advantage of your present moments!

Master today

Today is here, and you are apparently already awake and moving around. Nice job! 😎

What are the things you can do TODAY that will move you toward those future goals?

Focus on just those things, and shove the rest aside for now.

Don’t let the future steps, which don’t matter right now, encroach on your present.

If this day is particularly challenging, maybe you can just focus on what you need to do in the next HOUR.

What is the literal next step on your list? 👟

Don’t worry about this afternoon or where you’d still like to be at the end of this day.

Muster your energy and focus toward just this present moment and see where it goes.

Stop moving

Sounds simple, but in order to focus on the present, you may have to stop moving for a minute.

Do you have to go right on to that next thing? 🏃 Or can you take a minute to enjoy a little self-imposed buffer zone?

I like to daydream in these moments. It gives my brain a frickin’ break from all that analyzing and planning and lets me imagine myself doing something ridiculously fun.

Do this when it’s super inconvenient and you feel like you just can’t spare the time.

This is probably when you are feeling most stressed about the future.

The present IS your life. 

Right now, as it’s happening. 

Enjoying the present isn’t hard but it does require intention. There will always be something in the future calling you out of it.

Learn to engage it on your terms.

How do you enjoy your present moments?

 

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Answers from the trail

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Road lined with trees

One of the advantages of having a few professional years under your belt is following the trail of your own actions and decisions.

Sometimes it can be validating to see where your head was in the right place.

Other times, it leaves you scratching your head, wondering how you missed so much that was so obvious.

There’s good data there if you allow yourself to mine it.

We leave breadcrumbs behind with every project, interaction and new venture.

We can go back and discover clues about how we view our work and how we really feel about our work.

That trail usually leads back to our early days in schooling, how we interacted with our classmates or early friends.

And how our parents or caregivers modeled authority to us.

  • Does your boss remind you of a parent? Consider how you respond to them.
  • Does your work environment mimic the playgrounds of your youth? You may see some familiar patterns and behaviors.
  • Maybe you look at your work as a challenge to be conquered, like a science project. Or just a problem to be solved and dealt with, like a math test.

Many of us move through the day in reactive mode, putting out fires we didn’t cause. We’re out of gas at the end of the day, but not sure exactly why.

How can you even think about changing the way you think about your work if you’re just trying to keep the embers from catching again?

You have to be the one to chart your new course.

Document your actions and decisions at work for a month.

Don’t judge it. Just write it down, warts and all.

At the end of the month, go back and read it. See what reveals itself. 

  • What worked?
  • What didn’t work?
  • What worked but singed your eyebrows in the process?
  • How did you respond to all of it?
  • How do you wish you had responded to some of it?

Patterns will jump out at you when you are removed from the immediacy and urgency of a specific circumstance or situation.

Now you know what to work on.