Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Dreaded Slump

There’s a glut of information surrounding us and our continued consumption of the vast amount of dis-information is driving us to distraction. Everyday there is another online forum, a social media post, a marketing webinar to attend. Small businesses failures are increasing in rate and cause. Is it any wonder why ordinary people fall short of success when confronted with devising strategy, setting goals, developing technical skills, working on customer communication, meeting deadlines etc. Perhaps we have been programmed through mass advertising so prevalent in our consumerist culture to believe consumption is living?

But let me ask you, do you remember that first time? The first time your heart rate quickened when you started talking to that special person? The first time you drove a car under your own direction? The first time you dreamt of working for yourself? The first day at that new job? We all have a lot of firsts in our lives and no one can deny the excitement, the passion, the intensity of desire during these times. How fresh life seemed with anticipation, how much fun it was to imagine the possibilities, the rush, the thrill, ohh to be totally into life again.

Magpies are renowned for collecting shiny objects
You see I think one of the main causes of failure is the slump. Not lack of technical skills, nor poor communication skills, but lack of drive and direction. It is so easy to give up when you don’t know which way to turn, would you agree? Some days we are unable to make a decision and loiter as if procrastination is our best friend. As we lose our way and momentum starts to fall we can start to look elsewhere for inspiration taking even more focus away from our goals. (ever heard of shiny object syndrome?) And it’s no surprise we start looking elsewhere because that’s what we associate the rush with, new possibilities. As the flame starts to fail we look for a new ignition source instead of tending our own fire. To run our own lives, we need to keep our energy, our intensity, our passion up, so that we may remain focussed and on task.

Please allow me to share something I find #ironic with you. In order to work hard and stay on task, we need to rest. Yep, let me put it this way; to climb out of a slump we need to stop work. Just like the football players at half time, we need to stop! Not only do we need to stop, we need to get off the field. If you are operating a home business this is even more important. I'd like to know; where is you field? Athletes rest their bodies, information workers rest their minds. #irony to climb out of a slump we need to stop work, go figure.

We need to remember everyone goes through ups and downs? The venture capitalist invests in a loser, the real estate mogul who gets burned by council rezoning which kills off a project, the batsman who failed to score in the last six games, or the basketball player whose basket percentage is under twenty five percent. Yep even the highest achievers have gone through periods of poor performance.

Did the real champions get off the field, take time out and get re-focussed, or did they complain, throw in the towel and look for another game to play? If you’re asking yourself what’s the point, why am I doing this, stop and take the time to figure it out. To breakout of the rut, to reignite that fire, to get reenergised and back on task, stop and take the time to reconnect with your why. We all love the shine of those new toys, the smell of that new car, the taste of that freshly BBQ’ed steak. I’m guessing after cooking that two hundredth steak the novelty has worn off and complacency is setting in? It’s about time for a beer with some friends, time to get off the field and do something completely different.

Now let’s ask ourselves why we need to wait until we’re in a slump before we change and get off the field? Ergonomics is the study of human interactions and talks about three dimensions of endeavour; the physical, cognitive and social. For example: how to set up a computer workstation to lessen the impact on our bodies and there is even a recommendation to have regular work breaks, ten minutes in every hour. Hmmm, funny that? Dare I mention Sunday as the day of rest? Working 7 days a week has got to be one of the quickest ways to burn out, hit a wall, get into a slump. Who doesn't enjoy the weekend, c’mon be honest, do you look forward to Friday (or the end of your shift rotation) ?

My suggestion is that if we follow this work/rest cycle then it will be easier to avoid the slump in the first place. Let’s form some good habits, stop work every hour and every week. Heck if you’re super organised you could even have every seventh week off. Imagine that. What if your long service leave came around every seven years? Stop, rest, regenerate, and completely change our environment to get refocussed.

What field do you need to get off; the physical, mental or social? For most of us who work with information all day long, it's the mind that gets fatigued. One of the quickest ways to reset the mind is … exercise. Get right out of your home office and go for a walk, heck you can even take the dog. The whole physiology aspect of being human completely transforms our mental focus, when the blood starts pumping, the heart rate rises, the oxygen level increases and away we go.

I don’t care if it’s raining, cold, windy, or dry, hot, still. Our excuses don’t take away from the truth of the situation. Regular breaks make us more effective and focussed where we need to be. And hey, do your remember the last time you really engaged with nature? That walk in the rain, the snowball fight, lying on the hot sand at the beach or having the wind howl all around you. Do you remember how invigorating that was? Maybe it’s dark and you don’t feel safe going outside, fair enough, so how about getting on the floor and doing some push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks,  or walk on the spot with gusto and vigour, but let’s not get to carried away here. When we get up and get active on a regular basis, we will reset our minds.

Get invigorated

Now if you’re thinking, Oh I dunno I’d feel stupid doing stuff like that. Well what’s the consequence of this choice? Are you prepared to feel a bit stupid for ten minutes or go into a slump for days, weeks, even months? Heck, get the kids, your partner, what about the dog there with you and hack through the short term pain for long term gain. It’s your life, make it happen you are worthwhile. Get your adrenaline pumping, get your excitement back, recapture that new car smell that’s in your business.

I wish you all a great day, be encouraged to take a break from your current activities before the slump. If your mind is wandering, stagnating or just plain gone, get up and get active away from your workspace. Take the chance, look after yourself, that way when you need to concentrate on a task you'll be more able to meet the challenge. Welcome to the world of the proactive :)

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