Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

How and where you invest your time - the busy trap


We live our normal lives following a regular routine, and doing the many tasks we need to accomplish each day – often having an overflow to the next and at times feeling “that we never get on top of things”. If we continue to work at a fast pace without breaking the intensity with regular holidays, we can frequently become burnt out without even realising that we are. We get stuck in the ‘busy trap”

We know the importance of having time away from our regular routine and when we organise our life so we get those breaks interesting things can happen.


Looking from a distance

Sometimes when we step outside our world, we can look at it more objectively and see how changes could be made that would improve our quality of life – our wellness.  Who hasn’t gone home with a list of ways of living a more relaxed lifestyle and wishing to continue the refreshed feeling that we get when we get a true break?

Uncovering other things that matter

One very valuable side effect of a good holiday is that we can often have experiences that remind us of what we may miss out on in every day life. Whether it is discovering a new hobby, revisiting an old one, spending time in different environments, experiencing new cultures, or that wonderful warm feeling when we reconnect with family who love us because of who we were and where we came from rather than who we are now in our present lives!

So what can we do with this knowledge, this sometimes temporary awareness? Once again, ask ourselves some important questions.


How to avoid stepping right back to the busy trap

  • Re-evaluate – ask yourself hat you really want and what is important to you?
  • Are you living your life’s plan or someone elses?
  • Where do you spend your time?  (Record a week’s worth of activities to find out)
  • Of all the things you do what gives you the highest return – personally or professionally?
  • Are you using your strengths?
  • Is anything missing?
  • Who do you spend time with?
  • What makes your heart sing?
  • What are you afraid of?
  • Do you like who you are now, how people see you?
  • Finally,
  • What changes do you need to make?

To make these changes happen
All good intentions can fall by the wayside unless we change the way we operate.. Old habits are hard to break and life isn’t suddenly going to become simpler by dreaming. Very often we need an overhaul on our “operating system” to clear our mind and be able to focus on the things that matter that we have identified. Personal organisation is both a skill and an art but an essential way of living if we want to get the most out of our days.

DON’T WAIT FOR AN ANNUAL VACATION – KEEP REVIEWING AND IMPROVING!

What does personal organisation have to do with Wellness?




Everything!  We are writing new material for our courses and simply have to include this very relevant area as it is becoming one of the biggest obstacles to people achieving their wellness goals. Sound ridiculous?  Well consider:

What do people say prevents them from, let’s say getting fit?  
Number 1 obstacle – lack of time.  Really? (They have the same 24 hours as all the other exercising people.)

And perhaps, lack of sufficient, good quality sleep?  
Number 1 obstacle – worry about work or an inability to switch off.

What about eating well?  
Biggest obstacle – it’s easier to grab food on the run, eat at my desk, replenish with a sugar hit when I have had long periods without food

Cutting down on alcohol?  
We often hear – “How else would I unwind at the end of a day?  My list is just never done.”

Something is going wrong here and it would appear that the ability to organise our time is slipping away from many people.

Why is this so?
There are many complex reasons why we feel we are losing control our lives.
  1. We never switch off – Many employers expect their team to be available virtually 24/7.  Other people waste so much time on Facebook that they forget to spend their time on things that are important – ie lifestyle habits that might help improve their health and vitality.
  2. We juggle multiple roles – One hat comes off the other goes on, except often we end up wearing 10 hats at once doing this wonderful thing called multi-tasking. 
  3. We can’t see the wood for the trees.  Our world becomes a jumble of “stuff’. Unfinished paperwork, household duties or simple tidying up.  How could we ever allow time to go for a run/meditate/prepare a meal from scratch?
  4. Our ability to categorise information is depleted.  We no longer can put things in their separate compartments and clear some head room for the task at hand.  Or we find it impossible to retrieve information once it’s gone in
  5. We spend our time on “shallow” work, not “deep” work.  The former includes all these administrative tasks like answering emails, calls, doing expenses, checking facebook, checking facebook.
  6. We rarely get time for the “deep” work – that sense of focus with out distraction when we use our strengths, work that has an impact.
  7. This flows into our ability to do the activities that give us the “wellness” that we crave.  We are too busy dealing with non-important busyness to ever get to what we really want to do
Is personal organisation important for increased wellness? Most certainly.

If Multi-tasking is not a good thing, why do we do it?



Things have shifted in the world and the idea of multi-tasking being a positive, admirable way of working has changed as we learn that perhaps it may not be the best way of being productive?

The evidence for this is clear. Whereas we think we’re doing several things at once we are actually just switching from one task to another very quickly.  And every time we do this, there is a cognitive cost!    

Multi-tasking increases our production of cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline and both can cause fogginess and lack of clarity in thinking.

A wonderful description of multi-tasking, by Daniel Levitin in his book “The Organised Mind”, is ,“(Multi-tasking is ….like a bad amateur plate-spinner, frantically switching from one task to another, ignoring the one that is not right in front of (him) but worried it will come crashing down at any minute!”  We become less efficient and less effective.

So why do we do it? Well, this is where it becomes interesting.  You see, our brains have a novelty bias so that every time we receive new stimulation, we get a shot of dopamine and if there is a choice to be made, our pre-frontal cortex (the part of our brain that we need to focus with ironically) leans towards the new distraction! Which is why we are so often tempted to move from one thing to another!

And of course society encourages this… with all our technology and constant attachment to our devices we are expected to be available at all times.. and there are so many things to distract us!  Email coming in, Facebook to check, the multitude of tasks that await us that sometimes we feel we can just keep an eye on everything at once, or just take a peep at that email while we’re on the phone. 

The result? A somewhat absent person.  

Here’s another interesting point. If we multi-task while trying to study (or learn something new), the information will go to the wrong part of the brain, not the hippocampus where it is organised and able to be retrieved.  

We burn through glucose much quicker when we multi-task, causing us to be exhausted after a short time as the nutrients in our brain are depleted.

And finally, if you’re not convinced, multi-tasking involves making many decisions, and they have found that making even small decisions is hard on your neural resources  - we quickly lose impulse control – making numerous small decisions which may lead to potentially bad important decisions.

Convinced?  I am.

How do we know we're happy?




There’s that word again! Do we often check our happiness meter to see how high it is? I find that I am more likely to ask myself questions at the start and end of the day along the lines of, “How do I feel about today with what’s ahead?”, and, “How good a day have I just had?” When researchers explore this notion of happiness, they have two common ways of measuring it. Firstly, how often do we experience positive feelings over any time period, and how high is our life satisfaction (more of a global measure) at a certain point. These two factors are obviously interlinked as lots of happy feelings through the course of the day may lead to a feeling of contentment when we look back on that time period. But does that then influence a general feeling of life satisfaction? I’d like to think so.  

But back to the issue of our state of happiness. Some people choose to look at life through the proverbial half empty glass filter. That way they don’t get disappointed and manage to exist in a more stable mood perhaps? Others amongst us would like to cultivate positive feelings and, with a sense of optimism, look forward to pleasant events ahead. I have also learnt that I can structure my day so that I end up feeling more satisfied with the overall experience. I’ve come to recognise that this is usually to do with what I choose to do with the day and how much I set myself as tasks to complete. If I manage to plan a balance of activities with plenty of time in nature, and stick to that plan, and set an achievable task list instead of working manically towards a never-ending goal of getting everything done, I will end up in a much happier mood at dinnertime. 

I’ve also learnt that when I experience good feelings I can make them last longer by sharing them. Like hearing my father laugh at a story I told him today on his 85th birthday. If I recount that to other people, the feeling of amusement and love, keep on being reproduced!

There are many things we can’t change in our lives. We experience continual stress with the demands placed on us by others and by ourselves. We could constantly be at the beck and call of everyone through technology that never sleeps. But we do have choices and if we understand what makes us, as individiuals, feel like we’re experiencing a good life, then we can choose accordingly.  

The Tail of a Wild Dog


It's February!  How did that  happen we ask ourselves?  Weren't we just looking at the first page of our fresh and new diary, thinking what a glorious feeling it was that the year had yet to unfold and what possibilities lay ahead?


Then suddenly, it's February.  I asked a colleague how her week was going the other day.  She responded with, "I feel like I'm hanging on to the tail of a wild dog!" That made me smile as I recognised the feeling.  And I know for a fact that I am not alone.


So why is this one of the most often cited reasons for people feeling, well, less than perfectly in control?  This sense that life races ahead and unless we hang on tight, we get left behind. I have two Labradors. On our morning walk to the park, they are also like wild dogs. After a run, they are calm, well-behaved and willing to be gently led to the next activity.  I want my life to look like that. Calm, obedient, good looking and satisfying!


We could list the many reasons why life today is this chaotic and demanding.  Technology; expectations (our own and others), distractions and multiple roles to mention a few. We need to manage time better. Or do we? Perhaps managing priorities and even our energy is a better place to start?  

Priority Management

How often do people say, "I have no time to exercise"?  Of course, they do.  It's just that exercise is a lower priority than the other things in their life.  And we all have that choice.  If we ask ourselves the simple questions:

What do I want more of?

What do I want less of?

The answers will be revealing.  The things that get in the way will be competing priorities.  What counts is  how much you want that missing aspect of your life.  How  much do you value it?  Worth spending some time thinking about that.


Energy Management

Then there's this question of exhaustion, or simply feeling too flat to be bothered. Try asking:

  • What gives me energy and what drains me?

    When am I at my best? 

With a bit of careful planning it is possible to organise our day so that we play to our strengths. If you do you best thinking in the early morning make sure you have a way to record your ideas. If your energy is low in the mid afternoon, perhaps plan to do mundane tasks that don't require much thought. Or find a way of boosting it by slotting in exercise at a time that gives a flow on effect. Don't leave the things you hate doing for the time you feel the least motivation to do anything! Take time out to work out how your natural energy flows.


Time Management
We can't make 24 hours any longer than it is.  But what we can do is ensure that we get the maximum result from the time we spend on a task/project.

Mind Management


To do this we have to organise our mind rather than live to the clock.  Margaret Moore writes of the six Rules of Order in her latest book "Organising your Mind, Organising your Life" and she stresses the need for developing the ability to focus and cut out distractions at appropriate times.  On the flip side, we also need to cultivate the ability to switch tasks without getting flustered and annoyed.  Very often our emotional state prevents us from being at our best and neuroscience shows that our thoughts can in fact calm the pre-frontal cortex - the part of our brain that  produces emotions that can sweep us along in a positive, or sometimes negative way.  Panic, anxiety, frustration all work against our working in a  relaxed steady state.  If we can start to recognise what patterns we fall into that make that dog run (the one we are trying to hold onto), we can then begin to retrain our brains and regain control.

Wellness Coaching is a rapidly growing field


Contrary to what people think, poor lifestyle habits do not stop at what we ingest, whether we move enough and what tine we go to bed.   Instead we are working with people at a deeper level to help them be more better performers, have more peace of mind, improve the quality of their relationships etc.  Together we set not only physical goals, but mental ones as well.  Exercise, nutrition, managing thoughts and emotions become the tools to create change and much of our work focuses on helping people work out what they want and why they want it and then understanding  why it is difficult to achieve.


This realisation is spreading through the health, fitness and wellness industries and very quickly into the corporate world where the main measure of success has always been financial return on investment.  What is happening now is that companies are recognising that what goes into creating this success is a multitude of factors, many of them concerning the people who work in the organisation and their level of satisfaction or "wellness".  





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