Technology and Spheres of Life

A recent article in the New York Times called “Who’s the Boss, You or Your Gadget?” raises an interesting point about holding a balance between your personal life and your professional life. Because modern communication technologies like smartphones and WiFi enable us to be in touch with numerous people at all times, it’s difficult to separate your work life from the rest of your life. It’s easy to get distracted by text messages with friends while at the office, as well as email conversations with co-workers while at home. This blurring of the line between work and home is unprecedented in its ubiquity and can be disruptive to leading a healthy life.

iPhones, laptops, and email have a way of making work and life bleed into one another, which can be challenging. Despite instant communication’s temptation to blend the diverse areas of life, you should strive to create some useful boundaries.

Here are some ways to manage technology and honor some boundaries:

  1. Limit the amount of time you spend on the internet and make personal phone calls while you’re at work. Do the same after office hours, unless you work non-traditional hours.
  2. Check your emails at regular intervals during the day and evening. Check your emails less frequently outside of work, unless you are working on a project at home.
  3. After checking your email, reply with brief efficient messages.
  4. Have coworkers call you on your office phone when they need to contact you when you’re at work, and turn your personal phone off.
  5. Only take files home that you absolutely need. The more you leave at work the healthier. Obviously, if you work at home, you need to have everything in your home office.

Technology has the potential effect of increasing productivity and work quality, but sometimes these gains come at the price of increased stress on employees. Don’t let this happen to you: pay attention to what constitutes balance in your life.

What are your thoughts about creating balance in your life?


Both Fun and Discipline are Keys to an Effective Budget

A New York Times article titled “Why A Budget is Like a Diet—Ineffective” discusses some ways that modern budgets don’t work and how to fix that. A major reason that budgets are ineffective is that they turn saving money into a chore that isn’t any fun.

The comparison between a budget and a diet made in the title is interesting, because it relates to my coaching for weight control with some clients. I’ve long felt that living within your means, whether with respect to calories or finances, should be kept effective and fun with occasional opportunities to disregard the restrictions.

Here are some of my tips on how to make a budget last:

  1. Pick a purpose for which you’re saving. A vacation, a new house, a new car, or even and important goal, are good examples. This will make your savings more concrete and real, instead of just a number on your computer screen.
  2. Splurge every once in a while. I coach dieters to pick one night a week to eat out and go off the calorie budget a little, so that the process of restraint doesn’t seem so endless. The same goes for limiting your spending. Set aside a little bit of money to pick something you’ll really enjoy and that will make the most of your money.
  3. Spend money on experiences, not things. Experiences will be all the more rewarding because they’ll bring you closer to those you are with and they will make memories that will last longer than simple items might. Go to concerts with friends or loved ones, go on a remote hiking or canoeing trip, or pick an exciting vacation destination. Focus on building memories, not acquiring possessions.
  4. Split your money into separate accounts: for fixed expenses, saving, unforseen urgent expenses, and luxury expenses. As the article states, it’s more beneficial to set aside a little money for luxuries than to take small amounts from your fixed or urgent budget. This helps limit unnecessary spending and whatever you don’t spend can either be rolled into the rest of your budget or saved for the next month’s luxury budget.

Remember that achieving budget control depends on having fun and continuing to have some luxuries over time.

What are your thoughts?


Health Through the Soul

A recent article in Psychiatric News reviews Thomas Moore, Ph.D.’s book Care of the Soul in Medicine, an intriguing book concerning the idea of the human soul in healthcare. According to the author, modern medicine overlooks the important factor of caring for the patient’s soul during treatment, a practice that has its roots in ancient studies and techniques. Dr. Moore claims that modern medicine has too great a focus on the biological aspect of medical treatment, treating people like machines that need repair, not humans that need healing.

This is a very interesting approach, and while I wouldn’t want to downplay the biomedical aspect of healthcare, I agree that there is something more than biology at play in many patients, something that may well be called the soul. Dr. Moore points to the impersonality of healthcare. It is vital that we find ways to personalize the patient experience and introduce wellness approaches to education.

I’d say that Dr. Moore’s ideas overlap with my Spheres of Life® approach, especially since some clients can improve their functionality simply by getting in touch with their spirituality. Everyone’s different, but I’ve seen a lot of clients improve their workplace performance and lifestyle by devoting more time to what is meaningful for them, which in turn nourishes their soul.

In coaching, I teach clients to focus on on the soul by concentrating on two spheres:

  1. Spirit Sphere – This sphere covers your faith, religion, and values. Take some time to crystallize your beliefs and make sure you always act in accordance with your values. What makes life more purposeful for you?
  2. Self Sphere – This is your personality, development, your story, and your character. Clarify who you are by focusing on the aspects of your life that you are most proud of.

At this time of new year’s resolutions, what simple goal can improve your spirit?


Simplify and De-clutter Your Life

An exchange variously attributed to an interviewer and either John D. Rockefeller or J. Paul Getty—both astronomically wealthy oil tycoons—goes like this: A reporter asks the interviewee how much money is enough, and the response comes: “Just one dollar more.” Indeed, mankind has grown more and more materialistic and possession-motivated in the last century. A new movement resisting this notion is gathering steam, however, claiming that people might be happier once they actively limit their possessions and focus on relationships with those close to them.

An article in the New York Times called “But Will It Make You Happy?” contains an overview of the movement. Most commonly, websites that support the minimalist philosophy gauge the metrics of how simplified your life is by counting your possessions. The blog Stuck in Stuff has a number of articles about limiting what you own to 100 items, and it’s this type of site that inspires the people discussed in the NYT article. 100 items is an extreme, but we all have something to incorporate regarding simplification.

The effect of cutting off superfluous attachments is to drastically simplify your life and eventually allow you to focus on being happy. It works like this: as you limit your possessions, you need less space and less transportation to go about your everyday life. This means you spend less money on smaller apartments and transportation, which means you can work to earn money to support yourself, not your possessions.

An unhappy worker is unproductive, no matter the industry. Cutting ties to possessions and trimming fat can be a very liberating action, and can contribute to happiness. If you feel like you’re working for those around you and to support your habits, not your choices, maybe simplifying your lifestyle is a good idea.

What are your thoughts?


Habits: Challenging How We Think About Study Habits

A terrific article describes groundbreaking effective study strategies in “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits,” informing us about new cognitive research that challenges conventional ideas about the best ways to learn and study. I have never identified with boring and repetitive study habits, and instead have found that mixing up and varying one’s approach is the way to go when it comes to effective studying or work output. I was intrigued to find that this research confirms my own preferences and the methods I teach to Full Life clients.

There are two main ideas that the article takes issue with: first was the idea that students should have a set place where they always study. Actually, as I’ve found and as the article reports, it’s better to learn and work from a variety of different locations. The article explains that we make numerous subtle associations between the subject we’re studying and our surroundings while we study it; and by changing our location, we force the brain to make multiple associations to increase retention. I noticed this practice helped me greatly when I was writing my book, Fire Your Therapist, which I wrote in many different places: one day I would work from home, one day from the office, another day from Starbucks, then in Florida. This kind of alternating also helps you from getting fatigued: by varying your surroundings, changing the background “noise” and keeping the routine from getting boring.

The second convention that the article challenges is the idea that the best way to learn large amounts of new material is immersion in each separate subject. I’ve found that it helps more to turn studying into something of an exercise regiment—just as you vary speed, weight, and power training in a workout, you might consider sampling different kinds of subject matter in each study session to build mental connections between the different subjects, thereby replicating a multitasking testing experience while you study. Immersion may still have a place in a study regiment, but it’s good to see it supplemented with more innovative and effective study methods.

So new study approaches include:
1. Vary study locations
2. Vary background noise/music
3. Vary light, temperature, smells, tastes
4. Study by sampling and limit immersion

It’s always difficult to disregard conventional thinking, even in the face of empirical research. This has always been evident, and we can see it in the article: the research that led to claims that alternating a study space is helpful comes from 1978, yet students are still widely told to set aside a dedicated study space and stick to it. In fact, there are more conventional beliefs about learning that don’t hold up to scrutiny. Study habits are widely stuck in antiquated ruts, and need to be supplemented with modern innovations.

What are your thoughts?


Announcing the beginning of a fresh new version of Full Life’s Amplifier™ Blog!

From now on, you will see frequent interactive blogs focusing on 6 Key Themes:

1) Business
2) Balance
3) Momentum
4) Possibility
5) Habits
6) Love

The new edition of the Amplifier Blog will broadcast ideas about our lives, our careers, and the world around us. Together, we will reflect on how we can bring our own unique vision to life and then actually implement and achieve our goals.

We will “amplify” ideas so you can optimize your approach to living and then experience the joy of a fulfilled life. This is so you can gain a crystal clear picture of what you WANT which will then in turn “drive” your life design.

The 6 Full Life Blog Themes:

BUSINESS: We will focus on what success means to YOU and how you can further enhance your career or business performance. In this competitive time of economic challenges and downsizing, as an executive, entrepreneur, or student, you will learn tips to avoid burnout, become more resilient, and achieve HIGH-ENERGY goals. You will also get practical tips and strategies for igniting and planning the “next phase” of your business or career.

BALANCE: Living a full life is about balance, which means that you have to pay attention to all or most of the key areas of your life. Using Full Life’s Spheres of Life® Coaching, we apply a matrix of 11 key spheres and make sure you are making desired progress in each area, without letting one area become dominant at the expense of others.

MOMENTUM: What allows us to get unstuck? How can you become a person who sees what’s next and JUMPS into the opportunity with full force? We will discuss the Full Life Achilles® Plan which gives you a method to advance your goals in an organized, energized, and incremental fashion.

POSSIBILITY: You will examine your vision of what lies ahead so you can build your ideal future. Also, how can communities and nations harness innovation in relationships and in technology to build a safer and healthier world?

HABITS: How addictions and bad habits, such as excessive use of alcohol or drugs, procrastinating, hoarding, spending, disorganization, and anything that takes away our time and functioning – actually inhibits progress in one’s life and career. We will not only look at how to overcome bad habits, but we will also explore how we can create positive habits that support us and the people in our lives.

LOVE: Whether single, dating, or in a relationship, we will examine love and how intimacy can be heightened in our lives. What are ways we can magnify our satisfaction in whatever state of love we find ourselves?


With the new Amplifier Blog experience, we hope that you will bring your perspectives into the conversation.

Your responses will be a crucial part of helping yourself and others learn and be more satisfied with life! Enjoy and as always we appreciate your interest and contributions.


New Orleans during the Gulf Disaster

I just returned from a brief trip to a conference in New Orleans. New Orleans is an amazing town; unique in its architecture, fine restaurants, and diverse population. I was interested to find that the city seemed to function normally, even though the natives liked to talk about their fears of how the oil spill will end up affecting the city. At the restaurants, both the guests and servers mentioned their concern that the sea food from the gulf will no longer be available, affecting the available seafood for tourists and locals and possibly necessitating having to ship seafood from Atlantic (vs. Gulf) locations. Several people I met mentioned family members who have already lost their jobs as fishermen and fisherwomen in the gulf.

On a more global scale, the disaster makes me ask, “What are we doing?”. Post Katrina, the last thing this healing city needs is another disaster. But this one’s origin is clearly man-made, caused by the drilling gone wrong. Obviously people are asking how we can allow deep water drilling if this can happen. There are other questions about our continued reliance on oil. Also, is the lack of preventing this crisis to begin with, actually a symptom of corporate greed avoiding the up front costs of effective disaster preparation technologies in off shore drilling?

There are a lot of questions regarding our respective relationships to our planet’s health and wellness. What are your thoughts?


Spheres of Life: Fun. Busting Stress for Less

According to a recent report by the American Psychological Association, Chicagoans are more stressed out than they were last year, but are handling the stress more responsibly. So while the denizens of the Windy City are increasingly worried about money and dissatisfied with their jobs, there has not been a commensurate increase in drinking, gambling, or other bad habits to alleviate this stress.

While it appears that Chicagoans are becoming increasingly resilient in these hard times, coaching teaches us that resilience alone does not lead to a fulfilling life. It is in times such as these that it is important to embrace the Fun sphere; to find ways to be good to ourselves that are not counterproductive. Friends and family are key at times like these. In lean times, loved ones can help us discover numerous ways to enjoy ourselves and blow off a little steam without blowing a lot of cash.

Do you have any ideas for cost-effective, healthy ways of having Fun in harder times?


Spheres of Life: Community. Lending a Hand in Hard Times.

I was moved by this piece I read in last week’s Chicago Tribune that dealt with some of the hardships being endured by families around the city. While the country may be out of a recession officially, some economists predict that the unemployment rate will hover around ten percent for some time to come, resulting in a much diminished quality of life for many, many families. With widespread economic stagnation, how are families to survive such devastating changes in circumstance?

I believe that one vital response to this new situation is the involvement of communities. The compassionate and fervent aid supplied by numerous individuals during the Hurricane Katrina crisis (in some cases, more immediate and effective than that provided by the government) provides a model that we can continue to follow. Now is not the time to look after number one; a rising tide lifts all boats, and if the economy is to recover its former strength, it will not do so if the nation’s workforce is allowed to become destitute and despondent. Hopefully we will witness an increase in compassion and service in these hard times; with volunteer efforts like Habitat for Humanity, food pantries, religious congregations’ activities, government initiatives, clothing drives and so on, that will remind our neighbors that this difficult period not be one they must endure on their own, but as part of a greater whole.

Coaching is draw to ways in which people can help and be active in their communities; what are some of your ideas?


ABC Labor Day 2009: Household Executives

On Labor Day, I had the pleasure of sitting down with ABC7’s Linda Yu to discuss some management tips for what I call Household Executives. See a clip of my appearance and read my suggestions here.

Do you have any tips that you find useful for managing your household?


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