Archive for the ‘balance’ Category

Why Doing Nothing Could be the Most Productive Thing You (don’t) Do

June 30, 2013

(Originally posted at

I used to be good at doing nothing. I mean really good. I remember years ago during summer breaks as a young adult I’d hang out on the porch (when I wasn’t working at my summer job) and just relax. No goals, no agenda….just me and some music and my wandering mind. Me and my imagination. Some of my best daydreams happened in those idyllic hours. I don’t seem to do enough of that these days. Ahhh, the art of non-doing….


Wow. I miss those days. Not because of the time I had (well that too) but because I now realize how valuable and important downtime really is.

I’m not referring to hobbies. Those I do plenty. I’m referring to ‘simply doing nothing’. The act of hanging out where there is no agenda, no structure, no goal….nada.

Why is doing nothing so important?

Neuroscience experts say some of our best breakthroughs and thinking comes when we stop consciously thinking and completely disengage from goal-oriented activity.


By intentionally disconnecting from deliberate, goal-focused, conscious thinking, we give our brains a chance to “clear the cache” (that’s my expression for declutter and break from mental patterns) — and instead, engage in a process called ‘integration’. This has something to do with letting the brain access disparate information stored in our memory in a natural way. The unfolding of new connections without effort often leading to insights and creativity that far surpasses that which may come from deliberate problem solving. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should stop thinking or trying to solve our creative problems – just that we should also allow some white space too and deliberately take time to disengage.

A shout-out to leaders: doing nothing is actually a leadership competency. Add that to your to-do list!

Herbert Benson, MD and William Proctor, co-authored a book called The Break-Out Principle, which talks about this concept in great detail. They say taking breaks from thinking about an issue can trigger an inner switch (that they call “the break-out principle” that increases mental function, creativity and productivity.

Hmmm, I’ll take two orders of that please!

Actually come to think of it, while I may not disengage as often as I’d like, I have had many of my moments and share of break-out principles. In fact, just this weekend I was taking a break from my book writing project and forced myself to get out for a ‘do-nothing’ walk in the ravine. Well go figure – I came back with so many new thoughts and ideas.

The problem is this boost of creativity ends up adding to more ‘doing’ for me because of all those shiny new ideas and inspired energy (gotta actualize those ideas!) instead of taking coveted rest, rest, rest. Ahh, but that is another topic.

Well, it is summer and this weekend it’s Canada Day so hopefully many of us are getting out to do lots of nothing. Two more months before the so-called ‘busy season’ (yeah, I know, it’s always the busy season). Let’s make a pact and try to do lots more of this quality nothing.

You in?

By the way, I get into more detail on this concept in my upcoming book on managing overload in times of crazy busy. Stay tuned…and if you aren’t on my mailing list, send me a note and get onboard!

To your personal and professional wellbeing!

Eileen Chadnick

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Rest and Recovery: the Keys to High Performance

November 30, 2012

The notion of balance took on a whole new meaning for me these past few months. September through November tends to be my busiest season as I am involved in a particularly intense annual project and I’m juggling a whole bunch of other priorities along the way. I know that it’s impossible to go, go, go without losing steam somewhere along the way. I also have learned that the key to high performance isn’t necessarily about your ability to sustain the effort. The key is how you rest and recover.

4051626_s (high jumper rtf)

Rest and Recovery is Essential for High Performance. No one knows this better than high performance athletes. Did you know that Olympians focus as much on their rest as they do on their actual skill/sport training? Earlier this year, I attended the Canadian Conference on Positive Psychology and heard a session on balance and resiliency by Dr Greg Wells (one of many great speakers on a range of topics related to flourishing + wellbeing). He spoke to us via skype as he was in London getting ready to report on the Olympics. Wells works with elite athletes and is an expert on high performance. His talk was about how we can learn from Olympians’ and incorporate similar habits to live (and work) a worldclass life. Honing in the issues of maintaining high performance and resilience, Wells introduced the 1,3,2 Principle.

Wells said what distinguishes Olympian athletes is they know how to recover well. In their training these athletes stress themselves continuously to reach new heights. But most importantly, they also focus on recovery strategies so that they can perform their best.

You don’t have to be an Olympian to incorporate this into your life. We all can benefit from learning to recover better and faster from stress and demands of our work (and life). This will not only improve our capacity for greater performance in work and life but we’ll boost our mojo and wellbeing.

“Forget work-life balance,” Wells said, “It’s all about recovery and focusing on being heartier.”

Most of us will agree that the demands of work and life these days make it difficult to achieve a ‘balance’ each day/week/month so instead make sure you build in ample ‘recovery time’. He  suggests the following the 1,3, 2 formula (as a minimum). The idea is to completely unplug from work:

1 hour (minimum) of total recovery a day

3 full days of recovery a month (in continuum…not separate days)

2 weeks of full recovery a year (in continuum…not separate)

Recovery activities may look different to each of us but the key is to be intentional in creating a recovery strategy that allows you to unplug from work so that you truly do refresh, rest and rebuild your resevoir of energy.

As I step into December and will soon have my holiday break I am going to take this very seriously. And I don’t save it all up for year-end. Last weekend, I booked a two hour massage, went the gym and then I did a lot of slothing. I really needed it. Those who know me will appreciate that I don’t get to ‘sloth’ too much. But I now appreciate how important rest is to my performance.

So as you face your oncoming ‘busy season’ take a moment and ask yourself what your recovery and resilience strategies will be? And how can you put the 1,3,2 principle into action in your life?

Here’s to your personal and professional wellbeing and a TGIM Work-Life!


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Labour Day: How Are You Celebrating Work …..?

September 3, 2012

Happy Labour Day! Are you working? Thinking abour work? Or taking a last day off before the onslaught of work and the busy season ahead? Or maybe a bit of all of the above?

Labour Day’s origin’s go way back in Canada to 1872. Traditionally it was a day to advocate for and/or celebrate workers’ rights. Back then, there was great effort to campaign for worker’s rights to have a 9 hour day. 

Hmmm. Times have changed. Labour Day is now a chance for one of the last hurrahs’ of summer. And 9 hour work days?? What are those? Increasingly most people are experiencing the blur of work and life lines. The dividers we once knew no longer exist. We check our emails on our smart phones while on the dock at the cottage? Tuck in a few hours of work on Sunday (or holiday Monday) before the ‘official’ work week begins.

While traditional paradigms of work-life balance have changed, we still need to take a stand for our own ‘sense of balance’ and in that I mean balancing our energy, mojo and time for stuff inside and outside of work. 

For myself – my approach tends to be a blend. I often do a bit of work on ‘days off’ and squeeze in ‘life time’ on ‘days on’. But according to Dr. Greg Wells, a scientist and ‘extreme human physiologist’, we need to pay attention to recovery more so than the ongoing ‘balance’.

I heard Wells speak at the Canadian Conference on Positive Psychology. Wells who works with Olympians and elite athletes skyped from London just as the Olympics were about to start. He was reporting for the CTV news network.  

Wells said one of the things Olympians and high performance athletes do really well that contributes to their high performance is they know how to recover well. In their training they stress themselves continuously to reach new heights. But most importantly, they know how to recover better, faster and for more sustaining performance.  

Recovery is actually a strategy in itself. You don’t have to be an Olympian to incorporate this into your life. We all can benefit from learning to recover better and faster from stress and demands of our work (and life). This will not only improve our capacity for greater performance in work and life but we’ll boost our mojo and wellbeing. 

 Try the 1,3,2 Principle: Most of us will agree that the demands of work and life these days make it difficult to achieve a ‘balance’ each day/week/month so instead make sure you build in ample ‘recovery time’. Wells talked about using the 1.3,2 principle. This is about building in time to completely unplug from work.

1 hour (minimum) of total recovery a day

3 full days (minimum) of recovery a month…preferably continuous, not separate

2 weeks (minimum) of full recovery a year….preferably continuous, not separate

 Recovery activities may look different to each of us. The key is to completely unplug from work AND be intentional in creating a meaningful recovery strategy to build into your days/month and year so that you truly do refresh, rest and rebuild your resevoir of energy.

So on this Labour Day weekend, as you face the oncoming ‘busy season’, take a moment and ask yourself what your recovery and resilience strategies will be? And how can you put the 1,3,2 principle into action as you dive into the new season?

Here’s to resilience, energy and mojo in your work life in the coming season!


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Five Ways to Say No Without Jeopardizing Your Reputation at Work

April 27, 2012

You’re swamped. Your plate  is full. You are juggling as it is. Then your boss – or someone else at work – asks if you can take on another assignment. What do you do?

You know you should say ‘no’ to this one – but yuck…saying no is right up with your other least favorite things to do…like going to the dentist to get a cavity filled. Well, at least that’s the case for many people including a Globe and Mail reader who sent in a question to the Globe Career’s Ask an Expert Coach feature. 

New! On today’s Globe and Mail career site and in the paper edition:  Read what I wrote to this reader — “Five Ways to Say No Without Jeopardizing Your Reputation at Work”.

Sometimes saying ‘no’ is really saying yes — to being small; risking less than standard work; and more.

Reflect — what are you saying yes to when you shy away from the appropriate times to say ‘no’?

 What are your strategies, tactics, experiences with saying ‘no’ when it is appropriate?

Additional ResourcesSee my Webinar/Workshop page on this blog for a listing of Webinars (free) — including: Are you Addicted to the Yes Habit? As well, a couple more articles related to how to learn to say no from Investment Executive. See Part I and Part II (Investment Executive, March 2012).

Here’s to a TGIM Work + Life.



It’s About Time

April 9, 2011

Do you feel you are always pressed for time? Running out of it? Wondering where the heck it’s all gone/is going? Well, yeah…me too. 

It’s About Time — that’s the topic of my April Newsletter.  I share 10 Timely Questions to help you get a grip on that pesky  ‘oh-so-little-time-so-much-to-do” issue we all grapple with. As well, a link to an article that offers one more powerful,  ‘must-ask’ question to keep yourself from stagnating in your life.

Interest piqued? Well, you can read the latest issue (April).  

Better yet, subscribe to my newsletter and be the first to receive it in your Inbox regularly. Okay: confession. Maybe not always so regularly. I call this my “Not-So-Monthly” newsletter. But I do aim to send stuff that’s of interest often enough:)  There is a ‘subscribe to newsletter’ button right on this blog; as well as on the newsletter itself – or simply send me an email.  Either way – love to have you aboard.

Finally – you can check out some past issues in the newsletter page of this blog.

Here’s to your TGIM work + Life!



Ta Da!!!! Done…!

December 1, 2010

I’ve been meaning to get a TGIM Work-Life newsletter out for some time.  But alas, that ‘to-do’ list always had something else that had to get done first.  Well — Ta Da! I finally got it done. And guess what? The focus for this issue is battling ‘too much to do overwhelm’ — with the “Ta Da” list.

Would you like to read it?  Read the online version here.

Care to join the mailing list? There are three ways you can do so:

1) Hit the “subscribe to newsletter” button on this blog site.

2) Open the online newsletter version  and hit the button that says “Join our mailing list” on the right hand column (just under my pic and the Twitter symbol

2) Send me an email and I’ll put you on the list myself.

Ta Da! Easy….

To a TGIM Work-Life!


Overwhelmed? Strategies to Tame the Overwhelm Gremlin…

November 1, 2010

UPDATE NOTE: Check out my new book: Ease – Strategies to Manage Overwhelm in “Times of Crazy Busy”. Tons of tips and really super simple ideas to help you tame the loads, manage the stress and bring more well-being into your life — even in times of ‘crazy busy’. See more at the book website here. 

Are you like most people these days – overwhelmed, stressed, too much to do and too little time? This has become an epidemic. A Globe and Mail poll found that Canadians endure an average of 14 stress periods a week. According the latest report from the Canadian Index of Wellbeing one in five people are experiencing high levels of  “crunch” time – described as periods of overwhelm due to overcrowded inboxes and jammed weekly schedules.

Roy Romanow, the former Saskatchewan premier and current chair of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing Advisory Board said (in a Globe and Mail article this weekend), “We are paying a steep price for this time crunch” and has called for a national dialogue on public policy. Scientists are affirming this need as well. Why? Because there are major implications on our health and wellbeing – and it’s affecting us both personally, professionaly and also as a society.  We’re heading for trouble if we don’t get that work-life balance back in gear.

Tell me about it!!! I see this ‘overwhelm’ pandemic everywhere I go. With clients, friends, family — and in my own life. Yeah, I’m not embarrassed to admit it: overwhelm – that’s my achilles heel. I work hard and am constantly stretching myself. Sometimes a little (or a lot) too much. So I coach what interests me and ‘taming the overwhelm gremlin’ is pretty high on that list. I work hard to walk my own talk and over the years have developed many  strategies that I find helpful – as do many of my coaching clients.

Here are just a few that you  may find helpful too.

 Write it Down: Everyone has got loads to do but trying to remember everything can add undue levels of frazzle and clutter in your head. It’s a waste of energy and takes you away from being present. More to the point: it’s exhausting and distracting!  So instead, make a habit of “writing it down”.  This is a survival tactic for me – and I’m often surprised when I hear others haven’t developed this habit. So, make a list and get your ‘to-dos’ out of your head (so you can focus on the task at hand).  Then of course, don’t forget to check what you wrote down often enough to keep you on track.

To-do Lists  are great, but don’t forget the ‘TA DA – DONE LIST’ too:  As per above, To-Do lists are important to stay organized but they never end, do they? And often we pay more attention to what hasn’t yet gotten done and too little attention to what we have accomplished. It’s very common for people to scratch off their tasks and focus on what’s next or what hasn’t yet been done. That in itself is exhausted and can take the wind out of our sails. You know what I mean if you can picture yourself (or others) sighing in exasperation of all that is still yet to be done.  Stop the insanity (as Jon Stewart might say:). Take some time to notice and acknowledge what you did get done. No task is too small. Heck, this weekend, I changed the vaccum cleaner bag — whoo hoo!!! Well, hopefully you get the point.

Action Tip: make a habit of writing down (or minimally, reflecting) on everything you did get done in a given day (or week)  And accept the fact that the to-do list will always have new stuff or even old stuff that needs to be rolled over to the next day. Pay attention the energy you get from ‘owning up’ to what you did get done vs. the energy drain from exclusively focusing on ‘what’s next’ or ‘not yet done’.

Learn to Say NO. Ahhh, one of my favorites. Are you, like many others, addicted to the yes habit? This week, start to pay more attention to what you are saying ‘yes’ to and what you need to say ‘no’ to more often.  We often get into ‘reactive’ mode and ‘yes ourselves to overwhelm’  Saying no may sound easier said then done. I get that — and presented a webinar on this topic. You can check it out (it’s free and easy to access). It’s called: “Are You Addicted to the Yes Habit?”  All you have to do is register online at the CICA page (they hosted this webinar)  to see/hear the archive. It only takes a few seconds and voila, you can watch at your leisure.  Oh – that’s right, not much leisure. Well, try it anyhow:)

You can also check out a column I wrote (Are you Addicted to Yes) on this topic for the CICA CareerVision newsletter.

Ask Yourself the Right Questions: I’m a huge advocate of being a ‘question-thinker’ and learning to ask the RIGHT questions to help you get the results you want. Here are a few that can help with that ‘time crunch’ and overwhelm issue:

-How can I take more responsibility for the choices I am making and what I’m saying yes to?

-What can I say ‘no’ to – starting today?

-What can I delegate?

-What are my top priorities and what can I really let go of?

-What does balance look like TODAY (or insert another time frame like ‘this month’ or ‘this week’)?

This purpose of this last question is to acknowledge that balance is an ebb and flow thing and doesn’t necessarily look the same all the time. Make the appropriate adjustments to your expectations of what balance means as you live/work in different periods. For instance, fall is always a very busy time for me. So balance in September is going to be different from what balance may be in June or July. Still, no matter how busy life gets, there is always some form of balance. The key is to be aware and then make the commitment to create it.

Folks, I’ve got many, many more tips and strategies (check out this blog for more!). As well, I welcome hearing from you on what your favorites are. But for now, it’s time to carve out a bit of white space for me….speaking of which, how are you doing on that ‘white space’ thing? Check out the post I wrote a little while back.

P.S  before I sign off for the evening, I am going to take my few seconds to check off ‘write blog post’ from my ‘TO-DO’ list and put it on my ‘TA DA – DONE!’ list…….DONE. Ohhhh that feels good.

To a TGIM Work Life!

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If You Attended the IFCA Conference…

October 18, 2010

On Monday, I presented the opening keynote presentation at the IFCA Conference A group of about a 100 communications professionals who work in the financial and insurance industry in North America gathered in Montreal for their annual conference. The topic of my presentation was “TGIM Work-Life” (sound familiar?).  It was a great group and I had a superb time exchanging ideas about ‘what it is to love your work’ and strategies for a TGIM work-life!

I promised I’d put together a package of past posts that reflect further on the ideas I presented. 

Here they are – enjoy! (and no worries if you were not at the conference, they are relevant for anyone interested in creating more success and fulfillment at work and life).

BY THE WAY…I also just discovered a cool new feature available now on this blog (thanks to WordPress!). If you send a comment on any of my posts, you will have the option of subscribing to this blog and receiving all future posts by email. Cool, eh? 🙂

The Perils of TGIF  

Tips to Make the Bigness of Monday Just a Little Lighter

 The Lizard Who Wouldn’t Eat (strengths)

Thank Gd it’s Monday

 Happiness is Contagious

 Bring Thanks to a Thankless Culture

 Ramp up the People Part of Your Leadership

 Finding Flow: Intense Work but Without the Struggle

Coaches Don’t Always Demand More Push-Ups (About Tribute Communities)

Are Smart Goals Dumb?

 To a TGIMworklife every day of the week!


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What I DIDN’T do on my vacation is why I’m ready for work on Monday

August 22, 2010

 I just completed part II of my ‘staycation’ . I had taken another week earlier in July.  I didn’t make any big vacation plans this summer so part of me was wondering if I should bother at all – especially since I know the next few weeks are going to be so busy. I was tempted to work through it and get a head start.

Boy am I glad I didn’t. My seemingly ‘boring’ vacation at home was exactly what I needed. I did do some of stuff on my list (a bit of golf, cycling, movies, friends, reading, etc.) But what stood out for me this time was what I DIDN’T do.

I didn’t work.

In past times when I’ve stayed home for ‘staycations’, I’ve often used some of the time to catch up on some of the work stuff I don’t get around too. It’s usually things I enjoy doing and want to do more of  — e.g. like blogging, updating my website, starting new creative programs, etc. This year was no different in that I had a lot of that kind of stuff beckoning me.  But my wiser self knew that this time I truly needed to STOP. 

Like so many others, I work hard and my brain is always going. When you are self employed, you are always thinking about what’s next, planning, networking, etc.  But just as important (whether self employed or you work traditionally) is self care. If you are run down, that’s a risk to the business.

So my only commitment this past week was to ‘go with the flow’ and truly listen for what I felt like doing.  It was mellow.  And well, in the midst of that, because I wasn’t fussed up about ‘achieving’ anything this week I did have a wonderful discovery stumbling upon some old journals and allowing myself to linger as I read them (more about that another time…it actually was a big thing for me).

Confession: While tomorrow is the first day back at work, I did intentionally set aside this past Friday to quietly catch up on my emails and get myself ready for the heavy lifting of the week ahead. This was part of my plan. I find it hard to dive back into a maelstorm of work without preparing. So I gave myself that quiet time on Friday and was able to enter the weekend feeling at peace and able to enjoy these last two days.

So Monday (and September) here I come! My attitude is now TGIM-ready! 

How about you? What kind of self care do you need to be ready for what’s ahead this autumn? What do you need to put on your ‘to not do’ list? What about year-round – how do you build in time to refresh, pause and rejuvenate? What boundaries do you need to declare around work and ‘life’? How do you make sure these get respected?

To work and rest in your TGIM worklife!


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Never Going to Retire?

May 15, 2010

Are you uncomfortable with the “R” Word?

Mention the word retirement and a lot of boomers defiantly say: “Not me – I’m never going to retire!”

Well, not an unfamiliar reaction. In fact, 31% of boomers in an RBC poll – said the same thing.  Another 51% said there was no appropriate age to retire – it’s up to you!

I couldn’t agree more!  That is one of the reasons I launched UNretiredLife!  Because many of us boomers will delay the ‘hard-stop’ retirement and instead either continue to work in the same career, recareer, and/or start to test-out and ease into a different kind of work-life balance.

We boomers are known to ‘live to work’.  Despite the complaints along the way, work give us a lot more than just a paycheck: we get intellectual stimulation, the satisfaction of contributing, a place to test our mettle, develop skills and grow ourselves.  Along the way we self actualize, connect with people to ‘play with’ — and a whole bunch more. And yes, that paycheck is critical. Many of us will continue work for financial reasons.

But does that mean you don’t have to plan for your life and work? Heck no!!!

The biggest mistake people can make is to float along and delay the reflection and planning that is critical to ensuring your next stage of life — whether you work or don’t — is working for you!  We all know how important the financial planning piece is. Well the life & work planning is equally critical — and will make your financial planning that much more meaningful.

What will you do when you grow up (do we ever grow up?)? What are the career possibilities for you in the next stage of life? Will you shift career gears or continue in the same lane? Full time/part-time/contract – solopreneur anyone?

Those are just a few of the career question but there’s more: And what about the balance side of things? Will you delay that till you eventually do the ‘full stop retirement’ — or might that be an area to tackle first while you are working?

So whether you call the next stage of life ‘retirement’ or “Unretirement” — you still gotta plan! Financially of course. And for life.

WORKSHOP: That’s what my Retirement 2.0 program  is all about It’s the next version of ’so-called-retirement’ and isn’t just for people planning ‘hard-stop’ cessation of work. It’s for boomers who want to make the most of the next stage of life (work optional!) — but perhaps haven’t yet had the chance to think it through. We’ll bring guidance, reflection prompters and challenges to your assumptions.  And it will be fun! At least that’s the intention:) 

SO….Care to join me and some Big Cheese Boomers starting June 24th?

Would love to see you. It’s all part of the TGIM worklife….just getting ready for ‘what’s next’.

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