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An event worth checking out…

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Attend 5 Days Of Premium Mental Health Professional Development Training, Direct To Your PC…
…At The Biggest Collaborative Mental Health Summit Ever Held, Where You’ll Get Access To Over 620-Hours Training…

…And Help Raise $30,000.00 For The Kids Helpline Charity.

This is the headline of one of the most innovative - and possibly largest - mental health events ever held in Australia.

The Mental Health Super Summit is a collaborative project involving over 50 professionals in mental health, information technology and education, and several private and public organisations including leading industry associations and training providers.

The 5-day event is hosted by the Australia’s leading provider of mental health professional development (Counselling Academy) in collaboration with the Australian Counselling Association and the Kids Helpline Charity. The event is held from Monday 23rd to Friday 27th of February.

All workshops and educational resources are delivered using Web 2.0 technology over an Internet (web) based platform, and each of the five days has a topical theme with a range of video workshops and supporting educational resources. The themes are:

Day 1: Self Harm, Depression and Suicide
Day 2: Alcohol and Drugs
Day 3: Therapies in action, Diagnosis and Psychopharmacology
Day 4: Family and Relationships
Day 5: Children and Adolescents

Who is involved?

Over 35 speakers and professionals have donated their time to produce workshops and offer valuable content to participants. Collaborators include psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, counsellors, community workers, IT professionals and others.

Who gets the event’s proceedings?

All event proceedings will be donated to the Kids Helpline Charity (the Summit is aiming to raise over $30,000). Kids Helpline is Australia’s only free, confidential and anonymous, 24-hour telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25.

What will registration give you access to?

  • Over 35 video workshops
  • Real-time online chat with leading professionals in the field
  • Downloadable resources (eBooks, Reports, Articles, eCourses, etc)
  • 30-days unlimited free access to the largest online PD provider in the country
  • Plus much more

It’s an event worth checking out!

For more information, visit www.mentalhealthsummit.com.au

Organisational Factors in Time Management

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In the previous two posts we discussed principles, and psychological factors in time management. In this article, we explore organisational factors relating to this subject.

Organising Goals

Having worked with a client on their motivation, it is important that the client take action and implement their new found sense of purpose so they don’t lapse back into apathy and inactivity. The first step of helping someone to become more organised is helping them to see how they can start to take actions towards their goals. This is done by breaking goals down into objectives and then planning out the steps necessary to reach those objectives. 

Apart from the actual completion of the goals there are two advantages to the coaching process in relation to completing goals:

  1. A person who is accomplishing tasks related to their long term goals and ideals increases the level of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins give a sense of well-being and elation. The person receives an intrinsic reward for progressing towards their goals and therefore increases their need to accomplish tasks (Tracy, 2004).
  2. Pushing towards goals may bring about an increased awareness of the individual’s limitations, doubts, fears and other reactions. With a coach on standby ready to help deal with what is coming up, the potential for growth is very high.

Dealing with Everyday Life

Allen (2001) explains that the essence of time management is completing decisions and determining action steps about the things that capture our psychological and physical space. To cope with everyday demands, Allen has suggested a processing sequence of work and tasks:

  1. Collect all situations, projects and tasks that need to be done, including those that keep flowing in on a regular basis.
  2. Process them and work out what actions need to be taken.
  3. Organize the resultant tasks and projects.
  4. Review them and look at options for action.
  5. Do what has been decided.

Allen’s approach can be described as ‘from the ground up’. He feels that there are still too many people who cannot, despite all their best intentions, thrive on a goal oriented approach to time management. In fact, he believes that setting lofty goals may impose more need for change on people and therefore more demands on their daily schedule.

Certainly, coaches need to be alert for clients chasing unrealistic goals or clients not being content with what they have. However, goal setting is seen as a forte in coaching for helping drive clients through their barriers and strive towards an end result.

Morgenstern (2005) has developed a simple approach to sorting out the things that need to be completed. This is known as the “WADE” formula.

  • Write it down
  • Add it up- estimate how long it will take
  • Decide what to do about these items. This can include the 4 Ds of time management- Delete, Delay, Delegate or
  • Diminish into smaller tasks.
  • Execute the plan of action decided on.

It may help a client to visualise how they process their incoming work. This system incorporates the 4 Ds of time management – Delete, Delay, Delegate or Diminish into smaller tasks. The Diminish stage is where something is seen to require more than two minutes to be completed and is added to a “Plans and Projects” stage where it is broken down into manageable steps.

Sorting out tasks with constant reference to goals and ideals is a key to time management from a counselling perspective. There are perhaps various ways of going about this. An approach (The Life Organisation Exercise) is suggested below:

  • Have your client sit with their written goals and objectives handy.
  • Invite your client to complete an inventory of all their unfinished actions/tasks. Have them write down everything they can think of. Write one item for every two or three lines on a page; in other words have them leave space to add notes.
  • Invite your client to get together at home and in the office all the physical things that need doing.
  • Work with them to assess what time these actions will take and incorporate this in their lists. While completing this task they can be grouping items into categories. For example: home, office, children, car, etc.
  • Invite your client to compare this list against their goals and see if the time they will take is justified. They might also see whether or not the actions are justified at all.
  • Apply the four Ds: Delete, Delay, Delegate or Diminish into smaller tasks.

The tasks that maintain priority should be allocated places in the diary or calendar system used by the client. Don’t be surprised if a client starts to go through some fatigue and/or emotions while completing an exercise such as this. Note that your presence with them while they do this exercise is one of the reasons it will work as it will help them work through some mental barriers as they confront a whole mass of incomplete, unfinished business in their life.

Some clients may try to ‘escape’ the exercise. They will come up with various things that demand their attention, and reasons why they can’t sit down and get through it. Without being unkind, guide your client through to completion of this or a similar exercise.

Please note: This is a suggested routine; you may have a variation of this and the client may prefer to sketch plans using diagrams and colour. The important thing is to get the person through what they might not otherwise get through so that they start to get on top of the barriers to personal organisation.

Other Organising Principles

Clients who are more organised towards the achievement of their goals are likely to be more responsive to attempts to help them organise their daily activities. Once this is completed, a multitude of ideas and systems can be employed to better organize the use of time. Some of the common principles and ideas for organising principles for time management are discussed:

Systems and Checklists: Some aspects of life are repetitive, such as getting ready in the morning for the day’s activities. It is beneficial to develop a system for these activities such as using a checklist that can be referred to. Leaving a house in the morning is one of those notorious occasions that slow people down; they have to stop and think if they have forgotten anything and often lose time going back into the house.

Prepare For Tomorrow, Today: Trying to plan a day on that day is prone to failure as the day’s activities take over and the plan is never finished. This leads to a never ending cycle of a person reacting to each day’s events and never asserting planning control.

Dealing with Overload: The overloaded client may require specific help to reorganize their life. The first step is to invite them to identify all the roles they carry out in their life and write them down. Gradually they will mentally separate out the different roles after which they can start to sort and prioritise them.

They will also start to see why they have allowed themselves to become overloaded and start to mentally delegate some of their roles to others. Of course, all other time saving ideas are relevant to someone who is overloaded.

One commonly successful strategy with overloaded clients is to get them to use one planner for their whole life, rather than run separate diaries for work and personal life. This helps them to get their activities aligned and optimize their time. Also, teaching clients how to gradually organize their way out of the work is beneficial rather than teaching them how to re-organise their overloaded life.

As mentioned earlier, coaches should be on the lookout for people who are caught up in some sort of martyrdom or who somehow receive payoffs from doing more than their share, such as dealing with a sense of guilt for some other inadequacy. Also, the ‘workaholic’ may be addressed in this section that may need to focus on balance in their life and possibly deal with things they may be avoiding in their personal life.

Travel time: As so much time in life is spent travelling, it makes sense that people could make better use of this time. Drivers could use this time listening to educative CDs or MP3s. Commuters on public transport can read and write. These are valuable sections of time and because travel is so frequent, several hours of valuable activity can be added to the week.

Again, some may feel that they are already strained with the amount they are trying to fit into the week; however someone who is back in tune with their goals and purposes in life is going to be that much more motivated to utilise their time more efficiently.

Procrastination from an Organisational Viewpoint: The idea of breaking goals into objectives, then plans, then further breaking those plans down into smaller activities, is one way of working with procrastination. Once someone can see that a series of tasks are quite simple and doable, they will not only get on with them but there will be a corresponding rise in morale as they realise that they are progressing towards important, long-term goals.

Clutter: Much is made in time management training of the need to sort out a client’s ‘clutter’. The trick is to decide whether tasks or roles are absorbing a person’s attention or is the ‘clutter’ avoidance from major things that should be addressed.

Diaries and Planners: There are many types of diaries and planners out there; however it is recommended that a diary with a ring binder is used so that it can be added to as the need arises. One way of setting this out is to have one section of the binder the ‘daily planner’ and another section for goals, objectives and general plans so that the client can easily cross reference their daily activities with their long term goals.

Electronic organisers are highly recommended for this same reason as they can hold a lot of information allowing the client to revisit and add to their long-term goals. Many also contain useful alarms and automatic reminders (particularly modern mobile phones).

Once the time appointments are completed; the general ‘to do’ list can then be attempted. Planning a day the day before, and also planning from a general weekly or even monthly ‘to do’ list, allows for grouping similar activities together and thereby saving time.

References:

• Allen, D. (2001). How to get things done. Australia: Penguin Books.
• Morgenstern, J. (2005). Time management from the inside out. Australia: Hodder.

© Counselling Academy

Psychological Factors in Time Management

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In the previous post we discussed the Principles of Time Management. In this edition we will continue exploring this topic, with a focus on psychological factors. Morgenstern (2005) describes psychological factors behind time wasting: 

  • Lack of clearly defined goals.
  • The enjoyment of being disorganised and being able to keep ‘rescuing’ the situation.
  • Fear of failure, or fear of success.
  • Fear of having spare time, perhaps due to the person being uncomfortable in their own space.
  • Attraction to the role of being ‘father’, ‘mother’ or ‘caretaker’ to everyone else’s problems, therefore adding to workload.
  • Fear of completion.
  • Perfectionism and/or fear of criticism. 
  • The idea that being organised and structured stifles creativity and spontaneity.

It is normal for people to be de-motivated through false or dysfunctional beliefs. They may be resisting any attempt to impose management on their lives because of past experiences with authority figures and the perception that they are trying to ‘control’ them.

Coaches can tackle these sorts of issues with any array of tools at their disposal; positive self talk, mental rehearsal and visualisation, acting the part, modelling, and being one’s own teacher. However, the following have been linked to a good time management program:

  • Clarification of values, goals, purposes and objectives so that clients are energized and motivated to be able to work through obstacles and ignore distractions while they pursue what it is that they wish to attain. 
  • Alignment and prioritisation of activities. 
  • Examination of false or dysfunctional beliefs, and ideas and considerations about time or life management that are blocking the individual. 
  • Assumption of responsibility for managing one’s life and time correctly. 
  • Relaxation, meditation and mental rehearsal exercises to help the person to cope with stress.

Personal Congruence

Time management is largely a question of efficiency. The efficiency of a person is largely a factor of their ‘congruence’; or the extent to which the person has their values, goals and activities in alignment (Tracy, 2004). Someone who is internally out of alignment is someone who is going to be prone to stress and easily distracted when following a given course of action. When someone is distracted and unable to progress, they can take a long time finding the motivation and resuming the course of action.

Asking clients where they want to have more time in their life leads to an examination of their values. Often a client will present with an imbalance in their life. A client involved in work or business may be seeking to have more personal or family time. Parents may be looking to have more personal time or time to develop a career.

Looking at the domains of life is one way to start to clarify values. The main domains of life are Health, Personal Learning and Education, Work, Career Development, Relaxation, Sleep, Spouse/partner, Family, Children, Community, and Spiritual Life. Which of these domains have importance in the person’s life? Which are currently neglected?

Robbins (1992) states that “moving toward values” leads to positives in a person’s life and “moving away from values” is associated with pain (for more on this topic, read our article Are You Moving Toward Or Away?). There are values seen as positive that predominate with people including Love, Success, Freedom, Intimacy, Security, Adventure, Power, Passion, Comfort, and Health.

Of the values that are seen to be negative, the common ones are Rejection, Anger, Frustration, Loneliness, Depression, Failure, Humiliation, and Guilt. Using these domains and lists of values as the basis for discussions with a client can be very informative. It is important to note that values at different stages of the lifespan may change.

Overall, working with clients to become more congruent with their values is a step in helping them manage their time.

Goals and Motivation

Addressing the motivation of a client is relevant to time management. Panella (2002) found that using time management techniques without any motivational help, 80 to 90 percent went back to their old time wasting behaviours within one month. The will to improve must be there if any results are to be achieved.

Time management is an area where clients need to maintain motivation to get through the barriers and obstacles they encounter. The best way to motivate someone is to clarify, revive and reinvigorate their goals. There are many ways of doing this.

A recent innovation in this area is the “Passion Test” (Attwood & Attwood, 2007) which examines a person’s ideals and what he or she is passionate about. The test follows five steps:

  1. Invite the client to consider what would give them a life of joy, passion and fulfilment.
  2. Invite them to imagine this “ideal” life and complete the question, “When my life is ideal, I am.” Answers generally include things that they are doing, being or having and should result in a list of approximately ten or more items.
  3. This list can then be culled to the five things that a client is most passionate at that time.
  4. The most important item is then compared to all other items in the list and replaced if something more important is encountered.
  5. The most important item from the first run through is circled; the remaining items are then culled in the same way.

This test helps clients gain clarity and insight about what their passions are. Another way of creating goals is to incorporate the following questions (Kovess, 1997):

  • What would you do if you had ten million dollars in the bank?
  • What do you hate in the world? What makes you angry? 
  • What part of your present work is most enjoyable?
  • What part of your work comes most easily to you?

Talking a client through their ideals in the life domains listed above and getting them to visualise their ideal life will also lead to an expression of goals.

Setting Objectives

Goals should not remain vague however motivated a person may be towards them. Goals should be prioritised and objectives set in order to achieve the goals. When are they going to achieve these things? What is the deadline?

As mentioned earlier, tasks tend to take up the available or allotted time. Better to set tough targets and push for them. This will increase efficiency and raise a person’s morale, because attainment of goals will seem more real and less distant.

Taking Responsibility

One key aim of the coach should be working with a client to assume responsibility for their own part in managing time in their lives. Many people assume that their use of time is largely outside of their control. Stack (2004) found that reasons given for inefficient use of time consisted of things such as unimportant meetings, dealing with emergencies, understaffing, interruptions, and unnecessary incoming emails.

When participants were informed that these were all external factors, participants devised a new list where they named the reasons: interruption of others, seeking out meetings to have a mental break from work, procrastination, creating emergencies, and sending inappropriate emails.

Procrastination

The following should be considered in terms of procrastination:

  • What are the pay offs for procrastination? From a behavioural point of view procrastination may have been reinforced by clients finding other tasks pleasurable rather than the task at hand.
  • Is something being avoided? There may be some fear that is holding a person back. For example, if they complete their assignment and do a good job might they be asked to stand up and talk to their class mates about it?
  • Does your client have an aversion to hard work? Perhaps they have not fully explored the rewards that can come from hard work. The idea of work being “hard” is something that can be broken down into its elements – persistent, energetic, focused, and so on.

A simple remedy can be to think “Just do it”; don’t wait for feelings of motivation to arrive.  Simply start the task and the intrinsic motivation will be found in the task itself. It has also been suggested that you should reward yourself for completing tasks.

Again, rather than go off on a tangent looking for some reward, the reward may be found in the task itself. Encourage clients to look for things that are interesting in the task or look for more knowledge from the completion of a task.  Finally, the simple remedy for an unwanted task is to simply do it and it will go away.

Indecision

Indecision is a time waster as people have to make decisions before they can take decisive action. This can be a fruitful area for the coach. Has the client suffered through their past decisions? Is there or was there someone in their life who is/was standing over them and judging them for various things they decided to do? Rubin (1985) states that the following should be considered when trying to decipher indecision.

  • Is the person in tune with their own priorities? 
  • Do they have realistic goals and expectations?
  • Are they willing to pay the price that making the decision will involve?
  • Is the person self confident and have good self esteem?
  • Are they unnecessarily afraid of rejection and failure? 
  • Is the person willing to recognise that life will always contain imperfections?
  • Are they aware of the influence of their moods? 
  • Can the person accept that doubt may linger even after a decision has been made?

Being In the Moment

Clients who are not using their time well may have slipped into a mode of ‘rushing’ through things resulting in the perpetuation of a number of situations in their life. They may complain that they have to do things over a number of times, or that they have to explain things to people time and time again.

If they were able to slow down, be more ‘in the moment’, they might complete actions they are attempting to a more satisfactory result. They could also find themselves working at a better pace and expending energy in a more efficient way. In fact, it could be that their perception of time could be changed.

One strategy for overcoming this concern is meditation. They might complain that they really don’t have time for such a strategy however it is beneficial to them in the long run to make a small amount of time each day. Meditation generally involves building concentration, deep breathing and positive thinking.

A recommended approach to basic meditation is as follows (Lawrence, 1999):

  1. Sit on a hard backed chair.
  2. Breathe deeply and evenly.
  3. Tune in to a particular sense to the exclusion of the other senses.
  4. Allow thoughts to play themselves out, neither guiding or resisting them, but focusing one’s attention as much as possible on the chosen sense. 
  5. Take time to tune into that sense and to fully appreciate it. After a while, choose to stop tuning in to it and resume deep breathing. 
  6. Each time meditation is done, tune in to a different sense. 
  7. When sight is done, open your eyes and take in everything that is in one’s field of vision.
  8. After some practice with senses, allow yourself to tune into emotions and feelings. 
  9. Notice if a feeling or emotion seems to be located in or stemming from some part of the body. 
  10. Focus on the feelings being experienced now, and resist the urge to start thinking about the past or the future.
  11. Notice anything that changes in relation to the feelings and emotions.

References:

  • Attwood, J.B., & Attwood, C. (2007). The passion test. Australia: Hachette.
  • Kovess, C. (1997). Passionate people produce. Australia: Griffin Press.
  • Lawrence, R. (1999). The meditation plan. London: Piatkus Books.
  • Morgenstern, J. (2005). Time management from the inside out. Australia: Hodder.
  • Panella, V. (2002). The 26 hour day. USA: Career Press. 
  • Robbins, A. (1992). Awaken the giant within. New York, NY: Fireside.
  • Tracy, B. (2004). Goals! San Francisco: Berret-Koehler.
  • Tracy, B. (2007). Time power. USA: Amacom Books.

© Counselling Academy