Physical Relaxation Exercise

Here is an example relaxation exercise that focuses on physical relaxation, incorporating a basic version of PMR (progressive muscle relaxation) and Deep Breathing. Both of these techniques are well known to improve concentration and reduce stress during the study or before a test.

If you feel stressed before or during a study period, you may want to spend a few minutes doing a relaxation exercise. You can also use this relaxation exercise to increase the effectiveness of study breaks.

  1. Close your eyes. If you can, lie down unless you are tired -you may fall asleep. Sit up in a chair if you are tired.
  2. Clench your whole body. Pull taught every muscle you can feel tightly! Make a face. Strain those arms, legs, shoulders, everywhere. Hold for about ten seconds. Then let go.
  3. Do this again but focus on individual muscle groups one at a time. Start at your toes, then your calves, quads, all the way up to the muscles around your face. Strain and relax each group for around five seconds.
  4. Breathe in for a beat of 1, 2, 3. Then out on a beat of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Fill your lungs to capacity. Visualize relaxation flowing into your body through your lungs as you breathe in, and feel tension and stress flow out of your body as you breathe out.
  5. Repeat the above with beats of 1, 2, 3, 4. Then out on a beat of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Your breath out is twice as long breathing out as you do in.
  6. Repeat step 5, breathing in for five, then six beats (i.e. out on ten, then twelve beats). If you can comfortably go higher, then do so. Don’t overdo it. If you get light-headed, you are probably going too far!
  7. Then go backwards, starting at six beats in (twelve out), then five in (ten out), down to three in (six out).

That’s it. This exercise is an excellent way to relax before starting any study or work requiring concentration. It’s also an excellent exercise to do when you are feeling stressed, pressured, angry, or upset. It helps you wind down and puts you in a better peace of mind.

I hope you find this helpful and thank you for reading.

Alain

 

Processing Document, a workflow for productivity

This article borrows heavily from the seminal works of David Allen (Getting Things Done)

1. Gather 

Collect and gather all your document into one location, a file basket on your desk, a folder on your computer. Get everything into one place, emails, printed files, electronic documents, etc.

2. Process

Stick to the DOO (Do Only Once) rule as much as possible. Start at the top of the pile, and process each document, email, or piece of paper. Do not put anything back in the pile.

Ask yourself if it is actionable.

  • If not, ditch it, file it for future reference or put it in a Maybe Someday File in your filing system.
  • If it is actionable, and the very next action will take less than two minutes, do it! Ask yourself if you are the best person to do this? If not, delegate it.
  • If it is actionable but you cannot do it now, Defer it.

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The Power of Self Awareness

You must see the value in yourself (self-awareness) before you can offer value to others.
old proverb
 

This topic is a strong passion of mine, to help people become self-aware and discover their own strengths. Recent studies of successful people showed that there is a strong correlation between success and self-awareness. Success, as defined in these studies was not only measured in earnings or fame but also whether these people were recognized as successful in their own field of work, business, ministry or by the service they rendered to their community.

I believe that true self-awareness is only achieved by a clear understanding of our own strengths, passions and skills.  A natural expression of self-awareness is self-confidence. And since self-confidence is one of the first things people notice when they interact with you, therefore self-awareness is critical to your success in any chosen career.

Let me say that I agree that it is unfair that a book is often judged by its cover, even if we tell people not to do that. But that is a reality, so you must make your “cover” look good and self-awareness is a key to achieve that.

How do you become self-aware?

First, there is a basic requirement for honesty and being realistic about your abilities, talents, skills, etc.  There are multiple tools to help you find your strengths, your personality type and skills. You must be willing to be transparent and listen to others as they tell you what your strengths are. This is no time for false modesty.

You must be willing to test your findings -to see if these are really strengths or skills. You need to actively seek opportunities to practice the skills you discover. Success breeds success. If you have a newly discovered talent in, let’s say in archery, you need to put yourself in a situation to practice that sport.

You need to tell others that you like using this strength. You need to volunteer using those skills so that others will come to rely on you in the areas of your strengths. You need to create a new habit of using your strengths.

Finally, you need to keep on the lookout for opportunities to try new things. There might be hidden diamonds in you just waiting to be discovered. For inspiration, I highly recommend you read “Acres of Diamonds” by Russell H. Conwell.

Thanks for your time and interest,

Alain

Post-Traumatic Growth

Post-Traumatic Growth, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

After the March 11, 2004, train bombing in Madrid, psychologists found many residents experienced positive psychological growth. So too do the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer. What kind of positive growth? Increase in spirituality, compassion for others, openness, and even, eventually, overall life satisfaction.* After trauma, people also report enhanced personal strength and self-confidence, as well as a heightened appreciation for, and a greater intimacy in, their social relationships. (W. James, Psychology: Briefer Course -Harvard University Press (1984))

In his recent book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor develops the principle of Falling Up whereas we aim to bounce forward instead of bouncing back after a trauma or a failure. It is not enough to bounce back, bouncing forward, or adversarial growth is the goal.

Achor invites us to look at adversity not as a stumbling block but as a stepping stone. This is an awesome book that I recommend you to read wherever you are in life. This book is not about some mumbo-jumbo, new age positive thinking theories where you are asked to numb yourself to the realities but it is rather a solid presentation of key principles to help us discover or re-discover happiness.

The ability to turn adversity into an opportunity or to make lemonade out of lemons seems to come more naturally for some people. However, it is possible to train or “re-wire” your brain to identify the positive. Achor refers to this skill as learning your ABCD’s. The ABCD model of interpretation (Adversity, Belief, Consequence, Disputation) has a long history in positive psychology, starting with Albert Ellis, father of cognitive therapy, then adapted by Martin Seligman (see Learned Optimism, Authentic Happiness).

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Document Management Tips for Electronic Files.

Introduction

“the better you get at what you are doing, the better you better get at getting good.”
Alain Gauthier

Since the incredible growth in availability of the personal computer, there seems to be a constant increase in the number of documents we can create each day. From standard correspondence pieces like letters or emails; financial documents like invoices, statements or marketing documents, we are now able to create most of it on the fly.

As we attempt to go ‘green’ and use less paper around the office, our file management skills need to extend to electronic files. It is just as important to keep the documents on our computer organised and up-to-date as with paper files on our desks and filing cabinets.
The challenge is no longer on the creative side but with the organisation, sorting and management of these documents. With personal computer hard drive sizes passing the terabyte mark, we can easily store the equivalent of the Library of Congress on a laptop.

What do we do with all these electronic files? More importantly, how do we keep track of them and how do we find them when we need to refer back to them.
Storage is not the problem, organising the many files and folders is the issue for most of us.

The primary goal of any document management strategy should is to ensure that we can find what we are looking for, even if years have passed since we created the original document.

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Don’t waste your life!

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.” Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I hope you find this article helpful, it sure leaves a lot to think about. Doesn’t it?

Alain

Controlling Stress

Under stress, the body releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol can inhibit memory recall. After a stressful incident cortisol may reach a level that impacts your memory performance after thirty minutes. It then takes a few hours for the effect to wear off.

This is why staying relaxed before and during an exam or test is important, as is how you react to incidents during that time. If you make a mistake at the start of an exam, take a moment to relax and ensure you don’t let your stress response go too far. if you let that mistake start to stress you further, your cortisone rises and thirty minutes later, you will find it harder to remember what you already know.

 

Work/Life Balance

Balance =  “two opposing forces equalling each other”
– Webster.

We often hear about the request to balance work and life. This sounds to me that there is a conflict between your career (what you do at work) and the rest of your life (leisure/family/life). If that is true, no wonder so many people are so stressed after a day at work. What IF what you do at work IS what you are passionate about? What IF your work actually energizes you instead of being a drain on you?

The Gallup Organization, in the late 90’s, did a major survey -asking thousands of workers about their career choice and their typical workday. They found that only 17% of the workers were actually doing work that is parallel to their passion(s). Those workers actually found that, to a great extent, what they do at work is what they would actually do even if they were not being paid for it.

The Gallup Survey also found that for this 17 %, work actually gave them energy. These men and women were looking forward to going to work in the morning. Furthermore, Gallup also found that these workers suffered less from depression, had fewer marital problems, and generally had better health than the 83%. In short, their career, profession or vocation were a positive force in their lives.

Are you part of the 17%? I am. Don’t get me wrong, I am not pretending that EVERYTHING I do during my work day is energizing or empowering me but, the majority of it does.

How do you get there? A few years ago, I came to the realization that what I did ‘for a living’ was sucking the life out of me, so I opted out. Rest easy, I did not quit my job and I am certainly not recommending that anyone does that. However, I did start to make changes.

First, I took an inventory of my own skills, talents, abilities and the things I was passionate about and I decided then that my goal was to pursue making those activities that strengthened me an integral part of what I was going to be making a living at. I made some changes, and I am now doing more of what I am good at and less of what I did not like doing. Try it and you will also find that your work and your life ‘balance’ quite well…

Alain

For more information about finding your own strengths and putting them to use at work, visit these websites: strengths.gallup.com or www.simplystrengths.com

Writing for your audience

When writing, or even reading, the best way to be clear with our message or to understand the message is to understand the context and the audience. Let me try to explain this with an example from one of my new article websites.

In the blog, The Parables of Jesus, I write about the parables Jesus told to his disciples and the crowds of His time. As with any other topic that is based on a another time or place, it is critical for me as a writer to realize that I need first to understand the context in which Jesus wrote as well as the audience He spoke to, and then my own audience so that I can write the articles with relevance to that audience.

Let’s look at the target audience, in this case, the audience reading these articles on the Parables. There is three general audience that I need to be aware of as a writer. The arm-chair theologian that already has done extensive studies of the bible and is aware of a lot of the language and background. Their understanding of the context into which the parables were told will be fairly accurate.

Another main audience is the “Christian reader“, she has grown up hearing or reading the stories of Jesus, maybe even went to bible studies on the topic but does not consider herself as a “theologian” in any sense of the word. Her interest is in knowing more about the parables and it is for personal or spiritual growth.

The last audience that I need to be aware of is the ‘general audience”. This is a person who does not know the bible, maybe does not even believe there is a God but does like to read stories about great teachers that roamed the earth in the past. We all have to agree that Jesus was at least that kind of person. So, I need to present the material in an interesting and educative way for that person too.

This, I believe, applies to any writing you do. Whether you are writing a novel or a lesson script, always remember who your audience is.

I hope this is helpful,

Alain

Why is Online Learning Better?

Over the past few years, I’ve had many people ask me if Online Learning is better than in-classroom learning. Like you, I have read a lot of different opinions on this subject. In this post, I will discuss this, and contrary to what you may think, the answer to this is NOT always yes.

Whether an Online or a Virtual Learning Environment is better than Book Learning or in-classroom learning depends on a few factors.

First, it very much depends on YOUR learning style. I wrote about Learning Styles in a few earlier posts so I won’t add too much to it right now. What I need to say is that discovering your learning style is critical to how you can maximize any learning environment you find yourself in.

If you don’t know what your learning style is, or are not sure, do take a few minutes to find out.

The time you invest now if finding more about yourself (self-awareness) will pay back in multiples in time saved when trying to learn something new.

Second, it also very much depends on how the material is presented. Yes, you can blame the facilitator, teacher or the presenter for this one, and the environment.

Adult Learners need to be involved in the learning process. Unfortunately, many teachers want to teach adults like most schools are trying to teach our children. You already know or read about the poor success that our education system is having so I won’t elaborate other than to say that if you were trying to create an environment where 25+ children would find it the most difficult to learn -it would look very much like one of our classroom. Children of all learning styles, forced to sit for hours, with sometimes very little interaction allowed…

Now, do you remember a classroom like that as an adult learner? Did you learn much? 

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