Effective time management is something many people wrestle with on a daily basis. I have revealed many strategies in numerous articles that provide effective techniques such as:
- Creating effective boundaries
- Learning to say no
- Utilising time saving techniques to ensure you don’t duplicate effort
Once mastered, would assume that you have cracked the issue of managing your time well, yet many people find the time they have free is dominated by that voice in their head.
What does that voice sound like to you?
There is the voice which constantly nags about things you have done or said which you realise with hind sight, it would have been better if you had hadn’t.
- Why didn’t you keep quiet?
- Why did you behave in a way you knew would attract negative consequences?
There is the voice that harangues you because you failed to say what you really think, or you wish you told someone you loved them or were sorry while you had the chance. It tells you that should have stood up to the work place bully.
- Why didn’t you say something?
- Why didn’t you say what you really meant?
There is the voice which brings work home and reminds you about all the jobs which need to be done, discusses all the options, gets you planning or rehearsing the interview you are going to attend in a few days time.
- And then there’s this to do…
- And don’t forget that you must plan for that…
There is the voice which tells you that you are not good enough, that you have failed yet again and that it is no surprise because you have so little worth.
- You are stupid.
- You are worthless.
So, what is the voice in your head?
Many say that the voice in our head is our unconscious mind. It can be useful to think of it in this way, as there is usually an underlying reason which explains its presence. Deal with that and the voice is easy to manage.
How loud is the voice in your head?
Personal experience and the work with clients has demonstrated that the size and significance of the perceived issue appears to have little or no significance in relation to the volume and persistence of the voice in our heads. The voice is often at its quietest when we are busy. It only begins to be a real problem for the majority of people in their personal time and for many of those is at its loudest in the dark lonely hours when they are desperately trying to sleep.
Do we simply have to put up with this voice? Are we destined to be victims to the broken down record which goes around and around in our head? The answer is No!
The impact the voice has on you can be controlled!
In all things we have a choice. If you choose to deal with the problem, there are many things you can do. You will need to experiment as different things work for different people in different circumstances.
If the voice persists or if you find your personal time or sleep is being affected you may find that working with an experienced coach can be really helpful.
- The Mountain Or Molehill Test - The passage of time makes a huge difference to the way we feel about things. An incident, which feels like the end of the world, can appear insignificant after a few hours, days or weeks. If you have something that is really getting to you, one quick way to silence the voice in your head is to consider the following questions:
- In the grand scheme of things is this a mountain or a molehill situation?
- Will this incident feel as significant tomorrow? In a weeks time? Six weeks? Next Year? If you were at the end of your life looking back?
- At what point will you be able to look back and laugh or at least smile about this?
- How long will it take before this becomes a great story to tell a mate over a drink or dinner?
- If it is going to become a molehill in a while why let it be a mountain?
- Why not give it molehill status now?
- Interrupt The Flow - The brain works rather like a record or CD. Thought patterns work like the patterns engrained into the disc. Even though vinyl records have now become a collectors pieces we still use the expression “going on like a broken record” to describe how thoughts seem to stick and constantly repeat themselves in our head. If you wanted to stop a record or CD delivering its usual pattern of sounds you simply need to interrupt the pattern on the disc by scratching them with a sharp object. We can interrupt the constant stream of negative thoughts or sounds. There are a number of ways to do this:
- Do something very different. Watch or listen to something that makes you laugh. When you can do something different, which also changes your physiology, the results are far more powerful. The results are even more profound when it is something that makes you laugh. Next time you are feeling low, when the voice is at its most insistent get up and try a variety of silly walks around the house. Clients report that having physically done this a few times not only does it work really well but that just the thought of doing it becomes enough to break the pattern as it makes them smile.
- Exercise. Go and cook or make something, work in the garden. Changing your physical state will change your mental state too. The change of activity and release of endorphins, which exercise releases, can help put things in perspective. Asking your unconscious mind to find a solution or to undertake the mountain / molehill strategy before starting to run or cycle can be incredible helpful too.
- Tell It To Shut The _____ Up! - For some simply telling the voice that it is not being helpful, to visualise a large switch or dial and imagine turning it off is all it takes. Making the decision to take control is what makes the difference for them.
- Learn The Lesson - When the voice is nagging you for things you have or haven’t done one strategy is to ask yourself what is the underlying lesson behind the voice? What learning could I take from this situation that would be helpful in the future? Think about what situation has given rise to that nagging voice. Recreate that situation in your mind with a different behaviour, one which you know would lead to success. What would that look and sound like? How would it make you feel? What could you learn from this? Thank the voice for giving you the opportunity to learn and let your unconscious mind know you have taken the learning forward so it can now stop.
- Compartmentalizing - Learning to compartmentalise can help you manage the voice. Visualise putting work issues into a brief case or a box, which you will pick up again on the way to work. Using the journey to demark what is work time and when the time becomes yours can be useful. Create a point in the journey where you always make the change over. Some find they need a neutral space between work and home. Use a section of journey like the air chamber in a submarine, which acts as the buffer between the sea and the inside cabin, can help.
- Change Your Perception - Perception is everything. You filter everything that happens in your life and interpret it according to your values, belief system and prior experiences. Understanding that your personal perception is not a guarantee that you are always right, can be very helpful. How you interpret another person’s response makes an incredible difference to how you feel and to the voice in your head. Be open to the possibility that there are alternative rationales to the one you have created. It is not always about you.
- Do Something With It - You are being kept awake, that voice in your head is constantly telling you about all the things that need doing or is bursting with ideas. It is far better to get up and capture the ideas, create a list of all things that need to be done, or write the letter saying sorry or stating your case. Once you have done everything that can be done practically at this time you are far more likely to be able to sleep. You can take any actions needed the next morning.
- Acknowledge It’s Too Late - A number of clients have talked about the voice that constantly regrets that they didn’t tell loved ones, who have died, how much they loved them. Writing a letter where they can say everything they need to can offer a positive way forward. Actually verbalising how they truly feel to someone else can also be helpful too. I believe that learning the lesson so that we take the time to value loved ones and friends and to thank people for the difference they make to our lives (even though it may feel embarrassing) can have a profound effect on not only silencing the voice in our heads but the quality of our lives.
There are any numbers of strategies you can use. The important thing for us all is to realise we don’t have to be a slave to that part of us which wants to take over and destroy the precious time we have by being a negative and persistent voice.