Tag Archives: balance

The Secret To Your Best Performance: Intelligent Self-care

In an article written eight years ago, we spoke about tailoring for performance. Then and now, the basic principles are still holding. If you can’t find your comfort where you can, you make it. If you can’t find ease in your daily work load or everyday routine, take steps to create ease. You’ll last longer, you’ll do so in a healthier state, and you’ll be in a better position to lead your business.

Food for thought:
Elite athletes very rarely do it alone. To get to that level of performance requires a support team, especially at the Olympic level. For the right diet, rest, proper self-care, and winning mind-set you’d expect the following: a dietician and/or a personal chef, a physical therapist and a sports-specific  doctor, and a coach, just to start. This team would help support the athlete as they go through all the relentless hours of training to burn in muscle memory and raise their performance to the best it could be.

You may not be an athlete. You may not have the funds for such a support team. But you can still  take the actions necessary so you’re able to perform at your best on a consistent basis. And honestly, who else would be in a better position to act on what’s best for you than you?

Food for thought, part two:
Life can be stressful, but stress shouldn’t be a default state for you. Yes, it’s true that there are people who seem bullet-proof when it comes to stressful events and situations, but if you’re not included in that particular group, you still have choices on how to make life easier to weather.  It isn’t just however many road-blocks you encounter, or how many holes you have to dig yourself out of, it’s also the feeling that you’re not in control of anything.

On road-blocks and holes:
Going along with this scenario, how will you know if you’re a good driver? See, in a sense, this is what tailoring is about. Learning how to drive  is learning a particular skill that enables you to move and act independently. Learning how to ‘tailor’ in this sense, helps you have an easier journey. You prepare, you act, and you put yourself in a position to choose the best way the job gets done. You’re in control.

  • What, in your particular situation, is your ‘driving’ skill’? Are you prepared for dealing with ‘potholes’ and roadblocks?
  • What are the common obstacles you frequently encounter? What were their effects? How did you deal, and what did you to prepare if they come up again?

Related Series: Lessons From Defensive Driving (Parts one, two, three, four and five.)


The same principles for having a good road-trip still apply to having a good routine that supports you in performing at your best.  A clear goal is a definite end-point,  so doing stuff that takes you further away or in the opposite direction should obviously tell you you’re doing it wrong. Making sure you’re equipped for the length of the drive tells you to plan for pit-stops (breaks) and refuelling (rest and recharge), as well as being well-supplied with what you need to make the drive safely and comfortably.

You can only be on the road for so long without resting. Your tank can only reach a certain level before you need to refuel. Running on fumes won’t do you or your car any good, and will lead to problems over time. Identify what it is you can control, prepare for what you can’t, and make sure to take of yourself so you arrive in one healthy piece.

Without the mixed metaphors.
Between where you are  and the place you want to go, there forms a space where you can carve out a better situation for yourself with your actions. There are multiple approaches to improving how you do things, just as there are many ways you can draw a line between Point A (where you are), and Point B (where you want to go.)  the more specific you can be about the things you can do to make your work easier,  the better the fit to your desired goals.

First, you have to actually pay attention to what you’re doing. You want a better performance, you want to be more productive, you need to establish a baseline so you know what you’re starting out with. You do this by:

  • Observing yourself and what you do regularly every day.
  • Taking note of when you’re at your most awake, and when your energy slumps.
  • Looking at the activities where you encounter the most problems, and the ones which take your time and energy but offer little in real returns for you. (Hint: This is where the stuff you can stop doing resides.)

Then you look at these things, individually, and in connection with your whole habitual set-up.

  • Address the things and attitudes that hold you back.
  • Look at the empty habits that don’t add anything of positive value to your work or to your life. If they’re not helping, they’re weighing you down and taking up energy you can use for better things.
  • Address the stuff  and especially the habits that weigh you down, whether physically, mentally, financially, or emotionally. Or chronologically.
  • Look at things that can shave time off doing, or save time by letting go or outsourcing if you can’t.
  • Look at stuff that helps you perform better, and try to make them a habit.

Be realistic about what you can accomplish.
There’s always a price to be paid when you abuse your resources. Always. Whether it’s a battered immune system from too much stress, brain-fog, back-pain, or creeping weight-gain, there’s always a rebound effect — and that’s only the physical aspect. Abuse erodes and uses up healthy reserves, whether we’re talking about your body, your finances, or your mental and emotional health.

This push to do all the things and then brag about how much sleep you’re not getting is a loser’s game. Discomfort is not a virtue. Comfort is not a sin. We have to take care of ourselves. Nobody wins an award for burning the candle at both ends.  Be smart. Be creative. If you can’t find ways then make ways to take care of yourself.

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The Art of Stress Free Project Management

13 May 2011, by A. Cedilla

A.K.A: The Zen of Project Management, or, “Why So Serious?”

One of the ways we trip ourselves up is that we put too much of ourselves into a project.

Aside from perfectionism, which is a looping dead-end in itself, our focus disperses under the weight of all the details, decisions, choke-points and politics inherent in the process.

If you’re a group leader, you’re responsible for leading your people, and checking their production and effectiveness in doing their jobs to get the results needed to bring the whole team to the next stage.

The downside is that you can edge towards being over-responsible, taking the blame or the burden for something that really isn’t under anybody’s control.

Our advice? Don’t be too emotionally invested in the outcome, or the micro-details. Take a zen approach, finding the middle way between the big picture and the small strokes. Once a certain momentum is reached, things will move beyond your control. Learn to go with the flow, neither obsessing over what went wrong in the past nor anxiously trying to predict the future.
Continue reading The Art of Stress Free Project Management

Let Things Work Out On Their Own

16 April 2011, by A. Cedilla

Sometimes, you have to take a few steps back to understand that there are that you’re the only one who’s getting in your own way by trying to control too many things.

  • The idiots who keep screwing up the customer fulfillment program: “It’s not that hard, just follow the directions, can’t you freaking show some initiative — no, not that way, this way!”
  • The morons who keep yapping after you to solve their own problems, and ignore your helpful advice anyway. “Why ask me if you’re gonna do what you wanted anyway? Sonofa–” *grumble-mutter-steam*
  • The clueless talking heads in their corner offices who tell you they’ll “take it under advisement.”

…if it seems that everyone is always out to get you, maybe, just maybe, it’s not just them that’s the problem.

Stress is internally generated. It’s a reaction to what happens on the outside. Bet you’ve seen it for yourself in all kinds of situations — something that makes other people blow up just leaves you shaking your head in disbelief, or something that drives you off your rocker leaves you staring bug-eyed at a good buddy when he tells you, “It’s not that big a deal, man. Chill.”

Everyone has their own unique triggers and limits. What sets you off may just be a point of mild interest for someone else. But it still holds true that your stress — and your reactions — come from inside you. And one source of stress is have an issue with control, like trying to hurrying things along to “fix them faster.”

You keep pushing, keep too tight a hold, try to control everything in your environment –even the people– the pressure builds up internally. Even a pressure cooker has a vent — a controlled way of letting off steam. Unless you’re unusually self-aware, the ways you’re used to venting and how you choose to vent can hurt you and the people around you.
Continue reading Let Things Work Out On Their Own

The Importance of Energy Levels in Scheduling

09 April 2011, by A. Cedilla

AKA: The E(nergy) Factor and You

While it’s intimidating and awesome to have a relentless and unstoppable machine like the Terminator on your side, it’s self-defeating — as well as delusional — to think that you can be just as unstoppable in the pursuit of your goals. For one, this is real-life, not the movies. For another, you’re made of flesh and bone. Bones ache and flesh gets fatigued. What’s more, brains get drained.

And can you imagine getting James Cameron for a boss?

Anyway, when it comes to ensuring a sustainable schedule, people often forget to factor in their personal energy levels. To everything there are cycles, remember? Ups and downs, stops and starts, peaks and valleys…

When it comes to heavy tasks and big projects, it’s never quite one straight shot – zoom! – right down the road, with a full-tank, no obstacles, blue skies and green lights all the way.

That’s a nice fantasy, but even with the best of times, you’re still a person with a body that needs rest, a mind that can burn out and feelings that can influence your thoughts and decisions (and vice-versa), and distract you from paying attention to where you’re going.

Even as the way to your goals are twisty and full of stop-starts, misfires and rapid adjustment, your body has its own demands and cycles. If you don’t want to be torn between the two, you need to be able to get them to work together. There are high-energy people , low-energy people, and a wide range in-between. What’s your baseline?
Continue reading The Importance of Energy Levels in Scheduling

Spend Money, Save Time

10 March 2011, by A. Cedilla

“You just gave advice on how save money and now this?”

Well, with every important choice we deal with in life there are always flip-sides to consider. If someone gives you advice that doesn’t jive with you, you don’t have to take it as is. Or reject it outright, either.

Consider pulling a 180 and look at it the other way.

Or take a few steps off to the side, say, like a 90-degree shift. That way, through some cock-eyed mental contortions and inner re-shuffling, you can get a good look from different sides of the equation, and somehow get a better, more rounded view of the entire situation than if you were firmly stuck on just one side of the discussion.

See, there are just some things more important than strict adhesion to a budget. A budget is a plan, a map. It is not the terrain. You stick to the plan without adjusting for real-life circumstance — a busted water-pipe, an emergency root-canal, an utterly unexpected opportunity to see your favorite band — you’re holding “The Budget” as paramount, and forgetting the purpose for which it was drawn up for — which is to use your money to serve you.
Continue reading Spend Money, Save Time

How To Deal With The Daily Slog

29 September 2010, by A. Cedilla

In an uncertain world where it seems security should be the number one priority for everyone, it’s counter-intuitive thing to suggest the following, but it’s true. The things we most complain about can actually help develop our skills and tolerance. Things which in themselves also add to our sense of security.

Running with Nietzsche’s “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” it takes a deliberate, practiced change of perspective to see the hardship we’re living through today and use it to strengthen ourselves.

Mostly we practice evasive maneuvers: “Waaauugh, look out!” followed by, “Damn that was close.”

How many times have you ever actually dared to say, “It’s alright. I can handle it. I’ll be fine,” and mean it?


What do you commonly complain about in your daily workday, or most often strikes you as a Do Not Want in your work? What are the top three stressors you encounter on the most consistent basis?

  • The long hours, and work life imbalance? The tedium of mindless drone-work?
  • Unreal expectations of productivity and availability?
  • The ever-present bogeyman of joblessness?

Continue reading How To Deal With The Daily Slog

Drawing The Line: The Importance of Boundaries

07 May 2010, by A. Cedilla

Boundaries are vital. Think of them as an extra layer of protection.

Like skin, which thickens in response to pressure to form a protective callus, your boundaries keeps you shielded and functioning under stressful circumstances.

When you recognize and honor your boundaries, you’re enforcing an internal support structure that will keep you in good stead when the going gets rough.

Boundaries are like boxes for clutter.
They help keep scattered-but-related stuff in one location, so you can deal with the whole shebang in one place, and keep them in that one place. You can come back to that one place (mentally or physically) when you’re ready, refreshed or coming back with new data and fresh input.

Boundaries give you the privacy and room to regroup.
You can leave things where they are, and come back when you’re ready. When people respect your boundaries, and you return the same respect, it makes for better relationships and fewer misunderstandings.
Continue reading Drawing The Line: The Importance of Boundaries

Make It Easy On Yourself

30 April 2010, by A. Cedilla

“Sure, go ahead. Take the easy way out.” At one point or another in your life, I’m positive either you’ve said this to someone, or had someone say this to you.

Taking the easy way out paints you as a slacker, a shirker, a lazy-assed Captain Slacktastic unwilling and unable to step up and do the job. It’s simply unacceptable — Un-American, even. But what do you think happens when you turn this idea on its head?

Hard work is not the only way to go – of course, hard work is unavoidable and, but smart work is what’s needed too. Know yourself.

  • If you’re the type who works best in short bursts of energy, accept it and work with it. There’s no point to forcing yourself to slog through hours of half-hearted effort.
  • If you feel exhausted and burnt-out, then by all means ease up, it’s counterproductive to work harder. Many people have high levels of energy, it goes to follow that there are also many people with low levels of energy. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the way you’re wired. Accept it and work with it.
  • If you’re excitable and get distracted easily, then you can try and arrange a quiet, distraction-free place to work, whatever lets you do what you need.
  • If you perform better at certain times of the day (or night), work with it. Night-owls and early birds have their spots in the schedule, know when you’re at your best in the day and use that time for the high-value tasks.

Continue reading Make It Easy On Yourself

Good Foundations Are Built At The Start

April 2010, by A. Cedilla

But what if they weren’t?

Experience and history has shown us that the best time to establish a good foundation –for life, for everything– is at the beginning. But history has also show us many, many examples of people who’ve grown up among horrendous conditions and, managing to defy all expectations, went on to live productive, generous lives.

Not everyone is lucky enough to be born to or grow up within a life where they’ll be assured of the most basic necessities, or get a stable, loving family, or live in an environment that’s safe and reliable.

If life dealt you a bad hand, it’s up to you to decide how to play it. If you feel that it’s too late to start, it’s not. As long as you’re still breathing, you can start over. That’s the good thing about being able to change your mind, and we mean that literally, as well as figuratively.

Researchers have estimated it takes about about 4 to 5 weeks, on average, for a person to fully adjust to a new habit. That covers the difficult first few days, and all the times you have to talk yourself into getting up and keeping at it. It also covers the inevitable slips, and the periods where you gain a sense of quiet accomplishment that you managed to stick to it for longer than you thought.

You can start strengthening your foundations now. You can establish a stable structure that can stand you in good stead for a long time, for the rest of you life.

To do it, you’ll need compassion, fortitude, commitment and discipline, as well as a certain cold-bloodedness — let’s call it detachment — to make the changes you need. Plus, you’ll have to get some attitude adjustments.
Continue reading Good Foundations Are Built At The Start

Start Early

07 April 2010, by A. Cedilla

Time management is a big deal for most of us. It’s the most common source of stress today. What’s a good way to handle all the things we’re given in the time we have? Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

“Soonest begun, soonest done.”

Here’s an oddball collection of thoughts and tips on how starting early helps you manage your time.

Mise en place
For anyone who’ve ever been a follower of any cooking channel, you may have heard this phrase tossed around from time to time.

Literally translating to “putting in place”, cooks following this practice prepare everything ahead of time, before cooking starts in earnest.

This means having all ingredients prepped (washed — peeled, cut, chopped, etc.) and measured out in neatly arranged containers. Tools and equipment are standing by, much like a surgeon’s tools are set out in the OR.

Mise en place can help you in the way it helps the chef, similar to how prepping helps a surgeon or say, an orchestral conductor. Can you imagine the doctor or the maestro pausing in mid-movement to hunt for something they forgot?

Mise en place helps you by removing distractions, and ensuring a smooth, orderly work flow with the fewest interruptions possible. Why would you turn that down?
Continue reading Start Early