Are You an Amoeba?

Spraying Fire Hose --- Image by © Robert Llewellyn/Corbis

Spraying Fire Hose — Image by © Robert Llewellyn/Corbis

You ever feel like a firefighter, like you spend each day putting out fires and reacting to alarms and emergencies? That you’re persistently buffeted by external demands and distractions? Do you find yourself asking “I was so busy today, how come I don’t feel like I got anything done?” Well, I am sorry to be the one to break this to you, but it is very likely that you have become an amoeba.

I learned about amoebas in a high school Biology class and observed the single-celled organism, under a microscope; saw for myself that their lives consist of stimulus… Response. Stimulus… Response. Stimulus… Response. Now, many years later, I clearly see that many of us multi-celled organisms have regressed and live our lives just like amoebas.

After writing a series of articles on the process of change to support all of you who’ve made New Year’s resolutions, I decided to focus on sharing concrete productivity tools and tips. As luck would have it, I attended the Allied Professional Women Power Breakfast last week and had the good fortune to hear the author of Success Under Stress and business psychologist Dr. Sharon Melnick speak. I’ve known Sharon for years and appreciate her work and efforts to help individuals boost productivity and eliminate stress.

Sharon talked about how the lack of control we feel in our daily lives causes a stress reaction. She shared a breathing technique that essentially is a way to do a “Mental Reset” and encouraged us all to include strategic thinking time into our schedules. My biggest take-away? Sharon urges us to incorporate self-management into our lives rather than stress management, by being intentional in our responses to the demands and distractions we face. She also shared a 3-step process to help us determine what kind of response is warranted called ACT. With each interruption, we set an intention and determine whether to Accept or Allow it, Cut it off at the Pass or Curtail it, or Triage it.

Take the time to determine what kind of external demands you are willing to accept and deserve your full attention. Ideally, they are directly related to your highest priorities. To cut interruptions off at the pass, turn off ringers and message notification sounds or create an FAQ (a list of frequently asked questions with answers). And if you happen to work in a cubicle or an open floor office plan, post a “Do Not Disturb” sign and list your “office hours.” Sharon describes Triaging it as asking questions to determine the level of importance, make a plan to address it later and get right back to work, just like it’s done in an Emergency Room.

If you want help getting out of your amoeba mode, implement ideas and systems that will help you reduce stress, gain control and achieve success, give me a call or send me an email. I want to help you change your life this year.

Do you have a strategy or technique for limiting distractions and interruptions?

10 thoughts on “Are You an Amoeba?

  1. Sarada Chaudhuri Reply

    This is so great Janine! It’s exactly how I’ve been feeling these past few weeks. It’s funny how the more we ‘react’, the less ‘productive’ we are! Even though we’re still ‘busy’! So I’m going to practice self-management now…

  2. laura Clark Reply

    I love when my clients start making changes in their lives and they choose Joy no matter the circumstances….And, yes, Janine!! We all need help with this in some form or another 🙂
    One of my favorite lyric lines is written by John Hiatt and Bonnie Raitt made famous in Crazy Thing Called Love.
    “But baby, we can choose you know, We ain’t no amoebas “

  3. Bart Reply

    Great Post,

    My strategy for limting distractions, is by starting the day with a clear focus on what needs to be done. Showing up with a plan.

    Learning to increase your state management is key to getting out of the amoeba state of mind.

  4. Kelly Reply

    Wonderful blog Janine. Thanks for the clear defining characteristics of our external stress factors and interruptions.

  5. Lori Nash Byron Reply

    Ooo, this ACT process is great for creating awareness first, and then tackling the issue that’s causing stress. And I’m going to join Laura’s clients in choosing Joy no matter what the circumstances.

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