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Brainpower for the Overwhelmed Don’t get SADD---GET GLAD

Posted on February 06, 2007

By Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE

Ever open your appointment book and wonder who the heck is Sam and why you are meeting him?   Walk into the room and can’t find your keys? Or forget why you entered the room in the first place?  Feel overwhelmed by information, technology, to-do lists and demands on your time? Your energy is zapped/

You might very well be suffering from SADD- situational attention deficit disorder, a term coined by the Anderson Consulting Institute for Strategic Change.  Specifically, most of us are now in situations in which we are bombarded by so many demands for our attention that our brains close down.

Consider it the madness of the millennium, caused in no small part to the fact that our brains are hardwired to respond to stimuli.  Our brains just naturally want to “take it all in and respond”.  It’s a safety mechanism that has us jump “without thinking” when danger is at hand. This cerebral mechanism works great at red lights and crosswalks but it short circuits when over-stimulated.

Information, to-lists, and technology will no go away. But there are ways to turn from “SADD” to glad.

1. Don’t just do something.  Stand there.
Before rushing into an activity, take a few deep breaths and think.  Ask yourself what action makes the most sense.  What is the pressing need of the moment and are YOU the right person to do it.   My biggest overwhelms come when I plunge in to “fix” something without have analyzed it first.

2. Establish personal and professional priorities and focus on them.
Personal priorities are those to do-list items that are important to you: family time, exercise, mediation, and others.  Literally block out space and hold these times sacred.  Make sure that your professional priorities match the priorities of your manager and your customers.  You’ll save yourself stress and maybe your job if you are aligned with their priorities.

3. Develop horse sense—the ability to say “WHOA!”
The average American receives over 200 phone, paper, and e-mail messages a day.  Take care of those that are priority and let the rest drop off. Ignore the messages that are uninvited and unnecessary.  Cancel newspapers and magazines you no longer read. Ask to be taken off e-mail lists that don’t serve you. And don’t zap other people’s brains by sending them unwanted e-mail.

4. Create a centering place.
Whether it is in the silence of your car, or in a shower, or closing your door, take 15 minutes per day to practice paying attention to ONE thing: your breathing, a flower, a fish tank.  Like the muscle in our bodies, the brain gets strong in the places where we train it.  Focus turns SADD into glad!


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