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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.
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Tired of Fire Drills? Appoint a Fire Marshal

One of the things I talk a lot about with my executive coaching clients is the highest and best use of their time and attention. When they think about what they really need to accomplish and how they should be spending their time to do that they often see a gap. The gap is between what they should be spending their time and attention on and what they actually are spending it on.

When they itemize the lists on both sides of the equation they usually recognize that a lot of what sucks up their time and attention each week is fire drills. If you’re an executive or manager, you know what fire drills are. They’re the unexpected customer crises, data calls from the top or systems breakdowns that draw you into a vortex of email chains, impromptu meetings and circular conversations. Before you know it, you’ve turned over 10 or 20 hours of your week to stuff you had no idea was going to even come up on Monday morning. Fire drills make it really hard to stick with and follow through on all of those more strategic and value added uses of your time and ...

Inject Some Life Into Your Daily Grind

Back in 2007, Tim Ferris released a mega best-seller called The 4-Hour Workweek. He’s since gone on to release a couple of other best-sellers but it was his first book that really put him on the map. It was a great title for sure. Who doesn’t want a four-hour work week?

I’ve always joked, however, that there was no way Tim Ferris was only spending four hours a week working on writing and then getting the word out about his book. As I’ve been doing the same thing on my second book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative this year, I’ve been reminded of what a time intensive process it is to write a book and then let the world know about it. (After all, what’s the point of writing it for people if no one knows it’s there?)

The biggest challenge for me this year has been to write the book and meet my normal business obligations without becoming—you guessed it—overworked and overwhelmed. It’s been an interesting exercise in eating my own dog food. I’m happy to report that it actually tastes pretty good and that most days ...

What Leaders Can Learn About Trust from Vladimir Putin

Given his track record in Crimea and Ukraine over the past several months, you wouldn’t think there is much that leaders could learn about trust from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The shoot down of the Malaysian Air flight, the Russian-backed rebels, the troops massed on the Ukrainian border, the government-stoked propaganda in Russian media and the current “humanitarian” convoy that the Russian army is driving into Ukraine have blown the international community’s trust in Putin out of the water.

So, what in the heck could a leader learn about trust from Putin? It’s one of those what-not-to-do kind of lessons. An article in the New York Times about Germany’s changing relationship with Putin sets the table for the lesson. A longtime German politician named Gernot Erler is quoted in the article. Erler has been working on establishing a stronger relationship between Germany and Russia for decades. He’s done with that. As he said in the article:

“The policy of Vladimir Putin is destroying reserves of trust with breathtaking speed. Russia is not naming its goals and has suddenly become unpredictable. And being unpredictable is the greatest enemy of partnership. Restoring trust will take time.”

And ...

Why You Should Reset Your Brain and How to Do It

The most emailed article on The New York Times website today is an article called Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain. It’s by Daniel Levitin of McGill University and it explains the findings of research that he did with a colleague at Stanford. The big headline is that they’ve identified a part of the brain called the insula that controls the interplay between focused attention and daydreaming. The brain has two neural networks that manage attention. One is for focus; the other is for daydreaming. They’re designed to counterbalance each other. The insula helps them do that.

As I discuss in my forthcoming book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, with all of the input that’s coming at us in every 21st century day and all that we’re trying to cram into a 168 hour week, it’s easy for the brain to get overwhelmed. As Levitin writes in his article, “If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a reason: The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited.”

The research (and perhaps your personal experience) shows that you need to take regular breaks to reset your brain so that the focused attention ...

One Habit Hack That Works: Hit the Showers

One of the features in my forthcoming book,Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, is a series of sidebars called Habit Hacks. The habit hacks are simple things that are easy to do and likely to make a difference in feeling less overworked and overwhelmed.

I have a feeling that I’m going to be collecting a lot of good habit hacks over the next few years. Just last week for instance, I heard one from a client who’s been working on incorporating deep breathing into his day as a way to be more mindful (aware and intentional) and less stressed.

Earlier this year, we kicked around the idea of him sitting in his car and breathing for a few minutes before he left the parking garage to go into his building in the mornings. That worked some days for him but not others depending on his commute and his early morning schedule.

In the meantime, he realized that taking a shower each workday morning is one thing he does that is consistently reliable. So, he’s started the habit hack of taking three deep breaths while he’s standing in the shower each morning. It wakes him up ...