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A One Hour Course on Time Management, Peoples' Strengths and Weaknesses and Motivation

Roger F. Peters [ RFD, BA, BSc,(Hons), MSc, PhD, MAPS, DACPCP, FEAPAA]

Sound impossible doesn't it? Well it is! However, this is not an unusual request when people book me for a talk, because indeed all these topics are really interesting. But to do them justice, I would need to conduct my two hour course on motivation and goal setting, my three hour course on time management, and as for strengths and weaknesses, I guess that could be best covered in my Care of the Self - Part II course, which also takes three hours.

So how do I propose to conduct a course, which would take about a day and half into one hour? Aside from the simple answer, being that I don't - the answer that I am sure you will be happy with is that I intend to provide a "taste" of each of these areas, with some practical examples, some useful strategies, but above all some motivation to continue your enquiry during the remainder of this year. I have also prepared extensive notes and these can be found on my web site www.heas.com.au, but in case you don't have time(!) I have several copies for you to distribute after I leave today

Motivation and Time Management go together!

The first solution to "fitting it all in" was to recognise that time management and motivation actually go together. In fact in my course on time management I introduce the course as follows:

Have you ever seen this graph?

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In one of my previous courses I discuss extensively the idea of anxiety (distress), and from this graph you can see that motivation and anxiety are linked.

For instance, if I asked you to get to the ground floor the quickest way possible - you might take the lift. At 5pm it might be the stairs - but I believe I could get you to jump out the window. Let me explain why. When I work with footballers or just sports people generally, they are often referred because they have lost motivation - so I give them the following example. If we are several floors above the ground ask them to jump out the window, they look at me incredulously and say "no way". Imagine though, that there is a fire, you can't get out any way but by the window (we have certainly seen people perched precariously on building tops in news stories). So, I point out that in fact I can (in certain circumstances) motivate you to do almost anything, the key to motivation of any kind is having the right goals.

For instance, my weight at the time of writing this is about 100 - 105 kgs. When ideally my weight should be 85 kgs. I know that I should weigh closer to my ideal weight, but what's stopping me, genetics? A slower metabolism as I approach my sixth decade? Both of which may be true, but in fact the number one cause for my weight is that I prefer to eat foods that adds/maintains my weight rather than diet. Do you see my wish to lose weight just stays that, a wish. Like jumping from a window to preserve your life, so, sometimes we need stronger reasons to make changes. Incredibly, despite life threatening situations, sometimes even then there is insufficient motivation. In an anti-smoking advertising campaign - a women breathing through a tracheotomy was asked "but why do you smoke?", she replied "because I like it" - do you see that even cancer ravaging her body was not sufficient for her to change! The powerful motivator of nicotine and the physically addictive hit was more important.

So what's this got to do with time management? Well it's what being a good time manager comes down to. Whether we really want to manage time better and more importantly the answer to the question "What can better time management do for me?"

Having established our goals and thus our arousal systems, the chances, at least according to the graph above, is that we will be more successful. Success is usually in tune with our arousal or drive which produces self-efficacy.

A word of caution, being a better time manager means making a commitment to change and this can be a hurdle in itself. Why is it we often know what to do, why we should do it even how to go about doing it - yet we don't?

It seems to me that two driving forces provide additional significant obstacles:

1. Fear of Failure: refers to the idea that we don't attempt to achieve goals because our fear we may not be successful and become embarrassed by failure. That seems obvious, but what about fear of success?

2. Fear of Success: Having been successful means maintaining success, not to do so failure ie, embarrassment, do you get the picture?

TIME MANAGEMENT: THE GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF RECOGNITION

It struck me as odd that a group of people who are ruled by a bell, a term, and an academic year would have any trouble with time management. Unless of course you believe that you can be all things to all people at all times. The rules of engagement in teaching, as I see it at least, are that you a) prepare, b) you deliver, c) you validate, and d) you examine or review. In that simple process you in fact have the basis of good time management. But here are some other ideas.

INCREASE YOUR PERSONAL PRODUCTIVITY

PRIORITIES

UNDERSTANDING URGENCY

KNOW WHAT'S IMPORTANT

URGENT
NOT URGENT
Important
1
2
Not Important
3
4

Quadrant 1 holds those items that are important and urgent. Quadrant 2 collects those items that are important and not urgent. Quadrant 3 has those items that are not important but urgent, and Quadrant 4 holds those items that are not important and not urgent.Quadrant 1 holds those items that are important and urgent. Quadrant 2 collects those items that are important and not urgent. Quadrant 3 has those items that are not important but urgent, and Quadrant 4 holds those items that are not important and not urgent.

GETTING PERSONALLY ORGANISED

PILED HIGH BUT NOT HOPELESS

Allow yourself 30 minutes or, if that's too much, 15 minutes to go through each item in the pile and assess what to do with it. In essence, you can only do one of four things with the stuff that confronts you:

  • Act on it
  • Delegate it
  • File it
  • Recycle it
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MANAGING YOUR DESK

One final word, do what you tell your students to do. There is a volume I imagine is still in print and it's called "Lets Study Better". I was given a copy in 1963 so it's been round for nearly 40 years. A teacher gave this book to me. The principle emphasis of this book is not unexpectedly better time management. However if you want some more recent useful texts then these are:

Davidson, J. (2000). Managing Your Time - A Ten Minute Guide. Alpha Books, (MacMillian) Indianapolis.

Axlerod, A. & Holtje J. (1997). 201 Ways to Manage Your Time Better. McGrawhil: New York.

Strengths, but especially weaknesses

For the remainder of this session I have a period to discuss strengths and weaknesses, but I want to do that by looking at one particular area, one I referred to in another paper as "Personality disorder or diathesis?". You can quickly see why this came to mind when you understand that "diathesis" in fact means weakness. Of course whenever examining the question of weakness, we also have an opportunity to examine the question of strength. In the management of others, for instance, it's important to understand that you have an opportunity to either press a person's 'red button' or their 'green button'. Green buttons are the igniting buttons "the go for it" button. Thus if you know that one of my green buttons is praise, then by pressing that button, you get a great response from me, thus the saying "He would walk over hot coals for her".

If on the other hand my red button is any challenge to my honesty, then to get resistance, just challenge that and for good measure my loyalty, integrity, etc. So why do people, (especially in marriage), use red buttons when they know what reaction it will bring. Two immediate answers come to mind; one is power, the other revenge. For instance, if you knew a red button of mine was simply the word, "always", why would you ever preface a statement with "you always", unless you wanted to annoy me or play some kind of power game with me?

One more powerful button is one based on personality. Earlier I suggested to
you there was a concept called a "diathesis", a weak point. For those interested in physiology, I would like to point out we have a physical diathesis. Thus when a person becomes stressed some physical mechanisms have the potential to break down quicker than other parts of the physiology. For me its dermatitis, for others gastric, others headache and so on. The actual physical connection is that as we prepare for stress we increase the production of 17 hydroxy-corticosteroids (from the adrenal gland, wouldn't you want to know). This substance is useful in assisting us prepare to deal with stress physically, by changing glucose into glycogen, but cortisol is also immunologic ally suppressive, thus we become vulnerable to disease and in so doing our diathesis is exposed. Yes, a weak point that in fact can cause your death. So that if that weak point id your gut, then the gastrointestinal infection could become irritable bowel, colon cancer, or duodenal ulceration and eventually death - who says stress doesn't kill you?.

Similarly we seem to have a personality diathesis or weak point, lets take that further.

PERSONALITY DISORDER OR DIATHESIS

Background

People seek therapeutic help for a number of reasons. Some contract a mental health professional following a crisis or traumatic experience - a death in the family, a divorce, a rape, an illness, or the loss of a job. Others seek therapy to help them deal with specific issues - finding a more satisfying career, raising a difficult child, dealing with teenagers at home, making the transition from adolescence to adulthood, from childless adult to parent. Still others begin therapy to help them manage a persistent psychological disorder, e.g. - depression, an eating disorder, panic attacks, and the like.

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Yet there are many other people whose reason to seek therapy is less conspicuous. These people seem to have a crisis after crisis, their intimate relationships, their friendships seem consistently stormy and ungratifying, or their work patterns tend to be frustrating and self-defeating. They come to

therapy because their lives never seem to go the way they want. They feel essentially unhappy. Many of these people suffer from problems that stem from their personality.

The term "personality" refers to the individual, ingrained, pervasive, enduring, and habitual ways a person operates. Made up of attitudes, perceptions, habits, emotions, and behaviours, one's personality is their style. More than a collection of traits and dispositions, personality is characterised by the way in which an individual perceives, relates to, and thinks about themself and their environment.

In contrast to the term 'character', which refers to a person's distinct nature, an individual's personality traits are both based on his/her inherent character and shaped by his/her unique developmental process and life experience. In other words, personality is a product of both nature and nurture, of constitutional attributes, early developmental experiences, and ongoing life circumstances.

People are often wrongly diagnosed as having a personality disorder and perhaps just reading the next few paragraphs, you will see why. What I hope to do is to suggest that people are often not disordered at all, but in fact suffer stress (anxiety) and behave in a way that can be mistaken as a disorder, when in fact it reflects more what I will refer to later as a diathesis.

Personality Disorders

Personality traits transform themselves into personality disorders when they become so rigid that a person cannot respond spontaneously or appropriately to his/her environment and life circumstances. Personality disorders can be detected in the ways an individual acts, feels, thinks and relates. Generally, a disordered personality is evident when a person has persistent problems in maintaining intimate relationships, holding jobs, or advancing in a career. Usually apparent since late adolescence or adulthood, the pattern of difficulties and distress caused by a personality disorder is consistent and long lasting.

There is considerable debate as to what actually accounts for personality disorders, but recent theories suggest that in addition to inherited and constitutional qualities, these more or less distorted personality styles are also products of a child's early relationships with his parents or primary care givers. Simply put, because the fit between a child's inborn temperament and the parent's child rearing practices is an important determinant of how a personality develops, a disordered personality may in fact originate in less than adequate parenting or troubling childhood experiences.
Since many of the signs and symptoms of personality disorders are exaggerations or distortions of normal personality traits, they are not always easily diagnosed. What is more, personality disorders can complicate other psychiatric and emotional disorders, making diagnosis more difficult and rendering the difficulties more tenacious. Between seventy and eighty five percent of all criminals have personality disorders; between sixty and seventy
percent of people with alcohol related problems and between seventy and eighty percent of those who abuse drugs have personality disorders. People with personality disorders are more likely to commit violent crimes, attempt and commit suicide, have accidents, and receive hospital emergency room treatment.

It is the nature of a personality disorder that those who have one are unlikely to recognise it. Instead, if you have one, you are more likely to see yourself as a victim of circumstances. You may find yourself feeling unjustly picked on, criticised and rejected, and most importantly, may feel unaccountably dissatisfied and malcontent. At the same time, chances are, that since you are functioning reasonably well, it may not occur to you, or those in your life, that you could benefit from professional help.

The following descriptions of symptoms may help you identify some aspects of your own distress and functioning, and perhaps even acknowledge that you, in fact, suffer from an emotional disorder. While it may be unsettling to see yourself in the descriptions below, you may at the same time feel relieved to realise that what you feel and experience has a name and a cause - and that, in most cases, can be effectively helped with psychotherapy.

Antisocial Personality Disorders:

Three to four times more common in men than in women, antisocial personality disorders are marked by a consistent disregard for the rights and rules of others and behaviour that reflects that disregard. . Their behaviour reflects their scepticism concerning others, their desire for autonomy and a wish for revenge and recompense for what they perceive as past injustices. They can be irresponsible and impulsive, qualities they believe are justified because they judge others to be unreliable and disloyal. Insensitivity and ruthlessness are their only means of avoiding abuse and victimisation.

Borderline Personality Disorders:

Borderline personality disorder is thought to originate in early childhood experiences: significant loss; profoundly unstable attachment to parental figures; trauma, abuse and deprivation. Individuals with borderline personality variants experience intense endogenous moods, with recurring periods of dejection and apathy, often interspersed with spells of anger, anxiety and euphoria. These individuals may be preoccupied with securing affection, have difficulties maintaining a clear sense of identity, and display cognitive-affective ambivalence that is evident in simultaneous feelings of love, rage and guilt towards others.

Dependent Personality Disorder:

If you have a dependent personality disorder, you lack confidence in your ability to care for yourself and rely on others to look after you. These
individuals are characterised by a search for relationships in which they can lean on others for affection, security and guidance. These individuals have learned the comfort of assuming a passive role in interpersonal relations, accepting what kindness and support they might find and willingly submitting to the wishes of others in order to maintain their affect.

Histrionic Personality Disorder:

The flamboyant, dramatic, attention-seeking and self-centred quality of a histrionic personality disorder is popularly associated with women. These people often exhibit and insatiable and sometimes indiscriminate need for stimulation and affection. Their clever and often artful social behaviour makes them appear confident and self-assured, but beneath this guise lies a fear of autonomy and a need for repeated signs of acceptance and approval.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder:

Many people with obsessive-compulsive personality disorders are workaholics. Delegating tasks does not come easily to them; they may try to maintain control by giving highly detailed instructions. Their prudent, controlled and perfectionistic ways derive from a conflict between hostility toward others and fear of social disapproval.

Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder:

Also known as negative personality disorder, a passive-aggressive personality disorder is apparent when a person consistently expresses the word 'no' in passively defiant ways. Passive-aggressive individuals struggle between working towards their own rewards and towards the rewards offered by others. These individuals experience endless wrangles and disappointment as they fluctuate between deference and defiance. They display an erratic pattern of explosive anger and stubbornness intermingled with periods of guilt and shame.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder:

For the individuals with schizotypal personality disorder, the profound social discomfort and anxiety they experience may translate into distorted thinking and perceptions. Schizotypal individuals prefer social isolation with minimal personal attachments and obligations. Depending on whether their basic pattern is active or passive, they display either an anxious wariness and hypersensitivity or an emotional flattening and deficiency of affect.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

There is a grandiose sense of self-importance or uniqueness; preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success; an exhibitionistic need for constant attention and admiration; characteristic responses to threats to self-esteem; and characteristic disturbances in interpersonal relationships, such as entitlement, interpersonal exploitiveness, relationships that alternate between the extremes of over-idealisation and devaluation, and lack of empathy.

Avoidant Personality Disorder:

The essential feature is a personality disorder in which there is hypersensitivity to potential rejection, humiliation, or shame; an unwillingness to enter into relationships unless given unusually strong guarantees of uncritical acceptance; social withdrawal in spite of a desire for affection and acceptance; and low self-esteem. Despite their desires to relate, they have learned that it is best to deny these feelings and to keep a good measure of personal distance.

Schizoid Personality Disorder:

The essential feature is a personality disorder in which there is a defect in the capacity to form social relationships, evidenced by the absence of warm, tender feelings for others and indifference to praise, criticism, and the feelings of others. They tend to be apathetic, listless, distant and asocial. Their emotional needs are minimal, and they function as passive observers detached from the rewards and demands of human relationships.

Paranoid Personality Disorder:

The essential feature is a pervasive and unwarranted suspiciousness and mistrust of people, hypersensitivity, and restricted affectivity. Individuals with this disorder are typically hyper vigilant and take precautions against any perceived threat. They tend to avoid blame even when it is warranted. They are often viewed by others as guarded, secretive, devious and scheming. They may question the loyalty of others, always expecting trickery. For this reason there may be pathological jealousy.

A Personality Diathesis?

All of us have a number of characteristics that make up our personality. Some of these include weak points or what Theodore Millon would call a "diathesis". For instance, if you respond to trauma with some hysterical outburst, it doesn't mean you have a histrionic disorder. Or if you are indignant when challenged then that doesn't mean you are a narcissist. Likewise, if you are dependent, or avoidant by nature, these again don't normally reflect a disordered or defective personality.

More likely your behaviour simply means you are under stress and you are responding in a characteristic way, perhaps giving some basis to the statement made, "you are so predictable".

Elizabeth Myers-Briggs, among other personality theorists, suggests there are no bad personalities, just healthy and effective ways we use them, or on the other hand, unhealthy and dysfunctional ways. A true personality disorder is more difficult to treat, but a personality diathesis or behaviour is much easier to remedy. Too often people are accused of having a personality disorder, more likely their behaviour simply betrays their vulnerability or "weak-point" and with some counselling they can learn better ways of behaving and coping with stress.

So you say, I came here hoping to learn about strengths and weaknesses. What does personality have to do with that? Knowing a person's personality allows us to understand how "they tick". Knowing that we can choose ways to either ignite them or diffuse them.

Having identified the weak-point, you may then work out a strategy to overcome the negative impact of that characteristic on your behaviour. Alternatively, you may wish to complete the Millon Clinical Multi-Axial Inventory, which was developed by Theodore Millon as a psychometric assessment of personality. The results, of course, will remain confidential between yourself and your therapist.

Incidentally, if you would like to establish your own diathesis or 'weak-point', please read through the earlier descriptions of the personality disorders above. And if you were pressed, which one(s) do you think you would be more likely to meet the criteria and that will help you find you're weak-point under stress.

If there is anything that I have said to day that interests, (or has added to your concern), then please feel free to contact me at roger@heas.com.au Or perhaps you could take the opportunity of talking with your Employee Assistance Counsellor, which for this region is Ray Dorling and Associates. Remember, its free, its confidential and you can have up to 6 sessions over any two year period.

Thankyou

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