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Working in vampire time Featured

6:03am EDT July 19, 2002

The modern-day businessperson faces pressures similar to those experienced by Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker's "Dracula."

While you may not have an evil creature of the night thirsty for blood breathing down your neck, you feel mental and physical exhaustion during a typical workday. You -- and your employees -- face numerous challenges that you can sink your teeth into.

But when complications arise due to conflict, global competition and cross-cultural communication, many people experience a loss of time, energy and effectiveness.

This stress is linked to our shifting experience of time in the Internet Age. Time is a vampire. And we can all learn lessons in effective time management from Gothic horror tales.

What is your blood?

Vampires feed on the essence that sustains life. Before you can figure out what drains you, list what you lose to time. To find out your blood, go to the source -- what you hold as valuable in your heart.

What is the lifeblood of your organization? Whether a mission, vision, product or service, something flows through your workplace that sustains your business. How does time impact this?

Why do you return?

The seductive power of vampires often causes victims to return again and again against their will. What tasks and environments have moved beyond the routine to consume you with boredom and stress?

Identify what benefits you receive from returning. Often, the fear we know is more comforting than the fear we refuse to face.

How were you bitten?

Vampires' victims must willingly cross the threshold to enter the castle or tomb. You may feel you have always been stressed, but take a moment to identify when you first entered the time that drains you.

Know the history of your company, as well. Have the same patterns occurred to the detriment of your business goals?

Who is your stakeholder?

Knowing this can help you identify sources of strength as you combat that which drains you. Build trust and seek the guidance of people who can help you with their experience and expertise.

Stakes can also be tools that you can use, such as technology, to help manage time. But beware. Like a wooden wedge that misses the vampire's heart, misguided use of technology can actually put you at greater risk for losing the battle to time.

When are you free?

One challenge to facing vampires is to know when they no longer have power over you. Sometimes the fear of success, of managing your time, can be as overwhelming as the fear of failure.

Be prepared for new difficulties that may arise as you get closer to finding your freedom.

What can you do to fend off the vampires? Try these three exercises:

A day of stress. Tense your whole body, from eyebrows to toes, and hold while you count out seven seconds, then relax. What did you notice? Do different parts of your body hold stress?

Relax in the moment. Inhale to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, exhale to a count of four and hold your breath again for a count of four. This technique can help bring about calmness.

Find your free time. Think of a situation when you felt confident, successful or at peace. It can be a personal or professional accomplishment or even a special vacation spot.

Close your eyes and spend seven seconds in that memory. How does that change your stress level?

As you take small steps to renew your strength and vitality, you may see new opportunities for productive and healthy time. And, you will be free from the curse of deadly time.

Todd Packer (toddpacker@usa.net) is a Shaker Heights-based consultant. He can be reached at (216) 752-6926.