I was lucky enough to spend last weekend visiting Lake Como. I had a very relaxing few days sightseeing in this beautiful area and enjoying some good Italian food.
Whilst I was there, I started thinking about what we could learn from the Italians about achieving our goals. The Italians are known for their love of La Dolce Vita which literally means “the sweet life”. How can we use this to become more productive and achieve our dreams? Here are 3 suggestions.
1. Live stress free.
The Italians don’t do stress and they don’t really understand it. “Stress” has become a badge of honour in our times: a modern day catch-all. When someone asks you how you are, is your default response to say, “I am so busy”? If you are not “really busy” or “really stressed”, do people look at you as if you have two heads? Try and break this cycle today. Next time somebody asks how you are, try a positive response such as “Really good, thank you” or “Great, enjoying work at the moment”. Just try it. See how it makes you feel. Does it change your mood or your attitude? Can you start to feel “less stressed”?
Next, try and do a little bit less. How often do we end up running late because we tried to fit in too much or just didn’t leave enough time? It has become the norm to run late for appointments and we cannot blame this always on the traffic or the fact that “our morning was so crazy”. For the rest of this week, try and do a little bit less and arrive a bit earlier. Get to your lunch meeting five minutes ahead of time and take that time to compose yourself, think about your objectives for the meeting, or just to be.
To try and take on less stress like our Italian friends, be ruthless about your objectives and priorities on a daily basis. Of course, starting a new business, or running one, can be incredibly challenging and there will be days when things go wrong and deadlines loom. However, keep your goals crystal clear in your mind and then when times get tough, you can remind yourself that you are working towards your dreams. Keeping your attitude positive and your stress levels down will help you to be more productive,
2. A day of rest.
The Lake Como ferry timetable is divided into work days, and then Sundays / Festivals. Most Italians don’t work on Sundays. They walk, they go to Church, they visit with family and friends, they take leisurely meals and siestas. It may not be appropriate or feasible for you to take a day off but there is no doubt that we become more productive in life if we schedule in, and maintain, our rest time. I wholly believe that we need time away from work to recharge our batteries and that we do a better job as a result. I also find that when I am away from a work scenario, that I have some of my best or creative ideas. Have you ever left a thorny problem in the office on Friday to find that it resolves itself over the weekend?
Time spent with friends and family means a shift in mental energy. We have a very long weekend coming up in the UK for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. Practice putting your iPhone or Blackberry in your bag and not checking it every 5 minutes. Devote your full attention to the people you are with. Ask questions about them. I don’t often find myself in Church but when I do for a wedding or christening, I find that time spent sitting still with no distractions very refreshing. I take a weekly yoga class and frankly, if I think about anything other than pose I am meant to be in, I will fall over.
Try separating your mind and body from work this weekend and observe whether you become better able to achieve your goals as a result.
3. Quality, quality, quality.
The Italian Dolce Vita revolves around things of a high quality. This doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. They eat fresh food, often very simple, and don’t engage in fast fashion. I know that our lifestyles in London and New York are very different from that in the Italian lakes, or even Italian cities, but I do think by slowing down a little and focusing on doing, buying, eating less of a higher quality instead of rubbish – junk food, poor clothes, low productivity, we can go further towards meeting our goals and achieving our dreams.