Effectiveness Habit #2: Feel good. Then act.

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Success, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 3 min.

You can get more done with more ease by building seven effectiveness habits. Build them one at a time over the next several weeks and months. You need not, for the most part, build them in the order I present them.

Here’s today’s habit…

Effectiveness Habit #2: Feel good. Then act.

When we feel bad–stressed, worried, anxious, angry, etc.—about a situation, we usually respond in one of two ways: we push into action or try to avoid. These are such a natural responses that we might not recognize that we do them. Example: you decided a while back that you need to build a new marketing piece for your company. And you just remembered it again today, just before a big event where you could really use the new piece. You feel stressed. If you tend to push in situations like this, you may get angry and say, “I have to get this done today!” If you tend to avoid, you may say, “Oh, well. I’m too busy anyway.”

Pushing into action or avoiding limit our effectiveness for three reasons. First, the personal energy and resources we spend on pushing or avoiding take away from our abilities; we drain our batteries. Second, others pick up on our push or avoid attitude and react. Though they may not be aware of it, they really don’t like the feeling we put out and will pull back. Thus it’s harder to get stuff done without their full support. Third, it feels bad! Who wants to feel bad, really?

Solution: Stop and feel better. Then act.

The solution is to feel better. (NB: look for specific physical sensations to tell you how well or poorly you feel.) You don’t have to feel great, just a bit better. There are many ways to do this. Here are a few.

  • Catch yourself pushing or avoiding. If you can say to yourself, “Oh, this is me trying to push (or avoiding) to get something done,” you can often get enough awareness to relax just a bit an feel better.
  • Flip to an ever so slightly better feeling thought. Say to yourself, “This doesn’t feel good. What one thought can I think that will feel even the slightest bit better?”

When you can feel better–even getting just a bit of relief–you’ll have more personal resources available to act well and you’ll feel better! Once you feel better, act. In fact, you might notice that, by feeling better, your actions and the results you want come with much more ease. And that always feels great.

Effectiveness Habit #1: Get it Out of Your Head

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action
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You can get more done with more ease by building seven effectiveness habits. Build them one at a time over the next several weeks and months. You need not, for the most part, build them in the order I present them.

Here’s today’s habit…

Effectiveness Habit #1: Get it Out of Your Head

There really is no way to track in our heads all our current and potential tasks. When we try to keep everything we

  • have to do,
  • are committed to doing,
  • might do, or
  • would want to do

in our heads, we find we’ve stored these tasks in a way that they are impossible to work with effectively.

You have hundreds if not thousands of current and potential tasks to track. Tasks like, “Gotta clean that dust bunny in the hallway,” “Negotiate the Prytonics deal,” and “Love to take a trip to Ireland,” are rattling around your mind.

When we try to keep it all in our heads, we can forget important tasks and miss deadlines and opportunities. Worse, we become distracted. When we start working on one task, we feel uneasy or guilty and wonder if we shouldn’t be doing something else.

Solution: Write it all down

Build the habit of writing down every current and potential task. Write them as soon as you think of them. And this is very important: You will need to scan, evaluate, and review all your tasks, so write them down in one place such as a notebook or electronic list. Having too many lists or sticky notes or emails stacking up will not help.

Stuck? Try not acting.

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Sometimes the worst thing you can do is act

When you are spinning your wheels, one temptation is to buckle down and work harder (the other is to avoid; more on that later). Much more often than not, that pushing will fail give you the results you want.

When you push, you do so because something feels bad. Trying to push yourself to act while you feel bad is inefficient and detrimental to your goals. Why? Three reasons:

  1. Your action will be “underfunded.” When you act while feeling bad, you spend your inner resources (energy, intelligence, personal “CPU cycles” etc.) on managing or suppressing the thoughts and emotions associated with the bad feeling. You have less resources available to act.
  2. Your action will perpetuate the cause of your bad feeling – Self. Being underfunded, your action will likely not produce the desired outcomes. You may or may not complete your immediate goal. But pushing steals from your energy, sleep, health, relationships, and other projects. Over time, you end up drained. Left unchecked, you will perpetuate the bad-feeling-poor-results cycle.
  3. Your action will perpetuate the cause of your bad feeling – Others. When you act while feeling bad, everyone around you knows it. Even without acknowledging it, they react to that feeling in way that will make the situation worse. Example: A project is due soon and you think the people on the project team are dropping the ball. You have a tension in your gut. You ask someone on the team friendly-sounding questions about the status of their work, “So, how’s it going? When do you think you’ll be done this part?” Your teammate will hear your words and tone but feel your tension. And she will react with remorse, anger, frustration, or defensiveness which only “underfunds” her work. To which you react and perpetuate the bad-feeling-poor-results cycle.

What to “do” instead

Acting while you feel bad is habit. It is a reaction you’ve programmed to handle the feeling. While it is hard to break a habit, it is easy to replace one. I suggest you replace any habit of “act while feeling bad” with this one: “Feel good. Then act.”

There are plenty of ways to feel good no matter what’s happening now. Here’s a simple one you can use any time. First, just notice yourself feeling bad. Descrbe the physical sensation you notice (“tension in my gut,” for instance). Next, ask yourself, “What do I want? What thought would feel even a tiny bit better than this?” Then, being willing to be surprised by your answer, wait for your answer.

What’s your bias toward action?

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There are three biases or ways of dealing with your list of tasks.

  • Pushing to make things happen.
  • Avoiding action due to some form of overwhelm.
  • Enjoying a natural flow of action.

When you push, things break, often more than you imagine. And you get worn out.

When you avoid, nothing happens. And, well, there you are.

Pushing and avoiding both stem from less-than-productive beliefs. They are stories you tell yourself about the world or yourself. Examples: “I can and must get it all done. And when I do, then I can relax and be happy.” Or, “There’s too much to do. It has to be perfect. I’ll never get this done.”

Many people tend either to push or avoid. Some swing between pushing and avoiding.

When you neither push nor avoid, you experience a very satisfying flow of activity characterized by just the right things appearing to get done at just the right time and with ease. You plan, but don’t over plan. You act, but don’t freak. You are calm, but not comatose. You feel good.

You and everyone else can get into this flow of action. It starts with developing the habit of feeling good, then acting.

Believe anything

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Here’s a thought that can really help when you want results in business and life that have been thus far elusive:

You have the absolutely inalienable right to believe anything you choose.

You can choose to believe that the moon is made of cheese. You can choose to believe that this politician is better than that one. You can choose to believe that the economy is getting worse. You can choose to believe that the economy is getting better.

You can choose to believe that the Earth was created in seven days. Or that it wasn’t. You can choose to believe anything anyone has told you or not.

You can even choose to believe that you don’t have the choice to believe anything. 😉

Even if you have believed something for a very long time, you can always absolutely choose to believe its opposite.

Don’t believe me? Try it. Write down a belief you have. (e.g. “The moon is not made of cheese.”) Now write down its opposite. (“The moon is made of cheese.”) You should have two opposing statements on your paper. Then say out loud that you believe the second statement. (“VERILY I SAY, THE MOON IS MADE OF CHEESE.”) Then notice what happens.

What happened? Did the world end? Did the
Cheesy Moon Society call to welcome you? Did the Rocky Moon Association string TP through the trees outside your home?

If you’re like most, the most you may have noticed was a little odd feeling in your belly or chest.

So you do get to believe anything you choose. And if you’re worried about the bathroom-tissue-in-the-trees treatment, don’t tell anyone your new belief.

Bonus:

This reminder of your freedom to choose comes with a bonus: a way to make practical use of it.

Once you know it is true–that you can choose to believe whatever you want–you can use it to help be, do, or have something you want.

Example
Let’s say you would like to buy a new house. And let’s say you currently believe–and have believed for a while– “I’d like to buy a new house but I can’t afford it.”

The opposite belief would be, “I can afford it.” Even if your bank account and mortgage broker are telling you otherwise, you can choose to believe that you can afford it.

Believing you can afford it may not magically deposit the needed funds in your bank account. If it does, great! 🙂 And you may say it’s silly to believe something where the evidence clearly proves the opposite belief is true.

But consider this question: which belief, if chosen, will get you closer to what you want?

And consider this: you don’t have to leap all the way to believing that you can afford to buy the house. You can get there in steps. You might, for instance, choose to believe, “I will be able to afford it sooner than I imagined.”

So? What are you waiting for? Go believe something new and useful.

The Universal Productivity Trap

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Reading time: 3 min.

Take a moment. Notice the big pile of tasks you have to do. Go ahead, take a look. I’ll wait.

What happened? Look closely because it was likely fast and subtle. Though the sequence of thoughts and emotions you had is unique to you, you probably landed on one of two common reactions. You either had an impulse to start working on the tasks or the desire to push away from or numb yourself to them.

In our headlong rush to get stuff done each day, we damage to our own effectiveness when we dive into our tasks. We push ourselves to get stuff done. Because it is so common, let’s call this the “Universal Productivity Trap (UPT).” We’ll explore the trap (in both its main and alternate forms) in this post then see the ways out of the trap in another post.

Are you in this trap?

Most people will say, “Oh, yes, that’s me. I do that.” If you put in long hours at work, want more work-life balance, have minor or major stress-related health issues, if you feel bad, or if you ever wonder, “Is this all there is?” then you are likely in this trap.

Another form The alternative to the main form of the UPT is called “stalling.” Instead of rushing ahead, we stop acting. We put our head in the sand. Or we get busy doing something to distract ourselves from our list of to dos. This version of UPT has been called laziness, slacking, and “a sure sign of poor birth.” 🙂 Most of us experience both forms of UPT at different times. The mechanics and ways out are the same regardless of which version you’re noticing.

How it works

Here’s how the UPT typically works. It happens mostly through habitual (usually subconscious) thought.

  • We start our day by noticing the list ever-growing list of things to get done and, in one way or another, panic. (You might object to the word ‘panic.’ The neurochemicals rushing though your body when you notice the list, though, would say it’s an accurate word.)
  • We believe (that is, we use a thought habit that has worked for us in the past) that the way out of this panic is to get into action. So we plunge in. (Or, we choose to stall. See above.)
  • As we work through the day, we and others generate more things for us to do.
  • Instead of having a sense of relief because we managed to get something done we get more panic from that growing list.
  • We experience even more panic because we suspect that there are things to do lurking in our inbox, in our meeting notes, or from recent conversations.
  • We go to bed exhausted and/or panicked. We wake up the next day and repeat the process.

Escaping the trap

There are at least three escape routes from the UPT.

Each escape route uses the mantra, “Slow down to speed up.” If you are in the “must push harder” form of the trap, slowing down probably sounds like the last thing you’d want to do.  If you are in the “let’s avoid this” version of the trap, “speeding up” doesn’t sound appealing to you.

None the less, these escape routes work and are simple to use. The most difficulty you’ll have is believing you’re allowed to use them.

More about these escape routes in the next post.

 

Two Simple Habits for the Ultra-Busy

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Reading time: 5 min.

How is your week going?

No, really. How is it going? On a scale from “Calm waters, smooth sailing” to “Rough Chop” to “Gale” to “Tempest”, how effectively are you sailing through your week?

Chances are that most of you—most of the time—will say, “Gale,” “Tempest,” or “What word do you have for something worse than a tempest ‘cuz that’s where I am?”

We live every day with wave upon wave of tasks, competing priorities, and interruptions.

And that sucks. It feels bad, it saps our energy, and lowers our productivity. It’s also a downward spiral; the more storms we experience, the more behind we feel, the more we push, the less energy we have, the more we don’t get done, the more storms we have.

For those of you who manage a team, you’ll recognize that this is not just a personal issue; it affects teams and entire companies the same way.

GOOD NEWS: Two simple habits; you choose when to take them on.

(Of course there’s good news!)

What doesn’t work is trying to fight the storms by working harder, going numb, blaming, or hiding. There will always be new waves of tasks and interruptions and they’ll wear you down.

What DOES work is learning to surf these waves. And you are just two simple habits away from hangin’ ten.

If your frustration with the way things are is high enough, grab these two habits and run with them; they’ll change everything.

If you’re not ready, bookmark this post for a time when you are ready, when the way things are is no longer acceptable.

HABIT ONE: Plan-Do.

If you start your workday by diving in to your work, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, invest a relatively minute amount of time to plan you day and your week. When you do, you’ll put yourself above the waves.

This type of planning gives you the proper perspective to know what your will work on given of all the things your could work on.  It also gives you the information you need to decide in the moment whether to allow this next interruption or that request.

Set aside time–maybe 40 minutes–before each work week (e.g. Friday night, Sunday night, or Monday morning) to review all your projects and commitments to know what you’ll select to work on and what goes to the back burner. Set aside 10 minutes or so before each work day (either that morning or the night before) to select what you’ll work on that day and adjust your weekly plan based on what’s happened.

Have with you the lists of your projects/commitments/appointments as you do this planning.

For more information about this habit, see this article in Fast Company: http://www.fastcompany.com/article/work-smart-how-to-avoid-the-busy-trap?partner=homepage_newsletter

For more help, email me with your questions or post a comment below.

HABIT TWO: Be here now

This habit is about changing your state of mind–your attitude–instantly and often as you can.

If you see this habit as less practical and even a waste of time, give me a moment to explain. It’s actually a surprisingly powerful and productive tool.

This is deep topic that we can spend our lifetimes learning about. For now, let the loosely constructed logic below point you in the right direction. If you’d like to learn more, email me. You can also skip this logic and go right to the practice that follows.

  • Performance in our jobs and life comes only from action.
  • Our state of mind affects our ability to perform, to act well.
  • Without focus or training, our state of mind comes from our habitual thoughts and emotions.
  • We build our habitual thinking and emotions from very early on life. They are there for what was a good reason.
  • Some of these habitual thoughts and emotions are no longer useful; they really detract from our performance today.
  • The thinking and emotions more in conflict with our performance today can be categorized as “regret about the past” or “worry about the future.”
  • We may not think we are regretting or worrying. Typically we react to the word “regret” and “worry;” looking deeper, we see we indeed are expending too much time and energy on the past or the future.
  • The best barometer for measuring whether we’re too focused on the past or future is how we physically feel. Tense, nervous, ill, numb, in pain, and excited are some of the usual signs.
  • Regretting the past or worrying about the future pulls our focus from the ONLY PLACE EVER WE CAN PERFORM: here and now.
  • We can tell we are in the here and now when the physical sensations disappear or diminish.
  • We can’t force ourselves to be here and now. Forcing creates an ugly reaction of not-here-and-now.
  • We can release ourselves by simply observing. Naming what we are thinking, feeling, doing drives a wonderful wedge between us and our habitual thinking.
  • Regular observation gives us the ability to catch ourselves caught up in habitual thinking and emotions and release ourselves without much effort at all.
  • Regular observation is like building a muscle. As we strengthen our observation muscle, we naturally have more energy and focus to act well, right here and now.
Practicing Habit Two
  1. For the next 24 hours, notice your thinking and emotions. Just name them and go no further; resist the temptation to describe, evaluate, judge what you notice. One easy way: quietly say to yourself as often as you can today, “This is me thinking_______.” Or, “This is me feeling_______.” Or, “This is me______.” Examples: “This is me thinking this meeting is a waste of time.” “This is me reacting to my colleague’s comment.”
  2. Extend this practice by making a commitment to it and using the habit builder to make it stick.

Post a comment below with your questions, observations, or improvements to these habits.