There’s Focus, and Then There’s FOCUS

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Mindful CommunicationHere’s the most common complaint I receive from mentors and investors who are sponsoring entrepreneurs: “Please help my protégé improve her focus. It’s getting in the way of getting things done. Because of her lack of focus, we are losing trust in her ability to do what’s needed to move things along in a timely way.”  Sounds like someone you know? Here are some thoughts…

The trouble with her focus is likely a lack of FOCUS. In trep-talk, “focus” relates to keeping a product’s features to a high quality minimum, rather than trying to be all things to all people. If you strike gold on your first startup attempt, focus means avoiding the impulse to get involved simultaneously in other big projects, as they will sap energy and resources needed to sustain the first business. If you have trouble with focus, it’s  because it’s hard for you to FOCUS.

FOCUS, on the other hand, is the ability to lock into a task that needs to get done above all others. It means having a plan for getting the task done, and working steadily and consistently toward the outcome you have in mind. Or, if many tasks need attention, if you can shift seamlessly between them, giving 100% concentration to each task, that’s FOCUS. Do you go down the rabbit hole of details and stray from the main point? Do you waste minutes and hours on pleasant distractions instead of getting a task completed?

Here are a couple of ways (and there are many others) you can start today to improve your FOCUS:

When someone asks you a question, can you answer him in no more than two sentences? Can you edit your answers before you speak and give them just the information they need and nothing more? (If they want more details, they’ll ask.) This also goes for your writing texts and emails.

If you carve out one hour to get X done, set a timer to buzz every 15 minutes. When that buzzer goes off, what are you doing? If not X, then it will act as a reminder to get back to X.

For more tips and to learn more about my CoreFour Coaching, go to: www.MindfulCommunication.com

 

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Get Up and Roar!

My previous post was about morning rituals. Since then, I received emails from folks wanting tips for just getting up early enough to start a morning ritual! If you are like most of my free agent clients, morning rituals might get a late start if you go to bed super late or toss and turn all night. (See my website www.MindfulCommunication.com for “ Tips for Quality Sleep) But, this post is for those who call themselves “lazy,” who are able to get up, are well rested and just want to stay warm ‘n cozy. Yes, there are the atomic alarm clocks, set far enough away so you have to get up to go shut them off. Then, there is the ice-water drip method favored by spouses and children who are fast on their feet. To avoid the slight irritation that may accompany these approaches, I have another suggestion.

On those days when you feel like slacking, the words of Marcus Aurelius may get you up and out of bed: “I am rising to do the work of a human being.” Folks, you were not born into this world just to seek pleasure; you have work to do and goals to pursue. While you neglect your work, notice how the birds, insects, plants and all of nature have been up for hours doing their specific jobs in their capacity, working to make this planet habitable for you and contributing to the Cosmos. They have no opinion; there is no slacking. They innately know their purpose and act accordingly.

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A Morning Ritual − Not a Morning Retreat

Many clients ask for an ideal “morning ritual” − a routine series of activities meant to inspire and motivate you to make the most of your day. Some clients have their PhD in morning rituals and come in with a different routine for each day. Others, in search of the Holy Grail of morning rituals, bring in a hodge-podge of activities that take the average person till noon to complete! These elaborate and lengthy routines can be self-deceptive and feed the procrastination monkey that is always hanging around looking for distraction. I suggest a morning ritual that meets three criteria: an exercise component, a focused activity (e.g. reviewing your goals, planning), and a meditative or thoughtful activity. The morning ritual that works for you should refresh your mental and physical strength, and boost your intention for the day. It should build resistance to procrastination, negative thinking and all the other snags that deter you from your goals… in under 90 minutes.  My morning ritual is:  up at 6:00a.m. meditating on the day’s entry of “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday (10-15 minutes),  a short series of Ki-Hara stretches, made famous by Dara Torres the Olympic swimmer, for 10-15 minutes, a half hour of a high intensity bike workout (preferably outdoors in the West Newbury countryside, followed by a review of my schedule where I picture a day in which every moment I act in accordance with my goals and helping others to the best of my ability (20 minutes). My morning ritual is not in stone and varies a bit depending upon weather and the season, but that’s pretty much it. It may take a little fishing around to discover your optimal routine for jump-starting your day, but as you develop it keep the purpose in mind.

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A Soulful Eclipse

Watching a video of a total eclipse reminds me of how, over time, certain behaviors creep into our lives and obscure our vast abilities. We each have a potential for greatness like the power of the sun. It is procrastination, irrational fears and other choices we make that snuff out our greatness. As you watch the eclipse today, think of what habitual ways of thinking and doing you’d like to change that would release the power of your potential.

 

 

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Upgrading Your Personal Operating System – You, the Founder

When I begin to work with new founders I take them through my Entrepreneur Reality Check list. One of the less expected items, but one worth emphasizing, is the need for constant learning. It’s not just reading about your competition or how to make a better widget. It’s more than getting updates in your industry, market trends or knowing how politics may affect your business.  The learning I’m talking about are ways to consistently upgrade your personal operating system – yourself.  Reid Hoffman, author of “The Start-Up of You,” refers to being in a constant state of “permanent beta.” Without a stable, resilient and efficient you, there is no business. I see this happen every day — when a founder neglects to reinforce their core elements: emotional control, focus and follow through and presentation prowess, it puts their businesses at risk.

Read more about Core Four Coaching at www.MindfulCommunication.com

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The “Thinking Brain” Versus the “Emotional Brain.”

Yes, we only have one brain. But at times, there appears to be a duel going on. Look around you and listen to conversations. We’ve all witnessed situations where someone’s emotional brain is taking over their thinking brain – they are angry or sullen perhaps, consistently negative, and refuse to take another perspective. Then there are those conversations where emotions appear to be totally absent – the poker-faced problem solver who appears not to relate to the feelings of the person they are talking to.

Occasionally, we run into someone who seems to strike a balance between the two brains. He or she is mostly positive and joyful, yet on the watch for extremes. They consider their emotions and the feelings of others as part of the decision making process, but in the end they take the right action and get things done.

An exercise I give my clients is to take a day and notice which brain is in charge most of the time? When you get lazy, what happens? When something upsetting occurs, do you linger on it beyond its due? Like steering a ship on a rocky sea, can you maintain a steadiness or do you let the waves toss you about?

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Founders: Flex your Emotional Muscle

Have you ever been called “emotionally rigid” or “inflexible?”  Or more insultingly, have you ever been accused of having a low emotional IQ? What does that mean, and what do you need to work on to be “emotionally smarter?” A high emotional IQ is definitely a plus in a startup, and it can’t hurt at home either. Although there are over 15 measures of emotional intelligence, these are the top 5 measures of emotional intelligence that I have noticed that are most important to a founder :

1) You analyze your strengths and accept your weaknesses – very helpful when needing to delegate.

2) You look behind a person’s behavior for the reasons they do and say things – taking different perspectives helps you creatively solve problems.

3) You welcome criticism from people in-the-know – different perspectives of you, your product or service is gold to the future of your business.

(Obviously, I’m big on perspective-taking)

4) You pause before you speak or act, particularly under stress − you are the model of control; you set the emotional tone for the group.

5) “Good job, excellent, please,” and “thank you” spill from your lips often —workers would rather work in a positive environment than make more money.

Let me know what you think!

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Be the CEO of YOU!

“In this way you must understand how laughable it is to say, ‘Tell me what to do!’ What advice could I possibly give? No, a far better request is, ‘Train my mind to adapt to any circumstance.’…In this way, if circumstances take you off script…you won’t be desperate for new prompting.”  -Epictetus, Discourses, 2.2.20b−1; 24b−25a

My friends! Stop with the self-help books, GAGs (Gimmicks, Apps and Gadgets) lists of tips and strategies. Let’s Train Your Mind!  

Learn to stand back and observe problems to solve them more efficiently. Meet Caleb “an entrepreneur in the making” whose experience may help you!

6 Week CollegeCore Coaching Results:

Ground Zero: His productivity was barely above 25%.

Week Four: Productivity at week four vacillated between 40-60%.

Week Five: Caleb’s productivity rose to a consistent 80%.  

Caleb, a bright and enterprising 26 year old graduate student with self- declared “attention deficit” symptoms, and desperate to finish his Masters degree in Entrepreneurship became overwhelmed with assignments, projects and a part time job. Caleb sought help from the college learning center where he got tips and strategies for meeting his goals. These failed to work. 

When Caleb came to me for coaching he was a bundle of nerves, and understandably so. His productivity was barely above 25% percent. He thought he needed “a better list” of tips and strategies for getting work done and turned in on time.

My CollegeCore Approach: We needed to stand back 30,000 feet together and calmly observe his situation. When tips and strategies fail someone who is highly motivated and intellectually capable, we need to look to the core of the problem. 9/10 times the core culprits are weaknesses in emotional regulation, focus and follow-through and/or communication. Caleb and I focused on the core of the core−his anxiety. Our work included:

  • 10 minutes of relaxation breathing and biofeedback each morning 
  • Practice shifting from negative to constructive self talk
  • More efficient ways to communicate with his teachers and his boss. 
  • Normalizing his sleep schedule 
  • A focus-enhancing 20 minute exercise regimen. 

 After a couple weeks Caleb felt more in control−projects were getting done, grades were improving and his work schedule was more flexible. Best of all, he was becoming more objective and less emotional when solving problems. Productivity by week 5 was 80%.

By the end of the program, Caleb confessed that prior to the CollegeCore coaching his dream of starting his own business was dubious. He asked himself, “How can I lead others, if I can’t manage myself?” Given that the failure rate of new businesses exceeds 50%, this is precisely the question that all entrepreneurs need to ask themselves. Fortunately, Caleb learned how to be “the CEO of Caleb” before starting a business. 

To learn more about Rebecca’s CollegeCore and CoreFour Coaching for Entrepreneurs, see                                        www.MindfulCommunication.com 

 

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