The Creativity of Constraint

Many of my clients are trying to start their ventures while maintaining full or part time jobs. A major complaint is finding the time to make progress towards their project. Their routine was so nice and neat before the ball wrecker of a startup came crashing in and challenged their time management skills. For a budding entrepreneur – it is now your “moment of truth.”  Do you cringe at the thought of keeping “a schedule” or being accountable for your time? I have a client who insists upon using the word “planner” because the thought of “a schedule” would constrain her spontaneity. These folks see a schedule as a tyrant, a force that denies their creativity and free-flowing nature. This must change.

Consider this: Some time constraint will make the best use of your creativity. When you block out regular chunks of time to work deeply on your project, that type of commitment will spur on a greater concentration of innovative thoughts and insights. With even small blocks of time set aside every day devoted to your project, your brainstorming will be more targeted. You will make small, but cumulative gains that amount to something tangible at the end of the week. An opened-ended “no plan” defies progress, invites distractions and draws you into the morass of Web-surfing and social media. How free-flowing will you feel when a year has passed without progress on your venture? Is it worth risking a little spontaneity to see your product or service taking shape? Create a structure that allows your true creative potential to emerge.

Do you need to be creative with time management? Would you like to be more thoughtful and productive with your time? Contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com   

Please follow and like us:

Turtle Tenacity

Driving home from the gym today, all psyched and ready to start work on a project that had many doubters (except for me, of course!), I spied a small turtle in the middle of the road. Because it’s turtle mating season, a kind soul posted a “Turtle Xing” sign to alert drivers that turtles are not speed bumps. Knowing the likely fate of this turtle, I pulled over and went to help the little guy get across the street towards his destination — the pond. Snapping turtles, unlike painted turtles, even small ones, are pretty vicious. This snapper, only 6 inches long, growled and hissed the moment I touched the back of his shell. One car after another pulled up to help. One guy got out of his truck, found a stick and started to gently prod him across the street toward the pond. Instead of hiding in his shell and being passive, the snapper snarled and viciously fought the stick with all his might, insistent on getting to the pond his way. Gradually, more drivers pulled over to watch this David and Goliath spectacle. One woman reflected, “He’s like me. If someone tries to stop me from doing somethin’ I wanna do, I give ’em a fight.” Another fellow marveled, “Wow, what a tough little guy. I bet he’ll get lucky in the swamp!” A third guy exclaimed, “Look at the fight he’s putting up, he just won’t quit. Geez, if you could bottle that, I’d buy a case full!”  The turtle’s strength and courage to fight something so much bigger was impressive. What if we pursued our projects with the same dogged determination as this turtle? Could we ignore the naysayers no matter how they are trying to protect us? Would we risk getting run over and losing everything to see our dream realized?

Finally, the guy with the stick got the turtle closer to the water. We cheered as the snapper scurried towards the mucky pond. Once he got to the edge where he would dive in and likely never be seen again, he stopped and looked back  at us as if to say, Good fight humans. I rather enjoyed it, but I hope you learned something too. Splash! And he was gone.

A bit of reflective conversation revealed that this seemingly insignificant event had inspired each one of us to be a little more persistent in pursuing our goals, and to resist the resistance. Sometimes, Mother Nature intercedes to teach us valuable lessons.

Need a push? Read about my CoreCoaching services, and let’s get you moving! Contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com

Please follow and like us:

Getting to “NEXT”

Q: I’m an intrapreneur in my company. I come up with and execute revenue-producing ideas with little risk to me personally. But when a great idea goes bust, I have a hard time shirking it and moving on. I think this tendency will come to bite me when I’m my own boss someday. Transitioning is hard, what to do?  Dan R. Toronto, Canada

“Transitioning” has a broad definition. For those who have the gift of hyperfocus, breaking away from one activity to move on to something else is challenging. You know you need to stop, but you need a team of wild horses to drag you to the next activity. Others need lots of time to stop thinking about one task so as to start thinking about the next task. For example, you may find yourself in a meeting with your accountant, and as he points out the numbers, your “guy in the basement” (see blog from 5-8-18) is still stuck on the design of your packaging.

Dan’s transitioning concern is about moving on emotionally from a failed project to a new idea. Even though he experienced no personal financial loss, the time spent grieving, blaming and shaming wastes time and energy. Lots of hands go up when you ask founders if they know what Dan is going through. One solution is to step back and examine the situation like a scientist peering into a microscope − what went wrong and how you can avoid these mistakes the next time around.  Common missteps to avoid in your next project include:

  • communication failures between persons and departments
  • no “walk through” period to identify weaknesses or ambiguities in the process
  • identifying persons key to the success of the project who were not suited or not in favor of the project from the start– the stealthy saboteurs
  • a lack of oversight during the rollout; poor monitoring the money, service quality and customer feedback.

Swallow that “jagged little pill” and take responsibility for the failure. Even though others may have contributed to the project’s demise, release your grudges. These persons know who they are, what they did and realize they have let you down. You have learned something new about the people you work with. Be professional and remain cordial. Note that especially in small companies, you may need these folks again in the next project. Perhaps, next time, they’ll step up to the plate.

Emotional self-regulation is a core executive function that every self-starter needs to master. Learn about effective, non-medication ways to manage your emotions and make transitions easier. Contact me at Rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com

 

Please follow and like us:

Mind-Map It or Journal It – Get It Down on Paper

Q: There are times when I’m concerned or worried about a problem with my business and there’s no one I can talk to about it. My family and co-founder will listen, but I have to be careful there. Even though the problem is fixable, they will tend to overreact and that’s not helpful. What to do?  Janice B.   Portsmouth, NH

Break away from the crowd and write down your thoughts, worries, fears and concerns. My clients often roll their eyes when they hear the word “journaling,” mostly because it sounds too earthy-crunchy, or it suggests just another to-do. Not something you need to do every day but writing down the problems, how you feel about them and possible solutions, is helpful when you need clarity before taking action. Expressing yourself to yourself on paper, ignoring the need for perfect grammar or punctuation, relieves stress. Swear, doodle and write down all the non-PC things you’d like to say! Put it all out there…on paper, of course. How liberating! Writing out self-affirmations, or your WHYs can perk up your spirits and jostle you out of that stuck, murky state of malaise.

If your concerns are multi-factorial and don’t take well to a narrative or bullet point format, draw a mind-map so you can see the interconnectedness between problems, people and things. Plus, writing by hand is soothing. It provides an inner peace in a way that typing on a computer cannot. Keep the entry or mind-map for reference and make changes when an idea pops up.

Don’t let stress strangle your startup. Meditate, exercise, and strengthen your core with CoreFour coaching. Contact me at Rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com

Please follow and like us:

Connection Conversations

Founders short on time and money tend to short communication with staff. Hasty hires, ignoring minor office tiffs, hazy objectives and the like can cost more time and money in the end. These problems aren’t too great for your health either. Minutes of wholehearted, attentive listening can save a company millions. Research shows that founders who foster a mindful listening environment meet their deadlines and quotas more often, are more successful and have happier and sustainable teams. It’s never too late to infuse more mindful listening into your startup.

Hands down, the best ways to improve communication is to have quarterly face-to-face, electronic-free, 20 minute meetings  with each employee. The goal, simply by listening, makes your employees feel valued and respected for their ideas and opinions. I have found that giving an employee just five minutes of uninterrupted, earnest listening can be transformative.

Discovering an employee’s learning and communication style can be very helpful in forming teams and meeting expectations. Are they high energy and assertive, meek and agreeable, task driven or deadline driven? Are they static or growth oriented? What are their values, and why do or don’t they show up to work every day? Expensive surveys are a time hog, touted as a time saving way to get a pulse on the opinions of the group, barely skim the surface of what employees need and want to make your company great.If you offer these periodic connection conversations, come performance review time, your employees will show greater willingness to accept feedback and make needed changes.

Founders alert: Short on time and money? Can’t afford expensive consultants and training? Get a 60 minute personalized coaching session with me. Learn how a few simple changes to your listening style can upgrade your team’s efficiency and productivity. Contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com  

Please follow and like us:

Carve Out a Better Night’s Sleep

So much attention is paid to diet and exercise, but what about sleep?  Sleep has a greater effect on mood, energy and productivity. Diet and exercise regimens take time, planning, shopping, gear or travel to the gym. Better sleep can be tweaked with just a little awareness.

I’ve been reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker PhD. It’s an easy and informative guide to help understand how sleep works and why it deserves equal attention.

Like a balanced diet or an exercise routine (“interval training” for example), you need enough sleep to get the right balance; 7-9 hours for most of us. Throughout the night, while asleep, your brain produces alternating rhythms − slow wave or Non-REM sleep and fast wave or REM dreaming sleep. Walker uses a sculpting as an analogy for how these two kinds of sleep are necessary and work together. Think of your brain being a mass of clay at day’s end. During the first part of the night, the slow wave sleep (NREM) works long and hard to chip away at irrelevant data from the day, exposing a contour of the “new you” for the fast wave (REM) detail work to begin. The 2nd half of the night the master sculptor (REM) becomes more dominant; it integrates and consolidates the learning and insights (neural connections) from the previous day. By the morning both (NREM) and REM have done their jobs − Voila! You wake up ready to take on new learning and ideas.

Like an unbalanced diet or a lop-sided workout, shorting on sleep deprives you of the equalizing kind of restoration you need to be creative and productive.

Being the CEO in charge of your sleep is just one of our CoreFour strategies. Learn more about CoreFour Coaching at www.MindfulCommunication.com.

Please follow and like us:

The (10 +2) x5 Rule?

A February 2017 Inc. Magazine article by Dan Scalco titled Four Ways to Stop Procrastinating Right Now provided some helpful tips for managing procrastination such as creating false (earlier) deadlines, donating $5 to a charity for every hour you waste, and moving tasks to the afternoon if you idled away your morning. His first suggestion, however, was the (10 +2)x 5 rule.  This process reportedly makes a work task “less intimidating.” The (10 +2)x 5 rule goes like this: do 10 minutes of focused work with a 2 minute break and to repeat this interval 5 times which results in 50 minutes of work. The (10 +2)x 5 rule will keep you on your toes, but it is flawed.

This rule feeds your distractible nature and discourages concentration on a task. The (10+2) x5 rule may come in handy for folding laundry or doing yard work, but not for work that requires analysis, processing, or integration of complex information. Here’s why:

  • As clock ticks closer to minute #8 there’s the tendency to start looking forward to the break or rushing the work to beat the clock, again wasting time.
  • If most of your work involves the computer, your 2 minute break will likely be spent on the Internet or on your phone (Good luck keeping those breaks to 2 minutes!).

The (10+2) x5 rule also assumes that you will make nice, clean transitions from the break to the task. Unfortunately, research shows that your brain will continue to reflect on the entertainment from break time for at least a few minutes before you can steer your concentration to the task. Therefore, if you factor in transition time, time needed to re-engage in the task, and time anticipating your break you may end up flipping those numbers – it’s more like 2 minutes of work and 10 minutes or more of break time!

A better system is to keep your phone and any other controllable distraction in another room. Allocate 30 minutes of work and 5-10 minutes of a break. Do that interval 5x and you’ll get close to a good 2 hours of work. Make your breaks screen-less – a brisk walk or some stairs will make the mental transition time shorter. Physical exercise will help you process the portion of the task you just completed, improve your focus and your attitude about the task you’re trying to complete. This (30+10)x5 is much more productive way to get things done.

Just as there are different brains, there are different ways to avoid procrastination. To learn more and to come up with a system that works for you, contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com                   

Please follow and like us:

Your “Guy In The Basement”

Several years ago at a National Speaker’s Association meeting, I heard a motivational speaker who planted a metaphor in my mind that I’ll never forget. He described a friendly fellow somewhere between our conscious and subconscious, who works mostly behind the scenes and is loyal to the core. He is, figuratively, your Guy In The Basement, your GITB.

Your brain’s CEO, located in the penthouse (your prefrontal cortex), orders the GITB to dig up information, and deliver the data for the CEO to synthesize and execute. For example, when the CEO is trying to recall the name of your 6th grade teacher, he directs the GITB to do a search, and a few minutes later the GITB runs up the stairs to the CEO and announces: “MRS. CRUM!”  Although it may take awhile, your GITB is good at retrieving data.

The GITB also loves autonomy. He likes to scan your existing knowledge base, integrate anything in view that is novel and shiny and interrupt your deep work (including your sleep), to proclaim his findings. Be kind to your GITB; he is always at work. But he is impulsive, gets bossy when restrained and has no sense of time.

Instead of getting mad at your GITB, shutting him out and blaming him for all your unfinished deep work, let him get his ya-ya’s out. When you’re working on a task that requires a lot of focus, have a pad of paper handy to capture ideas that your GITB sends forth. Keep a notepad at your bedside for his middle-of- the-night revelations. He’ll quiet down once he’s been heard. You can come back and elaborate on those ideas later. If he just can’t settle down, take your GITB for a walk. Remind him of your goals, problems you’d like to solve, or visions you have for your project. After the romp, your reliable GITB will gladly hunker down with his new orders, mind his own business and get to work, giving you the peace and concentration you need to do your CEO thing.

Let me help you manage distractions, get things done well and on time! Contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com

 

Please follow and like us:

Make Attention Training a Habit

Jordan, a student in a major entrepreneurship program in Massachusetts, had a rough first semester. He has trouble sustaining attention for the necessary, and often “less interesting tasks” that require planning, prioritization and writing. Like many entrepreneurs, Jordan reports having ADT (Attention Deficit Traits) and possibly ADHD. He recognizes that weak attention can mask the positive traits associated with ADHD and, consequently, affect his success in a startup (smart boy!). Jordan wanted ways to strengthen attention and focus.

I suggested several non-medication approaches known to enable improved attention. But these methods (exercise, better sleep, etc.) prepare the brain to perform at higher levels. What’s also needed is practice paying attention. Attention is like a muscle; it takes regular practice to develop. It behooves every serious student or entrepreneur pinged by chronic distractions to practice attention control on a daily basis. Every day set aside 30 minutes to an hour to pump up that attention muscle:

  1. Find a place with little or no distractions. Read an article or two and write down the major takeaways and how you might use the information (see my April 2018 MCM newsletter for more details). When you notice your thoughts straying to a new idea, jot down a key word regarding that new idea for later and return to your reading. How frequently you stray doesn’t matter. What matters is how often and how quickly you get back to the task.
  2. Attention training is a form of self-defense. Our control over our attention protects us from the ravages of distraction. Sign up for a martial arts class that will challenge your attention and concentration. It’s worth checking out different schools to be sure that aspect is a high priority. As a martial arts student and instructor, I know that this kind of training is one of the very best ways to hone extreme focus.
  3. Take up a musical instrument (I practice piano); learn chess or poker; memorize a prayer or an inspirational passage.

Your attention control is the most critical resource in your entrepreneur toolbox. Pump it up!

Need more help with concentration and focus? Getting things done well and on time? Contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com  

Please follow and like us:

Team Communication is Core to Success

Q: I’m almost finished gathering a team that will support my startup. Having been on many work teams before, I believe this group has the right chemistry. I also know how teams that seem good from the outset can become dysfunctional and kill a startup. What are some “core” ways to keep a team connected and productive from the start?  Gina B. Chicago, IL

Most experts on teams and team building agree that good communication early on is “core” to a startup’s success. Therefore, consistent and on-going efforts to strengthen your team are a worthwhile investment. One of my favorite books on the subject of teams and team building is “The Best Team Wins: The New Science of High Performance” by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. This book does a great job of exposing the obvious and not-so-obvious ways teams break down, especially in light of the fact that many teams are composed of several different age groups and cultures and that much team work is done electronically. At the end of their book, the authors offer 101 ways to inspire your team. Let me point out three of the most successful suggestions, I have witnessed, that build a strong core of connection/communication with your team early on:

1) Take time to get to know your new hires. Go for a walk or to a coffee shop, but get out of the office. Let them do the talking and learn about their interests, background, goals, values etc. Watch and listen to them go from being an “employee” to a real person. Look for commonalities and interests you share. It is a rarity for an employee to experience genuine interest from an employer. Conversations like this enhance loyalty and trust. By listening mindfully and discovering more than what their resume had to say, you as the CEO or founder, can use your creative instincts to help them be greater assets to the company. You may also pick up on some warning signs that could come into play later in the game.

2) These “get to know you” conversations can also be done on a group level. Employees pair up, go out for coffee or lunch and learn as much as possible about their partner. At the next meeting team members share their findings to the group. They are encouraged to look for opportunities to work together to advance the company’s mission.

3) Don’t stop there! Gostick and Elton suggest Ninety-Day Questions. By that time people will know whether they fit in or not, and whether they are making important contributions. Asking questions like: Is the job what you expected? Are you experiencing any roadblocks towards your goals? What can we improve upon? What makes you want to come to work every day? These are great ways to reinforce the positives and to identify weak spots or concerns that could become costly to the business.

Strong teams (and money!) are the lifeblood of successful startups. Send your questions about team communication to Rebecca@MindfulCommuication.com. Confidentiality is honored.   

Please follow and like us:
WP to LinkedIn Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com