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.

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                   

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

 

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  

Mindful Communication Newsletter April 2018

Seven Steps to Mindful Reading 

Being an efficient and prolific reader makes you a more interesting conversationalist and a better critical thinker. Lifelong learning is a great way to keep your marbles. But isn’t it frustrating, weeks or months later, to barely recall the title, maybe the author and only glimmers of the content? Some reasons include:

  • distractions
  • slow reading (btw, that’s not a bad thing)
  • time constraints so books get read in bits and pieces
  • trying to read multiple books on different topics at a time
  • not finishing a book
  • a lack of note-taking
  • an aging working memory

All these reasons affect deep processing of information and shake our confidence for learning new things. Here are 7 very effective steps to enhance reading comprehension and recall:

  1. Have an intention for choosing certain books or articles over others. I usually choose books on communication, psychology, mental health and brain research, because these areas are most pertinent to my work.
  2. Skim the book or article first. Review the table of contents; flip through to find graphs or illustrations. Your brain will immediately start scanning for what you already know about the topic.
  3. Elect to read when and where your concentration is maximized – low distractions, emotional readiness to focus, a decent chunk of time, good light, etc.
  4. Have pencil in hand. Annotate, or use small yellow stickies as bookmarks with key words or concepts you want to remember. Highlighting is overrated; it’s mostly a good hand exercise. The act of writing typing your thoughts aids retention.
  5. Use visual imagery when possible. For fiction, imagine the characters and the settings as you read. With non-fiction, pause to visualize situations, behaviors, concepts and processes.
  6. After each chapter, particularly with non-fiction, review your annotations or yellow stickies to burn in what you learned. Learning builds on what you learned previously. In this way, by chapter 8 you would have reviewed notes from chapter 1 seven times! This kind of rehearsal significantly enhances retention.
  7. For extra credit, start a journal called Books 2018. Take 1-2 pages per book and jot down the title, the author, and the main points in bulleted form. Write a paragraph or two about what you learned and how it applies to your life or work. Use your stickie notes or annotations if you must.

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.   

Share the Stage with Confidence

Bill H., a founder of a nutrition startup, asks, “How can I get more comfortable speaking in front of groups, investors mostly? I have my top sales guy do all the talking, but apparently it’s starting to look odd that I don’t “share the stage” with him at these presentations. If I lost him, I’d be in big trouble. What to do?”

This is a common concern for many founders wanting to project strong leadership. I define public speaking as any kind of speaking you do with the public: phone calls, 1:1 or small group conversations. Chances are you could not have gotten this far if you had trouble on the phone or in small group conversation. Keep in mind — listeners really care about the substance of what you have to offer, not how slick a presenter you are. They want to make money, period. It’s true that investors like to work with confident and energetic people, but that is secondary to their main interest.

To take action, I suggest you identify where your discomfort in public speaking breaks down and work to refine that level. This is where a communication coach comes in handy. Are you generally anxious, unprepared, unsure of your content, a poor listener, vocally weak or disfluent, etc. at the small group conversation level?  If so, getting some guidance managing those aspects would be a good starting point. Then, consider polishing up one segment of the larger group presentation that you are most comfortable with. This way you can start “sharing the stage” with your sales guy in a small way. With practice and an understanding of what your audience really cares about, you’ll be able to take over more of the presentation in time.

Need more help with public speaking or presentation skills? I’m happy to help you. Contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com

Managing Your Time: Hey Big Spender! Part 3 of 3

In my previous blog on Managing Your Time, I urged you to look at “time” as you do “money.” I invited you to assign a dollar amount to each work task in your day. By the end of the day, ideally, if you did everything on the list, you’d figuratively earn a day’s pay. If you slacked off instead, it would reflect in your bottom line. In this blog I’m suggesting you think of every minute of your workday as a dollar. Periodically throughout the day, ask yourself: Am I wasting or saving time right now?

Time is more precious than money. There are many similarities: they are limited, have value, and are measurable. If you viewed your time this way, you might be shocked to see how much better you are with your money than you are with your time. The difference between the two is that you can earn money back, but not time.

Consider viewing time spent playing video games, surfing social media, consenting to interruptions, and worrying as “throwing time” out the window. If you “throw out” an average of four hours a day ( 240 minutes) with every minute at $1, it’s $240 lost a day, x 7 days is $1680 a week out the window! Would you throw $1680 out the window every week? Hell, no! If you’re conservative with money, thinking of “time as money” is a great way to think twice before you act.

Need some extraordinary ways to manage time? Let me know. Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com

Managing Your Time: What is Your Day Worth? Part 2 of 3

If money drives you, think about placing a dollar amount on your day equal to the effort and efficiency you put forth. This is one of my clients’ favorite strategies for enhancing productivity and assessing their performance at day’s end.

For example, imagine a day where you put forth your 100% personal best. What dollar amount might you tag to a day like that? $1000, $5000, $10,000? Let’s say $5000.  A $5000 day  assumes that every task on your list gets done, done well and delivered. The next step is to assign, according to the time needed per task, complexity and priority, a dollar amount where the maximum total for the day = $5000. For example:

  • refining a clear description of your business model = $500
  • making 5 cold calls to prospects = $1000
  • clearing your desk and planning your schedule for the next day = $1000
  • sending out the three proposals you’ve been putting off = $2500

Therefore, accomplishing all these tasks would earn you your max for the day ($5000). Consider attaching greater dollar amounts to the most undesirable, but essential tasks on your list.

At day’s end ask yourself : What did I pay myself today? What did I earn? $500, $2000? $4500? Where did I jip myself and how can make more tomorrow?  You can also use a self-rating scale from 1 (total slacking) to 10 (personal best) and resolve the next day to beat the previous day’s rating. If you easily made your quota, perhaps your allotments per task are too generous, or you can fit more into your day and pay yourself more.

Let me know how this works for you! Need help being productive in not so ordinary ways? Contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com.   

Managing Your Time: “Do the Most Good Possible” (Part 1 of 3)

Planning the next day’s activities with inspiration as your guide helps you make better choices with your time. In the next two blog posts, I will share ways of enhancing your performance in more mindful and meaningful ways. These approaches yield improved mental health, satisfaction and productivity for my busy clients. Today’s blog is about planning. No plan or a murky one = wasted time and focus.

Tonight before bed do two things: 1) Ask yourself, “How can I make the most of tomorrow?”  2) Create a specific plan for the next day. Consider the inspiring quote from psychologist Jordan B. Peterson’s best seller The 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos “(Do) the most good possible in the shortest period of time.” So whenever someone tells you “Have a good day,” it’ll take on special meaning.

Planning with the Peterson quote in mind prioritizes the next day’s activities. For each activity list specific points or a breakdown of steps for each. This step will help you estimate the block of time needed for each activity. Use an week-at-a-glance hourly calendar and carve out a reasonable block of time needed for each activity; include any travel or transition time.

You’ll sleep better knowing that you’ve a plan for tomorrow. This way, when you get up, there’s no second-guessing or futzin’ around. Jump right into the day’s pre-set plan.

Here’s an example of how I do the most good possible in the shortest period of time:

6:00-7:00a.m.: yoga warm up=10m (minutes), squats, biceps/pull-ups= 5m, bike intervals= 30m, mat sequence =10m, cool down =5m. I’m psyched and my energy is blazing – that’s good!

7:00-8:30a.m.:  clean up, breakfast, review calendar, quick check emails/ texts, light chores.  Good to go!

8:30-11:30a.m.: Writing. Ch. 2 review, + 2 new sources, + client story, edit Chapter 3, etc. Good work that will eventually help readers do good!

Client sessions fill the remaining blocks of my working day. For you, it may be meetings or important conversations. Either way, just like the above examples, each block should have a series of points or steps specific to that task. This keeps you on track time-wise. Being organized and prepared in this way helps make these conversations timely and productive, which is good for all parties.

Circumstances may shift things a bit, but I pretty much stick to the plan. At the end of the day, I set aside a few minutes to drop a client an encouraging message, well-deserved kudos or a helpful suggestion. That’s adding just a little more good to someone’s day. I’ll be good to myself and set up some reward time for a day well lived – a walk in the woods, piano practice, or a game of table tennis.

A good day starts with planning – a CORE element essential for better focus and follow through. Let me help you build COREage for your goals. Contact me at Rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com  

WP to LinkedIn Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com