Subscribe to the COREageous Entrepreneur Blog
Subscribe to the Mindful Communication Minute Newsletter
Past COREageous Entrepreneur Blog Posts
Where does the time go? Why can’t I get more done each day? I want to finish my business plan, but other stuff gets in the way. Do these complaints sound familiar? If you’re serious about improving your productivity and finding the waste in your day, being accountable...read more
Perhaps the most common concern my entrepreneur clients report is anxiety and its cousin, insomnia. Founders have every reason to be anxious. In fact, if they are perfectly at ease with their startup, I get suspicious! For those new to entrepreneurship there are...read more
First thing in the morning, start out visualizing your most productive and satisfying day. What kind of day, from start to finish, would give you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment? If you can see it, then you know what to aim for. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve...read more
Even though you may be surrounded by people in your start-up, you as the founder may feel a bit lonely. Here’s an apt metaphor for a founder’s situation. Think of you, the founder, at the neck of an hourglass; you have the board of directors above you and your team...read more
Are you an employee of a start-up itching to play more of a leadership role in your company as an intrapreneur? If you are a founder, you can bet that there are a some employees deep in the trenches with an entrepreneurial mindset; they want to develop, manage and...read more
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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:
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Elect to read when and where your concentration is maximized – low distractions, emotional readiness to focus, a decent chunk of time, good light, etc.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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
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