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

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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.
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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.   

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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

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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.   

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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  

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Can You Handle the Truth? Accounting For Phone Time

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 for your phone time is a good place to start. Of all the distractions and interruptions we need to control for, smart phones and tablet use rates as Number One!

We typically underestimate the time spent on our phones. As an exercise I ask my clients to write on a slip of paper how many minutes or hours a day they think they spend on their phones and tablets. Their estimate is sealed in an envelope. Using one of the apps below they track the actual time spent on their phones for one week. After seven days their written estimates are unveiled. The estimates are often off by 50% or more! These apps can also tell you how many times you check your smartphone, what apps you use the most, reminders to take digital breaks and help you set limits on phone and table use. You all know that I’m not a big fan of GAGs (Gimmicks, Apps Gadgets) except for the ones that can keep us from over-using them! The truth can be liberating. If you care about productivity, the truth can also motivate you to make needed changes. Check out these links:

Moment – Screen Time Tracker

A Handy iOS Feature

Also read: Become aware of just how much your use your smartphone!

After the shocking reality hits home, you might take the next step and track your reasons for your excessive phone use. In subsequent blogs, I will address the most common reasons and their solutions.

I’m always happy to get your comments and requests for topics. Email me at rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com

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A New Solution for Anxiety: The Alpha-Stim

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 constant battles between vision and reality, hope and doubt, deadlines and the worry of having no deadlines at all.  I encourage my entrepreneurs-at- risk to hold off on big, costly decisions until they get a handle on their anxiety. Control over anxiety means:

  • consistently good sleep
  • giving emotion a back seat when solving a problem
  • being able to re-frame mistakes and setbacks and move forward
  • the ability to inhibit impulsive actions and reactions.

Emotional control is one of the four core skills essential to healthy and successful entrepreneurship.

A review of the most helpful of anxiety-reducing activities include: meditation, yoga, exercise, visualization and  mindfulness training etc. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another fine option, but it requires regular sessions and practice. Others benefit from software tools like The Muse, Wild Divine, Heartmath and other kinds of biofeedback. The usual objections to these approaches include “not enough time,” or “the more I try to quiet my mind, the louder it gets.”

Let me tell you about another safe, effective, well-tested approach for anxiety, insomnia (and depression). It is a form of cranial-electrotherapy called Alpha-Stim. It is a user-friendly, handheld device the size of a cell phone. It requires no practice or effort by the user, and it can be used while doing most other activities except driving.

Moods and emotions are controlled through electro-chemical signals in your brain. When these signals aren’t functioning properly, the hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate your emotions can become unbalanced resulting in an anxious state.

The Alpha-Stim device generates a signal that produces a waveform conducive to calmness and a better state of mind − the Alpha frequency  (8-12 Hz). The Alpha-Stim has been very helpful with many of my clients. For those that notice no change with the Alpha-Stim, other approaches such medications or neurofeedback may be more helpful.

To learn more about the Alpha-Stim go to www.alpha-stim.com or email info@epii.com.

If you are local to the Boston MetroWest area, we offer a personalized Alpha-Stim demonstration and educational session at the Hallowell Center in Sudbury, Mass. If you’d like to make an appointment call 978 287 0810.

 

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5 Steps For Getting to the Point

Time is a constraint for you and those you’re trying to persuade.

The hour of yesterday is the 20 seconds of today. While you prepare to be heard, keep in mind that the average attention span 20 seconds or less!

1) Know your Objective, don’t just start talking! Research shows that in the first 7 seconds people make approximately 11 different judgments about your worthiness to be heard.

Ask yourself – What do I want to achieve? Why do I want to have that conversation? Have one objective in mind – stick to one objective only. Don’t sidetrack to other related topics or you come across as unsure, unfocused and wishy-washy.

2) Write down your bullet points first in simple and direct language. Now, create a brief sentence with each major talking point. Listen to yourself and edit out redundancies, empty words like “really, great, stuff, uh” and other fillers. Edit out repetitive words like “like, I, really, right,” etc.

3) Use a Good Hook is a headline that grabs attention.Ask yourself, “What is the single best statement or question that will get me to my objective?” A hook is a statement that satisfies a need, one that is  contrary to common experience, a worry, or is the best interest of the listener:

Beets cure insomnia

Did you know reading the wrong way can make you stupid?

What is the best kept secret of Fortune 500 companies?

What is the most unusual, exciting, dramatic, humorous part of your message? That will help shape your hook or opening line.

4) If you’ve hooked your listener, they will want to hear more.  The Body of the message should build a case. It should answer – Who, What, When Where, Why, and How. No more than one sentence for each.

5) Ask for the Action you want them to take in the Closing. It’s your bottom line. What do you want your listener TO DO? Set up an appointment? Get some time off? Invest in your company? Buy your book? Is there a time limit? “The deadline is 3:00 this afternoon,” or “Our sale ends tonight at midnight.”

Crisp articulation, a pleasant sounding voice and vocal dynamics give power, certainty and charisma to your message. Annoying vocal/verbal tendencies (hoarseness, mumbling, too soft or too loud, an unintelligible foreign accent, etc ) can distract a listener from your content.

Practice your “20 second or less” commercial. Start with your main point (one sentence hook or idea in a nut-shell) and support your point with 2-3 main supporting facts. Have more facts ready, if folks want to hear more. Rehearse and record your 20 second message. Try it out on a friend. Get feedback.

Need help getting to the point? Contact me at RebeccaShafir@gmail.com to set up a personalized 30 minute phone training session. 

 

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Four Points for Follow Through

Whenever I feel like stalling on a project, telling myself that I have plenty of time to finish it, or that today is not a good day for that sort of thing, I consider four points:

  1. the value I place on the project (respect, money, time-sensitivity, etc)
  2. the outcome I need to produce; what does “good enough or “near-perfect ” look like?
  3. how lousy I’ll feel if an emergency pops up that stalls this project even more, and
  4. the satisfaction I’ll experience when it’s completed.

As you approach the New Year, take a look at what project or projects you have in queue and consider these four points. Take your highest value project and parse out the steps needed to complete it, or to make greater headway on it, over the next 2-3 weeks. Schedule a reasonable amount of time every day to put in some effort toward this valuable project. It may be 15 minutes, it may be 2 or more hours a day, but consistent attention to it will bring you closer to the finish line.

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