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                   

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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

 

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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

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Steer Clear of the Subtle Saboteurs

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 got your to-do list. But, in visualizing your perfect day, how will you tackle the more insidious distractions that could divert you?  Distractions aren’t all about noise and interruptions. If you haven’t addressed the obvious, then now is the time: shut the damn door, turn off the bleeping phone and tell people to leave you alone. If you’ve covered those bases, let’s address some of the sneakier distractions:

Unpreparedness reinforces your wanderlust:  If you set up a schedule the night before, which I highly recommend, all the pieces are in place. Your schedule should have THE TASKS and all the little sub-tasks listed below it for getting each TASK done. Then you can have a blast checking off each little sub-task as you complete it. Otherwise, if you just list the tasks, it’s like facing an inferno.

Dehydrated and de-nourished. Before you sit down to work, start off with a breakfast high in protein, good fats and plenty of water, especially if you suffer from anxiety and attention problems. Your brain is fat, protein keeps you sharp and water helps everything.

Unjustly rewarding yourself with gaming, FB time and other things you don’t deserve till you get the real work done. Newsflash: You have to earn your goodies− a good lesson to start teaching your kids now before electronics and endless fun screws up their brain circuitry for good.

Let me help you steer clear of the subtle saboteurs stealing from your success. Contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com

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What “Disorganization” Sounds Like

Let me share some thoughts inspired by a recent Shark Tank episode…

A contestant demonstrated a very unique product that piqued the Shark’s interest. When asked about his background, he listed numerous talents, brainy feats and escapades that led to the development of his new product.  Instead of his colorful past being a plus in the Shark’s eyes however, his history raised a red flag. One Shark called him “too disorganized” so she was “out.” (For those of you new to Shark Tank, “out” means not interested in the deal.) The contestant appeared perplexed and somewhat taken aback by her comment. What might have saved him? A statement or two, immediately following his list of exploits, conveying a passionate and enduring commitment to the success of the current product might have kept him in the running.

Perhaps “disorganized” was not the best word choice. To most people “disorganized” means a cluttered desk or misplacing your keys. The Shark may have chosen that word to represent a few less obvious concerns related to disorganization that can doom a startup. Founders, it’s important to know the less obvious ways that you can appear “disorganized” in the eyes of investors:

  1. As much as creativity is an asset to an entrepreneur, having many simultaneous and disparate activities going on are liabilities. It suggests you have difficulty focusing in on one thing that requires deliberate, consistent and sustaining dedication like a startup. Problem: An Investor will see herself doing all the work or exerting too much effort directing and monitoring you than it’s worth.
  2. Indirect and lengthy answers to simple questions suggest a disorganized mind. Or, perhaps you introduce ideas into the conversation that are unrelated to the main point. Problem: An investor may sense the need to constantly corral your attention to the topic or task at hand. Exhaustive repetition, interruption and re-direction is too great of an energy expenditure for a busy Shark.
  3. Do you engage in too much levity when there should be seriousness? Problem: You may be a nice guy or gal and fun to be around, but when it comes to spending other people’s money and getting things done, joking around is a waste of time.
  4. Is your presentation delivered in a logical sequence? Problem: Potential backers do not want to work harder than you to figure out your plan from start to finish.

The bottom line: Examine your sales pitch and presentation. Make the changes necessary to avoid being perceived as “disorganized.”

Do you need an expert set of eyes and ears to identify the red flags that could discourage customers and investors from wanting to work with you? Contact me for Core Four Coaching Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com   

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Jeremy’s Quest for Focus

In my recent blogs, I’ve talked about distraction, discipline and procrastination as my clients’ most common complaints. You’ve asked for examples from extreme to mild, so here you go! Let’s start with an extreme case, as in extremely interesting and challenging.  Jeremy is 26 years old with ADHD. He is very hyper and alas, a brilliant wantrepreneur. He’s tried ADHD medications to no avail; the side effects and mental dampening were intolerable.  Jeremy’s brain is like an idea magnet (sounds familiar?). He has trouble focusing because ideas keep pouring into his head all day and night. Jeremy lives with his very wealthy parents and dabbles in freelance programming.  He spends several hours a day researching (defined by him as “whipping through a hundred sites a minute”) and incessantly checking social media. At this point Jeremy sees his lack of mental control as his biggest enemy. It frustrates and saddens him, but he’s motivated. He sees many of his friends with lesser intellect start and succeed in startups. Jeremy sees no path to success unless he can harness his focus and concentration.

With a student like Jeremy there are two ways to start: #1 decrease the anxiety by a variety of alternative means (biofeedback, meditation, etc.), or #2 engage him in an exercise that will yield some appreciable, short term results proving that self control is possible. I chose #2 as a first step. We began by identifying his top 5 favorite ideas out of current list of 30 favorites. We agreed to give each idea no less than 5 minutes of discussion. (Forcing focus on only one idea in the session would be maddening for Jeremy and possibly cause major damage to my office!) We talked through one idea at a time though, using cues to avoid digression. This exercise was like drug withdrawal for him. Digging deep into the nuts and bolts of one project at a time was painful. Logistics narrowed down the list to 3 possible projects. With pen in hand (archaic perhaps, but better for retention) Jeremy divided a paper in thirds, a column for each of the three remaining projects. He took notes in bullets and organized the steps in sequence. After a grueling 90 minutes, there was a structure on paper, something tangible, satisfying and exciting to see. He became quiet and felt quite pleased with himself. This was the almost instant gratification Jeremy needed to further his practice in honing his focus. In future blogs, I’ll share Jeremy’s progress and how, step-by step, he became successful.

Would you like to sharpen your focus and concentration and get your projects off the ground? Write to me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com.  Read about my CoreFour Coaching at www.MindfulCommunication.com.

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Nap Know-How

Entrepreneurs need their sleep, but they often don’t get enough of the quality sleep needed to think straight, execute and perform. When I meet a client for the first time, I’ll ask about their sleep: Do you go to sleep at about the same time every night?  Do you fall asleep within 20 minutes or so? Stay asleep (except for the occasional bathroom break?  Wake up refreshed?  Only 2/10 will say “yes” to the last question — the most important one.  There are lots of helpful ways to get better sleep, as I will mention in future blogs. But, because it’s highly likely that you are sleep deprived right now, knowing the right kind of nap is a good business strategy.

The question often arises: What length of nap and what is the best time of the day to nap? Sleep experts tell us (and I have put myself through these nap rigors, so I can speak from experience), that the best time to take a nap is early in the day. This helps fill the sleep debt from the previous night. Naps taken after 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon may interfere in your evening sleep. The best nap is one that refreshes and restores and doesn’t take a lot of time from work. It’s the 10-20 minute nap, called “the power nap” that boosts alertness and energy.  It’s essential that you set a timer or something to keep it short. 30-60 minute naps can leave you groggy and grumpy. It can take you several minutes to get back to any kind of productive work. Interestingly, even if you don’t think you fell asleep during that short time, you probably did. But, remember, just lying down with your eyes closed and letting your body relax is more helpful than not resting at all. Give it a try and share your experience!

 

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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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