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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Coffee, Tea and Productivity

Is bringing your work to a coffee shop (CS) more conducive to better focus and getting things done than at the office? Finding the right environment for maximum productivity doesn’t have to be a monastery or a round trip flight to and from Chicago (my favorite!). If you’re looking for a place that might make a big difference in your daily productivity, give a CS a try. Here’s what I gather from students’ reports and various articles on the subject:

Despite the ambient noise that varies as a function of the CS traffic, it is a negligible nuisance when compared to the more obtrusive interruptions at work.

At a CS there’s a different social dynamic in play: no cell phone calls (take it outside please), no loud talking and very busybodies. People, for the most part, respect each other’s need to concentrate. Several of my more introverted clients prefer a CS over the chronic expectations at the workplace to smile, greet and engage in small talk.

Most CSs have large windows and much natural sunlight versus the artificial office lighting that can have unhealthy side-effects.

CSs are less-stressful than the workplace. Discussions between people are more relaxed, and people feel freer to share creative ideas and say what’s on their minds.  A CEO of a startup in Boston likes to hold his performance reviews at the local Starbuck’s. He claims that his employees open up more, take criticism easier and offer more interesting solutions than if they had these discussions in the office. The mood is lighter and there’s a positive energy vibe in a CS that’s hard to duplicate in an office setting.

Even if you work at home alone without the office gaggle, just getting away from your desk and being around people and different sounds and scents can give you fresh perspective on an otherwise tired task.

Need a new boost to your productivity? Different minds need different ways to focus and get things done. Let me help you find it! Email me at 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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