Thursday, March 31, 2016

Tip Thursday - Productivity

Follow the under 10 minute rule. If a task arrives at your desk that could be done in under 10 minutes, do it right away. It would take more time to read the task, put it aside, and reread it and do it later than just getting it done right away. Often it is the small tasks that are more likely to get sidelined, taking up the mental head space needed for bigger, more complex tasks.

Monday, March 28, 2016

When our Emotions Hijack our Brain

We've all had times when our emotions got the best of us and we have all likely experienced times when, upon reflection, our emotional response was out of proportion to the situation. In most cases, when our emotions, rather than logic, seem to rule our reactions we have likely been Emotionally Hijacked.

In his definitive book on Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman coined the term Amygdala Hijack to describe this phenomenon, while others refer to it as Limbic Hijacking (both amygdala and limbic referring to the parts of the brain that are triggered), or Emotional Hijacking.  Regardless of the term you prefer the result is the same, each describing when an immediate, overwhelming emotional response was triggered by an event, a response that is bigger than warranted by the immediate situation.

A Limbic Hijacking is characterized by 3 key components:

  1. It is a very sudden onset of a
  2. Strong emotional reaction that's
  3. Regretted later
According to Goleman, our brain hasn't had a hardware update in about 100,000 years, making its wiring significantly out of date.  As a result we often respond to fight/flight/freeze situations in an unintentional way.  Our ancient wiring creates responses that may have served us when our personal safety was a minute-by-minute concern but that no longer are applicable to our modern day living.

Our emotional responses can take over the rest of our brain in a millisecond if we feel threatened. This Limbic Hijacking was designed to dominate our brains, to react immediately and purely on instinct. When faced with a very real threat to our survival, we need to respond upon instinct, rather than requiring conscious analysis and thought, if we are to outlive the threat.  

When our amygdala is highly stimulated, it uses more blood and oxygen than usual, leaving less for the neocortex (our logic centre).  This makes reasoning, problem solving and impulse control more difficult.  Not an issue when facing a predator, but it may certainly work against us in the work environment where our threats are less about our actual survival and likely require more thought and reasoning to circumvent.  

In order to regain our intellectual control we must first recognise that the hijacking has taken place.  It is an instantaneous reaction that we will want to catch as quickly as possible.  Rather than responding from this heightened emotional state we want to buy ourselves some time.  Take a sip of water or coffee, adjust our glasses, take a bathroom break or ask for time to process before responding and then breathe.  We need more oxygen to feed to our neocortex, to help stimulate our rational brain to begin taking some action.  
  • Question what you are feeling, labelling the emotion.  Studies have shown that simply labelling the emotion reduces its intensity.  
  • Question why you are feeling it.  What is the source or cause?  Asking this question immediately helps to shift the focus from the Amygdala to the Neocortex, which is where you want to be for a reasoned response.
  • Question what the anticipated outcome would be by allowing the emotions to prevail.  This helps to further center your thoughts in your reasoning zone.
  • You can then redirect your emotions on a more constructive path
There was a time where much of our behaviour was guided by our Amygdala, where necessity required us to respond constantly to perceived dangers and threats with an immediacy of action. Though we may face such needs occasionally in our lifetime (some of us not at all) we are more likely to need to respond to situations with approaches developed from our Neocortex.  Our ability to do so consistently is the foundation of Emotional Intelligence.  

Although much of the Limbic Hijacking that we experience is outside of our control, driven by brain hardwiring reflective of earlier times and needs, we can learn to manage and minimize its impact upon our behaviour.  Use the steps outlined above to help you to learn recognise when your emotions have been hijacked and to regain control, putting the more logical and reasoned you back in the driver's seat.  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Tip Thursday - Personal Development

Rather than giving your Self-Critic free reign, try giving Self-Compassion an opportunity. Recent
studies have shown that dieters who used self-compassionate messages (Don't be too hard on yourself, everyone indulges occasionally) actually helped dieters eat less of the tempting food than if they were critical of the 'cheat'. Think of this in a broader context. How often do you engage in self-criticism of your actions versus compassionate support? Really, it comes down to giving yourself a break, reminding yourself when you're doing the best you can. You would show this compassion to others, maybe it's time to show the same to yourself!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sleep Your Way to Success

An overlooked but important component of our productivity and success is the quality and quantity of our sleep.  Sleep is an important time for our brains and bodies.  It is during our sleep that our brains work to clear our bodies of toxic waste chemicals, heals and repairs body tissues, consolidates memories, enhances our learning, processes emotional events...and on and on.  Our brains and bodies need this time.

Numerous studies have shown the debilitating impact of sleep deprivation upon our thought processes, productivity and capability.  However, most recent studies are also showing that we are not, as a rule, achieving the restful and rejuvenating sleep that we require to sustain our daily activities.

In order to achieve success and maintain a high level of performance, the quantity and quality of our sleep is a critical component to consider.  If you are not waking up refreshed, focused and ready to tackle anything the day may throw at you, it may be time to review some of your sleeping routines. Consider whether there are any potential changes you need to make to yours, giving your brain and body the time they need to prepare you for the day ahead.

Timing.  We know that our children respond best to a regular bed time, but our bodies and minds do too.  It is far easier to fall asleep when we get into a regular routine and habit.  Try to stick to a consistent sleep and wake up pattern, which will serve to signal the brain when it is to shift into shut down mode.  Certainly we will have exceptions to this routine, but make them the exception, not the rule, if you want to fall asleep faster and easier.

Upgrade your Bed.  You can't expect to have a restful night's sleep if you are sleeping on an old, lumpy, ratty mattress.  Ensure that you have a mattress that will support you the way you prefer to sleep, and a pillow that will do the same.  Oh, and don't forget to change those sheets regularly too. Feeling comfortable in your bed helps to signal the 'relax' function in your brain.

Fresh Air.  I know that there are some people that don't like to have a window open when they sleep, but fresh air and a cooler room are more conducive to a deeper more restful sleep.

No Food or Drink.  Avoid eating any heavy food or drinking alcohol with a couple of hours of bedtime.  Both require too much energy from the body for it to be able to unwind enough to relax for sleep.  Additionally, drinking too much before bed will require you to get up during the night to go to the washroom, which is also disruptive.

Limit Caffeine.  If sleep is regularly alluding you it may be time to review how much caffeine you are taking in throughout the day, particularly in the evening, and determine whether it may be a contributing factor.  Try cutting back on your caffeine intake, at least in the later afternoon and evening to determine if that was the culprit.

No Electronics.  Make sure that any of your laptops, phones or tablet are not in your bedroom or have all of their sound shut down.  Listening to pings and bells signalling the receipt of new messages does nothing to help you unwind and drift off to sleep.  Either keep 'em where you can't hear 'em or shut 'em down!

Avoid those Screens.  Apart from the noises your devices may make that interfere with your sleep, research shows that the blue light emitted by your electronics is disruptive to your body's natural rhythms.  Try avoiding all device screens for 1-2 hours prior to bed time to reduce its impact.  If you must use your devices prior to bed, try turning the brightness of the screen down, or use a light altering software to do it for you.

Relaxing Rituals. Creating bedtime rituals can be an extremely effective way of programming the brain to recognise when we are ready to begin shutting down.  Taking a hot bath, meditating or any other quiet activity can serve as your wind-down signal.  The more consistently it is used the more effective it will be in helping train your brain and body to know that you are preparing for sleep.

Exercise.  We know that there are numerous benefits of exercise, but studies show that those who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel less sleepy during the day.  It also helps to increase the amount of time you spend in the deeper more restorative stages of sleep.  Exercising in the morning or during the day is great but, because exercise speeds up the metabolism, avoid exercising too close to bed time.  Ensure that you finish at least 3 hours before you go to bed to allow your metabolism to have slowed down.

Sleep is a critical part of our Success formula.  The better the quality of our sleep, the more focused and productive we can be.  However, the more we compromise the nature and quality of our sleep, the less prepared our minds and bodies will be to face the tasks we ask of them.  Creating the bedtime rituals and habits that serve your body and brain are all part of a success strategy that will help you get to the next level.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tip Thursday - Public Speaking

When giving a speech, you want to 'Hook' your audience right from the start to get them listening. In order to capture and draw them in, consider using any of the following tried and true 'hooks'; a story, a video or graphic, a belief statement or perhaps a provocative statement, humour. Most people are lazy listeners. You need to let them know, upfront, that you will be worth listening to.

Hook 'em early to keep 'em listening!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Swapping Words: A Path to Success

At the heart of this blog post is the foundational belief that the only thing standing in the way of you and your success is... you.  Unfortunately for most of us, we don`t openly recognise exactly how we are blocking ourselves from achieving all that we desire.

Most of us have clarity over everything that we want.  The challenge is that although we want more, we just don`t want to have to do more to get it. This isn't a comfortable thing for us to acknowledge though, certainly not to others.  Turning to our boss and saying that yes, we would certainly love to get a promotion - just as long as we didn't have to do anything more to get or keep it - isn't likely going to get us that promotion after all.

Instead, we create reasons to explain `why` we didn't get that promotion.  We use our reasons to explain our behaviour.  However, our reasons are simply our obstacles, our excuses. They form barriers that excuse us from taking the action that would move us forward. We can become so committed to our reasons that they become our truth, becoming embedded in our very language.

According to Professor Bernard Roth, of Stanford University, in his book The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life, there are 5 primary phrases that we should eliminate from our language.  Swapping these dis-empowering words for alternatives that are more positive and compelling can have an immediate impact on heightening our achievement and success rate.

Professor Roth`s Top 5 List...

  • Swap out `But` with `And` - The word But is an extremely limiting word that is often misused in place of the word And.  Enough so that it even sounds correct when used that way. However, its use can shift a neutral statement into a negative one.  Consider a person who is afraid of flying and is offered an amazing internship on the other side of the country.  Saying "I want this internship BUT I'm afraid of flying" shuts down the opportunity.  Using 'but' in this way links two very separate truths, making one sound like a reason to not pursue the first. Replacing 'but' with 'and' though allows your mind to separate the truths and to therefore recognise that accepting the internship simply requires finding alternative ways to deal with the fear of flying.
  • Swap out 'Have to' with 'Want to'  -  The use of the phrase 'have to' makes the circumstance sound as though it is being forced upon you, creating resistance and resentment.  Swapping it with the phrase 'want to' reminds us that we have personal choice.  We don't 'have to' take a course to upgrade our skills, we 'want to' open up future opportunities by taking it.
  • Swap out 'Can't' with 'Won't'  - This is an interesting one to consider since most of us find ourselves describing what we can't do quite often.  However, the use of can't implies that something is impossible for us.  Saying that we can't drive a car implies that it is physical impossible for us to do so, while saying that we won't drive a car reflects our personal choice not to learn to drive.  You are in control of what you choose to learn to do or not.  Replacing can't with won't is empowering, putting the decision firmly back in your control.
  • Swap out 'I'm afraid to' with 'I'd like to' -  Using the phrase I'm afraid to, as a reason not to pursue a course of action, acknowledges your fear, rather than your desire, giving the fear more weight.  By highlighting your fear you set your mind up to awfulize the situation, to consider all that could go wrong, creating a big roadblock.  Saying I'd like to acknowledges your desire, which is more positive and pleasant.  Generally highlighting the positive benefits of taking a course of action makes it far more compelling, increasing the likelihood that you will pursue it.
  • Swap out 'Help' with 'Assist' - When we ask someone to help us, we are reducing our personal sense of empowerment.  The word 'help' is associated with helplessness creating an image of someone incapable of completing the task on their own.  However, looking for someone to assist you recognises that you have the capability on your own, if you chose to. Far more empowering.
Our language helps to shape the way that we view the world around us and, perhaps more importantly, how we view ourselves.  I'm willing to bet that you could hear yourself in one if not more of the examples given above. The five word swaps above, if made consistently, would represent enough of a positive impact on your personal perspective of you to up your Achievement and Success profile. Which ones are you going to activate and swap for your increased success?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tip Thursday - Personal Development

We can get caught up in doing so many things that we sometimes lose track of 'why'. To determine the value of what you're doing, whether you should be doing it or even just as a means of freeing up time to do other things, consider whether the activity you are engaged in will make you better. If what you are doing does not serve you in some way; does not improve you, grow you, support you or reward you, ask - Why am I even doing this? If it doesn't make you better - it's likely not worth doing!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Silence is Not Consent

You've all been there, you've all experienced it.  You're in a meeting where you have been discussing a very hotly debated topic for what seems like hours. Finally someone says... 'So we're in agreement on how to move forward?'  There are a couple of vocal yeses, a few half-hearted yeahs, a couple of head nods and a few team members who remain silent.  A couple of weeks later that same team leader is surprised to discover that not everyone is moving forward as 'agreed'.  The team leader is even more surprised when questioning team members who have not taken action and they indicate that they 'never agreed to anything'.

Traditionally silence has been taken to mean that the individual has no objections to give voice to and that they therefore consent. We see this play out within the workplace, within our personal relationships and within society, where a lack of response to an action is taken as a sign of approval.

Silence is not and should never be construed as consent

However, silence can mean different things to different people at different times.  Someone's silence is therefore open for interpretation.  If your definition of silence does not align with mine, we will likely experience some issues.

Silence can mean...

  • I agree
  • I'm tired of talking about it
  • I'm abstaining
  • I'm reserving my right to weigh in on the topic later
  • I don't agree but want to avoid further discussion or argument
  • I can't be bothered discussing this
  • I'm not paying attention and didn't hear what you said
  • I'm just going to do what I want 
People who are uncomfortable with confrontation are likely to use silence as a means of avoiding any unpleasant discussions. They create 'wiggle room' for themselves through silence.  They aren't in agreement and are likely to go off and do whatever it was they wanted to do in the first place.  Not formally agreeing means to them that they are free to do what they wish.  

Quiet people's silence is typically reflective of the fact that they are still formulating their response. Talkers like to talk it out while Thinkers like to think it out. Quiet people are silent simply because they are not yet prepared to share their thoughts.  Speaking 'now' is on your timetable, not theirs. 

Just because no one's complaining doesn't mean everyone's agreeing!

When it is important to ensure that you have full agreement and support on a given action, it is far better to poll the group members individually.  It may take more time but it is best to ensure that there are no concerns or reservations up front of the implementation.  Addressing issues now prevents them from becoming huge barriers down the road.

Additionally, when asked directly if you are prepared to commit to something, giving voice to your support actually helps you to solidify your commitment. There are numerous studies in Influence that demonstrate the positive impact of gaining that upfront concession from members.  

Silence is not always golden. When you need to gain support on an idea or new initiative, don`t mistake someone`s silence for agreement.  Instead, make a point of asking each contributor directly whether they are in agreement with the tabled proposal. 

As it turns out, silence may mean many things; agreement is only one meaning and rarely the correct one.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Tip Thursday - Communication

When seeking clarification of a point with someone, avoid asking them Why. Instead, ask - What made you do that?  Asking why tends to put people on the defensive, which will create a barrier to uncovering the truth. Additionally, people are less conditioned to answer 'What made you do that', which may result in a less structured and more open response.