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7 Productivity Habits of Highly Sustainable Leaders

Your brain is not designed to hold ideas, your brain is designed to have ideas.” – Robert Allen, ‘Getting Things Done”

Are you paid to be productive, to think, prioritize and make the right decisions quickly?  If you want avoid burning up or burning out, you’ll need to preserve your greatest asset:  Your brain!left-brain-right-brain1-283x300

An informal survey of 150 senior managers who participated in the most recent Sustainable Leaders Strategic Planning workshop revealed the biggest challenge they faced was “having too much to do in too little time with fewer resources than ever before… and having to make the right decisions quickly.”

The often unbelievable demands to be both highly productive and accurate bombard us daily.  What’s different? The speed with which business must get done today is light years faster than even 15 or 20 years ago.  In many industries (technology), change happens too quickly and if you only strive to keep up, you will be out of business faster than you can say “Buck Rogers.”

There are only 24 hours in a day and you cannot create “more time” in a day.  The solution for most is to work longer and harder to get the job done.  The only problem with that solution is that it is a recipe for burn out.

Let’s break the rules and shift your perspective consider this:  Time is a limited resource and energy is an infinitely unlimited resource.  You cannot create more time.  You can, however, create more energy by taking control not only of your time, but where your attention is within that time frame.

My personal observation is that productive and sustainable leaders who feel happy and satisfied at the end of each day actively focus on BOTH how much they DO and DON’T DO to conserve brain power and leverage energy successfully.

Here are the 7 Productivity Habits of Highly Successful & Sustainable Leaders (who feel satisfied and have peace of mind at the end of the day):

#1.  Be Selfish With Your Time

Say “No” 100 times for every time you say “Yes.” If saying “No” is hard for you (as it is for most people), add “No, thank you” so you can get the added benefit of being grateful and appreciative, if not polite.

#2.   Avoid Multitasking

The latest studies in brain based learning prove that multitasking is not only impossible (we switch attention, our brains are incapable of focusing on two things at once), but to make matters worse, the reduction in accuracy for even the “best multi-tasker” doing the simplest of tasks is almost 50%.  Pretty scary when you think about the complex tasks you do simultaneously (driving a car, talking on a cell phone or talking on the phone and typing an email response).  Try to focus on doing one thing at a time.  Notice how much less time it takes, especially because you don’t run the risk of hitting “send” prematurely then spending time on damage control.

#3.  Listen More … Talk Less

Bottom line, people will feel heard and be able to find their own solutions more easily without unnecessary interference from you.  And, you will conserve your brain power for more important challenges that lie ahead.

#4.  Delegate and Leverage OPE (Other People’s Energy)leverage stress

When you delegate, trust and offer challenges to people, not only will it benefit you, but also they’ll feel better about you if you do.  We all know the importance of delegating so that you aren’t seen as the control freak in the corner office.  But did you know that when you delegate responsibilities and tasks (with their buy in of course), the meta-message (as long as the deadline is reasonable or they are involved in setting the deadline) or message under the message, is “trust.”  The receiver feels you believe in them enough to give them the opportunity to rise to the challenge.  Win win.

#5.  Prioritize Prioritizing

Indecision happens when we have too many thoughts getting stuck in or out of sequence in the cognitive pipeline.  Often we can get thoughts flowing again when we ask ourselves “What’s the one most important thing that needs to be decided and acted upon before that decision can be made?”

Whether you are a list maker or mind map fan, get every thought bouncing around inside of your head OUT of your head and onto paper, a whiteboard or computer program you are in the habit of checking or using regularly (“Freemind” is a simple and free example).  Robert Allen’s “Getting Things Done” is a must read for “How To’s” when it comes to being more productive so you can take quick, effective action.

#6.  Take Frequent Breaks

The Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC for short) is the part of your brain responsible for your ability to avoid distraction, make decisions, reason, understand and memorize.  Think of it as powered by rechargeable batteries, not a 220v power cord plugged into an outlet in the wall.  It needs frequent recharging (among other ingredients) in order for high performance.  Taking a short 20 minute walk inside or outside your office building at the most hectic time of day will not only benefit your metabolism and your waistline, but also your brain.  Try shutting off your brain for 5 minutes just two or three times a day, talk to a co-worker about a non-related subject (this is probably why gossip is so enticing), play a game of angry birds or juggle.

#7.  Practice Mindfulness vs. Mindlessnesshanding_down_the_key_pc_1600_wht (1) - Copy

Think of how many “mindless” automatic patterns you have every day.  Repeatedly doing routine tasks (like shaving, putting on your pants or brushing your teeth) the same way every day, doesn’t do your brain any favors.  You are just deepening the same brain groove over and over.  You are wasting valuable real estate!  If you normally put your right leg in your pants first, put your left leg in first instead.  If you begin shaving your face left side first, try starting your first swipe on a different part of your face.  Do you have stairs in your office building?  Which leg do you typically start with as you start up a flight of stairs?  Try what you think I’m going to suggest next ….

If you are paid to think, treat your brain and your energy as precious commodities that need daily TLC to function most effectively and with ease.  Pick one of these 7 Tips to practice each day and notice what happens to your mind and your mood; you too will become a Sustainable Leader one small step at a time.

 

 

 

3 Simple Steps To Bust Through Procrastination

Can you stop procrastination and get into action in 3 simple steps?

Absolutely! But first, I have a confession …

procrastination clock

How to stop procrastinating and get into action!

Because I encourage my executive coaching clients to practice the values of  transparency and humility, I will “walk my talk.”

Just last week I delivered a presentation to business owners about how to be more efficient with your mental energy, avoid overwhelm, manage multiple priorities and get things done.

My confession: I have been struggling with how to stop my procrastination pattern this week.

Thanks. I feel better already.

In order to interrupt the pattern of procrastination and take action, I used it as motivation for me to write.

I’ve heard from very smart, successful clients of mine doing (in fact, I did #6 AND #1 just today so maybe I should re-title this: “Top 10 Signs I Am Procrastinating.”  Then I can add Personal Integrity to my values list, too).

Because awareness is the first step to stopping procrastination, or any bad habit, I made a Top 10 List of what my procrastination pattern looked like (and I borrowed a few from my coaching clients, too).

Are any familiar to you?

Top 10 Signs You Might Be Procrastinating:

10. Eating something non-nutritious so you can stay awake while you watch the online training (hopefully not mine!)

9. Checking your email every 3 minutes

8. Looking for inspiration from articles on the internet so you can write your own article (this is me today)

7. Reading just one more article about “how to do …” so you can start doing whatever it is you should be doing

6. Checking LinkedIn for who’s viewed your profile

5. Replying TY for RT’s to all of the Twitter Followers in the past 3 days

4. Looking on Facebook to find people you went to high school with you never really cared about anyway

3. Repairing and painting the wall where the puppy chewed a hole last week

2. Watching the news to find out the horrible things that are happening today

1. Editing the promotional page for your upcoming leadership program for the 7th time today so that it’s perfect before you send it out

I could take this a step farther and feel guilty or ashamed about being so imperfect – and we could take it one step beyond that and say I’m a hypocrite.

Yet I choose not to … I choose instead to offer my human-ness up to you as an opportunity to learn and grow, for myself and most importantly for you if you so choose to take on The “BS” Challenge!

What Do You Mean By BS?

It no longer surprises me when one of my executive coaching clients who is highly respected and extraordinarily successful by anyone’s standards discloses their deep, dark BS: “If people only knew what a fraud I am (or feel like at times), then the secret would be out … and I would finally be discovered for who I really am.”

After years of hearing this fear coming from powerful, influential business people, I now recognize where this shame and fear comes from – it comes from “BS.” BS is far easier to recognize when it comes from someone else’s mouth rather than from inside your own head.

Brain science can now tell us a lot about what motivates human beings (no matter what your title), and more importantly, what we will work very hard to avoid. Proven strategies based in neuroscience can help us to very quickly to re-wire our brain to get unstuck, solve the challenge de jour and keep the problem from rearing its head again – ever.

But first, we need to change at the level of thinking – and explore BS. Let’s use mine as an example.

BS: The SHOULDS and the SUPPOSED Tos

What do I mean by “BS?” (This is where you say “b*llsh*t”).

bs button

Don’t let BS keep you stuck in procrastination patterns!

Okay … let’s go with that one.

BS also can refer to our “Belief System” which for the most part is full of BS.

Now I’ll put the shoe back on my own foot: If I believe I SHOULD NEVER PROCRASTINATE or I SHOULD NEVER WASTE MY TIME DOING SOMETHING UNPRODUCTIVE especially because what I assist others to do is to be productive, and if I procrastinate, then I must also be hypocrite.

Now who’s the one with the big dark hairy BS? That would be me. And I feel incongruent because “I don’t practice what I preach.”

Are these rules similar to what you believe, too?

If I choose to keep this BS, I will not feel creative, inspired or motivated. Just stuck and embarrassed if anyone finds out what I believe … and those feeling states will not get me very far today. The good news is now that I’m aware of the BS, or belief, I can challenge it, keep it or replace it if it’s holding me back. And if I can do it, so can you.

How do I stop the pattern of procrastinating?  Simple.  I asked myself a question to uncover and challenge my own BS, “What do I have to believe to feel embarrassed that I am procrastinating right now?”

One possible answer/belief is “I ‘should’ never procrastinate because I coach other people on how to stop procrastinating.  I should have ALL the ANSWERS!”

The follow up response and question isFair enough … and what elsecould be true?”

Yet, what else is true is that I am human. So I used the strategy ofAcknowledgement … simply acknowledge the feeling … “right now I feel embarrassed that I am unmotivated and procrastinating.”  Here is a surprising fact based in brain science:  Simply labeling a feeling releases negative energy attached to that belief.  And reduces it’s power by almost 50%.

Then I ask the third question, “Okay, so I feel embarrased. What’s one small thing I can do right now to get into action to feel more productive?” The easy answer comes quickly … and my answer was to start writing … just write for 5 minutes. And in 30 minutes, I am finishing this article.

What are some other things you do that keep you from spending time doing the things you could be doing to move you forward?

Do you have a deep, dark fear or belief that holds you back from resolving challenges or avoiding  situations where you lack confidence?

If so, then I have good news for you: ACE!  Take these 3 Step ACE Approach to Get Out of Procrastination and Into Action:

ace

Break the procrastination pattern in 3 Simple Steps!

#1. Awareness of and then check out the BS –“What do I have to believe to feel frustrated, stuck, etc.?  That could be true … and what else could be true?”

#2. Choice:  You now have at least two choices.  Go with the BS as if it’s the only
truth (which it isn’t), or consider other beliefs that could be true

#3. Execution: Find one small step you can take to get unstuck and into ACTION – “What is one small thing I can do right now?”

When was the last time you confronted (or at least checked out) the BS in your head that’s holding you back from being a productive and proactive leader?

If you are ready to check out your incongruent, competing or limiting beliefs and replace them with supporting beliefs so you can take action you need now to propel you forward in your leadership effectiveness, I would be honored to offer you any resources I have to assist you!  Click here now to get more information or to arrange your confidential and complimentary Leadership Strategy Session.

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How to stay on track, get more done & feel satisfied at the end of the day

My father-in-law, a 75 year old ex-engineer, military cook  turned chef for the past 45 years who still works hard yet lives a fairly uncomplicated life (and who will NEVER retire nor get a computer) asked me  tonight, “Christina, are people getting crazier than they were 50 years ago?”

I answered honestly, “Yes.”stress man desk

He asks, “Why do you think that is?”  Again, my response was quick … “TMI” and realizing he would have NO idea what that meant, quickly added, “Too much information …”  and I added … “… too quickly.  And lack of human connection.”

Giving the term “crazy busy” new meaning.  Can being too busy cause insanity?  Yes, the clinician in me answers.  I see it everyday.

Dis-ease of our physical and mental health.  Symptoms of ADD, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, substance abuse and dependence, high blood pressure, heart attack, immune system dysfunction to name just a few.

Dis-ease in our relationships, both at home and at work.  Too “connected” to electronics and not enough real conversation, dialogue, curiosity or listening to each other.  Distractions rob us of our ability to connect with other people by being present, to deeply listen and care.

Dis-ease of our cognitive and intuitive ability to think, create, solve problems.

On a functional level, remember this:  “Your brain is not designed to HOLD IDEAS, it is designed to HAVE IDEAS.”

If you paid to think, piling more on or “stuffing 10 lbs of s*$@” in a 5 lb bag” will compromise your most important asset – your brain!

When we are juggling such a tremendous amount of information coming at us from the outside AND all of our worries, fears that come from the inside, we get “crazy busy” and can’t get it all done, much less do anything well.  Much less see obvious solutions because there’s too much crap in the bag.  Stop thinking.  Play.  Laugh.  Breathe deeply.  Be.

Getting things done and doing them to our satisfaction allows our brain to release serotonin (the neurotransmitter of satisfaction) and dopamine (the neurotransmitter of engagement, interest).  Connecting with someone also cleans out the bag and creates a space for solutions, creativity and inspiration.

Can I see a show of hands if you’d like to experience these feelings once a day? Twice a day?  Several times a day?

Solution #1:  Slow down.  Say “no thank you” more often.  Or don’t say “yes” so quickly, “Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you” is a respectful response that buys you time to give it thought after you look at your calendar and respond rather than react.  Bonus points for public accountability and post it below!

Solution #2:  Choose a KISS from Suzie @Aceconcierge.net.  Commit to taking action on just 1 or 2 of the 35 Tips to Stay on Track and TAKE ACTION.  Keep track of the time you save and the peace of mind you gain after just one or two weeks (whichever feels more do-able to you).

Solution #3:  Practice saying, “If it’s not my genius, it’s not my job …” and consider hiring a Suzie (or Suzie herself @AceConcierge.net) to outsource a task or two that’s a brain drain and a time drain on your productivity!

Have a great week!

PS.  Call your Father in Law (or other-in-law, sibling, child, significant neighbor, friend or mentor) and let them know you are thinking of them and just how much they mean to you.  They can’t hear you think … say it out loud!

Christina

 

5 (more) tips to eliminate distractions, get more done to feel happier and satisfied at the end of the day

What if you could get easily more done in less time AND you felt happy and satisfied at the end of your 8 hour day that you’ve truly given it your all and done your best work …stress man desk

Fantasy, you say?

Sure … because here’s how it really looks:

Your day starts out at a jog or maybe even a sprint and you’d swear you’ve run a marathon by the end of the day (and you haven’t even left your building OR your office).

“Yes, but … I’m very productive … ” you say, with an air confidence in your voice.

Yes, but …

I’ve heard it all from highly successful executive coaching clients  and you, too may believe you can get it all done in 10 or 12 hours, but are you truly doing your best work and feeling satisfied at the end of the day?

Here are a few more questions to ask yourself (and answer honestly, please):

Who in your personal life or family loses out because you want to “do just one more thing” before you leave the office and you end up getting home too late more than once a week?

Does just looking at your never-ending- to-do list cause your stress level to rise?

Congratulations, your very human (and limited) brain is raising a white flag … the question is, do you notice and do something about it or ignore the stress, hoping it goes away?

If you are paid to think … here are 5 tips to make the highest and best use of your PFC (pre-frontal cortex) which is the part of your brain that got you your job or your last promotion … and hopefully continues to work well enough with some TLC so you can keep it.

Primarily your PFC is responsible for:

  • Avoiding distraction and staying focused
  • Deciding between two options
  • Reasoning or comparing two things
  • Understanding another’s position
  • Learning new concepts

Here are 5 (More) Simple Strategies you can use to make small changes that can have a HUGE payoff only if you:

  • TAKE ACTION by picking one or two and practice for a full week
  • Decide what will be your evidence that “it works!”
  • Document your positive change along the way

Understanding is overrated — Action will get you somewhere else!

5 Brain-Friendly Tips So You Can Be Satisfied You’ve Done Your Best Work At The End of The Day:

1. Avoid noise distractions.  If your office is a revolving door or worse, a cubicle farm, use headphones and listen to lyric-free music to increase your focus and eliminate distractions.  Here’s some examples at http://300hrs.com for classical ideas or http://www.menshealth.co.uk/healthy/brain-training/boost-your-office-productivity-with-music

2. Turn off ALL text/email/social media notifications on your phone and computer.  Notifications are a fear trigger for our brain that leads you to believe “PAY ATTENTION or YOUR’E GONNA MISS OUT!”  It’s probably not that critical.  Really.  Set a time (preferably after you have completed the first one or two most important things on your to-do list) to check your email and respond to the top 5 most urgent (and NO they aren’t all urgent!), giving yourself a time limit (30 minutes) to respond to email.   Then get back on track with your next to-do!

3.  Manually manage your time.  If you spend too much time on not so productive activities, or have difficulty transitioning from one part of a task to the next (or doing research on “how to” do X and not begin to do X), time may be the issue.  Take a “to do” from your list and PUT IT IN YOUR CALENDAR blocking out the time you believe it will take as if it were an appointment you would keep with someone else.  Set a timer for 5 minutes less than the actual time (if it’s a 30 minute appointment, set a timer for 25 minutes, then when it goes of for 5 minutes more.  The 25 minute alarm is “time to wrap up” and get to a stopping place, for now!

4.  Be accountable to someone other than yourself.  Put your calendar (what I’m working on today list) up where others can see it (on your door, in the break room on a Google group calendar).  Not that anyone really cares, or will check on you (but then again you never know).  However, the brain friendly tip leverages your social brain so you will naturally hold yourself more accountable for showing up at the meeting you scheduled with yourself in #3.

5. Take a few 5 minute breaks.  If you can’t do something for 5 minutes … you have bigger problems.  Schedule in 5 minutes and hour at the busiest time of day to walk, stretch, play, gossip, daydream, listen to lyric full music or play a quick game of Angry Birds or Solitare.  Set a timer for yourself … this brief break will help recharge your PFC, your spirit and help you get in touch with solutions so you can disengage thinking brain and open up your eyes to your intuitive solutions that are just waiting there for you to STOP THINKING SO HARD so it can present it self … and you will notice!

For more tips so you can become a Sustainable built to last Leader – Enter in your name and best email in the opt in box on your right for a FREE one hour video “7 Simple Strategies to Eliminate Stress” AND be the first to receive upcoming articles, programs and resources from Christina!

What are your favorite tips to be more productive, happier and fully satisfied you’ve done your best work at work?  Feel free to post your comments below.

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3 Steps to Confront Procrastination … (and a confession!)

(This is a follow up to “What do you do instead of what you are supposed to be doing?” I introduced 10 things people (like me) do when we should be doing something more important.  It also introduced the idea that shame and fear came from BS inside our heads. To catch up, check out the previous post.)

BS: The SHOULDS and the SUPPOSED to’s

What do I mean by “BS?” Okay … let’s go with that one.

BS also can refer to our “Belief System” which for the most part is full of BS.

Now I’ll put the shoe back on my own foot: If I believe I SHOULD NEVER PROCRASTINATE or I SHOULD NEVER WASTE MY TIME DOING SOMETHING UNPRODUCTIVE especially because what I assist others to do is to be productive, and if I procrastinate, then I must also be hypocrite.

Now who’s the one with the big dark hairy secret? That would be me. And I feel incongruent because “I don’t practice what I preach.”

Are these rules similar to what you heard growing up?

This BS or belief system will not make me feel very confident, creative, inspired or motivated. Just guilty and inauthentic … and those feeling states will not get me very far today.

Read more about the 3 Steps to Confront Procrastination at LeadChangeBlog

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Are you a procrastinator?

What do you do instead of what you are supposed to?

Top 10 Things You’re Probably Doing Instead of What You are Supposed to be Doing:

  1. Eating
  2. Checking your email every 3 minutes
  3. Looking for inspiration from others’ work
  4. Reading just another article about “how to do …”
  5. Checking LinkedIn for who’s viewed your profile
  6. Saying TY for RT’s to all of the Twitter Followers in the past 3 days
  7. Looking on Facebook for people you went to high school with you never really cared about anyway
  8. Cleaning your house
  9. Watching the news
  10. Editing the promotional page for your upcoming program for the 7th time today

I have a confession.  With the transparency and humility of a character-based leader (Dan Rockwell, Max Brown and Chad Balthrop – my esteemed co-authors writing about “humility” will appreciate this) but most of all because I am also one of the co-authors of The Character-Based Leader I have to walk my talk:   I JUST finished delivering a presentation to HR Professionals at the HR.com Leadership Conference on how stress negatively affects productivity and teamwork.

AND I am guilty of doing all of those 10 Things instead of what I should be doing at one time or another.  In fact, it happens much too often.  Maybe I should re-title this:  The Top 10 Things I Do Instead of What I Am Supposed to be Doing.  At least then I could add Personal Integrity to my list, too.

I could take this a step farther and feel guilty or ashamed about being so imperfect – and we could take it one step beyond that and say I’m a hypocrite.

Yet I choose not to … I choose instead to offer my humanness up to you as an opportunity to learn and grow, for myself and for you, too … (read more here –  LeadChangeBlog.com)

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The Neuroscience of Leadership Stress: Myths & Solutions for Busy Professionals, Managers & Executives

“The Neuroscience of Leadership Stress: Myths & Solutions for Busy Professionals, Managers & Executives”

“What Your Brain Wishes You Knew About Leadership Stress & 5 Simple Solutions to Successfully Do More With Less & Have Fun Doing It!”

We all experience stress and to a certain degree need it to be motivated into action. Left unchecked, even low levels of chronic stress will not only reduce your ability to solve problems and make decisions, your stress will reduce your team’s productivity and engagement. Click here to listen to the webinar replay (available for a limited time only):

  • Learn what the latest discoveries in neuroscience (or brain science) tells leaders about the strengths and limits of your brain
  • Discover why saying “it’s just stress” can be the end of your career more quickly than you think
  • Realize how your stress negatively impacts creativity, productivity and motivation, (both your team’s and your own).
  • Know how to make 5 25 simple changes in your day so you can get more done, more efficiently in less time than ever before
  • Find out which 6 words we use daily in our communication create a “fight or flight” reaction in others and which 4 words to use instead to motivate rather than deflate
  • Learn about a unique type of stress leaders experience and a brain-based solution to eliminate feelings of responsibility and helplessness that come with the job
  • And more (including how you can get more tools you can use to feel more successful, satisfied and do your best work)! Click here for more information now.

Here is your link to access the audio, handouts and more!:

Click here for additional solutions for Dealing with Conflict, Motivating the Unmotivated & Inspiring Your Team.

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Leaders: Productive Meetings Start with the Positive

Because most people will work hard to avoid conflict, productive meetings prepare participants for “what we are doing today” and encourage them to think out loud.

Bottom line is the leader must facilitate a psychologically safe environment for people to take risks.

How do you start your team meetings?

“All ideas are accepted” and we start with only positive statements or strengths will create such an environment.

Brain science research has proven there’s an optimum 5:1 ratio: when we start a conversation with the positive, then our brain will be more open to accepting the “negative” or different opinions.

It’s like merging onto a freeway … start by going with the flow of traffic, then merge lane by lane into the fast lane is a better strategy than getting on the freeway going the wrong direction!

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