6 Ways to Get Unstuck Today

You meant to start that exercise program this morning but hit the snooze button instead.  You were going to reach out to your friend for a referral and blew it off–and your thought was probably along the lines of, “He doesn’t know anyone who needs my kind of services.”  You had to start on that big gnarly project but decided to scroll through Facebook instead for an hour or so.  You just never seem to get unstuck.  It feels like your days are quicksand and the new normal is sucking you in.A photo by Jared Erondu. unsplash.com/photos/j4PaE7E2_Ws

I was in that place some four years ago.  I never seemed to have forward momentum.   I also had an aversion to change.  Most people do.  I’d rather watch television all day with my free Saturday or bake the perfect loaf of bread than take on a project.  I also didn’t think that I had anything to share with the world.  I had just finished up my coach training with the Neuroleadership Group and I was being coached by my fellow students on a weekly basis.  I had the revelation that I was stuck.  With the help of my fellow coaches, I finally was unstuck.  So this what I learned.

6 ways to get unstuck today:

1. You are not an impostor.  Practically everyone feels like an impostor.  Someone will find out that you aren’t the greatest mother, accountant, teacher, writer, or cook.  This can be paralyzing.  My coach was working with me recently.  I felt like I wasn’t an author.  She reflected back to me what the source of that limiting belief was.  I realized that I had been writing for over four years, have been read in over 100 countries and had over one thousand followers.  She asked me to say it.  “I am an author.”  I owned it.  What do you need to own?

2. Path of least resistance.  Figure out what the project or activity is that you need to break out of and create the path.  I keep my sneakers, shorts and t-shirt in my bathroom closet.  I can get up in the dark, dress and head out before my husband wakes up.  If I had to turn the lights on in my bedroom and scour around for my walking garb, I likely would roll over and hit the snooze.  If you want to take up the guitar again, get it out of the closet and put it in plain sight.  If you want to walk during your breaks at work, take your spare sneakers to work and put them under your desk.  Basically, you’re eliminating the excuses you would normally come up with.  Create the path to your new goals.

3. Clear the decks.  When I write or work on a project, I clear my desk of any clutter like post its, papers, books, magazines, invitations or mail.  So if I’m in the middle of two projects, I put one of the projects away.  It’s out of mind.  This frees me up to work on what is in front of me without visual distraction.  There is no excuse.  I don’t end up going down some rabbit hole of “Should I go to the conference in Austin?”  “I wonder what that letter is about.”  “Why did I buy that book?”  The only thing on my desk right now is my computer, a lamp, a glass of water and a picture of my kids.  So before you get started, stash the clutter.

4. Digital sabbatical.  I have not tried to go without social media and email for a day except for when I was caught in the Berkshires a month ago without power and Wi-Fi.  It is really freeing to not be constantly checking for notifications.  But I DO put my phone in my purse or another room when I am writing.  Like right now.  My email and social media on my computer is shut down.  No bings, chimes or pings to bother me and veer me from my focus.  About two months ago, I turned off all notifications on my phone except for text.  My reasoning is that my kids and my husband typically are the ones who text me, which may end up being important.  For you, it might be something else.  Seeing a little red number 4 in the corner of my Facebook app used to drag me right back into opening the app to check out the latest Like.  Now I do that when I am free and not trying to accomplish something.  Set up Digital-Free Times.

5. Is it important?  When my fellow student coach would work with me, if something wasn’t accomplished, they would ask, “Is it still important?”  Say you didn’t sign up for that 5k or start going to the gym like you said you wanted to.  Maybe it’s not important any more.  Maybe it is.  It’s still a good idea to reflect on.  What is the “why” of what you are doing?  What is the higher goal?  I used to run in the morning because I was training for a marathon.  Now I walk in the morning to just get outside, listen to a book and feel refreshed.  It’s like that task you’ve moved 5 times on your task list.  Is it still important?  If not, delete it.  If it is, do it.

6. Start.  I am amazed what I can get done in 5 minutes.  Before I taught Franklin Covey’s ‘5 Choices’ class, I used to procrastinate if I had five minutes before a meeting started.  Now I’ll return a phone call, finish an email or make a hotel reservation.  I am amazingly more productive.  Any free time is an opportunity to start.  At home, I will pick up a book and read a page or two or put my grocery list together.  The point is, I start.  If I don’t get it done before another commitment, no sweat.  I’ll get back to it after the meeting is done.

I got unstuck through working with a coach.  There is a perception that asking for help is a sign of weakness.  It’s really a sign that you are ready for forward motion.  What do you want to get started on?

6 Ways to Calm Your Distracted Brain.

You’re on a conference call and decide to respond to a few emails to “get more done.” Suddenly the leader of the call asks you a question. Huh? What? It’s embarrassing. You have no idea what the question was and you even forgot what the call was about. You are distracted. You’re at a stop light and pick up your phone to see if there is a random email that might be important. Like maybe you won that Powerball lottery for a million or two and it turns out it’s an email with an offer for a low interest rate credit card. Junk mail. Why is the truck behind you honking? The light is green and you were distracted.

6 ways to calm your distracted brain

Technology has turned us into skimmers and task switchers. Information is constantly crawling across the bottom of our television sets, the side bar of our inboxes and notifications are pinging away on our phones. In the meantime, we are losing the connections in our life as we scan the environment for more information. Let me check my phone while I have lunch with my spouse. What is this saying to my spouse? You’re not worth 100% of my attention. Don’t you hate it when you are talking to your boss on the phone and you can hear them tapping away on their keyboard? It’s time to get your attention and life back.

So here are the ways to calm your distracted brain:

1. Setup time zones. A programmer from my 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity class started setting up 90-minute time zones to program for a particular project. He found he was much more focused and the project moved ahead at a faster pace. Put it in your calendar. I know that I always write this blog on a Saturday morning after breakfast for about an hour to 90 minutes. When I write over several days, my editor can tell. The thoughts aren’t as cohesive. Having a hard and fast time schedule helps me do my best work.

2. Eliminate task switching. Task switching is a productivity drain. As Dr. Susan Weinschrenk wrote for Psychology Today, “Each task switch might waste only 1/10th of a second, but if you do a lot of switching in a day it can add up to a loss of 40% of your productivity.” Acknowledging the fallacy that “multi-tasking” is accomplishing more can be half the battle. Realize that you need to mono task and devote the time to do so. So answer emails from 9 until 10 and return phone calls at 11 until noon. Devote your time to one type of work at a time and you will fly through the work. Imagine having 40% of your productivity back.

3. Turn to R mode. I recently read Tony Schwartz’ The Way We Are Working Isn’t Working. He suggests tapping into your right brain (r mode) which is where your intuition and holistic thinking takes place. You probably find yourself in R mode when you are in the shower or as you drift off to sleep. The left brain (l mode) is like your inner control freak and likes to keep things according to a plan whereas r mode is the day dreamer tapping into the unconscious. Insight is in the right brain. Novelty is food for the left brain (i.e. SQUIRREL!). To dampen down the novelty of all these distractions you need to turn on the right brain. So if you need to really think about a project creatively, think about turning off all the distractions, dim the lights and get out a pad of paper (i.e. low tech) to increase your focus.

4. Practice mindfulness. I’ve been using Shirzad Chamine’s 15 mindfulness meditations for almost a year. I have to say it has helped me stay centered. When you come into your body and stay out of your head it’s like stepping behind a waterfall. Distractions are falling in front of you but I have the clarity to step behind. I had several conflicts while I was traveling last week and I stayed clearly in response mode versus react mode. My daughter even commented that she knew I had a lot going on but it didn’t affect my ability to be present with her. Schwartz recommends a meditation or mindfulness practice as well. I’m less likely to fall into the lure of being stressed out. I can sit back and pick my response instead of a knee jerk reaction. It’s quite liberating and keeps many distractions from even creeping in.

5. Take a break. Schwarz recommends mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks. So put in your 90 minutes of super productivity and then go for a walk. Or meditate. Or open a book. Taking a break renews your body and mind. Make sure your employees are doing the same as well. Some type of plan for renewal keeps you going in the long run. Essentially, plan on 4 – 90 minute blocks of time with 15-30 minute renewal breaks in between. Believe it or not, you will get more done than if you work 10 hours straight. And the quality of your work will be better.

6. Work on connecting with others. When you are out to lunch with your coworker, put down your phone. I know a group of folks who have lunch on a regular basis. They all put their phones at the center of the table, and the first one to pick up their phone, pays for the check. Turning off your notifications and putting your phone away is the quickest way to show the folks around you that are there for them. “You are worth my undivided attention.” It will improve your relationships. People feel valued when you’re engaged with them and aren’t staring at your phone.

I’m still guilty of checking my phone in my car. I know one client of mine who said they would put their phone in the back seat to make sure they didn’t check it. Being scattered all day can be a way of life. Now I’m going to take my own advice and take my dog for a walk (see #5).

How to Reignite Your Employees.

Your assistant is constantly calling in sick. Your technician seems to always be on smoke breaks. You sit in your cube gnashing your teeth frustrated because your project is going nowhere. The folks at your team meetings are passive. Disengaged. Ambivalent. There is no action. Just excuses.
It’s frustrating…isn’t it?

How to Reignite Your Employees

I have to say I stumbled on an absolutely engaging program from Franklin Covey called 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity. I facilitated this workshop a little over a month ago and we had the 5 week follow up this week. I thought the materials for the class were good but I didn’t realize how good. The rag tag team of 14 participants went from being in the 64th percentile in productivity and sky rocketed up to the 94th percentile 4 weeks after the class. That’s almost a 50 percent improvement in productivity. 50%!
Whoa. That’s incredible. Imagine what you can do with 50% more productivity. Heck, I would have been happy with 10%. That’s a lot more widgets on the sales floor. That’s a lot more customer satisfaction. And, most importantly, that’s a lot more happy engaged employees doing a good job.

So this is my take on how to reignite your employees:

1. Discern the difference between what is important versus merely urgent. Several participants said that this was a game changer. They suddenly realized that some of their actions, like quickly responding to emails ended up making them a sort of scapegoat. So the slacker coworker would call on them for help because they would respond so promptly. By being able to discern that responding quickly was taking them away from their important Quadrant 2 work and instead, spending valuable time on someone else’s frivolous Quadrant 3 distractions. When you start dedicating time to the work that is most important, everyone benefits (even the slacker if you show them how to fish). There is more meaning and satisfaction as well.

2. Don’t settle for ordinary. It may be the path of least resistance but settling for ordinary isn’t inspiring. Who wants to wake up and say, “Hey, let’s have a status quo day. Let’s not have an impact.” The benefit of this class is that the participants worked on what’s important. What is the role I want to be? Do I want to be a “spouse” or do I want to be “Kevin’s best friend”? Which do you find more inspiring? One participant decided to ditch his recliner to sit next to his pregnant wife on the sofa in the evenings. That is life changing. That is extraordinary.

3. Decide on your big rocks and give up on sorting gravel. This training has some great videos from experts like psychiatrist Dr. Hallowell, who says that when you are consistently being bombarded with constant notifications and information, you are basically firing off your fight or flight response constantly. Toxic stress is the new normal. What the participants found was that when they identified their “big rocks” or important goals and roles, it was much easier to skip the gravel. When you schedule your life with those things that are most important first, the rest seems to slide away. Several participants had scheduled working out. The impact? They said that they used to dread coming to work because of all the stress. Now that they were working out every morning, they looked forward to work. A complete flip. The engaged workforce.

4. Be the ruler of your technology. This is all about ruling your inbox. One participant said they had set up 60 rules to handle email whether it be spam, automatically forwarding messages (yes, you can do that in Outlook) and highlighting messages from important folks like your boss. Dropping emails into tasks or calendar appointments make sure that the important stuff doesn’t get lost. This was by far the area where most folks found the most saving and efficiency.

5. Fuel your fire so you don’t burn out. Several participants selected one of their important roles to be themselves. Wow. When was the last time a corporate training told you to take care of yourself first? At least a third of the class had started working with a personal trainer since taking the class. Several worked to improve their sleep. I know you might be skeptical. Why should an employer espouse self-care? Because the end result is more productive, happier employees.

I have to qualify that this group of participants were free to choose to take this class. Mandates on changes in behavior are not as effective as those who choose of their own free will. Productivity is a very personal decision. Make sure you give your employees the opportunity to choose to be reignited.