Haiku; what Japanese poetry can teach us about productivity

Haiku

The essence of Haiku is cutting (“Kiru”). It is a Japanese poetic form consisting of just 3 lines and 17 syllables.

The traditional art of Haiku writing started with Buddist monks in Japan. The poems are inspired by living in the moment. The shortness of the poems (just 3 lines) reflects the minimalist mindset of extracting excess, being left with only what you need.

The Haiku writing form is a true reflection of Zen Buddhist philosophy and arguably something that we can apply to every area of work and life. As Haiku is restricted to such tiny parameters, poets are forced to focus on one concept, choosing only the words that are most important for the poem. The task of the poet is much harder, they must master their concept, ensuring the strict word limits, do not detract from the overall meaning.

Examples of Haiku poetry can be found here.

Haiku principles and productivity  

If we apply the Haiku writing process to our productivity, it means that in order to succeed, we must limit ourselves to the essentials. It’s a simple but effective way to ensure that we focus only, on what matters to our objective(s) and that we don’t waste our valuable time on irrelevant tasks.

Here are the four, most effective, Haiku inspired, productivity hacks to make our working life more efficient:

1) Limit your goals

Can we truly give our 100% to more than one goal at a time? Personally, I find several goals distracting. Dividing time between several things, at once, means doing everything in a mediocre way, instead of doing one thing well. Try to limit the number of goals you have at once. The ideal number is just one. If you do this, you will find yourself more effectively reaching your targets than you could otherwise.

2) Limit your tasks

This may seem counterintuitive if your to-do list is as long as your arm, but you will be surprised at how much energy is wasted on tasks that undermine your goal. Start by writing your overriding objective at the top of your to-do list, then eliminate the tasks that do not directly, support your goal. Stop wasting your precious time on irrelevant things. This to-do list, re-vamp, will redefine your focus and de-clutter your mind.

3) Limit your communications

Technology has advanced our productivity in many, unimaginable, ways but it equally causes idleness in undisciplined users. Think about the number of times you’ve been distracted from a task by a phone notification or an email? I have personally lost count. A great Haiku inspired way, to manage your communications, is to set strict time limits for when you can check your phone or email. Typically, people create 2 times slots one in the morning and then in the late afternoon. This way you allow technology to make your life easier but you don’t allow it to control your time.

4) 7 minutes of limitless fun

My favorite Haiku inspired advise is taken from Zen Habits. In their insightful blog on Haiku productivity, they describe a Haiku reward, of allowing yourself to do anything you want for 7-minutes, once you complete a task. This helps to motivate you, refresh your mind and sprinkle fun throughout your day, but limits it. No endless scrolling through your favorite blog, just 7-minutes and then back to work.

Remember, the rule of Haiku productivity is to put limits on everything you do. The things you limit depends entirely on your work and personal goals. By restricting yourself to the most important tasks, you only focus on the essentials and you give those essential your 100%.

The concept of allowing and how it can change your life

allowing

The concept of allowing is a powerful life philosophy, used to advance success, happiness, and self-development. Allowing is about letting go of resistance and accepting things just as they are. When you stop controlling all aspects of your life, you avoid forcing things into unnatural paths and you allow yourself to experience (and learn) what is meant for you. Allowing gives you the opportunity to see situations and people, as they truly are. Regardless of whether allowing uncovers the reality you desire, you can be assured that it reveals the truth. The concept of allowing, for many, is the understanding and acceptance that life has put them exactly where they need to be.

“If it’s meant for you, you won’t have to beg for it…You will never have to sacrifice your dignity for your destiny.”

Why is allowing relevant to success?

The concept of allowing is often incorrectly conflated with apathy or laziness. This reasoning exposes a very unhealthy attitude to our own success. It rests on an innate fear that if we slow down or stop pushing so hard every day, our goals and everything we have worked for will come crashing down. This type of thinking shows a lack of belief in our own abilities. Why not think that your goals will find you just as much as you try to find them?

Allowing is an immensely difficult concept to practice, especially for the target driven, workers of today. However, allowing is premised on the idea that, regardless of your incessant hard work– if something’s not meant for you, it just won’t happen. Think about it – is feeling as though you have to make absolutely everything happen in your life sustainable? Success, for some, starts with a lucky strike and for others, appears once they have overcome a mountain. However, once people reach their success “peak”, they describe a path opening and things just, “falling together”.

This is the concept of allowing – success is not meant to be one giant uphill struggle – if things are meant to work in your favor, trusting that they will, puts an end to unnecessary suffering. An action is important but it must be balanced with your ability to allow.

Allowing and self-confidence

You cannot successfully practice the concept of allowing without self-confidence. This is because, typically when we want to control every aspect of something, we innately believe that without our control, it would escape us. The deeper aspect of allowing has to do with trusting in yourself and believing that what you want to create will become your reality.

How to practice allowing

The best-selling author of “Bring Your Wholeself To Work” and sought-after motivational keynote speaker, Mike Robbins explains that allowing, is truly an art, which often goes against our societal grain. Instead of believing that hard-work and tunnel vision will get you to your goals, allowing is about keeping an inner state of flexibility, ensuring that you are not so tightly bound to your visions that you impede other opportunities, more suited to your life path.

Mike Robbins suggests three ways you can incorporate the concept of allowing into your life;

1.Understand your relationship with allowing

Firstly, you must understand how you feel about the idea of allowing. Are you comfortable with exercising less control in important areas of your life? Do you feel comfortable with uncertainty? Do you have strong enough self-confidence to believe that the things you desire will become your reality? Tell yourself the truth about how you relate to allowing, and you will be able to implement it successfully. It is, after all, designed to help you grow into your true self.

2. Pay attention to your actions vs allowing

Asses this point in terms of your biggest goals, dreams, and aspirations. How much of your energy is focused on actions, and how much is focused on allowing? While both action and allowing are important, it’s likely you’re putting a disproportionate amount of attention on the action. Increasing your focus on allowing can be an incredibly effective way for you to understand whether your goals are right for you. Do they fit into your life naturally? Do they bring you happiness? This is often the missing piece in ascertaining whether your goals will, in turn, bring you fulfillment.

3. Create an allowing habit

This is a simple, daily practice where you put your attention on allowing: accepting things as they are; trusting things are working out as they are meant to and really believing it. Remember to be kind to yourself – there is no smooth path to reaching goals. Allowing is a lot easier to think than to genuinely believe and routinely practice. However, the more attention you put on allowing, the easier it gets to embody into your life.

 

15 affirmations that will immediately change your mindset

affirmation

We are an embodiment of our thoughts. Whilst external factors do have influence over what we think, how we construe those external factors, is the most important part of our thought process. I’ve written extensively on how failure has driven many to success, well, affirmations premise on the same principle – we can’t control what happens in our life but we can control our reaction to those circumstances, it’s all down to our thinking. Life truly stems from our thoughts – we are what we think and affirmations help us to craft the life we want.

Why affirmations offer so much value

Affirmations help to purify and clarify our thoughts so that we stay aligned with our internal values. Affirmations are very powerful and actually restructure the dynamic of our brains because they raise the level of positive hormones in our brain and create “positive thought” neurons (http://www.arlenetaylor.org/brain-care/953-affirmation). This process creates, new, positive thinking channels allowing us to permanently change the way in which we think, for the better.  The word affirmation comes from the Latin affirmare, originally meaning “to make steady, strengthen.

Why we should practice self-affirmation

Affirmations strengthen us by helping us to believe in the potential of an action we desire to manifest. By saying our dreams and aspirations aloud in our heads, we instantly feel empowered and reassured by our own words. This is because we actively discount other (conscious or unconscious) negative thoughts or doubts we have attached to our goals and we finally allow ourselves to truly believe our dreams can and will become a reality. Affirmations are proven methods of self-improvement, not only do they re-wire our brain, as discussed,  but they play a crucial role in crafting our future. Thinking positively and ultimately believing in yourself opens you to a world of opportunities, one that could easily be closed, with a more negative mindset.

15 of the most impactful affirmations

So, on days when you feel clouded or bogged down because things may not be going your way, here are the most impactful thought affirmations to help you instantly change your mindset, for the long-term;

1) I am superior to negative thoughts and ill-intentioned actions

2) My ability to conquer my challenges is limitless; my potential to succeed is infinite

3) I acknowledge my own self-worth; I have no need for external validation

4) I am confident and I can handle any obstacle thrown in front of me

5) I am calm, peaceful and want the best for everyone around me

6) I am right where I am meant to be in my life, I trust in my path

7) I am intelligent and capable of accomplishing anything I desire

8) My positive attitude, confidence and hard work naturally brings me to new opportunities

9) I am grateful for everything I have in my life

10) I always make other people feel important when I am around them

11) I accept people for who they are and believe they are doing their best

12) I attract success easily into my life

13) My thoughts are filled with positivity and my life is plentiful with prosperity

14) Though these times are difficult, they are only a short phase of life

15) Today, I wake up with strength in my heart and clarity in my mind

For more about affirmations and how they can benefit your life read this comprehensive blog here for affirmations for every area of life read here 

 

Habits of highly engaging communicators

engaging

When a conversation feels like a world of opportunity, instead of a burden, you’re likely speaking to a highly engaging communicator. You could listen to them for hours. The conversation is rewarding and you feel excited the entire time. Why can’t all conversations be like this? Well, they can be for you, if you pay attention to the habits of highly engaging communicators and inject them into your own conversations.

1. They go beyond small talk

They have a twinkle in their eye when you speak to them and you can just tell they are willing to take the conversation to a different place. They go a little deeper than the surface, how deep typically depending on the recipient. The most important point here is that engaging speakers, are not afraid to take conversations outside of the norm and that is what makes them so captivating.

2. They have energy

This is a mix between animation and charisma. It’s often difficult to articulate but when you speak with them you feel energized. They give you ideas, inspiration and will take your mind to new places. They are not overboard, or obnoxious but their gesticulations, make you excited and draw you into their words until you lose track of time.

3. They make it personal

They are not afraid of taking you into their personal life. They don’t play poker, they play honesty with a dash of vulnerability and this makes them incredibly engaging. We are far more likely to relate to people when they share personal stories. We are also more likely to remember these anecdotes because during the story we relate it back to ourselves. It’s an excellent method for leaving a footprint in the mind of your audience.

4. They illustrate why you should care

They don’t just spew their story and expect you to like it, they make a point of illustrating why they are telling you this particular story. They deliver everything with meaning. They give you context and ensure to explain what the point meant for them and what it can mean for you.

5. They ask questions

Conversations are not a one-way street and engaging communicators know this very well. They won’t speak for too long without asking for input from their audience. They don’t want to monopolize the conversation, so they make sure to ask questions. Conversations should be a win/win for all those involved, not a one-man show.

6. They tell stories

The most engaging communicators are also wonderful storytellers. Stories are not only entertaining but they also help to bring context and detail to descriptions that could otherwise feel intangible. They create 3D conversations. You start to attach images to the words you hear and even take yourself into the story. I have written extensively on the value of storytelling here and how to include it in your own communications.

7. They make eye contact

Eye contact builds fire. When someone stares into your eyes, you become more present. It’s no wonder that the most engaging communicators are well versed in the art of eye contact. Not too much, otherwise it’s intrusive but just the right amount of eye contact to make their recipient(s) feel engaged and almost, special. Eye contact demonstrates that the speaker is devoting their full attention to the conversation and usually, they can expect the same in return.

The two types of self awareness and why leaders need both

self-awareness

Self-awareness is the not so new leadership buzzword. Science suggests that when we are more self-aware we are more confident, innovative and empathetic, it even enhances our communication and decision-making abilities. All of these aforementioned qualities are the hallmarks of a good leader. Those with enhanced self-awareness are more effective leaders, fact. Bold statement but it’s reflective of decades of leadership research. So, how can you enhance your self-awareness? The first step is to understand the concept of self-awareness.

Self-awareness

There are two types of self-awareness. Whilst the definition of self-awareness is not set in stone, all schools of thought identify its internal and external characteristics. Self-awareness is the clarity in which we see ourselves “internal” and also our ability to perceive how others view us “external”.

It’s easy to assume that being high on one type of self-awareness would mean you are high on the other but, this is not the case. Research suggests that leaders tend to focus on internal self-awareness and this could be their biggest downfall. Leaders who practice external self-awareness and see themselves as their employees do have a better relationship with them, feel more satisfied with them, and typically execute more effective leadership over them.

Leaders must therefore actively work on both elements of self-awareness – seeing themselves clearly and getting feedback to understand how others see them.

The self-awareness traps

To ensure you don’t inhibit your self-awareness development here are some common traps, leaders have been shown to fall into;

1. Over-confidence

An interesting statistic shows that more-experienced managers are worse at assessing their self-awareness abilities in comparison to less experienced managers. This is the over-confidence trap that many leaders fall into. Believing you know everything closes your mind to new knowledge and increases your chance of mistakes. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap, regardless of your level of experience you can always learn more and be better.

2. Introspection is not the path to self-awareness

Contrary to popular belief, people who practice introspection – the examination of our own thoughts and feelings – are actually less self-aware than others and even report worse overall job satisfaction and well-being. Why? Research shows that we don’t have access to many of the unconscious thoughts, feelings and internal influencers we seek to find through introspection. So, much of the information surrounding self-awareness is trapped outside of our conscious and if we can’t find the answers we may invent answers that feel true but are often wrong – leading to false conclusions.

How to increase self-awareness

In her new book, Insight, organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich reveals her analysis of people that have drastically increased their self-awareness.

In a series of surveys, Eurich found that 95% of people think they’re self-aware, but only 10-15% truly are.

Eurich, thankfully for us, states to become more self-aware there only two points to address, each focusing on internal and external awareness;

1. Building internal self-awareness 

Eurich cautions against writing lengthy journal entries, these can force you to go deeper than required and attach meaning where you don’t have the answers. Instead, Eurich suggests a more practical approach of looking for themes and patterns in your work. Try to replace the “Why?” of introspection with the “What” of practicality. For example, at the end of every day, Eurich recommends asking yourself, “What went well today? What did I learn that I might do differently? Whose perspective can I get if I’m having a particular challenge?”

2. Building external self-awareness 

Eurich suggests finding a “loving critic” at work. Asking all your colleagues for feedback is overwhelming. Instead, find one person who wants you to succeed and is also unafraid to tell you the naked truth. Take them out to lunch, letting him or her know in advance what you’re looking for. To lead the conversation, Eurich suggests asking things like, “What do I do that adds the most value to our team? What’s the thing I do that’s detracting from our success?”

The self-awareness path isn’t easy but with your focus on the right things, you can be on your way incredibly effective leadership and higher overall work/life satisfaction.

 

If you are interested in finding out where you are on the self-awareness scale an incredibly useful test by Harvard Business Review can be found here.

What could your career look like without fear?

fear

Whilst typically understood as a negative emotion, fear has a purpose. It penetrates our thoughts for a reason and the more we ignore it, the more we are at risk of suffering from its undesired consequences.

Fear has become a great method of influence for many areas of society. We are continually faced with “fear ultimatums”. Politicians incite fear to win votes, governments use fear to keep society in check and parents use fear to discipline their children. Fear plays a big role in our lives.

In a career context, because we are so used to co-existing with fear we forget to monitor it. Fear-driven thoughts can sabotage our careers if left unchecked. This is because fear can alter our perceptions and reduce our desire to chase opportunities because we mistake them as “threats”- when in reality we are just scared.

Imagine what your career would look like without fear? Who could you be?  In order to break down your fear barriers, you must understand your particular fears and triggers.

Breakdown of common fears

Fear of success

Did you know that fear of success is just as common as fear of failure? Many of us have been conditioned to believe that success exists with risks such as disappointment, financial loss. competition or envy.These terms create a mental picture that success comes with negative baggage. Fear of success can lead you to unconsciously sabotage your goals. This type of fear is harder to identify than the fear of failure, mainly because it is less understood. Success is unknown territory, you might feel like you’re on a stage but you don’t know the script and that is scary. But when you really boil down your fears – fear of embarrassment, disappointment or even competition, is it really so scary? What’s the worst that can happen? Is it better to stay safe in your comfort zone, never making anything of yourself? Only you know the answer.

Fear of Failure 

This is the most commonly understood fear which inhibits the success of many. The fear of failing is often driven by perfectionism. A need to always have a perception of intelligence, control or beauty. The need to never come across as a human. The truth is that the energy spent worrying about what others think, is almost always a waste of our time. This fear prevents you from learning important lessons from mistakes, lessons that created our leaders of today. You can’t pay for this type of personal and professional growth – it’s invaluable – but your fear of failure can prevent you from paying attention. You can box yourself into being average if you decide your failure is a sign of incompetence. How you choose to react to failure will make or break your career. It can either be a lesson or a barrier, the outcome is your choice.

How to break away from fear in your career

  1. Identify every fear you have when you vision your ultimate success. Name each fear, for example, Nelson or Wilfred. Make your fears less intimidating, befriend them. Use their names to identify them when they show up, “Nelson’s back!” This will help you to consciously separate your fears from your mind when it matters most.
  2. Identify your triggers. Really dig deep and find out why you have these fears. Are you lacking in confidence? Did someone talk down to you and you let their words become your reality? Only when you face your fears, can you truly be free from them?

For more advice about how to break away from your career fears, read this useful blog @Forbes

ABOUT US

PCA Law (the Personal Communications Academy For Lawyers) are the legal sector’s specialist providers of conversation-based experiential training products

We are the only Personal Communication Consultancy in the world to work exclusively with lawyers...

CONTACT US

We are happy to come in to talk with you at your offices, wherever you’re based, so please contact us at: