The logical reasons to trust your gut feeling

We hear it constantly in leadership books and speeches for entrepreneurs “Follow your gut feeling!”, “Listen to your intuition!” yes, this type of advice is motivating and can inspire you to fist pump in the air and “chase your dreams”, but when that dose of magical motivation wears off, and you are standing at a figurative cross road, pondering the very literal consequences of your next decision, how often do you abandon your intuition and go back to your habits of second guessing your gut feeling?

In this blog, my objective is not to be inspirational but instead, I seek to justify to all the rational thinkers, why going with your gut feeling is often the best strategy.

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift” – Albert Einstein

It is my hope that after reading this blog you will start to hone in on your gift of intuition because it can and will, bring you closer to your own definition of success and who better to guide you there, than you?

The science behind trusting your gut feeling

The human brain, is the most sophisticated organ on the planet. Period. It has significantly evolved from the primitive brain of our Neanderthal ancestors (I often wonder just how much when I see men drooling over a pretty lady in the street, literally, forgetting to breath). I like to view the brain as an onion, with layers, upon layers, that have developed over time. The middle of the brain is the oldest part which I will call the “primitive brain” and the outside layer of the onion, the “prefrontal cortex”, is the newest part of the brain.

The prefrontal cortex

The prefrontal cortex, the newest addition to the brain, is essentially what makes us so sophisticated. The prefrontal cortex is often referred to as the “rational mind” and is responsible for things such as logic, critical thinking, learning and language. It is basically the part of the brain that as you are ruminating over which path to follow tells you to doubt your gut feeling because there is no place for such fluffy thinking in the business world.

The basal ganglia

The basil ganglia is directly connected to the brain stem which is the most primitive part of our brain. This part of the brain is responsible for how we survive and has been on the earth for over two hundred million years, whilst the prefrontal cortex scarcely a hundred thousand. The basal ganglia is where your feelings, emotions, memories and instincts are stored and is often called the “subconscious mind”.

According to Charles Duhigg ALL decision making takes place in our subconscious mind. In contrast, all learning takes place in our prefrontal cortex. The relationship between these parts of the brain is as follows; we learn new behaviour in our prefrontal cortex and when it becomes familiar to us, we move this behaviour from the prefrontal cortex and store it, as a habit, in the basal ganglia. We do this to free up space in our prefrontal cortex, so that we can continue to learn and take in new experiences. This explains why you don’t have to actively think about how to walk, drive or even type.

The power of gut instinct guidance

In essence, your basal ganglia or “subconscious mind” is an archive of all your past experiences and learned skills, which then developed into habits. I like to view it as an internal regulator which keeps your thinking and acting in a manner consistent with what you have said or done in the past – holding you accountable to your values. So, the beauty of your gut feeling and why it is so powerful, is that when you’re making a decision that feels right, more often than not, it is based on sound logic and stored previous experience. You just don’t realise this at the time.

Have you ever had a bad feeling about a person? You can’t rationalise why but you just feel something is wrong. Chances are you were right about the person. How is this so? Well, gut feelings are products of past experiences and it’s highly probable that something said, or done by this person triggered a red flag for you, based on a prior social lesson you learnt, but since forgot.

Gut feelings stem from your past, first-hand, experiences – they are not mere fluffy feelings. They are why people know within three of four seconds if they like a song, know within five seconds of walking into a shop whether they will buy something or not (even though they may drag you back to the shop some three times before committing to the purchase…mother!!) and know within 30 seconds of meeting someone new if they are attracted to them or not.

Trusting in your gut instinct is trusting in you..

All of your accumulated knowledge, from the books you have read, places you experienced, to the people you’ve met, all gave you a vision (or at least clarity) about what you want and influenced you to be where you are today.

Business owners – you, and only you, had the unique collection of past experiences and present knowledge encouraging you to take the leap and transform your vision into a business – I’m willing to bet you did this because it felt right, at the time. Based on this, it logically follows, that you and only you, will continue to have a good sense about what your business needs to fulfil your vision. Trust that your intuition, an embodiment of your experiences, feelings and knowledge, is guiding you in the right direction. And if it doesn’t feel right, listen to that feeling.

So, the next time you need to make a decision and feel something driving you in one direction over another, don’t ignore it. Your primitive brain may not be as articulate as your prefrontal cortex but it is older, wiser and infinitely more understanding of who you are as a person, based on your past experiences and in my view, worth taking the time to listen to.

I will leave you with this quote;

You will never be able to follow your own inner voice until you clear up the doubts in your mind.” – Roy T Bennett

Whilst gut feelings are crucial, it is important to recognise that without a clear vision they won’t be accurate. In my next blog I will be explaining how you can bring clarity to your business or career vision..

For more information on this topic read Brian Foley’s useful article on gut instinct here. Image curtesy of Pathdoc on Shutterstock

 

Effortless success: Wu Wei the central principle of ancient Chinese philosophy

Loose control; Wu Wei

Most of us like to feel that we’re in control. We like to feel that we take a proactive approach to our goals because it feels better than doing nothing. However, as paradoxical as it sounds sometimes doing nothing is doing something. Early Chinese thinkers from the Taoist school of thought emphasised, effortless action “Wu Wei”, founded on the belief that our best performance is unleashed when we act without deliberation. For example, you can say what you like to make people trust you but if you’re not sincere, people can tell. Sincerity is an effortless action.

Wu Wei and Western conflicts

Early Taoist thinkers focused on how to encourage or trigger effortless action, (“Wu Wei”) as this was considered to be the embodiment of knowledge. Taoists  therefore, took a holistic view of knowledge – emotion and rationale were not mutually exclusive as acting without deliberation, in accordance with your goals, requires heavy reliance on your intuition. However, Western philosophers significantly favoured logical thought and focused on grasping a set of abstract principles.

Many commentators believe this early philosophic divide between Asian and Western thinkers plays a large role in how we define success today. In the West we are taught that the best way to achieve our goals is to think more rigorously and strive harder. However, in key areas of life this is untenable advice. Some of the most elusive objects of our incessant hard work – happiness, attractiveness, sincerity, charisma – are best pursued indirectly and, in fact, are strikingly resistant to conscious pursuit.

Achieving Wu Wei

More recently, the business world has recognised the significant influence of  “effortless action”-  things such as sincerity, charisma or spontaneity are often used to describe leaders. Wu Wei attempts to hone in and cultivate how one can achieve spontaneous flares of success, or put in another way “body thinking”.

Have you ever felt so focused on a task, that time falls into your peripheral and you become incredibly productive? This state of “flow”, which in the sports world is called being in “The Zone”, is in essence “Wu Wei”. It is a semi-automated state and the moment we think about what we are doing it seems to get compromised.

How to achieve Wu Wei

Practice focus skills

  1. Focus with intensity on your task, dive totally into it
  2. Do it for a reasonable period of time, 30 minutes, is recommended.
  3. Avoid any distractions by creating the necessary environment.

Clear your mind

  • With too much on your mind natural action is very difficult. Often it helps to just take a break or change your environment.

Conscious awareness

  • Self-awareness is key to achieving Wu Wei – you have to understand your goals to be able to naturally flow into them! Here mindfulness or meditation is recommended.

Image courtesy of Markus Mainka, found on Shutterstock

How the low-information diet can triple your productivity in 24 hours.

Put a stop to unhealthy growth

Everyday we dream about our goals. We chase growth in line with our ambitions – a  promotion or a 10% increase in clients per month. We readily take on more work but rarely think about the consequences of doing so, until circumstances such as, overwhelming workloads, force us to. The issue is, we are so focused on obtaining growth that we pay little attention to the scalability of our present behaviours and processes. Can we respond to 1000 emails as easily as 100? No. How long until a permanent back log of unanswered and unread emails becomes our norm? Very quickly we go from being on top of our workload to constantly fighting to keep our head above it. It doesn’t make for a happy work or productive work life, that’s for sure.

Infobesity and unhealthy growth

For Tim Ferriss, author of four hour work week, breaking point hit him four years after becoming founder and CEO of his highflying Silicon Valley firm. After four years of clocking 7am – 9pm hours, 7 days a week and responding to 1,500 emails per week he concluded that he could no longer fight his overwhelming workload in this way. His role was increasingly growing and his processes and routines were 100% unscalable, in fact they were barely making a dent in his work. His behaviours needed to change because he physically couldn’t log anymore hours. In light of the increase in his demand but hindered ability to supply Ferriss conducted an experiment. For the past four years Ferriss had chained himself to his desk, increased his hours but still felt he was drowning in work this time he decided to do the complete opposite.

The low-information diet

Ferriss decided to leave his office and work remotely from 20 countries all over the world. His one golden rule was that he could only check e-mail once a week, for 15 months. What happened? In short by embracing what he calls the “low-information diet” Ferriss defied the logic of excessive working cultures. His business did not fail, it thrived. In the first month alone, Ferriss saw an increase in his profits by 30%.

Why?

During his time away, Ferriss identified the biggest, and most time consuming pitfalls of the modern worker;

1. We are information gluttons

The biggest downfall of individuals (and firms) is not clearly defining objectives. If you don’t define your goals clearly, everything seems important, and you attempt to assimilate all of the information thrown your way on a daily basis. Not only is this incredibly exhausting but it’s entirely inefficient, especially if a large portion of this information is irrelevant to your critical goals.

2. We are innate people pleasers

Trying to make everyone happy – besides being impossible – is the surest way to make yourself miserable. You should not be sacrificing your quality of work for the sake of quantity, especially if you want to obtain long-term clients. Turning away work may initially not be a popular decision but you will be far more unpopular, in the long run, if you produce low quality work – even just once!

Steps to achieve the low-information diet

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”.

In a bid to stop wasting time on things that didn’t pertain to his overall goals Ferriss applied the following 3 steps to his work. In doing so he managed to increase his efficiency by 30%, increase his companies bottom line and achieve a healthy work-life-balance.

If you constantly feel overwhelmed by a mountain of increasing work, then arguably it’s time to change your processes too.

Step 1 Decrease frequency

In 2005, King’s College, London conducted a study to explore the differentiation in IQ between one group of candidates high on marijuana and another group distracted by e-mail and ringing phones. By an average of 6 points the e-mailers did worse than the stoners.

Why? Interruptions cause a psychological uprooting to focus. Once interrupted it takes the brain up to 45 minutes to regain concentration and resume the original task. More than a quarter of each 9-5 period (28% or 134.4 minutes) is consumed by such interruptions, and 40% of people interrupted go on to a new task without finishing the task that was interrupted. This is how we end up with 20 windows open on our computers and nothing completed at 5pm.

Multi-tasking is a fool’s plan. It never worked and never will. It not only breeds inefficiency but also puts you at certain risk of cognitive impairments.

Excellent ways to decrease frequency are;

  1. Batching

Batching is scheduling the completion of time-consuming but necessary tasks at set times, as infrequently as possible. This can be done with everything from e-mails – bills. For example, Ferriss recommends only checking your email twice per day. Once at 12 noon, and again at 4pm. Obviously, this is subject to your career and it’s demands but do remember that responding to emails throughout the working day is wasteful of your time. You become distracted, it takes you longer to complete tasks that you are distracted from (in some cases you leave them incomplete) and it is inevitable you will be interrupted by a significantly less important email than the present task you are attempting to action.

Step 2 – Decrease volume

You do not need to respond to every e-mail. In line with the belief that we people please at our own expense Ferriss recommends the following strategic choices for a more efficient mailbox

1. Set expectations so you don’t have to respond to non question emails (or just don’t respond).

Ferriss recommends adding an explanatory sentence to your auto responder that reads “if your email doesn’t contain a question that requires a response, please don’t be offended if I don’t reply with an e-mail. This is to keep back-and-forth a minimum for both of us! Please feel free to call my phone if you need a confirmation or anything else.

2. If you ask a question, include “if then” instructions to prevent back-and-forth.

For example, “Dear John, have the presentation papers arrived? If so please give them to… if not please contact Sally on 555-555.” This maximises efficiency and eliminates most follow up questions. Get into the habit of considering what “if..then” can be used in any email where you ask a question.

Step 3 – Increase speed

With the use of science, you can increase your reading speed by at least 200%. Reading isn’t a linear process but a series of jumps (saccades) and independent snapshots (fixations). Reading speed increases, to the extent, that you reduce the number and duration of fixations, per line. That is the science of speed reading in once sentence. Below is a explanatory diagram from Ferriss.

Speed reading explained for the low information diet

 

We are subjected to an overwhelming and increasing amount of daily distractions. Learn to recognise and fight the information impulse. Most of the interruptions stop us from progressing more important tasks. Having a set of rules and routines to follow helps keep you away from distractions. This is what the low-information diet seeks to achieve. Focus on being productive rather than busy – your life will change for the better.

Whilst some of Ferriss’ suggestions may seem too wild for your workplace. It should be remembered that without change everything remains the same… if you’re suffering from increasing workloads and decreasing hours, than it’s certainly time to change your processes.

Check out more stuff from Tim Ferriss here

 

Emotional intelligence (“EQ”) and your ability to rule the workplace

An abstract picture depicting EQ

Numerous studies over the past decade have shown the significant connection between emotional intelligence (“EQ”) and high performance. In the first known study of EQ and work performance the US Air Force tested potential recruits for EQ abities – only hiring those with the highest degrees of EQ. Within the first year they reported a 92% cut to their financial loses due to higher employee performance and increased retention. A consensus of findings in the studies accumulated over the past years confirm that the most powerful EQ contributors to performance are:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Awareness of other’s feelings
  3. The ability to manage emotions
  4. The ability to be realistic and put things in perspective
  5. The ability to have a positive disposition and outlook on life

As you can see, people with high levels of emotional intelligence control their emotions rather than allowing their emotions to control them. A study by TalentSmart found that 90% of the best performing employees posses the ability to stay calm under pressure. If you combine all of the most powerful EQ factors you have one incredibly smooth individual who greets stressful situations with unshakable equanimity. No wonder individuals with high degrees of EQ are most likely to be in leadership roles.

The ability to manage your emotions is no easy task but with practice it leads to an increase in your EQ, performance and career sucess. When clients were surveyed in relation to the most desired skills of trusted business advisors emotional intelligence significantly trumped technical knowledge.

Here are four tips, which if practised regularly will increase your overall EQ and in turn promote career success

1)Keep things in perspective

We cannot control everything that happens to us but we can control how we respond to adverse situations. The best way to respond to a stressful circumstance is to ask yourself “what is the worst case scenario as a result of this situation?” This allows you to keep perspective and not loose yourself in a whirlwind of stress. More often than not the worst case will not be loss of life or limb and you will be able to respond in a way that can help to resolve your situation, instead of making an impulsive over reaction. By getting into the habit of instantly asking yourself the worst case scenario question when faced with stress you can avoid an inefficient meltdown.

2) Remain positive

The key to a positive outlook is having a positive mindset. A positive mindset is half the battle to finding a solution to a stressful situation. Instead of giving up when faced with a potential hurdle think “where there is a will – there is a way”. Another great reason to remain positive is because positivity is contagious! Instead of mourning with the rest of the team due to a workplace disaster, be the positive vibe that brings everyone up. Remaining positive in the eye of the storm is a key leadership skill and something that encourages others to rely on you.

3) Get off grid

Working 24/7 damages your body and brain. It’s just not possible to be productive when you never have a break. Research proves that productivity diminishes once you hit the 50 hour work week – so just don’t do it to yourself.

In today’s connected world it’s virtually impossible (no pun intended) to completely disappear –  so to really get off grid, you need to switch off your phone and computer. Doing this for a specific timeframe every day can have wondrous results for your work and mental health. Just try for one hour a day, for one week to feel the difference. Control technology rather than allowing technology to control you.

4)Breath

The importance of breathing properly is undervalued. The best way to stay calm is to practice breathing on a daily basis. When we breath properly it promotes oxygen to the brain, allowing us to think with clarity. By simply breathing properly in stressful situations we trick our bodies into thinking we are relaxed – this then triggers our bodies natural relaxation responses, calming our mind, allowing us to asses the situation objectivly instead of through foggy stress tinted glasses. It may seem simple but you would be surprised how tense we become in stressful situations and forgetting to breath properly is rife amongst stress heads.

5)Mindfullness

Just 6 seconds of mindfulness can make you more effective. The practice of mindfulness is now prescribed by the NHS to resolve stress related health issues which is ubiquitous amongst work professionals. Mindfulness focuses on developing a depth of self knowledge, the objective being self-mastery. When you can clearly and objectively see how you are triggered you can begin to effeictivley deploy emotional and mental strategies to skilfully navigate problem situations such as feelings of stress or anxiety.

This blog used the helpful insight of Dr Patty Ann Tubin, her blog on how to increase your EQ, published here.

Image curtesy of agsandrew published on Shutterstock.

 

 

3 proven ways to overcome self-doubt for good

 

cutting paper in half that says I can't and removing self-doubt

Negative thinking, especially self-doubt consumes the very best of us. Some of the most successful people still consider themselves to be frauds, regardless of how well they are doing and how many awards they win. This type of negative thinking stems from deep insecurity and unless fixed can haunt people for life, stopping them from enjoying their own success. There’s no shortage of self-help guru’s who swear that repeating positive phrases to yourself can change your life, encouraging that if you recite to yourself “I am successful”, your self-doubt will wash away. Unsurprisingly, positive affirmations won’t remedy all our deep seeded insecurity.

The problem with positive affirmations, explains Melody Wilding expert in Human Behaviour, is that they operate at surface level of conscious thinking and do nothing to contend with the subconscious mind where limiting belief really lives. So whilst it’s important to recognise your tendency to engage in self-doubt thoughts, whitewashing your insecurities with positive thinking is not the remedy you need. In fact, new research has found that while repeating positive self statements may benefit people with a high self-regard, it can be detrimental to those lacking confidence. Ironically those with a high self-regard would not be engaging in the type of self-doubt that plague so many of us, so positive affirmations seem to serve a very limited purpose all together.

How to tackle the problem and mentally empower ourselves away form self-doubt?

Here are some very useful tips provided by Wilding to tackle your negative thoughts at their root instead of using a surface cleanser.

1.Dig yourself out from the “Negative Nancy” or “Negative Nigel” thoughts.

If you’re reading this article the content is resonating with you and perhaps you realise your tendency to beat yourself up. Start with articulating the negative thoughts weighing you down. Instead of beating yourself up for procrastinating, forgive yourself for it. You will be surprised to learn how relieving it is to stop feeling angry at yourself. Wilding advises that if you spend less time beating yourself up for procrastination you can re-direct this energy into focusing on how to action a task to avoid your previous mistake.

2.Interrogative self-talk

Research shows that asking ourselves questions rather than issuing commands is a much more effective way to create long lasting change. Wilding explains that it’s as simple as tweaking the way you speak to yourself. When you catch your inner self shouting commands, undeniably making yourself more stressed than necessary think: how can I turn this statement into a question? Some examples are:

  • When have I done this before?
  • What if (insert worst case scenario) happens?
  • How can I?

This type of self-questioning charges up the problem-solving areas of the brain. You start to meet negative self-doubt thoughts with curiosity instead of fear.

3. Focus on progress not perfection

Wilding advises that to effectively re-frame your thinking, consider who you are becoming and focus on your progress. Play the long game. You might want to re-word your self talk to sound more like “I am a work in progress”, “look how far I come each day and that’s ok”. This points you in the direction of positive growth and is both realistic and achievable. It helps to negate the negative can’t do/ self-doubt attitude that can overcome many of us.

If you’re prone to negative talk, its extremely important to stop this kind of “self-harm”. If you don’t treat yourself kindly with the respect you deserve what can you expect from others? We all deserve to enjoy the success we have worked so hard for without any thoughts taking that away from us.

This blog was written with the help of Melody Wilding’s story for Forbes; Forget Positive Thinking: This is How to Actually Change Negative Thoughts For Success.

If you are interested in reading more about this type of content, I would highly recommend following Melody Wilding’s stories here.

Image curtesy of Marie Maerz sourced from Shutterstock

Age is just a number: study shows you’re only as old as you feel

a young women acting younger than her age

You are as old as you feel

The way you view your age has a direct impact on your physical health. In a study conducted by the University of Exeter, 29 people between the ages of 66 and 98, were asked about their self-perceptions of getting older.

The study asked the participants to place themselves in one of two categories “old and frail” or “strong and healthy”.  Individuals aligning with the typically negative labels of, “old and frail” were far less likely to  participate in social activities and exercise in comparison to their more positive counterparts who – living up to their “strong and healthy” self-perceptions, were far more physically and socially active.

Researchers found that self-perceptions of ageing became a self fulfilling prophecy – negative beliefs regarding the ageing process lead subjects to live a reduced quality of life.

Age perceptions – The long term consequences

A positive mindset as we age can help us to live longer. Older individuals, identifying with positive self-perceptions of ageing, during middle age, lived a whopping 7.5 years longer than those with negative self-perceptions of ageing.

In addition, researchers have also found a strong connection between negative views on ageing and one’s likelihood of developing chronic diseases. In particular researchers found that, people with negative age perceptions, earlier on in life were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and at the very least depression and anxiety. To bolster this finding, another study revealed that older individuals with positive perceptions about age, were 44% more likely to recover from severe disability than those with negative age perceptions. According to the study positive perceptions regarding ageing promote recovery by:

  • Increasing healthy behaviours
  • Limiting cardiovascular response to stress
  • Enhancing self-ability
  • Improving physical balance
  • The mind-body connection has proved to be invaluable in research as it maintains a sense of purpose in our lives as we age

Believing that your life has meaning is linked to lower risk of several serious health problems including stroke, cognitive decline, dementia, physical disability and premature death.

If you take one piece of advice away from this blog – ensure you live your life to the full, regardless of the age on your birth certificate – Don’t let your mind give up before your body.

To read more on this topic, click here and read the useful blog written by Paul Ebeling.

6 scientific methods to stop procrastinating

One of the great challenges of our age, in which the tools of our productivity are also the tools of our leisure, is to figure out how to make more useful those moments of procrastination when we’re idling in front of our computer screens.

Finally, the scientists investigated techniques to combat our 21st century idle inclinations. Thanks owed to technology and its incessant distractions for giving us shorter attention spans than goldfish. No, really.

Below are 6 proven methods to help you reinforce the power of life without procrastination. You’re welcome.

1) Choose Your Poison

Clever drinkers never mix their spirits. Just like clever workers never mix their tasks. Overwhelming yourself with multiple responsibilities is inefficient and grey hair inducing. If you don’t believe me read this article on Why multi-tasking is worse for your IQ than Marijuana. Start by choosing one task and make a solid commitment to finish that task within the next week.

2) Start Now

Once you have selected your poison, start now. Right now. Or at the very least after this blog. Be strict with yourself. Not sticking to this rule can propel you right back into the procrastination hole you’re trying to claw out of.

3) The Power Hour

A power hour consists of removing all distractions and putting 100% effort into one dedicated task or project. This one focused hour per day can generate more results than a distracted eight hour day. Science has found that our brain goes through “peak cycles”. Therefore, it is advised that you balance this concentrated focus hour with no more than 20 minute intervals.

4) Five-Minute Miracle

This is the most efficient technique for the professional procrastinator. Simply ask yourself the question “What action can I take in five minutes today that moves me ever so slightly forward?”. Once you have identified your action, set a timer for five minutes and complete the task. Research shows that once you start a task you are much more likely to complete it. Phycologists call this the Zeigarnik effect, which stipulates that unfinished tasks are more likely to be ingrained in our memories. Therefore, what may seem like a five-minute action, is actually a deceiving memory trick that increases your chances of finishing your to-do list. Win/Win.

5) Procrastination Power Song

My personal favourite; the P.P.S. Choose a song that gets you energised, something like,“Eye of The Tiger” and pump this out at the office, whilst shadow boxing in the mirror, when you feel there is mass procrastination. Or you can follow the science backed method and once you select your song – you must listen to it (perhaps in your headphones) whenever you want to tackle a task you’ve been procrastinating. This will cause a trigger effect in your brain. Creating a habit of productivity whenever you hear your P.P.S.

6) Open a Dark Door

This is on here as a warning. It is advised that you properly test the above tips because if procrastination is still an issue for you – the final stage is to delve into why you’ve been procrastinating a task. Are you afraid of something? Are you unhappy in your job? So unless you are ready to open the doors of self analysis, I suggest you repeat tips 1-5 one more time.

I can confirm that procrastination was successfully combatted to write this blog with the help of Forbes and their useful post on procrastination tips.

Food for Thought – what to eat for optimal intellectual output

Brain Food

You are what you eat. Your brain uses 20% of all the calories you consume through food and drink, everyday. You will be shocked to learn just how quickly what you eat directly impacts your brains ability to function. A chocolate bar can cause your blood sugar to spike just 15 minutes after eating it – with cognitive impairments starting soon after. Before a presentation – would you ever consider digesting something to make you feel exhausted and decline in intellectual ability? I’m sure the answer would be no. However, people unconsciously do this to themselves every working day because they are unaware of how different foods react with their brain. Admit it: its not uncommon to find yourself exhausted and unproductive well before the working day is over – this lethargy has a lot to do with what your eating.

Why should I fuel my brain?

Brain cells require 2 x more energy than any other cells in our body. This means keeping your brain properly fuelled can be the difference between mental clarity and total mental fog. Being mindful of what you eat, not only helps you stay mentally awake during the work day, but it also protects you from future neurological dysfunction – which can be largely attributed to a super-fatty diet.

The 4 cardinal rules of the brain food diet 

Instead of overwhelming you with a huge list of brain “super food” ingredients, because in reality who is going to eat wild Atlantic salmon and walnuts everyday? I have prepared the 4 cardinal rules of brain food  – which if you apply to your daily diet – should set you on the path to ultimate brain health….You’re welcome.

1) Must. Eat. Breakfast – no if’s no but’s

If you skip breakfast, you end up with a huge spike in blood sugar and than an equally huge crash in the afternoon. However, when you eat breakfast, you are kick-starting your metabolism – i.e converting your food to energy at exactly the right time of day – this process than remains stable throughout the day – crucially preventing the, all too familiar, afternoon slump at work.

2)Avoid sugary foods 

High blood sugar temporarily impairs your memory, making it very hard to focus. The optimal amount of glucose for our brain, at any one time, is 25 grams (one banana’s worth). Anymore than this and you are risking temporary cognitive impairments. Frequent smaller meals are a great way to help you keep your glucose levels constant.

3)Avoid high saturated fats 

Foods high in saturated fats increase your chances of memory impairments – this will not only impact your immediate workday, but also increases your chance of developing a serious neurological disease in the future. Stick to foods such as lean protein, low fat dairy, whole grains and fruits and vegetables which all form part of a low-fat diet.

4)Constant hydration

Your brain needs constant fluid to function. Period. Dehydration can cause numerous symptoms including problems with focus, memory, brain fatigue and brain fog, as well as headaches, sleep issues, anger, depression and much more. So, just keep hydrated – OK?!

Nothing beats drinking pure water – your body is 60% water overall, but your brain is a huge 80% waterIt is generally recommended that adults drink 2.5 litres per day. However before you get ready to chug down your water bottle, you already receive a lot of this hydration through food. Fruits, vegetables, juice, tea and coffee all hydrate you. Yes thats right – contrary to popular belief coffee doesn’t actually dehydrate you!

Coffee addiction warning..!

Following a recent study – if you drink coffee at moderate to high volumes (around 4 – 8 ounce coffee cups with of caffeine) you must keep drinking those high levels or risk impairing brain function. In short – your brain becomes so used to working on high doses of caffine that it starts to under-perform without it! Look here for the caffeine content of your favourite drinks. It is advised that moderate – high coffee users slowly reduce their dose of coffee – otherwise they risk facing cognitive impairment consequences if they try to go “cold turkey”.

Read more about this topic on Trello’s blog, here 

 

How to organise your workspace for maximum productivity

Picture of a desk

I’m not talking about Feng Shui (although I’m an avid believer) I’m talking about science based facts that prove the layout of your workspace can either boost or hinder your productivity.

Colour

Colour dictates our mood in powerful ways. All colours influence different emotions – some colours boost productivity more then others depending on your line of work. A recent University of Texas study found that

  • White, grey and beige offices induced feelings of sadness, even depression, especially in women.
  • Green and blue (mother natures palette of choice) are the most universally productivity inducing colours. Both colours are calming – this not only increases overall wellbeing but also helps you to focus on intensive tasks for long stretches of time. Both colours also cause zero eye strain.
  • Purple helps to stimulate problem solving – however this tone is clearly under utilised in the traditional working space.
  • Orange is a social colour which encourages interaction. Perhaps not the best choice of colour for a workspace.
  • Yellow stimulates creativity and optimism. If you work in the creative industry or would like your work to focus on innovation, this could be perfect for you.
  • Red increases our heart rate, giving you a boost of energy and encourages physical activity. Your eye is instantly magnetised to red – therefore it might be distracting for desk workers but increase the productivity of physical/hands-on workers.

Temperature

A recent study found the ideal working temperature to be 25 degrees Celsius. Why is this important? Studies have found that too-cold workers made far more errors and came across as anti-social in social situations. One study in particular estimated that errors, due to cold offices, get as high as 44%!

Lighting

There is no replacement for true natural light. So unless you’re lucky enough to work from a hammock in Thailand, its likely your suffering from over-exposure to harsh artificial light. Artificial light and the “blue” light of our devices messes up your natural rhythm and leaves you drowsy and lethargic all day.

Its advisable to work in the light from the window and then just rely on an LED task lamp for reading or your desk area. If light from the window is not possible – then an LED lamp switched on in the morning and turned off in the afternoon can mimic natural light patterns.

Music

According to a recent study workers showed signs of increased happiness and efficiency whilst listening to music. The best music for maximum productivity is

  • Classical music – especially dramatic pieces with no lyrics
  • Familiar songs – so your brain doesn’t think ahead for what’s next
  • Video game soundtracks – these are specially designed to be atmospheric and not distracting to the focused gamer – Pac-Man anyone?
  • And my personal favorite recommendation – Electronica! The repetitive beat of Electronica has been shown to increase focus. Bring on the office raves!

 

Credit to Trello and their comprehsive post on workspace organisation

Increase happiness and success will follow

Happiness & Success

It’s a fact. The happier and more positive you are, the more successful you become, both personally and professionally. Positive phycologist Shawn Anchor, has become one of the worlds leading experts on the connection between happiness and success. His research has captivated the attention of many top CEO’s and here is why…

Anchor’s research revealed that happiness isn’t ancillary to success, instead happiness generates your success and even influences the success of those around you.

The happiness data

Through several studies, Anchor analysed our brains performance when we feel happy and when we feel sad. Quite simply, when the brain is happy it releases the hormone dopamine. This hormone has various effects on our brain however something special happens when we are in working conditions. Dopamine increases our ability to absorb information and adapt to challenges. Significantly Anchor’s research found a;

  • 31% increase in productivity
  • 37% increase in sales
  • 40% higher likelihood of promotion
  • 3 x increase in identifying solutions to problems

“Happiness is actually one of the greatest competitive advantages in the modern economy”, argues Anchor, this is because, he continues, entrepreneurs with a positive mindset embody the characteristics of leaders and are typically more creative, driven and personable. Furthermore, happiness in a workspace is contagious. Positive leaders can influence their colleagues to adopt a positive mindset and in turn generate increased business success.

Is happiness for everyone?

There is strong support for the argument that happiness is a choice. Many people believe that they are genetically predisposed to being happy or unhappy, whilst others believe their happiness is contingent on environmental factors. However, research shows that 90% of our happiness is determined by how we, individually, view the world with only 10% predicted by external factors.

Steps to increased happiness.

Anchor suggests three ways to start incorporating positivity into you, your life and your career. He advises  choosing only one of the ways listed below and implementing it everyday for 21 consecutive days.

  1. List three things you are grateful for every morning. By looking at the positives in your life, the brain builds new thinking channels to turn pessimists into optimists.
  2. Write down one meaningful experience. Each day reflect on the last 24 hours and jot down a meaningful experience and why. This will increase a better sense of self-awareness and encourage the brain to understand where you find happiness.
  3. Spend two minutes a day thanking someone in your support network that has helped you in some way. Anchor suggests picking a different person each day. Your brain will start to realise how much  support you have which in turn will increase your confidence and happiness.

This articles used the helpful information published by Huffpost Business, in their blog post titled, The Business Case for Being Really, Really Happy.

Find out more about Shawn Anchor here.

For help or guidance on how a career coach can change the mindset of you and your team read here.

Written by on behalf of PCA Law

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