How The Professionals Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety

Public speaking is a common anxiety. However, the more you publicly speak, the less anxious you become, right? Wrong. Even, if you’re a daily public speaker, there will always be an occasion when you feel anxious. This occasion is typically before a “high pressure public speaking window” for example, pitching to new clients, closing a huge deal or before an interview. These high pressure scenarios rely heavily on our performance which in turn increases our anxiety, it’s a vicious cycle. Here are 5 ways to eradicate the pre-nerves, allowing you to perform your best in a high pressure public speaking window.

  1. Mindset; it’s not you, it’s them

The fact is, people don’t remember many of the words you say, but do remember how you make them feel. Do you remember all of the words to your favorite performance at the theatre? Probably not, but you will remember how performance moved you in some way. If you concentrate more on making the audience feel moved or engaged, then you have little or no time to worry about how you are coming across.

  1. Power pose

This is a scientifically proven method to decrease your cortisol (stress hormone) and increase your testosterone (power/confidence hormone) directly before a high pressure public speaking window. By simply power posing (as shown in above picture) preferably  in the mirror, for 2 minutes, before your performance, you can directly impact your chance of success by manipulating your hormones. Read here for more information on power posing.

  1. Have a clear objective

In short, start with the end in mind. Carefully plan your message and practice exactly how you want it to come across. How do you want your audience to feel by the end of your presentation? Avoid PowerPoint and data dumps. Record yourself on your phone, then pick one thing you need to change and do it again. Continue to record yourself until you feel satisfied with your performance.

  1. Validate yourself

Chances are you’ve been asked to speak about a particular topic because you know something the audience doesn’t. Remember this before your performance.

  1. Picture yourself receiving a standing ovation.

Positive thinking is crucial before a performance. Positive thoughts create positive actions. It releases feel good hormones into your blood stream which makes you happy and more relaxed during your performance.

 

 

 

How Your Business Purpose Affects Your Bottom Line

Ever wonder why some businesses succeed whilst other similar businesses don’t just succeed, they explode? For example Dell vs Apple. They both started around the same time. They both sell similar products. However, it can be agreed that Apple have stomped all over Dell when it comes to bottom line and brand loyalty. I’ve not heard of any hardy Dell fans waiting outside of a Dell store, for the release of a new product. However, jump back to circa ’16 and people are being paid £2,568 a week to stand in a queue, so someone else can be first to get their hands on a new iPhone 7! What is it that Apple are doing differently? Why are Apple’s customers so (obsessed) loyal? I’ll give you a hint. The formula to Apple’s success has nothing to do with their products.

The Happiness Model

Apple and several other dominant market leaders all have one thing in common. They all have the same business model. Instead of being profit driven corporates they are purpose driven corporates. Their business model, A.K.A “The Happiness Model”, looks something like this; Purpose = (engaged team + customer loyalty) = Profits.

The Happiness Model Breakdown

The Happiness Model, is about communicating your values, from the very beginning by clearly stating why you do, what you do, i.e your purpose. So, cut any commercial jargon and explain, from a deeply human level, why you are adding your business to the world. For example, Apple clearly communicated, from the beginning, that they wanted to make easy to use tech in a world of overwhelmingly fast tech advances. The world resonated with Apple’s human purpose. Whereas Dell focused on commercial points such as, “Here is our shiny new product”, which connected less with their audience. As all good marketers understand, storytelling is the key to audience engagement and powerful branding.

How the Happiness Model works.

As the Happiness Model formula “Purpose = (engaged team + customer loyalty) = Profits” suggests, the model impacts two key areas  “team” and “customers”.

Team Engagement

A study by Imperative and New York University found that: “Workers with a Purpose-Orientation are the most valuable and highest potential segment of the workforce regardless of industry or role. On every measure, Purpose-Orientated Workers have better outcomes than their peers.”

So for employers that means:

  • 20% longer expected retention
  • 50% more likely to be in leadership positions
  • 47% more likely to promote their employers
  • 64% higher levels of fulfilment in their work AND
  • Companies with happy employees outperform the competition by 20%

Customer Loyalty

By sharing your story for starting your businesses you are encouraging your customers to connect with you and your values. Maybe your frustrations are the same as your customers. Maybe your story is similar to theirs. Whatever it is, it makes you human and authentic. The customer/business relationship is about trust. By candidly, laying your cards on the table, discussing your needs and hopes, you build trust with your customers at an early stage. Sometimes even before they decide they want your product/service. As Simon Sinek famously stated in his book “Start with Why“, people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.

Image by Raw Pixel on Shutterstock.

 

 

Why Following Your Passion is Misleading Advice

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Jump on Your Pink Unicorn and Follow Your Passion

The words “follow your passion”, typically uttered with the best intention, never cease to annoy or at least, confuse me. In my view, it’s a sweeping statement, littered with clumsy assumptions that a) we all have one pre-existing passion and, b) if we pursue our passion, we are guaranteed to love our job.

The “follow your passion” slogan is attractive because it’s both simple and daring. It tells us that we all have a calling, and if we discover it and have the courage to follow it, our working life will be fantastic. One bold move, that changes everything; this is a powerful storyline. But like most fairytales it’s totally unrealistic.

Following Your Passion is Unsupported

The issue of career satisfaction is infinitely more complex than the equation “following your passion = career satisifaction”. Most people, myself included, don’t have a pre-existing passion. Some of us, have multiple passions whilst others, haven’t yet found one. Where does that leave us? Working multiple jobs? Going on a spiritual journey to India to figure out why we are so passionless? Thankfully, not. There is little evidence to support that following your passion leads you to eternal career satisfaction. Instead, the evidence shows that career happiness is supported by a combination of nuanced reasons, a “happiness checklist”, if you like. Something much more detailed than people just loving their job just because it matches some innate interest.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t follow your passion. Passion is important. Without passion, we would be no different to computers but, I just don’t see a lot of evidence that passion is something, existing naturally in everyone, waiting to be discovered. Perhaps a better, less misleading way to communicate the due consideration one should give to passion in career matters is “cultivate your passion”. “Cultivate”, implies that you approach your work like a craftsman. Honing your ability, and then leveraging your value, once experienced, to shape your career toward the type of lifestyle that resonates with you. By simply changing “follow” to “cultivate” we don’t ignore the hard work and planning required to develop our passion into a sustainable career.

How To Cultivate Your Passion

The core principle of passion cultivation is that there is no special passion waiting for you to uncover. Rather, you develop passion while doing work that you find enjoyable and meaningful. The key is to get good at something that helps other people.

An example of the “cultivation” process would be the writer who wishes to pursue their writing talent and have total career independence.

  • They would probably start out as a content writer for a corporate.
  • Then after a few years of hard work, they find their writing niche (where they can add value to others).
  • They offer their services as a freelance writer (within their particular niche), in the evenings, to build a client base.
  • Once they develop a sustainable client base, through earned respect in the field they can become fully self-employed.

The writer, after putting in the long hours, has leveraged their talent to add value to others and in turn gained respect in their field. This “cultivation of passion” affords the writer the freedom to control their occupational destiny. Passion is a by-product of our hard work and commitment to our lifestyle preferences – not something innately within us, waiting to be discovered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why wellbeing will make or break your business

What is Wellbeing?

Wellbeing encompasses all the ways people think about and experience their lives. Gallup and Healthways define and measure wellbeing in terms of five elements:

  • Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
  • Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life
  • Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  • Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
  • Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

Millennials and Wellbeing

The idea that success requires toxic stress levels and a diet of caffeine is being fundamentally, challenged. Millennials have made their demands clear – they value wellbeing over finances. GoldmanSachs in their 2017 research note that for Millennials, wellbeing is a daily, active pursuit. They’re exercising more, eating smarter and smoking less than previous generations. They’re using apps to track training data, and online information to find the healthiest foods. They are more socially conscious then ever before. According to research conducted by Jamie Gutfreund, chief strategy officer for the Intelligence Group millennial work demands reflect the wellbeing mindset:

  • 88% prefer a collaborative work-culture rather than a competitive one.
  •  74% want flexible work schedules.
  • 88% want “work-life integration,” (which isn’t the same as work-life balance, since work and life now blend together inextricably.) and finally,
  • 72% would like to be their own boss. But if they do have to work for a boss, 79% of them would want that boss to serve more as a coach or mentor.

Millennials are, in essence, “venture consumers,” Gutfreund says. They’re not looking to fill a slot in a faceless company, any more than a good venture capitalist is looking to toss money at a faceless startup. They’re looking strategically at opportunities to invest in a place where they can make a difference, If you can provide a purpose, a career path and the ability for younger generations to blend work, with present life – then you will be in hot demand.

Why You Need Wellbeing Policies

The hard facts are that Millennials and their wellbeing demands will be 75% of the workforce in 2025. Generation Z are expected to be even more concerned about wellbeing than their predecessors. Its seriously time to reflect on whether Millennial demands are being met in your workplace. Remember, they are the job-hopping generation (60% say they are open to a different job opportunity) so if you aren’t meeting their requirements, your competitor will.

Wellbeing isn’t just a younger generation fad. It has been proven, time and time again, to directly impact business bottom lines. I write about this comprehensively here.

Finally, focusing on employee wellbeing, isn’t a bad thing. We’ve created “cities that never sleep”. Due to tech advancements we can work from anywhere, 24/7. Since the global crash, many of us tried to be robots. As a consequence we have severely impaired our health. I’ll leave you with a few stats from the UK:

  • Average cost of sickness absence each year = £1,500 per employee
  • UK annual cost of sickness from mental ill-health = £8.1 billion
  • Average number of days lost to stress, anxiety or depression = 24 days per case

Find out what your annual business cost of ill-health is here.

 

 

 

3 Rare Qualities of Highly Effective Bottom Line Leaders

We want leaders to be inspirational. We expect them to move (work) mountains. We need them to be strong, even superhuman (given their objectives). Some could probably get you to achieve the impossible. Some may have actually inspired you to achieve very little – except maybe plan a change of career.

However we imagine great leaders – they all tend to pivot around the person in a cape that either commands or motivates – finding strength where we thought impossible. Ultimately, whether they wear a cape, a suit or a baseball cap we expect this visionary to positively impact business bottom lines. And, in our inter-connected world and climate of cities that never sleep, we don’t expect this process to be easy – at most gruelling, at least, tiring. We expect our bottom line leaders to applaud us for staying late. To encourage us to “do what it takes” to reach objectives. Why? Because this is strong leadership. Isn’t it?

However, new research from the O.C Tanner Institute shows that what actually makes a strong leader and how we vision them, are two very different things. The strongest leaders i.e those that have the biggest impact on business bottom lines have three particular strengths that they promote amongst each employee in their team, department and organisation.

  1. Physical wellness
  2. Emotional wellness and
  3. Social wellness

Notice the trend? Wellbeing. Not the first thing that comes into our mind when we define the strengths of a good leader. The thing is, whilst burning the midnight oil, may help with a few initial deadlines, its unsustainable in the long term. Employee burnout is a real problem. The leaders that focus on employee wellbeing see long sustainable growth on business bottom lines. They are the real leaders. These leaders actually impact business bottom lines. In fact, the figures speak for themselves. When leaders practice all three wellbeing strengths, they see huge returns, that supersede any other process of leadership:

  • 157% increase in employee engagement.
  • 30% increase in output and productivity
  • 120% increase in innovation
  • the intention to stay at least two years longer with the company

These statistics are impressive. The problem is, they are very rare in modern business leaders. This is because many leaders miss the opportunity to provide the holistic package. Some may be good at offering physical wellness but not so good at emotional. Or, some leaders may be good at fostering social wellbeing (building friendships and teams) but many are missing out on emotional wellbeing. This could be because wellbeing is a relativly new concept in the corporate world. It could be because wellbeing is undervalued, or quite simply misunderstood. Whatever the reason, the facts are glaringly obvious, if leaders want to impact business bottom lines they needs to promote all three hallmarks of wellbeing amongst employees.

Image curtesy of Sunny Studio.

 

How to Gain Career Clarity and Unlock Your Intuition

In my most recent blog, The Logical Reasons To Trust Your Gut Feeling, I discussed how intuition can often beat analytical thinking, especially when we are deliberating crucial career decisions. This is because intuition comes from our subconscious mind. The part of the brain that works simultaneously (or often in competition) with our conscious thought processes, acting as a parallel intelligence system. Intuition is our internal “hard-drive”, because it collects patterns of our previous first-hand experiences.

At its simplest, an example of our intuition guiding us, would be our inclination to not, touch boiling water. Notably, if we are faced with boiling water, we don’t make a conscious decision to not touch it. We just naturally refrain from doing so. This is because we have a stored memory in our intuition (either of a parent warning us, or of us actually getting burnt) enabling us to make a decision without logically thinking about it. The whole “not-thinking” but “feeling” part of intuition scares many people. However, as shown above we make numerous decisions, on a daily basis, without applying our logical minds. So, we should learn to have a little more faith in “feeling” and trust our intuition.

Draw backs of intuition

There are two key draw backs you should be aware of when using your intuition to make career decisions.

  1. If you lack substantial experience within your particular field, it is unlikely you will own the intuitive resources, yet, to guide you. The only remedy for this is to be diligent and collect those experiences.
  2. If you lack clarity on your career goals your intuition can’t, subconsciously, make decisions inline with your goals. The good news is that this drawback can be fixed, relatively, quickly.

How to Get Career Clarity and Unlock Your intuition

If you feel totally lost about your career

See a career coach. At this stage, its probable, you can’t see, the wood for the trees. You would benefit, greatly, by having an objective (trained) mind guide you through your muddled thoughts. If you invest in other aspects of your wellbeing such as, fitness, health or hair, then investing in your career should be a no-brainer. For everyone else, trust me its well worth it.

If you feel a little lost about your career

Write a list of the pro’s and con’s of each career path. Sounds simple but it really helps. It gets you to think about what career path makes you happiest and why.

If you’re not lost about your career field but lost on how to progress

Re-focus, your work day by targeting your to-do list. Feel like there’s not enough hours in the day? Stop doing things that don’t matter. Put your to-do list on a diet. We all have extensive to-do lists. In reality, they are burdened with trivial, irrelevant tasks. To refine your to-do list you need to identify what your goals are. Write your career objectives at the top of your to-do list. Delete all of the tasks on your to-do list that do not support these objectives. Voila!

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

 

Take the leap. How to develop yourself as a leader.

According to Deliotte’s “Global Human Capital Trends 2016” report, today’s organisations face a leadership gap. 89% of executives found the need to strengthen and improve leadership within their organisations. However, 56% said their organisations are not ready to meet leadership needs, and one in five (21%) have no leadership programmes at all.

In any event, expecting your organisation to develop you as a leader is rather antithetical to the notion of leadership. What these statistics tell us, is that those who are willing to develop themselves have an opportunity. Leadership requires heavy introspection. It is the understanding (and concession) of great leaders that their work must be executed, “under the microscope”. As such, when you climb onto the leadership stage, you’re not just gambling company profits but also your hard earned credibility – which takes years to build and minutes to tear down.

If you believe you have what it takes to lead, the first step is to build yourself as a leader, from within. Here are 6 proven ways to build yourself into a successful leader;

1) Self examination

No man is free who is not master of himself” – Epictetus

Only, when you examine your life do you get to know yourself and understand your motivations, values, weaknesses and strengths. Developing these personal insights, provides the foundation of all successful leadership.

Practical methods for self examination include performing “Socratic method” conversations with yourself. This involves starting with an (assumptive) belief for example “I don’t think I’m competent enough to be a leader” and asking continual questions until a contradiction is exposed. For example, “Why did you get your current job?” thereby proving the fallacy of the original belief. Tools like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality inventory or DiSC personality assessment can give you clues about leadership qualities for your personality.

2) Nurture others

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much your care”

You need to recognise early on that your intellect is not going to be the thing that persuades people to follow you, it will be your humanity. Matt Fawcett GC of NetApp reflects that, the only reason he has been able to successfully lead, 70 people, in 15 countries and 23 cities globally, is by treating his role as that of a coach and mentor.

3) Outsource help

Truly developing yourself as a leader requires strictly objective input – sometimes we are too blind to see our own flaws. This means, allocating time and resources to attend leadership/career coaching sessions or lectures. Take a look, for example, at the work of leading coaches Joe Frederick’s and Charlie Swan – who presently train highly experienced CEO’s, it’s never too late to self improve.  Just like you invest in property or your health, you should do the same in terms of money and resources for your career development – the same logic applies – you get out what you put in.

4) Refine your leadership presence

To quote my previous blog “How great leaders inspire a loyal following”, you need to start with “Why”. Once you understand why you are leading a specific area, you will know your audience and in turn, better understand how you want to be perceived by this particular audience. Presence is a blend of poise, self-control and style which all adds to your perceived credibility. However, different audiences will be persuaded by different styles. You need to know your audience well enough to gage when you’re “barking up the wrong tree” for example, British idioms won’t go down too smoothly when pitching to your Asia team. Examine the previous leaders in your field, think about their style, how it resonates with you and how it motivated those around you. Think how you can make it better.

5) Versatility

Leaders often fail because they gravitate to others like them. This insulates them from cutting edge ideas. To really bring success you need to lead your team onto new paths. Remember innovation occurs at social crossroads. You cannot, reasonably, be aware of every innovative idea, therefore surround yourself with those with differing viewpoints and you won’t exclude yourself from opportunities.

6) Get to know your moral compass

You must know your moral “remit”. This will draw strict lines around what you will and will not do to pursue an objective. Without this you risk, amongst many things, straying so far away from your principles, when under pressure, that you resent who you have become when you step off the leadership ladder. It’s surprising what pressure does to people. Don’t become surprised by your own lack of internal strength. Lay your values on the table before you start leading and hold yourself accountable to them, every step of the way.

 

Written by Leila Mezoughi on behalf of PCA, read more of her blogs here.

Image courtesy of Yuganov Konstantin 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.

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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

 

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