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Harnessing your monkey mind to turbocharge your productivity

The monkey mind refers to a Buddhist concept describing the constant flitting of thoughts from ‘idea to idea’ and the distractions influencing the undisciplined mind.

There are numerous books, articles and experts these days talking about the monkey mind – how you can calm it, eliminate it or control it.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]“The human mind is like a drunken monkey… that’s been stung by a bee…” – Founder of Bikram Yoga[/quote]

Many of us are under the misconception that we need to rigidly rein in our thoughts in order to sit down and be calm, productive and focused. The truth of the matter is that in order to truly accept your mind and body, in order to work effectively, you need to work with your mind and not against it. When you’re constantly fighting yourself, trying to rein in your mind and force it to focus on something its not interested in, you’re creating a circular struggle that just feeds upon itself until you’re frustrated and demoralized (unless you’re a yogi or a monk who does this for a living ).

For the rest of us mortals, it is time to realize that in some situations, the monkey mind is not something to be stopped, chained or forced. It is something you can harness and work with in order to multiply your productivity and creativity in order to come up with your most craziest, wildest and perhaps most successful ideas ever.

Consider this scenario –  you’re sitting at your desk, bored our of your mind trying to write that 12000 word report that’s due next week. Of course, you’re going to try and procrastinate until the very last minute, then at the very last moment when you’re stressed, you sit down in a frenzy and try to write the article in 2 hours instead of twenty. Then, surprised by how easy those ideas came to you, you tell everyone about how you are more productive under pressure.

Actually, you were just tapping into the power of the monkey mind. The monkey mind jumps fast, brainstorms effectively and bounces from idea to idea like fireworks. In this state of jitters that all kinds of new, shiny, crazy and even irrational ideas come to you. Part of the process of working effectively is to catch this monkey mind and ride its wave so that when you’re done, you’ve made a huge dent in your brainstorming work.

Once your monkey mind blurts everything out on to the page – that’s just your starting point. From there, you have something substantial to work with. Think of yourself as a sculptor. First, you start out with a rough lump or ball of clay. With every pass you elongate, shape and define the lump of clay until you’re satisfied that it resembles a human figure, a portrait, a landscape, a pot. It may or may not be an exact replica of the image you held in your mind, but that is not the point. The point is that everything just did not just happen on the first go, did it?

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The next time your mind is flitting form place to place while you’re working, just put your serious task aside and go on a flight of fancy.

1. Sit down with a blank sheet of paper in front of you.
2. Use a pen, pencil, or if you like, go all out and use colours, crayons, oil pastels, anything that you feel like to create whatever comes to mind for you.
3. If you want to doodle, doodle. If you feel like sketching or drawing cartoons, give in. If you want to draw hearts all over and write in-between, do that instead. Indulge in whatever journey your monkey mind takes you along. Maybe you will get new interesting ideas about the problem or situation you’re dealing with, maybe these ideas will be completely irrelevant. Don’t try to drive the action. Just see where your mind leads you.
4. Keep up the creative pursuits until the bored and restless feeling passes. When you’re done, assess what you’ve done. Note your thoughts to see if you’re in a better mental space to go back to the task you’re trying to finish. You may be surprised at how quickly you calm down and focus once you give in to your creative and disorganized urges.You may find that you start to settle down into a rhythm. Chances are, once you settle down into this new rhythm, the work you were initially setting out to accomplish will come to you in a calm and inviting manner.

The point of this exercise is for you to work with, not against your monkey mind. The mind can be your strongest ally or your most formidable enemy. The key to living mindfully and working productively is not to fight your mind into submission, but to work with the energy of your mind in order to create something worthwhile. Think of your monkey mind as an adventurous friend that edges you towards dangerous and successful new ideas. You just need to latch on to it and go for the ride that it offers you.   [/message_box]

 

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9 Powerful Tools To Help You Get Things Done Faster

I’ve always been a list person. First pen and paper, then on electronic gadgets. I even asked my parents to buy me a PDA at the age of 14 so I could make better to do lists. Anyway, as you can imagine I’m a nerd for productivity and GTD apps. Here is a compilation of my top ten productivity apps:

 

Wunderlist

From Things to Remember the milk, Apple reminders to Evernote, I’ve tried them all. Wunderlist is the one app that helps you craft a relevant to-do list, and then see it through to completion. The best part is that you can share lists and make unlimited sublists for free! Their paid version is highly customizable and not overly complicated with superficial features designed to make you part with your money like some of the other apps out there. . While the list making and the sleep interface of the previous versions were pretty awesome, what I like about the latest Wanderlist 3 is that they’ve made it extremely easy to share lists, upload files, share comments and collaborate with others. Wunderlist’s seamless integration on all platforms – complete with real-time syncing on various platforms like iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, Mac, Chromebook, Kindle Fire and the Web make it a convenient substitute for some of the expensive project management software out there.

Wunderlist has come a long way from the first version. For someone looking to manage entire projects off of Wunderlist that their project tracking capabilities are still primitive. For everyday productivity, I’ve set up my Wunderlist so that I get reminder emails when something is due, or when a colleague checks off an item. Some examples of things I’ve used it for include summer travel lists, collaborating with my sister for places we wanted to visit, assigning tasks for group projects, multiple lists for different projects makes it easy to organize the different aspects of your life.

 

Evernote

This new media darling has literally all the features you will ever need. Need a place to jot notes? Check. Need to make a to do list? Check. Want to save a website to browse at a later date? Check. While I find this integration a little slower than Wunderlist (depending on your internet connection), its still pretty fast and arguably the most powerful productivity app out there. Evernote is a one-stop-shop for clipping notes, collecting pictures, making lists as well as clipping web content.

The one drawback of Evernote is that it takes a bit of education to learn to use it really well. As a first-time user, evernote can be a bit intomidating and not so user-friendly. The way I use Evernote in my everyday work is by recording audio clips of important lectures, taking notes, clipping interesting web content and for keeping all my content in one place. Again, the integration across different mobile platforms makes Evernote very handy when working on the move.

 

Dropbox

This is one of the oldest and most efficient cloud storage solutions that I’m aware of. If you’re looking for a single place to store different kinds of files (e.g. powerpoints, excel, word documents, photos), Dropbox is unmatched in its speed and user-friendliness. More recently, other newer cloud storage apps have started floating around the internet but I have found Dropbox to be the one that just works perfectly on all devices.

The one drawback of Dropbox is that after you run out of your free storage space, you either have to earn points by inviting friends and sharing dropbox on social media, or you have to purchase extra storage space for subscriptions of $10.99 a month.I use it mostly for reviewing my lectures on the go. But it’s also a very common tool in my family for sharing photos and videos. Alternatives to Dropbox include Google Drive, OneDrive, Box, iCloud.

 

Lift

This is the ultimate public accountability app. Often, when working by ourselves, the social aspect of  working and staying on track gets missed. The List website claims that “You are not alone on Lift”. If you want to harness the power of social media to ramp up your productivity, this is definitely the app for you, because they’re big on community interaction and public accountability. Every time you login, it also shares that with your friends. Within the app are various goals that you can set and work towards. Every day that you achieve the goal, you login and comment and it tracks the number of days you went without skipping.

While the social media shares can get annoying, especially if you’re failing to meet your goals, I think that is the essence of social accountability sites like these. I use lift to improve my own daily habits. Some of my Lift goals include drink 2L water everyday, write a well-researched Liftree blog post everyday, remember to clean my bunny’s cage, attend 60 minutes of hot yoga and even breathe deeply sprinkled as reminders throughout the day.

 

Write or Die

This website has one message, and one message only. Write or die. Literally, there is one big text box on the page with a timer and running word count on the bottom, and you write without distractions. Do you find yourself not able to concentrate when trying to put words down on the page for that big history paper? Try this app, and notice how easy it is to write when you have a timer. There is even a blinking red screen and a panic alarm to scare you into writing faster. If you slack off for a few seconds, fall far behind your set rate of writing or generally waste time, the app will literally scare you into focus. Let all your ideas come out on paper without censoring, the more fodder you have, the better you can sculpt it.

While the web version of the app is free, you have to download it for $20 if you want to use it offline. I use write or die when I want to brainstorm new ideas, complete free writing exercises to come up with blog posts, as well as for finishing research projects on time.

 

Focus Booster

This app uses the pomodoro technique by setting a timer to 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of rest. Focus Booster is great for disciplining you into working with focus and then making a point of taking breaks to maintain productivity. Often, many of us get into the “zone” but afraid of taking a break lest we lost that productive streak, we just trudge on trying to work despite getting tired or bored of the project. This is actually counterproductive because taking a quick break would ensure that we are fully engaged with the work when we come back to it after a break. Focus booster is great for reminding yourself to take these much-needed breaks – after 3-4 regular sessions, it also reminds you to take a big 15-20 minute break. Alternatives include Howler timer for Mac, and the Online Stopwatch website. How awesome is this little tool, ticking away to help you stay on track.

 

ColdTurkey (Windows) / SelfControl (Mac)

This simple to use app is essential to conquering our pervasive online addiction and complete lack of self-control. It not only temporarily (you can also schedule blocks in advance) blocks you out of social media sites, addicting websites, games and even programs but is smart enough to know when you are trying to fool it. So forget trying to uninstall the program while its running or restarting your computer to circumvent its brute force. This is the ultimate bad cop- making you work so much faster without all the distractions. The best part of it all- it’s free!

 

If This Then That (IFTTT)

With this tool, you can eliminate the need for a personal assistant, and put the internet to work for you instead. You can create “recipes” using multiple channels to do things that you had only imagined in your dreams till now. Some examples of recipes: Get an email to let you know if its going to rain tomorrow. Send a thank you tweet to someone who retweets a link. Post the same picture to 3 different social media websites without actually opening even one.

 

Pocket

This nifty tool collects any and all of the webpages that are of interest to you. It is marketed as save for reading later, but I send many sites to pocket even just as a seamless bookmarking tool. The best part is, once you’ve saved a particular webpage or article to pocket, you can view it offline later. Check out this article on using Pocket with IFTTT to create a fantastic alternative to confusing RSS readers.

The one drawback of pocket is that unlike comparable apps like Readability and Instapaper, Pocket doesn’t offer any options for plugging into other social networks or the service’s own data to find the most popular/shared pocket pages. I use pocket for commuting or when I have little or no internet access.  In fact, earlier this year, I spent a few days on the Indian railway, travelling to Jaipur and surrounding areas, and using Pocket on my cell phone was a fantastic alternative to hauling around a heavy book, or dragging along my tablet or reader. I got a ton of research done on the go and could travel freely without worrying about slacking off or falling behind for the Liftree launch.

 
Have you used any of these? Do you have any other favourites that I missed on this list? Comment below, and share the knowledge!

 

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Stay Productive While Working From Home

So you’ve finally managed to grab the holy grail of the millennial dream.

You’re working from home.

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  • You work on your own time.
  • Cafe, poolside, basement, hammock – you choose where you work.
  • Other people envy you
  • No office politics
  • Fewer interruptions from co-workers
  • More time with family
  • No more road rage during rush hour
  • Gas money, Lunch money – more savings!
  • More control over how you balance your life
  • Helping the environment
  • Less sick days, better health

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The Facts

Expert opinion on the topic of productivity among those that work from home remains divided.  Researchers at Stanford studied a large-sized Chinese travel agency and found that people working form home worked more hours, took shorter breaks, took less sick days and were more satisfied. A similar study at Cisco had the same results.

Ironically, tech-giants Google and Yahoo are not so keen on the work-from-home mindset. In fact, in February 2013, Marissa Mayer (CEO) sent out a new directive saying that employees could no longer work from home.

It seems to me that in this day-and-age, working remotely, telecommuting, or even working while  “away” from work is inevitable. While not every small or medium sized start-up can afford to bring their telecommuting staff (some of which live in other countries) into a physical office, we can definitely offer employees training and resources to maximize their productivity when working from home.

While telecommuting is really convenient in terms of satisfaction, eliminating sick-days and commute time, but the big question now is:

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]How do you stay productive when there is no structure to your workday?[/quote]

 

Establish a routine

While it may seem ideal to wake up and start working in your pyjamas while watching Dora the Explorer with your two year old, instead of dragging yourself out of bed by sheer will to start the day with a dreary hour long commute; there are some unexpected benefits to commuting. The trudge to work creates a morning ritual that gets you into the mental space to start work. This transition period is a crucial signal to your subconscious mind to get you in the mood for serious work.

 

Have a plan

Without a plan, you may get lost in the pile of pending items demanding your attention. You’re also vulnerable to numerous distractions at home. If you’re rolling with the punches and just working on things that come up in front of you, you may be working without a clear direction of your own, and despite the fact that you’re now working form home, you’ll still be working to further someone else’s agenda.

Creating a plan can be as simple as prioritizing and streamlining your to-do list to pick the tasks that are most important at the start of the day. If you want to get really fancy, you can even create a distraction elimination plan to overcome any disturbances and work like a ninja.

 

Be professional

You may no longer need to don a blazer or a pencil skirt to work from home, but lounging around on the sofa in your sweats or boxers won’t boost your productivity at home. Get dressed before you start working. You don’t have to go all out but the simple act of maintaining a decent appearance sends subconscious signals to your brain that you’re settling down to business.

Similarly, your workspace should remotely resemble an office. If you’re sitting on the couch watching reruns of How I Met Your Mother, that report isn’t going to magically get written. Treat your home office like professional business and I promise you, your productivity will skyrocket.

 

Professional space

  1. Define your work space and time. Refrain from attending to personal stuff during this time. When you’re working from home, uninterrupted work time is sacred. Do whatever you can to protect it. Just like you protect your personal time and space when you were commuting to the office.
  2. Separate yourself physically. If you live with other people, especially if you have kids, you will be more productive if you isolate yourself from the other people in your house away from the clutter, chaos, noise and distractions of everyday living.
  3. Some people recommend working in the same space everyday to train your brain to be more productive. While this may work for some people,  I’ve found that changing things up, finding a different place to work, especially taking your work outside to a novel, but soothing location can do wonders for your creativity and productivity. Working everyday in the same space without interacting with co-workers can get boring fast, and varying your work space (as long as your new place is conducive to focussing on your work) can make you excited about your work and boost your productivity.

 

Get moving

Finding a place to focus and get work done is crucial to staying productive, but equally essential is the need to take breaks and move your body. This Swedish study found that getting yourself outside, moving physically and doing a differently paced activity to your usual work can make you more productive. If you are a sedentary worker working with your laptop all day, getting outside is even more crucial in order to:

  1. Reduce eye strain
  2. Relax your strained muscles (shoulder rolls, neck stretches, walking the tension out of your legs)
  3. Stretch
  4. Breathe fresh air and gain clarity
  5. Use balanced meals to recharge your energy
  6. Use the change of scenery to inspire creative solutions
  7. Clear your mind of repetitive thinking patterns
  8. Give yourself a mental rest
  9. Get back to work with a fresh ideas and a recharged mind/body

 

Stay social

  1. Working form home can be very isolating and staying in touch with your co-workers can be beneficial in several ways. Being proactive about keeping in touch with your boss and co-workers not only projects a professional image, it also helps you feel connected, keeps you focussed and helps take some of the edge off the loneliness of working alone.
  2. Even if you don’t actually meet up with anyone, you can still satisfy your inner social animal by just hanging out in public places, letting yourself experience the human interactions happening around you. I don’t mean you should eavesdrop and get carried away listening to other people’s conversations (unless you’re a budding novelist), but just hanging out at a coffee shop or other public place filled with human chatter can boost your creativity, help you meet strangers that might trigger new thoughts and give you a different perspective on the problem you’re struggling with.
  3. Use other people as sounding boards, critics and idea magnets. Check our this article that talks about how Tim Trampedach, owner of Level X Motorsports reaches out to others for coffee to exchange ideas, bounce questions in order to stay productive.
  4. Take advantage of the WWW. This article talks about Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs, who created a virtual water cooler message board so her employees can share photos, talk shop, share personal interests and catch up with each other to create a better connected organization.

 

As we venture over into the unknown territory of work-from-home gigs and flexi-time, questions of productivity and engagement while working in the home environment will become both personal and organizational concerns. While it remains to be seen whether working form home is more productive than working in an office, one thing is for sure – employees and start-up founders now have much more control over their time than they ever did. The key is to use it critically, looking at how you spend your time, energy and resources, analyzing, tweaking and improving your productivity.

Do you work from home? What is your biggest challenge in staying productive? Leave a comment below to let us know!

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Mindful productivity- working in the present

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching.
– Khalil Gibran[/quote]

In a discussion about productivity, people seldom expect to talk about mindfulness. Sometimes though, mindfulness is exactly what we need in order to stay productive, just like in other aspects of our lives.

In particular, being mindful of our internal dialogue, limiting beliefs and personal strengths can be helpful in identifying the style of work that is most productive for us.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life. ― John Lennon[/quote]

In her best-selling book Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, author identifies that human beings have two primal responses to stimuli- fear and pleasure. Those of us that are governed by fear are preoccupied with protecting ourselves and seeking safety. Those of us who are governed by pleasure seek excitement and novelty and new situations. Obviously both temperaments in excess can be harmful. The fear brain can lead you down a path of worry, nervousness, suspicion and negativity. The pleasure brain can cause u to seek out excesses, hush-risk activities, and even substance abuse in order to feel that thrill of doing something unique.

The body, like the mind, also has two responses to any situation – yes and no. The next time someone asks you a question or proposes an idea, observe your body closely for its internal answer. When your internal answer is yes while thinking of an idea, a question or a situation, you are relaxed, and positive. Your breath is even, the tone of your voice is level.  When it is no, you scrunch up and tense. Your shoulders pull up to your neck, your breath quickens, your body tightens.

 

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Jot down two or three questions that have been on your mind lately.

Keep these questions in mind as you proceed through the exercise.

Sit down on the flow or in a yoga mat. Cross your legs put your palms on our thighs. Imagine a thick gnarled root coming out of your spine, grounding you into the earth below. Think of your head sending out a million shoots and leaves reaching high towards the sky.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Notice the tension in your shoulders, let it go. Notice the tension in your abdomen, let it go.

Notice what is going on in your body. Breathe like a baby – with abandon and trust.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Ask your first question.

Suspend your conscious thinking. Do not try to think logically or drive the answer into a certain direction. Restrain your rational and logical responses.

Listen instead to your body. Is your body tightening up, grabbing on to your roots? Are you holding tightness in a particulate part of your body as you ask this question? Just observe the reaction of your body as you hold his question in your mind.

When you’re satisfied with the answer, breathe, and let this question go.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Ask your second question

Repeat the thought process above for the first question.

Maybe you’re feeling free and peaceful as you think of this question. Is there a sighing, a release, a sense of relief as you hold this question in your mind. What is your body telling you?

When you’re ready, breathe and let go of this question.

Repeat the whole thing if you have a third question.

Breathe.

When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes and reflect upon the wisdom your body has just shared with you.

With practice, you will learn to respect and recognize the powerful decision making of your body. The silence that this bodily awareness creates in your mind will be more valuable, restorative and productivity-inducing than any expensive vacation you will ever take.

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Often people think of meditation, inner peace and achieving a state of “flow” as some esoteric mumbo jumbo. But these things can be applied in your everyday working life too.

Here are some ways you can infuse awareness into your everyday work activities:

  • Being present in the moment. Wherever you are, truly engaging in conversations and making meaningful connections with those physically around you will create a special bond and magical memories more than conversations online ever will. Remember there will always be time to write on someone’s facebook wall, or send your crush a text message.
  • Focusing only on the current task. Eliminate any negative feelings that keep you from being productive. Attempting to achieve multiple goals all at the same time is not only an inefficient venture but also a counterproductive one. Remember that grasping new concepts and getting a project done properly is a big responsibility and requires all the attention you can give it.
  • Not worrying about the past or the future. This is similar to being in the present moment, but cultivating mindfulness can help reduce anxiety, nervousness and agitation which stems from negative experiences or feelings of the past, and anticipation of what is to come.

 
The ability to identify both fear and pleasure stressors in our lives, create a quiet space to rejuvenate and work free of your everyday tensions can create an avalanche of productivity in your everyday productivity as you learn to let go and ease into the activity at hand.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor. ― Thích Nhất Hạnh[/quote]

 

Working in fear

Fear is a manifestation of misplaced hope. When you are constantly hoping for an external miracle to solve all your problems,  you’re also in constant conflict with reality. Leaving behind your fantasies about life to fully embrace the reality that is present here and now is the key to unlocking your happiness and creativity.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Every time we choose safety, we reinforce fear. ― Cheri Huber[/quote]

Contrary though it may seem, giving up your rigid notions of the world, can set you free. There is no limiting beliefs or castles in the air interfering with your fluid perception of reality. And when these limiting beliefs are gone, you can really work with yourself and get into the elusive “flow”. Speaking about the state of “flow”, working in the “zone” isn’t really different from mindfulness when you think about it. When you work in the “zone” you are present, fully focused on what is in front of you. No past and no future limiting, obscuring or altering your present reality.

 

Working with pleasure

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more. ― Mother Teresa[/quote]

Joy is the pervasive happiness that stays constant regardless of the internal and external circumstances pressing upon us. Unlike the superficial notions of happiness, living in a state of joy simply means focusing solely on the present. It means living in the present moment with intensity, experiencing the world around us with a heightened sense of attention.

Working with joy doesn’t mean that you’re not aware of the negativity around you. Instead, working with joy means that you’re constantly living the present moment with a pervasive awareness of the grand perspective of things. Working with joy means stepping back from our fear and pleasure stressors and working in a “zone” that is neither altered by the situation nor the actions of totters around us.

 

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30 Productivity Hacks to Help You Make The Most of Your Workday

  1. Try the Pomodoro technique. Chunk your tasks into 25 minutes and take a 5 minutes break in between. Use focus booster for getting some serious work done!
  2. Race the clock. Use an old fashioned timer, or for anywhere access try www.onlinestopwatch.com.
  3. Try working in a coffee shop. Train your brain to work efficiently in public.
  4. Prime yourself to get into “the zone”. Set yourself mentally to begin work at a certain time.
  5. Exercise. It gets blood flowing to the brain, making you more alert.
  6. Ditch your desk. Let go of the non-essential gadgets, streamline, and take your essentials outside to work.
  7. Vary work spaces to keep things exciting to boost both creativity and productivity
  8. Stay accountable with apps like WriteorDie, Lift and If This Then That.
  9. Use social media to your advantage. Go public with your tasks to stay accountable and productive.
  10. Ask a friend to check on you. Someone nagging you to finish your tasks on time is unparalleled in its effectiveness to help you get things done.
  11. Have a long-term countdown to your big project. On your cellphone. On social media. On your website. Maybe even on your desk.
  12. Take frequent breaks. Stay productive by recharging frequently and paying attention to body/mind cues.
  13. Make a distraction list. Then determine how to eliminate these distractions.
  14. Spend time with your peeps. Have guilt free distractions scheduled into your day or week so when you sit down to work, you’re focussed on the tasks in front of you.
  15. Don’t watch TV. Its called an Idiot Box for a reason. Watching in moderation os okay, but stay mindful if you’re starting to get fused with your living room couch.
  16. Take care of other needs so you don’t end up interrupting yourself. Pee breaks, food, water, exercise. Deal with these before you sit down to work so that you can work free of interruptions.
  17. Use your strengths. Delegate the tasks that you don’t want to do, or that someone else is better at. Keep your energy focussed on doing things that will give you the highest returns.
  18. Wear comfortable clothes but dress like you mean business. Appearances are important even when you’re working by yourself. A drumpy outfit signals to your brain that you’re not really on your A game.
  19. Limit obsessive email checking. Set times during the day when you will check your emails and reply to important correspondence. Make your habits public knowledge so people know when its best to contact you. Once you’ve checked your email, refrain from checking it again until the designated time.
  20. Be firm with yourself. When working for yourself, especially, if you work by yourself at home, its easy to slack off and tell yourself you’ll do an important task later. Don’t talk yourself into being less productive. Set deadlines like you would at a job. Then stick to them.
  21. Use pen & paper. If you’re getting distracted by your gadgets, try switching things up a bit by going back to old-fashioned pen and paper. You may be surprised at the creative ideas that seem to suddenly crop up out of nowhere.
  22. Wake up earlier. Things seem so much saner earlier on in the day ( or later on at night – depending on whether you’re an early bird of a night owl) when no one else is around to distract you from the task in front of you.
  23. Curb your perfectionism. If a task is done, and is of reasonably decent quality, you need to let it go and stop nit-picking at the little stuff. If a task is done, then label it as done, and move on.
  24. Meditate. Closing your eyes for a few minutes to ground yourself can make a huge difference between getting burned out and staying productive.
  25. Take a walk. Walking for productivity and creativity isn’t just for the likes of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. You can do it too. Take a walk in fresh air whenever you’re stumped by a work problem. You just might happen to stumble upon a creative solution.
  26. Switch to a different task. If you’re on a tight deadline and cannot afford to take a complete break, try switching form a sedentary task typing away on your laptop, to getting up and looking up a reference you’ve been meaning to.
  27. Eat right. Eating clean will keep you alert and active. It will clear your mind of cobwebs and focussed on the task in front of you. Make sure to eat lots of produce, while grains and lean protein. Don’t forget to flush out toxins with lots of water.
  28. Eat on time. So many of us wait until we are starving to start thinking about what to eat. His is the basis of many of our terrible diet choices. Not only is it bad for your health, it also erodes your productivity when you’re sluggish from an unhealthy meal.
  29. Isolate yourself. When working, stay away form distractions. If you’re in an office, put up a temporary “Do Not Disturb” sign to discourage chit-chatting co-workers from barging into your office e or cubicle. If working from home, let your family or roommates know you’re going to be going off to your home office and not to disturb you unless its an emergency.
  30. Don’t stress about productivity. If you keep scaring yourself to death about how little you’re getting done, you’re just going to make yourself miserable and even less productive because instead of focussing on the solution, you’re distracted by thoughts about how you’re going to fail.

 

Your Turn! What’s your best productivity hack? Share it with us in the comments below.

 

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The Glaring Benefits of A Productivity Pre-Party

You sit down to work. The phone vibrates, you just got a text from a classmate asking you how to solve question #3 on the assignment that’s due tomorrow. Your inbox dings as you receive 3 emails in a row. Your child starts crying at the top of his lungs. You need to tend to your crying child, you need to reply to your classmate and reply to your emails or they might think you’re rude and irresponsible. Your work session comes to a halt before it even started. Could you have avoided any of these distractions? Check out our previous article on creating a distractions and solutions list.

Here’s an innovative and effective way to ensure that when you sit down to work, you actually get stuff done. Plan a pre-party. No, not the kind you have before a night around town. I mean creating an atmosphere, both internally and externally, that will be conducive to a productive work session.

[message_box title=”Ask yourself:” color=”beige”]

  • Why are you sitting down to work?
  • What specific goals do you need to accomplish before you get up?
  • What are the things on your mind which may stop you from focusing on the task at hand?

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I’m going to let you in on a secret- it’s a checklist of the things you should do immediately before you sit down to work.

1. Set a start time. And be firm with yourself. Finish all your menial but urgent tasks, so you don’t have impending doom lingering in your mind. Setting a particular time aside for working will send a powerful signal to your brain that you mean business. If you do it enough times, this habit will become internalized and help you quickly get into “the zone” once you sit down to work.

2. Eat brain food. Nuts, eggs, flax, fresh produce, whole grains. I recently started going to this Yoga class where the instructor talked about eating just enough to sustain yourself and not gouging on junk to satisfy your cravings. The goal was to eat clean, healthy nutrient rich foods in just enough quantities to sustain you thorough your Yoga practice, but not so much that it hinders your movement and takes your attention away from doing what you have to do. The same principle applies to eating before work as well. Eat just enough to sustain yourself. Eat clean, fresh, healthy food. Keep caffeinated beverages to a minimum. If you really need something to sip on, try herbal tea. If you find yourself lethargic or lacking in energy, opt for energy right, nutrient dense foods like almonds, sunflower seeds, dates, raisins and walnuts to keep yourself energetic and focussed. Most importantly, drink lots of water to flush out the toxins and keep yourself vitalized.

3. Gather supplies beforehand. Get yourself everything you need – pen, paper, textbook, laptop, sticky notes. Organize your workstation. There is nothing as distracting as sitting down to work and realizing that you’re missing an essential tool for your work and having to get up repeatedly to gather the things that you need. Even if you sit down motivated and ready to make a dent in your to-do list, constant distractions can erode this motivation and bring you back to a state of unproductivity.

4. Disconnect. Turn off your gadgets and stay away from the Internet. Use programs such as ColdTurkey and SelfControl if you need to stay connected to the internet for the purposes of your work- it aids in blocking distracting aspects of the internet and is not that easy to work around. Read more about using apps and other tools to improve productivity in this post.

5. Let others around you know that you will be preoccupied and busy for a set amount of time. A lot of times, lack of clear communication hijacks your efficiency and gets you annoyed at people who keep interrupting. A simple gesture like letting people know in advance can resolve the issue and protect your working time. Letting friends and family know that even though we may be physically present, we will be unavailable mentally and emotionally in order to get an important task done, can help us gain their compliance, respect and even support.

6. Pump yourself up. Both physically and mentally, you need to be in optimum condition in order to work productively. Use exercise, cardio, aerobics, quotes, positive thinking, meditation, visualization – whatever your tonic, make sure you indulge in some tender loving care towards creating a healthy mind and body. The rewards of such self-care will be evident when you start working more efficiently, enjoy your work more and generally feel more engaged when trying to complete a task. Personally, I am a big positive quotes junkie. So if I’ve been experiencing a lack of concentration, I’ll read quotes to remind me about the importance of staying concentrated, how to stay concentrated or really just anything that’s been on my mind lately.

7. Write down a list of SMART goals that you want to achieve this session. SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Example, “I will finish reading section 3.2 in 30 minutes.”

8. Write down all other things on your mind. DUMP so you can think on efficient things. Free up important brain space for the important things you are trying to accomplish. Check out this exercise about doing the Morning Pages to free up your mental and emotional space in order to ramp up your productivity.

 

Here is a checklist for you to print off and use before you sit down to work. 

Share your thoughts, and comment below with any suggestions.

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A simple system for eliminating distractions and staying productive

Distractions are everywhere.

Plus, with all our mobile phones and gadgets, they are ominously inviting. At every turn, they lure you like hawkers at an Indian market, diverting you away from important tasks.

Apparently, distractions cost businesses money too. According to this article , a “2007 study by Basex estimated that distractions cost U.S. businesses $588 billion per year”

Aside form the monetary costs, distractions can also make you frustrated and unhappy creating a vicious cycle of stress and poor performance.

So how can you beat pesky distractions and show them who’s the boss? The answer is laughably obvious. Monitor and eliminate the distractions. Just the act of  writing down your common distractions will make you conscious and attuned to the ways in which you waste you r time during the workday.

Quick plan to end all distractions

  1. Make a list of all your distractions. Write down every last little bugger.
  2. Keep this list somewhere accessible.
  3. Across from each distraction, list a possible solution
  4. Just before you sit down to work, review this list.
  5. The more you use this technique, the more mindful you will become about distractions and the opportunities for eliminating them.

 

Here is what my list of distractions and solutions looks like:

unnamed

 

I found the results of this exercise surprising. Many of my distraction problems had common solutions. This little insight saved me a lot of time in the long run because the million distractions we think we are up against, really only entail tweaking a few common things in our daily routine or environment to optimize productivity and eliminate distractions.

 

So I put together a final list after compiling the solutions that fell under a common theme, and here is my final list:

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Final thoughts

Identifying and elimination distractions is as simple as writing down everything that is keeping you from a productive workflow and then analyzing your results to see if you can come up with a master plan of sorts.

To go one step further and make this even more intense, you can write your final list of distraction elimination solutions on to an index card and laminate it. Keep it accessible at all times near your workspace. Then, review it every time you sit down to work. This frequent review will burn the solutions into your subconscious over time. Eventually, you won’t even need the list in order to tackle the distractions you come up against. The beauty of using repetition to change or build habits is that it doesn’t take much more than a small measure of effort on your part to bring about big changes.

You just have to be consistent.

Change things in small increments until the cumulative effect helps you build momentum towards the new habit(s).

Over to you – List your distractions and solutions in the comments below. What did you learn about your own workflow? Our favourite reply will get a shoutout in the next post.

Happy Sunday!

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Spice up your dull routine with small breaks throughout the day

Continuing on with our productivity intensive series, another way to stay productive is taking breaks throughout the day. After having convinced you of the need to take a vacation in yesterday’s article, let’s talk about the benefits of taking small breaks every day.

The first hour or two after I get to work probably go by fairly quickly and I find that I have been quite efficient and feel a sense of accomplishment. But as lunch time creeps closer, I find myself distracted with various irrelevant thoughts and my productivity plummets. Even after lunch, this does not always improve as I begin to feel sleepy and lazy. Have you experienced something similar?

Regularly taking a few moments to recollect our thoughts, track our progress and break away from the task at hand can help us feel more calm and content as well as improve our productivity, physical and mental wellbeing.

 

The Facts

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Maintaining unbroken focus or navigating demanding intellectual territory for several hours really does burn enough energy to leave one feeling drained -Ferris Jabr[/quote]

Studies have shown that performance begins to deteriorate after 50-60 minutes of continuous work. However, taking rest breaks every 40 minutes at least can reverse this decline in performance. Setting a reminder to take breaks has been found to be more effective than breaks taken on an as-you-need basis.

Research has shown that those who work in 90 minute spurts may be more effective and productive than those who do not. Regular, short breaks that involve physical activity also only help relieve physical tension and discomfort built up from doing continuous work. You will return energized and ready to get things done. In the long term, taking small breaks can also help lower stress and reduce risk of accidents, soreness, musculoskeletal disorder and eyestrain. And if you were trying to get back in shape, you’ll be killing two birds with one stones as short breaks are also linked to having a smaller waistline, lower body mass index (BMI), and lower triglyceride levels .  

 

The Logic

Breaks are scientifically-proven to boost focus and productivity. Taking short breaks enhances concentration, alertness and speed & performance. Usually, I put off my projects for as long as possible, then scramble at the last minute to get it done, sitting for long hours without taking a single break- this has often lead to poor insight and the quality of my work has suffered. Do you have any similar habits? Keeping this very basic logic in mind the next time something is due, will save us all from a lot of agony and potential burnout.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]I think people get so caught up in what they’re doing that they feel like they’re going to get behind if they stop. But everything you ever read, it’s always better to get away for a little while than keep going, going, going, all day. You come back with a clearer perspective and it’s more clear after you’ve taken that little break. –Toni Lozano[/quote]

Remember that breaks spent cyber-loafing or social media connecting are not real breaks. You are still sitting in front of a screen probably slouching, your eyes are straining to read the screen, your wrists, shoulders, and back have been in the same position for quite a long time. You need to change up the pace and make space within your body. You need to take active breaks and get moving. People who are more physically active during the day tend to be more productive.

 

What to do on your breaks 

  • Get up and stretch
  • Use the bathroom
  • Go for a short walk away from your workstation
  • Get away from the screen
  • Grab a coffee
  • Snack or drink water
  • Have a conversation with a coworker or a friend
  • Close your eyes and practice visualization
  • Focus on your breathing

 

 

[message_box title=”The Task” color=”beige”]

Bring out a pen and paper and answer the following questions: 

  1. Reflect on the kind of work you do. Is it sedentary or physical, do you have the opportunity to take frequent breaks to switch things up and stay recharged?
  2. Do you take breaks when you have the opportunity? Why or why not?
  3. If not, what are the obstacles you face in taking regular breaks?
  4. How can you overcome these obstacles?

 
And my favourite:

  1. What activities best recharge you (e.g. running, art, writing, painting your nails)?
  2. Identify one simple way in which you can incorporate these activities into your daily breaks.

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Share in the comments below any thoughts or opinions that came up while reading this article.

Quit procrastinating, start early and take lots of breaks to get things done without losing your mind.

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How taking a vacation can boost productivity

In our busy, everything to-go filled lives, it is important to take a moment to reflect on the impacts of such a lifestyle. First, let’s acknowledge that working too much is bad for you, your employer, your family and friends. Yet it is a lifestyle that so many of us fall victim to. We live under the illusion that everything we are doing is equally important and more often than not, get so drowned in all the important tasks that we completely give up. The busy routines we find ourselves in are not providing ideal lifestyles for our productivity and creativity to thrive.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking. -Earl Wilson[/quote]

Every once in a while, get out of your routine. Even though routine is thought to be the core of productivity, often what is missed is the need for a break. It is extremely important for us to take time to take a break. Both on a small scale and a larger scale. In this article, I will convince you on why you need to take more vacations. In the next article, I will discuss the benefits of taking small breaks throughout your day.

The best phase in my life which was coincidentally the most productive one as well was after my most memorable vacation in the summer of 2009. I travelled to India with my family after seven years and was completely rejeuvinated upon return. I’ve noticed after coming back from every vacation since then, there is a magic that follows after every period of rest and relaxation. Leave a comment to share your experience.

[message_box title=”Exercise:” color=”beige”]Think back to your last vacation. When was it? What is your best memory from it? On a scale from 0-10 think about how badly you needed that vacation. Now stop reminiscing and come back to the present. How much do you need a vacation now? Do you constantly feel irritated, anxious, tired, frustrated of it all? How close to burnout are you? [/message_box]

 

The Facts

An estimated average of 9.2 vacation days were left unused by Americans in 2012. More than 6 out of 10 Americans reported working through their vacation. While advocating for more vacations, Tony Schwartz, Energy Project CEO compared energy to time. “Like time, energy is finite; but unlike time, it is renewable,”  he wrote in the New York Times. “Taking more time off is counterintuitive for most of us. The idea is also at odds with the prevailing work ethic in most companies, where downtime is typically viewed as time wasted.”

 

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it”  Jim Goodwin[/quote]

 

The Logic

Our bodies are very flexible and accommodating of what we put them through, for the most part. However, living with chronic stress which comes along with our busy lifestyles hinders the body’s ability to resist infection, maintain vital functions, and its ability to avoid injury. When we’re stressed out and tired, surviving on only a few hours of sleep and a poor diet, our immune systems become weaker and we are more likely to become ill. Chronic stress also has impacts on our mental health. We become more irritable, depressed, and anxious. It is also linked to memory problems and poorer decisions.

Vacations have the potential to break into the stress cycle. We need to take breaks in order to allow our bodies to recuperate from all the insults and catch up on rest. During the vacation, we gain perspective on our problems, get to relax with our families and friends, and get a break from our usual routines. As the vacation ends, there is a sense of empowerment; we emerge from a successful vacation feeling ready to take on the world again.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]The purpose of a vacation is to have the time to rest. But many of us, even when we go on vacation, don’t know how to rest. We may even come back more tired than before we left. – Thich Nhat Hanh[/quote]

 

Benefits of taking a vacation

  1. Recharge and enjoy life
    • Avoid burnout
    • See the bigger picture
    • Gain more energy
    • Experience new things
    • Strengthen family ties
    • Allow for personal growth
  2. Increase productivity
    • Enhance job performances
    • Increase focus
    • Promote creativity
    • Improve mental skills
    • Gain new perspectives
  3. Stay healthy
    • Relieve stress
    • Improve mood
    • Catch up on sleep
    • Reduce risk of depression
    • Boost heart health
    • Promote well-being

[message_box title=”Try this…” color=”beige”]What is the one place you have wanted to visit since you were a child? Why haven’t you been there yet? What is the one activity you have been thinking of doing? Take a few minutes to plan your next vacation. If you don’t have the money or time right now, plan a stay-cation budget trip. Take just 2 days from your busy life where you will just let everything go and exist in the present- worry free.[/message_box]

Pack your bags, cut out the routine and take a vacation, and watch your productivity fluorish in the weeks that follow! Stay tuned for an article on planning a vacation.

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16 Experiments to clear mental chatter and stay productive

Its 3 am and these scary, creepy, toxic thoughts start creeping into your mind. What if you fail and the project you’re working on tanks? What if your best friend is backstabbing you?What if he is cheating on you?  What if?

We go through life with so much negative mental chatter, its a miracle we survive at all. From the moment we are born, we are cautioned and protected. Watch out for that sharp edge of the kitchen counter. Be careful not to climb up too high on that chair. Don’t speak to strangers.

Most of us are lucky – our worst fears never come true.

The funny thing with mental chatter is – the more you entertain it, the more it  flourishes, like a  parasite eating through your brain until you have nothing left to give.

The fear-mongering limits us, clips our wings and makes us doubt who we are and what we stand for.

The only way to stop that debilitating mental chatter is to go to the source and cut it off from the root – your mind. Consider these common sources of negative mental chatter:

 

Family

In the groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence, author Daniel Goleman talks about how our families and upbringing shape our destiny.

Early in childhood, we begin to form lasting perceptions about the human relationships around us. Countless moments of negative talk and harsh criticism over the course of childhood can shape some of our most fundamental ideas about ourselves – essentially determining the course of our lives.

While you cannot change your upbringing, studies show that even in adulthood, we have the power to change our emotional patterns and become adept at overcoming our negative thought patterns.

 

 

Significant Others

Often our closest relationships – lovers, spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends – bear the brunt of our toxic  emotional conditioning. Even a small reaction such as a contemptuous expression can cause an increase in the other person’s heart rate, with prolonged conflict leading to a host of health problems. Since most of us live with a spouse or partner in adulthood, how we interact in our most significant relationship has a massive impact on our productivity and motivation.

 

Workspaces

Since most of us spend majority of the week working, our workspace can also be a significant source of stress that detracts us from being productive.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University found that social integration in the workspace employment and peer support are potent predictors of the productivity, quality of life, and surprisingly even mortality. When the focus is on the drama and conflict at work, it can be incredibly difficult to focus on the project at hand and be productive.

Negativity in the workplace wastes time, hinders creativity and innovation lower morale and decreased productivity.

 

Commuting

The average American spends 51 minutes a day commuting to and from work. A Swedish study found that long commutes increase stress levels and reduce productivity.

Earlier this year, the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its report on Commuting and Personal Well-being. The study found that “commuters have lower life satisfaction, less pride in their work, less happiness and higher anxiety than non-commuters.”

In fact, a 2012 study by the New Cities Foundation, San Jose found that if travel time could be made more interesting and less stressful then commuters would be more productive.

Internet and Other Media

Watch this TED talk to understand how social media is negatively impacting our internal dialogue and making us lonely. Sherry Turkle, a psychologist, sociologist and MIT professor talks about how our mobile devices aren’t just changing what we do, but also who we are. Social media has become so powerful that we don’t use it just as a tool to share our lives with other, but that technology has taken over our lives and we now simply find things to do so we can post them up. Our superficial interactions online have left us without the skills for self-reflection or face to face conversations. Turkle asserts that we are so lost now without social media that we cannot stand the discomfort of being without the constant online chatter when we are temporarily disconnected from our gadgets.

Joel Bain of Sour Grapes Winery puts it beautifully:

We are closer to each other than ever before, yet more distant emotionally and mentally than has ever been seen in human history.

These five common sources of negative mental chatter and toxic thoughts : family, spouses, workplace commutes, and social media are a testament to our increasing distraction from out own lives with constant, negative mental chatter. This constant chatter is what keeps us browsing, sharing, surfing all day –  and yet, we have nothing to show for our ‘hard work’ at the end of the day.

Not only do these sources erode our productivity, sucking our energy, ruining our quality of life they also impact our morale and mental focus.

Listening to Authentic Voices

Your search for inner motivation and creativity can be counterproductive when all the information you are consuming is created by other people. Whether it is your family, spouse, or the negative thoughts that spring form your workplace, commute or social or other mass media media that are influencing your thoughts – know this – In order to access your inner strength and sit down and do some authentic work, you need to block these outside influences (even if it is temporary) and listen to your own little voice of dissent.

Below are 16 practical experiments you can do to eliminate mental chatter and toxic thoughts from your mind to unleash your productivity today:

  1. Go on a social media fast
  2. Take a vow of silence for a day
  3. Listen to a positive audiobook on your commute
  4. disconnect from the internet
  5. have a heart to heart conversation with a friend or family
  6. Make eye contact when you talk to someone – give them your complete attention
  7. Catch yourself criticizing or judging someone – give them a compliment instead
  8. Create an hour of solitary time just to be alone with yourself
  9. Make a cup of green tea – take each sip mindfully
  10. Sit on the couch with your spouse. Do nothing else.
  11. Hug your parents. Call them if they are far away.
  12. Write a letter to an old friend
  13. Do a walking meditation
  14. Roll your shoulders, close your eyes, look up and take a deep breath
  15. Play with a child
  16. Go for a run outside – especially if the weather is bad.

 

Which ones did you do? Tell us about your battle with mental chatter in the comments below!

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Why Ditching Your Desk Will Make You More Productive

Do you really think you will be content, day in and day out working in one place, your trusty notebook, computer and pen in hand, writing down notes faithfully posting them on the bulletin board above your desk?

As a writer I can vouch for the fact that writing in different places gives me fresh new ideas, new ways of thinking and sheds light on problems I have been thinking about for a while. I suspect that this probably applies to other kinds of working activity as well.

Before I embraced the portable life, I manically obsessed about creating THE perfect workplace. I tried the kitchen table, I tried my bedroom study desk, I even tried the coffee table in front of the TV (some very bad choices, I know). Since I’m writing this article today, you can probably guess how that went.

I finally gave up and tried a different approach. I bought a smaller laptop (a MacBook Air, for the curious) ditched my ancient writing notebook for a small memo pad, grabbed my phone, pen and thinking cap and headed outside in search of an exciting new pace to work in.

Having been to the other side, I have come to believe that wielding concentration in a serene, undisturbed place is highly overrated. Only monks and sadhus of old have the luxury to meditate on mountaintops or on the eden-esque banks of a quiet, clear brook. The rest of us mundane folks have to find this esoteric focus in our own backyards as we mow the lawn, as our children clamber over our notes to steal our Swarovski crystal pen, and as they spill bright orange carrot soup over our prized laptop.

My point with all this funny talk is this – the romantic notion of a peaceful, organized bolted-to-the-floor desk is becoming something of an ancient myth.

As an advocate of a portable lifestyle, I beg, implore and empower you to be a new-age renegade! Free your work from the stone, wood, iron and concrete walls of your home or office. March out onto the streets with your laptop bag and smartphone. Infiltrate local parks, seize malls and cafes, and skip through the woods with your iPad to see your grandmother.

Why your workstation is obsolete

It’s boring. Lets face it, sitting at the same desk, decorated with the same post-its, and next to the same bookcase with the same old books everyday can get old pretty fast. Even if you are blessed with an awesome view to daydream out the window. Think of it this way, did you leave your 9-5  cubicle prison to live in your home office/basement prison?

Fresh air boosts creativity. Its easier to describe scenery when birds are chirping around you, trees are waving gently in the wind and your dog is running around sniffing at every suspicious looking flower. Likewise, it is easier to describe a casual dinner as you sit in a coffee shop with its clinking spoons and steaming cups. Even if your setting doesn’t match what you are working on, fresh, new places tend to give you new insights and innovative ideas. At the very least, you get to see something interesting when you look up.

It forces you to focus. If you can train your brain to focus on the work no matter what is going on around you, the irritating noises and distractions will fade into the background and you will be able to get into “the zone” faster and stay there longer.

Portability is awesome. These days I don’t feel stumped by a cluttered desk or if I left my favorite pen at home.  I just open my laptop bag, empty its contents and get to work. No fuss, no mess. And weekend getaways? Its awesome working in a new place without having to worry if u left anything important behind!

Be a minimalist. The fewer items you have, the simpler your life is. Give yourself the permission to ditch the burden of working with more stuff. Instead focus on doing great work. With less stuff around there will be fewer distractions. The best part? You will not be able to use “Let me clean up first” as an excuse and actually get some work done for once.

Six Tips for Creating a Portable Workspace

Invest in a good laptop. I know some of you love working on tangible paper, but the rest of us tech-savvy folks have a distinct advantage. Our laptops double triple, quadruple as a personal assistant, calculator, research, entertainment breaks and music center and the ever-useful post-its. Plus typing is much, much faster.

Carry accessories but make them lightweight. By all means, get a pocket notebook, tiny little colored markers and index cards, but make sure you wont curse every time you have to hoist your bag on your shoulder. A lightweight laptop is a blessing as well. Another great lightweight alternative is to carry a tablet like an IPad that syncs automatically to your main computer when you get home after an adventurous day of portable work.

Carry a trinket you would put on your fantasy desk. I like to keep a small seashell that I collected on my honeymoon. Working with it reminds me of happy, positive, productive times and instantly puts me in the mood for prolific working. I finished my masters’ thesis hanging out with my husband on a coral-strewn beach in Huvahendhoo, Maldives. I didn’t make that name up and the whole experience was much more work than it sounds like.

Don’t forget your charger. You will find it very challenging to get stuff done on a dead laptop.

Practice getting in the zone quickly. Learn to tune out distracting people and sounds. Word sprints, speed reading and other quick, timed activities that require hyper-focus are great for turning off your inner procrastinator and getting down to business.

Bring headphones just incase. You can concentrate and meditate all you like but there are times when you need a helping hand. When I really need to focus, I tune into some gentle music. Coffitivity (www.coffitivity.com) is another great resource for when you need to block out unwanted sounds.Go on, take your work to the streets right now!

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A Low-Tech Way to Boost Productivity

The humble pen and paper. 

They seem to have lost their popularity in our tech-immersed era, but there is a lot to be said about working with simple tools that will open up your creativity and make you come up with innovative solutions for your problems. 

There is something organic about using pen and paper that makes you  come up with unique solutions to your issues. From learning a language to coaching football players, more and more of us seem to be drawn to the organic nature of pen and paper in a world where everyone else is opting to streamline their work and learning onto laptops and tablets.

Look at the following surprising benefits of using pen and paper:

Boosts Memory and Recall 

In a recent study, researchers Pam Mueller (Princeton) and Daniel Oppenheimer (UCLA) found strong evidence suggesting that laptops, even when used solely for taking notes (as opposed to shopping on Amazon), can impair learning and facilitate shallower processing.

Contrast this to pen and paper, whose slower pace seems to solidify understanding and promote better recall

Slows You Down

The slower pace of using pen and paper can actually help you process, understand and create content that is deeper and of better quality. In fact, David Allen, the author of the book Getting Things Done talks about the productivity benefits of slowing down in order to overcome the busy-making nature of our work-lives in order to really step back and put our priorities into perspective.

So paradoxically, by slowing down, you’re setting yourself up to work more efficiently.

Boosts Creativity

Author Lee Rourke talks about his twitter conversations with other authors and speaks to the creativity that stems from creating slower,  more thoughtful work where the focus of the writer is more on creating good sentences and prose than on tap-tap-tapping away on a laptop in a state of corporate-like anxiety. 

I have to agree. As a fiction and non-fiction writer, I often feel anxious staring at a blank screen and then even more anxious when I hear myself pecking away at the keyboard in a frenzy of half-baked ideas. 

Facilitates Unexpected Connections

The organic nature of writing is highly conducive to doodling in the margins, drawing circles, squiggles and creating unexpected connections that you ouldnt even notice on a laptop, mobile phone or tablet. In fact, this high school teacher encourages writing creativity in his students by asking them to doodle stick figures into the margins of their writing notebooks. 

Unmatched Portability

How easy is it to grab a pocket notebook as you step out the door? No batteries, no charger cords, no desperately looking for power outlets in public places. Most importantly, no worries about losing expensive gadgets if you leave them lying around at a table while you go grab another coffee. The portability and novelty of using pen and paper in our constantly connected world is unmatched.

No Delete Button

That’s actually a good thing.

The fact that you can’t instantly edit and hit a delete button can help you salvage those crazy ideas that may first seem far fetched, but on second thought might be potential nuggets of brilliance! Ali Hale, a freelance writer for the Daily Writing Tips blog, says that the inability to delete when using pen and paper also forces you to take a bit more time crafting your sentences and word choices.

More Personal 

For those looking to stand out in networking relationships (and lets face it, who doesn’t need networking?), using pen and paper to reach out to clients, co-workers and even potential mentors can make all the difference between creating a memorable connection, making a sale and landing a lucrative deal or letting your connections go cold and die out.

In the networking world, the novelty of pen and paper can also be used to persuade, to sell and to convince stakeholders. Roger Dooley, a contributor at Forbes magazine talks about the selling power of pen and paper. 

Declare a laptop holiday for an hour. Or make the room a computer/tablet-free zone, if you can get away with it… The people who use pen and paper will absorb more of your content and your message will be more persuasive.

In an era of permission marketing and the soft sell, the ability to convince your audiences to use pen and paper while you are at the podium is as valuable as that ubiquitous email list of customers.

Pen and Paper Exercise

If you are not used to pen and paper, using them can feel clunky and awkward at first. An exercise I found highly rewarding when I first started out using pen and paper was Julia Cameron’s famous Morning Pages exercise. You sit down every morning, writing three pages of free writing. No stopping, no stalling until you finish your three pages of legal paper. Just do a colossal vomit of all your thoughts and worries. At first, it will just be a jumble of complains and worries that you can’t tell anymone else. But as you keep at it, looking back you will get a lot of insights, creative ideas and even solutions to complex problems that you will be able to use in your everyday life.

This simple exercise from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artists’ Way, has been the single most effective productivity hack I’ve tried in the past 5-10 years. The Morning Pages essentially got me started with the daily writing practice that eventually launched my freelance writing career.

idealdayfeatured

Make Your Best Day Ever A Reality

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]
The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins. -Bob Moawad.
[/quote]

Ever sit down to work, and there is so much going on that you don’t know where to start? I used to struggle with beginning new projects because there were so many things flying around in my head that I couldn’t possibly handle them all at the same time.

Writing down all our to-do items and prioritizing the most important ones of the day is one way to clear all the mental clutter, but sometimes when you’re really swamped, long and complicated to-do lists can become a dead-weight around your neck.

In his book, “Your Best Just Just Got Better” Jason Womack talks about imagining your ideal day, then writing down word for word what that would look like in order to be productive, successful and get more out of life. Sceptical at first, I did some research of my own to see if this was true:

Is it possible to visualize an ideal day, where you work productively, and actually enjoy doing so, and then, to go out and make this ‘ideal’ day a reality? Brain studies seem to point to a resounding “yes” to that question.

If you’re a skeptic like me , you’re going to love this article in Psychology Today about Natan Sharansky, an inmate in solitary confinement who visualized the moves in a chess game with himself for years – who –  brace yourself –  actually beat a world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1996.

 

The Power of Imagery

Most of us jump into our day without giving much thought to exactly what we are trying to accomplish. Its funny that many of us are addicted to making elaborate long-term plans, but when it comes to implementing them in the day-to-day, we are incredibly lazy.

Maybe it isn’t laziness, though, that keeps us from taking steps everyday and create conditions in which we can work productively to make our ‘ideal’ life a reality.

Maybe its our recurring thought patterns that keep us unproductive. Brain studies reveal that thinking about an action fires the same pathways in your brain as doing it. So if you’re in the habit of visualizing failure and struggle, that’s exactly what you will get served. The popular book, “Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain“,  covered a multitude of studies pointing to the fact that mental imagery influences motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory. In a way, your brain is being primed for actual performance during visualization. This simple method of  creating a mental “reset” can enhance motivation, increase confidence, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success, and get yourself into the “zone”.

So, indeed, visualizing your best day can definitely help you turn it into a tangible reality!

 

Actionable Exercise: Your Best Day Ever!

Envision the best day of your life. Think in specific goals, outcomes or experiences. The day where you can choose to do anything, or be anyone. What will you wake up and do in the morning? What is the weather like, the smells, the sounds. Really get in there and imagine the detailed  elements of the situation as if you were really experiencing them right now.  Engage as many of your five senses as you can while you hold his picture of the ideal day. What are you feeling emotionally? What is your physical environment like?

Now, make a list of these “real” elements. How many of these can you incorporate into your day tomorrow?

My list looked like this:

I wake up, stretch gently, sneak out of the room while the baby is sleeping in the dark room shielded from the bright Indian sun by heavy canvas blinds. Pad to the bathroom where the extreme heat of the shower jolts me awake and refreshes me for the rest of the day. Grabbing my Macbook and iPad, I head down for some Chai Tea while I check on the Liftree website and spend some time attending to my social networks.

Spend some time with the toddler when she’s up, then get dressed and leave to work outside. Previously, I’ve taken my gadgets to work in a gym, a mall, my husband’s office, our home-theatre basement and once, even to a cocktail party where I received strange looks.

You may not be able to do all of these things. Maybe not even most of them. That’s okay. You are stepping onto  a new path towards this fabled ideal life. Like with everything else, it will take time and experience to reach where you want to be.

The most valuable insight I gained form this exercise was that your day can be anything you want to make of it. Obviously, we are all limited by our lifestyles and our means, but rather than use it as a crutch and an excuse, why not stretch out of your comfort zone and aim for what you really want? If you focus hard enough, you just might get it!

 

Reflect on this…

If you really want to be productive, you can be. You need to remind yourself everyday that productivity is a choice. Your desire to reach your dreams must be stronger than the desire to stay in your old ruts, falling back into mental patterns that don’t serve you.  Reflect on the following to get the most our of the “Best Day Ever” exercise:

What will your morning be like? Describe the sights, sounds, smells of your ideal morning. Do you smell coffee brewing, do you sip your green tea staring out at your backyard garden?

What things will need to be in place before you embark on your day’s journey so you can be really productive?

What will it take to keep you motivated and inspired? Music, an accountability buddy, bribing yourself with red-velvet cupcakes. Anything goes!

 

Next Steps

As I leave you with this first article of our productivity intensive, I want you to really start thinking about where you want to start heading in our work and personal life. I want you to start looking at where you are right now, and imagine where you want to be. If you feel comfortable, share  this with us in the comments below: What does your “Best Day Ever” look like?

Our favourite reply will get a shoutout in tomorrow’s post about quieting your mental chatter to make space for productive thoughts.

 

channelingyouranger

Eliminate The Toxic Habit That is Ruining Your Life

 Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. – Buddha

 

Define Your Anger

Whether you’re an irritable person by nature, or usually maintain a cool, you’ve experienced anger at some point in your life. It’s very hard to withdraw yourself from the moment and not allow the anger to take over control.

Take a minute to evaluate what exactly it is that you are feeling. Do you feel betrayed, are you furious and feel like punching someone?

Ask your self uncomfortable questions about your anger. In her book “The Dance of Anger”, Harriet Lerner, a scholarly writer, psychologist and a renowned relationship expert asks readers to pose the following incisive questions to identify the true source of anger:

  • What about the situation makes me angry?
  • What is the real issue here?
  • What do I think and feel?
  • What do I want to accomplish in this situation?
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • Specifically,what do I want to change?
  • What are the things I will and will not do?

Understand that whatever you are feeling is normal. Accept that it is completely human to get angry or upset, I’d be worried if you never felt that way.

Rate your anger on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most severe. Anywhere above 8, and you’ve got yourself in a pickle. This is a serious concern, which you must address. But if I were to give you a piece of advice it would be this: pick your battles. Feeling emotions of anger is okay, but allowing it to control your actions in a negative way is not.

Discover The Root

Do some detective work and figure out what the cause of your anger is. A lot of times, the trigger may not even be the actual issue. There is often a hidden, more prominent reason for your anger. Don’t ignore it. In most cases, people keep their feelings bottled up inside of them and allow their anger to build up over months or even years, and then explode in at a seemingly “random” situation because they can no longer maintain their composure. That is why it is so important to determine the underlying cause, and not work on the superficial root.

Once you spend a little time thinking about what the cause of these feelings is, you have two options: deal with the root of the anger or let the anger go. Choose wisely, because you will have to accept responsibility for your actions and its consequences. My advice is to first deal with the problem and then let it go.

Eliminate Anger From Your Life

So you’ve decided to confront the issue and reach some middle ground with the source of the anger. Kudos to you! Avoidance is a sign of weakness, not maturity.

Talk to the person at the root of the anger. If it is something they did or do on an ongoing basis that you don’t have any part in or control over, then you need to let them know how much it bothers you and affects your mood and life. They may not even know that it bothers you and discussing it with them may lead to a surprisingly easy and positive outcome.

If it is something not out of the ordinary about the other person, or something that angers you in every aspect of your life, regardless of the environment and people, perhaps you should think about the possibility that it is your ideas and beliefs about certain things that are causing you all the anger, rather than an external source. In this case, accept the cause and start working on yourself so you can live an anger-free life.

Now that you’ve dealt with the cause of the anger, its time to explore ways in which to release your remaining anger in an appropriate manner. The first step is, give yourself permission to let the anger go. Chances are you’ve held onto these feelings for quite some time and you’ve become accustomed to having it around. It’s almost become a habit. You may feel lonely without it’s presence in your head and daily life. So allow yourself to be strong and let it go.

Then, give yourself a break! You’ve just accomplished a big task, and freed yourself of a lot of draining emotional baggage. So celebrate!

How To Cope

Okay, so this is great advice for long-term anger management. But what can you do in the meantime while you haven’t had the time to deal or let go, but need to control your anger habits from day to day? Use any or all of these techniques that work for you:

Breathe. Count up until you feel your anger dissipating with each breath. If you can, keep a track of the number you stop at each time and try to monitor the progress. Hopefully, it will take less and less time, each time for your anger to dissipate.

Visualize. Anything that helps you NOT feel aggressive or violent is good. If visualizing punching the person who angers you helps you release the anger against them, then do it. If visualizing a scenic waterfall, helps calm your anger, then do that. I’m not going to tell you what you should visualize, but rather urge you to explore what helps calm your mind the most. You can do this by trying to visualize different scenes each time. You should find, just like with the breathing and counting exercise, that some scenes will help you relax faster, so use those.

Confront. Stand up for yourself if you think that is important. I still emphasize the fact that if you’re not sure how you should react, just don’t and save it until you have some time to analyze the cause. But at the same time, don’t allow someone to walk all over you. Sometimes it is just important to put your foot down, stand up for yourself and let the other person know that you are not going to accept poor treatment. The only advice I can give is make sure you are not being illogical and emotional in your confrontation, otherwise this strategy will work against you and make you look like an emotional fool in the other person’s eyes.

Channel. Invest your time and energy in hobbies, projects and social relationships. Write, paint, dance, run, create, exercise. Take up a reading list, join a martial arts class, go out with friends and family. Learn to relieve your anger in a controlled environment. This can be anything of your choosing, something that truly makes you happy and calm.

NO substances. Don’t use alcohol or drugs to cope. This only delays dealing with the issue and then you end up with even bigger issues than you started with. Use healthy means of coping with your anger that are listed above or unlisted yet positively healthy.

complimentsgracefully

Embrace compliments with grace

Over the years, I’ve noticed that I’m awful at taking compliments. After talking to several people about it, I realized that many people feel the same way about themselves! So I thought a post on the topic would be appropriate and useful.

Reasons you are not good at it

[list type=”check”]

  • You are shy
  • You are super conscious
  • Growing up, you didn’t get too many of them
  • You still don’t get them too often
  • You want to be humble
  • You are unsure of how to react
  • You’re caught off guard
  • You find it a little awkward

[/list]

 

Reactions in the moment: Do’s and Dont’s

[list type=”check”]

  • Don’t think about what the appropriate response would be or plan an elaborate thank you.
  • Do genuinely thank them. Let them know it’s very sweet and your appreciate their words. Say something thoughtful and simple. Say something thoughtful and simple.
  • Do give them a big smile.
  • Don’t be afraid to show your true reaction of surprise or happiness. There’s no need to be stoic.
  • Do remember practice makes perfect.
  • Do make the other person feel good about their decision to compliment you. Positive reinforcement will lead to getting more compliments even more often!
  • Do return the compliment if there is something you genuinely want to compliment them on.

[/list]

 

Things you can do to improve

As with everything in life, you can improve your compliment-taking skills with a little work in the right area.

1. Compliment yourself. Do so every morning and throughout the day. The more you do it the better. After all, practice makes perfect. This self loving will improve many different aspects of your life with near to no effort. Many star athletes use this technique before performing to empower themselves and boost their confidence. Look in the mirror and say it out loud, or use it as the anchor to mental meditation. You can use the same compliment each time or change it up every time. You are the boss. Find a mantra that makes you feel good. What needs to happen, is you need to get used to hearing good things about yourself. People often don’t hear good things from their spouse, siblings, children or colleagues. Various reasons for it, but none justified. Also, if you really want to do something nice. Start telling the people in your life good things about themselves. I’m not saying be fake, but it is important to share genuine thoughts you hold about them. There is nothing more special than knowing you’ve made someone’s day a little brighter.
2. Expect the unexpected. Another thing you can do is to pack away all your preconceived notions about people and intentions. Don’t try to be a detective on a mission to uncover why someone completed you. In most cases, people only give genuine compliments. So when you get one, don’t go about your day over analyzing the true motive of their words. It doesn’t matter. What matters is they were kind enough to appreciate you. So be flattered & smile! Even if you didn’t expect it from a certain person, learn to expect the unexpected.
3. Allow it to empower you and flatter your ego. Many of us have low a self esteem. Whether it is because you’ve bought into all the advertising about the ideal body build of a man or woman, or you’ve had a history of abuse and neglect, the fact remains that these ideas are simply not true. You are beautiful and exactly how you are supposed to be. Realize that most people only give genuine and honest compliments. So when they do, don’t overthink. Just run with it! Be flattered that they find you or something of yours worthy of appreciation. Allow it to make your day and empower you. All this while, remain humble and be gracious. And of course, thank the compliment bearer for making your day!

donttakepersonally

Give yourself the gift of detachment

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″] How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours. -Wayne Dyer[/quote]

No one reaction, single handedly ambushes moods, mindsets and relationships than that of taking things too personally.

If someone offends or irritates you with their words or actions, forgive them. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Odds are they may not even intended to cause harm.

Intention makes all the difference when trying to decide your reaction. Think about the saying, “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”. So really, you are the only one have the power to make or break your day.

But keep in mind that a reaction doesn’t have to be instant. With everything becoming instant in today’s world, instant messaging, instant noodles, people have confused the idea of “reaction” with “instant reaction”. Take some time to evaluate the situation and analyze your potential options.

Perhaps they may behave that way with everyone, so there’s no need to take their bad behavior upon yourself. Or they didn’t really mean what they said.

When you take everything personally, all the negative energy and harm is done to yourself. And in many cases, for no reason at all.

It is important to be able to differentiate between someone trying to walk over your toes and someone just being ignorantly clueless. Stand up for yourself if you feel you must, but just take a moment to think about whether or not it is called for.

If you are like me, you will probably go about your day getting touchy or feeling crappy about at least 10 different things which will extend through the day as you continue to think about them. This is bad. The first step is to realize what you are doing. The second, is to relax and work towards being carefree and not taking everything so personally.

Remember, that nothing in this world is permanent. Undoubtedly, you’ve changed over the years. People change. So do situations, places and everything else you can think of. Anything that irritates, angers or upsets you today may not really matter in a few days, weeks, months. Keep this perspective in mind before you get yourself worked up.

Don’t be so serious about everything. Take life lightly. Learn to laugh at yourself and at other people’s naivety or childish behaviour. You don’t have to be responsible for the wellbeing of anyone other than yourself.

Try to incorporate some of the positive changes in your attitude and actions mentioned in this article. You will find that life is much more enjoyable that way. Read more about channeling your anger in a past post.

Let us know how it goes! Share any strategies or personal experiences you have with taking things and coping with taking them too personally.

openyourheart

Open Your Heart to Love Again

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″] Just because you are angry, it does not give you the right to be cruel.[/quote]

Whether you’ve been hurt just once or dozens of times in the past, it is likely that you are a little colder, a lot shrewder. Betrayal and disappointments have become your biggest fears. You are more cautious. And rightly so.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for learning from your mistakes. Protecting ourselves from hurt or pain is a very natural physiological reaction. But if we hang on to our fears for too long, they tend to become irrational.

Though you may no longer need to shut yourself off emotionally anymore once you have healed, by the time this happens, it has probably become a habit. It is now ingrained in your mind that opening yourself up to love means opening yourself up to pain and disappointment. So you continue living in your shell, away from any chance of being let down. This is not healthy. Nor is it really beneficial once this behaviour has served its purpose.

Also, remember that having been hurt in the past doesn’t give you a right to hurt others and undermine people’s feelings and reactions. You will only find yourself alone and cold. So allow yourself to open up your heart again. Learn from your past mistakes, but don’t shut off the world either. Be brave and explore the bright colours of life and love again!

bodylanguage

Leveraging body language to create a commanding presence

Your expressions, body language and gestures can inadvertently convey a lot about what goes on inside of you – including feelings of nervousness, insecurity or uncertainty. Learning to tweak your body language to match the purpose of your message in a social interaction can boost your credibility and heighten the impact of your words.

Smile

But not too much. When people talk about confidence, often they will tell you that you should smile in order to appear upbeat and comfortable. However, smiling too much can work against you too. Especially if you are meeting someone for the first time, smiling too much can make you seem like you are trying too hard because you are emotionally vested in the outcome of your interaction. Same goes for nodding too much and showing too much emotion. The less emotion you show, the more likely people are to listen.

Make eye contact

Solid eye contact lets people know that you’re interested, friendly and that you mean business. Look directly into the eyes of people you are speaking to, hold their gaze for 2-3 seconds before looking away. Don’t overdo it because looking too long can make you look creepy. On the other hand, casting quick furtive glances can make you look sketchy and nervous. Try this: the next time you are in a social situation asks a close friend to observe how you interact visually with everyone around you.

Use gestures conservatively

Imagine how sketchy it would look if you are trying to tell someone that you are very happy for their promotion but your face betrays the fact that you don’t think the person is good enough for the job. By noticing and controlling your facial expressions to match your intentions, you are doing two things: First, your tone and body language will be consistent with the content of your speech – making your message more powerful. Second, you will appear more trustworthy because your words, expressions and gestures are all communicating the same message. Try this: Practice facial expressions in front of your bathroom mirror until they look natural and pleasant.

Strike a pose

There’s research out of Harvard which claims that holding your body in expansive “high power” poses can make you appear dominant and full of energy. No surprise there. So if you want to convey a commanding presence – stand tall, square your shoulders and widen your stance. Your weight should be balanced evenly with your limbs relaxed and open. Try this: Look at powerful personalities on TV. Set the volume to mute and observe their gestures. Emulate. Practice. Repeat.

talkthetalk

Talking with confidence to set yourself apart

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. -Mark Twain[/quote]

Go prepared

If you know you will be getting int a conversation with someone, don’t go without a game plan. Give some thought to what is likely to transpire – what the other person may say, how you should respond.

Make your responses concise and purposeful. This brings me to my next point. Don’t ramble.

Don’t ramble

If there is a lull in the conversation, do not feel obliged to fill the silence by rambling.

Pause before you respond to a question or comment. It will buy you time to think, mentally regroup and most importantly to check yourself before you blurt out something you might regret.

If the other person feels awkward, it will also place you at an advantage to bargain your point. The less you reveal, the greater your chances of keeping the other person on their toes.

Check your tone

The tone and inflection of your voice can say a lot about your imtentions, level of comfort and confidence. A steady low pitched voice sounds much more authoritative and confident than a squeaky wavering one.

Imagine you are talking to an overweight friend who is trying to lose weight by dieting. Suppose you say to her “It must be so difficult for you to to follow a strict diet.” Imagine saying it sincerely, with eye contact, a sympathetic tone of voice and an encouraging smile. Now imagine rolling your eyes at her, using a sarcastic tone and taunting her. Even when your words remain the same, your body language, expressions – and especially your tone can convey completely different meanings and attitudes and impact.

Next time you talk to someone, record yourself and see what you sound like.

Speak clearly

Enunciate your words and minimize any mumbling. Veteran actors and speakers often emphazise their vowels while speaking in order to make their speech more impactful.

Also, try to relax as much as possible so you can clearly communicate your message.

Language

Avoid expletives – they just make you sound immature and uneducated.

Avoid using clichés. Come up with original phrases instead.

Try to expand your vocabulary and knowledge (e.g. by reading/listening to current events etc) so you can converse intelligently in any social situation.

interactingwithothers

Interacting with other people like a pro

Take Charge

If you want to control or influence the outcome of a situation, you have to influence the person(s) involved in the interaction first. Take the initiative to engage people around you first.

Be the first to make solid eye contact, reach out you hand first, enter the boardroom before a meeting when everyone else is hesitating. If you’re hesitating whether you should wait for someone to call you, call them first.

When you take charge people sit up and pay attention.

Be attentive

In today’s world of cell phones and twitter, it can be tempting to check your mails, reply to a text or share a funny video on facebook while you talk to someone else in person. The false impression of being busy, popular or self-assured that some people associate with such behavior is in fact, quite detrimental to your image as a grounded, confident person.

Give the person you are speaking with face-to face your full attention instead. Lean in, point your toes towards them, and focus your eyes, ears, thoughts and words on them.

Not only will it convey respect and genuine regard for the other person, it will also demonstrate that you are genuinely at ease with yourself and the world around you because you do not need the crutch or protection of a phone or gadget to shield you from engaging, meaningful dialogue with the real person in front of you.

Observe

Just like you pay attention to your own body language, tone and voice; it is also important to closely observe the other person’s non-verbal cues.

You will be able to gauge whether they have a question, comment, a point of contention or need clarification. By being empathetic and sensitive to their concerns, you build trust and reveal that you are confident and forthcoming.

Stand your ground

Don’t be afraid to state your point and stick to what you say. While it is important to appear friendly, you should not feel intimidated by someone into holding back your thoughts and concerns.

In the beginning, your voice may waver, your mouth may dry out, or your words may desert you. Even if you are not perfectly confident, stick to your guns. It will get easier with practice. The more you practice navigating conflicts calmly and confidently, the easier it will become.

As a bonus, the other person may gain a renewed respect and admiration for you because you are standing your ground in a situation where you may not be completely at ease.

Try this: Before dealing with an intimidating person, create a list. Write down your past achievements, admirable qualities, reasons why someone would respect you and want to associate with you.

Show compassion

A confident person is not a negative, insecure or malicious person. Try to cultivate compassion in your interactions by trying to gauge and understand the other person’s viewpoint.

Be kind, sympathetic and polite but stay firm when you feel strongly about something.

mindset

The Confidence Mindset

Whether you are at a professional negotiation, dating a new guy or performing in front of a crowd, the one trait that makes you unforgettable is to have unshakable confidence. In order to build confidence you need practice, time and as they say, the perseverance to fake it till you make it. A few simple habits in your day-to-day life will set you on the path to becoming confident.

Accept your body

This concept has been beaten to the ground in self-help circles but the fact remains that it is true. When I delivered my first baby, I was 25 pounds heavier, four sizes larger and oozing “fat woman vibes” all over the place. It was a ragged road to recovery. The depression hit me real hard until I realized that that I could be sexy without the skinny. Instead of wearing the maternity clothes to hide the mummy tummy, I went out and bought myself flattering “normal” clothes. My body was still a little flabby and misshapen but if I didn’t mind it, neither did those around me. Wherever you are in your fitness journey, I urge you to embrace your body as it is this very moment. The funny thing about people is that if you act like you are sexy and powerful, then to them, you really are.

Find yourself

Take time out from your day to spend exclusively with yourself. Even if you can only spare a few minutes a day, make it a point to do something solitary and self-centered. Just for you and nobody else. A luxurious bath. An exciting book. A random doodle. A delicious glass of wine.

Be decisive

A mother intuitively knows her baby needs feeding. A nurse knows when her patient is about to code. An entrepreneur takes risks based on a gut-feeling. The more you use your intuition muscle, the stronger it gets. Malcom Gladwell, in his book, “Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking” claims that “our power of thin-slicing and snap judgment are extraordinary” Learn to trust your subconscious. Try it today – give yourself no more than a minute to make intuitive decisions whenever the opportunity presents. The more quick, sound and intuitive decisions you make, the greater your faith in your competence – and confidence.

Next week, will talk about how you can use your body language to seem more confident.

intro

The 7 Secrets of Self Confidence

Everyone’s heard of the proverbial strong woman. She’s confident, sassy, smart – and elusive. She lurks ahead of us, just out of our reach. We all want to be like her and if we try hard enough to reach out, we could almost brush her with our finger tips. For every woman out there who has longed to be the kind of formidable woman that spreads sunshine and warmth, that stands up tall and strong, that scares the sh*t out of the devil every time she looks his way – our “Secrets of Succesful Women” series is for you.

1. Be approachable

Smile. Even if you don’t feel calm or happy inside, act serene. A strong woman has a composed demeanor and is open to engaging socially with people. Reach out to an old friend, go out of your way to have lunch with your parents or siblings, make new friends by picking up a new hobby. Being engaged and socially approachable gives you an air of confidence. Whenever you can, help those who ask for it.

2. Say no

A word of caution when helping others: take care of your own agenda first. It is human nature to abuse someone’s time or resources if they keep helping you day after day without regard to their own purpose or preferences. So sprinkle your help generously with a “no” every now and then. When you refuse something, be polite. Say it firmly in a neutral tone of voice. Make solid eye contact. Try not to let your voice waver or rise up a few octaves – it could make you look harsh or nervous. Smile, if you can. Practice in the mirror, if you can’t.

3. Be confident

Pretend you are. Smile, square your shoulders, walk tall, walk proud. Stick your nose in the air for good measure. Surround yourself with confident and successful people. Confidence, like success, is contagious.

4. Respect yourself

Always put yourself first. By saying that, I do not mean that you should be selfish and only take care of your needs and wants. Respecting yourself means reserving the right to make the final decision regarding your actions. Think critically for yourself. It means sticking to your guns if you feel passionate about a certain point of view. Putting yourself first means being the opposite of a pushover. That said, being a rebel without a cause is only appropriate when you are an adolescent. Even then it’s not in good taste.

5. Be flexible

Pick the fights you will have the energy to invest in because your stamina is not infinite. Stand up for the things you really care about – and be flexible the rest of the time. People will know you are genuine, rational and have a backbone.

6. Be comfortable

In your own skin. Spend time with yourself. See yourself as an asset. See yourself at par with other people no matter how much taller, smarter, successful or better looking they are. You are also taller, smarter successful or better looking compared to many other people. That is the way of the world. Focus on being the best friend that you never had. One that is proud of you, knows your short comings and doesn’t give a damn.

7. Be clear

Know what you want and go after it. Sure you may have four kids, a corporate job or a demanding spouse that plant their needs and wants on you. Unless someone is about to have a code blue, meet your needs first. You know how on the airplane, they tell you to put on your oxygen mask before putting it on your kids? Like that. If you burn out, you will be of no use to others. So live with the clarity of putting yourself first. But what of the children, you say? As a mother, you will set an example for your kids. They will model the way they are in the world upon how you were when they were growing up. By putting yourself first, you are teaching them to be responsible for their own needs – which will serve them better than indulging them every time and making them extra dependent on you.