You Adore Quality. So Why Consume Garbage Media?

We revere quality. From artisanal beers and small batch kombucha to bespoke boots and $200 Diesel jeans, the world seems obsessed with quality. But if we are willing to carefully shop for only the very best cars, organic food, and hand-crafted clothes, why are we willing to consume low-quality news and information? Why do we fill our brains with crap?

We thoughtfully admire and compare the quality of our shoes, our merino sweaters, our WarbyParker glasses, and yet gleefully scroll through the mindless waterfall of Twitter or Facebook. Most of it is crap. Most of it is designed to hijack your attention, not inform or educate. Truth is, most often the product is you.

Media noise is echoing around us constantly. And while some of the stories are real, much of the interpretation is fiction. So while it is true that over 4000 Ukrainian soldiers died in 2019 fighting to maintain the legitimacy of their country, what that means to Russia or the rest of the world is the subject of much debate, spin and opinion.

Have you kept track of the movies you have watched, books and newspapers you have read, or music you have listened to over the years? Probably not, yet all of that media has shaped the way you think about love, death, joy, kindness, mourning, and more. Your interpretation of relationships and the world is the culmination of years of ingesting information. The phrase “garbage in, garbage out” in computer science is a reference to the fact that if you put garbage data into the equation, you get garbage results. The same is true in your head.

It has always been true that change is the only constant, yet the pace of change continues to accelerate. Which means our own adaptation and growth is a necessary part of recreating ourselves for tomorrow. If someone describes the future to you and it doesn’t sound like fantasy or science fiction, it probably isn’t realistic. That’s how fast things are changing. It you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention.

Big data is fueling artificial intelligence at such an astonishing rate that your technical skills will likely no longer be relevant soon. Especially since AI will learn to code better and faster than a human. I was at a conference recently and maintained a continuously flowing conversation with a Chinese speaking participant by using a real-time language translation app. We never spoke in each other’s native language, yet maintained a clear conversation. It was both amazing and a little disconcerting.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the most important soft skills needed now and in the foreseeable future are problem solving, innovation, creativity, dealing with ambiguity, and the ability to effectively communicate your ideas to others.

And how will you generate powerful new ideas, learn how to effectively problem-solve, and communicate your ideas with others, unless you consume powerful new ideas and information? My recommendation is step into the Slow Media Movement. Similar to the slow food movement, but for your brain.

  • For starting your slow media journey try a media detox with Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism.
  • For personal change and research data on the power of gratitude and compassion, I recommend David DeSteno, Emotional Success.
  • For organizational change and fun stories on high performing teams, read Daniel Coyle, The Culture Code.
  • For innovation and seeing the world through fresh eyes check out Stephen Shapiro’s new book, Invisible Solutions
  • For stories of radical breakthrough I recommend Safi Bacall, Loonshots.
  • And finally, I have been greatly enjoying Jill Lepore’s engrossing book on American History, These Truths.

Speaking of building an intentionally-designed life, check out Mindscaling’s new series on Civility in the Workplace.

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Our company Mindscaling, is busy building powerful human and digital learning experiences for companies of all sizes. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, is a Washington Post bestseller! You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? I love to work with groups large and small. Let’s talk.

In other news, our son and I bicycled across America with two other dads and their teenagers. We published a new book about it called Chasing Dawn. I co-authored the book with my cycling companion, the artist, photographer, and wonderful human jon holloway. Buy a copy. I’ll sign it and send it to your doorstep.

Achieve Your Goals by Focusing on This One Idea

“Habits are not a finish line to be crossed, but a lifestyle to be lived.”
– James Clear

What is something you want to accomplish? Maybe give a great presentation? Write a book? Start a new business? Now think about who that person is who achieved that. That person is a public speaker, or a writer, or an entrepreneur.

Stop focusing on the goals you want to accomplish, and start asking who you want to become. Reframe the story you tell yourself. Stop focusing on running a marathon, instead become a runner. Stop focusing on publishing a book, instead become a writer. Goals aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but instead of focusing on the end result, focus on becoming the kind of person who can accomplish that goal.

Ever since Jim Collins coined the acronym BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), it gets floated around strategy meetings and sales departments, and then drifts over to personal goal conversations about completing triathlons, getting 6-pack abs, or becoming a yoga master.

It’s fairly easy to draft a spreadsheet and lay out the incremental steps to accomplish goals. So, for instance, if you want to run a marathon, you can search for marathon running plans and easily pick a plan that will get you there. But all that careful contemplation and planning to get to the starting line of a marathon doesn’t make you a runner. It’s the habit of running that makes you a runner.

So, instead ask the question, what would a runner do? Well, a runner would have a habit of stretching. A runner would run when it’s raining or cold (or both). A runner would learn how to hydrate for long runs. A runner would lay out their gear the night before.

Or if you want your sales team to reach a quarterly goal of X dollars, you can create a plan that requires Y number of phone calls and Z number of proposals submitted. Your team could execute on the plan, and you might make the financial goal that quarter, but that occurrence doesn’t make a great sales team. You aren’t magically transformed into a great sales leader. It takes time, and it takes building small incremental habits over time by practicing them every day.

Instead ask, how would a great sales leader behave? Well, a great sales leader would lead by example, would be an active listener, would be empathetic to individual styles of team members, and become good at providing specific feedback and coaching.

Life isn’t lived in a singular future achievement, life is a collection of moments lived one day at a time. Who you are is the accumulation of the habits you have been practicing over time.

James Clear says one of the most common questions he gets is, “How long does it takes to build a habit?” And your google search will tell you it takes 18 days, or 21 days, or 66 days, but the honest truth is that it takes forever. Because the moment you stop doing it, it’s no longer a habit.

Change starts one small act at a time. Try our course Small Acts of Leadership to build action into your life every single day.

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Our company Mindscaling, is busy building powerful human and digital learning experiences for companies of all sizes. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, is a Washington Post bestseller! You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? I love to work with groups large and small. Let’s talk.

Last summer, my son and I bicycled across America with two other dads and their teenagers. We published a new book about it called Chasing Dawn. I co-authored the book with my cycling companion, the artist, photographer, and wonderful human jon holloway. Buy a copy. I’ll sign it and send it to your doorstep.

Why You Should Surprise People Sometimes

Remember that weird feeling when you’re in 5th grade and you see your teacher at the grocery store, just picking out bananas like a normal human? And it’s really strange because she doesn’t belong at the grocery store. She belongs in math class. Like, what’s she doing here?

Or you see your mean, yelling gym coach hug his crying daughter in the parking lot after school, wipe her tears, and bend down to tie her shoes. Wow, he can also be kind?

When we think of goofball Jimmy who wears a bowtie and suspenders, we think he’s a clown looking for attention. And when we see Hector, the science nerd wearing a bowtie and suspenders we think he’s an eccentric intellectual. When Gertie, the class valedictorian, sits quietly alone for lunch we think she is ruminating on her world peace essay. But when Jackson, the terrorist of 6th grade, sits alone, we think he’s planning his next nasty trick.

I have a friend who works at the bank drive-through window. We laugh and tell jokes. She gives biscuits to my dogs. She’s a great friend. But I saw her in the cereal isle the other day and for a full three seconds I blinked and all I could think was, “I know this person! I like her, but who is she?

It’s both surprising and confusing when people confound our expectations of them. When we see people out of place or out of character doing things we don’t expect of them. People often fulfill our usual expectations of them. We don’t get to see our taxi driver play saxophone in his blues band, and we don’t get to see our boss read bedtime stories to her children.

We seek predictability in others and try to be predictable ourselves. Which is why when we get invited to a barbecue, we hate to say no. Keeping social harmony relies on our own willingness and ability to allow others to reliably predict what we’re going to do. Social consistency keeps the peace.

But sometimes it’s good to surprise people. Sometimes it’s good to bust out something new, something different, something unexpected. It’s not only how we grow, it’s how we develop others’ expectations of what we’re capable of.

You may likely be aware of the small ways in which we can change our environment and surprise and delight ourselves. Driving a different way to work, for example, will likely make you more present and attuned to your environment. Varying your routines can achieve the same effect.

So long as we fear vulnerability, we play it safe and stop ourselves from exploring.
– Tania Luna and Leeann Renninger, authors of Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected

In order to reframe the expectations others have for us, we need to surprise them in delightful ways. Here are a couple ways you can engineer surprise from Luna and Renninger:

  • Initiate an activity in which the outcome is uncertain. Invite a colleague to dinner you don’t know very well. Or better, invite a small group of people unlikely to know each other. Recently we attended a dinner for twelve hosted by friends who were the only couple who knew everyone at the table. It was a fun and memorable night.
  • Delight someone by over-delivering. Tell her you will empty the dishwasher, then also clean out the fridge. Say you’ll prepare the slides, then actually deliver them rehearsed in the meeting.

Workplaces where managers actively encourage experimentation, and lead by experimenting themselves, make us feel more comfortable with being imperfect, with taking chances, with making mistakes. These are the kind of leaders who make us feel like we can be ourselves.

By embracing and engineering surprise you can make our whole world richer. You can inspire wonder, connection, vulnerability, growth, and creativity.
– Tania Luna and Leeann Renninger

Change starts one small act at a time. Try our course Small Acts of Leadership to build action into your life every single day.

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Our company Mindscaling, is busy building powerful human and digital learning experiences for companies of all sizes. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, is a Washington Post bestseller! You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? I love to work with groups large and small. Let’s talk.

Last summer, my son and I bicycled across America with two other dads and their teenagers. We published a new book about it called Chasing Dawn. I co-authored the book with my cycling companion, the artist, photographer, and wonderful human jon holloway. Buy a copy. I’ll sign it and send it to your doorstep.

Want to Create Something Cool and Innovative? Box Yourself In.

William Shakespeare is widely known as one of the most prolific, and greatest writers in the English language. But consider how he created, and for whom. He wrote specifically for live 16th century theatrical performances, when it was common for audiences to stand up, wander in and out, go find something to eat, yell their displeasure at the actors, or even yell at each other to shut up and listen. It was often a chaotic and rowdy affair.

With these specific audience constraints, Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays that are celebrated and studied today. He also invented over 1700 words that are actively used in the English language. All kinds of words. “Elbow” for example, was merely a noun until Shakespeare decided to use it as a verb and allow a character in a play to elbow his way into a room. Other words he wholly invented, like the word “puking”. Here it is as written in the play As You Like It.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.
– William Shakespeare As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7

In 1960, Theo Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) accepted a bet with with his publisher Bennett Cerf. Cerf challenged Geisel to write a book using only 50 different words. The result was the acclaimed Green Eggs and Ham, which went on to sell over 200 million copies and is one of the best-known children’s books of all time.

In 1996, the innovative skier Shane McConkey was sitting at a bar in Argentina with some friends complaining that there wasn’t a really good powder ski in existence. He sketched his vision of a powder ski on a napkin which had almost no side cut and no camber. Side cut is what gives skis their hourglass shape and are fantastic for carving on hard, packed snow. Just lean them on edge and they bite into the snow. But they’re terrible in powder. If you design the narrowest part of the ski to be directly underfoot, in soft powder you sink.

The other change he sketched on that napkin was to reverse the camber. Camber is…, well how about a visual to explain it. See here:

Traditional camber creates a tendency for the ski tip to dive in deep powder. And if your tip dives in deep powder you’re likely to fly over the handlebars on your face into the mountain. Instead, skiers had to lean back uncomfortably to keep their tips from diving. Reverse camber allows a skier in powder to center his weight comfortably on the ski, providing more control.

While designing the ski, McConkey borrowed from water skiing. In his mind, powder and water were similar in that they were dimensional. In powder you ski in the snow, not on top of it. He simply imagined using a water ski in deep powder. That ski he sketched on a napkin took two years to be produced. As he describes, “Over the course of the next two years I would talk to people about how cool it would be to have skis with decamber and reverse side cut specifically for powder. Almost everyone I mentioned the idea to would either laugh or politely smile.”

A lot of presentations are boring. Amiright? The speaker drones on while staring at his pie charts with his back to the audience. Some of the most exciting and innovation presentations have come as a result of practicing PechaKucha. In Japanese, PechaKucha literally means “Chit Chat.” It’s a style of presentation in which the presenter gets exactly 20 slides, to deliver in 20 seconds each, for a complete 6 minute and 40 second presentation. Oh, and the slides auto-advance in exactly 20 second increments. That will make you tighten things up, and practice. And practice.

Shakespeare wrote to entertain a loud, rowdy, and distracted live audience. Theo Geisel attempted to write an entertaining book using only 50 words. Shane McConkey designed a ski to only be used in very specific snow conditions. PechaKucha exists to kill boring presentations.

These are all examples of using constraints to create innovation. According to Stanford Professor Bob Sutton, “Research on creativity and constraint demonstrates that, when options are limited, people generate more, rather than less, varied solutions — apparently because their attention is less scattered.”

Innovation isn’t rocket science. It can be deconstructed and learned by anyone. Try our course Out•Innovate the Competition to build measurable innovation in your workplace.

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Our company Mindscaling, is busy building powerful human and digital learning experiences for companies of all sizes. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, is a Washington Post bestseller! You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? I love to work with groups large and small. Let’s talk.

Last summer, my son and I bicycled across America with two other dads and their teenagers. We published a new book about it called Chasing Dawn. I co-authored the book with my cycling companion, the artist, photographer, and wonderful human jon holloway. Buy a copy. I’ll sign it and send it to your doorstep.

Striving for *Best* is Killing Your Mojo. Choose Good Enough.

Have you purchased something recently? Something major like a new laptop, a car, a bicycle, or even a minor thing like a toaster, or a shirt? And when you bought it, did you pore over the reviews and try to pick the very best one, with the most options, coolest color, or lightest design?

If you struggled through the decision process before your purchase, you are more likely to keep looking around even after you bought it, and more likely to have buyer’s regret about your purchase later. You know that feeling after you bought a Toyota. You start to see them everywhere. You also see the competitors you thought about, but didn’t buy. There’s always a better camera, a faster processor, a brighter shade of blue.

Between 1975 and 2008, the number of products in the average supermarket swelled from about 9,000 to almost 47,000. If you go to a supermarket today, you will be confronted by up to 80 types of cookies to choose from, and up to 100 types of toothpaste. Crest alone has 61 varieties depending on whether you are interested in breath quality, whitening, gingivitis, sensitive gums, soft enamel, or even if you’re over 50 years old. Seriously 61.

I’m talking about the tyranny of choice, the curse of options. If you are presented with 61 flavors of ice cream, you are more likely to make a slower choice, and a choice that you are more likely to regret, than if you are presented with 5 options. There is a price we pay for all those choices. The price is not just the time you spend anxiously deciding, but the nagging suspicion that you may have made a wrong choice.

Sheena Iyengar, author of The Art of Choosing, did a little study in which she and her students set up a jam and cracker tasting table at a grocery store. In one version of the tasting, they offered 6 different jams for people to taste. In the second version, they offered 24 different types of jam. After the first tasting, 30% of people bought a jar of jam. After the second tasting, only 3% bought a jar. More choice can lead to paralysis, indecision.

We worry that each choice we make says a little something about who we are. Each selection is a small reflection of what we believe, what we hold dear. What if we make the wrong choice? We’re not perfect, and we sometimes beat ourselves up trying to be stronger, sharper, more present, more focused, more caring. We should be more compassionate to ourselves, and we shouldn’t punish ourselves by over-evaluating our choices. After all, we’re constantly changing anyway.

The word is satisficing. It means choosing something that’s good enough, will do the job, will suffice. Those who try to maximize every single choice are likely be less happy about their choices, and less happy about themselves. They also tend to be perfectionists.

Comparison is the death of joy.
– Mark Twain

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Shawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building powerful human and digital learning experiences based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, is a Washington Post bestseller! You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? Let’s talk.

Last summer, my son and I bicycled across America with two other dads and their teenagers. We published a new book about it called Chasing Dawn. I co-authored the book with my cycling companion, the artist, photographer, and wonderful human jon holloway. Grab a copy. I’ll sign it and send it to your doorstep.

Change the Task, Not the Person

Ask yourself. Does our company only hire the best and the brightest? Only accept the most remarkable and enlightened ones?

And does our company try to mold them, transform these new recruits so they talk like we do, sell like we do, write code like we do, and write marketing copy like we do?

What if the way our company does things is tired, stagnant, and outdated? What if our company is recruiting talented people with new skills and ideas, and then training it out of them?

Maybe the problem isn’t teaching the new person our way of doing things. Maybe the problem is the task, and the tools we’ve been using.

Don’t try to change someone to do a task or a process better. Change the task or the assignment to better fit the strengths of the amazing new people you hire. Or better, let the new person choose the task and the tools.

Your Focus Needs More Focus

You are trying to finish a project. It requires time and care. It requires focus and attention. It requires formatting slides, or writing a proposal, or completing a spreadsheet. It’s important. And if everyone would just pipe down, you could get it done.

But now the people meeting in the conference room next door are loud and obnoxious. It sounds like they are having a party, not a meeting. What do you do?

You could focus on how obnoxious they are, how disruptive they are. But now you’re annoyed and focusing on the loud meeting. And because you’re annoyed, you can’t stop thinking about how annoyed you are, and suddenly your feelings are even louder than the meeting.

Another option is you could shut it out, try to ignore it, and focus on your work. Essentially respond by thinking, “Yes, they are loud, but I need to finish this project. I can’t control them, so I’m going to ignore them.”

It’s a common scenario at work. Distractions abound, alerts sound off, emails stack up, your boyfriend just texted you, while you are in a meeting. Now, just when you have a quiet minute to THINK, your own mind hijacks your focused work. Suddenly in this precious moment, your mind is drifting off to some other distraction.

Studies show that how we deal with distraction matters a great deal. In one study from the University of Amsterdam, participants were given a task to solve anagrams, puzzles that require focus and careful thought. All of the participants were asked to wear headphones which played cacophonous background animal noises such as bears snorting, birds chirping, horses whinnying, etc. – pretty obnoxious and distracting stuff.

Half of the participants were told, “to do well on the task, you will need to overcome the distraction and oppose its interference.” The other half of the participants were told, “the background noise is a bit of a nuisance to cope with. It is something that may cause you to feel a bit unpleasant—a feeling that you’ll need to cope with.” All participants were told that if they did a good job on the test, they would receive a prize.

Both groups described the noise as equally annoying, but here’s the surprise: while both groups performed comparably on the test (the oppose-the-distraction group did a little better than the cope-with-the distraction group, but not much), the group asked to oppose the distraction and block it out cared much more about the task, and valued the reward at the end much more.

Don’t cope with distraction, oppose it. When we concentrate and work in a deeply focused way, we care about our work more, and we value the impact and benefits that come from it. In short, when we deepen our focus and consciously shut out distractions, we wind up valuing our work more.

Your focus needs more focus.
– Mr. Han

Need a dose of resiliency? Have a look at our new micro-learning series Raising Resiliency featuring bestselling author Jen Shirkani. Message me if you’re interested and we’ll send you a preview. Enjoy!

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SmallActs-3DShawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building beautiful online learning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, (Routledge) just released. You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? Let’s talk.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: email@gshunter.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com

How High Performers Think Differently About Stress

Talking in front of lots of people can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Before I go on stage, I don’t think I’m nervous. Instead I think, I’m excited. It’s a subtle change of attitude that makes a big difference.

The problem in our lives isn’t stress, but instead chronic, unabated stress. A little stress can make you alert and focused. A little stress can help your immune system, heighten your resiliency.

A lot of chronic stress is like spray painting your brain with cortisol. It gets everywhere, and it’s hard to remove. Chronic exposure to cortisol is linked to weight gain, osteoporosis, digestive problems, hormone imbalances, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and more. Chronic unabated exposure to stress and anxiety is debilitating.

The difference between debilitating stress and positive pressure is how we think about it.

“People with a history of some lifetime adversity reported better mental health and well-being outcomes than not only people with a high history of adversity but also than people with no history of adversity at all.”
– Mark Seery, University of California, Santa Barbara

Think about it this way: everyone knows a healthy workout leaves you nicely exhausted, sweating and pleased from the effort. You also know you can not easily go out again and immediately run another six miles or do another 60 minute spinning class. You need rest and recovery for your body to renew and ready itself again for the next challenge.

Your mind is no different. Mental exercise expands and opens new pathways of learning and creativity but you need that period of rest, reflection and recovery to build upon that experience effectively. Commonly, people believe they need to avoid stressful situations and, in particular, other people who are always stressed out.

“Some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance.”
– Daniela Kaufer, Ph.D.

According to researchers Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry there are a few things you can do mentally to help reinterpret a stressful event as instead a useful and positive challenge. In their book Performing Under Pressure, they advise us to:

  1. Think of it as a fun challenge, not a scary moment.
  2. Remember that it’s just a moment, it’s not the rest of your life. It will come and go.
  3. Focus on performing the event, not what others will think about it later. Focus on the doing of it.
  4. Find humor in it. Make a joke. Laughter can quickly defuse a stressful moment.
  5. Create a pre-performance routine. Just like basketball players shooting a free throw, or golfers lining up a golf shot, the best performers have little rituals they do before each big meeting, presentation or interview. Do that.

Finally, allow yourself to recover. After a big presentation I will often go for a quiet walk or call my family and talk about something completely different. You can realize the full benefits of challenge when you allow yourself stress recovery. The recovery will renew your strength, to then you can bring that heightened confidence and skill to new interactions and elevate those around you.

Released today! We just released our new micro-learning series Raising Resiliency featuring bestselling author Jen Shirkani. Message me if you’re interested and we’ll send you a preview. Enjoy!

    ____________________________________________________

SmallActs-3DShawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building beautiful online learning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, (Routledge) just released. You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? Let’s talk.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: email@gshunter.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com

How Do You Approach Your Work?

How you approach your work matters. You don’t have to repeat to yourself focus, focus, focus… there are some specific ways you can prime yourself to choose better priorities, and be more productive. How you set your mind and your body into your work can make a big impact on the quality of the work you perform. Here are a few ideas from Laura Stack’s bestselling book and online course Doing the Right Things Right.

Know that you are an executive.
Despite your role or title, you are an executive. In other words you are the #1 person responsible for managing your time and getting the right things done right. It might feel like your time is not your own, but one way or another you must make it yours. Only you can own your own engagement.

Know your strengths.
Are you a person who thinks and plans before acting? Or are you more apt to focus on your team to get things done? You may also be one of those who truly enjoy doing tactical work and using every app imaginable to manage your time. Knowing your strengths and learning from others just makes your executive job more powerful.

Know what’s important.
Reacting to email, social media, late demands, and interruptions can be called work, but it isn’t the kind of intentional, personal, and self-designed work which gives us a sense of purpose. Emptying our in-box is not work we cherish. When we have to do new, original and creative work such as delivering an article, researching, or preparing a new presentation or report, we are far more productive when we mentally plan what we will do, and remain more focused and dedicated to protecting that time because of the commitment and planning.

Start with your posture.
Sit up. Slouching makes you sad. Erik Peper, a professor at San Francisco State University, did a few experiments in which participants were asked to sit in various positions. They were then asked to recall either negative experiences and memories or positive, empowering ones. Slouchers had a harder time recalling the positive thoughts. According to Peper, “If you take on a collapsed position, it really shifts the physiology.” Also known as a “cowering position”, slouching is a posture of defeat.

Don’t worry, you can almost immediately reverse the negative effects of a slouch by simply standing up and skipping in place. Subjects who sat up in their chair had an easier time recalling positive and optimistic memories, and just 30 seconds of skipping in place improved mood and energy levels.

Even better, crank up the tunes and dance. The positive physical and psychological effects of dancing are well-researched. Better than tennis, cycling, golf, and swimming, dancing has a stronger ability to ward off dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Researchers concluded the combination of physical intensity, mental focus, and social connection compounded to produce stronger positive results.

Adjust your attitude.
Don’t tell yourself, ask yourself. Instead of telling yourself “I will go to exercise class in the morning!”, instead ask yourself “Will I go to exercise class in the morning?” Contrary to the old wisdom of using positive self-talk, such as “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” to boost self-confidence, using positive questions is much more powerful. If instead we ask ourselves, “Can I do this?” we will have to answer the question in our minds and be specific about how we will meet the challenge.

Similarly, if we challenge ourselves by asking, “Will I finish this article before I read Facebook again?”, we are more likely reflect on that challenge and accept it. In being honest with ourselves and asking if we are up for a challenge, we’re more likely to face that challenge successfully than simply repeating, “I think I can.”

Now, give yourself less time.
“But I didn’t have enough time!” Yes, you did. You had all day, all week, all month. You burned it doing something else. Often when you have more time, the obligation will simply fill your mind with more anxiety and dread than if you give yourself less time and get it off your desk. Recently I had three weeks to prepare a presentation. I spent so many moments lost in thought about what I should change or remove or add, that I realized the obsession was crowding my time for creating new ideas and projects. I delivered the presentation a week early. Once I delivered the project, and knew I could make no more changes, I let go. I moved on to being productive in other valuable work.

To learn more about choosing priorities in your work, and executing with greater efficiency and speed, take a look at world-class productivity expert Laura Stack and her course Doing the Right Things Right:

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SmallActs-3DShawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building beautiful online learning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, (Routledge) just released. You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? Let’s talk.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: email@gshunter.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com

You Can Reduce Election Stress and Up Your Game

Your value to an organization is not in the hours you clock, the number of emails you flip, slide decks you build, and it’s certainly not in the air miles you punch to get in Zone 1 boarding.

Your value is in the creative energy and impact you bring to the table. The only way we can consistently and effectively bring our best ideas, and our greatest impact to work is if we believe our work matters, and if we believe our actions make a positive difference.

But it’s a stressful time right now. What with the election looming, it’s easy to get distracted and compulsively check the poll numbers (link not provided, check it later).

Over half of Americans are more stressed out now than a year ago. Fifty-two percent of Americans claim that the election is a “very or somewhat significant source of stress,” according to the American Psychological Association.

And when we are compulsively checking social media, we are creating yet more distracted anxiety, which in turn reduces our ability to think clearly, deeply, and coherently on our work. It’s a self-defeating downward spiral.

It’s well understood that high levels of chronic and acute stress impair our ability to think creatively, solve complex problems, and generate meaningful ideas. Stress is a response to a trigger, a circumstance, a rapidly changing environment, or a negative thought. How we react to these triggers can be the difference between positive or negative emotional states.

We can insulate ourselves against these stresses, and increase our effectiveness and impact. For example, public speaking is widely known to be one of the most stressful circumstances we encounter. It’s such a reliable way to induce stress that there is a test named after it called the Trier Social Stress Test.

Here’s how it works in one experiment:

Eighty-five people were asked to prepare a five minute speech on “why I would be a good candidate for an administrative assistant position at __________ university.” Then, they had to deliver their speech to a panel of stern, unwelcoming evaluators. And finally, if that wasn’t quite enough stress, participants were asked to count backwards from 2,083 by 13s for 5 min under harassing conditions. The evaluators would frown, and constantly ask them to go faster.

After the experience, researchers measured the saliva of participants for cortisol, and other stress markers. Those who were asked, prior to the test, to thoughtfully reflect on their own most important personal values, had lower levels of stress during, and after, the experience.

Lower stress also improves our creative impact. In another study, David Crewswell and his colleagues worked with seventy-three people between the ages of 18 and 34 and gave them a series of creative tests that go like this:

Read these three words: flake, mobile, cone. Now, think of a word that, when combined with all three, make a new word. The word “snow” works, because we can now create snow-flake, snow-mobile, and snow-cone. The task requires creative thinking. It requires a little focus and thoughtfulness, which is the kind of thinking we need every day in our work.

Before each small creative task, half of the group was asked to reflect on values most important to them such as family relationships, artistic ability, independence, religious values or other aspects of their life that they valued deeply. These reflections of self-affirmation had a stress-protective effect on their performance.

Every meeting we have, phone call we place, report we prepare, or presentation we deliver, is a performance opportunity. It’s an opportunity to bring our very best ideas, and impact to our work. When we take a moment to reflect on the values and relationships we hold dear to our identity, it reduces our stress, and increases our impact.

To learn more about adopting a growth mindset, and upping your game at work:

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SmallActs-3DShawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building beautiful online learning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, (Routledge) just released. You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? Let’s talk.

Twitter: @gshunter
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