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4 simple steps to making effective decisions in times of uncertainty

Business owners face more and more uncertainty due to rapidly changing technology, global economies, and now a global health crisis, and are challenged to make effective decisions on behalf of their company and teams.

Traditional ways of leading employees through a top-down, linear approach are outdated and ineffective. With most employees and managers at large corporations spending less than 6 months on average in a role and having 2.6 managers to report to per year, it’s time to uplevel the way we assess the business landscape and make decisions.

In this article, I’ll share with you four different approaches to take before assessing what’s needed and the effective decisions or actions you can take next.  Your employees, teams, and even your customers are relying on you to do this work to earn their dedication, loyalty, and trust.

Zoom out and remember the big picture from 30,000 ft

  • North Star
  • Company or personal values
  • Your vision of the world or your world AFTER things all work out the way you would wish

The neuroscience – Decrease your emotional connection to the situation.  Imagine that you’re in an airplane taking off from a runway.  As it rises higher and higher the buildings and people on the ground get smaller and smaller.  The details get fuzzier, less clear and you may feel lighter as you lift up into the clear sky or soft pillowy clouds.  When you remove your focus from the immediate and get out of the details, you open the space for more broad, abstract, and creative thinking.  This is the mindset of finding greater solutions to problems and focusing on where you’re really going over where you feel stuck or fearful.

Zoom in and identify the things you can actually control or influence with your choices

  • Make a list of immediate actions that you CAN take or make
  • Reduce anxiety by letting go of worrying about too much in the future
  • Include the feedback from your people on the ground, so you aren’t making decisions in a vacuum

The neuroscience – Conversely to zooming out, by zooming in our focus narrows and we cut out all of the other information that may distract us from the tasks at hand.  MLK said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t need to see the whole staircase, just take the first step”.  Often people become stuck as a result of too many options without clear knowledge of the outcomes of each potential choice.  This leads to paralysis, overthinking, and indecision. 

In times of stress, indecision can be the worst decision of all.  

Look forward in time and see it from the future

  • How will you feel 5 weeks, months, years in the future about the decision you’re making now?
  • What would your future self advise you about where you’re at right now?
  • Consider how the people around you will feel based on the actions you’re about to take.  How can you include and protect them in your decision-making?

The neuroscience – In behavioral psychology, we call this “future pacing”, which is the process of having the mind visualize a reality where the result or outcome is in our favor. Used heavily in elite sports over the past 100 years, business owners have also started to utilize this process in ideation or creative planning. 

Consider that our thoughts create pictures in our mind and in turn that influences the emotional state we get into and the physical activity down to a cellular level of our bodies.  Yes, that means that focusing on what we fear might happen can change the type of energy we produce, the hormones we release, and the chemicals in our brain that drive focus, action, and the feeling of success or satisfaction.

In times of stress, our attention can go to what isn’t working or what we don’t want to happen thereby creating negative and stuck energy within our bodies. This creates a negative perpetual cycle of destructive thinking leading to destructive action.

Instead, schedule 10 – 30 minutes per week to do this strategy of visualizing the future and pay attention to any signs, insights, landmarks, or wisdom you can garner by doing so.  The more you do this the more effective it can become and some business leaders take 5-10 minutes every day for this one approach.

Look back and draw from past experience

  • As you look back over your life and the lives of your mentors/family, what can you learn from their mistakes or successes to help you now?
  • What are some of the things done, created, or designed that you wish you had a hand in from the past?
  • How do you bring a unique perspective that could help to solve the problems of today?

The neuroscience – when looking at an uncertain future our thoughts, feelings, and behavior is all shaped by the uncertainty, anxiety, and fear produced by not knowing the choices to make or the outcome we will get. When we look back in time we have a more certain view which is more clear, hence the term “hindsight is 20:20”.

By looking into the past we can stretch time out and see it as a series of steps or choices – much like how we saw the lead character play chess on her ceiling in the popular Netflix phenomenon The Queens Gambit. 

We can only see the next step in front of us through our own eyes when we look ahead, though you can do both effectively by working with a skilled hypnotherapist or someone trained in time-based coaching techniques. By going back we are able to see things in a more 3-dimensional way.  We can see ourselves from a third-person perspective allowing us to have more objectivity and wisdom about a situation where our ego isn’t attempting to “win” or get it right. 

We then can bring such wisdom into the present moment and more effective, objective, and conscious decisions to help us navigate our lives and businesses through uncertain times.

These 4 ways of looking at the situations you’re facing will help you stay out of a single-minded view with a limited perspective.

Instead, you’ll be able to utilize more emotional intelligence to develop more trust and loyalty with your teams. In turn, you’ll set up your business for long-term success and steer it into a brand that people love to work at or do business with.

5 ways to make you more productive when working from home

Whether it’s being on a virtual team, growing a side-hustle, chasing the 4-hour workweek, or enduring a random global pandemic, more and more people are working from home. With this trend growing faster than human behavior can catch up, there are a number of issues that can negatively affect productivity when working from home (or your local coffee shop), from dealing with kids at home to using the same space for too many things. How we approach working in the same space we live and sleep can make all the difference. In this article, I share 5 ways you can rapidly make working from home more effective and efficient and also explain the neuropsychology of the impact that each strategy has on your work and performance.

1. Dress for success

This tip may already be the most discussed: Dress up in your work clothes so you feel as though you’re actually going to your place of work. The Neuroscience: As humans, everything we do has neuro-associations in our minds. That means that there is a link between two or more things that impact an outcome. A + B = C, if you will. In this case, the clothes you wear affect the way you feel, and the way you feel affects the language you use, the way you sit, and even the way you may speak to clients or colleagues on the phone. Dress in pajamas and your mind links those clothes to relaxation, which will literally change the way your body creates energy, your metabolism, your posture, and therefore your work ethic and efficiency – all because of the clothes you’re wearing. It’s less about whether you’re dressed in a suit or in jeans and more about what the clothes represent to you and the neuro-associations you’ve created for them. It’s not just the conscious awareness that matters – your unconscious patterns are really what’s at play here.

2. The sound of stimulation

You may or may not know a certain Simon & Garfunkel song, “The Sound of Silence”. Regardless of your musical taste, I recommend you check it out on your favorite streaming service. When you’re about to enter your workspace, approach your desk, or when you first sit down to work, have a repeatable song that you use to stimulate your performance. Elite athletes commonly have certain songs or playlists that would stimulate us as we were warming up before a game. Kobe Bryant revealed that he would play the ‘Halloween’ theme tune before important games to get him into the right frame of mind, which he would later call “Mamba Mentality”. You can be sure the songs they’d listen to while winding down after a game were different, and for good reason. The Neuroscience:  Any time we experience a stimulus and a simultaneous response, the two are linked in our minds and ‘anchored’ together. If you’ve ever heard of ‘Pavlov’s Dogs’, you’ve heard about this stimulus: response phenomena. We can have different kinds of stimuli that get anchored, from pictures to sounds to feelings, or the feel of things (such as the clothes you’re wearing, in my first point above). When you choose a ‘stimulation song’ and use it repeatedly before you start work, your mind will link it to work-mode and therefore stimulate your thinking, creativity, focus, and even your energy production. Be sure to choose the song intentionally as you’ll want to only use this song to stimulate you for work, thereby linking it in your mind for that specific purpose. The power behind this is limitless as you’ll be able to instantly change your state regardless of your external environment. Traveling across time zones, check. Starting early or working late, check. Construction going on outside or kids in the house, check. Using audio anchors to control your state and environment is one of the most powerful ways to empower yourself to be at your best when working from home.

3. Maker vs. Management spaces

Regardless of your job or industry, your tasks can be broken down into two categories – Maker (creative and proactive) Tasks and Manager (operational and responsive) Tasks. The types of brain activity for each of these tasks differ and studies show that switching back and forth between these tasks reduces performance and productivity. The Neuroscience: The type of attention that our brains require is different to perform these different tasks. Research presented by Ian McGilchrist in his TED talk highlights the old thinking that we use the right side of our brain for creativity and left for logic is outdated, and most tasks require an integrated, collaborative effort from both hemispheres of our brain to perform. That said, Maker vs. Manager Tasks require a different type of attention or focus to the other: – Peripheral – widely expansive, taking in the key details as well as other surrounding details that may not directly pertain to the task at hand – Foveal – intensely focused and blocking out other details not pertaining to the task With the Maker Tasks, it would be ideal to have our Peripheral focus activated, where innovation, creativity, and lateral thinking allow us to enhance our production and completion of those tasks. Manager Tasks on the other hand require more Foveal focus, where only the specific details about that task have attention. This allows for greater efficiency and output when checking tasks off of the to-do list. When you are working from home, you could control certain times or locations for each of these types of focus. Following the science of anchoring mentioned earlier, the location used for Maker tasks would allow for you to “get into the zone” and activate the type of focus you need for certain tasks. You could also do this on different days of the week. For example, keep Mondays for Manager tasks and Fridays for Maker tasks to create for the week ahead. Tuesday-Thursday then allows for both, with Maker tasks being primarily early in the morning or late at night and manager tasks or meetings with others in the middle. You can then train your mind to work more creatively during these times, and you can use this science to do the same in whatever way you think works best for you and your work needs.

4. Take that break outside

You don’t need to go physically outside for every break, however, it would be ideal to get out of your workspace. Whether it’s enjoying a snack, checking in on social media, or watching a funny cat video, take that break away from your workspace so that you don’t change the state that you associate with your work desk/space. The Neuroscience: What many call multi-tasking is referred to scientifically as ‘context switching’. Our brains neurologically can only apply focus to one context at a time and therefore when we switch contexts we change the neurological wiring we use to perform. Consider our nerves like electrical wiring in your house. If every time you performed a different task you had to unplug one of your appliances, let’s say the coffee grinder, then not only does that appliance (or the mental focus) lose power, it also loses all of the settings that were put into it. When the coffee grinder is set up perfectly to make a tasty espresso with the specific organic, medium roast beans you’ve purchased, when unplugged, it’s being returned to the factory default settings, which aren’t necessarily optimal for your grind! Our minds are similar. When you switch contexts you lose the momentum and linked connections that you had made before the switch, and it often takes minutes to get back to where you left off in order to be productive again. When you’re at your workspace/desk and you want to take a break, change your location so that you encourage the mental context switch that is linked to the geographical space change. It will also encourage a faster switch back when you return.

5. Schedule Everything (with alarms)

When was the last time you scheduled thinking time? If you’ve never done it or if the thought of scheduling thinking time makes you chuckle and eye-roll, then you’re missing out on a huge productivity tool that is crushing your performance.

“Never put off to tomorrow what can be done today” – Benjamin Franklin

The Neuroscience: Our minds filter 11 million bits (pieces) of information EVERY SECOND! The only way we can focus is to filter those through what’s most important to us and hold onto roughly 150 bits per second. This means that if something isn’t in your most pressing, valued, or urgent focus it will be relegated to the background and we all know that means it probably won’t get done. When you schedule something your mind can compartmentalize it, bookmarking thoughts, data, solutions, and creative ideas to be available when you’ve allotted time for it. Similarly to anything else you schedule, you honor that time with dedication and attention. Have you ever woken up with a gasp, sat up in alert in bed panting and thinking to yourself “Am I late”? We all have, and it was most likely for something that was scheduled such as work, a class, or a meeting. When you schedule things, your unconscious mind keeps track in the background. This is the part of you that makes sure you continue breathing and keeps your heart beating when you’re asleep. By putting everything in your calendar, from meditation to your eating schedule, thinking time to working out, your unconscious mind will keep track and help you get those things done. Using alarms will trigger a neuro-association;’;’, and soon enough you’ll naturally be reacting to a habit formed by following these alarms. If you set an alarm to eat at a certain time every day, after enough repeated actions you’ll find yourself already eating or preparing a snack when the alarm goes off. If you schedule creative or critical thinking time (something recommended for every CEO or business owner), you’ll find that your mind is more creative at those times of the day. The alarms disrupt the pattern of behavior and thinking that you’re in and also, over time, trigger the thinking, energy, focus, and mood that you’ve trained your mind to associate to that task or appointment. In honor of two highly effective managers, here are two quotes that support the concept of scheduling and managing your focus.

“What gets measured gets managed” ~ Peter Drucker

“What gets scheduled gets done” ~ Michael Hyatt

When you have something that is important, put it on your schedule so that you get those things done in addition to what is urgent. Prioritize what’s important above what’s urgent. That ensures that your mission and goals get achieved while also handling and responding to what life brings up. Scheduling helps you win at BOTH games. Related: Flagging Productivity at Work? These 5 Simple Tricks Can Help You Get Your Mojo Back Any one of these 5 strategies will help you improve your performance and productivity when working from home, on the go, or even if/when you get back to working in an office. Apply all 5 and see your results skyrocket. The Science of Influence #WFH #productivity #neuroscience #highperformance

7 tips for using a standing desk to increase productivity and reduce pain while working from home

The global health crisis increased the number of people working from home by close to 67% according to Gallup, with some of the major companies in the world telling their employees that they’ll be working from home indefinitely.

As someone who has used standing desks for twelve years, here are my top 7 tips to get the most from using standing desks, reduce pain and discomfort, and help you adapt to the learning curve more quickly and easily.

I have a background in physiotherapy and neuroscience and will share the scientific basis for each tip.

1) Move and adjust

The key is to move and change position rather than simply sit vs. stand. Change between sitting or standing every 25-30 minutes at first (use a timer on your phone or use the Pomodoro technique).

Frequently changing position is important to avoid “hanging” off of your ligaments and joints, attempting to get into “stable” positions for extended periods of time.

The neuroscience behind this is that your mind can maintain sharp focus for short bursts more than it can over long periods of time. This is supported by a recent study from the University of Illinois showing that performance did not drop when people had two short breaks of focus within an hour, for example.

While some standing desks have built-in timers or can connect to smart tools such as Alexa or Google Home, most do not. So instead, set a timer for 25 minutes on your phone, or you can use a powerful visual app called “Time Timer”.

According to Gallup, American workplaces report employee engagement is improved through remote work, with office workers engaged 28% and remote workers being engaged 32%.

Related: Is working from home here to stay?

2) You can use an ergonomic stool while standing 

(I use this one https://bit.ly/3dyPQAU)

This helps with the point above and also allows you to “rock” your hips and do figure 8’s, which pumps fluid into your spinal discs and keeps them healthy.

The ergonomic stool also helps you strengthen your core and back muscles by keeping them engaged through “dynamic sitting”, which is necessary to maintain your perch on the stool while without the ability to allow most of your support muscles to relax (as you would in a chair). This in turn will have a positive impact on your attention and focus.

3) Always stand on at least a memory foam floor mat 

You can buy the ones designed for doing dishes in the kitchen.  You can alternatively get the footrests that also have mounds to stretch your calves and massage your feet.

The memory foam mat provides cushion and support to the joints in your feet, ankles, knees, and hips.  This can reduce soreness all the way up through your lower back and neck by reducing the strain on the supportive connective tissues. 

Simply put, you’ll have less compensation through your body which will help you to be able to work more efficiently for longer periods of time by reducing fatigue.

You may also find better results doing this with flat-soled shoes or barefoot (socks are fine) to remove the impact of heels on your posture.  Typically both men’s and women’s dress shoes as well as most running shoes have an elevated heel, causing the body to sway forward at the hips and back to maintain balance.  This is a forced, unnatural position that over time can cause micro-injuries to the muscles and wear and tear on the joints.

Related: Has working from home become a pain in the neck back and hips?

4) As soon as you find yourself leaning, change position 

Our minds and bodies are smart!  They will adapt to anything we throw at them and moving from sitting to standing is no different.  As soon as you find yourself leaning into the desk or positioning yourself in a peculiar way on the stool, you must change position, otherwise, you’re creating a habit and posture pattern that is hard to reverse.

The body and mind follow the path of least resistance, so they want to make life easier for you in the moment, even if it causes you harm or makes things harder in the future.  This is your survival mechanism at work, however, you have to outsmart it to keep your posture and performance in top shape.

5) Mount your monitor on an arm vs. using the stand (even an iMac)

Often you’ll want different positions when you are sitting or standing based on the ergonomics of your arms-to-keyboard and screen-to-eye ratios. Mounting your monitor on an arm allows you to make adjustments accordingly.

You can buy monitor mounts very affordably from common online stores or directly from where you get your standing desks.  Look for ones that allow you to move the monitor side to side and up and down.  

Be careful, as some only tilt or move side to side and if you have different people using the same desk in your home office you’ll want the ability to change heights, too.   

This is also important because the alignment when you’re sitting may be different than when you’re standing based on your torso or leg lengths.

6) Be sure that everything – screen, keyboard, and mouse/trackpad are directly in front of you vs. off to one side

Two of the most important organs in the human body are the eyes, because they help us find food or keep us safe from attack.  The alignment of the spine and the muscles from our neck down to our feet will all adapt and adjust based on the primal drive to keep the eyes level with the horizon.

So if you have your monitor too low in relation to your eyes, or if it is off to one side, your neck muscles will adapt while you’re working which will cause imbalance and pain issues over time.

Ideally, keep the center of the monitor directly in front of your head and chest and slightly above eye level to help you lift your chest up and align the curves in your spine.

7) If you have a laptop, get a screen and a separate keyboard and mouse  

Trust me. You can completely transform your workflow with a monitor (use the laptop as a second screen if you wish) and the ability to move the keyboard independently is absolutely vital to your spine, shoulder, and wrist health.

You want to make your tools work around your body, not the other way around. By getting wireless keyboards and mice or trackpads you create your setup to fit how and where you’re sitting or standing and with the tasks you’re doing. 

For instance, you may want the keyboard in a different position when you’re typing for long periods of time, and use the mouse to take care of many tasks within certain software.

Overall you want your tools to help you be more comfortable, alert, and productive, and implementing just some of the tips in this article will help you do that.

If you don’t have a desk already this is the one I use https://bit.ly/2ZT4HAC. The business/premium version has a better motor and almost double warranty life.

Related: Sick of Working on Your Tiny Laptop Screen? Here’s a Convenient Dual Monitor Setup”

Enjoy what you do and how you do it – you’ll never work another day in your life!

 

p.s. Note that this article contains affiliate links to the products that I use.  Though I may get a small kick-back from you using my link, I only share products that I purchase and use myself.