Thinking patterns

About thinking patterns

Did you know that your brain spends 90% of its thinking time focused on the same set of thoughts? 

As in, 90% of our undirected thoughts are repeat thoughts, and only 10% are new thoughts. This is based on studies done in the neuroscience and cognitive psychology fields. 

This insight is very surprising to me. I thought I was spending my thinking time on expanding my ideas. But what studies are saying is that the brain likes efficiency and therefore forms neural pathways from past experiences and ingrained patterns that lead to repeated thoughts and behaviours.

Our brains, when not directed to a specific task, have a default mode… of thinking about the past, but of the same past events and for creating visions of the future, but it’s the same future vision on repeat.

When we don’t direct the brain to specific things to think about it goes into automatic thinking. The consequences of automatic thinking include reduced creativity because creativity relies on exploring new perspectives. Another consequence is overthinking things and worrying about potential future events or ruminating on past events, which in turn affects our mental wellbeing.

But surely repetitive thinking is good for building knowledge and cementing habits you say. Yes, indeed it is. However, this happens with awareness. When you’re aware of your thinking, you can direct it to productive activities. However, an idle brain will default to repetitive thinking.

The lesson here is to develop self-awareness so you can redirect your brain from the mindless default thinking it does 90% of the time to the more directed thinking that will lead to knowledge, creativity, habit formation and support positive mental health.

Is that what mindfulness and being mindful is all about? 

I wonder! 

Come on brain, let’s do some directed thinking, the 10%.

When things get tough, remember...don't quit.

Don’t Quit

By Edgar Albert Guest
Here's a reminder...when things get hard, remember the reason you started and don't quit.

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow-
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out-
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit-
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Look Back and Plan Forward

The new year is well underway and like you, I’m hoping that this will be a good year. 

I’m hoping that all the pain, frustration, and disappointment of last year will not repeat itself this year.

I’m also hoping that all the joy, success, happiness, laughter, and fulfillment from last year will spread into this year and continue throughout the year.

But I’m not going to rely on hope alone, I want to be able to shape my life this year, I want to captain the ship called My Life. 

And the way I do this is by taking the lessons from last year and building on them to shape my actions this year.

So, for those of you who have not done your review of last year and have not spent time deciding what you want from this year, I’m going to share the key questions I use to guide my thinking.

To do this well, find a quiet spot, arm yourself with paper and pen (or the digital equivalent) spend some time looking back and then planning forward

It’s a great exercise to get clear on what you want and what you don’t want in your life. 

Look back and ask…

  1. What went well?
  2. What could I have done differently?

Plan forward and ask…

  • What can I do more of?
  • What can I do less of?

Keep asking ‘what else?’ until you have at least 20 responses for each question.

Finally, ask yourself…

  • What have I learnt? 
  • And what do I want?

Enjoy the insights!

Start Strong!

Hey there Thriver, Happy New Year!

So, are you ready to make 2022 a great, or even an exceptional year?

If your answer is yes, then here’s how…

Step 1: GET CLEAR on what you want to achieve this year

Step 2: CREATE A PLAN to guide your actions

Step 3: FOLLOW THE PLAN to create your results

Very simple really

But not easy

The problem is that most people get stuck, generally on either Step 1 or Step 3

At Step 1 – Lack of clarity will stop you before you even start

At Step 2 – It’s easy to create a plan, but it might be too ambitious or not courageous enough

At Step 3 – With no accountability, you may not follow your plan. This will derail your goals, projects, dreams, wants, habits, experiments or experiences (i.e., your results)

Sometimes you just need to be supported through the process…

  • Supported to get crystal clear on what results you want to produce or achieve
  • Supported to create a plan that will fit into, and weather the ups and downs of your real life
  • Supported to develop a method to measure progress and stay on track

If being supported is what you desire, I invite you to come into my world

Why?

Because I will introduce you to a coaching framework that produces results

EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Come, let me coach you to succeed

Email me at nancy@thriveatwork.com.au so we can get started. Speak soon.

Three ‘must-have’ Soft Skills

Three ‘must-have’ soft skills

I work with many smart and successful professionals. They are ambitious and keen to move to the next level. They’ve said to me…

  • “I am ready for a bigger challenge, but I don’t know what else I need to do to secure my next role”
  • “My manager has told me that I need to be more Strategic – how do I do that? What does it even mean?”
  • “I’m told that my ideas are great but that I need to get better at Influencing so that I can be heard”
  • “I’m stuck! I’ve tried everything and can’t get promoted”

This is where SOFT SKILLS can make a huge difference. Not just the foundational soft skills like Communication, Collaboration, Teamwork, etc but the ones that will give you an EDGE.

Leading workplace economists believe that we need to increase our focus on Soft Skills competencies into the future because ‘soft skill-intensive jobs’ will grow 2.5x faster than other jobs, with demand exceeding supply by 45%.

So what?

Well, there are three vital soft skills to master if you want to upgrade your career in 2021 and beyond.

You don’t need them in any particular order, but you need them to elevate your career to the next level.

Here is a simple and insightful 2-pager guide on the Three ‘must-have’ Soft Skills.

Get it now and start implementing the insights at work. You will be glad you took the time.

Time to thank

Finding time to think

We’re all super busy.

The typical work calendar is blocked out with back-to-back meetings, huddles, workshops, town halls…so many things to attend.

And, because of this, the only time left in the day to do the work is after hours. This is the only time when you can slow down and find the space to do the thinking required to DO the work.

It’s a reality that can lead to burnout.

A recent Harvard Business Review article concluded that “burnout is a global issue”. The article is based on research carried out in 2020 with over 1500 respondents in 46 countries, across various industry sectors, roles and, seniority levels.

Two key findings that stand out are:

  1. 89% of respondents said their work-life was getting worse
  2. 62% of the people who were struggling to manage their workloads had experienced burnout “often” or “extremely often” in the previous three months

When burnout sets in, time for thinking declines and, the quality of thinking deteriorates.

If you’re a leader with a team, department or, an organisation looking up to you for vision, strategy, or leadership you must make time to THINK!

Creating this mental space has many benefits:

  • Raising your productivity
  • Increasing your creativity
  • Enhancing innovation
  • Increasing your problem-solving ability
  • Learning and growing through reflection
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of actions, results and, decisions

So how do you find time to think? Here are a few suggestions…

  1. Do something physical like walking, swimming or running
  2. Engage in free form writing or journaling
  3. Practise thinking out loud by talking with someone
  4. Take time away from your work or your desk
  5. Using your commute time to think rather than catching up on work.

What will you choose?

Deliberate Practise

Seems obvious, right? Water the roots to get the fruits.

I heard this for the first time on a podcast when I was out for my morning walk and I was intrigued.

It made me think of the concept of ‘deliberate practice’ popularised by Anders Ericsson in his book PEAK.

Basically, what Ericsson was saying is that to accomplish a goal or to gain expertise at something, one has to expend consistent, specific and focused effort until you achieve the goal or you become an expert. His studies reveal that ‘experts are always made, not born’.

So for example, if your tennis serve is the thing that lets you down during matches and you want to improve it, you allocate time, consistently, go to the tennis courts consistently, and intentionally practice your serve.

You practice your serve over and over, learning and adjusting until you get it right.

It means that during those deliberate practise sessions there are no backhands or forehands. You specifically and exclusively practise your serve!

And when you do this, you are watering the roots to get the fruits.

Which roots do you want to be watering? Go do it! And then let me know how you go.

A cluttered desk is a sign of genius

I came across an article this morning and it made me laugh.

Growing up, we were always told to have a neat and tidy desk.

In my business optimisation work we teach 5-S which is a system for increasing productivity by making sure that there is a place for everything and everything is in it’s place.

And then I find out that a messy desk is a trademark of genius…

So, I feel better now. Why?

It’s because I go through periods of feeling guilty about having a messy desk, especially when I am creating something new or working on a project with a client.

I always know where everything is and when I’m done I do the 5-S process on my desk, ready for the next immersion. It’s very satisfying.

But I’ve always wondered whether I should strive to have a neater desk AT ALL TIMES.

And now, I wonder no more. I could be a genius in the making 😉

Here is the link to the article: https://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/a-messy-desk-is-a-sign-of-genius-according-to-scie.html

Thriving at work with Communication

COMMUNICATION

When asked the question…can we really thrive at work during the pandemic, I offered three strategies.

First was to develop Adaptability, second was to master the skill of setting Boundaries and now we tackle the art of Communication.

Remote working requires that we pay even more attention to how often we communicate, the way we communicate and the structure of our communication, whether by phone, email, text message or on an online meeting.  There’s never been a greater need for practising emotional intelligence and active listening.

So here are some thoughts and tips to ponder.

Note: I’ve narrowed the context to focus on communicating at work (with teams, peers and leaders) rather than with customers and external stakeholders.

As an individual, to enhance communication and more so during the pandemic, it’s a good idea to:

  1. Provide regular updates to your manager, team leader or project leader so they remain looped into your progress and therefore don’t resort to micromanaging you (unless you like being micromanaged). Proactively let them know:
    • What you’re working on
    • What you have accomplished
    • What obstacles or challenges you’re facing
    • When you’re not available
    • What assistance or support you require
  1. Stay connected to your team
    • Initiate quick catch ups with your team members just as you would have done in the kitchen, over lunch or on a coffee run
    • Be active on any of your work social platforms (e.g. Yammer or Facebook at Work)
    • Notice who seems disconnected and practise empathy. Reach out to them and offer your support. On the flip side, if you’re feeling disconnected, proactively reach out to a trusted colleague for support or just a chat.

As a leader, to keep your team engaged:

  1. Schedule regular team check-in meetings (always include an agenda) and avoid moving the time around to suit your calendar. Remember, people are juggling work and home pressures while working remotely so sticking to agreed meeting times is important to minimise disruptions.
  2. Catch up with individual team members regularly and ASK HOW YOU CAN HELP THEM. Servant leadership will serve you well during this time.
  3. Make extra effort to engage with a staff member who has been, unusually quiet or withdrawn during team meetings. Remember, burnout is alive and well and some of your team members may be having a difficult time working remotely.
  4. Instead of calling team members at any time or even multiple times a day and interrupting their flow of work, email or text them first to ask for time to discuss whatever is on your mind. This is not only thoughtful and respectful, but also efficient, as they will be mentally prepared for the conversation. Ask for the same courtesy from your team members and set healthy boundaries.

As a team:

A major challenge for teams is the proliferation of remote working tools which means that important messages can get buried and missed if you’re not regularly checking each and every one of your communication tools.

It is a good idea for a team to decide which type of communication will be delivered through which specific tool.

Agree on a set of guidelines such as using a collaboration tool like Trello, Slack or Asana for communicating actions and progress on tasks. Facebook (Workplace by Facebook) or Yammer for social conversations, and Email for formal discussions.

This avoids confusion and ensures that important messages are not lost.

Another challenge for teams is the ability to collaborate. Remote working has forced teams to find innovative ways to mimic spontaneous white-board sessions or corridor conversations.

Using online meeting tools such as Zoom means you can not only have meetings, conduct training, run demos and walkthroughs online, but you can also have break out rooms where smaller teams can meet then come back and share with the wider audience – like you would during a workshop.

White-boarding tools to capture discussions such as Miro and Mural make online meetings even more effective. The key is to agree on a set of tools and use then appropriately.

Finally, a note on written communication:

Text messages, chat and email can sometimes be misunderstood so it is paramount that you watch the tone in your messages and always review and proofread your messages before hitting send.

I know you know this, but how many times have you re-read a message after sending it and have been horrified to discover how it could be misinterpreted. Oops!

You can also:

  • Make your emails short, concise and to the point
  • Include the aim of the message at the start of the subject line e.g. QUESTION, ACTION REQUIRED, FOR REVIEW, SUGGESTION, OPTIONS etc.
  • Use italics for light emphasis and bold for strong emphasis
  • If it’s going to require some discussion, it’s best to do this by phone followed by an email summarising what was agreed.

So, here’s a question and a challenge for you…how many of these have you implemented? How many will you implement? Let me know…

And if you’d like to discuss effective communication strategies, how best to structure your messages, or would like to share a remote working tool you’re loving, you can reach me at nancy@thriveatwork.com.au. Speak soon!