Whether you’re a career salesman, a student, or a software engineer, you can’t move an inch in your career if you produce less. Productivity is the key that will unlock your success. Unfortunately, not all of us are productive. And some of it is not our problem. Our Internet-empowered world is bloated with too many social media tools, too many emails and notifications, too many SMS and short messages, too many YouTube videos and Netflix movies. The distractions are at an all time high.
But what if there is a system that will help you keep all these distractions aside until you have accomplished your tasks? There is. And it only takes 3 simple steps. Read Below:
Step 1: See your everyday tasks as a gift
Showing up every day to work is anything but fun. You know your life depends on it, but some days are not your best days. No matter how you plan your projects, you can’t show up to do them. You’re tired and bored and uninterested. What’s the way forward? It’s not about planning. It’s not about waking up early. It’s not about lack of exercise or anything like that.
If you want to conquer your to-do list, day in and day out, you need a simple shift in your mindset. Stop thinking of your tasks as work. See those tasks as gifts…as natural endowments exclusively given to you. This simple shift in your mindset will awaken the sleeping giant within you. You’ll start feeling great about yourself, stop seeing your work as burdensome. The tasks will now make you feel proud.
No longer will your showing up early at your desk irritate you—because now you feel comfortable doing the work that matters. The mindset adjustment is not even difficult. Just figure out the value that your tasks will bring to your marketplace.
“Focus on being productive instead of busy.” – Tim Ferriss
Step 2: Be conscious of the impeccable values of your tasks
That’s how to shift your thinking. You dissect the unique values that are embedded in your tasks (when you accomplish them, of course). If you’re a web designer, for example, think about the joy and life-changing events that your design job will bring to your client. That landing page that you’ll design, it would mean the world to your client.
It will even change their business and their lives along the way. But that will not happen if you don’t show up every day, roll up your sleeves and work on that landing page. Now if you can visualize that value, it will serve you well. You’ll be motivated. So, how do you become more conscious of the values of your work? Write them down. And read them every day to spark your productivity.
Step 3: Remind yourself of the limited time you have in life
We like to postpone today’s tasks for tomorrow. Often, we’ll schedule a time to work, but when the time is due, we come up with another excuse, “I’ve got to call that client instead; I’ll leave that work till tomorrow.” But we don’t own tomorrow. We don’t have control over it. We don’t even know what it holds. And we have a very limited time.
If you want to improve your productivity, you have got to remind yourself about the scarcity of your time. Here are a few questions to ask yourself (I recommend that you do these exercises every time before you begin to work):
- If you only have 24 hours left today, how do you want to spend it?
- If you have 5 projects to complete today, how do you manage your time?
- Would you rather watch a movie on Netflix or accomplish today’s task and move closer to your vision?
“Do something instead of killing time because time is killing you.” – Paulo Coelho
It’s about making smart choices. I know It’s hard. It’s tough. It requires an impeccable amount of discipline. But with constant practice, these mental tricks will help you become a more productive person, move you closer to realizing your vision.
Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?
When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?
As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?
Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.
Let’s park this one for now and we will come back.
Categorization is essential to our survival
There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses.
The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.
An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.
In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.
When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting!
Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.
- lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin
- lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin
The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.
Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored.
This amazing skill has its drawbacks
As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.
Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)
Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.
This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.
Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.
The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people?
We can overcome unconscious bias
Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals.
Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms.
Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds.
The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals.
What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!
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