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2 Mental Performance Secrets I Wish I Knew as a Struggling Executive

“If I only knew then what I know now (about mental performance hacks!).”

As a “mess-to-success entrepreneur,” I’ve seen both the deep end of drug addiction and the pinnacle of corporate success, as well as entrepreneurial glory with multiple start-ups. But in between were several years where I really struggled as an executive.

Worked my butt of…but couldn’t make my mark.

Nose to the grindstone every day…but constantly overwhelmed.

It took me a while, but eventually I learned some mental performance secrets that helped me go, in the space of just two years, from struggling, underachieving, lowly account executive, to vice president and employee of the year at the largest ad agency in the U.S.; while in my spare time co-founding a start-up that was later sold for 8 figures. Not bad for a classic ADHDer with a sordid history of booze/drugs/crime.

But what does that have to do with you?

There’s a good chance you’re not taking advantage of these mental performance secrets – so I’ll share the before-and-after impact of a couple of these principles and maybe they’ll help your mess-to-success story. (Um, I’m not saying you’re a mess…I should’ve said, “Your good-to-great story.”)

Mental Performance Secrets

Can some simple mental performance hacks help your ADHD? Yep.

Lots of Input. Not Much Output.

I worked HARD throughout my career as an executive. Long hours, weekends were the norm. My input was stellar. But early on, my output was in the gutter.

And there’s a good chance you’re operating at a high level of input, but not getting your full potential of output and accomplishment. And you may not be savvy to some of the performance secrets that I’m about to share. Principles I wish I’d known when I was a struggling executive.

Mental Performance Secret #1

I wish I knew… that My Brain is My Engine. Might sound obvious. But few of us truly understand that our brain has its own life – and its own needs that are distinct from those of our body.

Think about your car’s engine: You treat it differently than you do the fenders and leather seats…which you care for from the outside with buffing and polishing. You care for your engine from the inside…the right amounts of high quality fluids, lubricants and of course, high-octane fuel.

Before I learned this principle, I was “buffing the outside” with nice suits, a few push-ups and sit-ups here and there, and fueling my body with whatever quenched my thirst and quelled my hunger – lots of sugar, carbs and coffee. But your body can get energy from any crap – your brain needs to be fed right.

After I understood this – I began tending to my body in one way, and to my brain in another…in two simple ways:

  1. I adhered to my brain-feeding mantra – sugar sucks, carbs kill, protein is power and omegas are mega. For instance, a 30-gram protein breakfast every day would fuel strong output all morning long – and guess what…fewer late nights at the office!
  2. As Dr. John Ratey says, “Exercise creates a brain chemical that acts like Miracle-Gro® for the brain.” That chemical is brain derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. But occasional sit-ups and push-ups don’t make enough BDNF to make a difference in your performance.

The research tells us that “aerobic exercise for 40 min offers the greatest probability of significant BDNF elevation.” So line up some protein snacks (sugar sucks!! carbs kill!!) and push yourself a little harder on whatever your workout routine is. You WILL feel the results.

Mental Performance Secret #2

I wish I knew…when I was a struggling executive, that  My Energy is Not Linear. We don’t operate like machines – just flip on our brain and it  goes until we decide we’re done. We all kinda know that much. But neither is our energy linear in a FOOT steady declining fashion, where we just gradually lose mental clarity and stamina over the course of the workday. Our energy is FOOT cyclical.

Before I knew this, here’s what would happen: I’d set about working on a tough, important task and as soon as I’d begin to flag, I’d think, “Welp, that’s it for me!” …and I’d switch over to easier work – more often than not, into pseudo-productivity (meaningless tasks that make you feel productive). So the tough, important task’s completion gets delayed.

Plus, I’d get frustrated, and further reinforce the belief that “I just can’t work on tough stuff for very long” …or that I’m lazy.

After I understood that our energy is cyclical – I began using a timer for single-tasking sessions…then doing a simple recovery ritual when the timer goes off or when I feel the energy dip. To ride the energy cycle back into another powerful singletasking session: Re-fuel with protein — nuts and dried fruit is my magical mix. Or do a “powerpose” (stand for two minutes with hands-on-hips, just like Wonder Woman/Superman) or a quick 5-minute meditation. Mandatory is to get up and walk around. Or bang out 10 push-ups.

Then you’re ready to settle back into crushing it. Set that timer again…Work, recover, work, get a raise, work, recover, work, get promoted, work recover…

Easier said than done, I know. But productivity hacks and other mental performance tips like these made a massive difference for me — and they definitely can for you.

Intrigued About the Potential for Mental Performance Hacks Like These?

I dedicated an episode of Crusher™TV to 5 Mental Performance Secrets I Wish I Knew as a Struggling Executive, and below is the preview of that episode. My Guest Expert, Dr. Evan Hirsch, also shares insights on how toxins may be affecting your mental performance! Click the image below to check out the preview.

Bless!

Alan

P.S. You might get a lot out of watching that entire episode of Crusher™TV where I dig deeper into this topic. (You can become a member for a buck and cancel any time ya like.) It’s Episode 73 , and you can preview that episode here:

5 Mental Performance Secrets

 

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ADHD and Decision-Making: Why We Make Bad Decisions

“Your life is a product of your own choices. So if you don’t like your life, it’s time to make better choices.”   

OK, sure. But better decision-making is easier said than done.

If we always made the best decisions, we’d all be Richard Branson, right?

So many of the most consequential decisions in our lives are indeed tough to make, let alone make with 100% confidence. Which house to buy. Whether to change careers. Should I quit my job and start my own company? These, and even “easier,” everyday decisions, fall prey to a set of…

Common Decision-Making Mistakes

Such as…

Narrow Framing: We debate whether to do or buy something, and end up building an argument for it, rather than taking the time to consider arguments against it or coming up with alternatives.

Confirmation Bias: As Chip and Dan Heath write in their bestseller Decisive, “Our normal habit in life is to develop a quick belief about a situation and then seek out information that bolsters our belief.” NOT a good recipe for good decisions.

Overconfidence: We tend to think we know everything we need to know before making decisions. Rarely if ever the case.

On top of those, for us ADHDers in particular, the work required to formulate decisions is fatiguing…Postponing decisions (we’re the champions of this, are we not?) wastes precious time and creates stress...Making the wrong decisions can cost us time and, of course, money (we’re pretty good at that, too, it seems).

But wait!! There’s more!!!

Here’s Where We ADHDers Really Get Slammed in Decision-Making

Impulsivity: Our brains just want to Go! Act! Do! Who needs forethought? We don’t need no stinkin’ forethought!!

Non-Linear Thinking: On a more serious note, we’re not wired to “look ahead five moves”, as a good chess player or project manager is. We may try, but our weak working memory means we can’t “hold the picture” of multiple forward moves or contingencies in our mind’s eye. This makes for short-sighted decisions…and the regrets that go with them.

Emotionality: We are emotional Tilt-a-Whirls. So when we’re giddy, we get extra impulsive. When we’re moody, we might make equally impulsive choices that harm ourselves or others.

Good Ol’ ADHD Brain Fog: We just don’t have certain neurochemicals in sufficient supply to provide clarity of thought when we most need it.

Sorry if all these reminders of your lousy decision-making skills reminds you of a recent blunderous choice.

Don’t feel too bad:  According to the Harvard Business Review, business managers make about three billion decisions each year, and research says that most of them do so poorly. Even non-ADHDers fall prey to those classic  decision-making pitfalls, all of which unfortunately add to our own ADHD issues.

But there’s hope…

Why do ADHDers get slammed in decision-making? Let me count the ways!

First of all, continue to sharpen your awareness of your weaknesses. That’ll help you slow down next time a meaningful decision is before you.

And here’s a simple trick I use regularly: When you’re confronted with a tough medium-size decision — for instance, how to deal with a minor crisis at work; where to go for a weekend getaway; or what anniversary gift to get your spouse this year — don’t just make the decision “on-the-fly.” Set a timer for ten minutes and write down a few alternatives. Stare at them and write additional thoughts until the buzzer sounds.

I guarantee this will result in a clearer picture and smarter decisions every single time.

Do You Have a Smart Process for Decision-Making?

If you really want to get serious about making smarter decisions, there are proven, evidence-based ways to improve your everyday decision-making — which is key in both your job and in your life. I devoted an episode of Crusher™TV to sharing some tools to cut through the brain clutter: 6 Ways to Make Smarter Decisions, every day. My Guest Expert, global strategy consultant Michelle Doss, also shares a couple of deceivingly simple, yet powerful tricks for making better decisions, big and small. The preview of the episode is below…

Bless!

Alan

P.S. You might get a lot out of watching that entire episode of Crusher™TV where I dig deeper into this topic. (You can become a member for a buck and cancel any time ya like.) It’s Episode 72 , and you can preview that episode here:

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Forget Time Management. It’s About Energy Management

“Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.”   

– Tony Schwartz, CEO The Energy Project

There’s plenty written about time management. But what about energy management?

After all, you can’t increase the number of hours in your day, but you can manage, expand and better focus your energy.

“If you could wake up tomorrow with significantly more positive, focused energy to invest at work and with your family, how significantly would that change your life for the better?”  That’s the question posed by Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project.

And the answer of course is a big, loud… VERY significantly!

Think about it: More energy = more willpower. More energy = getting to the gym more often. More energy = more quality time with your kids. Getting that promotion. Making more money…being happier…living an extraordinary life.

 OK, no argument there. But how does one increase one’s energy? (And I won’t lecture you about proper diet, exercise and sleep, cuz I know you already know about all that.)

Time Management vs Energy Management

Time management and energy management are, of course, closely related. I maintain that the most overlooked aspect of time management is Self Awareness: your ability to know yourself, including your own energy patterns. If you’re not in touch with your energy you can’t manage it, and the best time management practices will be for naught!

And no one has looked more closely at human energy management than consultant Tony Schwartz, who notes that, while a refrigerator or an automobile each have one source of energy, we humans have four sources.

“You can’t make more minutes in the day, but you can increase your energy!”  K. Kruse, Forbes

Four Types of Energy Management

The first is Physical Energy, which is influenced by caloric intake, exercise, your general health, sleep, etc. (Again, I know you know all this, but it bears repeating, because it’s so fundamental and too often ignored.)

Then there is  Emotional Energy – or the quality of your energy. You can burn energy very quickly when you’re in a negative emotional state. And the more upbeat and hopeful you are, the more energy you will preserve and have at the ready. This is why it is so critically important that we ADHDers don’t beat ourselves up about foul-ups and setbacks — and why we must celebrate our victories, big and small (what I call “score your successes”).

Next there’s  Spiritual Energy – which is energy harnessed from something larger than ourselves. Examples of this are our values, our faith or our belief in a given cause or purpose. To tap into this energy source, at the very least, make sure you have your personal values or mission posted in front of you where you work most often. They are powerful fuel — but only if kept front-of-mind (and therefore, in-your-face).

Long-term goals that we’re stoked about also act as emotional/spiritual fuel.

Last, there is  Mental Energy – or focused energy. This is of course the one we ADHDers have the most trouble with. But if we can be more aware of the preceding three and keep those sources firing in the positive zone, we will be better able at any given time to sit down and give some clear mental focus to the task at hand. And you’ll help sustain your energy if you don’t multitask or hop between work and social media!! (But you already knew that, too.)

Besides making sure I attend to all these energy sources, there are a range of “power hacks” I use every day to extend my energy and output. I shared those in a recent episode of Crusher™TV and I’ll probably do a blog on them in the future, but do give some thought and action to these important (and impactful) energy types!

Bless!

Alan

P.S. You might like to watch that episode of Crusher™TV where I dig deeper into this topic, including the recipe for my “2X Energy Blueprint.”  (You can become a member for a buck and cancel any time ya like.) It’s Episode 65, and you can preview that episode here:

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Tame the Chaos with Productivity Rituals

“Most of the actions that result in an extraordinary life are small and easy.”

That’s a quote from my friend, personal development guru Jonathan Butcher. And those small, easy things he’s referring to are just habits, routines and productivity rituals practiced over and over again.

Yes, habits, routines and rituals are the secrets to getting more things done more easily, more automatically. Hence the many books and blogs with titles like, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” “Morning Routines of Movers and Shakers,” or “The Daily Rituals of Billionaires.”

But habits are one thing. Routines are another. And rituals are in a league all their own.

I’ll make a few distinctions between habits, routines and rituals, and provide an example of one of my own power rituals that you can use to get more clarity, get more done, and reduce the overwhelm.

What’s the Big Deal About Productivity Rituals?

While habits, routines and rituals do have two things in common — they are all things you do repeatedly for some benefit, and with repetition they use less energy and willpower to undertake and complete — that’s where the similarities end.

Ritual is defined as, “a solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.”

So, whereas habits and routines tend to involve singular actions, a ritual is a set of actions. Think of your quick morning shampoo vs the ritualistic series of treatments you’d get at an exclusive $500-a-pop hair salon. (Which would make you more irresistible than you already are? The ritual, of course!)

Habits and routines are focused on the completion of a task. Rituals focus on the performance. Example: Tony Robbins performs a ritual series of actions before going on stage (breathing exercises, jumping on a mini-trampoline and other pscyh-ups). He intrinsically knows what workplace psychology expert Michelle McQuaid says: that rituals “shape the way our brains are feeling, thinking and acting.”

Last, whereas habits and routines require minimal engagement – sometimes none — ritual requires full engagement. You barely need to be conscious to shave or vacuum. A ritual asks that you be fully “in the Now”, which is where productivity magic happens.

Positive habits and routines are great. But rituals are chaos-crushers.

An Example of a Power Ritual

Imagine if you could power through your day, thinking more clearly, getting more top priority tasks banged out, and actually having reserves of energy at quitting time. This is the power of power rituals. What’s a power ritual?

There are rituals like having your morning coffee just so, sitting down at a certain time with a certain kind of music on, in a certain place where you tend to be particularly productive. That is awesome – keep doing that ritual.

But a power ritual is a bundle of evidence-based power-hacks that, practiced daily, create near-term clarity and long term compounding accomplishment. Here’s one of my four daily power rituals…

My Morning Power Ritual

One. I begin with spending just a couple of minutes listing things for which I’m grateful. What? Yep. Why? Because, research from Harvard’s Shawn Achor shows that when you identify three things for which you are grateful every day for 21 days, you carve neural pathways that give your brain a higher baseline of optimism and happiness.

Two. I set my “Three Biggies,” as I call them. Those are the three things I want to get done for the day. But no more than three. Why? Identifying more than three priorities statistically reduces your odds of finishing ANY of them.

Three. I calendar those priorities – giving them each a time slot. More science: A task that has been assigned a time and place is 50% more likely to be completed.

Four. I write down an affirmation. Some expression of intent that attaches to a medium- or long-term goal. For instance, “I, [state your name], will create a profitable new X.” Or, “I, [state your name], will compete in a half-marathon this year.” Say it, write it or sing it. But do it every morning.

That, my friends, is a powerful morning ritual – giving you clarity for today’s work, and reinforcing a longer-term goal. I guarantee you that the most successful people you’ll ever meet have some form of consistent morning ritual. And as I mentioned, as you repeat these actions, they become easier and easier to do, drawing less and less of your energy and willpower.

Rituals make crushing it easier!

Bless,

Alan

P.S. If you think building some rituals into your life could help you be more productive and less overwhelmed, I’ve devoted an entire episode of Crusher™TV to this topic, in which I share each of my evidence-based, “4 Power Rituals that Will Change Your Life.” I also interview certified professional organizer Eliza Cantlay, who has a powerful ritual for organizing and powering up your workspace. Check out some free episode previews HERE. –ab

 

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Classic Energy Vampires

“Each morning I am aware that there is a finite amount of time and energy in this day.”   – Oprah Winfrey

Oprah knows about Energy Vampires.

Imagine if you had more energy every day…What would you do with it? Start on that project you’ve been putting off? Finish that thing that you just haven’t had the energy to finish? Focus a little extra time on just getting organized so you’re more ready to attack tomorrow with all cylinders firing?

Ideally, we begin each day with a full tank of brain fuel, but throughout the day we’re burning it off. As Oprah Winfrey reminds herself in her every-morning mantra, above. (Everyone should have a morning mantra — a powerful tool, but more about that in another post.)

They are sneakily vampiring your energy. Know them and you can slay them.

For folks like you and me who actually are up to something and trying to create something and aspiring to get ahead and be more and have more….our energy is indeed precious.

And yet…We waste energy all day long – knowingly and…unknowingly.

When you “take a break” to watch 15 minutes of YouTube hilarity, it costs you 15 minutes of energy. A 10-minute water-cooler chat with some co-workers debits your energy account. Your 30-minute commute listening to scream radio (that’s what we used to call talk radio), costs you big time. Obsessing about something that didn’t go your way, and so on.

Over the course of a day, this adds up; come 3pm, you hit a major wall. By 7pm, your energy account is way overdrafted. And often….you don’t really know where all your energy went. This is…

The High Cost of Energy Vampires

But here’s the good news: When you focus your attention on your energy, you can put energy back into your account and even get compounding interest.

To start saving up right away, we can call out some of the most common vampires…

Crappy Food: If you’re using sugar or simple carbs to get mental energy, you’re using fast-burning fuel. Protein is where the sustained energy is.

Crappy Sleep: Too little sleep saps your mental energy.

Crappy Lifestyle: Regular exercise increases mental stamina, and doing the opposite ensures you will starve for mental energy when you need it.

Those are kind of obvious. A few, more subtle, energy eaters are…

Multitasking: Not only when you multitask are you doing nothing fast, you are wasting energy in constantly switching between, and re-engaging in, the multiple activities.

Clutter: Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter says, “Clutter makes our senses work overtime on stimuli that aren’t necessary or important.” Clutter also makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally. That pile you’re saving or not putting away or organizing – it’s stealing your precious energy.

Maintaining a to-do list with too much crap on it. I’ve talked several times about the Zeigarnik Effect – which is when the multitude of undone to-dos on your to-do list burn mental energy with reminders of all your un-done-ness.

With this list of a few sneaky energy-thieves that are debiting your energy bank account, give some of your ADHD attention to them and see of you can rein them in even a little. You will have LOADS more energy with which to crush your goals when you do.

Bless!

Alan

P.S. You might like to watch the episode of Crusher™TV where I dig deeper into this topic, including the Top 3 Energy Vampires, which are all-too-common thought patterns of ADDers. (You can become a member for a buck and cancel any time ya like.) It’s Episode 64: How to Slay the Top 3 Energy Vampires. Here’s the preview of that episode:

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5 Time-Wasters of Biblical Proportions

“One thing we ADHDers never have enough of is time. So if there’s one thing we should never be wasting…it’s…yep…TIME!”   – Alan Brown 

I’m not one for brow-beating my fellow ADHD tribesters, but when it comes to time-wasting, I do get a little preachy. In fact, I was writing part of a Crusher™TV episode about the five biggest avoidable time-wasters and I was getting so wound-up about it that I decided to write it as a fire-and-brimstone sermon!

I call these epic smiters of our precious time…

(Not to be confused with the epic Motown group, The Temptations – of whom there were indeed five).

Here they are. Harken ye to these tales of woe!

Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 2.47.06 PMI.  The Entertainments (aka, Media and Games)  These voices beckon us with the false promise of….”Oh just a coupla minutes of Candy Crush”….or “just the first five minutes of Hannity or Rachel Maddow or Big Bang Theory…Surely then I will be ready to return to my labors…” And return we do not.

Your salvation? Schedule specific times for this stuff – to include a cut-off time. They’re not sinful in and of themselves – if you limit them!

social-mediaitesII.  The Social Media-ites (aka Social Media)  These soldiers of the dark side dwell in our devices, our homes, our chariots and I dare say, in our very souls. Their song lulls us deep into their web…then rolls us up in the silk of superficial social interaction…and finally spits us out two hours later…our minds by then utterly vacated.

Your salvation? Toss your device into your drawer and resist that temptation!

 

the-busy-workIII.  The Busy-Work   Those deceitful activities cleverly disguised as productivities…Checking email…Re-checking email…the shuffling of papers…the not-really-necessary conference call. All perfectly tempting in contrast to that which truly needs doing.

Your salvation? Knoweth ye the difference! See this verse for more.

 

the-ruminationsIV.  The Ruminations (aka, Negative Self-Talk) An idle mind is indeed the playground of the devil. It begins when we lament the work we’ve been assigned…and that lamentation quickly turns to self-torment…then wasted time and energy.

Your salvation? A gratitude prayer can quickly smite negative thoughts about one’s travails.

 

the-carbohydraV.  The Carbohydra (aka, Carb- and Sugar-Based Snacks) This false idol promises the land of milk and honey, but delivers only the sadness of simple carbs and sucrose. It does not nourish the mind, but thrashes it utterly!

Your salvation? The teat of protein shall nourish mind and soul!

 

These five plagues on our productivity menace our constitution with false promises of blissful escape…and in so doing…drag us further up the River Styx. Also known as the East River. And you what’s up there, don’t you? Yes, Da Bronx!

I hope you enjoyed our sermon today (with apologies to anyone sensitive to the religious theme…and to the good people of Da Bronx).

Bless!

Alan

P.S. You might like to watch the episode where this sketch was performed. (You can become a member for a buck and cancel any time ya like.) It was part of Episode 20: Best of Crusher™TV – The Pontiffs of Procrastination, which featured clips from interviews with Ari Tuckman, Jeff Copper and other wise men and women! Here’s the preview of that episode:

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3 Ways to Grow Your Brain…By Moving Your Body?

Simple activities restore your gray matter…and more

Most of us think about movement, exercise and fitness in terms of making our bodies healthier. But research also confirms that physical activity – not to mention regular workouts — can grow your brain and have a dramatic impact on improving your mind and memory both near- and long-term.

Exercise Reverses Aging…Of Your Brain

OlgaTake the case of Olga Kotelko, who even at 93 was a successful track-and-field athlete. She held a number of world records and earned hundreds of gold medals in competition.

When researchers at the University of Illinois studied her brain, it looked very different from those of other 90-somethings. Olga’s white matter — the cells that transmit messages from one part of the brain to another — showed fewer abnormalities. And her hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory, was larger. Her brain seemed much younger than her age!

Another study of men and women ages 60 to 80 showed that the most physically active participants had healthier brains than did the more sedentary volunteers — especially in the parts involved in memory and cognition. And none of these folks worked out like Olga, a champion athlete. They simply walked, gardened and moved more each day than the sedentary participants.

So, your brain, which shrinks with age, can be grown simply by walking. And if walking can grow your freakin’ brain: 1. Make a habit of parking farther from the store! 2. Imagine what some real exercise can do!

But as the headline suggests, here’s the upshot: Not only is it never too late to start exercising, but you don’t have to run marathons to get the brain benefits of exercise. Hell, you barely have to exercise to get the brain benefits of exercise.

Movement

3 Ways to Grow Your Brain Without a Gym Membership

Take a Stand: A pile of research shows that just standing — even if you don’t walk or run — can improve your health. So while you’re at work – stand up! Use a standing desk, or set a timer to remind you to get up every 20 minutes or so.

Take a Walk: If you’re feeling a little ambitious, take a brisk walk three times a week. This can increase the size of the hippocampus, and improve your memory.

Take a Hike: There’s also lots of evidence that walking in nature benefits the brain and your cognition. As little as 30 minutes can yield real improvements.

Exercise-Feed-Your-Brain-ADHD-Natural-RemedyThe next step could be some light resistance training – research suggests that just a few sessions a week may slow the age-related shrinking that occurs in some parts of our brains.

And yes, evidence indicates that a more vigorous workout does your brain even more good. Exercise increases your brain’s neurotransmitters, and consistent exercise helps balance these chemicals in your brain’s arousal center – which means that after a vigorous workout, you will be much calmer, more focused and less irritable.

Bless,

Alan

P.S. Episode 13 of Crusher™TV, “Brain Hacks of Great Athletes,” includes an interview with a marathon runner, who explains how he uses ‘brain hacks’ to finish marathons – and to finish projects! This is the kind of stuff we’re doing every week on Crusher™TV. You can check out a preview here.

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Win Your Battle of Activity vs Action

Don’t “Just Do It” … “Get ‘er DONE”!  That’s the Difference Between Activity vs Action.

You’re busting your butt and working hard, yet too many long days end with a nagging feeling that you haven’t gotten much done — at least not much that you (and your boss) deem really important.

Despite your labors, the fruits of those labors are not showing up on the tree.

There are many culprits: poor prioritization, multitasking and task-switching, convenient mental “escapes” to time-wasting social media, to name a few. But…

Deleting emails and retweeting are ACTIVITIES. Writing important emails is ACTION.

The Real Problem: You’re Losing the Battle of Activity vs. Action.

The key is to distinguish the weak behavior (activity) from the strong (action). Then you must re-wire your workflow to focus on action, so you can crush distractions and drive real results.

The Difference Between Action and Activity

Action is purpose-driven and strategic. It’s made up of deliberate tasks that are crucial to moving you toward your important goals and vision. Action moves things forward, gets stuff done.

Activity is the range of tasks that create the illusion of action. When unassociated with a strategic purpose, activity doesn’t really move you forward. Activity is often the pseudo-productivity we engage in to avoid taking action. You may have heard the term “pseudo-productivity.” Same thing.

For example, writing and sending an important email that makes something new happen, that resolves a client question or that commands others to get busy on your agenda – that’s action. Repeatedly checking your emails, or going through them to delete a bunch – that’s activity.

To be fair, cleaning out your email inbox, de-cluttering your desk, and doing laundry all need to get done and often are necessary to work efficiently. But, when those activities are repeatedly pursued when a strategic action is at the top of your to-do list, that’s activity — and that’s, in effect…procrastination!

Some Ways to Steer Clear of Activity and Stay Engaged in Action

  1. Identify your strong and weak times during the day. Use your weak times for activity, reserving your strong times for action. Schedule your deeper thinking during your strong time, when you can better fend off distractions.
  2. Give yourself permission to just think. Schedule time to think. Put it on your calendar. When you give yourself room to think, your important goals will naturally float to the top, followed by new ideas for the paths toward them.
  3. When you think, prioritize: If you don’t have two or three priorities in front of you on a big-ass sticky note every time you sit down to work, you’re gonna get busy with activity!
  4. Singletask. Once you’ve set priorities for the day, pick one and set a timer – 20 or 30 or 90 minutes – to work on that one thing. Single-tasking is the single most powerful way to steer clear of activity and escapes.
  5. Get an accountability partner or a coach, which will double your willpower, increasing action and results.

Bottom line, now that you know the difference between the two, make a commitment to action. There is always something you can do to move the important stuff forward! (Just as there is always some potential ‘escape’ activity nearby!)

Bless,

Alan

P.S.: In Episode 15 at CrusherTV.com, I really get into the nitty gritty of this topic and give you the tools to stop spinning your wheels and get on the road to true productivity. Plus, I talk with clinical therapist and coach Eric Tivers, who offers some great ways to re-wire your workflow and really make progress toward your goals. You can check out a preview right here.

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Change Your Posture, Fire Up Your Brain

Sit up and take notice: Bad posture is bad for your ADHD brain!

I’ve talked a lot about the brain-body connection as it relates to productivity, and a recent New York Times article highlights the effects poor posture can have on the body, such as back and neck pain, muscle fatigue, and arthritic joints.

Slouching — as so many of us do when staring at a phone or computer screen — compresses the abdominal organs, reducing peristaltic action, which is key to normal digestion and bowel function.

But enough about the physical toll. Poor posture is killing your productivity! 

Forward head posture, or FHP, is among the the most common forms of destructive posture. It’s characterized by the forward displacement of the head over the chest, causing the shoulders to round forward. Think about walking, head down, phone in hand. Get the picture? (If not, check out this picture!)

Forward-Head-Posture

Note the effective weight of the head resulting from FHP!

Slumping does more than make people unhealthy. It affects our moods, which affect our productivity.

FHP can reduce lung capacity, which reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain and other organs. Less oxygen to the brain, less brain function, less PRODUCTIVITY.

So what can you do?

Harvard Business School social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s research on body language shows how we can change our own body chemistry — and even people’s perceptions of us — just by changing our body position.

Mentally fatigued? Nervous? Stressed? Take a super-stance. 

cuddy_poptech.jpgYup. Simply by standing like Wonder Woman (or Superman) — feet apart, hands on hips, chest out — for two minutes, you can re-boot yourself. This is neither joke nor hyperbole. It’s science. Research shows that when this pose is held for two minutes, cortisol, a stress hormone, is reduced by up to 25 percent and confidence and clarity go up, because testosterone gets bumped 20 percent (even for women).

Posture can alter our emotions and affect how confidently we approach situations and solve problems, which affect how powerful we appear to others.

The Reflexive V, or Pride Pose, is one of several power poses Cuddy refers to.

It’s what a golfer instinctively does after sinking the winning putt; a runner does when she breaks the finish-line tape; an account executive does after landing a new client; and what a couch potato does when his team wins the Stanley Cup: arms wide, chin up, chest out … victory!

Posing like Wonder Woman or assuming a Reflexive V not only can result in greater self-confidence and increase the confidence others have in us, but such expansive poses, in which chest and arms are open rather than closed, can help prevent recovering alcoholics from relapsing; help people take initiative and risks; and even increase pain tolerance.

So, when feeling fatigued or stressed or before heading into a stressful situation, strike a two-minute power pose. And always avoid slouching or otherwise “folding into yourself” or “making yourself smaller.”

In Crusher™TV Episode 21, I share some of the other do and don’t positions for positive posturing. Here’s the preview of that episode…

Walk tall my friends!!!

Bless,

Alan

P.S. In Crusher™TV Episode 15, I talk about iHunch, a term coined by a New Zealand physiotherapist that refers to the contortion of our bodies as we engage with our gadgets. After 30 years of treating women who had developed “dowager’s humps,” he noticed this phenomenon in increasingly younger patients, particularly in teenagers. Quick — are you doing the iHunch right now??

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Top 3 Procrastination Brain Hacks from 3 Top Experts

Procrastination. We all know how much we ADHDers are doing it…

…and we all know the costs, the aggravations of procrastination. (Someone might be yelling at you right now cuz something hasn’t gotten done yet! Or maybe that unpaid parking ticket is just a few days from morphing into a brief jail term!)

So I’ll cut to the chase: Some solutions in the form of “brain hacks.”

I use a number of my own tricks to keep my to-do list small and my businesses cranking. Plus, as the host of Crusher™TV, I get to interview the best minds on all kinds of productivity-related subjects. So I wanted share some of the best brain hacks for beating procrastination from a few of our past Guest Experts on the show…

Girl-Procrastinate-Clock

Ari Tuckman: Frame Dreaded Tasks in Terms of Rewards and Regrets

In Episode 7: Stop Procrastinating, psychologist Ari Tuckman shared what your brain does when you don’t want to do something: You make arguments for how much the task sucks and how much better it would be to be doing something else. This mental stance is aided and abetted by what’s called “temporal discounting” – the farther into the future some reward or pain is, the less significant it appears.

As such, Air articulated the “brain hack” of re-framing a dreaded task, to compensate for such discounting: asking yourself, “If by 10am I don’t get going on this task, what will the ‘10pm me’ be saying? How ticked off will she be?” And if you answer that honestly, you can trigger a little motivational fuel to get you rolling in the right direction.

And if you do get moving on that task, the 10pm you will be STOKED. Envisioning that outcome gives you another boost of proactive brain chemicals.

Eric Tivers: Acknowledge What is “Imbortant”

Leave it to Eric to coin a new term. In Episode 15: Get More Done with Less @#$%!, he calls out the many things we put off…and put off…because they’re boring and…boring! Yet, they are important – hence, “imbortant”.

Just acknowledging this is a powerful procrastination-buster, because you’re dimensionalizing the key reason you’re stalling: certain tasks are mundane and thus don’t fire up your ADHD brain with any level of interest. You know: going through your email inbox, paying the bills, laaaauuuundry, etc.

His remedy for such imbortant tasks? Just schedule some time for “processing” of imbortant stuff. You don’t have to finish anything/everything; just put a block in your calendar and allow yourself to be BORED…as you do the work. Ideally, you schedule a little time each day for such processing…and fewer imbortant things will come back to haunt you.

Jeff Copper: Ask, “What Is Hard About This?”

We procrastinate a lot because we’re just not really sure what to do! In Episode 8, legendary attention coach Jeff Copper had some wise words to share about getting unstuck from this predicament. And in classic Copper style, he says, “Don’t try harder – try different!” Which you can do by asking ourselves, “OK, why the heck IS this so hard to start?”

…Maybe it’s hard cuz it’s boring (or imbortant!).
…Maybe it’s hard because there’s some confrontation involved.
…Or you just don’t know where to start.

If you just ASK yourself, “What’s hard?”, you make a huge leap toward the solution, and from there it’s easier to leap…into action!

I shared some of my brain hacks in Crusher™TV Episode 35: How to Do Something You HATE Doing! Stop by Crusher™TV and watch the latest free previews!

Bless,

Alan

OH — and a BIG P.S.: If you’re REALLY sick of procrastination messing up your life, check out our award-winning ADD Crusher™ Videos & Tools Program. This instructional “virtual coach” is endorsed by over 100 ADHD coach worldwide.  ab

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