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Why Personal Pit Stops Are Critical For High Performance

Yes, I am that guy who packs his lunch everyday so that I can keep working and don’t have to leave my office. I am also the guy that will postpone getting another glass of water for an hour because I don’t want to waste those 90 seconds.

I guess I should say, I used to be that guy. Now don’t get me wrong. I still pack my lunch – turkey sandwich anyone? But boy have I learned first-hand the magic of taking breaks which allow me to reset and recharge.

It didn’t come easy! For years I had read countless “experts” tout the importance of downtime. The necessity of unplugging from technology to give your brain a much needed break which only then would allow for maximum productivity. But it seemed counter intuitive to me.

My “to do list” is never empty. I always have more to get to. But I realized that while I might have been “in front of my computer”, that didn’t mean I was actually being productive or producing work at my highest level. It didn’t even mean I was actually working!

When I really decided to take an honest look at my productivity, I realized that I was taking plenty of “breaks” to check out ESPN, Twitter, email, you get the idea. The problem was, those breaks didn’t re-energize me and in my five minute journal I kept noticing a recurring theme of low productivity in the afternoons.

Sound familiar?

I decided to experiment and try out some of the things I have been reading about over the years. I committed to scheduling in my breaks and holding myself to it. It didn’t take long to win me over as a believer (why didn’t I do this earlier!)

Pit stop Blog

Courtesy of www.indycar.com

Our brains and bodies aren’t much different than that of a high performance race car. In order to get the best performance, you can’t run your engine at full speed without taking pit stops along the way.

Now these pit stops only take a few seconds for Indy or NASCAR drivers, but they have 11 individuals performing key roles and there are multiple pit stops throughout the race. Without them they would never reach the finish line.

You need to perform pit stop maintenance as well!

It can vary by individual, but there is only so long you can fully focus on an activity before you start experiencing diminishing returns.

I now focus on working in 90 minute to 2 hour blocks at a time. I have found that I can get more done with better quality in 90 minutes than I was previously accomplishing in 3 hours. My energy is better and I have a sense of urgency that greatly improves my focus.

After my time block is up, I take a break. But not just any break. Surfing the web doesn’t count. Staring at your smart phone doesn’t count. I leave my office, walk outside and take a complete technology break for at least 15 minutes.

The featured picture for this post is a picture I took on my afternoon break today. That fountain is located across the street from my office. After walking for 10 minutes I sat down, set my phone timer for 5 minutes and did a quick meditation. I simply focused on calming my mind and resetting myself to get back to work.

Before my break I had started to reach a feeling of overwhelm and I could feel my productivity slipping. In just 15 minutes I was able to reset myself for my next time block.

Those 15 minute pit stops have become a critical investment throughout the day that has paid huge dividends and allows me to get more done, but most importantly aid in me producing my best work.

So I challenge you to give it a shot! What routines can you experiment with to design what works best for you?

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

 

Why the Pen is Mightier Than the Laptop

I know it has become more and more common to do everything on our digital devices these days, whether that be our laptop, tablet or smartphone. And that can be great. In many ways, these devices have made us more productive and offer some great tools.

There is one area however, where I will encourage you to go “old school” with a pen (or pencil) and paper. That is when you are TAKING NOTES, particularly for retention and recall.

In my classes I see more and more people taking notes on their laptops or tablets. Don’t get me wrong, I take notes on my devices from time to time as well, usually with Evernote, but when possible I prefer a good ole pen and pad of paper.

I have always felt that I retained more information when I wrote things down on paper. That has always been my preference, but I never knew if it was actually anymore effective than using my computer.

Well it seems that Pam A. Mueller from Princeton and Daniel M. Oppenheimer from UCLA did the work for me and researched this very topic! They wanted to know if laptop note taking was detrimental to someone’s overall understanding and retention of new information.

The findings?

Stick with the pen and paper!

Their research showed that when you use a laptop to take notes, you are much more likely to become more like a transcriptionist, mindlessly transcribing and typing what you hear.

In three separate variations of their study, the findings were consistent. While those using laptops were found to take MORE NOTES, those using the long lost art of handwriting scored significantly higher on conceptually based questions.

Now you may be thinking what I was at first. Maybe the use of pen and paper helps your brain in the moment to recall more information than typing on a keyboard. But if we are able to compile more notes on a laptop, maybe there would be an advantage later down the line as a result of having more notes?

Say for instance, that the test was a week later and the students were able to study their notes before the test. In that situation perhaps the advantage would sway to Johnny Laptop? After all, he would have more notes to study.

Not so fast….

Mueller and Oppenheimer used that vary scenario in their third study. In this study, participants were given either a pen or laptop and told to take notes on a lecture. They were then instructed to return the following week to be tested on the material. Once again, even though the laptop participants recorded more notes, those using pens performed better on conceptual and this time factual questions.

What can we learn from this?

The pen is not obsolete – Even with all of our technology, sometimes the best solutions are low-tech. I love technology as much as the next guy, but if you are looking for optimal performance, it is more important to choose the right tool for the job.

Don’t just mindlessly take notes – If your note taking is for a grocery list and your list is of no value to you once those groceries are in your cart, then your smartphone may work just fine. When you are taking notes for the purpose of retention and learning, it is critical not to just mindlessly transcribe what you are hearing. Take notes in your own words and translate what you are hearing into examples that you understand. Summarize concepts into core components instead of just transcribing information as it is presented in front of you.

Next time, if your ultimate goal is mastery, understanding, retention or skill acquisition, grab a pen and paper!

Do you still use a pen and paper for most of your note taking, or have you switched over to digital devices?

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

 

Thank you to the Harvard Business Review and Maggy McGloin who’s article was the inspiration for this post.

The Reason You Are Sabotaging Yourself

I used to often wonder why I continued to not follow through with things I said I wanted. Why I would start something and then find an excuse to stop. Why I would think about something over and over but never get off my behind and do anything about it. Sure I would find some convenient excuses, some were actually pretty good.

“I don’t have enough time.” “I don’t know where to start.” Or even something as simple as “I don’t feel like it,” or “I will do it later.” But those excuses I kept telling myself were just that, excuses. It was me giving myself permission to not do anything about it. To justify me not taking action.

Tony Robbins

The real reason behind me not following through, or not even getting started hit me like a ton of bricks when I attended Tony Robbin’s UPW event.

In an instant it all made sense. It all came down to my values.

Now I was familiar with values before I attended the event. I had even taken spent the time to determine what I valued most and to create a Top Ten list of my top values.

  • Family
  • Stability / Peace
  • Health
  • Freedom (of time)
  • Purpose
  • Learning and Growth
  • Compassion
  • Accomplishment
  • Simplicity and order
  • Contribution

But I wasn’t seeing the total picture.

The list above are the things most important to me and things I would like to experience more of. Tony Robbins defined these as TOWARD VALUES. I was however missing a crucial element that is even more important.

I never took a moment to understand and appreciate the emotions and values  that I want to avoid at all costs. Everybody has them. Robbins calls these your AWAY VALUES.

These are things like….

  • Failure
  • Rejection
  • Loss
  • Pain
  • Loneliness
  • Pressure
  • Stress
  • Overwhelm

Our values as individuals can be very different. One person may be driven above all to seek security, while their friend’s primary motivator is adventure. Those primary motivators will lead to completely different behaviors and actions. The first will play it safe and be calculating risk at every turn. The adventure seeker will only feel truly alive when they are taking chances and embarking upon new experiences.

These values set up two targets for you on opposite sides of the spectrum. One target has you seeking pleasure and the attainment of your toward values.

The second target, the one I was missing, is steering you in the opposite direction of your away values and those emotions that you are trying to avoid at all costs.

Most of us, myself included, will do much more to avoid pain than they will to seek gain or pleasure. You can read more about that in this post.

Let’s say you want to start your own business, become wealthy, write a book, change jobs, or enter into a new relationship. You desire those things, but at the same time if you associate strong negative potential consequences as part of the process, you will be stuck in quicksand.

For example, you want a relationship, but your number one emotion or away value to steer clear of is rejection. Will you walk up to a stranger and ask them out? Will you put yourself out there and open yourself up to potential rejection? In most cases no, not if your fear is stronger than the potential positive outcome. Or perhaps you end up in a relationship, but sabotage it because of your fear of getting hurt.

Let’s look at another one. If your number one towards value is success, but your number one away from value is failure, you have a problem. Rarely does success or achievement come without failure along the way.

In fact, most successful people have a different view of failure. They realize that it is part of the process and is not something to be avoided. Failure is feedback. They learn to seek out failure, learn from it and move on. Failure is simply an event that is necessary on their path to success.

I truly wish I had a simple magic pill for you, a quick solution that could be explained in this blog post that would solve this problem once and for all. But many things in life aren’t quite that easy.

When I looked at my first two away values it all started to make sense. Above all, I had been avoiding rejection and failure. No wonder I would find excuse after excuse to keep me from getting out there and setting me up for any type of potential rejection and failure. It wasn’t worth it to me subconsciously.

I might be able to override it in the short term with will power, but eventually that would wear out and I would self-regulate where I started.

So what did I do?

First, I hired a coach. I knew I would need some help along the way. I would need someone to help me work on the rewiring and hold me accountable to each step in the process. I knew that even if I understood this concept logically, emotions are much stronger. That it would take time and repetition to get to where I wanted to be.

I still struggle with this from time to time. I am sure most of us do to some degree. A lifetime of habits and thinking patterns won’t disappear overnight.

But now when I catch myself procrastinating or avoiding something, I know why. I can then decide to go to work on overriding my exaggerated fears and re-frame what is holding me back.

The good news is that you usually only have to do this long enough to get out there and get started. Once you are in the process it becomes much easier and the more you get into the process the more your comfort zone grows with each attempt. That is the key to life anyway, PROGRESS.

So what are your top five toward values and what are the three away values that you seek to avoid above all else?

If you have a certain area of your life where you keep taking one step forward and two steps back, reach out to me and see if working with me is right for you. This is what I help people with every day. Josh@sitegoal.com

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

 

 

 

 

How to Climb Your Mount Everest

Maya Gurung was 14 and on the cusp of becoming one of the first girls to complete high school in her Nepal Village. Her father however, had other plans. He didn’t see the point and had already begun arranging her marriage.  “What would you do with an education?”

He wasn’t the only naysayer, her Aunt told her that she would never be anything more than a poor village woman.

After stealing $2.30 from her father, Maya ran away from home by taking a bus and getting off more than 250 miles from where she started. It didn’t last long. The next day she was discovered by police and returned to her school.

Maya returned a disgrace to her family and when she asked her father for forgiveness, he showed her a video he had made that depicted the rituals of Maya’s death. There would be no reconciliation.

Maya’s homeland in Nepal is a landlocked country of 27 million people that borders China and India. It also just so happens to be located in the Himalayas and the home of Mount Everest. Eight of the world’s ten highest mountains are located in Nepal with Mount Everest owning the title of highest peak.

Of 4,000 people who have reached the top of Mount Everest, only seven have been woman from Nepal. The first woman to reach the top, died on the decent.

At 5 foot 3 inches tall, Maya may be small in stature, but there is no shortage of heart and determination.  A few years after the failed runaway attempt, Maya enrolled in a basic mountaineering course, not long after that Maya set her sights on Mount Everest.

Maya joined 9 other woman at the base of Mount Everest in April of 2008. They climbed 5-10 hours a day. “With each step, we went further than we’d been before.” “Each step was a success.” Their mantra was simply, “ONE MORE STEP.”

On May 22nd 2008, Maya’s team reached the summit. Now, that would be more than enough for even the most adventurous, but not Maya and her fellow female climbers.  Before she was done, Maya would end up at the top of five of the tallest peaks on five continents!

I share this story, because I believe there are a few really important lessons we can learn from Maya Gurung.

Your story only lives in the past

Many of us are holding onto something that has happened to us in the past. We are giving credibility to those who said we couldn’t do it, that laughed at us, or made fun of is. Or maybe we had a negative event in the past that we still carry with us today. We are stuck in our old story. I can’t do it because……. It’s too hard because….

Maya could have listened to those same voices as well. The voices of her own family telling her she would never be anything but a poor village girl. That woman don’t need education, that girls like her don’t climb mountains, certainly not Mount Everest. She proved them all wrong and now takes her message to other woman across the world to show them what is possible. Maya is living proof that you can accomplish what you truly commit to and work towards every single day.

Greatness starts with one step

Nobody can shortcut the process. We all start at the bottom of the mountain. Many of us get held back by overwhelm and our fear of failure. Maya and her team understood that even if they took it slow, as long as the keep moving forward, one step at a time, eventually they would get to the summit. It is easy to want our results NOW, to look for shortcuts and always look for the easiest route.

For life’s major accomplishments there are no shortcuts. You must follow the process step by step. That could mean losing weight one workout or healthy meal at a time. Closing deals one phone call at a time, upgrading your skillset one book at a time. Become financially free by saving one dollar at a time. If you follow the process, step by step, your results will come.

What are you capable of achieving? What is your first step?

Are you READY?

Your Partner in Success,

Josh Paulsen

Blog Maya

The inspiration for this post came from the article After the Seven Summits by Alyssa Roenigk

Are You An Optimist or a Pessimist?

Is your glass half full or is it half empty? I am sure you have heard that saying before. But what the heck does it really mean and does it matter?

The optimist sees opportunity in every danger; the pessimist sees danger in every opportunity. – Winston Churchill

My post today was inspired by this quote which was at the top of my 5 minute journal this morning. Let’s start by defining what it means to be an optimist or a pessimist.

Optimistic (op-tuhmis-tik) – Reflecting a favorable view of events and conditions and the expectation of a positive outcome .

Pessimistic (pes-uhmis-tik) – The tendency to expect only bad outcomes.

To put it simply, do you have a tendency to look for the positive in events, or do you focus on the negative?  

Think about taking a picture of something or someone. Your photo is the result of only one angle. There are many angles from which you could have taken the same photograph, however the angle you choose will have a drastic impact of what you see. Our perspective about lives events isn’t much different.

Ten people could have a similar event occur, or even witness the same event and all walk away with slightly different meanings or perspectives of what just happened. For some a “breakup” means sadness or even devastation – for others freedom or opportunity. Time can also change your perspective regarding that very same event. The loss of a job that was a calamity at the time, allowed you to start the business of your dreams.

If we dive a little deeper, Dr. Martin Seligman who is the Director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center and was President of the American Psychological Association offers further explanation.

In his book Learned Optimism, Dr. Seligman breaks our thought process down to three categories.

Permanence – Do we believe that bad events are temporary or permanent?

Pervasiveness – Is an event specific to a particular area and compartmentalized or is it translated globally to our entire life?

Personalization – Are the causes due to external circumstance or are they internally caused by us?

PESSIMISTS
Pessimists tend to believe bad events will last a long time (permanence), will undermine everything they do (pervasiveness) and are their own fault (personalization). As a result, they give up more easily and get depressed more often.

OPTIMISTS
When optimists are confronted with the same obstacles, they tend to believe defeat is a temporary setback, confined to this one case and is more a result of external circumstances or other factors such as bad luck.

IT IS ALL YOUR MOM’S FAULT
According to Seligman, the way your mother talked about the world when you were a child had a marked influence. The mother’s level of optimism and the child’s level were very similar for both sons and daughters.

It is also widely believed that we all have a certain “set-point” for optimism. Shawn Anchor suggested in his book The Happiness Advantage that the set point could be as high as 50%, with your external circumstances accounting for 10% and the way in which you view the world making up the other 40%. Remember that picture?

Does it matter what filter we use to view our world?

The Benefits of Optimism

There are many benefits of having an overall optimist outlook. Research and studies have shown that optimism is often associated with better health and a longer life. Optimists also tend to be less affected by defeat and perceive it as a challenge and try harder. As a result they do better in school, work, regularly exceed predictions of aptitude tests and are healthier

As I discussed in a previous post, your brain runs optimally in most situations at a positive level versus negative or even a neutral state.

So should we just force ourselves to think positive all the time and live in La-La Land? Of course not….

In some situations, negative thinking offers a clear advantage.

If predicting potential pitfalls or diagnosing problems is a key to success, you don’t want to be overly optimistic. One study of 207 entrepreneurs found a negative correlation between entrepreneur’s optimism levels and success of their new venture.

Other studies have shown that optimistic gamblers lose more money. “Come on, I feel it, I know it will hit on red this time!”

Dr. Seligman also says in his book that the best lawyers are pessimists.  His explanation:

Pessimism is seen as a plus among lawyers… The ability to anticipate the whole range of problems and betrayals that non-lawyers are blind to is highly adaptive for the practicing lawyer who can, by so doing, help his clients defend against these far-fetched eventualities.

So what are we to do?

Like most things in life, things are rarely black and white and balance is incredibly important.

William Ward had a great quote that I think is appropriate.

“The pessimist complains about the wind.”

“The optimist expects it to change”

“The realist adjusts the sails”

There is overwhelming evidence that optimism wins the day in the majority of situations. Your ability to view negative events as temporarily, contained to one area of your life and changeable will make you happier, healthier and quite frankly more fun to be around!

It will also help you get up when you are knocked down and persevere through adversity, something that is critical to success in any endeavor.

That doesn’t mean you bury your head and the sand and assume you will win the lottery tomorrow. Looking for threats and possible pitfalls has its advantages and is necessary in the right situations.

From a natural and conditioned set point, I have the pessimism role down pretty well. That tends to come naturally if I am not careful. I have no problem projecting a small failure into the future, or taking it personally which keeps me stuck in the mud.

In order to bring me into balance and set me up for optimal performance I need to condition myself for optimism and override my thinking when I notice it heads down a path that is not helpful. I have found this necessary with many of my coaching clients as well.

So which is it, are you an optimist or a pessimist?

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

How to Get Out of Your “Funk”

I had a coworker come into my office this week, slump down in the chair in front of me and ask, “how do I get out of a funk?” “I am in a bad mood and just can’t seem to break out of it.”

We all have those times where, for whatever reason we are in a bad mood, or just don’t feel like ourselves. Often times we can’t even put our finger on the root cause.

It could be something as simple as a negative trigger that registers more on the subconscious level. A song on the radio that reminds you of a breakup with a significant other. An envelope that triggers all the bills you haven’t paid yet. A messy office that causes a feeling of overwhelm and a loss of control. It could stem from a few negative thoughts that popped up out of the blue, which now has you thinking worst case scenario, or focusing on all the things that aren’t going well at the moment.

Either way you have a choice. Do you want to stay in your funk, or do you want to take control and get out of it? It sounds like an easy question, but sometimes we are actually meeting some needs by being down. Every emotion can be effective at one time or another. Maybe it is your brain and body’s way of getting you to slow down and recharge.

However, in most cases, I know I want to snap out of it and get on with my day!

Here are a few ways that I have found to be most effective to jump start you out of a bad mood:

Movement – Nothing can shake off the blues quicker than getting moving. You don’t have to hammer away at the weights, or run yourself to death on the treadmill. Sometimes just something as simple as taking a walk outdoors is enough to turn the tide. There are many benefits, but for one it will increase your oxygen levels and boost your circulation. If it is during the day, the sun can even give you an added vitamin D boost, something many people are deficient in. If you don’t have the time or are unable to walk outside, just doing some jumping jacks will work, or strike a power pose mentioned in one of my previous posts. Just get moving!

Music – It is hard for you to sit in your chair with a frown on your face when your favorite song is blaring! Select some of your favorite tunes and you will be on your way in no time. Our brain actually responds differently depending on the type of music we are listening to. One study showed that the type of music participants listened to affected and influenced how they interrupted a neutral expression whether the music was happy or sad. As a bonus, dance around a little bit and you are hitting both M’s with Music and Movement!

Drink Some Water – Your brain uses up to 20% of the water and nutrients that you ingest (or don’t ingest). Unless you are walking around with a water jug all day, you probably aren’t drinking enough water. Even “mild” dehydration affects the way you feel and can cause you to have lower energy levels and decreased mood. Typically “thirst” doesn’t kick in until you are 1 – 2% dehydrated, which means you could already be in the mild dehydration zone. Next time you are feeling down, or low in energy,  grab a big glass of water and you will be surprised at how well it works. I have been doing this for years and it still amazes me how many times my low energy is due to lack of water and how quickly it comes back up after I drink a few glasses..

Change Your Focus – The great news is that we can control what we are thinking about, focusing on and doing at any moment. The bad news is that we rarely actually do it, instead flowing down the river of our external stimuli.  If all else fails, grab an inspiring book, watch something motivational on YouTube, look at pictures or videos of your kids, relive a big accomplishment, or count your blessings. Wherever our thoughts or focus goes, so does our feelings and emotions. Change your focus, change your mood. Sometimes we just need to put things in the proper perspective.

What else works for you?

Now it is time for me to go get a big glass of water and go for a walk!

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

 

Happy one year anniversary to the SiteGoal Blog! It was last June when I posted my first blog post, many more to come. Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any topics you would like me to write about.

5 Reasons you can’t get yourself to _________.

We all have things that we would like to accomplish that we keep putting off. Wants or dreams that we just can’t seem to move forward with. Every day I tackle this subject with my students, my clients and many times with myself.

In fact, this is a common reason people hire a coach, to help them finally make that change they have been trying to do on their own for years. Many are looking for that magic pill or easy solution. “Motivate me”, give me the once sentence that will make it all click!

Oh if only it was that easy!

I have found that understanding why you are not taking action, or isolating what is holding you back is the best approach to arriving at a solution and to move past it.

These are the 5 most common culprits.

1) You don’t know how. I put this first for a reason, not biggest it is the biggest hurdle. Quite the opposite, this is usually the easiest problem to solve. However, most people MISTAKE this as the obstacle. Now you may not truly know all of the steps to completing your task right now. But we live in the information age. We have access to more information at our fingertips than ever before. If you have a smart phone, you literally have access to a huge mountain of information at your fingertips. Search the Internet and you can find an article, or YouTube video on just about any topic you can imagine. Finding the “how” in our world today has never been easier.

2) You don’t think you can do it. Beliefs are a powerful thing. We typically tap our potential at our belief level, not from a reservoir of what we are truly capable of achieving. Find someone with a strong belief and you will see them tackle a project with perseverance, passion and grit. If deep down, you don’t feel like you are capable of being successful your mind will work on protecting you from failure. You will find an infinite number of other projects or priorities. In most cases, you won’t even get started.

3) You are scared. Fear is probably the number one thing that holds us back. It is a protection mechanism. Our brain’s first priority is to keep us safe from harm, not only physical harm, but emotional pain as well. If there is fear of failure, rejection, or of not being good enough we get stuck in the mud. Most of us will do much more to avoid discomfort or pain, than we will to seek gain or pleasure. If you don’t deal with the root cause of why you are hesitating, your brain will do its best to protect you from this “harm” with avoidance. It will even supply you with some great excuses along the way to rationalize your thinking and procrastination!

4) It isn’t important enough. These last two are tougher pills for many to swallow. I know it has been a wakeup call for yours truly. In many instances, the culprit is that you just don’t want it bad enough. To accomplish something new, or to make a change, requires quite a bit of effort. It sounds nice. You might really want to lose a few pounds, make more money, and find a new job. But how hard are you willing to work for it? The sad reality is that there is a cost to change. It requires effort and sacrifice. If we could just wave a magic wand, we would all be skinny and rich. But it doesn’t work that way. Are you willing to wake up earlier, stay up later, turn off the TV or put down your fork? If your reasons aren’t strong enough, the path of least resistance and your comfort zone will win out every time. You need strong reasons to get you out of bed on that cold morning when the alarm goes off. You need a burning why to get you to the gym when you don’t feel like it, to attend that networking event or make the extra phone call. Your reasons for wanting the results come first.

5) You are more committed to something else. This is similar to number four, but worth mentioning separately. We all have limited resources. Whether it is time, money, or energy, we only have so much of it. If you choose to engage in one activity, you are taking yourself away from another opportunity. Sometimes the most powerful word is NO. It is critical to be clear with your priorities and values and to stay strong amidst the sea of distractions. Whatever you are most committed to will win out every time.

I have been “talking” about getting up earlier in the morning and establishing a more structured morning routine for a while now. I would really “like” to wake up at 5am. It would be great to start my day before my kids wake up and knockout a few wins before the sun rises.

I have even tried a few self-coaching techniques:

  •  I have note cards with reasons why I want to get up at 5am
  •  I read a book called the Miracle Morning to create a stronger why
  •  I have implementation intentions and wrote down all the steps I would take once my alarm clock goes off
  •  I made a list of morning items that I would enjoy to help give me the payoff of getting up earlier

The reality is, when I am truly honest with myself, I am much more “committed” to sleep and my reasons for waking up aren’t strong enough.

Just last night my three year old woke up three times in the middle of the night. Before I close my eyes at night I often wonder – will I actual be able to sleep through the night without interruption? Couple this with the fact that I have seen all the research on how important sleep is to keep your mind and body running in tip top shape and it is no wonder I can’t seem to get myself to sacrifice sleep to wake up at the crack of dawn!

What I have realized is through trial and error is this. What I truly want are the results from what I think waking up at 5am would give me.

  • Starting the day on my terms. Not having the screams of “DADDY I NEED YOU!” be the jolt that starts my crazy day
  • Making sure exercise happens
  • Having dedicated time for reading

Armed with this information I have been able to structure my day so that I can get the results I want, without sleep deprivation or continuing to fight a losing battle. I have a routine that has me waking up before my kids are screaming my name, but thankfully not at 5am. I have shifted and scheduled (crucial element), some of the activities to later in the day.

Most importantly, I no longer have that unaccomplished “goal” calling to me every day, eating at me. Without knowing what was holding me back from taking action, I would have never been able to figure a plan to get the results I wanted.

Fill in the blank from the title. What is something you would like to accomplish that you keep putting off?

Which of the five areas are holding you back? Did I miss one? Let me know in the comments!

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

 

Your Secret Weapon For Increased Productivity

Don’t you wish you had less time available to you? If there were only 18 hours in the day, maybe you would spend less of it starring at a wall because you have nothing to do? Yeah right!

I have yet to work with a single client or student that hasn’t said they were “too busy”, or that they “didn’t have enough time”, or that there were “too many things to do and too little time.”

Procrastination and time management are two items that come up frequently in our discussions. Yes, time does seem to “fly” for most of us, but the great news is that you are the pilot.

Today I want to give you some insight into how your mind prioritizes your tasks if you let it run on autopilot. But I will also give you the secret weapon to increasing your productivity in order to move from being busy to getting results.

Gain vs Preventing Pain

Psychology research shows that when we get right down to it, we can categorize all sources of human motivation into two categories.

  1. To prevent PAIN
  2. To move towards GAIN

You have probably heard this before, but it is important to understand it from a productivity and procrastination stand point.

Preventing Pain Tasks

Let’s start with preventing pain first, because that is the one that your brain gives more attention to. I have written about the brains negativity bias in a previous post. But these tasks associated with preventing pain throw up DANGER signals to your brain, which means survival, which means it will get the most attention, focus and priority. If fifteen things go well today, but you have one failure or setback, the chances are you will continue to think about that one failure and not your fifteen accomplishments.

Prevent pain tasks are items such as paying bills, doing laundry, mowing the lawn and completing tasks other people have given you (like your boss).

When we are engaged in prevent pain tasks, we are really attempting to prevent negative consequences from occurring: late fees from bills, services being cut off altogether, getting reprimanded at work, or laundry piling up and not having any clothes to wear. Our results are only big when we don’t do those prevent pain tasks. And those results are negative.

Gain Tasks

Your goals fit into the category of gain tasks. Starting a business, reading books, going back to school, learning a new hobby or language, and going to the gym. These are the tasks that will have the biggest impact on your life. The things you will look back on later in life and feel the most pride and accomplishment. When we look at the results they produce, there is a substantial different. We will receive 90% or more of our results from our gain tasks and only 10% of our results or less from those tasks we perform to prevent pain.

One of the biggest challenges with gain tasks is that in most cases they lack urgency or a deadline unless WE create one. You could put off these tasks until tomorrow, next year, or like most people, for your entire life!

Another key element of gain tasks is that they are not easily delegated. You can’t have someone else go to the gym for you (wouldn’t that be great), you must read the book to gain the new knowledge and insight.

So we now know that our brain will prioritize our avoid pain tasks much higher than our gain tasks. But we also know that our gain tasks provide all of our results.

What do we do?

When it comes to time management and productivity, people typically use two tools in some form or another. These are of course a to do list and a calendar. Whether you use an app, a hard copy planner, or just a piece of paper and a pencil, to some degree you have some type of calendar or to do list. Even if it is inconsistent.

We use and treat these two tools drastically different.

Your to do list is your dumping ground for all the things that need to get done. Your calendar is where you record your appointments or tasks with a specific time and date. There is a big difference.

Unlike your to do list that becomes your dumping ground. You will defend what gets put on your calendar and gets scheduled. It requires an extra step. You must determine if you have a conflict or have something else going on at that time and you must decide if it is important enough to add to your calendar. You are much more protective of what you will put on your calendar.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is never a moment in your life when you couldn’t be working on some type of prevent pain task. There is always something we could be doing, whether it is the dishes or responding to email and phone calls. When is the last time your Inbox was empty, your house spotless, all bills paid and all of your clothes were clean?

Exactly!

So if there are always prevent pain tasks we could be doing, technically there is “never any time for gain tasks or our goals”. That is, unless we schedule and commit the time.

The Secret Weapon

This is why your calendar is your secret weapon. What gets scheduled gets done.

Your calendar is your secret weapon to ensure that you put enough focus and time into your gain tasks and aren’t stuck in autopilot working on one prevent pain task after another. This is the difference between being busy and getting results.

When something is important it is time to Schedule It, Defend It against distractions and less important items and Neglect our to do list with the prevent pain tasks. They will still be there when you come back.

Whether you use a planner, a white board,  or a calendar on your phone it doesn’t matter. Use what works best for you. The key is to use it. Schedule time for your goals, and important  gain tasks. Treat it like any other important appointment and keep it. You will thank yourself later.

How can you start using your calendar to schedule out your priorities and those items that will really get you the results you want?

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

 

Thanks to Steve McCatchy author of Decide for the inspiration for today’s post and to Alicia Ford for sharing it with me.

The Kryptonite of the Potentially Great

When I work with my clients and students there is one thing that I see hold them back more than anything else.

Excuses.

I am no different, this is probably my biggest challenge as well.

Nothing is more efficient at shutting down your accountability, your creativity, your problem solving ability, and your energy than excuses. It is the fast track to mediocrity and unhappiness.

But what really is an excuse? Here is one definition – A reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense.

Excuses are a great self-defense mechanism. They protect you from having to put yourself out there. It gives you a free pass because it is not your fault! It is a convenient way to shift the blame and accountability from yourself to someone else, or even better – external circumstances.

Sometimes they come automatically without us even realizing it and stop us in our tracks.

My challenge to you

When is the last time you felt true pride and accomplishment from something that came EASY? It is through fighting adversity that we really discover what we are made of. It is the adversity that shows us how strong we are and gives us our greatest sense of accomplishment.

A challenge is something that can often be overcome, but doesn’t necessarily come easy. This is where real growth and accomplishment is born.

Who doesn’t like a challenge? Something that gets our attention, gets the juices flowing and gets us engaged. When I find myself making excuses, i do my best to turn it into a CHALLENGE.

Next time you think, or verbalize an excuse. Stop and clarify. Is this a fact that is truly insurmountable? Many times it is not.

Has anyone else ever overcome something similar? If someone else is capable, you are as well. Think of someone you greatly admire or respect. A role model or mentor. What would they do in this situation, would they stop, or engage the challenge and find a way?

This simply shift in moving from an excuse to a challenge can be the catalyst to get you headed in the right direction. You see, an excuse is a dead end. A reason to throw your hands up without accountability. A challenge will allow you to see solutions you wouldn’t otherwise see.

My favorite “excuse” is that I don’t have enough time. I am too busy, I am too overwhelmed to workout, to write more blogs, to update my website, and to get together with friends. As soon as I accept that excuse it absolves me from figuring out a way to make it a priority. It shuts me down. It is the easy way out and I know it.

I often think of the quote I have heard many times.

“If it is important you will find a way, if not, you will find an excuse”.

When I am truly honest with myself (not always an easy thing to do), I often end up admitting the real challenge is that I don’t “want it bad enough”.

The TRUTH is that I have 24 hours each day and 168 each week just like everyone else. The challenge is to prioritize the time I do have and figure out systems to be more efficient. To make best use of the time I do have. To say No to things that aren’t important and to schedule and commit to the things that are.

When I eliminate excuses, I take back accountability and put the focus on what I can control. When it is a challenge that can be overcome I am willing find a way through experimentation and trial and error. When it is an excuse, I give up.

What about you? Are you making any excuses that are really challenges just waiting to be solved?

No Excuses!

 

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

Am I the only one battling with these thoughts?

You can’t do that, what if it bombs, what will others think?

I used to believe that most people didn’t deal with that inner dialogue that second guesses, points out all your flaws and is hyper sensitive to criticism and what other people think. That maybe I just wasn’t “built” to be someone  who is fearless, willing to take risks, or get up after getting knocked down ten times.

Now to be fair, I have only lived inside my own head for 40 years. I am sure there are people that are more predisposed to adventure, not caring what others think and are able to let things bounce off their chest like Superman.

However, I have been surprised and relieved to find example after example of people who have accomplished great things, but dealt with the same challenges. It is not that they don’t face the same type of thoughts, they just don’t allow themselves to live there for too long.

In fact, our brain is designed to give priority to and pay more attention to the negative.  

Let’s say your ancestors were walking along in a forest and came across a delicious fruit tree, their favorite! But a split second later along comes a Tiger. Now they could be really hungry and really want that fruit, but the danger of the Tiger is going to get their full attention. If it didn’t, if your ancestors ignored the Tiger you wouldn’t be here today!

When I learned to view some of these thoughts as a benefit and not a hindrance it helped….. a little. I understand this “logically”, but many of our negative thoughts bring with them pretty powerful emotions, so I still struggle with it sometimes like anyone else.

One thing I have noticed as I read more and more books and speak with people I admire and respect, they face the same challenges. They deal with fear before they hit the “publish” button. They wonder what people will think about their book. They thought about giving up and wondered if they were good enough. They get hurt when they get bad reviews or receive negative comments online. It is not that they are immune to all that. It is how they handle it when it occurs.

I was amazed to learn that when I had dinner with James Clear , an amazing writer with one of my favorite blogs, that he wrote for a year without publishing ANYTHING! He kept it on a document and was too scared about what his friends or family would thing to even post that material.

We ALL face these thoughts, doubts and insecurities.

So what do we do about it? Here are some ways to get you over the hump when that negative voice starts holding you back.

  • Acknowledge it and say “thank you” – Thank you? Yes, your brain is simply trying to protect you. That is its job, it is YOUR job to decide what is best for you in the moment. Just that simple awareness can help you realize that these are natural thoughts, but that you are not your thoughts, you can choose to move forward and push past the doubts.
  • Remind yourself of past successes – When the negative thoughts start flowing, it is common to start thinking of all your failures and where you have gone wrong in the past. Instead, take a deep breath and force yourself to head in the other direction. Replay all the things you have done well, your accomplishments, the adversity you have overcome, the people you have helped. Stick with it long enough and you WILL reverse the path.
  •  Stare down the worst case scenario – This may sound counter intuitive, but often times, even the worst case scenario is not fatal. Other people might judge you? So what? Is that your problem, or their problem? By facing the fear head on, it removes some of its power over you. Many times, you will see quickly that even a failure is only temporary and that it is not worth holding you back from moving you forward.
  •  Realize that you are a work in progress – Many fears and negative thoughts stem from a fear of failure. Carol Dweck wrote a great book called MINDSET (LINK) that discusses the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. When you are in a fixed mindset, failure isn’t an event, it is an indictment on you as a person. It is a label. You didn’t lose the game, you are a l-o-s-e-r. Having a growth mindset is realizing that you aren’t perfect and are always growing. You realize that knowledge, wisdom and success come from experience and experience often includes missteps. Did you just hop on a bike and ride off into the sunset on your first attempt? Probably not. Any new skill requires a period where you just aren’t very good.
  •  Just take the first step – Action is often times the antidote to fear. Jump off the cliff. Force yourself to take that first step. The hardest part is almost always just getting started. Once you get started. Establish that habit of just jumping in, ready or not!

When you find those negative thoughts popping up and holding you back, give some of these suggestions a try and see what works best for you.

Do you have any other approaches that work for you? If so, share them in the comments!

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

 

The toothbrush for your Brain!

How often do you brush your teeth? Once a month? A couple of times a week? I hope not! I am sure most of you brush your teeth at least twice a day, once in the morning and once before you go to sleep. In fact, it is probably on autopilot at this point.

Would it be just as effective to brush your teeth longer, like maybe for 30 minutes once a month? I am no dentist, but I doubt it. The really large gains and progress in life usually comes from small, consistent daily habits. In fact, if you improve just 1% each day, you will see 100% improvement in just 70 days.

I want to share an activity that can be done in less than 10 minutes a day that can have a profound impact on the other 23 hours and 50 minutes. Think of it as the toothbrush for your BRAIN.

I have long heard about the benefits of journaling.

– Reduces stress and clarify thoughts and feelings

– Strengthens immune cells

– Helps remove mental blocks

– Increases focus

– Helps to harness creativity

Even knowing the benefits, the thought of staring at a blank page wondering what to write was a roadblock to me getting started. Like many people, I am also short on time, then I across the Five Minute Journal. Five minutes? I can come up with Five minutes. But the best part is that it provides a simple structure that is backed by research of proven principles from positive psychology.

I have been using this journal now for two months and it has had a huge impact on the days I utilize it, so much so that I wanted it with you.

It is incredibly simple. Each page or day has you complete three short sections in the morning and two sections in the evening. That’s it!

blog 5 min insert in body

IN THE MORNING

Each day at the top of the page is quote or a weekly challenge. Today for example:

“If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Get out and get busy!” – Dale Carnegie

These are great to get you jump started and in the right mindset.

Next are three lines to complete the sentence I am grateful for.….

We have been given a great gift of being able to choose where we focus our conscious thoughts at any moment regardless of the external circumstances. We have this power, but many rarely use it, instead being pulled from event to event, thought to thought in the river of the day’s activities and distractions.

Starting off your day focusing on your blessings, what is going well and really appreciating what you have in your life can make a tremendous impact. In fact a study in 2008 involving brain scanners showed that people experiencing gratitude influenced in a positive way the part of their brain that directly impacts stress, sleep and eating.

I have challenged myself to come up with new things that I am thankful for each and every day. I try my best not to repeat them. It can be easy to jot down, family, spouse, kids or career without really giving it much thought. I have received the most value when I really sit and focus on the little things most of us take for granted, but truly aren’t that little.

– Clean water at my fingertips

– Spring weather

– Lazy weekends

– Air conditioning (I do live in Texas)

– My children’s innocence and curiosity

Some days they will come to me rather easily. Other times I need to sit for a few moments and really think about the little things that I take for granted. The power is in really “feeling” the appreciation and not rushing it.

The next section has three blanks to fill in the statement: What would make today great? I love this question and have been surprised at how difficult it is to answer some days!

It is easy to get caught up in the minutia of everyday life and to continuously move from one To Do List item to another. But is that really having an impact? I know I am guilty of sometimes being busy, but not necessarily productive, looking back at the end of the day and wondering what I really accomplished.

This question has really helped me get clear on what the highest priority is, what would make the biggest impact and where my focus needs to be for the day.

I will often ask myself, if I ONLY accomplish three things today and nothing else, what would make today a success? That seems to help me break through the clutter and get clear on what is really important. I have been surprised the impact of writing these items down has on the rest of my day. It really drives me to make sure I complete these three items and adds to my accountability.

 Tip: Focus on areas YOU have control over. It might be nice if you won the lottery, but you will have greater success and impact if you focus on the specific things you have control over.

 The last part of the morning session is two Daily Affirmations – I am (fill in the blank). This section is simply about how you want to show up to yourself and to others in the coming day. You are priming your brain for how you want to act, feel, think, or interact with others. There are distractions all around us, this helps you define your area of focus. Instead of just going with the flow and again being pulled in all direction from external events, you decide who you will be today. For more on Priming check out my previous blog post.

Examples from my journal:

– I am grateful for all the large and small blessings in my life and take time to appreciate them.

– I am relaxed and able to stay focused in the moment.

– I am focused, organized and spending my time on areas that have the greatest impact.

I have found that these three sections can take five minutes or twenty minutes depending on the day. I have found that the longer it takes, the more I NEED it!

That is it for the morning portion; get on with your day primed to optimize your success!

IN THE EVENING

Just like you brush your teeth in the evening as well as in the morning, there are questions to be answered either at the end of your work day or just before you go to sleep. (Maybe even right after you brush your teeth).

3 Amazing things that went happened today

Research shows that most people pass through their accomplishments too quickly and tend to linger on the negative. Put another way, our brain is like Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive. This section helps you to relieve your magic moments, or victories no matter how small. It is similar to the way we started the day (gratitude), but in reverse. It allows you to relive great moments you might have otherwise dismissed along the way.

I don’t have huge accomplishments every day, but this exercise has really helped me to appreciate the little things that are so easy to overlook.

  • An interaction with my daughter
  • A funny comment from my son
  • Having a chance to read a book while I had coffee
  • Getting to the gym.

It is a great way to end your day and get ready to go to sleep. The best part is that no matter how your day was, your brain wants to answer whatever question you give it. If you give it some time as you replay your day, you will find 3 things to celebrate.

How could I have made today better? 

This last section reminds you that progress and improvement is the key to success. It is also a reminder that you have the power to learn from the past and improve for the future. Being future focused is a critical mindset for anyone to reach their potential. We have talked about priming your brain, this works the same way. You are priming your brain on how what to do “the next time”.

If you had a time machine and your day started all over again, what would you have done differently? Pick two areas and right them down. For example:

– I woke up when my alarm went off and went straight to the gym (instead of hitting snooze)

– I took a walk outside in the afternoon to reset my focus and energy level.

By priming your brain with how you want to act, you are training it for future opportunities.

This process in the morning and in the evening is very simple and doesn’t take much time, but I have found it to make a big impact in the rest of my day.

Note: You don’t have to purchase this particular journal to receive the benefits, you could model the same structure if you prefer on a blank notebook or piece of paper. You could also modify the approach and add additional questions. I personally feel like the notebook has been worth the investment. (http://www.fiveminutejournal.com/)

Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

Your partner in success,

 

Josh Paulsen

Are You Addicted to Your Technology?

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

If you are like the majority of people in America you start your day by checking your phone. In fact, 80% of smartphone users check their phones before they brush their teeth. (IDC Research).

I am “old enough” to remember life without cell phones and the internet, but that doesn’t mean my brain hasn’t adjusted to technology overload.

Until just recently my IPhone never left my side. I would end and begin every single day checking my phone. I knew it probably wasn’t ideal, but it had become a habit I did without even thinking.

My biggest vice? EMAIL! I have three accounts, so if I didn’t have any email in one, I would move onto the other two. There was almost disappointment if there were no new messages, which was rarely the case.

It really hit me when one evening when I left my phone at my office. I realized it about 5 minutes into my commute. Normally I would have turned around, but my wife had dinner plans and I was already short on time. I actually started to panic as my mind imagined life without my cell phone.

Then it hit me. I went 20 years without a cell phone, am I not capable of making it 12 HOURS without my phone?

Full disclosure: my wife actually swung by my office on her way to dinner to pick up my phone. I didn’t even make it 12 hours.

That is when I decided to take a closer look at how I used technology.

Maybe it is because I am about to turn 40, (no I am not going through a midlife crisis), or maybe because I have young children, but when I came across a poem titled Slow Dance by child psychologist David L Weatherford it really hit me.

SLOW DANCE by David L. Weatherford

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round,
or listened to rain slapping the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight,
or gazed at the sun fading into the night?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
time is short, the music won’t last.

Do you run through each day on the fly,
when you ask “How are you?”, do you hear the reply?

When the day is done, do you lie in your bed,
with the next hundred chores running through your head?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
time is short, the music won’t last.

Ever told your child, we’ll do it tomorrow,
and in your haste, not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch, let a friendship die,
’cause you never had time to call and say hi?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
time is short, the music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere,
you miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day,
it’s like an unopened gift thrown away.

Life isn’t a race, so take it slower,
hear the music before your song is over.

The author wrote this poem over 20 years ago – before the widespread use of the internet, email, text messages and social media, but is probably even more appropriate today.

I realized that somewhere along the way, I had started letting technology use me instead of me using it.

I now do my best to put my phone aside after 8pm. I no longer check my phone like a crack addict first thing in the morning to see if I had received some earth shattering email that required immediate attention. In fact, I am currently experimenting with checking email just three times a day instead of constantly hitting Send/Receive.

The results thus far have been wonderful!

I urge you to ask yourself. Are you dancing too fast? If so, how can YOU slow down?

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

5 Ways To Reduce Overwhelm and Improve Your Decision Making

Have you ever been faced with what you thought would be an easy decision and then 20 minutes later you are still deliberating over a myriad of choices?

I certainly know I have. I am deliberate by nature and am guilty of spending 15 hours preparing for a Disney World vacation. My last car purchase involved using multiple spreadsheets to compare features and specs during a car buying search that spanned weeks and countless hours of analysis. I have even found myself staring at 40 different kinds of soap trying to decide which one to select in the grocery store.

In this post I want to share five ways you can reduce overwhelm and not only make faster decisions, but be more satisfied with the decisions you do make.

First let’s start with why this is important.

Barry Schwartz wrote a book called The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. The book’s theme is an interesting one.

 While we assume that having more choices and options will lead to greater satisfaction, too many options or too many choices can actually lead to LESS satisfaction with your selection!

Dan Gilbert has a great TED talk on The Surprising Science of Happiness that discusses the same topic.

  • The more options you consider the more regret or buyer’s remorse you will experience
  • The more options you encounter the less fulfilling your ultimate outcome will be

Ask yourself this question. When making a decision, would you rather have an acceptable outcome and be more satisfied, or have the optimal or best outcome, but be less satisfied?

You might be thinking, “but wait, if I have the best outcome, wouldn’t I be the most satisfied?” Not exactly.

For example, let’s take my car buying example. Would you rather spend months deliberating over 10 different car choices, the pros, cons, options and specs, select the best one, but second guess yourself during the next five years you owned the car? “Did I make the right decision, would I have liked that model better?” Or would you rather end up with a car that might be almost as good, but never second guess your selection?

Which result is better? It reminds me of a quote.

You can be RIGHT or you can be HAPPY”

So which is it for you? Is it more important for you to be right, to make the absolute best decision, or do put a higher value on satisfaction with your choice or happiness in general?

For me, I choose happiness and satisfaction, but there is another consideration as well, TIME.

Time is the most precious commodity there is. Once it passes, it is gone forever.

If I spend 60 hours analyzing my car choices, that is 60 hours that can’t be used for anything else. I could have used some of that time to play with my kids, spend time with my wife, socialize with friends or write a blog post!

So where do you go from here?

Try setting rules for yourself that will create a structure and framework to help you make better and faster decisions. This will not only free up more time, but give you greater satisfaction and happiness in the process!

Here are some ideas to get you started

1) Don’t go round and round with decisions until you can ACT on it. Don’t waste time ruminating and going round and round in your head with a potential scenario until you can take action on it. Consciously decide to set a time and place to consider any future decisions that you are unable to act on in the present. Setting a time and place for future deliberation can help release your brain from the open loop that will drain your energy and motivation.

 2) Don’t postpone decisions just to avoid uncomfortable situations. I can think of an example just last week that comes to mind. Our neighbors invited us over for dinner. My wife wasn’t up to it and knew she would decline, but delayed responding for three days. Over those three days, she brought it up to me at least 6 times and there is no telling how many times it popped into her head knowing that this situation was hanging out there. With that decision looming over her, it caused unnecessary stress for three days. A simple text immediately in the moment would have not only freed up time, but unnecessary worry and stress. She didn’t want to hurt their feelings by saying no. But she ended up saying no anyway in the end. A simple, “I think we have a commitment / conflict already, but let’s get together soon” is a soft approach that would have allowed both parties to move on immediately.

 3) Make non-fatal or reversible decisions as quickly as possible. Not all decisions are created equally. The less risk, the quicker you should strive to make a decision and move on. Next! Move on to more important things.

 4) Limit your options. Another solution is to set a personal rule to limit your options for any decision. As quickly as possible, narrow your choices down to just three options. Immediately cutting it down to three choices will reduce overwhelm and speed up your decision time immensely. It will also help reduce buyer’s remorse and regret.

5) Set a time limit on decisions. Give yourself a deadline and stick to it. Whether it be 60 seconds for minor decisions (think soap at a grocery store), or 1 week for a major decision, giving yourself a deadline will help provide focus and keep you from over analyzing and getting lost in endless back and forth deliberation.

If you can set parameters for your decision making, these can work as guidelines to not only help you make decisions more quickly, but will lead to greater satisfaction with the decisions you do make!

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

This post was inspired by a Podcast I listened to by Tim Ferriss last week. Thanks Tim!

Do You Meditate?

I was listening to an interview Tim Ferriss had with Arnold Schwarzenegger this week and was surprised to learn that Arnold meditated twice a day for 20 minutes each session for a year – in the 1970’S!

Can’t you just picture the Terminator meditating? Yeah, me neither.

blog terminator

In the 1970’s, Arnold’s career really started to come together. He was having great success in real estate (who knew), his body building and his movie career started to gain traction and take off.

With all that opportunity, Arnold struggled to keep everything separate in his mind and was increasingly anxious, worried and overwhelmed. He decided to give meditation a try and after a few weeks of meditating twice a day, he was able to disconnect and rejuvenate his mind.

Arnold also credits Meditation with increasing his focus and helping him to stay calm through all the challenges that were coming at him. Arnold says that even today he benefits from that year of meditation and is able to keep things from merging together and causing him stress and anxiety. He is able to take one challenge at a time, fully focus on his current activity and then reset his brain and move on to the next challenge.

Meditation has been around for thousands of years, but it has really become more mainstream in places like the United States within the last few years.

But is it worth the effort?

It turns out that study after study shows numerous benefits on health and well-being. Research across 19 universities and over a span of more than a decade show that experienced meditators see significant changes in their brain structure and function.

One study showed that a group of participants that averaged 27 minutes a day practicing mindfulness exercises experienced increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus part of the brain. This area is known to be important for learning, memory, self-awareness and introspection. They also reported reductions in stress and decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala which is known to play a role in anxiety and stress.

Who couldn’t use more focus and less stress these days?

There are different types of meditation, below are two examples:

Mindfulness – This approach focuses on the awareness of thoughts, sensations and particularly emotions that you are experiencing at any given moment. The key is a deliberate focus on being less emotionally reactive to the particular emotion or thought in the moment. Research has shown this type of approach to lead to decreased brain activity in areas related to anxiety. It has also shown to lead to an increased brain volume in the prefrontal cortex. This area is responsible for executive function and plays a strong role in focus, attention and processing sensory information. Meditators also had a decrease activity in the amygdala, the part of your brain responsible for processing fear among other things.

Focused attention – The focus of this type of meditation is to quiet and center your mind and fully focus on the present moment. As distractions arise (they always do), you simply refocus your attention. By choosing to focus on one thing and one thing only, you are able to begin to quiet down the mind. There are multiple options for your area of focus. Some focus on their breath, others a word or “mantra”. Some will even use the image of an imaginary or real object. When your focus shifts, you get distracted, or random thoughts start popping up (which will happen), you gently come back to your object of focus. It is that simple.

If you are new to meditation and want to give it a shot, don’t overthink it. Keep it simple and just give it a try. You don’t need a special room, special pose, or fancy incense or rocks.

There are 1,440 minutes in a day. Start with 10 minutes and give it a shot!

If you are having an especially hectic day and only have 2 minutes, take those two minutes. Close your eyes, take deep breathes and for those 2 precious minutes, just focus on your breath and only on your breath. You will notice that it can really help calm you down, reduce some of the overwhelm and get you back on track – in a very short period of time.

If you would like some extra help, there are many apps you can download for your phone that offer guided meditations, many of them free. Pandora even has a “Calm Meditation” station that I used just yesterday.

If Arnold can meditate, so can you!

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

Why Most of Us Are Focused On The Negative

While at the gym yesterday, I noticed that while I normally feel pretty good about 15 minutes into my cardio, I was in a bit of a funk. Was I starting to get sick? No. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Nope, my kids even sleep through the night!

At that moment it hit me. I normally like to listen to videos, podcasts or audiobooks on some type of motivating, growth oriented content. That day I had a particular video picked out, but was having issues getting it to play and finally aborted my plan and watched the TV’s in front of me.

The programming was pretty typical at that time in the morning at my gym. The E! channel was on my left, ESPN straight ahead and CNN to the right.

As I paid more attention, these were the three items on the air simultaneously:

1)      The Kardashians – Momma Kardashian was complaining about an upcoming luxury first class trip to Thailand. The complaint? Having to spend too much time with her husband. Kim meanwhile was complaining about how nobody in her family was excited enough about her being on the cover of Vogue. The nerve!

2)      ESPN was talking about “Deflategate”, whether or not the New England Patriots purposely let air out of the football below league rules in the AFC Championship game. Did Tom Brady lie at his press conference, are the Patriots cheaters? Does everybody cheat and they just got caught?

3)      CNN had a story about how 60% of Americans feel that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

No wonder I was in a funk!

I am very familiar with Priming and new instantly what was going on.

Each of us has the most powerful tool on earth at our disposal.Our brain. There are between 80-100 million neurons in our brain and each one of those connects to thousands of others. It has enormous processing power, but most of this processing occurs behind the scenes in the subconscious.

For every one neuron in the conscious part of the brain, there are 1 million neurons dedicated to subconscious processing. This part of your brain is very active even though you aren’t aware of it most of the time. It is monitoring bodily functions and processing all the sights, sounds and input from the external world.

I heard one neuroscientist describe our conscious mind like a “post it note” and the subconscious like a “NASA super computer.”

So why is this important and how does this relate to my experience at the gym?

We are heavily influenced by our external circumstances, even if we aren’t consciously aware of it. When you read something, are engaged in a conversation, or interact with others – your brain is automatically predicting what is most likely to happen next.

For example, even if I leave out a few ______ from this _______, your _____ can still read it and understand it just fine.

Let’s look at another example I picked up from Steve Pavlina. Read the following words below.

  • Distance
  • Car
  • Gasoline
  • Petroleum
  • Mileage
  • Efficiency

Now fill in the two missing letters and complete this word:

 F_ _L

What did you come up with? When I use this exercise with my clients and students, 80-90% choose U and E to create FUEL.

There are many more possible combinations, but almost all will pick a word that correlates to the words you read right before the activity. Makes sense right? I primed your brain to process fuel by the choice of words listed.

Now this is a simple exercise, but we are being PRIMED all the time. This happens even when we aren’t consciously aware of it (remember the role of the subconscious).

The TV’s in front of me at the gym were all focused on the negative. No wonder I felt lousy!

Most of us are bombarded by information all the time: news, the internet, social media, and other people.

How much of it is positive and conducive to putting you in a great state?

The media’s primary motivation is ratings. That is not necessarily a bad thing, it just is what it is. Most media programing is designed to disturb you and get your attention, more so than inform you. “If it bleeds, it leads”. The more they shock you, the more you will watch. If you really start to pay attention, I bet you will find that 80% – 90% or more of the content is negative. Death, fear, sickness, terrorism, poor economy….

If you prime your brain constantly with the negative, your brain will react accordingly. It will point out all the negative in the word, alert you to all the things missing in your life, constantly alert you to what might go wrong and lead to stress, worry and fear.

Your brain is not designed to keep you happy and successful. It is designed to protect you and keep you safe.

YOU must take control and prime yourself with the right information, the right people and the right input.

What is one thing you can change in your everyday life to prime yourself for success and happiness?

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen