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How to Break Free From the Addiction of Distraction

Distraction

Priority Dilution is the new procrastination.

Priority Dilution is fascinating because it affects the chronic overachievers, the do-gooders, the check-listers, the task-masters, the movers and shakers, and all the people you wouldn’t normally think to be procrastinators.

It’s unlike regular procrastination in that it has nothing to do with being lazy or apathetic or disengaged.

But it is the same net result as a classic procrastination in that we leave the office at the end of the day with our most significant priorities left incomplete because we’ve allowed our attention to shift to less important but perhaps more seemingly urgent tasks.

This person’s life is characterized as a constant state of interruption.

Why do we do that?

Why do we allow ourselves to get distracted?

Why do we allow ourselves to get interrupted?

Why do we put off the things that are significant and that will matter in the long term for things that are more short term?

Is it because we’re somehow inept or not smart enough or not motivated enough?

Perhaps.

But there may be more to it than that…

As we’ve learned more about the neuroscience of the brain we now know that the brain sends signals telling our body how to operate through the release of predominately only a handful of chemicals.

One of those chemicals, the pleasure releasing drug, is called dopamine.

Under brain scan we suspect that dopamine is released whenever a task is completed, an email is deleted, or something is crossed off our to-do list.

Which means that we get a little “hit” of dopamine making us “feel” good.

We “feel” successful.

We “feel” productive.

Which explains why you may have at some point completed a task that wasn’t on your to-do list, but you then added it to your to-do list just so you could cross it off!

(In some ways not too dissimilar from the illogical behavior exhibited by anyone who becomes addicted to a foreign substance that gives them a dopamine release.)

But in this way, the neuroscience of our brain is working against us.

Because it’s leading us to be focused on completing the largest volume of tasks – each time we do making us “feel” good or productive.

But ultra-performers know that success is no longer related to the volume of the tasks you complete; but rather to the significance of them.

In other words, it doesn’t matter that we got ten things done if they are all trivial compared to the one most significant thing that we needed to get done.

The world’s most productive people would intentionally choose to get the one significant things done instead of the ten small things.

How do you measure significance?

That is the subject of our book Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Time (free 1 hr training here). The essence of which is spending time on things today that produce more time or results tomorrow.

But your brain – in a weird way – is working against you because, left to its own devices, it’s going to pull you in the direction of completing the most number of tasks rather than completing the few significant ones.

In essence making you susceptible to perpetual Priority Dilution.

So how do we change that?

Through a simple 3 step process:

1. Consciousness – Being made aware of the dynamic goes a long way in helping you to move in the right direction.

2. Discipline – You decide you’re going to operate a different way and you intentionally start to make different choices than you made yesterday.

3. Accountability – You create structures around yourself that help reinforce this new way of thinking. This is why Southwestern Consulting predominantly focuses on coaching; we believe working with someone 1-on-1 over an extended period of time is the best way to actually create sustainable behavioral change. Exploring the idea of getting your own coach is a great way to do that (request a free call).

 

At the end of the day you have to realize that your brain isn’t programmed for success; your brain is programmed for survival.

You are naturally designed in a way for survival first.

Survival means to conserve energy.

Survival means to do what is easiest.

Survival tends to push us to do what feels good in the short term.

But you were also designed in a way to have the power of choice.

And the power of choice gives you the chance to opt for success instead of survival.

You can overwrite the original program.

You can program yourself for success.

Success means expending energy to learn and execute a better way.

Success means to take the path less traveled by.

Success means to make disciplined choices now knowing that they create greater benefits later on.

So in that way you aren’t just programmed for survival.

You can program yourself for success instead.

You can program yourself for greatness.

You can decide to have a different life.

6 Characteristics of a Great Life Purpose Statement

purpose

People often struggle with articulating their life’s purpose.

A single unifying statement that helps clarify for them what they want their life to have counted for at the end of their days.

In a recent podcast interview with one of my business partners at Southwestern Consulting, Steve Reiner, he and our coaching client were talking through the process they used to help our client identify his purpose.

It’s become one of Steve’s specialties and he laid out 6 characteristics of what make a great life purpose statement that I thought were fantastic:

1. Useful – It should talk about your relationship with other people. Specifically it should address how you will serve and help others beyond just yourself.

2. Universal – It should apply to every area of your life and it should set a mode of operating for you that carries over into both your personal and professional life.

3. Aspirational – It should speak to the person you want to become and the impact you want to have. Almost as if it were a projection of your future self.

4. Formidable – It should be a challenge to achieve and be something that will require you to work and operate at your very best levels.

5. Controllable – It should be something in your power and that relies on you. For example you can’t have a life purpose to make someone happy because that is outside your control. You could say to dedicate your life to providing certain things for someone.

6. Inspirational – It should be something that when you read it, it breathes life into you and causes you to feel compelled to take immediate action.

If you’re interested in learning more about our coaching process and how we might work with you one on one to create your life purpose statement click here.

5 Signs You Know The Underdog Might Win

Underdog

March Madness is upon us. The most exciting time of the year for college basketball and my favorite sporting event.

It’s my favorite because I love the underdog.

I always cheer for the underdog.

I love to see an upset.

I love to see someone defy the odds and make their dreams come true.

Don’t you?

Normally I don’t make the time to watch all the games but with a 1-week old newborn who wakes up every hour, wants to be held if he’s going to fall asleep, and still has his nights and his days switched around, I’ve had an unusual chance to keep up with what’s going on with the NCAA tournament since it’s on in the background.

And I’ve been reminded of what it takes for an underdog to win.

It’s not a lucky burst of unlikely scoring. It’s not the emergence of unsung talent that suddenly shines. It’s not a barrage of trick plays that no one has ever seen before.

Quite the contrary, you know there is a chance the underdog might win when you see these 5 things.

1. They make their free throws – They take advantage of the easy opportunities that are given to them.

2. They don’t turn the ball over – They protect themselves from making costly mistakes.

3. They rebound the basketball – They do the hard work of out scrapping their opponents.

4. They play consistent defense – No matter the score they keep their composure and don’t let themselves unravel

5. They move the ball on offense – They play like a team, pass the ball and are patient to take good shots.

In other words, what it takes to pull off an upset…

What it takes to win as an underdog…

What it takes to accomplish what no one would ever think possible for you…

Is to be brilliant at the basics.

To be a master of executing the fundamentals.

To be disciplined under the most extreme circumstances.

If you do those things, then anyone has a chance to win.

Maybe we all have something to learn from watching the underdog.

Why Competition is Over Rated

Competition

You don’t have to beat other people to dominate in business. 

There doesn’t have to be a loser in order for you to be a winner. 

And the business world today, seems to be rewarding those who have more of a selfless focus on serving than those who have a relentless focus on competing. 

Those getting ahead seem to have more of an intrinsic drive to improve than an extrinsic drive to defeat. 

Success in business today doesn’t really allow time to be concerned about how you rank compared to other people. 

Because in order to survive and compete in this fast moving generation, you need every extra ounce of that energy focused on how to improve your customer experience. 

You have to have more of your creative capacities going into innovating and less going into comparing. 

It’s not about finding ways to defeat your competition; it’s about finding ways to serve your customers. 

The speed of communication, the speed of technology and a growing overall climate of customers becoming accustomed to having their needs and preferences hyper-tailored to, means that we need every resource possible focused on keeping up with and surpassing their expectations. 

If we do that we’re more likely to win. If we don’t we might be in trouble. 

Many of the industries that have experienced disruption have resulted from the traditionally stable providers benchmarking against their competitors more so than thinking about how to better solve the customers problem. 

That line of thinking encourages the status quo inside an industry and opens the door for those outside the industry to come in and find a better way. 

It’s as if innovation is sometimes forced to come in from outside an industry when the age old players inside the industry are squabbling for market share instead of obsessing over customer needs. 

AirBNB, Uber, digital cameras and Netflix were all created from players outside an industry. 

When it could’ve been hotels, taxi companies, Kodak and Blockbuster that figured out a smarter way to serve customer interests. 

The point is that when we focus on beating other people, we might risk missing out on something more valuable. 

When we focus on serving other people we activate our senses. We come alive. We invent. We innovate. And we combine time tested principles with modern tools to find a smarter and better way to solve customers problems. 

The same is true of personal success. 

Our success is irrespective of what is being accomplished or not accomplished by those around us. 

Our success is measured by how we perform compared to ourselves. How we perform compared to our potential. And most importantly how we perform compared to our capacity to best serve those around us. 

We are only trying to beat who we were yesterday. 

We are only trying to crush the way we’ve always done it. 

We are only trying to compete with the best possible ways to get ourselves and our clients to the next level.

5 Steps to Create Transformational Team Unity

Unity

A team is a group of people held together by a unifying set of beliefs.  

But what those beliefs are, unfortunately all too often are unspoken.

Typically, people gather with people who they are like or who believe what they believe.

Yet there is some nearly mystical power that comes about as the inspiring byproduct of when a team takes the time the codify their beliefs.

At Southwestern Consulting, we’ve walked many of our clients through this and we call this “The Creed Conversation”.

We first discovered the power of this activity by realizing the need to apply an age-old part of Southwestern’s culture around positive self-talk to our Southwestern Consulting team as a whole. We realized we had not yet taken the time to write out our shared philosophies at Southwestern Consulting. It ended up being one of the most transformational pivot points in the history of our own company.

It’s so simple to do, that virtually any team at anytime can have a “Creed Conversation.” Many companies have a formal “mission statement” or “values” but this process takes it a step further by empowering collaboration and most importantly assimilating it into the regular course of our workflow.

All you need is an audio recorder, someone who can type, a group of some of your key leaders and a facilitator. Then follow a few steps:

1.Set the Stage – Explain to everyone that despite being a team for x amount of time, it dawned on you that you have never created, as a team, a list of the principles that you all believe in. While you may have a company mission statement or something, it’s not nearly as powerful as something created by the team of people who do the work every day. Tell them the goal is simply to document a list of shared philosophies of the team. It can also be a good idea to play for the Simon Sinek’s famous Ted talk “Start With Why.” 

2.Ask the Questions – Start the audio recording (so you have it for future reference) and then simply ask the group (best if done in person with less than 20 people) a series of open-ended questions just to get them thinking in the right direction. Write down EVERYthing everyone says in the random order that it comes out. If possible it’s best to do it on a word document on an overhead projector so everyone can see it start to take shape and come alive. Here’s some sample questions you can ask: 

  • What do we know to be true about the way we do business?
  • Why do we work so hard at this business?
  • What philosophies do we have that are un-compromisable?
  • How do we want to treat our clients and each other?
  • How do we want to be remembered as a team?
  • What do we want to be known for?
  • What do we want people to think when they think of us?
  • What are we most proud of in the way we do business?

You can ask any question in this vein and you can’t really go wrong. The only way you can mess this up is by taking too much control of the conversation and providing all the answers yourself. This is for the team to come up with, and you are a team member so you can contribute, but let them speak and create it.

3.Organize and Edit – Once all has been captured now it’s time to assimilate and edit. It helps to have someone with some decent writing skills here to guide this step. What the writer will want to do is first copy and paste similar statements or philosophies together into paragraphs without altering any of the statements as they were initially said. You’ll notice that many themes probably kept getting repeated during the exercise and that’s a good thing but here’s where we’re going to manage that.

After that, the writer is going to have the challenging role of reducing many of the paragraphs down to one sentence each based on the recurring themes so there is 1 sentence per theme. The key here though is to try and preserve the actual semantics used by the people in the group as much as possible. Try to grab key phrases, repeatable mantras, or colorful language from the group but without being too repetitious.

 Then the last and hardest part will be to edit and massage all of these ideas into simple, concise, powerful, active sentences. Don’t say “we strive to do the best we can for our customers whenever possible.” Instead say, “we always do the right thing.”

Once you have all of the statements complete, next you will want to write an opening paragraph that pulls in some of the corporate vision, values, and mission statement. And then write a short closing paragraph that is a unifying and rallying call to action to live out and execute all of the philosophies that were just listed. Oh…and all of this at most has to fit onto one page.

4.Represent for Approval – Now that it’s all been synthesized by the writer/editor, the next step is to send it back out to the team for final suggestions and feedback. At this stage it’s a good idea to even send it out to the team at large (who wasn’t included in the initial meeting).

Invite the team to discuss this in their smaller teams and within their departments to get reactions from people all throughout the organization. Give everyone an opportunity to suggest additions or changes.

It’s a chance to get everyone’s feedback and input. Work on the edits until everyone agrees and you can formally vote on it and ratify it as a part of your continuing corporate culture. (It should be a living document that can be edited later as necessary with unanimous vote.)

5. Put it in Use – The key to making a creed work is making sure it doesn’t just end up in a drawer somewhere with other corporate jargon that never gets looked at. It needs to come alive and be referred to early and often. Here are some of the best ways to get it in use:

  • Read it out loud at the start of every meeting (there are many fun ways you can vary this up.)
  • Refer to it whenever you have a difficult decision to make.
  • Make it be the first thing you show to recruits and new hires and explain that it is the predominant criteria for being hired or getting promoted.
  • Cite elements of it whenever you roll out a new change for the company.
  • Ask people to cite it whenever they see something that is a real-life illustration of a principle that is documented in the creed.
  • Ask people to cite it whenever they see something in the company that needs to be improved or challenged.
  • Include elements of the Creed on walls, trophies, certificates, and anywhere else it makes sense.
  • Consider creating awards in your company for people who exemplify specific lines of the Creed.i)“Initiate” new people by inviting them to read it out loud (or part of it) their first day on the job.
  • Make it a part of your personal affirmations that you read every morning.

A Creed can be a synthesizing and rallying time for your entire team.

There is something tremendously powerful about having a documented, agreed upon, and declared set of values that govern the behaviors of members.

It can turn losers into winners.

It can turn doubters into believers.

It can turn pacifists into activists

If you create a Creed, you will create a culture. 

Improving Your Life Trajectory

Life Trajectory

Why is it that some people’s lives improve along a steady or linear growth curve while others improve exponentially?

It’s because the future success of your life is determined by the trajectory your choices set today.

Similar to the power of compounding interest with money, time also compounds our choices.

When we make good choices at a young age, consistently over a long period of time, it doesn’t create a linear improvement over someone who doesn’t but rather an exponential improvement.

Similarly when we make poor choices at a young age, consistently over a long period of time, it creates the possibility of an exponential decrease of future opportunities and an increase of challenges.

It doesn’t mean that we are ultimately doomed to our history and our past, but it does mean that our best chance for shaping the steepest inclined trajectory for a positive future is to start immediately.

Good choices begets good opportunities.

And making good choices again when presented with good opportunities yields even more drastically positive opportunities.

But it needs to happen now!

You need to start today.

Because the sooner you invest into your own personal development…

The sooner you increase your work ethic…

The sooner you improve your attitude…

The steeper and more positive the trajectory you set for your life.

But you are in control.

You are the one who makes the decisions.

You are the one who makes the choices.

And your best chance for big opportunities later is always exponentially increased by making good choices right now.

So make good choices today and multiply.