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How to Achieve a State of Total Concentration

That state of total concentration is called “flow,” and the people who love their jobs experience it often while they’re working.

Nadia Goodman

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Concentration

Think of an activity you enjoy that completely immerses you. When you’re doing it, your attention is fully focused, and you are so absorbed that you lose track of time. You feel free and effortless. That state of total concentration is called “flow,” and the people who love their jobs experience it often while they’re working.

“It’s what keeps you going,” says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the leading researcher on flow states, a professor of psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California, and author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2008). “Flow creates an experience that is so exciting and so stimulating that you would do [the activity] even if you didn’t get paid.”

Entrepreneurs are especially likely to experience flow at work because they have the freedom to choose their own challenges. “The ability to take risks in a calculated way helps create the dynamic that makes entrepreneurial activities flow-producing,” Csikszentmihalyi says.

To experience flow and stay focused on a regular basis, try these four tips:

1. Choose challenges that fit your skills.
To experience flow, your skill level needs to be sufficient to tackle the challenge with confidence. “If there is a good balance between the challenge and the skills, then you start feeling flow,” Csikszentmihalyi says. If the challenge overwhelms your skill, you’ll be anxious, but if it underwhelms, you’ll be bored.

As you work, notice when your skill-challenge match is out of balance. If you find yourself anxious, then work on improving your skills. If you’re bored, then increase the challenge. “Every activity will take hundreds of these adjustments,” Csikszentmihalyi says. Staying attuned to these imbalances will help you adapt and re-enter flow.

2. Know the steps to reach your goals.
Full immersion in any task can only happen when you know how to accomplish it. You need to have some idea about how to get from point A to point B. “That constant awareness of what is next is what keeps you focused,” Csikszentmihalyi says. “That’s where the engagement comes from.”

Much of entrepreneurship is new or unfamiliar, so at the beginning of a new project or task, make yourself a roadmap. Talk to a mentor or peer about how they would proceed, especially if you’re at a loss. You may go down several dead ends, but having a path to try is all you need to experience flow.

3. Set aside distraction-free time.
Flow can only happen when you are uninterrupted. Open office spaces or constant email notices prevent complete focus, so give yourself the time and space to really get in the zone. Close your email, turn off your phone, find a quiet space, and signal to others not to interrupt you.

For example, John Reed, the former CEO of Citigroup, kept his office door closed from 7am to 10am every day, refusing to take any calls or visits until he opened his door. You might adopt a similar strategy, set aside one day a week, or work from home sometimes. Just find a system that works for you. “Otherwise, you’re like a marionette that’s being pulled by strings,” Csikszentmihalyi says. “You have to cut the strings to feel good or produce any flow.”

4. Get feedback on your work.
To build your skills enough to achieve flow, you need to know if what you did was right or wrong. “You have to know how well you’re doing,” Csikszentmihalyi says. That feedback empowers you to improve so that you can find your flow – a state that only occurs after you’ve mastered the learning curve.

Initially, you get that feedback from your boss or an older colleague, but as you become more expert, you learn to give yourself that feedback autonomously. If you are your own boss (as most entrepreneurs are), then look to peers or mentors for honest feedback about your work. That constant drive to improve will make flow a regular part of your work life.

 

Nadia Goodman is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY. She is a former editor at YouBeauty.com, where she wrote about the psychology of health and beauty. She earned a B.A. in English from Northwestern University and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University. Visit her website, nadiagoodman.com.

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Self Development

20 Quotes On Coping With Change From Successful Entrepreneurs And Leaders

Change is up to you.

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elon-musk

Change is a hard concept to grasp – and can be even harder to cope with it. Whether you’re switching careers, leaving a company or ending a relationship, change comes in all sizes – big and small. And while some change can be exciting, other times it can be difficult.

Having your own approach to change, whether it’s in how you view it or how you handle it, is important in moving forward and being successful.

To learn how others do it, here are 20 quotes about change from today’s most successful leaders and entrepreneurs.

1. Elon Musk

“Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.” – Elon Musk 

2. Oprah Winfrey

“You don’t have to hold yourself hostage to who you used to be.” – Oprah Winfrey

Related: 5 Mindset Changes You Must Make When Going From Employee To Entrepreneur

3. Barack Obama

barack-obama

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” – Barack Obama

4. Larry Page

“If you’re not doing some things that are crazy, then you’re doing the wrong things.” – Larry Page

5. Steve Jobs

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve Jobs 

6. Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol

7. Steve Case

“Revolutions happen in evolutionary ways.” – Steve Case

Related: Osteostrong: An Exploding Global Movement Of Positive Change

8. Coco Chanel

“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” – Coco Chanel

9. Warren Buffett

“The most important thing to do if you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.” – Warren Buffett

10. Steven Spielberg

steven-spielberg

“All of us, every single year, we’re a different person. I don’t think we’re the same person all our lives.” – Steven Spielberg

11. Mark Zuckerberg

“Entrepreneurship is about creating change, not just companies.” – Mark Zuckerberg

12. Richard Branson

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling over.” – Richard Branson

13. Joan Rivers

“Life is very tough. If you don’t laugh, it’s tough.” – Joan Rivers

Related: 3 Reasons You Should Embrace Change

14. Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

“In order to build strength, you have to usually come from a lot of weakness.” – Lady Gaga

15. Thomas Jefferson

“Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.” – Thomas Jefferson

16. Thomas Edison

“Good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.” – Thomas Edison

17. Sheryl Sandberg

“I learned that, in the face of a void or in the face of any challenge, you can choose joy and meaning.” – Sheryl Sandberg

18. Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” – Tony Robbins

Related: Managing Resistance To Change: An Essential Management And Leadership Skill

19. Martha Stewart

“The more you adapt, the more interesting you are.” – Martha Stewart

20. Albert Einstein

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

You’re Probably Biased At Work. Here’s How To Stop It

New research looked at hard data to find solutions.

Nina Zipkin

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biased-workplace-environment

Everyone suffers from bias, despite their best intentions. And that bias can manifest itself in ways we don’t always intend – including how opportunities are and aren’t doled out in the workplace.

Recently, a trio of researchers used sensors to see if they could distinguish any differences in day-to-day behavior between male and female employees. Their goal was to eliminate the type of bias that can occur in self-reported polls about behaviour.

To study this, the researchers looked at a company where women made up just under 40 percent of entry-level employees and 20 percent of employees at the second-highest level of seniority. For four months, 500 male and female employees at this company wore badges with sensors in them that recorded their movement, speech patterns and proximity to one another.

Related: 12 Reasons Entrepreneurs With Type-A Personalities Are Unstoppable

The researchers then monitored who the subjects communicated with and who led conversations. Though the data was anonymous, the research team collected information about a given person’s gender, role and how long they had worked for the company.

Although they approached the investigation with the hypotheses that perhaps the female employees had less access to mentors or did not advocate for themselves with management as much as their male counterparts, the researchers found that this was not the case.

“We found almost no perceptible differences in the behavior of men and women. Women had the same number of contacts as men, they spent as much time with senior leadership and they allocated their time similarly to men in the same role,” the researchers wrote in a summary of their findings in Harvard Business Review.

“We found that men and women had indistinguishable work patterns in the amount of time they spent online, in concentrated work, and in face-to-face conversation. And in performance evaluations men and women received statistically identical scores. This held true for women at each level of seniority. Yet women weren’t advancing and men were.”

They concluded that differences in men and women’s behaviour aren’t what leads to gender inequality in the workplace – entrenched bias is the culprit.

So what can you do in your own company to make sure that bias doesn’t impact your hiring and promoting decisions? The researchers recommend instituting training programmes to reduce bias among management and people in the position to bring on new team members. You also might want to consider making a policy that, for all new open jobs, you interview and recruit people from a variety of backgrounds.

Related: Blend These 7 Personality Types When Building Your Executive Team

Also, look at the responsibilities your employees have outside the office. Think about ways to make it easier for both women and men to have flexible schedules, especially given that women often have social pressures to take on more family and household obligations.

Finally, determine where the pipeline to managerial and executive positions begins to trend more towards men. Collect data on exactly when these shifts happen in order to identify their specific causes (e.g. higher-ranking positions and their responsibilities require more late nights), then come up with pointed solutions (e.g. flexible morning schedules to accommodate childcare).

From there, measure the effectiveness any solution you implement. (“Since we implemented this policy, have those who have taken advantage of it advanced?”) This way, mitigating inequality is a science, not a guessing game.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com

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Self Development

Better Thinking For A Better World

How to think more critically and strategically in a world filled with complexity and rapid change.

Erik Kruger

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positive-thoughts

We take the act of thinking for granted. It is often seen as a skill one is born with and not one that should be cultivated over time.

As the world becomes more complex and more busy, strategic and critical thinking becomes more valuable. Strategic thinking points to the ability to decide how and when to deploy resources to achieve a certain end state.

Below are four areas of focus that will improve your strategic thinking:

1. Making Time For Reflection

Life is busy. Juggling work, friends and family, and the recurring notifications from your phone has become quite a feat. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to create space for reflection.

Related: One-Year Milestone: Smart Thinking That Will Ensure Your Start-Up Makes It Past The First Year

Time spent in solitude allows you to reflect and connect the dots. It temporarily takes you out of a world in which you must be reactive to survive and keep up.

My suggestion is to create a SOS (space of solitude) for at least 30 minutes every day. In this time, reflect on what has been working and what has not been working. Meditate on your goals for the future and plan for the actions that will help you get there.

2. Asking Better Questions

Many of us fall into the trap of sequential problem solving. This happens when leaders or organisations simply move from one challenge to the next and the only question they ask is “how do we overcome this challenge?”.

What about the questions like “how did we arrive here?” or “what assumptions are we making here?” or “what does better look like?”

I am not trying to give you a template of questions to ask. Merely prodding you to go beyond challenging the problem but to also challenge the thinking about the problem.

As we deepen our questions, we elevate our thinking.

Do not simply ask more questions. Ask better questions.

3. Seek More Input

Teams are great and often underutilized. How can you use your team’s knowledge, experience, and opinions in a more constructive way?

Well, how about allowing them sufficient time for reflection in solitude but also as a group. How about prompting them to look for the patterns in their environment? How about, as a leader, asking them questions that allow them to really stretch their cognitive abilities?

Even better, empower them to ask those questions themselves.

Related: Disruptive Thinking: A Winning Edge

4. Thinking rules

We often make the same mistakes over and over. Not because we have not learned the lesson but because the context changes. Or excitement gets the better of us.

During your reflection time (hopefully you have noticed the importance of this by now) you can reflect on your past decisions and figure out how you could have made better decision.

Once you have done this start jotting down a few personal rules that will help guide your decision making in the future. A personal guideline I established was that I will wait 24 hours before making any big purchase. Gadgets and golf gear often get the best of me. But simple rules like these help to guide my decision making and prevents me from making mistakes irrespective of context or emotional state.

What is next?

Starting today schedule a daily SOS. Yes, schedule it. Do not leave it to chance.

Think of it as training for your brain. A space where you get to think. Free of distraction and noise. You will be amazed at the clarity that comes from these sessions and how your productivity and effectiveness soars.

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