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How to Concentrate When the World Intrudes

This is the difficulty of concentrating in today’s interruption culture.

Edward G. Brown

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Inside-world

“The world is too much with us,” Wordsworth lamented. And that was more than 200 years ago, when he didn’t have to contend with 24/7 cable, smartphone alerts and hyper-connectivity at every turn. Wordsworth was bemoaning materialism. But if he were alive today, he might be referring to what I call mental leakage.

Even when others don’t directly interrupt people, they interrupt themselves because they can’t get the world off their minds.

Such mental leakage is natural, but it’s not innocuous. It harms work and productivity and makes people unhappy.

Like other interruptions, a distraction steals time (it takes a while to get back on task). There’s loss of momentum and time wasted in reassembling thoughts and resources. Frustration mounts about having to rebuild thoughts, along with the distress and fatigue of having to make up for the time lost. This all leads to errors and causes rework, wasting more time. You might even become annoyed with yourself.

Don’t let that happen to you. Instead, learn some simple techniques for keeping the world at bay until you want to entertain it in your mind. See which ones work best for you:

Related: I’m running my own business and am struggling with stress. How can I cope better so I can live to see my business succeed?

1. Transcending the environment

Rise above physical issues that you cannot change. I have a friend who struggled during the Ebola crisis to not constantly interrupt her work to search for disease updates.

Nonstop bad news right in your backyard can create a constant, low-grade worry. When she needed to transcend her environment, she would keep the TV and radio off (even her router unless she absolutely needed it for work).

She would take sunny walks, make extra healthy meals and surround herself with clean fragrances. That relegated illness to a minor instead of dominant theme in her environment, and she could carry on without being distracted.

2. Practice a constructive type of acceptance

There’s an art to accepting that which you cannot change and doing so graciously not grudgingly. Say you had to finish writing a proposal for a client by the end of the day or run the risk of losing some business.

You don’t like having to write the proposal but you love having new business. So you say, “OK, let me think of a few of my favorite clients and pretend I’m talking with them.” Suddenly your task seems agreeable and you can do it with relish.

3. Visualise the ideal self

I like this technique because it leaves you feeling good about yourself — so important when the world is too much with you. Visualise yourself accomplishing exactly what you’re supposed to achieve.

If you must write a proposal, think of yourself finally signing with a flourish the best one you’ve ever written. Or picture yourself totally locked in focus on your task, with perfect concentration. The point is, the mind follows the imagination, and the physical follows the mental.

4. Try positive affirmation

Sure, at first you’ll feel a little silly boosting your mood by repeating a simple, positive statement. But there’s a science involved.

First, you’re trying to program your subconscious mind through conscious thought to think favourably about the work in front of you. And then you’re trying to give yourself an adrenaline rush of energy. When you get a positive thrust in your mind from a phrase, there’s a positive physical reaction, too. Find whatever words work for you.

5. Attempt a psychological counter-punch or two

Another technique does for your mind what great boxers do with their punches. When a counterproductive thought like “I wonder if I’ve got any emails; I think I’ll check” threatens your focus, throw up a mental counter-punch like this: “You’ll be disappointed later if you don’t finish this task now, and you won’t have another chance.”

And then immediately follow that with your best punch: “Remember how great it feels to finish a project like this. You’ll feel great!”

Use each technique as needed. Let them trigger your mastery of locking in focus so that you can bear down on the task at hand. Then you can rejoin the world on your terms.

Related: The Future is Now

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Edward G. Brown is the author of The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had and co-founder of a culture-change management consulting and training firm for the financial services industry, Cohen Brown Management Group.

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Self Development

3 Wonderfully Uncommon Reasons To Form Better Habits

As we race away into 2018, consider these very personal and fundamental bonuses to making and sticking to your resolutions.

Entrepreneur

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Eat healthier. Exercise more. Be more productive. Read faster. Be friendlier. Sleep better.

Welcome to the New Year, a time when people set resolutions to form better habits and lead better lives.

Understandably, a lot of the articles, videos and other resources about starting off the New Year focus on which habits are best and the steps you need to take to achieve them. They outline the goals, plans and actions we need to make our resolutions a reality.

If you’re looking for 10 tips on how to lose 100 pounds in 90 days, then this article isn’t for you. Instead, why not consider some of the underlying and lesser-talked about benefits of kicking bad habits and forming better ones this year.

1. Challenging your norms

Why is it that you sneak sweets and junk food so often? How come you’re always so tired in the morning? Why can’t you get your butt to the gym?

Related: 7 Motivational Habits That Drive Millionaires

If your answer for poor habits is “That’s just the way I am/the way things are” then you’re probably underestimating yourself. Stop. Think about your actions and why you’ve taken them perpetually over time. You might learn a lot.

Take personal finance advisor and entrepreneur Ramit Sethi for example. When he stopped to analyse himself and why he wasn’t going to the gym, he realised something simple that he’d never considered previously: His closet was in a different room, separate from his bedroom. Instead of getting up in the cold to put on clothes, it was easier to just stay in bed.

“Once I realised this, I folded my clothes and shoes the night before. When I woke up the next morning, I would roll over and see my gym clothes sitting on the floor. The result? My gym attendance soared by over 300%.”

Forming a new habit is your chance to examine your life — or at least one important aspect of it — and figure out why you’ve been making the decisions that lead to the habits you want or need to change.

2. Taking control

We don’t have to be the sum of randomised actions and results, based simply on moral and civil codes. It’s up to each one of us individually to take control of our actions and maximise the results.

It’s the same in business. There’s nothing you do without careful research and consideration in order to maximise productivity, profits, etc.

You’re your own boss. You control your thoughts and actions; these things aren’t up to chance. Having the ability to make significant changes to your life is empowering, so long as you seize the opportunity.

Take control. Be the entrepreneur of yourself, 100 percent.

Related: 7 Bad Workplace Habits Millennials Need To Stop Making

3. Achieving clearer self-awareness

Some people say it takes only 21 days to form a new habit. Others say that just isn’t true. However long it takes, habit formation is a personal journey; one that requires desire, motivation, dedication, perseverance and change.

Habit formation takes you out of your comfort zone, to a place of self-discovery. If you’re getting into shape, how far can you push yourself physically? If you’re trying to eat better, how much temptation can you withstand?

Figure out what was required to succeed or why it was that you failed. Either way, you can obtain a clearer sense of your personal limits and, hopefully, how to achieve your goals — and sustain them — within your constraints.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.” Not only to the world, but to yourself as well.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

How To Build A Disruptive Attitude

What does it mean to navigate a disruptive world and succeed in a market – place that is changing faster than it’s ever changed before?

Nadine Todd

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What do you need to know to be a success? What resources and support do you need? How do you need to feel and think to be a success in a disrupted world?

According to Malcolm Gladwell, who spoke at the 2017 BCX Disrupt Summit, you need three key things to succeed in a disrupted world: Resources, knowledge and the right attitude.

The First step towards innovation and disruption is your mind. Your attitude.

For Gladwell, Malcolm McLean is the single biggest disruptor of the 20th century, in that he implemented containerised shipping. Without this fundamental shift in the way we ship cargo, the modern, connected world as we know it today would not exist.

Crucially, McLean did not invent containerised shipping, but no one had been able to make it work before a trucker from Ohio came along, and got irritated by how long he had to wait at the docks to offload his cargo (roughly 24 hours).

Related: How to Build Your Network Like a Super Connector

But McLean had an idea and he presented it at a conference of maritime shippers in Amsterdam. They laughed him off the stage. Normally, when we are treated with this type of derision, we get discouraged and give up. McLean didn’t do that. He possessed a fundamental trait that all entrepreneurs need: He didn’t require the approval of others to do what he believed was right. Entrepreneurs are open, creative, and see solutions to problems that others don’t; they are also — crucially — highly conscientious, which means they follow through on an idea in a detailed, disciplined way.

This is rare. You get creative people, and conscientious people, but it’s not easy to find both traits in the same person. Add to that the third trait of disagreeableness, in that they do not have to follow established norms, and you have a real game-changer.

McLean didn’t look at the problem as a shipper did. He came from an entirely new angle, and not only found a way to make containerised shipping possible, but affordable too.

Ikea is a similar example. In a nutshell, Ikea is furniture shipped flat from Poland. Ingvar Kamprad pursued outsourcing on an aggressive level, had an extraordinary amount of creativity in solving problems, and was very conscientious. Consider how difficult it would have been to build a world-class manufacturing plant in Poland in 1961. The country was a post-WW2 mess, in the grip of Soviet Russia, known for shoddy workmanship and actively hostile to free enterprise.

And then Kamprad waltzed in from Sweden and pulled off the impossible because of his single-minded grit and attention to detail. He is the epitome of conscientiousness and obsessiveness.

Now consider Steve Jobs.

By the 1970s, Xerox was the most important tech company in the world. They were the richest, most innovative and profitable company, and they invested in a state-of-the-art R&D centre and filled it with 100 of the most brilliant computer scientists from around the world, and told them to be brilliant.

And they were. As per Xerox’s request, they reinvented the office. They invented the laser printer, the world’s first word processing programme, interfaces — and the list continues.

And then a 23-year-old Steve Jobs visited the centre. At that stage, his company was making traditional kit computers out of a garage. He was blown away by what he saw at Xerox Park and all the incredible things they were doing — particularly when he was shown the mouse and interface the Xerox team had developed for personal computers. He immediately saw how icons and a mouse changed everything. This was the future of computing.

Related: 10 Innovators On What They Learned From Steve Jobs

Leading the charge

Here’s why Apple is the world’s biggest tech company four decades later, and Xerox is not: While the Xerox team understood they had changed computing forever, there was no urgency to be the first to market.

Jobs left that day, immediately told his team to stop what they were doing, because it would soon be obsolete anyway, and started working on a new product based on what Xerox had developed.

His team told him he was nuts — they’d spent millions on what they were doing. Jobs said it didn’t matter. It was obsolete. He didn’t have more resources. He didn’t have smarter guys. He didn’t even have a wiser and better vision.

But he was in a hurry. And he was able to execute on his vision.

If you can get your mindset right, you can gather the resources and knowledge that you need to be successful. Learn as much as you can. Be open to new ideas. And if something is soon going to be obsolete, walk away. Find the next big thing. Because you’re either being disrupted, or you’re the disruptor. Which would you like to be?

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Self Development

Time Is The Ultimate Success, Not Money

Don’t use your time to make more money, use your money to make more time.

Steve Eakin

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time-management

Why do we work so much? I know the answer is “money,” but why? Yes, we need to cover our cost of living – your true basics like food, clothes and shelter. But after that, what are we working for?

The short answer is luxury. We want to get our hands on some luxury.

For some, that’s cars, watches, boats and all of the other flashy things we see scrolling through Instagram. For others, it’s art or travel. Everyone has their own definition of luxury.

But that shouldn’t be the reason for our lifetime of toil. It should be for time. You see, time is the true measure of success – the real currency of an entrepreneur.

We work our lives away to buy objects of luxury instead of enjoying the luxury of our time on earth. We should be yearning for free time to do what we wantnot what we must. We should want time to do the things we like, not the things we dislike. Forget the desk job. Forget cleaning the house. Forget mowing the lawn or cooking dinner. If you don’t like it, the luxury of having extra money should eliminate it from your life.

This isn’t a rant promoting unadulterated laziness. I’m a firm believer in work, especially deep work in your creative pursuits and hard labour in your physical pursuits. I’m also a firm believer in not doing what you hate.

Related: 7 Rules To Master Your Start-Up Success This Year

For my own creative enjoyment, I enjoy writing – both words and code. That’s my deep work, and no matter how much money I have, I’ll never outsource that. In the physical world, I enjoy lifting weights, fighting and doing yard work. Those are things that I won’t be cutting down anytime soon. Since I enjoy those things, my time isn’t better spent eliminating them from my life. But certain aspects of them can certainly go.

I love weight training, but I hate planning my workouts. It takes me too long to figure it all out. Thankfully, that’s a problem that money solved in my life. I have an amazing trainer who sets it all up for me, giving me my time back. I love writing, but I hate publishing my work. Thankfully, you can hire a content manager (or team) to handle that. Prime examples of money buying my ultimate luxury – time. Time that can be better spent doing things that either make me more money, which I can use to unlock more free time, or that I enjoy, like reading or hanging out on a beach with my family.

Maybe I want to tighten up my Jiu Jitsu game. Maybe I want to create a cool bonsai tree. Maybe I want to learn to play chess or learn a some new tech that could advance me in the professional world. Maybe I just want to sit on my ass and read or play a video game or watch some mindless tv for an hour every now and again. These are things that we work for.

Freedom versus the slavery of materialism

Only after you’ve unlocked your free time is it even worth pursuing the material. Fancy cars aren’t my style, so why would I waste money that could be used unlocking my freedom, on a cool car? Unless you truly enjoy driving cars (which I do,) washing cars (which I don’t,) fixing cars (meh) and everything else that comes along with it, you’re spending your time to make money to buy something you don’t truly love. That’s backwards.

Related: 3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018

Love to travel, but only get one week long vacation a year? Go somewhere for a month or two. When you’re not working a full-time job, you’ll have the time to explore new ways of making a living if you want more months like that.

Do you really love exotic cars and want a Ferrari, but you’re just settling on the Mercedes? Take that money, buy some more time, and spend it building a business that makes you the money instead of your boss. Instead of that Benz, put that money into buying more time. That’s now what defines you as successful.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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