10 juicy tips on how to stay focused and get things done

Imagine boosting the results you produce while saving time and energy. This article will teach you how to achieve exactly that!

Do you work a lot but don’t get as much work done as you would like? Do you get frustrated by not being able to focus on your work?

Imagine boosting the results you produce by putting in less effort than you do now!

You simply need to tweak your current approach to your work. It’s all about good preparation and managing your resources strategically.

Whether you’re struggling with your studies, creative work, your job or your life goals – these 10 juicy tips will help you improve and maintain your focus in order to boost your productivity while saving time and energy.

1. Get 8 hours of sleep every night.

Sleep is very important! Not getting enough sleep impairs your brains executive functions.

Insufficient sleep makes it harder for you to pay attention by slowing your reaction time and it also makes you more forgetful by impairing your memory retention. All this significantly undermines your work and study performance.

Sleep deprivation compromises your creativity, your ability to make decisions and solve problems; as a result your productivity becomes decreased.

“A sleep deprived brain slows you down. A well-rested brain allows you to work smarter, not harder.” – Camilla Kragius

Experts recommend 7-8 hours of sleep per day because more or less will affect your cognitive capabilities and increases the chances of metabolic and heart diseases.

I tracked my sleeping habits for a while and found that I was at my very best when I slept for 8 hours per night with 1 rest day a week of oversleeping and leisure. Sleeping 7 hours or slightly less for a day or two was manageable but I would soon start to experience lack of energy for peak performance.

2. Start your day in the right way 

The last thing you want to do at the start of an important work day is to skip breakfast, as it can lead to crankiness, lack of focus and feeling of exhaustion.

You probably heard the saying “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and it’s true, because breakfast provides you with the necessary energy to start the day off on the right foot and set the tone for a productive day.

Even more so if you eat food that provides an added benefit to your cognitive performance like nuts and berries.

An article by Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience confirms that nuts like almonds and walnuts are powerful brain food. They contain omega 3 fatty acids which are known for being very effective in fighting neurodegenerative diseases and neurological conditions in the long term, as well as being beneficial to cognitive performance on the day to day basis.

Another article by Journal of Biological Chemistry shows how berries are also beneficial to brain functions. Most of them contain tannic acid, which is a “natural inhibitor that prevents cognitive impairment”, so much so, that they even prevent dementia and Alzheimer with their rejuvenating effect to the memory base.

I myself have made a habit to have morning cereal with various nuts every day, and I often have some berries and dry fruit snacks handy to munch on when I’m doing work that requires a sharp mind.

3. Organize your work area

Having a clear work area helps you mainly by removing distractions and reducing your stress levels. Having everything prepared and organized also puts you in a mindset of control and confidence which promotes productivity – as opposed to clutter, which takes away these benefits.

I am far from being a saint in this area and often excuse my mess by calling it a creative chaos, saying I know where everything is (yeah, right!).

Jokes aside, whenever I work on a project that requires focus I make sure to keep the area of my field of vision free of clutter and highly organized, in order to keep my attention locked on to the work at hand.

4. Remove distractions

Distractions are poison for attention span because they take up your valuable time and also throw you completely off your focus, for this reason you end up missing out on utilizing your time properly.

organized_workspace_focus_concentrate.jpg

Aside from making your work area organized and clutter free, I highly advise that you turn off the sound on your phone, get yourself away from other people and avoid multitasking when trying to focus on a challenging project. Doing this enables you to easily get into the flow state.

Flow state, also known as being in the zone, is a mental state of feeling completely immersed and involved into an activity, making you hyperfocused and allowing your mind to tackle complex ideas and processes easily.

Flow state is easily attainable on schedule and with full benefits, but only by being smart about utilizing the lessons contained in this article.

5. Define your goals

Clearly defined goals are extremely important. Whether you’re engaged with a project or simply working toward a longer term goal – the more clear your vision of the end result, the easier it is to plot a straight line toward reaching that result you are aiming for.

Focus_goals_mission_clarity

This is especially true for large projects or goals that have multiple steps along the way which you need to surpass.

Apart from knowing exactly what you’re aiming for, you need to know your timetable and resources. With this knowledge at your disposal you can begin making a manageable strategy to achieve your goals in a streamlined fashion, which leads me to the next point.

6. Divide you work into manageable tasks

Now that your goal is established you need to divide your project into small, manageable tasks according to your timetable and resources.

This way you can laser focus your attention on segments of the project and have a clear roadmap to follow in order to achieve your overarching target.

The ideal goal of any productive effort is to achieve desired results at lowest cost of energy and resources.

Having a good plan and a well charted course of action serves to save you time and energy which you would otherwise waste by being sidelined – if you were just winging it or improvising with your process.

“A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.” – Greg S. Reid

7. Get the most out of your time by understanding your rhythm

Don’t you just hate it when you carefully allocate the time to comfortably tackle your workload, but your brain simply doesn’t want to cooperate and you struggle to muster the focus you need at that time.

For this reason, you need to understand your Circadian rhythm.

Circadian rhythm is your energy distribution within a daily cycle relative to your sleeping habits, but also affected by the day and night in relation to your sleeping habits.

Circadian_rhythm_energy_focus

In the chart you can see the most common energy distribution pattern, experienced if you go to sleep at night time and wake up in the early morning.

In order to fully utilize the energy distribution of your circadian rhythm, it’s important that you go to sleep and get up at the same time every day because this stabilizes your circadian rhythm and makes it more predictable and effective.

Once you have established consistent sleeping habits, you can track your energy levels and grade how energized you feel on a scale from 1 to 5 at various points of the day. Afterwards you simply compare the results over time and you will have your own personalized circadian rhythm chart.

“When you dance to your own rhythm, life taps its toes to your beat.” – Terri Guillemets

8. Short breaks between intensive work sessions

As shown by the circadian rhythm, there are occasional intervals during the day where the levels of energy and cognitive performance pull back significantly, making any kind of work a struggle.

It’s best to use these pull-backs to gear up the energy even more by taking necessary and (hopefully) deserved breaks. Breaks are important and often overlooked as a significant booster to productivity.

As for the circadian rhythm, a mid-day power nap between the energy bursts is the most effective way to ensure a strong peak of energy in the second daily interval.

As for the work sessions:

The Pomodoro technique, developed in the late 1980’s and still praised by many today, suggests intensive work sessions lasting for 25 minutes, separated by 5 minute breaks in between.

Ernest Rossi, a PhD in clinical psychology and renowned author, advocates 20 minute breaks between 90 minute work sessions. He explains that after about 90minutes of intensive work, we get a buildup of stress hormones (e.g. cortisol, adrenaline) and we need to take a break to reset our cognitive energy levels and avoid the many symptoms of the psychosomatic stress response.

A recent study by Desktime, one of the leading employee productivity tracking software, analyzed the top 10% most productive employees and found that “The most productive people work for 52 minutes, then break for 17 minutes.”

All three examples are based on extensive research, and while they all differ in their prescribed timetables, one this is for certain – that productivity is best achieved by having bursts of intensive work mixed with relatively frequent breaks.

Taking a 5-20 minute break to stretch your legs or take a breather between your focus sessions will surely come as a boost to the energy and focus levels in your following work session.

According to the requirements of your project and your personal preferences – you need to come up with a productivity sweet spot for yourself.

You will find that if you experiment a bit in establishing a framework of your own preferences and biorhythm, the results you achieve will be very rewarding.

9. Morning exercise & meditation

Morning exercise and meditation are also often overlooked when it comes to sustained cognitive performance.

There are many studies which confirm that stretching exercises and mindfulness meditation help improve energy levels and cognitive test performance.

Stretching results in increased blood flow to the brain and release of endorphins, while mindfulness meditation reduces ruminative thoughts and effectively declutters the brain.

I do a 5-10 minute morning stretching exercise before breakfast every morning which opens up my appetite and makes me feel energized. Also, whenever I have the opportunity, I like to take a short break outdoors (a balcony or window works just fine) and take in some sun and fresh air while trying to clear my thoughts.

These are both very simple and gratifying habits that I definitely suggest that you practice as well.

10. Power munching

I saved the best for last! Of all the tips and tricks, power snacks are my all-time favorite. There’s nothing like a hot cup of coffee or a chocolate bar to give you that extra push of energy when you need it.

I drink coffee religiously and often munch on my power snacks while I do creative work. My favorite snacks are definitely chocolate, berries, raisins and nuts. All of those can are very helpful aids when it comes to working on projects that demand focus and creativity.

When it comes to physical efforts or needing a little wind in your back for pushing through a long day at work – power bars are my secret trick. These can be bought at most supermarkets and they have high energy and nutritional value.

focus_power_snacks.jpg

Conclusion

Making this article was a lot of fun and brought back some awesome memories of experiences I had while learning to apply these lessons in my own life.

Conclusively, I want to leave you with a heartfelt bonus tip:

Don’t let life pass you by on your way to success, make the time to enjoy the little things! Having the support of your friends and family is better for sustainable motivation than any hack I could ever offer you.

I always recommend viewing your mind and body as machines; viewing your projects and goals in a strict, result oriented fashion – but the point of greater productivity is to have more time and possibilities for your personal life.

 

Which of these tips are new to you? How will you apply them to boost your own focus and productivity? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear what you have to say!

I hate my job – how to survive life with a career transition

What if I can tell you how to get a job that will make you feel excited about getting out of bed in the morning and earn more money while you’re at it? What if I’m right and you didn’t stop to read this article?

What if I can tell you how to get a job that will make you feel excited about getting out of bed in the morning and earn more money while you’re at it? What if I’m right and you didn’t stop to read this article?

What’s the big secret to achieving this impossible mission? Simple! Start getting paid for doing what you love!

I’m going to teach you how to get out of your lousy situation and stay out of it forever! All you have to do is be willing to learn from your mistakes and put in a little effort to get out of the rut.

Why do I hate my job?

  1. Lack of flexibility and freedom.
  2. Lack of control over how you handle your workload.
  3. Low chance for advancement and raises no matter how hard you work.
  4. Office politics and disruptive social dynamic.
  5. Toxic work atmosphere and bad management.

Enduring these conditions can be very taxing for your self-esteem and mental health; after a while they lead to feeling acute stress, anxiety and depression.

The good news is that there is a solution! Fortunately you’re doing exactly what you should be doing, which is eliminating the main sources of stress and finding purpose.

According to a Gallup poll, 85% of workers worldwide admit to hating their job. 23% of workers are “actively disengaged” meaning “They act out and undermine what their coworkers accomplish.”

So what is the remaining 15% doing that makes them happy? This article will reveal exactly that.

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” – J.P. Morgan

If you’re one of the people affected by anxiety or depression at work, I suggest you read my article about workplace anxiety. It will provide you with useful information and tools for dealing with anxiety disorders and panic attacks.

How to prevent hating your next job

Many people get caught up in a loop of changing jobs often, never being able to find some place where they fit in and feel stable.

If this is happening to you, it’s because you have wrong expectations and shaky motivation when it comes to your job. I don’t put all the blame on you though. This is a problem for many people, for this reason the workplace interactions can be a messy business.

Don’t worry I’m not going to task you with fixing other people. Instead, with a tactful adjustment to your attitude, you will easily sidestep these messy relationships.

For this adjustment, you need to better understand why people act the way they do. Luckily I’ve made an awesome article about Unconscious bias in the workplace which will help you do just that.

The unconscious bias article will teach you how people think and interact, therefore giving you an advantage compared to other people in the workforce.

As far as understanding your own expectations and motivation, this next chapter is all about that so just keep reading.

What career should you transition to?

There is a Japanese concept called Ikigai which roughly translates to “the reason to get up in the morning”, but let’s just call it your career sweet spot.

You find your career sweet spot at the intersection of what you love doing, what you’re good at doing, what you can get paid for and what the world needs.

To help you pin down your own sweet spot, I’ve come up with this 3-point exercise to navigate your search:

  • Personality tells you what kind of work you can excel at.

The Brigs- Meyers personality test will help you understand what kind of challenges and work environment make you most comfortable and bring out the best in you. This is how you find what you love to do.

A few years back I found to be an INTJ, the Architect personality. Interestingly, it made me see myself at a very different light, which consequently affected my career and life choices – for the better.

  • Hard and soft skills tell you what you’re proficient at.

Hard skills are your learned skills and qualifications, they are what makes you a contender to for the job. You soft skills, on the other hand, are your people skills; they help you keep the job and make you a valuable member of the workforce.

Read this article to learn more about them and how they differ.

  • Your priorities and ambition tell you what you will settle for.

Now that you have better tools and ideas to find your sweet spot, it’s time to prioritize:

How far out of your current comfort zone are you willing to go? How much do you want to earn? How do you want to balance your work and personal life?

 “Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” – John F. Kennedy

Take your time with these 3 tasks. Write out your personality traits that you want to act upon, your skills that you want to utilize and improve, your priorities and ambition that will guide your decision.

Talk to your family and friends about this. See what they tell you but also take note of how you react to their suggestions. You probably already know the answer but you need to bring it to surface with reasons and conviction.

For some it’s just a matter of taking a specialization course and moving to a company down the street, for me it was about changing my whole life by emigrating, which was an immense challenge.

Make sure you think thoroughly about this, because the choices that you make afterwards will ripple out through the rest of your life.

Bottom line is – don’t aim low! Don’t settle for something mediocre. Set your goals high and believe in yourself. Merely aiming high will boost the results that you would realistically expect.

How to prepare for a career transition

The biggest source of stress from your job was probably the feeling of being trapped and that’s no longer the case. Any feelings of worry or resentment that you have to your current job or colleagues you need to let it go now!

From this point on, you need to focus all your energy and time into preparing for your new job and your new life.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

You need to start changing your daily habits and preparing yourself psychologically for a fresh start. Job transition is stressful on its own without adding to it major changes in personal life.

Start building good habits right away, so when the time for job transition comes – you will be fully ready for it.

These are the practical things you need to focus on doing now:

-brush up on your hard skills that will prove useful in your next job

-work on the soft skills that you will rely on to fit in and grow at your next job

-start working on your CV, references and you daily habits

-start looking into potential jobs where you will be applying

How to look for your next job

Depending on your industry and qualifications, look for a job at places where you’re qualified but for which you always thought they’re out of your league.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you are going to be exiting your comfort zone and pushing yourself forward. You will put your very best foot forward and you will have better chances then you realize.

For your next job you need to be focused on these two criteria:

  • Earnings:

If you are targeting to do something you have qualifications to do, it has to be better paid than your current job AND have more room for advancement.

  • Growth:

If you are looking to change your profession, you will probably have to put in some effort into retraining. Regardless, you must ensure that within a few months you will be earning equally or more AND that you will have good chance of advancement.

After choosing to do something that you love, you must insist on having good possibility of earnings and growth. You will achieve those possibilities because you will earn them by being passionate and productive in your work.

Doing what you love and what you’re good at is only one part of having a fulfilling career, the other part is being gratified for your efforts. You don’t want to find yourself a year from now being only slightly more comfortable in the same rut of career stagnation.

How to make a powerful Curriculum Vitae (CV)

CV is what gets your foot through the door. You need to present yourself in the very best light that you can without lying. If there was ever a time to stretch the truth, here it is.

Depending on how competitive the job is, the recruiter will most likely not read it thoroughly at first.

They will spend less than a minute glancing it for red flags and valuable attributes to find reasons to trash the CV; or alternatively, look for impressive keywords or attributes that show value in order to keep the CV in the pile of candidates for interview.

This is where you will focus, on eliminating potential red flags and accentuating anything that could be construed as a valuable attribute.

When they look at your CV they won’t be looking at who you are, they will be looking at how valuable you could be compared to other candidates.

Check out this awesome video of a real recruiter reviewing resumes to get a feeling of how they think.

While there are no rules in making a CV, you should abide to the basic formatting in order to make it easy for the recruiter to read it. Here are some resources to formatting your CV:

How to write a CV

Best CV templates

With that said, you will have to put in some additional effort and tailor your CV according to your pertinent experiences, the industry and the company you are applying for.

Here are some key tips on how to tailor the content in order to deliver the best possible impression to the recruiter:

  • Structure

-Present the content in a reverse chronological order, starting from the most recent data points and back from there.

-Start strong in every paragraph, but especially in the first paragraph of each section, remember that it’s all about first glance impressions.

-Keep it simple and relevant, you want to make your CV simple to read and make every line count as a powerful attribute. If you’ve been working for many years you will have more content and that’s fine, just keep it relevant.

-With accomplishments, focus on results rather than responsibilities.

-Show industry insight.

  • Wording

Include impressive phrasing like strong adjectives: Dynamic, resourceful, adaptable etc.; and action verbs like organized, oversaw, operated etc.

Make sure you include them into sentences with actual examples rather than just describing yourself as such.

  • Legibility

-You can use a bit of color for subheadings and titles, in order to make the text more personable, but make sure the color is clearly legible.

-Use a font size that’s easy to read, DON’T cram the text by sizing down font.

  • Tailored with a purpose

Tailor your CV to suit the requirements of the industry you are aiming for and, if possible, adapt it to the company itself.

For applying to a certain company, research their company policy, how they represent themselves, what values do they uphold etc. Make your wording and overall presentation a perfect fit for their culture.

  • Photo

Photo is generally not recommended for CV’s, but rather for resumes. However, if enclosing a photo, make sure it leaves an impression of professionalism and maturity.

  • Cover letter

This one may be the most important of all. While the CV depicts your work and education background, recruiters will focus on the cover letter to gauge you as a person. Use the proper form, be short and on point.

This is where you make your passion, motivation, enthusiasm and other qualities vivid, for this reason you need to put a bit of extra effort into this.

Instructions to writing a cover letter.

  • Referrals

A good referral goes a long way, so if you have some managers or bosses that you had a good working relationship with, call them up and ask for a referral. If you decide to include character references as well, make it from previous colleagues rather than your mom or friends.

How to nail an interview

Interview is all about first impression. You’ve got your foot in the door and this is the final test of all your effort leading up to this point.

Luckily, I’ve already made the perfect article to educate you about influence strategies.

Influence is a powerful tool you must use to leave a strong impression. Among other things, the article details a persuasion strategy called Elevator pitch – which will be of great use to you.

As you will learn in the article, confidence and willpower are crucial to effective influence. For this reason you must start working on your daily disciplines and mindset as soon as possible, so that when the time comes for the interview, you will be fueled with a determination to succeed.

You need to remove all room for error which could throw you off or negatively affect your odds of nailing the interview.

For this reason I’ve prepared some additional tips to make your interview flawless:

-Depending on the culture of the company/industry, dress simple, clean and professional.

-Arrive early. Give yourself 5 minutes to stop before entering the building, breathe to calm yourself and reaffirm your plan to boost confidence and focus.

-Turn the sound on your cellphone completely off. You don’t want anything throwing you off during the interview.

-They will want to see that you are responsible and mature. Address your interviewer by sir/madam, be courteous and speak clearly.

-They will want to see that you’re eager and motivated so if you’re a bit nervous that’s alright. Simply say you’re very excited about the opportunity and eager to leave a good impression. Honesty and humility is will be appreciated.

-Prepare topical points that you want to get across. While they will have questions for you, they will also want to see some assertiveness.

If you answer just with yes or no you will seem passive. Instead you need to prepare where you want to guide the interview, so that you can give thorough and succinct answers without stopping to think and improvise.

-Know how to answer the 3 key questions: Who are you, why are you looking for a job, how can you contribute to the company.

-review the most common interview questions. Of course you don’t need to memorize or practice them. Just skim over them to see what you might be asked and how you might respond.

50 common questions

Conclusion

As you see, there is no mystery about finding success but there is no hacking it either. Change is possible and you can do it, but it will take effort and determination.

As long as you are willing to do the work and be smart, doors will open for you! If you need additional help or guidance, please feel free to contact me and I will help you in any way I can.

Has this article been helpful to you? Do you have any interesting experiences with hating or changing your career? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear what you have to say!

10 influencing skills that will make you a master at influencing people

You don’t want to be a sheep do you? Maybe you don’t want to be a wolf either, but I’m sure that you want some basic things in life to go your way. Influence will help you achieve that and much more…

If you think influence is a dirty word that benefits only politicians and shady salesmen, you’re wrong! Let me tell you why.

The first things newborn babies learn to do is to use influence, it’s simply the way we interact with each other.

Influence is the capability to affect the behavior or decisions of someone.

We consider most people sheep exactly because of the ignorance about the mechanisms of influence. They don’t think for themselves, they just get pulled along with the heard by the sweet talkers.

You don’t want to be a sheep do you? Maybe you don’t want to be a wolf either, but I’m sure that you want some basic things in life to go your way. You want to advance your career, sustain a good relationship, cultivate a stable social network with friends and colleagues.

In order for these things to go your way, you need to be able to sell people on the idea that you are a valuable and reliable person to have around, and that is what sophisticated influence is all about.

Knowing how influence works is crucial if you want to protect yourself from negative influence and be a socially savvy individual.

Confidence

Confidence is the cornerstone of influence. If you believe in yourself, your audience will believe in you too. Otherwise, you won’t be able to muster the will power to change their minds. Don’t be arrogant though, no one likes arrogant people.

 “There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance… it’s called humility. Confidence smiles, arrogance smirks.” – Author unknown

A few tips on appearing confident and affirmative:

  • Make eye contact.
  • Talk clearly and with conviction.
  • Keep your posture correct and stand tall.
  • Keep your hands visible and use descriptive hand gestures when explaining things.

Believe in your proposition

It’s important to promote what you believe in and believe in what you promote, otherwise you’ll lack conviction and your audience will smell the bull.

If you believe in something you will speak from the heart, you will easily make your audience see why you care about it and why they should as well.

Put a bit of effort into research. Learn more about how your proposition is valuable and this will boost your confidence and eloquence when presenting it.

Decision cycle

Decision cycle is a common way to describe the thought process that a person undertakes when facing a need and going through the motions of solving that need.

You need to have a strategic approach with your proposition and one way to do that is by following the stages of the decision cycle.

This way you will navigate the natural thinking process of your audience in order to thoroughly engage them with the idea you are presenting.

Here is how the decision cycle, or OODA, works:

Observe: Observing a need is the first step. You have to create a demand with your audience by pointing out to the struggle they’re having by not using the right solution, which you are offering.

Orient: Now that the need is established, you audience is orienting themselves to the choices available for dealing with this need that you are looking to solve. It’s your job to demonstrate how you are offering the best available solution.

Decide: Your audience now evaluates their options and weighs them accordingly. If the choice you offer is the logical one and it brings them more benefit then cost, they are sure to follow your advice – because it’s in their own best interest.

Act: This final step is their acceptance to follow your advice in solving the problem at hand.

As you can see, there is no mind-bending mystery about the decision cycle. It’s simply a process of finding an optimal solution to any problem we have in life. Knowing about this process and adapting it to your pitch will make the information flow with ease.

Check out this article on unconscious bias to better understand how easily we get pulled into actions when they feel natural.

Know your audience

Knowing your audience is paramount in order to understand what they need and what approach works best.

There are four questions you need to ask yourself:

Who?

Who is it you are pitching to? Is it your colleague, boss, client, friend, life partner? Tailor your approach to the nature of the relationship.

What?

What are you pitching? This question comes as a follow-up to the previous one. Know the boundaries that you have with your audience. Sometimes a solution you have to offer is not appropriate for certain relationships.

Why?

Why do they need to listen to you? What are the obstacles you’re helping them surpass? What are the consequences if they don’t follow your advice?

Where?

The setting is an important element. Knowing the right time and place to make your pitch can make a world of difference for your success rate.

Let’s say you want to give your friendly colleague a constructive criticism about his/her work, you don’t do it in front of the boss.

Bottom line: Know the answers to these questions if you want to be producing consistent results. The less you fail the more you succeed….duh!

Empathy

This is an important point and I’d like to fully contextualize my stance by drawing on previous 2 points.

  1. The Why question from the previous point. You need to know exactly what they’re going through if you want them to take you seriously.
  2. The Believe in your proposition point. The more you believe in what you’re offering, the more profoundly you will speak to your audience in a language that will deeply resonate with their own experiences.

My advice would be, preach only the things that you are genuinely passionate about. Whatever solution you’re recommending, make sure it’s something that made an improvement in your own life.

The best way to make your audience feel like you’re in the same boat with them is by actually being in the same boat with them.

Reciprocity

We don’t consciously pay attention to feeling an obligation to return a small favor, it’s hardwired into us. When someone accepts help or favor from you, they will feel indebted to do something for you in return.

If your proposition is actually solving people’s problems and having a positive impact on their lives as you promise, they will reciprocate by subscribing to your advice.

Commitment

Commitment means taking a relationship to a next level, and it’s an important thing to keep in mind when you’re trying to build and sustain a relationship.

Being there for someone when they need you will make you a reliable companion and that’s a valuable thing to be. Small favors and thoughtful acts cost you next to nothing but can mean a lot to someone when they really need them.

Cultivate in yourself a reliable persona and be that way for anyone you take into your circle, be it in a professional or social network of people.

If you make a commitment to someone, be there for them whenever they need you. Everyone can talk big about their intentions but not everyone acts with integrity when the need arises.

Last but not least, be picky about who you take into your inner circle. Don’t waste your time on people who will not appreciate you and reciprocate your commitment.

Leave a strong impression

Sometimes you will have only a short window of opportunity to impress someone and influence their decision.

Let’s say you have an important job interview. You’re qualified and the job would mean a lot to you. How do you stand out from the other candidates?

Elevator pitch is the way to go. Have a clean, straight to the point pitch that you could deliver in the time it takes to ride an elevator.

Distill your presentation into a simple pitch, showing clearly your best points of value as well as what makes you different and better than the other candidates.

Make sure you instill curiosity into your audience, so that you leave them eager to know more or feel like they’re missing out if they let the opportunity pass.

For this one, you need to reach for your aluminum foil thinking cap and plan well. Make the best possible presentation that can be made in 30sec-2mins, and that’s your elevator pitch.

Create urgency

Urgency is a vital factor of a successful proposition, especially with the elevator pitch. Be careful not to mistake this for pressure, because undue pressure will make you seem desperate and will take away from your credibility.

Instead you need to make the audience feel like you’re offering something unique, that will not be available for a long time and they will regret it unless they act soon to recognize and seize the opportunity.

Two ways to create urgency:

  • Make urgency a part of your pitch from the start instead of springing it up at the very end and conveying pressure.
  • Keep the focus on the problem you are trying to solve for your audience, and create in them a desire to get that problem out of their way as soon as possible.

Active listening:

Active listening is possibly the most useful skills of all of the above when it comes to influencing someone one-on-one. If you can handle this one, your success rate will go through the roof.

You need to give your audience as much opportunity to speak during your pitch, because this is how you build rapport.

You need to give your undivided attention to them when they are speaking. You’re not only listening to what they’re saying, but also you’re trying to understand why they are saying it.

Try to retain as much as you can of what they are saying, because this is where the secret sauce of influence comes into play.

You overcome their objections to your proposition by using their own frame of reference.

If you do this well, eventually they will exhaust their objections and see nothing but benefit from choosing to accept your proposition. Not because you wore them down, but because you listened to their needs and helped them see the benefit of your recommendation.

Bonus:

Always keep sharpening your skills and learning new tricks. These are some adaptable pointers but you need to look more specifically to the methods that work best for your agenda and time frame.

The more you know about you task at hand, the better equipped you can show up and increase your success rate of success.

Closure:

As long as you are playing the influence game well – you will be able to influence almost anyone to accept your suggestions.

Think about an example from your own life where you are trying to influence someone. I encourage you to re-read the article using that frame of reference and see how you can use the influence skills to skew the odds in your favor.

How can you use these skills to get a promotion? How will you use them in networking? How would you use them to get your kids to clean up their room?

Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear what you have to say!

Beat anxiety at work and take control of your life

Anxiety is a tricky beast but it can be domesticated. It’s been many months since I put mine under control and, while it still growls at me from time to time, I’ve learned to keep it dormant and even draw strength from it.

Anxiety is commonly described as a state of fear and apprehension or simply put – panic. A more severe case of anxiety is called a panic attack and almost everyone can attest to a garden variety of a panic attack during a surprise test, a job interview or public speaking.

While anxiety is relatively common as a passing experience, some of us are affected by anxiety very frequently for any number of reasons, or none at all, and this is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

I have GAD and it used to be a heavy burden to my professional and personal life, consequently I am particularly compelled to write this article in the hope that some of you can benefit from my experience.

Anxiety is a tricky beast but it can be domesticated. It’s been many months since I put mine under control and, while it still growls at me from time to time, I’ve learned to keep it dormant and even draw strength from it.

Knowing more about anxiety is a crucial first step in fighting it because you need to be able to recognize the symptoms as soon as they surface.

Panic attack symptoms

Physical symptoms:

  • Sweating
  • Hyperventilation (breathing shallow and fast)
  • Abdominal distress (chest pain, heart palpitation and or nausea)
  • Shaking
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Overheating

Sensation:

  • Feeling trapped in your body
  • Feeling like you are being surrounded or cornered
  • Feeling of dread and/or paralysis

How to stop a panic attack

As soon as you recognize you are experiencing symptoms of a panic attack you should do the following:

  • Flee!

At this point you have too much adrenaline in your system, your mind and body are in a fight or flight mode. You will not resolve the situation by arguing in this state so just excuse yourself and get away for a few minutes, preferably outdoors where you have fresh air and open space.

Once you have calmed and thought things trough, you will come back to deal with it in a much more civil and thoughtful manner.

  • Breathe!

The most fundamental symptom of a panic attack is hyperventilation, which is putting undue pressure on your lungs and brain. Breathe in deep and exhale slowly for the duration of the whole exercise.

Now that you’re breathing normally, your mind and blood pressure are consequently settling down.

  • Relax

Sit leaned back against something and try to relax your whole body.

  • Let go

Focus your gaze on something in the distance, preferably trees or clouds to guide your mind into a state of mindfulness.

  • Maintain the calm

Remain like this for at least a few minutes even if you immediately start feeling better.

These are the steps to relax your mind and body; to put your thinking in a state of detachment, safety and control which is the opposite of the state that led you to anxiety.

Now, from this state of detachment, you need to reflect on what led to the conflict which triggered your panic attack.

If your panic attack was caused by an argument with someone, here is a personal advice for reaching an optimal solution:

Look for what you did or said to contribute to the escalation of the discussion and how can you meet the person half way in order to resolve it.

My experience in these situations was that I would feel attacked, so I would react from a state of anxiety which often escalated the problem.

You should definitely hold your counterpart responsible for his or her actions, but additional to that you need to acknowledge your contribution to the issue and then offer an apology and solution.

This will be an honest attempt at resolving the problem and the other person will be compelled to recognize their own fault and accept truce.

“Be selective in your battles. Sometimes peace is better than being right.” Author unknown

My own anxiety was predominantly caused by social interactions. Two things helped me get the social triggers under control.

The first thing was understanding why people act the way they do, and I’ve elaborated this in my article about unconscious bias.

The other thing was learning how to handle interactions better, which I’ve explained thoroughly in my article about influencing skills.

I heartily recommend you read both of those.

What causes a Panic Attack?

It used to be that anxiety was an important and useful defense mechanism. A sudden threat from a predator would trigger this defense mechanism and produce a condition known as fight or flight.

This is a state in which your body produces adrenaline and puts you in a state of physical preparedness to fight the predator or run for your life.

Nowadays we don’t get many lions pouncing at us from bushes, instead anxiety revolves around other kinds of perceived threats which involve money problems, dealing with issues at work, stressful familial situations etc.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 18.1% of the population, according to statistics provided by
AADA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America)

GAD is a type of nervous over-sensitivity. Seemingly trivial problems can trigger a feeling of threat and lack of control.

The adrenaline only makes things worse at this point as it intensifies the lack of control and feeling of immediate threat so this process results in a nervous overload known as a panic attack.

Now that we understand how anxiety comes about and goes too far, what can we do about it?

Long term solution to anxiety

All of us have basic physical needs like food, water and shelter; something we don’t worry about much in developed societies. Deny these needs from people for a short time and you will see a very primal response.

There is equal evidence that we have basic psychological needs and those are feelings of belonging, purpose, community (people acknowledging and valuing you); and most importantly, feeling that you have a future which makes sense.

It’s easy to understand that if we are deprived of these needs, we will be subject to feelings of disconnection, depression and – anxiety.

The basic premise is that by fulfilling those fundamental psychological needs with a feeling of purpose we will change the default instinct for dealing with worldly problems.


“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky

Instead of perceiving problems as threats, we would perceive them as challenges and use a completely different state of mind to deal with them.

When you adopt a purpose and start passionately working toward it, you will quickly see your other psychological needs being fulfilled in the process. You will soon experience a snowball effect of improvement in your worldview, career and community.

While the aforementioned holds true for a large majority of us affected by anxiety, it’s important to note that we’re not all the same.  A minority of people who suffer from anxiety are actually experiencing a symptom of a more serious physiological or psychological illness.

My primary suggestion is that you visit a professional and get some counseling which will help you learn more about what’s causing your anxiety.

If you are advised a prescription, use it! Don’t be hesitant to get help in your early stages of dealing with anxiety.

Evaluate your career situation honestly

Evaluating your current situation in your career honestly is another important step on your path to improving your situation.

  • Is your work environment toxic beyond repair?

Are you having really bad experiences like mobbing or other types of harassment at work?

OR

  • Are you happy with your job but feel like anxiety is holding you back from getting ahead?

Do you colleagues and bosses see you as a recluse, as unreliable or a poor team player?

Whichever of these two issues is bothering you, I encourage you to study this article and the related articles on the blog, the content will be very helpful whether you decide to improve your current situation or start anew.

Should you quit your job due to anxiety?

If you’re genuinely not happy, if you think your relation with your colleagues and bosses is damaged beyond repair or if you are working in a very toxic work environment – yes you should quit.

Not just because you don’t feel your best there, but because you will probably never get a chance to shine and advance in that company.

However, you don’t want this change to be a setback for you career. You need to do it smart and land on your feet. You need to take careful steps to change your job without your career and finances taking a hit.

Start looking around for other companies where you can land an equal or better paid position and where the company has a better workplace culture than your current one.

An important thing to know is that once you switch jobs you will not be greeted with open arms and given much freedom. You will probably have to work very hard in the beginning to prove yourself capable and you will probably be faced with many situations and people who will make you feel equally anxious.

With this in mind, what I want you to do is this: tomorrow, wake up with a determination for a fresh start. Decide to fight your anxiety by building the disciplines that will give you back control of your life.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

If you start following my advice consistently, not only will you land a better job but you will face the new challenges easier and better then you ever could before. This I can promise you because I’ve done it myself.

Conclusion

Writing this article has been a cathartic experience for me. I sincerely hope you will take my advice to heart and start doing the daily steps to make yourself a better person in the long term.

One think I want to drive home and leave you with is this:

The one thing that will be the biggest change for your life is having a vision of a long term goal, something that gives you meaning and purpose.

When you have a vision and are working toward it, you will have the strength of conviction in your thoughts and actions. This will show in your self-confidence, your body language, your tone of voice and you will consequently be turning into your ideal self with every passing day.

What are you experiences with anxiety? Was this article helpful? Please let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you!

What is Unconscious Bias & how can it help your career

In this article you will find some interesting examples to help you understand unconscious bias and turn this blind spot into one of the most useful mental tools you will ever have.

To achieve your dreams you need to work hard and make good decisions. Hard work is easy to understand and most of us work harder than we probably should, but when it comes to good decisions we consistently stumble. We make wrong decisions because of Unconscious Bias.

Unconscious bias refers to learned tendencies and attitudes which affect our actions and decisions. We adopt these attitudes from personal experiences, socialization and media. We do not have awareness or control of this process, thus the name Unconscious Bias.

To put it very simply, it’s a how we explain acting one way or another toward people– but there’s much more to it!

In this article you will find interesting examples to help you understand unconscious bias and useful tricks to turn this blind spot into one of the most useful mental tools you will ever have.

What is the difference between Conscious and Unconscious Bias

Bias is an umbrella term for particular tendencies, feelings or opinions that often aren’t reasonable but they’ve served us in the past so we hold on to them.

Conscious Bias or Explicit Bias is a prejudice for or against a notion that we have reason to believe in, as a result we consciously act upon that reasoning even though most of the time we won’t admit it publicly.

Unconscious bias or Implicit bias is very similar and the main difference is that the decision making process is done under the radar of the conscious mind.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” – Anaïs Nin

It’s a habitual mental process that’s useful for millions of trivial choices that you make daily, which would fry your brain if you thought about all of them, so your mind runs those decisions on autopilot.

In modern times we’re becoming increasingly dynamic social creatures, but our brains still work by the same old energy conservation methods, hence decisions about social matters (that should be highly relative) get churned with other decisions of mechanical nature.

Examples of Unconscious Bias

Using the mechanism of bias we characterize people by two social categories:

  1.  Social background like cultural background, religious identity, political affiliation or jobs.
  2. Visual cues like gender, ethnicity, age, body type and height.

Subject to this characterization we are prone to a number of biases, here are some examples:

  • Affinity bias: Having a bias to liking someone who looks like you or someone you like.

This candidate has the same name like my friend who is hard working, that means he’s hard working too.

  • Confirmation bias: Looking for information that supports your idea and ignoring evidence to the contrary.

My colleague says bad things about others all of the time, but we’re friendly so I don’t think he talks bad about me.

  • Halo effect: Assuming someone is great at everything because we like something about them.

She is pretty, so she must be smart as well.

  • Bandwagon bias: Believing something because your peers believe it.

Everyone else is hazing the new guy, then there’s nothing wrong with me doing it as well.

These biased ways of thinking are something that comes very natural to us and it’s near impossible to question your thinking when you’re caught up in the moment.

How biased are you? Take this test to find out how you rank. This will help you get a baseline of your current frame of mind with regards to the most common stereotypes. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

Unconscious Bias in the workplace

Most of the time these unconscious biases are harmless when they are related to small scale decision making. As you get tired or deal with repetitive processes more frequently, your mind will be more prone to utilizing the bias mechanism.

If you are serious about achieving your dreams, you know that small mistakes made consistently can amount to big disasters and leave you with empty hands, a broken spirit and a big question mark above your head – and that’s exactly what this blog is here to prevent!

Here are two types of situations in the workplace where biases make impactful results and where you should aim to be diligent with your decisions:

Decision making:

If you’re a manager, be deliberate when you are making decisions about employees. Unconscious bias can make you hire people who are not the best candidate for the job or give out privileged workload to someone who didn’t really deserve it.

The decisions you make about employees ripple in effect to the workforce. A good rule of thumb is to always keep the benefit of the team and the company in the forefront of your mind when making decisions.

Communication:

Managers are more likely to talk about optimistic topics and forward looking topics with those they have an affinity for. They will also be more open to touching personal topics and socializing outside of workplace.

Alternatively, the manager who doesn’t like an employee will use distancing body language, like checking his phone or cutting in during the conversation. Also they will stick to topics of past performance review and often focus on problems.

As a manager, you need to think of your employees as assets and liabilities, not as friends and expendables.

“Fortunately for serious minds, a bias recognized is a bias sterilized.” Benjamin Haydon

If you’re an employee and looking to advance your career, you need to be careful not to get pulled into the office politicking.

Focus on your work and professional growth, be aware of these biases and try to recognize when your boss or coworkers are acting from a biased frame of mind so you can counteract it.

Also, you can always take advantage of your boss not knowing what you learn here about biases and do little things to make him/her biased to viewing you as an ally and a responsible individual. This will put you ahead of the line next time there is an opportunity to advance.

Check out my other article on influence to find some powerful methods to improve and maintain great relationship with your boss and colleagues.

Unconscious Bias training for your team

We hear a lot about Unconscious Bias Training or Sensitivity Training nowadays as an effort to promote inclusion and prevent discrimination in schools and companies.

This is a laudable goal because unconscious bias can be a boogeyman in a vibrant community. Bias is something that feeds on ignorance, therefore teaching people may spark a will for a change on a personal level.

When you get down to the basics, bias training exercises are mostly activities that are meant to highlight and promote a sense of teamwork because this is the antidote to exclusionary behavior in group settings.

If you’re a manager or a team leader, do a team building field trip and plan a constructive activity that will make the people put aside their difference and pull together for a common goal.

As opposed to practical exercises that teach people trough examples and experiences, the normative types of sensitivity training done by companies often take the form of a “mandatory attendance” lecture.

The lectures serve the companies to wash their hands from prejudice rather than serve the employees to learn something, for this reason many leave feeling like they’ve been talked at. This only teaches people to hide their true feelings better in order to prevent being labeled a bigot.

This publication by the Annual Review of Psychology, which examined and reviewed hundreds of studies submitted since the World War II, states that people are easily taught the answers to bias questionnaires but the effects don’t last more than a day or two.

Unconscious bias exercise for yourself

This is my favorite part of this article because it teaches something that I absolutely love to do, and that’s doing one thing for multiple productive results.

Like writing this article to help you and reaffirm the lessons for myself at the same time. Good times!

Here are 3 simple advice which you can understand and apply immediately to improve your quality of life and your long term chances of success.

  1.  Counterstereotype:

Counterstereotype exercise is the most effective way to reduce bias. You need to expose yourself to real-world examples of people who are complete opposites from what you stereotypically assume and be willing to learn from them.

In the common example of gender bias against career women, look for successful women who surpass you in your field of professional interest, listen to their lectures and learn from them.

You will be learning something useful to your career and breaking your bias in the same time!

  •  Perspective-taking:

Perspective-taking is the best way to follow up the counterstereotype exercise.

This means taking those real-world examples of people who refute your bias and listening to their life stories. Their humble beginnings and the obstacles they had to overcome on the road to success.

The point is to put yourself in their shoes and try to imagine the resilience it took to overcome those obstacles.

You will get big motivation from their stories and you will be breaking your bias at the same time!

  •  Meditation (bonus step):

I feel it’s important to clarify what I mean by meditation. I don’t mean you need to be breaking your back on a flower pattern yoga mat in an open field with daisies in your hair…

The term meditation, before it was hijacked by the pop culture, used to mean quiet contemplation and that is exactly what I mean by the term.

Take a few minutes from time to time to just break out of the daily rat race. Be grateful for your health, your family, your friends and your opportune life. Look at the sunset or the stars and realize how small and frail you are. It’s a humbling and necessary thing to appreciate.

Hopefully practicing this will help you deal with the preconditions to unconscious bias by making you less rough around the edges and more kind to yourself and others by default.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I hope you now have a better understanding that, to an extent, we’re all just products of circumstance.

Life of an ambitious person is like a poker game, some get their cards dealt more favorable and some less, but life is a game of skill and you can win by outplaying the players instead of focusing on your cards.

Often I like to remind myself that many of the richest and most influential people in the history of the world came from unbelievably challenging and humble beginnings, overcoming many obstacles in their path.

Don’t let excuses and prejudice get in the way of surrounding yourself with people who will help you achieve your dreams.

What are your experiences with unconscious bias? What did you think of the article? Leave a comment and let me know!

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