Use the Back of Your Brain

dreamstime_xs_62496032When I was in college it always took me awhile to complete the research for papers.  The major reason was that I always found so many interesting studies to read.  They might not have been relevant for the paper I was writing, but it was hard to resist reading them anyway.

One related to brain functioning.  It said that either the subconscious or unconscious (I forget which—or maybe it was both—let’s call it the back of the brain) was always working.  Since it was always working, we might as well have the conscious part of our brain (let’s call it the front of the brain) tell the back of the brain what we wanted it to do.

I was going to college full-time and working 30-40 hours a week to pay for college.  I needed all the help I could get to make best use of the time I had, so I started experimenting with this.  I would tell the back of my brain things like: “I have to write a paper on XYZ.  What should I include?  How should I organize it?”  Then I would work on other things for a day or two.  When I sat down to work on the paper, the information flowed.  I had much more information than I ever had when I tried to write something “cold.”

The more I used this technique, the better it worked.  I still use it.

For example, a few days ago I had the idea that this topic would make a good blog.  If I had sat down and tried writing it the minute I had the idea, I would have struggled.  Instead, the front of my brain told the back of my brain to work on this idea.  Now, the thoughts are pouring out, faster than I can type.

I use this for large projects, such as writing books.  With a book, I tell the back of my brain to work first on the overall concepts and content of the book and as I start writing, I tell it to work in more detail on the next chapter.  It works!  I have more trouble finding time to write than I do in getting thoughts on paper once I have time to do it.

I also use this for little things such as planning parties, holiday dinners, and vacations.  People comment on how organized I am.  To a large degree, I think it is because I use the back of my brain to work on things while the front of my brain is focused on other items.

If you don’t already do this, I suggest that you try it.  If it works, you might find that you are more productive.  If it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost a thing.

 

Clean as You Go

dreamstime_xs_71944316A food service concept is “clean as you go.”  Basically, that means that you keep your work area clean.  As you complete one task, you clean the area before beginning the next task.  If you spill something, you clean it up.  As you have time, you wash pots, pans, and dishes.  All this helps keep food safe.  Plus, it is easier and more efficient than trying to clean a disaster of a kitchen at the end of the day.

This concept is something that can be used in our professional and personal lives.  As we complete one task, we can clean our desk, kitchen counters, or other work area before moving to the next task.  If we make a mess, we can clean it up immediately.  It can make us more productive.

We can use this concept from a mental standpoint.  When we complete one task, we can clear our minds before starting the next task.  It can help us focus.

We can use this concept from an emotional standpoint.  If there is something bothering us, we can deal with it rather than ignoring it.  It can help our emotional health.

The concept of “clean as you go” really is that we take care of things when they are small and easier to do rather than waiting until they are large and more difficult to do.

Planning Backwards

dreamstime_xs_54563294Although we usually think of planning as starting at the beginning and finishing at the end, it can be beneficial to start with the end and continue backwards to the beginning.

Most of us probably do this frequently in small ways.  For example, to determine when we need to get up in the morning to get to work on time, we might plan something like this:

  • I start work at 8:00, so…
  • I need to arrive at work at 7:45 to park the car, punch in, etc. to be on the job by 8:00.
  • It takes 45 minutes to drive to work, so I need to leave home at 7:00.
  • It takes 90 minutes to get ready and take care of the pets, so I need to get up at 5:30.
  • However, it’s snowing, the roads will probably be bad in the morning, so I need to allow an extra 30 minutes to drive to work. I need to set the alarm for 5:00.

This process can also be beneficial for our large dreams and goals, especially if they are very specific.

For example, if someone wanted to design motorcycles for a specific company, good information to obtain could be:

  • Is this an entry level position? If not, what entry level position can lead to the desired position?  What advancement is necessary within the company?
  • What experience is required to be hired by the company? How can it be obtained?
  • What education/degree is required? Where do most of these graduates attend college?
  • What needs to be done to be accepted into that college and that degree program?
  • What needs to be done to be able to attend that college? (For example, would it require moving? Financial assistance?)

The plan, of course, would include the details on how to make this work.  Additional questions might include the following.  Would an internship meet the experience requirement and could that be completed during college?  If the person is in high school, what classes could she take and what grades would she need to be accepted to the college?  If she is already in the workforce, can some of her work experience assist her in being accepted to the college?  Are there classes she needs to take before she will be accepted either into that college or into that program?  What financial assistance is available?  What support, if any, will she need from family?

The next time you need to plan something, try planning backwards and see if it helps you develop a better, more detailed plan.

Life Happens, but…

dreamstime_xs_88002753A friend and I were discussing how difficult it can be to accomplish things because “life happens.”  I have been thinking quite a bit about that conversation and I have decided that “life happens” isn’t an excuse.

Yes, things happen.  Usually, though, we can manage this either through better planning or through making better choices.

For example, we all get sick sometimes. If we plan that things like this will happen, then it’s not as disastrous when they do happen.  Whenever I have the opportunity, I work ahead.  I like to have blogs written a few weeks in advance of posting.  If something happens, I can still post a blog.  That only takes a few minutes, compared to writing a blog which can take a couple of hours.  I rarely wait until the last minute to do something.  Not only do I not have to explain to clients why I cannot keep a deadline, it also greatly reduces my stress.

We can also plan financially.  If we have an older home, we can plan that we will probably need to replace appliances, the furnace, or maybe even the roof within a certain number of years.  There is also always the possibility of unplanned unemployment.  By saving money now for emergencies, it is not as detrimental when it does happen.

Making better choices interrelates with better planning.  If we make the choice to use our time and money more wisely, we will have those resources to help us when “life happens.”

Making better choices sometimes involves telling people “no.”  Everyone wants more from us than we can usually give.  It’s acceptable to set boundaries and tell people that we cannot help them.

Sometimes making better choices involves being realistic about how much we can do and telling ourselves “no.”  We may want to do more, but it might not be feasible.  For example, I would like to adopt almost every kitten that needs a home.  It’s not feasible for me to become a crazy cat lady, at least not if I want to stay married!

Frequently it’s not so much that “life happens” as it is that we haven’t planned and/or chosen as well as we could.

2016 and Beyond

dreamstime_xs_489283562015 is completed.  It’s over.  Did you do what you wanted?  Did you accomplish what you planned?  Did you position yourself to be where you wanted for 2016?

If yes, congratulations!  That is fantastic!

If no, then take what you can learn from it and move on.  That’s all any of us can do.  It’s a waste of time to moan about it or berate ourselves for it.  Decide what you can do differently this year and do it.

What do you need to do in 2016 to position yourself to where you want to be in 2017?  2020?  2030?  Setting goals for the upcoming year is great.  But to really climb to where we want to be in life, we need to plan further out.  If you want to finish a degree in five years, what do you need to do this year to make it happen?  If you want to retire in ten years, what do you need to do this year to make it happen?

What do you need to do this year, next year, and the next, to achieve the life you want?

Road Maps and Signs

Road Maps and Signs (Video Link)

dreamstime_xs_42580843When we travel, we need a road map. We need a plan to tell us how to get from where we are to where we want to go. We also need road signs. The signs tell us where we are. By comparing the signs to the map we know where we are and what we need to do to get to where we want to go. If the signs tell us that we are somewhere that we did not plan to go, then we know we need to do something to get back on our route.

In our lives, we also need maps and signs. Our maps are our plans—where do we want to go, what do we want to accomplish, how do we get there? The “signs” are those indicators that tell us if we are moving toward our goals or not. For example, are we meeting our sales objectives for the week, month, and quarter? Are we meeting our objectives for contacting new customers? Are we meeting our profit objectives for the period?

Our objectives might also be personal objectives. Are we saving the planned amount each week for a major purchase? Have we made reservations for a vacation? Are we spending the time we had planned with family or friends?

Unfortunately, it can sometimes be very easy to continue to “drive” without checking the “signs” when it comes to our professional and personal lives. Just because we are busy does not mean that we are any closer to our goals. We might just be driving in circles.

Do you routinely check the “signs” that indicate where you are in relationship to where you want to go?

The Success We Think We Deserve

The Success We Think We Deserve (Video Link)

Have you seen the movie Perks of Being a Wallflower?  There was a line in the movie that still resonates with me:  “We accept the love we think we deserve.”  I think this is true.  I think we do accept the love we think we deserve.  We accept the treatment from others we think we deserve.  Unfortunately, some of us do not think we deserve very much. 

This concept can also have an impact on our success.  We achieve the level of success that we think we deserve, not the level of which we are capable.  If we do not think we deserve to be successful, it will be extremely difficult to be successful.  People are very good at self-sabotage, and they generally do not even realize it.

I encourage you to think carefully about what level of success you think you deserve.  From there, think about why you do not think you deserve a higher level of success.  This exercise can give you great insight on those thoughts that may be holding you back.

Easer or Jumper?

Easer or Jumper? (Video Link)

Do you carefully ease yourself into new situations?  Or do you jump in?

I am an “easer.”  I like to ease my way into situations.  I like to study the situation, analyze it, develop goals, create a plan, and eventually do something.

I have friends who are “jumpers.”  Whatever the situation, they just jump into it and start doing things.  Sometimes I admire them!

There is no right or wrong.  Both methods can get the job done. 

A concern with being an easer is that it may take much longer than it should to get results.  After a while, more information or planning does not help.  However, the result is usually right on target.

A concern with being a jumper is that although things are being done, they may not be the right things.  Time may be wasted by going back and doing things over.  However, at least something is being done.

Which are you, an easer or a jumper?  Or are you nicely balanced in the middle?

Lesson from Mary Poppins

Lesson from Mary Poppins (Video Link)

A few years ago my husband and I took the grandchildren to see the play Mary Poppins.  A recurring line was, “Anything can happen if you let it.”

This is very true!  How often do we keep ourselves from success because we do not let things happen?  We do not take risks.  We do not open ourselves up to new ideas.  We get in our own way.  There are many things that we do to not let things happen.

Although I think the line in the play was meant as a reminder to let the good things happen, it can also be a reminder that bad things can happen if we let them.  For example, our health may suffer if we overeat, do not eat a healthful diet, do not exercise, do not manage stress or if we smoke or drink excessively,. Our professional and personal relationships will suffer if we neglect them.  Our career will suffer if we do not continue to strive to improve.

Keep in mind that “Anything can happen if you let it”—for good and bad!  So let the good in, and keep the bad out.

Business or Hobby?

Business or Hobby? (Video)

“Businesses are in business to make money.  If it does not make money, it is not a business.  It is a hobby.”

This was the most valuable piece of information I learned when I went to the University of Louisville for an MBA.  (If I could remember the professor’s name, I would give him the credit.  Unfortunately, I do not even remember the name of the class.)  This forced me to take a very critical look at my business at the time.  I have used it to assess my business many times since.

If you are self-employed, do you treat your business as a business?  Or do you treat it as a hobby?  Do you invest as much time into your business as you would if you were punching a time clock?  Or do you fit in time where you can between personal pursuits?

I know people who run their businesses as a business.  They put in the time and effort needed to achieve the success they want.  I know others who consistently let everything else come first.  It can be easy to do, especially if you work from home.  There are many potential distractions.

This may be hard to believe, but the ones who are most successful are those who treat it as a business!  They work extremely long, hard hours.  If you want a business, that is the price to pay.

If what you really want is a hobby, that is fine as long as you have another way to support yourself.  But at least be honest with yourself.  A simple question to ask yourself is whether or not you would pay someone else to do what you do throughout the day.

Do you have a business or a hobby?  Which do you want?  Do you need to make changes?