Monday, January 18, 2010

Being Deliberate to Be Effective

Memory upgrade
Image by shainelee via Flickr
Hellow Mind Racers! There may be a time when you are in a rush to get something done. It is tempting to make haste; but, doing so results in poor performance and unnecessary mistakes. If you have done the one thing often enough, you may move quickly; but every move is calculated and deliberate. Your mind is calm and focused on the task at hand.

This kind of experience, or muscle memory, often sets apart the veterans from the rookies. When you are new at something, your mind races, you forget details, you make hasty decisions, and generally do a poor job. Veterans, on the other hand, seem self-assured and collected, even during major challenges; because, they have been there before and know exactly what to do.

Wouldn't it be nice to have that same level of mental clarity that a veteran has in your everyday life? The problem is that Mind Racers like us often find ourselves in new situations and without a plan on how to proceed. Like Indiana Jones, we make it up as we go. We can muddle through most of the time; but, sometimes we find ourselves in a big mess because of the approach.

In my case, my mind is always racing; but, not because I'm in a hurry to do something. It takes a conscious effort to clear my mind of the chatter, and focus on deliberately doing the one thing that needs doing. I mention this because it may help you in some way. Down-shifting into deliberate thought is great for making you effective in your work.

If you feel that your day is like watching a movie where you have to catch all the details so you know what is going on in the next scene, then you are definitely a Mind Racer. Here is how I break out of it so that I can accomplish something.

  • Find a quiet place - This is important. Nothing breaks your concentration faster than having distractions around you kicking your brain into high gear.

  • Focus on an item - In this case, it is alright to stare. Stare at an item, look at it, not through it. When your mind is racing, you often look through things while focusing your attention internally on all the thoughts passing through your brain. By looking directly at something and focusing on it, it forces your mind to disregard the noise.

  • Start your deliberate thinking - Now that you have cleared your mind and primed it with a visual focus, substitute that focus with what you need to do. Think of the first step that will get you to your goal.

  • Make a list - If you have the racing mind problem, you may find that you will still wander off in thought on occasion. Having a list of what you need to accomplish helps you stay on task. Your first focus is the list; afterwards, shift your focus to the individual items.

  • Think on paper - You may also write your thoughts down on a computer; but, the problem is that it probably has Internet. That's not good for focus.

  • Take breaks - Focus is not natural for you, Mind Racer. If you do it for an extended period without rest, you will wear yourself out. Work for 15 to 20 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. I'm talking knowledge work here, physical work is never a problem for you, Mind Racer; quite the opposite, it allows you to zone out into thoughts while your body does all the work.

  • Try to always write a plan - Have a plan for everything. Force yourself to make the time to think ahead. Plan speeches, meetings, talks with your kids, your work day, your dates, and any situation where you feel you are a spectator rather than a participant. If you plan ahead, you will be more deliberate and keep the noggin in low gear.

That is it, Mind Racer. This is how I keep myself on task. It doesn't always work. If I'm exhausted, it becomes especially difficult to stay focused or achieve focus in the first place. But, it seems to work often enough to get some things done.

So, how do you achieve deliberate actions?


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