Procrastination or Executive Function Fail?

Musings of an Aspie

There’s a spot on my kitchen floor, a little cluster of dried reddish drips. I don’t know what it is. If it’s from 3 days ago, it’s tomato sauce. If it’s been there longer . . .  who knows.

I’ve walked past it dozens of times. I look at it. It annoys me. I wonder how it got there. I wish it would go away. It doesn’t occur to me that I can make that happen.

The greasy smudgey fingerprints on the cabinet that I can only see in exactly the right light? The 8-inch long thread that’s been hanging off the bathroom rug since the last vacuuming? The dryer sheet on the laundry room floor? Same thing.

What is this? Why can I sit here and catalog all of these little annoyances yet I still do nothing about them? It’s not like fixing them would take a huge amount…

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Leaders Don’t Manage Time, They Manage Choices

This is an article I liked and found valuable on Psychology Today. The link to the original article is here.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve looked at the four behaviors that differentiate a functional manager from a true leader.  As you know, I refer to these behaviors as the “Phenomenal Four,” which include:

  • Cultivating Reflective Silence
  • Capturing Meaningful Stories
  • Reinforcing What’s Important
  • Posing Curious Questions

If you haven’t had a chance to read the first two entries in this series, I recommendstarting here, then reading this.

Today, we are going to examine the third behavior: Reinforcing What’s Important.

In its most basic form, reinforcing what’s important is about ensuring you are working on the most important things each day. This behavior may seem ordinary, cliché in fact.  However, I would caution you not to dismiss it as just another tip for time management.

This third behavior, in all of its supposed simplicity, may be the most powerful out of the four in distinguishing a functional manager from a leader.

Let’s dive in.

The Truth About Time Management

In the last year, I (like many people) read Marie Kondo’s charming book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  One thing that struck me was her conviction that before you can begin to organize your possessions you must first cull through them and purge what does not bring you joy.

Ms. Kondo notes that most people skip this purge and go straight to organizing, assuming that they are happy with everything they have.  However, over time organizing becomes harder and harder the more things you accumulate.

To me, this is exactly what is wrong with traditional approaches to time management.

Instead of starting the process from a place of deciding what is important, we assume the worthiness of all our existing commitments, responsibilities, and activities and focus exclusively on how to fit them all together into our waking hours.  Over time, this challenge becomes greater and greater, and pretty soon our efforts to “manage” time become akin to efforts to “manage” clutter: futile.

This is why I say leaders don’t manage time, they manage choices.  They constantly try to stay attune to what is important in their life (what brings them “joy,” as Ms. Kondo says) and make decisions on a daily, sometimes hourly basis based on it.

While managers struggle to fit everything into a day, a leader is willing to purge, delegate, or just say no to anything that isn’t truly important.

The ability to reinforce what is important, and exert energy in accordance with what is important, is what makes this third behavior so powerful.

The Third Behavior: Reinforcing What’s Important

The behavior of reinforcing what’s important is about giving yourself a moment each day to see both the big picture and the little pieces at the same time so you can act accordingly.

This means taking five minutes at the beginning or end of the day to review your list of big picture goals, and then reviewing your daily action plan to ensure you’re working on the most important things related to your larger goals.

I have found this to be an invaluable strategy for helping me to stay above the urgent-not-important things that bombard leaders every day.  It is also a great way to keep those seemingly productive time sucks (i.e. email, social media) in their proper place.

Personally, I review my lists at both the start and end of the work day. It’s always satisfying to strike through an action or two or three or more. Over time, I realized that when I took care of the important items, my work really progressed. I finished that webinar design. I published that blog. I got that meeting scheduled where a decision had to be made.

I also noticed that when I did the items that were the least pleasant, progress was faster. What was it about those items? They were the ones I was avoiding because they had implications, and as a result were important. Avoidance was coming out of my fear that they would not produce the right implications. What was I afraid of? Today, as I look at the list either in the morning when I am determining which are the most important or at the end of the day when I am considering the accomplishments of the day, I’m conscious of what avoidance means. It tells me exactly which are the most important.

This week, challenge yourself to reinforce what is important by keeping a list of long-term goals alongside your daily action list, and check it at least once a day. Tell me about how this behavior is working for you here or on Twitter: @madelynblair!

Next week, we will explore the final Phenomenal Four behavior: Posing Curious Questions!

Empathy vs. Perspective

Empathy helps you understand what a prospective donor is feeling. 

Perspective helps you understand why they are feeling it.

Empathy keeps relationships on track.

Empathy helps you remember that your supporter lives on the west coast while you are on Eastern time. Thanks to your empathy you’ll avoid calling her when you first get to the office at 8 am (5 am for her). In that case empathy is a very good thing to have.

Perspective is more intellectual.

Perspective-taking is exclusively the process of taking an alternate point-of-view. With perspective you can understand your supporters’ viewpoints, needs, desires, goals and aspirations. If the need is urgent and you know that the supporter has been waiting for an opportunity to fund (for example) an airlift to rescue dozens of refugees in a far off land, then you will call and awaken her at 5 am. Your perspective assures you that the donor will be happy you did.

However, the perspective-taking process does not necessarily lead to feelings of empathy.

How our Breathing Affects our Emotions

Most of us would like to have some control over our instantaneous emotions. However, we observe that it is extremely difficult to control your emotions. One can only channelize the energy of an emotion, but one cannot control the rise of the emotion itself. However, emotions and breathing are directly related and this link has been continuously observed in a lot of research. Therefore, it is seen that one can gain control on emotions by breathing in a specific manner.

Refer the below link for a complete understanding of how breathing affects our emotions.

http://iahip.org/inside-out/issue-73-summer-2014/the-breath-of-feeling-how-our-breathing-affects-our-emotions

The Vicious Cycle of Self-esteem and Self-discipline

This is a snippet from an article in Psychology Today.

It may be true that we can do almost anything we set our mind to. But if our mind is our worst enemy, we simply may not be able to believe this otherwise inspiring (and motivating!) maxim. That is, whatever anxieties we may have about failing, as well as our poor sense of self-efficacy, may either keep us from starting a task or prevent us from completing it. And even if we do end up finishing it–because, say, it’s a job requirement and we absolutely must–our pattern of delay will still persist. Unresolved self-doubts (deeply programmed within us) aren’t automatically erased by an expedient action and will reaffirm themselves (through some sort of procrastination) the very next time we’re obliged to do something.

In my experience, people who lack self-discipline also lack fundamental self-esteem. And here the latter deficiency seems to feed directly into the former. That is, significant defects in our self-image undermine our confidence in our abilities, and this lack of self-confidence negatively affects the development of self-discipline–which of course is necessary to accomplish just those things that would enhance our self-esteem. Psychologically speaking, this has got to be one of the most vicious of vicious cycles

The Struggles of Resting Confused Face

This post was written by Emma Lord on Bustle and the link to the original article is here.

In the past year or so, we’ve heard a lot of people bemoaning the struggles of having “resting bitch face”, which is totally understandable. I’d be annoyed too if someone thought I was side-eyeing them when all I was thinking about was pizza (which is, incidentally, the thing I think about most). Of course, the other side of the resting face coin followed suit, chiming in with the woes of having “resting nice face”. We get it, human race: People make snap judgments about the content of your character based on the fall of your face, no matter who you are. But the resting face we don’t often consider might be the weirdest one of all: it’s Resting Confused Face (RCF), and it is the reason why my potential for awkward run-ins has been fully maximized even in my relatively short life.

To be fair, I am occasionally confused. Being a human can be confusing, which is something anyone who has ever been a human can back me up on. But I am also a full-grown adult, equipped with Siri and basic common sense, so if I am ever confused, I usually am not for long. My confidence in navigating my way through life, however, seems to be hopelessly incongruent with the expression on my face. I have gleaned from people’s reactions to me over the years that I must look terribly confused most of the time.

I mean, I can’t too upset about this. Nobody thinks I’m going to turn around and eat their child, for instance. No one thinks I look mean or scary. They just think I’m hopelessly lost and/or stupid, which is mildly condescending and insulting, but not necessarily the end of the world. Sometimes it actually makes me feel a little bit happy for the human race. Like, look at all these people interpreting my facial signals as confusion and trying to help me! That’s cool that our species is biologically predisposed to protect its own! It’s just kinda awkward when you’re the last person in the room who needed it in the first place.

What makes Resting Confused Face such a slippery beast, though, is that it can be extremely difficult to diagnose. You might be reading this right now unsure whether or not this applies to you (you might even say you’reconfused), but I’m here to help. You too might have Resting Confused Face if you have experienced any of these struggles in your life:

Strangers are always getting into your business

They’re totally doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. But it is still six kinds of embarrassing to have the old lady in the grocery store publicly ask me if I’m okay because I was squinting at the nutrition labels on the cereal with apparently more emotion than I thought I was.

If you look even slightly young for your age, people ask where your parents are

You know what? No, scratch that—I might look young, but I don’t look like somebody’s minor child anymore. And yet, even still, I have never walked through airport security without someone asking where my mom is, and before I can even explain myself, someone usually grabs my ticket and starts explaining at length where the gate is. My face is clearly that of a person who has not made the leap of logic between looking up at the gate signs and following the arrows to them in a timely fashion.

People never trust your authority on pretty much anything

Guess how many road trips I’ve been the navigator on? NONE. I’m not even saying I WANT to be the navigator, but it would damn sure be nice if people thought I was competent enough to adequately fill the role. And this isn’t just the case with directions—this is what happens in most aspects of your life if you have RCF. People always hesitate to put you in charge of something even if you’re fully confident that you’re capable.