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Unexpected events and uncertain times can disturb or invite.

They jolt us out of our comfort zone disturbing our equanimity. They also provide us with the opportunity to take stock of our careers and lives – to ask searching questions about what is important and what matters most.

career woman Taking stock of your career in uncertain times Perhaps you might also be asking yourself what you really want your future career to look, sound and be like.

Possibly amidst these thoughts and periods of deep introspection about your career and life generally, you are bunkered down in survival mode, trying to cope financially, psychologically, and keeping relationships on an even keel. So maybe rethinking your career during a pandemic is unwise in some respects.

Yet, it is in times of uncertainty that the universe speaks to us and invites us to contemplate our lives from a new perspective.

Deep down, we know what is not working for us and what we want and need to do to grow and change. I dare say that some of you may have been restless in your job, position or career for some time but are so entrenched in the ‘rhythm of your life’, that change seems impossible, or at the very least – too hard.

It’s many years ago now since I had to reinvent my career and life completely. I felt a bit like ‘The dog on the nail’ in the story below and still do on occasions.

dog1 Taking stock of your career in uncertain times

One day a man was walking down the street on his way to work. As he walked, all the dogs in the street would bark at him as he passed by.

However, there was one dog that remained on the front porch whimpering and whining – the sort of sounds dogs make when they are in pain. The next day as he walked to work, the same thing happened. All the other dogs would run to the gate and give their usual bark except that one dog.

The man couldn’t figure it out. After a week of the same daily occurrence, he decided to find out what was going on. So he went and knocked on the door and asked the guy, “Sir, is this your dog?” The owner said, “Yes, that’s my dog, why do you ask?”

“I just wondered what was wrong with him,” replied the man. “He’s been sitting here whimpering and whining all week.”

The owner replied, “Well, he’s actually sitting on a nail.” The man, incredulous, responded, “What, your dog is sitting on a nail! Why doesn’t he get off?” “Well, it just doesn’t hurt him enough.”


Maybe, like the dog, you are sitting on a nail, but it’s not hurting enough, or you are too frightened to get off. Maybe the fear of change is too great for you. It doesn’t really matter what the nail is – personal, career or business, the reality is that it is preventing you from moving on with your life and career productively and proactively. You get stuck and procrastinate. And in this process your dreams get lost.


dog2 Taking stock of your career in uncertain times

Career ‘Nails’

I have been deeply saddened to see so many people ‘stuck’ in their careers and jobs and seemingly powerless to get off the ‘nail’ they have been enduring for so long. For some, it’s the silent but nagging voice that keeps saying: “I don’t want to be here anymore” or “Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life?”

Maybe these thoughts and whispers are strongly competing for your attention even during this pandemic.

You may be in a position or role that does not offer you meaningful work, you have no sense of belonging to the organisation as you feel that you are neither appreciated nor valued. The lack of alignment of personal Purpose and Values with those of the organisation seems to be tolerated because of the fear and uncertainty that goes with trying to make a change.

I know of people who have been physically sick every day prior to going to work. Others I know are really good at what they do but have lost their mojo. What’s your situation? Perhaps your energy levels are depleted for a number of reasons and it’s time you reignited your career, but you feel powerless to change your life around.

The most frustrating part is that you probably have some very important career goals which, if implemented, would take you on the growth path you really want and envision. You know where you want to be within the next 6 months, 1 year and 2 years from now. You may have even set goals to achieve your career plan but ‘busyness’, procrastination and fear have got in the way (yet again!) and you regretfully find yourself like the dog on the nail.

Perhaps you have been thinking about starting your own business but don’t have the confidence to have a go. Fear has wrapped its tentacles around your heart and mind, strangling the entrepreneurial spirit that is struggling for breath and life.


dog3 Taking stock of your career in uncertain times

Personal Nails

If you are in this situation, my informed guess is that your ‘career nails’ are impacting on your personal life too. A lack of physical fitness, low mojo, strained relationships, intellectual stagnation, a disorganised lifestyle and difficulty in forming habits and keeping goals are often symptomatic of career dissatisfaction (and of course vice versa).
Anxiety and depression also tend to be increasingly present during these times, compounded by a lack of purpose, meaning and general well-being.

The scenarios above are just the tip of the iceberg really. The reality is that you probably want to make changes in your career and personal life but that you just don’t know how.

Getting started is the key!

Here are two suggestions you can undertake immediately to get you started …

1. Be brutally honest with yourself

The Dog on the Nail story is an invitation for you to be brutally honest with yourself. It’s another way of taking stock of your life and to help you to face up to what is holding you back, slowing you down or getting in the way of your vision for your life, career or business. This is a time when you really can set a goal to turn your life around in the context of whatever ‘nail’ you are sitting on. It will be a defining moment for you.

Reflect upon these questions in relation to the ‘nail/s’ you are currently sitting on.

  •  How big, sharp and painful are they?
  • How often do you notice them?What impact are they having on your life and career?
  • Do you notice any regrets by being stuck?
  • What impact are they having on others, especially your significant other, colleagues and clients?
  • Why do you think getting off these ‘nails’ is so hard?
  • When you think about the ‘nails’ you are on, what do you notice about your energy?
  • What is the biggest ‘nail’ you are on right now?
  • How would your life or career be different if you got off the largest and deepest nail?

2. Seek professional support and guidance

When it comes to your career, are you like the dog sitting on the nail?

The dog may have been able to see where he wanted to be, other than on the nail, but on his own could not manage the change! He was afraid and lacking in confidence in his own ability. He had got too used to the status quo. The pain of staying the same was less than the pain of change, in his view.

Lots of people are like that too! They need a little help to get them going once they have counted the cost, and realised they want something different. That is why an on-going coaching program, a support group, a buddy, a mentor or a personal coach is so important.

Threatening times generally prompt conservative behaviour which is the opposite of what is required to make a career move or transition. Whilst the timing for a career move may not be ideal right now, it’s a great time to carefully plan and strategise one.  You are responsible for your progress, but you do not have to go it alone!

Free ‘Make My Career Move Now’ Coaching Session

If you are seeking a career move to a position that fulfils a greater purpose and meaning please click here to apply now for a free 30 minute free consultation.

Warmest Regards,

3e5ca630 cbb1 4193 b8f9 bf424e1069ff Taking stock of your career in uncertain times

Dr Edward Gifford
p 1300 629 344 | m 0416 260 448


c1072f2c c5cd 4902 877d bdc42172040f 400x144 Are you setting conflicting goals?
In our desire to develop, grow and change we sometimes unknowingly set conflicting goals. It is as if we have one foot on the accelerator and another on the brake. We end up stationery, unable to proactively move forward with the change we are seeking.

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I think there are two types of goals that conflict – one type I’ll call objective, extrinsic or technical and the other subjective, intrinsic or what Lisa Lahey1 refers to as adaptive. Both can be conscious or unconscious though it is more likely that many of our conflicting goals are unconscious – initially anyway, until we become acutely self-aware as to what is causing this self-sabotage.

For example, at the more obvious technical or behavioural goal level, my goal to write a book and have it completed by a certain date may conflict with my business cash flow goals for the same period. If I were to be uncompromising on both, these in turn will deleteriously impact on each other and on another goal of implementing a daily success routine of exercise, meditation, and planning. Furthermore, these conflicting goals could end up being excuses for not implementing any goals at all. One thing is for certain, conflicting goals increase our anxiety levels from many perspectives. At this level of goal setting, we need to be aware of the ‘red flags’ that caution and warn us of goal conflict.

At a deeper level, when we are striving for self-improvement – to make adaptive or internal changes in our life, career or business, conflicting goals manifest themselves in a much more subtle way. For example, we may have goals such as to become a highly sought-after keynote speaker, to be better at time management, to lose weight and to keep it off, to be a more engaging leader, or even something as broad as building a successful business. In all of these, there are many behavioural or technical changes we can learn and apply. At this level, the goal can seem simple – we just learn the knowledge and skills and then implement them – right? Wrong! Of course, if it were that simple, we would never have trouble achieving our goals.

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Conflicting goals arise subconsciously within our ‘inner landscape’. Until we understand what is going on at this level, we will find adaptive change or transformative growth nearly impossible.

For example, I have worked with hundreds of small business owners and managers who deeply desire to leverage and grow their businesses and to have more time to work on their business rather than remain stuck working in it. Many have been facing burnout, are enormously stressed, and have no work-life integration. By their own admission, their situation is non-sustainable. Invariably, after further exploration, the goal of becoming better at time management emerges and part of this goal is to improve prioritising and delegation skills. They can see that delegation is one way of bringing sanity back into their situation but when they do so, they end up defaulting to micromanagement. Probing deeper we find that beneath all of this is a latent need for control. And that’s not the end of it!

So what’s going on here? What is causing the counterproductive behaviours that arise from inner goal conflict? In this case, when we dig deeper still, we end up with the usual suspect…fear. Fear of losing control, fear of someone else ‘stuffing up’, fear of losing income, fear of loss of reputation, fear of not being useful or of being dispensable or fear of loss of identity.

The presenting issue is never or very rarely the problem. The problem that we try to solve is much different from the one we thought we were trying to solve. In this example, while the presenting problem may have been stress, anxiety and overwhelm and the goal was to become better at time management, there are unconscious ‘inner self-protective goals’ in conflict. These include not to lose control, not to lose status and power, not to damage relationships, not to lose identity, not to be reduced to meaninglessness and so on. And the scariest of all is the unconscious and underlying assumption that ‘I won’t be needed around here anymore’ and that is an extremely stressful self-realisation. So we have come full circle to stress and anxiety again.

From the above, we can see that the forces acting against learning better time management strategies such as delegation, are enormous and may seem insurmountable. It’s as if we have an inbuilt ‘immunity to change’.1 Our human biology – the emotional part of our brain which we know as the amygdala is a self-protecting mechanism that always behaves to keep us safe – to protect us from difficult emotions and uncomfortable feelings. In this case, we end up staying in our comfort zone, we keep in the small lane where the best way of offering value and making a difference is to always do what we have always done…and always get what we’ve always got!

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We all have unconscious ‘stuff’ going on deep down inside of us which     forcibly acts against self-transformation.

It can be quite a shock when we first become aware of how strong our  limiting   beliefs, and underlying assumptions are and how our ‘old stories’ hold us back.

Being aware of and uncovering these is an important first step. It takes courage to look deep within ourselves to see what’s there and what is actually going on. But it’s also a great relief when we discover that others we know experience similar human frailties.

When we understand that our brain is biologically ‘wired’ to keep us safe and out of danger, our self-protective mechanism is just doing its job. For me, understanding this and thanking my brain for wanting to keep me safe was a huge breakthrough. It’s at this point of self-awareness that we can acknowledge that we no longer need our self-protective mechanism to keep us safe from the perceived fears of lack of control and contribution.

Dealing with these conflicting goals requires contemplative practice. This enables us to identify and get in touch with those challenging emotions that we try so hard to avoid and which act so powerfully against the change, growth and transformation we are seeking. Once we have identified them (e.g. humiliation, embarrassment, guilt, unworthiness, shame, frustration, disappointment, disgust, regret, anxiety and so on) one technique is to sit with these – uncomfortable as they might be, visualise their colour, size, position in our body and breathe into them – make space around them and let them be and…let them pass. They will certainly return but over time through mindfulness, self-awareness and meditation, they will fade as the brain learns that they are no longer a threat.

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Initially, you may need assistance from an experienced personal coach or  counsellor.

As your awareness increases in relation to the feelings and emotions associated  with your goals, you will be so much better equipped to deal with conflicting goals.

And the good news in relation to the example above is, that when those business owners and managers I worked with overcame their fear and understood the inner forces that conflicted with their goals, they transformed from micromanager to mentor; from ‘control freak’ to coach – and often with the same team members to whom they were so frightened to delegate in the first place!


Warmest Regards

3e5ca630 cbb1 4193 b8f9 bf424e1069ff Are you setting conflicting goals?

Dr Edward Gifford

Principal Consultant and Coach, On-Purpose Partners



1. Kegan, R & Laskow Lahey, L. (2009). Immunity to change: How to overcome it and unlock the potential in yourself and your organisation. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Press.

Happy Procrastanator2 Overcoming procrastination now!In Part 1 of this article I explored the psychology and neuroscience behind procrastination to help us understand why we procrastinate. I also discussed the high cost that procrastination can have in our lives and businesses, especially in preventing us from setting and keeping goals.

Our health, happiness, finances, self-worth, relationships and our dreams are all negatively impacted when we take little or no action on our hearts desires and the things that really give us meaning and fulfilment.

As previously noted, numerous books and articles have been written on this topic. Strategies to overcome procrastination abound including daily exercise, meditation, mindfulness, eating healthily, having meaningful, emotional and achievable goals and so on.

In Part 2 of this article, I will share some strategies that I have found to work for my clients and me.


Your brain is trying to “protect” you

Gaining success from implementing these will be largely dependent on recognising that your brain is trying to “protect” you. I suggest once you acknowledge and accept this, you will be more capable of dealing with procrastination and able to move forward positively with those things that are important to you.

The key is to notice your urges and emotions initiated by the limbic system; thank the brain for wanting to protect you; acknowledge that you usually have nothing to be fearful about and wait for your neo cortex to bring perspective and logic to the situation.

This will enable you to MOVE and ACT.

M = Move

So, the first step in overcoming procrastination is to stand up. Move!

Although procrastination might not be life threatening, the brain can misinterpret it as such. When you are procrastinating you are usually sitting down! So, taking action by standing up is your number 1 step.

For example, one of your goals might be to rise early to have an early morning daily success routine. This might consist of going for a walk, cycle, paddle or jog; investing time in mindfulness or meditation; reflecting on your goals (or ‘big rocks’) and planning your day. Accordingly, the alarm goes off, but your amygdala warns you that you may fail, and you are “not safe” going outside of your comfort zone and so you stay in bed. It discounts future rewards (positive habits to keep you physically, mentally and spiritually fit) in favour of immediate gratification (staying warm and safe in bed so you can conserve your energy for self-preservation).


By taking meaningful action, you will experience renewed motivation

Understanding what the limbic brain area is doing and why it is doing it, will enable you to focus on the long-term gain for short term pain. At this point, I suggest you put your alarm well away from the bed), so you must ‘move’ (i.e. get up) – to turn it off. You have just taken your first step to beating the amygdala! This first step could result in a regular early morning start, time to walk, meditate, reflect and plan for the day.

By taking meaningful action, you will experience renewed motivation and feeling good about yourself. Action leads to motivation which leads to more action as seen in this diagram.

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But moving means more than that. It involves a choice point. Basically, you either move away from the outcome you want and continue to procrastinate and behave unlike the person you want to be or move towards the outcome you want, acting effectively and behaving like the person you want to be.


Goals are best broken down into small steps then prioritised

This means that your goals are best broken down into small steps then prioritised. Next, set up milestones or mileposts, and organise an accountability partner or buddy.

Being able to take one small step is critical to breaking the procrastination cycle.

O = Observation

The second letter in MOVE is about practicing observation.

Procrastination involves self-absorption while successfully moving forward with your ‘big rocks’ involves the practice of self-observation.

As the diagram below shows, we have two minds – an ‘observing mind’ and a ‘thinking mind’.

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People who procrastinate typically attach to or “fuse” to their negative thoughts.

Relevant at this point is to understand that the ‘thinking mind’ has up to 60,000 thoughts per day and that 80% of these are negative. Learning how to manage approximately 40,000 negative thoughts per day may seem daunting and most of us don’t know how to do so.

Jennifer Read Hawthorn, author of Change Your Thoughts, Change Your World claims that we are creatures of habit because as many as 98% of our thoughts are the same as we had the day before. (See also Sharon Begley’s book Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain)

Whether these numbers are accurate or not, the point is that the ‘thinking mind’ produces an enormous number of thoughts each day and the majority of these are negative.


Negative thoughts are particularly draining and lead to procrastination

Negative thoughts are particularly draining and lead to procrastination. They diminish our self-worth, deplete our energy and produce corresponding neurotransmitters or chemicals that weaken our physiology. No wonder we feel exhausted at the end of the day! More than anything, they rob us of confidence and the belief that we can achieve our goals and heart’s desires.

Sometimes, the difficult thoughts and feelings show up in response to a challenge or achieving a goal and go something like this … ’Life is hard so I don’t want to do hard anymore’; ‘I don’t have enough energy to achieve my goals’; ‘I should be doing more’; ‘I can’t do this’; It’s going to be difficult’; and ‘I’m not productive unless there is something tangible to measure productivity’.

You get the idea. When we fuse to these negative thoughts we ‘become’ them thereby blinding us to engaging purposefully, proactively and productively with life. With attachment or fusion to negative thoughts and unhelpful thinking come unpleasant feelings. These rob us of our confidence, fuel procrastination and prevent us from stepping outside of our comfort zone.


Watch, notice and detach from unhelpful thoughts that fuel your procrastination

In contrast, by taking a ‘helicopter’ view and practicing self-observation we can watch and observe what our thinking mind is doing. As humans, at any moment, we have the capacity to observe our thoughts and thinking patterns. Instead of fusing or attaching to them we can notice what is happening. Instead of fusing to the thought “I’m not good enough” we can notice the thought and detach by saying to ourselves – “Ah, thank you thought, I know you. You are trying to protect me but I don’t need you right now.” You can decide what technique to use.

The point is watch, notice and detach from those unhelpful thoughts that fuel your procrastination. They’ll come back again because that’s what thinking minds do – they have thoughts. So, keep observing yourself as if you were watching someone else.

Freedom happens when you practice awareness.

V = Values

The third letter in MOVE calls for us to embrace our Values.

Moving in the direction of and being in alignment with our chosen values is another key to overcoming procrastination.

Our values are what are important to us and play a major role in governing our thoughts and behaviour (notwithstanding our personal style). Values are our heart’s deepest desires for how we want to behave as human beings. They are what we want to stand for in life, what sort of person we want to be and what sort of strengths and qualities we want to develop.

Values are not goals – goals have a start and finish, but values are enduring and never end – like travelling ‘west’. They are fundamental to business success too.


The solution is to know and connect with your Values

To use a metaphor, our values are like a compass. A compass gives you direction and keeps you on track when you are travelling. Our values (together with our Purpose) provide the same function in our business and life journey. We use them to choose the direction in which we want to move and to keep us on track as we go.

If you have not revisited your values recently or cannot state them effortlessly, then I strongly recommend that you do. For example, you might identify values such as Quality; Growth; Trust and Fulfilment. If you are a self-confessed, habitual procrastinator you can clearly see that procrastinating takes you away from your values.

The disconnect will be a major source of frustration. Perhaps your values are Nourishment, Growth, Possibilities, Belief, Responsibility and Persistence. In this case procrastination might cost you recognition and self-worth (contrary to Nourishment); achievement of your goals (contrary to Growth), no visible sign of change (contrary to Growth, Possibilities & Responsibility) and your freedom (contrary to Possibilities).

You get the picture! The solution is to know and connect with your Values (and your Purpose as I have written on many other occasions). Visit and review them daily when you rise and retire and ask the questions – How will I live out my values today and how did I live out my values today? Is procrastinating moving me in the direction of my chosen values?

E = End in Mind

The E in MOVE is inviting us to focus on the End Game.

Most of my readers will know Stephen Covey’s call to develop the habit of ‘Begin with the end in mind’. This is about actively and effectively moving towards the outcome you want and being like the person you want to be. It’s about having a razor-sharp Vision.


Your Vision should inspire you to move towards the picture you have painted

Most people I work with find it exceptionally difficult to have a crystal-clear picture of where they want their business to be or what it might look like. While ‘knowing’ and ‘being’ your Purpose gives you meaning and fulfilment, your Vision should be so strong that it inspires you daily to move incrementally towards the picture you have so vividly painted.

Somehow, without an energising Vision, we seem to shrivel into a meaningless existence. Our business becomes routine, boring, reactive, disorganised, unfulfilling and so too does our personal life.

As the old Proverb says: “Without vision the people will perish”.

Summary of Strategies

As we are moving well into the second part of the year, I’m encouraging you to finish it strongly.


To procrastinate or not, is a choice

As humans, we all have let ourselves become the victim of procrastination from time to time. But ultimately, unless we have a diagnosed medical issue which drains our energy and motivation or some other calamity, to procrastinate or not, is a choice.

Here is a summary of practical steps to help you MOVE from procrastination to purposeful progress.


  • Take action – stand up and take the first step.
  • Move away from the thoughts and behaviour you want to avoid.
  • Move towards the outcome you want, acting effectively and behaving like the person you want to be.
  • Break down your goals into small steps, so you know you can take your first steps and not fail. Being able to take one small step is critical to breaking the procrastination cycle.
  • Understand that action leads to motivation which leads to more action.


  • Practice self-observation. Watch yourself as if you were watching another person.
  • Notice when you are procrastinating and the negative thoughts that are present.
  • Let the thoughts pass and don’t fuse or attach to them. Defuse and detach using self-observation.
  • Remember that your thoughts are just that. They are not reality. They only have the meaning you give to them.
  • You are not your thoughts.
  • Self-Observation is the key to awareness.


  • Rewrite or revisit your Values.
  • Recite them so you know them.
  • Observe them in practice daily.
  • When you notice yourself procrastinating, ask yourself am I acting in alignment with my Purpose and Values?
  • How important are your values to you … really?
  • Can you continue life and business meaningfully when violating your values?

End in Mind

  • Focus on your End Game.
  • Draw or find inspiring graphics that represent your Vision (both for yourself and your business)
  • Be able to visually see your Vision Board daily.
  • Talk about your Vision to key stakeholders.
  • Revisit it (together with your Values) at every team or management meeting
  • Celebrate your ‘wins’ and milestones daily and at team meetings that are moving you towards your Vision.

Finally, even with just four strategies to help you overcome procrastination, there is a lot to think about and implement.

It’s tough trying to get “unstuck” on your own and remember to exercise some self-compassion along the way.

While you need to MOVE, you will also need to ACT (Accountability, Commitment, Target).

I strongly recommend that you have an accountability partner to whom you can make your commitments and who can powerfully assist you achieve your targets.

Bessel van der Kolk, a leading (trauma) psychiatrist supports the need to MOVE and ACT. He says: “Taking action is the core issue … it’s in action that people take back their power and words cannot substitute for action.”

If you have resonated strongly with anything in this article, or if you would like assistance in overcoming procrastination, please give me a call.

64a04451 3055 44d0 bc7f 6a3b467665fe Understanding procrastination now!In a recent article I suggested that you reflect on the ‘big rocks’ in your life or business and on how to ensure you schedule your priorities by putting them in ‘The Jar’ first.

At a personal level, these might be a project that YOU want to accomplish: time with your loved ones, faith issues, your education, your finances, a cause, or teaching or mentoring others. For many business owners it might be a goal or key driver for your business.

The point was to put the BIG ROCKS in the jar first or you’ll never get them in at all. The ‘pebbles’, ‘sand’ and ‘water’ will always get in the way of achieving what matters most in your life or business

So why is it that though we know what the ‘big rocks’ are, and we want to achieve them so badly, that we procrastinate?

In this article I would like to explore the psychology and neuroscience that provides clues as to why we procrastinate. A future article will focus on key strategies to overcome it so that you can achieve your desired #1 ‘big rock’.

The Procrastination Cycle

Most of us have been in the procrastination cycle in our lives at one time or another (e.g. putting off cleaning the stove, repairing a leaky roof, seeing a doctor or dentist, submitting a job report or academic assignment or broaching a stressful issue with a partner) and no matter how much we wish or try not to be, we remain ‘stuck’.


we use activities and substances to avoid positive action

Our life seems to spiral downwards. Often we end up using ‘treats’ such as alcohol and chocolate or activities including work or shopping to try to overcome the mood which keeps us stuck in the cycle. We wait until we “feel like it” and use activities and substances to avoid positive action.

The Cost of Procrastination

However, procrastination always comes at a cost. What is it costing your business in terms of relationships with customers, lost deals, promotions, trade, cashflow, or self-worth? What about relationships that have floundered?

Maybe you have wanted to break or strengthen a relationship for some time, but you hope it will just happen by magic or the issue/s will go away. Maybe, like many, you have put off making a hard decision because you dislike conflict.


procrastination has been linked to higher stress levels

Clearly procrastination is a major negative force on us achieving growth in our lives and business and preventing us from setting and keeping goals. Health, happiness, finances and dreams are impacted when we take no action on our heart’s desires and the things that matter most. Our self-worth takes a battering also.

Have you gone down in your own estimation because you haven’t done what you wanted to do? In general, procrastination has been linked to higher stress levels, worse health, lower well-being and lower salaries.

Despite our best intentions, we fail to accomplish tasks and the gap between those intentions and actions widen. We know what we ought to do but we still just don’t do it.

The Psychology of Procrastination

Procrastination is largely about avoidance. By not starting or acting on our goals we avoid the fear of failure, the fear of success and all the uncomfortable or negative feelings that go with these.

In order not to fail at a task and experience the disillusionment and rejection that we think might follow, we don’t perform it at all. Some procrastinators would rather have other people think that they lack effort rather than ability.


in order not to fail at a task we don’t perform it at all

From a neurological perspective, when an activity is particularly challenging or overwhelming, the amygdala or emotional part of our brain activates a ‘fight’, ‘flight’, ’freeze’ or ‘flop’ response to protect us from perceived danger – in this case, negative feelings. So, we seek short term gratification and pleasure which dopamine provides as a temporary relief to the stress of the situation.

That is why in the face of overwhelm and feeling bad about our inaction, we look for rewards or short-term gratification to make us feel better about ourselves. We indulge ourselves in ‘me time’ rewarding ourselves with substances such as alcohol and chocolate or we become workaholics or shopaholics. These negative substances and activities suck all the energy out of us and we remain stuck and unmotivated through inaction.

The frustration is that neither avoidance nor ‘me time’ delivers the result we want. We end up trading small failures with big failures long term. We settle for short term gain rather than run the risk of perceived long-term pain.

The Neuroscience of Procrastination

It is helpful to understand procrastination from a neuroscientific perspective. This requires an elementary understanding of the brain and the interaction especially between the limbic system (Mid brain) and the prefrontal cortex (Neocortex or ‘smart’ brain).

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The limbic system, sometimes referred to as the ‘emotional brain’, is the reactive part of usthat initiates a ‘fight’, ‘flight’, ‘freeze’ or ‘flop’ response. Its primary function is to keep us safe. For example, the amygdala (part of the limbic system) is like an early warning mechanism with the motto ‘safety first’. It immediately puts a safety plan into effect before consulting the executive brain (the neocortex). This explains why we jump instinctively to get away from a snake like object only to find it to be a hose in the grass once the pre-frontal cortex comes ‘on line’ again.

The neocortex is our ‘smart brain’ or the executive part of our system that is responsible for all high-order conscious activity such as language, abstract thought, creativity and imagination. It also houses much of our biographical and automatic memories (along with the hippocampus and other parts of the brain).


the clash between these two systems lies at the basis of procrastination

It is the super-fast reacting limbic system, (the older and more primitive part of the brain) that regulates cravings and desires and is concerned about immediate pleasure – not really caring about the future. On the other hand, the prefrontal cortex, (the more evolutionary recent decision-making centre located behind our forehead) uses a lot of energy, tires quickly, requires training to work more effectively, and is not as strong as the limbic system.

It is the clash between these two systems that lies at the basis of procrastination. Living in modern times where our personal safety is not constantly on the line, the ability of the pre-frontal cortex to make rational decisions, to organize and to inhibit inappropriate behaviour is needed. In the past, it was the instinctual nature of the limbic system that promoted survival through immediate action without preoccupation for future consequences. Keeping us safe was the goal.

According to Piers Steel, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Human Resources, University of Calgary, procrastination happens when the primitive, pleasure-seeking and pain-avoiding limbic system acts too quickly for the rational pre-frontal cortex to catch up. In this way, procrastination is described as the art of making intentions that get overridden, even if this is disadvantageous.


can’t distinguish between an attacking bear and an unread email

In other words, according to Steel, when your brain wants to procrastinate on something important for you to do or achieve, it is trying to avoid a perceived threat. The amygdala, the fear centre of the limbic system, is not familiar with the modern world, and can’t distinguish between an attacking bear and an unread email.

As a result, it activates pretty much the same response in both cases, triggering the release of stress hormones necessary to cope with a ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ situation.

In addition, since the brain would very much prefer to be flooded with the pleasure hormone Dopamine, instead of having to deal with stress neurotransmitters, it pushes us towards abandoning the stressful task in favour of a more rewarding one.

6cb6968b ec0a 418e aee8 fb7e89514955 Understanding procrastination now!

the instinctual part of the brain tries to keep you in bed

Furthermore, procrastinating saves energy. All jobs that are not evolutionarily essential like eating or having sex, can be put off, thereby saving energy in case we experience threatening situations. So, while your modern, logical and goal-oriented prefrontal cortex understands that going for a run every morning can help you achieve long-term better health, the instinctual part of the brain tries to keep you in bed, so you can conserve energy. One never knows what threats the day may bring!

To put it in the words of another psychology professor Timothy A. Pychyl, from Carleton University in Ottawa, “the second we stop actively controlling our urges with logical reasoning, our limbic system takes over and happily “discounts future rewards in favour of immediate gratification”.


What I hope has been helpful to this point, is using the developing field of neuroscience to help you understand why we procrastinate. It is evident that procrastination has been part of the human condition for thousands of years. Aristotle and Socrates used the word akrasia to refer to procrastination – akrasia meaning “the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgment through weakness of will”.

In 44 B.C., Cicero condemned procrastination as “hateful”. In the book of Romans in the New Testament, St Paul wrote “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7.15 New International Version)


procrastination has been with us for thousands of years

This human problem has survived all the way to the 21st century and is now further complicated by the wide range of distractions available 24/7, many of which are often just one click away.

Recognising that procrastination has been with us for thousands of years and that there is a perfectly logical reason for it, means we don’t need to beat ourselves up about being a procrastinator. However, we can implement strategies to calm or regulate the amygdala and keep the pre-frontal cortex on line, so we can take desired, intentional and meaningful action.

Many books and articles have been written on this topic. Strategies abound including daily exercise, meditation, mindfulness, eating healthily, having meaningful, emotional and achievable goals and so on.

In a future article I will share strategies to overcome procrastination that have worked for my clients and me.

Sorry to make you wait! Stay tuned.

c33903d2 72aa 4de4 b36e dca34f755aa7 Prioritise your ‘Big Rocks’

The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.
Stephen Covey

As we come to the middle of the year it’s time to stop, reflect and reset. I did this over the weekend with a group of dedicated entrepreneurs. It was so energising, motivating and … hugely beneficial.

We commence the year, focussed, energised by our goals and then after about 90 days, life catches up with us and we tend to relax back into our comfort zone. Life throws us curve balls too and we either end up on a ‘roller coaster ride’ or get caught on the ‘merry-go-round’.

I’m reminded of the story about priorities by Stephen Covey in First Things First, to ‘get back on-purpose’. Jim Collins in his book Good to Great revisits this story also.

It goes like this …

One day, a time management expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students would never forget.

As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers, he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then, he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on a table in front of him.

Screenshot 2018 09 19 10.51.14 400x292 Prioritise your ‘Big Rocks’

Then he produced about a number of fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

0f0811c9 466c 4d07 acc1 0c5f60d9e865 Prioritise your ‘Big Rocks’
Then, he asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time, the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered.

“Good!” he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

afeb0020 1214 49a6 abe7 30aebe8f3b30 Prioritise your ‘Big Rocks’

“No!” the class shouted. Once again, he said, “Good!” Then, he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then, he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

c5bfe709 6c47 4db9 a5a8 6e3a43c9f71d Prioritise your ‘Big Rocks’
One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

What are the ‘big rocks’ in your life? A project that YOU want to accomplish? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your finances? A cause? Teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put the BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all.

What are the ‘big rocks’ in my life or business?

So, tonight, or in the morning, when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question: What are the ‘big rocks’ in my life or business? Then put those in your jar first.

Many of us have a daily practice of filling the jar with pebbles and sand … and we are ‘busy’ doing just that. How often do you greet people and ask them how they are and get the answer, “I’m really busy”! But busy doing what?

The ‘sand’ in our working lives is all the low priority tasks that constantly demand our attention such as emails, social media, phone calls. Many people I know commence the day by opening their inbox. So often we want the quick wins to tick off our ‘to-do-list’ that we keep focussing on the sand and pebbles. Before you know it, its mid-afternoon, mid-week or mid-month and the big rocks are still out of the picture.

The ‘pebbles’ represent the higher value tasks that are not critical strategic drivers of your business or career (meetings, reports, quotes, social interaction and so on).

… a Big Hairy Audacious Goal …

Focussing on the ‘big rocks’ accelerates your progress towards your long-term goals and vision. (This whole story assumes that you have a clear vision or a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) as Jim Collins puts it.

Thanks to taking time out to review, refocus, readjust and reset my goals, it became clear that one of my ‘big rocks’ had disappeared. While I still had focus on the other important strategic drivers, I experienced a nagging and sometime depressing frustration that one of my big, meaningful and important goals had been ignored. I wonder if you ever feel like that too?

On reflection, I think there were several reasons for this. Firstly, I believe my vision was unbelievable. Secondly, my daily/weekly jar was full of pebbles and sand; Thirdly, I had taken my eye off the big rocks; and fourthly, I am guilty of the ‘bright shiny syndrome’.

Often my fascination is with new projects and the temptation to chase the next bright shiny thing means my energy will always go towards the newest and exciting project, and consequently, away from my key goals and projects. Finally, I did not review my top priorities or ‘big rocks’ frequently or consistently.

… take time to plan for the rest of the year …

I strongly encourage you to take time this week or over the weekend to plan for the rest of the year – or at least the next 90 days. Ask and answer these questions.

  1. Am I on-purpose?
  2. Is my vision relevant, believable and inspirational?
  3. Where am I now in relation to the goals I set at the beginning of the year?
  4. Are my goals in alignment with my vision and/or my BHAG?
  5. Do I need to adjust these?
  6. What 3 ‘big rocks’ will I focus on in the next 90–180 days?
  7. Who needs to be involved to help prioritise these?
  8. Are they tangible, achievable, measurable, meaningful and inspirational?
  9. Where will these show up in my weekly calendar?
  10. What are the milestones that will keep me/us focussed and on-track?
  11. What are the completion dates?

If you have a team, meet with them to determine the three ‘big rocks’ for the quarter and ensure that all members of the leadership team have their own three ‘big rocks’ with due dates. Having weekly, monthly and quarterly review meetings will be essential.

… laser focussing on our 3-5 most impactful strategies …

We cannot focus on everything at once. As the saying goes, when everything is important, nothing is important. By laser focussing on our 3-5 most impactful strategies, we declutter our mind (and to-do list) and progress improves exponentially.

As William James so wisely stated – ‘That which holds the attention, determines the action’.

Take the first steps now. What are your 3-5 Big Rocks for the next 3-6 months?

Please let me know if I can assist you in prioritising and implementing your ‘big rocks’ over the next 6 months so that you experience the deep satisfaction and fulfilment of truly being on-purpose!

muddled thoughts The Multi Tasking Myth

“ A man who chases two rabbits catches none. ”
v                                            – Roman Proverb

It may surprise you to hear that people who multi-task are actually less productive than those who just concentrate on one project at a time. (Yep, that’s us blokes. Haven’t you heard the ladies say: “He’s a man! What do you expect? He can only do one thing at a time.”)

For both men and women, our brains are not built to multi-task. They are designed to focus on one thing at a time and bombarding them with information only slows them down. (If you don’t believe me, try listening to your car radio when you are driving to a new location on a busy road. The volume is invariably turned down or off).


“… when people think they’re multi-tasking,
they’re actually just switching from one task to another …”

The research of Bergman (along with MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller) notes that our brains are “not wired to multitask well… when people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.” So, if you think you are good at multitasking you are simply good at being faster at switching back and forth between two things.

Why multi-tasking is bad for us

A Harvard Business Review post claimed multi-tasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity, increased stress, and a 10% drop in IQ (Bergman, 2010). Here’s some of the research around this.

Produces addictive habits

The constant task-switching encourages bad brain habits. When we complete a tiny task (sending an email, answering a text message, posting a tweet), we are hit with a dollop of dopamine which is our reward hormone. As our brains love dopamine we’re encouraged to keep switching between small mini-tasks that give us instant and constant gratification.

This creates a dangerous feedback loop that makes us feel like we’re being really productive, when we’re actually not doing much at all (or at least nothing requiring much critical thinking). In fact, some even refer to email/Twitter/Facebook-checking as a neural addiction.

Lowers performance and reduces productivity

Multi-tasking makes it more difficult to organize thoughts and filter out irrelevant information, and it reduces the efficiency and quality of our work.

Ophir, Nass, and Wagner (2009) discovered that people who reported multi-tasking more frequently (heavy multi-taskers) were actually more prone to being distracted compared with those who reported multi-tasking less frequently (light multi-taskers). Heavy multi-taskers tend to have a hard time filtering out irrelevant stimuli from their environment, and are distracted by the multiple things that they’re trying to allocate their attention to.

In essence, heavy multi-taskers may be “sacrificing performance on the primary task to let in other sources of information” (Ophir, Nass, & Wagner, 2009, p. 155).

So multi-tasking reduces our efficiency and performance because our brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.

You might believe that you have a special gift for multi-tasking.

Here’s what the Stanford researchers concluded. They compared groups of people based on their tendency to multi-task and their belief that it helps their performance. They found that heavy multi-taskers—those who multi-task a lot and feel that it boosts their performance—were actually worse at multi-tasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time.

Lowers IQ

In addition to reducing your productivity and performance, multi-tasking lowers your IQ.

A study at the University of London showed that subjects who multi-tasked while performing cognitive tasks experienced significant IQ drops. In fact, the IQ drops were similar to what you see in individuals who skip a night of sleep or who smoke marijuana. Now that’s a terrifying consequence!

An IQ drop of 15 points in multi-tasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child. So, think twice the next time you’re writing your boss an email during a meeting. Remember that your cognitive capacity is being diminished to the point that you might as well let an 8-year-old write it for you!

Causes brain damage

It was previously understood that cognitive impairment from multi-tasking was temporary, but new research suggests otherwise.Researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK studied the effects from the amount of time people spend on multiple devices (such as texting while watching TV). From MRI scans they found that high multi-taskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control. So multi-tasking has a negative impact on our Emotional Intelligence also.While more research is needed to determine if multi-tasking is physically damaging the brain (versus existing brain damage that predisposes people to multi-task), it’s clear that multi-tasking has negative effects.Neuroscientist Kep Kee Loh, the study’s lead author, explained the implications: “I feel that it is important to create an awareness that the way we are interacting with the devices might be changing the way we think and these changes might be occurring at the level of brain structure.”So every time you multi-task you aren’t just harming your performance in the moment; you may very well be damaging an area of your brain that’s critical to your future success at work.

Summary of learnings about multi-tasking

If you’re prone to multi-tasking, this is not a habit you’ll want to indulge—

  • It slows us down and decreases the quality of our work. People who multi-task are less productive/efficient than those who simply concentrate on one project a time.
  • We don’t actually “multi-task” because our brain switches rapidly between handling one task and then another.
  • Allowing ourselves to multi-task will exacerbate any existing difficulties we have with concentration, organization, and attention to detail.
  • Multi-tasking in meetings and other social settings indicates low Self and Social Awareness -two emotional intelligence (EQ) skills that are critical to success at work.
  • TalentSmart has tested more than a million people and found that 90% of top performers have high EQs. If multi-tasking does indeed damage the anterior cingulate cortex (a key brain region for EQ) as current research suggests, it will lower your EQ in the process.

How can you change?

Essentially, in the work environment of today, we are talking about time management. At the obvious and basic level, to avoid switching try to implement the following routines into your day.

  • Simplify your life and your tasks and do fewer things better.
  • Don’t allow your inbox to dictate your day.
  • Set specific times for writing and reading emails.
  • Switch off those annoying and demanding electronic distractions which notify you of incoming emails and messages.
  • Make priority lists daily (before switching on your laptop)

At a deeper level, I suggest doing a lot more to stop these bad habits and insidious distractions impacting your brain and performance.

  • Become more self-aware. Notice when and why you switch from one task to another. Are you doing it out of procrastination, to alleviate boredom or to avoid doing something more difficult and demanding? Or has it now become a really bad habit?
  • Practice mindfulness at work. When you are in the middle of a project or an important task notice what is going on for you. When you are “in the flow” or “in the zone” time seems to race by. Notice the energy, the intentionality and sense of purpose flowing through you when you are mindfully engaged. In these times you are on-purpose and you will be less inclined to multi-task.
  • Live and work in the now. Our lives are over fragmented. Next time you are out with family, friends or a colleague (even for coffee) stay focussed and enjoy the moment. (I have noticed even in restaurants, that people are engaged with their electronic devices and not with each other). This is tragic and producing a “head down” society increasingly unable to meaningfully connect and engage with each other. Notice when you are doing this and stop it!

Final Notes

So, next time someone tells you they are great at time management because they multi-task, perhaps you have something to share with them!

If you would like to improve your productivity and performance in the work place please shoot me through an email or give me a call.  I’d love to assist you.

Dr Edward Gifford

Managing Director On-Purpose Partners
Principal Consultant Executive Career Move

arrowfeet Freeing Yourself from Divided InterestWhen do I say “yes” and when do I say “no”?

Having recently had another birthday I got thinking about life, time and what I might do with the remainder of my earthly time frame.

None of us knows what this time frame might be but as we get older we sure know that our time on earth goes very quickly.

It’s a bit scary as well as sobering and challenging!

What I do know is that each of us has a Purpose and we are called to live this out in all aspects of our lives whether it is work, family, relationships, finances or in our physical, intellectual and spiritual life accounts.

I also am aware that confusing and divided interests have a high cost.

… The more divided our interests, the more
diluted our lives can become …

Every relationship we nurture, every activity in which we engage, every cause we get involved with, and every decision about what we will own and where we will live has a time, energy, concentration, and often financial cost attached to it. They all require some investment of life. The more divided our interests, the more diluted our lives can become.

To use a business analogy, the advice consistently received and given at business marketing seminars and workshop is to ensure your target market is “an inch wide and a mile deep”. Using a scatter gun approach to business is costly both in terms of time and money. A laser beam is more effective than a fluorescent light when it comes to focussing on your target market!

… Knowing your number one core want or top priority
is exhilarating and freeing …

I don’t want to push the analogy too far. But I am suggesting that our life in general should be like knowing our targeting market. We need to use a laser beam when it comes to investing our time wisely and intentionally in each of our seven life “accounts”. Knowing your number one core want or top priority for each, is exhilarating and freeing.

Your life will no longer be “out of control” nor will you get pulled in a thousand different directions as you live up to others’ expectations.


anonymous Freeing Yourself from Divided Interest

Here is an example of someone who undertook this process as part of the On-Purpose® Personal Leadership and Coaching Program.

After brainstorming his wants in each of the seven life accounts (usually around 12 to 16 for each life area) he developed his ‘core’ or number one want for each. These were his heart’s desires and reflected his current season of life. (Our wants and priorities do change as we find ourselves in different circumstances and as we transition to different life seasons).

Life Account (LA): Vocational/Career
Core Want or Top Priority (CW): Work to be a creative expression of my life’s meaning

LA: Spiritual
CW: Be closer to “god”

LA: Family
CW: Become a stronger leader in my family

LA: Physical/Health/Recreational
CW: Feeling radiant

LA: Social/Friends
CW: Invest time with those who energise and uplift me

LA: Intellectual
CW: Being creative – researching, writing and sharing

LA: Financial
CW: Develop wisdom in my attitude and use of money

LA: Other
CW: Honestly confront my relationship with “Tammy” (alias)

Now you might see this as a fluorescent light across his life but over 100 “wants” were lasered down to one for each of his life accounts. Through using the On-Purpose® Tournament Process he was able to move from confusion to clarity. (Each of these was turned into an On-Purpose® SMART goal with accompanying action steps to achieve these).

This process can give you profound insights into your life and confidence to move in the direction of your chosen visions, missions and values.

These of course are not your Purpose but they nevertheless should align with it.

… We can live with clarity and not in a state of confusion …

So when we get clarity around what matters most in our life, we no longer need to march to the beat of other people’s drums. We can live with clarity and not in a state of confusion.

What will be certain is that you will not be heard to say …“my life is out of control” and that is because you are free from divided interests.

You will be able to confidently, clearly and more consistently say “yes” to your carefully considered top priorities and “no” more often to those things that take you off track, drain your energy and distract you from aligning your life to your Purpose and core values.

… your life is too important to be left to chance …

So, how about undertaking an “audit” on your life? Divided interests are costly and your life is too important to be left to chance, distracting projects and unnecessary anxieties.

Maybe it’s time for you to re-examine your relationships, vocations, activities, commitments, possessions, and living arrangements and to find what you want most from life.

Are you up for the challenge?

As Socrates once famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living!”

Maybe right now you are wanting to manage your life better and get the important things done; have more time with your partner, family and friends; unshackle the thinking that has held you back; set clear, purposeful goals in your seven “life accounts”; do the things you really want to do and get more fun back into your life.

… be clear about what you want, prioritise these,
action them and implement them …

Our On-Purpose® Life Planning and Coaching Program will lead you to your core wants in all areas of your life.

Our unique tools and processes ensure that you will be clear about what you want, prioritise these, action them and implement them.

You will gain a clear vision for each of your seven life “accounts”, you will have clear missions for your life and values that are in alignment with your purpose, visions and missions.

Now how powerful is that?

So if you are sick and tired of being sick and tired or if you would like clarity, wisdom and support in planning a life that is on-purpose, we would love to help.

For more information about how this can become a reality for you please send me an email or give me a call.

Dr Edward Gifford
Principal Consultant and CEO (Chief Enthusiasm Officer)
On-Purpose Partners Pty Ltd
0416 260 448

mousetrapped e1431301024443 Are You Caught in the Work Trap?

What are you doing with your weekends?

Three things promoted me to write this article.

First, the realisation that I need to get my working life into perspective and to practice what I preach!

Second, an article I recently read by Travis Bradberry on ‘How successful people work less and get more done’.

Thirdly, a few weeks ago I had a complete weekend off – went boating, caught some fish, walked and talked with my wife Angela and our chocolate brown labrador – Poppy, (yes, dogs talk too) and generally chilled out.


So much so that Angela and Poppy (pictured below) have talked about it nearly every day since!

251f24e7 0a18 4386 9850 7c1b1b20a664 Are You Caught in the Work Trap?

And I want to do that more often as increasingly I’m working longer hours and often over weekends too! (Those of you who own a business or have high responsibility as an employee know how easily it is to get trapped into 24/7).

I think there is a serious condition called the Work Trap and we need time to ‘unplug’ (no longer ‘unwind’) from the day-to-day to get more perspective, think more deeply and reflect on the bigger picture of our lives.

 … people who work as much as 70 hours per week
only achieve the same amount as people who work 55 hours

A new study from Stanford found that productivity per hour declines sharply when the work week exceeds 50 hours and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours there’s no point in working any more. Apparently, people who work as much as 70 hours per week (or more) only achieve the same amount as people who work 55 hours.

Successful people know the importance of shifting gears on the weekend to relaxing and rejuvenating activities.

Those who have participated in our Power of Your Purpose programs, will recall the activity where we work together on building your ideal On-Purpose day or weekend. Both of these create space and quality time for the things that matter most – your core wants and top priorities which align with your Purpose and Values.

This might be less difficult than you think!

familypicnic 400x265 Are You Caught in the Work Trap?

Creating Life Integration on Weekends

Activities that successful people do to create life integration on weekends

So, drawing on the post by Travis Bradberry, here are practical things that successful people do on the weekend to re-enter work on Monday morning feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

1. Disconnect
Disconnecting is the most important weekend strategy on this list, because if you can’t find a way to remove yourself electronically from your work Friday evening through Monday morning, then you’ve never really left work.

Making yourself available to your work 24/7 exposes you to a constant barrage of stressors that prevent you from refocusing and recharging. If taking the entire weekend off handling work e-mails and calls isn’t realistic, try designating specific times on Saturday and Sunday for checking e-mails and responding to voicemails. Scheduling short blocks of time to attend to emails will alleviate stress without sacrificing availability.

2. Minimise chores
Chores have a funny habit of completely taking over your weekends. When this happens, you lose the opportunity to relax and reflect. What’s worse is that a lot of chores feel like work. So if you spend all weekend doing them, you just put in a seven-day work week. To keep this from happening, you need to schedule your chores like you would anything else during the week, and if you don’t complete them during the allotted time, you move on and finish them the following weekend.

3. Reflect
Weekly reflection is a powerful tool for improvement. Use the weekend to contemplate the larger forces that are shaping your industry, your organization, and your job. Without the distractions of Monday to Friday busy work, you should be able to see things in a whole new light. Use this insight to alter your approach to the coming week, improving the efficiency and efficacy of your work.

4. Exercise
You have 48 hours every weekend to make it happen. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a soothing neurotransmitter that reduces stress. Exercise is also a great way to come up with new ideas. Innovators and other successful people know that being outdoors often sparks creativity.

Whether you’re running, walking, cycling or gardening, exercise leads to endorphin-fuelled introspection. The key is to find a physical activity that does this for you and then to make it an important part of your weekend routine.

5. Pursue a passion
You might be surprised what happens when you pursue something you’re passionate about on weekends. Indulging your passions is a great way to escape stress and to open your mind to new ways of thinking. Things like playing music, reading, writing, painting, or even playing with your kids can help stimulate different modes of thought that can reap huge dividends over the coming week.

6. Spend quality time with family
Spending quality time with your family on the weekend is essential if you want to recharge and relax. Weekdays are so hectic that the entire week can fly by with little quality family time. Don’t let this bleed into your weekends. Take your kids to the park, take your spouse to his or her favourite restaurant, go to the movies and go visit your parents. You’ll be glad you did.

7. Schedule micro-adventures
Buy tickets to a concert or play or get reservations for that new hotel that just opened downtown. Instead of running on a treadmill, plan a hike. Try something you haven’t done before or perhaps something you haven’t done in a long time. Studies show that anticipating something good to come is a significant part of what makes the activity pleasurable. Knowing that you have something interesting planned for Saturday will not only be fun come Saturday, but it will significantly improve your mood throughout the week.

8. Wake up at the same time
It’s tempting to sleep in on the weekend to catch up on your sleep. Though it feels good temporarily, having an inconsistent wake-up time disturbs your circadian rhythm. Your body cycles through an elaborate series of sleep phases in order for you to wake up rested and refreshed. One of these phases involves preparing your mind to be awake and alert, which is why people often wake up just before their alarm clock goes off (the brain is trained and ready).

When you sleep past your regular wake-up time on the weekend, you end up feeling groggy and tired. This isn’t just disruptive to your day off, it also makes you less productive on Monday because your brain isn’t ready to wake up at your regular time. If you need to catch up on sleep, just go to bed earlier.

9. Prepare for the upcoming week
The weekend is a great time to spend a few moments planning your upcoming week. As little as 30 minutes of planning can yield significant gains in productivity and reduced stress. The week feels a lot more manageable when you go into it with a plan because all you have to focus on is execution.

Final comments

Trying to implement all of these at once will be overwhelming. So next weekend pick one or two of these to get you started. Commence with the ones that will give you the most meaning and fulfilment. Start planning your weekends intentionally. None of these will happen unless you are really serious about breaking the Work Trap.

While you are planning your next weekend, get some overall perspective back into your life and ask the big questions:

  • What is the ultimate purpose of my life, work or career?
  • What am I living for?
  • What do I want my life to be about and stand for?

Wait for the answers to emerge from deep within you. They will come. Just give them time and space.

One more tip. Start observing yourself more. Watch your actions and thoughts as you develop deeper self-awareness about your life and work. We are all so self-absorbed we give little time to being self-aware.

So now it’s up to you but many people find a coach useful for accountability. If you need some assistance to get you going, please give me a call or send me an email.

This is too important to be left to chance.

© Dr Edward Gifford, On-Purpose Partners®

happy man Being a Top Performer Part 3    Where Mindset and Actions Align & Mastery and Mojo Meet

In my previous two posts on being a TOP (The On-Purpose) Performer I talked about the difference between having a Think Inc! / ME Inc! Mindset (Thinking Incorporated) and a Stink Inc!/ ME Stink! (Stinking Thinking) mindset.

TOP Performers have a Think Inc! mindset and are also motivated by the satisfaction that comes from being “On-Purpose” – they understand how they fulfil the needs of others and they find meaning in what they do.  They take their job to the next level by thinking like the owner of an organisation.

The mindset position you take will make a crucial impact on your performance and productivity whether you are a business owner, manager, team leader or team member.  It has a profound impact on your career and job fulfilment and satisfaction.

In the diagram below, Kevin W McCarthy shows four main types of people in businesses and organisations in terms of their performance.  As you can see here, TOP Performers have high levels of technical expertise and motivation.  They have “High Technical” as well as “High Tingle”.

Which quadrant are you in?

This is a crucial question to ask yourself if you want to excel in your position, business or career.

 Screen Shot 2014 07 29 at 5.47.36 pm Being a Top Performer Part 3    Where Mindset and Actions Align & Mastery and Mojo Meet

Where Mojo and Mastery Meet

In my model below, I explore how “Technical” and “Tingle” powerfully impact your performance, contribution and sense of Purpose. This is captured through the words Mastery and Mojo.

If Mastery has an impact on Mojo, what are the psychological and behavioural implications of this in your workplace and career?

I like developing models and after a bit of ‘doodling’, I came up with the following.  For want of a better name I have called it the M2 Energy model.

 Screen Shot 2014 07 29 at 5.47.50 pm Being a Top Performer Part 3    Where Mindset and Actions Align & Mastery and Mojo Meet

Quadrant 1 – Mastery:

I see so many people in this quadrant.  They usually are highly experienced, have high skill level but have lost their mojo. Many are tired, they are often bored and lack self-motivation.  Their energy is gone. They are no longer engaged in their work or business.

Maybe you have been in the one position or business for too long, or you are managing people like this.

If you are (or you have staff) in this quadrant there are serious implications for management, careers and job satisfaction.  The cost to you, your team and the organisation is high.

I strongly recommend you consider the following to help move you to Quadrant 4 – High Mastery and High Mojo. Your behaviour is governed by your thinking so it’s imperative to change your thinking patterns.

  • Start noticing your thoughts and behaviours.  This is the first step to changing your thinking and in-turn your behaviour. Are you spending too much time “below the line?”
  • Ask yourself the questions – “what do I want to do with my life?”  “What do I want my life to stand for?”
  • Invest time into being mindful. Become focussed on self-observation rather than self-absorption!
  • Reignite your vision and write some SMART goals for your career or business.
  • Get a coach or mentor to help you set and keep goals. You coach will also help you form new habits and break unwanted ones. There is a wise old saying “We are what we repeatedly do”.  There is another old proverb which goes something like this… “As a person thinks in his/her heart so he/she will become”.

Over long periods, our patterns of thinking become etched into the billions of neurons in our brains, connecting them in unique entrenched patterns. The first step to changing your thinking is to observe your thinking.  TOP Performers practice mindfulness.

So start noticing those thoughts and see just how they are serving you and others. It may come as quite a shock to you.

You may not realise it but your lack of Mojo, despite your high level of competence, has a draining and detrimental effect on others in your work-place. It’s impossible to plateau for long.  You are either “green and growing” or “brown and dying”.

Quadrant 2 – Meaninglessness:

Where there is low mastery and low mojo there is a serious problem.

I was in this quadrant once, not because I was useless but because it was the wrong job fit for me.  It was the most off-purpose time of my working life.  I was trapped, hugely troubled, very stressed and wondered if I could ever survive the trauma.

(I did by gaining a position in my preferred career and with an employer of choice and location of choice). How that happened is another very interesting story!

If you are in this position (or you have staff in this quadrant), the personal and professional cost is enormous. Up-skilling, retraining, moving into a role that aligns with your Purpose and skill set or just being made redundant are some options. There is no room for complacency here. Massive and immediate action is required. Applying the action steps outlined in Quadrant 1 will also assist you.

Take action! Become “refired” or be “fired”.

Quadrant 3 – Mojo:

You are such a great prospect when you have the right attitude, are self-motivated, enthusiastic and have high “tingle” or high mojo.  For many recruiters and employers, this factor is often the one first sought.  It’s easier to teach mastery than to instil mojo.

Many people start their career or businesses from this quadrant.  They are full of excitement, passion and are quick to learn.  Despite the high mojo, there is tentativeness here.  New skills need to be developed.  Knowledge has to be gained.

If you are a small business owner or in a new career position, a mentor or coach is vital.

If you are a manager and have people in this quadrant, don’t be fooled by their enthusiasm and natural desire to excel.  They may be stressed because they lack the technical expertise to do the work.  They need coaching and training and careful management through this start-up period. A learning and development plan for continuous improvement is essential.

Quadrant 4 – Mastery and Mojo:

When mastery and mojo meet we are engaged in meaningful work and are at the TOP of our game. Our mindset and behaviour are in alignment. We are On-Purpose! We are a TOP Performer! We’re in the flow. And as one of my clients put it – “we are wide eyed and electrified!”

We also just love what we are doing and are great at it. We have a high sense of contribution and invest a lot of time and energy into our work. We are passionate!

If you are in this quadrant then that is fantastic.  But be warned!  You are a prime candidate for burnout.

More than anyone else, you need to work on your life and career plan and ensure your business or career fits this.  Work-life integration is essential.

If you are managing people who are in this quadrant, your responsibility is huge.  So many top performers leave their organisation because of burn out or being taken for granted.

Managers often ignore this group because they are doing the job so well – everything is ‘rosy’!  While they are highly engaged, they still need ‘a sense of belonging’ and want to be told they are valued and appreciated.  Ongoing training, extension, new challenges and goals are very important to this group.  Like all highly effective people, they need a coach to extend them, hold them accountable, be a sounding board and be their ‘cheer leader’.

Take time to look at this model and to review where you (and your individual team members) are at.  It will have profound implications for your energy levels, your job satisfaction and your general well-being.  If you are managing staff or teams, this will also be an important diagnostic, evaluative and generative model for you to improve the purpose, productivity and performance of your people. Take action today as you choose to become and stay a TOP Performer.

© Dr Edward Gifford
CEO (Chief Enthusiasm Officer)
On-Purpose Partners

businesswoman Being a TOP Performer Part 2 – The Characteristics of People with a Me Inc! Mindset

In the previous blog in this series, I defined the difference between a Me Inc! or Me Stink! Mindset. As an employer, business owner, employee or team member you will usually demonstrate either one of these in the way you consistently serve your customers and clients. With a Me Stink! Mindset you react below the line nearly always blaming rather than taking responsibility for your thinking, feelings attitudes and behaviours.

By contrast, when you respond to your environment with a Me Inc! Mindset, you proactively respond above the line, assuming responsibility and acting as if you were the owner or manager of the organisation.  You see yourself as having a business within the business.

In this blog I would like to explore further the characteristics of a Think Inc! or Me Inc! Mindset.

If you get this, you get life!  There are no losers here and it’s more than a win – win.

Here are a few hints and check points for you to ponder and hopefully action.

When you have a ME Inc! or Think Inc! Mindset you:

1. Take Responsibility for Your Thinking, Feelings, Attitudes and Behaviour

Wow, that’s pretty big and pretty hard to do with so much negativity and “blaming” going on around us. Consider how you score against these check points. Do you usually…

  • Display a high degree of self-responsibility, accountability and ownership for your thinking patterns, attitudes and behaviours?
  • Treat negative outcomes as learning experiences, not failures?
  • Respond in an optimistic way to day-to-day challenges?
  • Seek ways to help your employer or manager accomplish their goals? (You can do this by figuring out how your employer can make money, save money, grow sales, create a better working environment, improve customer service and innovate).

2. Develop a long term perspective

Do you usually …

  • Take a long term perspective and think beyond the present to secure a successful future?
  • Think about being successful, profitable, and sustainable long term?
  • Maintain perspective through the pain and pleasure of work and life and not quit when things don’t go your way?
  • Seek new opportunities to learn, develop and grow personally and professionally?

3. Seek to Add Value

Now I know you might think that this is not your business and you will get paid at the end of the week anyway.  If you are just exchanging your life for a pay cheque you have a Stink Inc! not a Think Inc! Mindset. Adding value really makes the world go around and will hugely benefit you, your employer, manager and organisation.

Do you usually…

  • Seek to add value by constantly looking to improve the situation, solve problems and continually seek to make a difference.  You and or your team will always benefit because you just make life better. A TOP performer with a ME INC! Mindset continually looks for ways to add value to relationships and business. What can you do in your position or business to add value?
  • Seek and create opportunities for yourself or your team to serve, influence and grow?
  • Think as a team player and use your strengths to complement other members of your Team?
  • Display an honest, passionate, open-minded, creative and committed attitude? (At the end of the day, with a ME INC! Mindset you seek to serve yourself and others in meaningful work.

4. Adopt a sales and marketing mindset

I hear so many people say that “I’m just an admin assistant” or “receptionist” or “plumber” or “a nobody” or “I just work here”.  When you think like the owner of a business or if you were to pretend to come back into your role as a consultant, what would you do more of and do less of?  One important characteristic of a Think Inc! Mindset is to always be on the look out to promote your business or organisation.

Do you usually…

  • Treat everyone you meet as a customer, a potential customer or someone who could refer a customer?
  • Think that whenever you are in the front line delivering a service to customers you are in a sales and marketing position regardless of what you do? (I heard the other day in response to this – “I’m just a plumber, it’s not my job to seek business for my employer”. That is Stinking Thinking or having a ME STINK! Mindset. Try to reframe your Mindset to one of running your own profitable business within the business.  Unless the business or organisation is productive and profitable, you will soon be out of a job or your business will go broke).
  • Seek to be ambassadors for your business or organisation? (Think about the way you talk about your employer, the way you dress, the language you use and the ideas you express)

Stop and take a moment to think.  Is this a lot of croc or what? Who actually benefits when you have a Me Inc! or Think Inc! mindset?

  1. You benefit – you are excited at being engaged in meaningful work and feel fulfilled, satisfied and are more productive and able to achieve results. You are making a difference!
  2. The team and your co-workers benefit by being more productive, engaged, considerate and cohesive. The team is  making a difference!
  3. Your family benefits.  You don’t come home each night and kick the dog as you walk through the door.  The positive ripple effect of you being happy at work and on-purose is enormous.
  4. The business owner, manager or CEO benefits. Financially the business is growing and being more productive and purposeful. With the business being more profitable, you, by default have greater job security. Business owners are encouraged to see staff growing, uniting and excelling. They become more confident with the success of business and can plan for future growth.
  5. If you have suppliers then they will benefit also.  Makes sense doesn’t it? They are guaranteed continuity of their product or service.
  6. And of course Shareholders will benefit through great profitability, performance and productivity

So being a TOP Performer with a ME INC! mindset is transformational.

In my next blog I’ll explain how develop this in the workplace.

Bye for now and be sure to ‘watch’ and observe your thinking and decision making over the coming week.

Dr Edward Gifford
CEO (Chief Enthusiasm Office) On-Purpose Partners
0416 260 448

PS If you are seeking to engage, motivate and change the mindset within your team, business or organisation, please give me a call to find out about our One Day Workshop.

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