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    September 2019

    Achieve More with Capacity-Building

    September 30, 2019 3636 Views No comments

    In 2015, I decided to start sending an email every Friday to my company, Acceleration Partners. Rather than simply providing an update on the business, like many CEO wrap-ups, I wanted to inspire people with topics related to improvement and growth, aiming to challenge employees to want to achieve more in all areas of their lives, not just at work.


    I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be, but I wondered if my emails would be skimmed, or even ignored. To my surprise, employees started telling me they looked forward to the messages each week and were sharing them with friends and family. The weekly emails were also having a noticeable impact within our company - members of our team started running races, taking bucket list vacations and improving their professional performance.


    After sharing the impact it had with a few other business leaders who subsequently shared it with their teams, I renamed it Friday Forward, opened it to the public and encouraged readers to spread it to colleagues, friends and family. Today, over 100,000 people read it each week, in over 60 countries.


    What I learned from my Friday Forward experiment, and the impact I’ve seen it have on so many people I haven’t even met, is the ability to elevate your performance and achieve at a high level stems directly from challenging your limits and building your capacity for growth. And when you do this for yourself, you provide motivation and a roadmap for others to follow. We all have a responsibility to be our best for the people around us, and unlocking this potential—in myself and in others—has become an ongoing quest for me.


    It’s the driving factor behind my leadership approach to building a world-class company, pushing myself and others outside of their comfort zone, and of my recently published book, Elevate.


    In my own leadership journey, and in speaking with hundreds of others who have made meaningful and sustained changes in their lives, I’ve discovered that there are four essential elements involved in capacity-building and all self-improvement: Spiritual, Intellectual, Emotional, and Physical. Elevating your performances holistically requires working to grow your capacity in each of these areas.


    Building capacity is similar to developing a muscle—a person who wants to lift a heavy weight must first work to build physical strength over time. Each of the four capacity-building elements must be improved incrementally and developed consistently.


    Spiritual Capacity
    Developing our spiritual capacity requires us to evaluate who we are and what we want most from life, then align that to our daily lives. This starts with determining our core beliefs and values, which can be difficult for many as it involves deep introspection and self-assessment. Building spiritual capacity is vital to a fulfilling life—if you don’t have a destination in mind, you may waste a lot of time and energy running in the wrong direction. Discovering my core values and my core purpose and using that awareness to make decisions about my priorities and goals took my life to a different level. To make this process a bit easier, I created a tool called the Whole Life Dashboard that helps you determine what’s most important to you and how to align to it daily.


    Intellectual Capacity
    Intellectual capacity is about how we improve our ability to think, learn, plan, and execute with discipline. Developing our intellectual capacity often involves setting and achieving goals, developing good routines and habits, and learning continuously. Think of it as improving your operating system.


    The greater your intellectual capacity, the more you will achieve with the same expenditure of energy or effort. For example, a daily morning routine is one of the main characteristics that many high achievers have in common. They use the first 30-60 minutes of the day to get in the right mindset and think about their goals for the day—not to check their social channels and their email. In my experience, I've seen that people who do this accomplish so much more within the same 24 hours.


    Physical Capacity
    Physical capacity is our ability to improve our health, well-being, and physical performance. While our brain helps drive and guide us through life, it’s our body that is asked to do the heavy lifting day in and day out. That’s why it’s so important to maintain our health and wellness, challenge ourselves, manage our stress, and get the proper amount of sleep. When your body is tired and sluggish or your brain is fatigued, it makes doing anything more difficult.


    Building physical capacity goes beyond just diet and exercise—it also requires us to manage how we deal with stress, how resilient we are in the face of adversity, and how we equip ourselves to face inevitable adversity.


    Emotional Capacity
    Emotional capacity relates to how we react to challenging situations and people, as well as the quality of our relationships. Improving emotional capacity is difficult for most as it requires learning to manage your feelings, evaluate the best and most challenging aspects of your personality, and accepting a certain amount of uncertainty and unpredictability from both individuals and circumstances.


    For example, if two people have a negative interaction with somebody early in the day, a person with a high degree of emotional capacity can shrug it off, move past it, and continue with their day and their priorities. The person without this capacity is rattled and lets this interaction consume and ruin their entire day. People with high emotional capacity generally are able to cope with challenges quickly and move on from setbacks. They also have positive relationships with people who bring them energy and move away from people who drain their energy.


    One of the most important outcomes of building your Spiritual, Intellectual, Physical, and Emotional Capacity is the exponential impact it has on others, including friends, family, and those around you. It has the effect of “lifting while you climb.” As you build your own capacity and achieve more, you both inspire and develop the ability to help others to do the same.


    -Robert Glazer, author of Elevate


    For more on building your capacities, check out Elevate>>

    Getting Easily Distracted? Attention Management to the Rescue

    September 23, 2019 985 Views No comments

    Getting easily distracted at work and at home takes a toll on productivity. Our failure to practice attention management makes it harder and harder to live a life of choice, rather than a life of reaction.

    Distractions are abundant in our lives, both at work and at home. In our modern, technological world, there is always someone or something trying to steal our attention away from the task at hand: email, text messages, relentless push notifications, other people, and our own “busy” brain reminding us not to forget everything we have to do. It’s important to control our attention so that we can be productive and achieve the results that are most significant to us.


    Are You Easily Distracted? Attention Management Can Help

    Your attention determines the experiences you have, and the experiences you have determine the life you live. Or, said another way: you must control your attention to control your life. Today, in a world where so many experiences are blended together—where distraction is rarely more than a few minutes away—has that ever been more true?

    However, it’s possible to develop and strengthen good attention management skills. By managing your attention, you are more readily able to increase your productivity, and to focus on the things in life that matter the most to you.


    Control Your Technology

    The first step to keep you from getting easily distracted is to control your technology. Remember that we purchase our technology tools for our convenience, not so everyone in the world can interrupt us at any time! Start by turning off those notifications. As often as possible and especially when you’re working, keep your phone silent and out of sight. Constant alerts and notifications have accustomed you to distraction, and this is chipping away at your attention span, your patience, and your ability to apply your brain power in a meaningful way.


    Control Your Environment

    Second, you have more control over your environment than you might think, and it’s time to exercise some of that control. Even if you work in an open-office setting, you can set some boundaries. For example, find ways to communicate to coworkers when you don’t want to be disturbed. Make a “Do Not Disturb” sign to hang on your office door, the back of your chair, or a cubicle wall when you are trying to focus, so you can get deeply engaged in your work without someone interrupting to ask, “Got a minute?”

    To control your environment, you also need to manage clutter. A cluttered workspace is a subtle source of stress, and it means that other work and other issues will be distracting you while you are trying to focus on the task at hand. If your desk is messy, at least put the “mess” in a pile, in a box, or in a folder marked “to process.” This will reduce the chances that the clutter will steal your attention. You can do the same with files cluttering your computer desktop, and use your email inbox for receiving messages, not for storing them.


    Control Your Habits

    The third part is the trickiest: learning to replace your unhelpful habits. When we get distracted every few minutes all day long, distraction becomes a habit, so that every few minutes we get distracted! You can learn to recognize how often you are being distracted so you can let go of that habit of distraction and improve your focus, your attention span, and your patience.


    Fight Back Against Distractions with Attention Management

    Practicing attention management means fighting back against distractions and creating opportunities throughout your day to support your priorities. Building good attention management habits will help you start to reclaim your life and devote more of yourself to what’s really important to you. Don’t allow distraction to derail your aspirations and intentions. Instead, control your attention to control your life.

    -Maura Nevel Thomas


    If you want to learn more about Attention Management, click here!

    A version of this article previously appeared on MauraThomas.com.

    You can preview and purchase the book here>>

    What is attention management? A modern twist on a nineteenth century productivity secret

    September 16, 2019 1049 Views No comments

    If you know about my new book, you have likely been introduced to the term “attention management.” Although the phrase existed before I started using it, it was not used in relation to productivity. In fact, it was not particularly relevant or useful to our everyday lives.

    Attention management is at the very heart of my work as a speaker, trainer, and author. Attention management is really just like it sounds—managing your attention.

    My definition of it is a little more specific. I define it as the practice of creating the conditions that allow you to intentionally engage the most optimal brain state to achieve your best results in the moment.


    A 19th Century Take on Attention Management

    A psychologist and philosopher in the 19th century, William James, was an advocate of the ideas behind attention management. He wrote: “[Attention] is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought.”

    Here, the key word is “one.” No one can give their attention simultaneously to all of the things that demand it. Attention management allows you to be more proactive than reactive. It means you decide where your attention goes instead of letting outside demands decide it for you.

    William James suggested that attention management gives you the ability to maintain control over your thoughts and actions, rather than inadvertently relinquishing this control.


    Attention Management Helps You Live a Life of Choice Rather Than a Life of Reaction and Distraction

    Today, you can use attention management as a defense against the damage our fast-paced, technology-rich environment does to our mind, body, and soul. It’s also essential for achieving your most significant results daily, so that you can stay in control of your days, and therefore ultimately, your life.

    You might wonder if attention management is just “focus.” But you can think of it as the collective practice of a group of behaviors, including focus, concentration, mindfulness, presence, and flow. It offers the ability to consciously direct your attention in any given moment despite distractions, to be more proactive than reactive, and to maintain control over your thoughts, rather than inadvertently relinquishing control.

    Attention management is the antidote to everything in our environment that sabotages our attention. We live in a fast-paced, “always-on” society, and that has negative consequences for our ability and efforts to be productive.

    Attention management is the key to controlling distractions, maximizing focus, and becoming engaged in “flow.” It helps you to be present in the moment, whether that be at work or at leisure. It helps you to maximize your brain power and your unique skills to bring your best self to the moment—what I call “unleashing your genius.”


    Our Attention Determines the Life We Lead

    Another quote from William James: “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” Your attention determines the experiences you have, and the experiences you have determine the life you live. This implies that you must control your attention to control your life. Productivity is basically about directing your activities to do more of the things that are important to you. Attention management is the logical path to get you there.

    Being able to control your attention requires practice. You’ll be more successful on some days than on others. Managing your attention depends on several factors. It’s not just about distraction.

    While attention management is a skill to be developed, there are also physiological factors. Sleep, nutrition, and hydration play an important part in your ability to control your attention, also. When these important elements are neglected, your focus, productivity level, and ability to avoid distractions will also suffer.


    Single Focus Instead of Multi-Task to Increase Effectiveness

    Attention management is the idea that how you spend your time is relevant only to the extent that you also devote your attention, because time spent on a task with divided attention is much less effective than time spent focused on the task without interruption.

    To be sure, traditional “time management” theory still contains useful concepts, such as making lists, setting goals, and prioritizing tasks. It’s the practical application of these ideas that fail the test of time, and most time management training has not been updated to keep up with modern technology and the increasing pace of business. Distraction is the single biggest problem for knowledge workers today. Attention management is the skill we need in our modern, technology-driven society.

    -Maura Nevel Thomas


    If you want to learn more about Attention Management, click here!

    A version of this article originally appeared on maurathomas.com.

    You can preview and purchase the book here>>

    Live with Purpose

    September 9, 2019 540 Views No comments

    Although we can't choose how we're born, we do get to choose how we live. This means that your choices matter in a big way. Understanding that you matter is the first step in living a life with purpose. After that, it's about taking one Monday, one action at a time - leading to a change in your life and those around you. Here are some steps from Every Monday Matters to help you get started on your journey:


    1. Make Monday Joyful

    Joy surrounds us - we can create it, experience it and share it. And it comes in so many different forms! When was the last time you did something just for the fun of it? How often do you laugh until it hurts? And can you recall taking a moment to love the little things? If you can't remember, make it a point to start each Monday (eventually each day!) to take a few minutes to think about joyfulness and what it means to you.


    Take it a step further: start a new hobby that looks like fun; find a funny picture and share it with someone to make them laugh; do a little thing each day for a week to bring yourself or someone else joy.


    2. Make Monday Creative

    Everyone is unique; there is only one you. Do you take the time to appreciate your individual creativity or the creativity of those around you? Being creative allows you to express what makes you different, and it connects you to other people.

    Art is a gift that allows you to appreciate the world around you. Our hands are an amazing creation that enable us to build something we can share. And our differences are what provide so much variety.

    Use these gifts to get creative: Try expressing yourself by doing something simple such as doodling, cooking, or writing a short story. Use your hands to build something small for your house - there are plenty of online tutorials to get you started. Find a new, local international-inspired restaurant, concert or exhibit to experience.


    3. Make Monday Positive

    Positivity is more inspiring and valuable than negativity; however, it always seems harder to look on the bright side. The good news is, you can change this and you will likely be surprised by how easy it is to be positive with everyone you come across. When you focus on the good in your life, you can flip the script by saying and doing positive things. By asking a simple "why not?" you can take matters into your own hands and let go of negativity.

    Put positivity out in the world this week: When your friends or co-workers get together for a pity party, try leading them into a conversation that instead promotes the positives. When something in your life feels out of reach, try turning it into a "why not?" and see where it takes you. Lastly, think back to someone who made a difference in your life and call, write or email to let them know.


    4. Make Monday Expressive

    Everyone has a unique story. Have you shared yours? It can be hard to tell your tale and trust that you'll be accepted but, in order to live a life that matters, you need to embrace who you are and be honest and authentic. Only then can you truly be living a life with purpose.

    Express your true self: Look at your emails, social posts, and texts from this past week and take an audit to see if you meant what you said. Find a way to show your love to friends and family in your own creative and meaningfully way. Lastly, share a secret with someone you trust.


    For more ways to live a life that matters, check out Every Monday Matters>>


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