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Entrepreneurial Success Starts With Training Your Brain

Entrepreneurial Success Starts With Training Your Brain

Have you ever read about the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur and wondered if you really have it in you to be one? On a bad day, many of us fall prey to self-doubt. The good news is that even if we fall short of certain qualities, it’s not the end of the world! Science tells us that we have the ability to turn ourselves into the people we want to be thanks to the wonderful phenomenon called neuroplasticity!

In fact, our brains can be thought of as malleable plastic — they are constantly being changed by our day-to-day experiences. In scientific terms, neuroplasticity refers to the “rewiring” of the neurons that process and transmit information in the brain, and the alterations that occur at synapses (the gaps between neurons that allow for information to be transmitted between them).

When it comes to neuroplasticity, one of the key things to keep in mind is that neural pathways (paths that connect different areas of the brain and nervous system) can not only be created at will, but can also be eliminated. Every time we learn something new or have a novel idea, a new pathway is created. The more we use this pathway (through practice and repetition), the firmer and more ingrained it becomes; likewise, the less we use it, the weaker it becomes, until it is eventually forgotten.

Neuroplasticity is important because it shows:

1. It’s hard to change a mindset and its accompanying habits, but it’s possible: think of your brain as host to countless nerve battles. Studies have shown that it is actually more difficult to unlearn a bad habit than it is to learn a new one — this is called competitive plasticity. The more we repeat a bad habit, the more control it has over a brain map; so naturally, old bad habits have a competitive edge over our new ones; the important thing is to keep going — your new habits will eventually win the battles!

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2. You always have the power to change yourself: No matter how old you are, deliberate practice, as well as rest and maintenance, can result in successful neuroplasticity. So if you think you can’t change the way you think, you are the only one standing in your way.

Do successful entrepreneurs think differently?

So our brains can be trained, but is there one specific entrepreneurial mindset that we need to aim for in order to become successful? While there isn’t one specific key to success, studies have shown that successful entrepreneurs do tend to have some cognitive processes in common.

1. An ambidextrous mind

An ambidextrous mind is one that is able to strategically go back and forth between two problem-solving strategies:

1. exploration (this is a creative approach in which your mind explores innovative new solutions/alternatives to problems)

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2. exploitation (this is a more logical approach in which your mind uses existing information in the most efficient way possible).

Research conducted by a team of MIT researchers suggests that being a successful entrepreneur doesn’t simply mean having the ability to switch between strategies, but also knowing the most optimal time to do so — it’s all in the timing!

2. The ability to embrace change and challenges

The brain scans of 30 entrepreneurs were compared to those of 30 non-entrepreneurs while they carried out various activities. It was evident in the study that when it came to rapid problem-solving, timely risk assessment, embracing challenges and seizing opportunities, successful entrepreneurs could be counted on to come first in a series of tasks.

Both of the above two points rely heavily on a person’s mindset. Want to have the mindset of a successful entrepreneur? You’ve got to work for it!

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Become the architect of your brain

In order to build up our physical muscles, we train them through a variety of physical exercises — we shouldn’t treat the brain any differently! Training the brain with mental exercises will help your neurons to develop stronger connections, and will prepare your brain to accept new connections a lot easier. Below are three ways that you can get started on training your brain for success.

1. Brain training games

There are hundreds of different games available that allow you to work on important brain functions such as memory; you can improve your intelligence while actually having fun! Lumosity is one such tool that encompasses a variety of games and activities for different aims and objectives; Brain Metrix is another.

2. Awareness

You have around 60 000 thoughts bombarding your mind every day, and you need to be aware of the ones that limit you. You need to be aware of your thoughts, (which collectively means your mindset) and catch the ones that are not aligned with your goals and then, replace it with one that is. YES, you will need to do this over and over again, but eventually, the new will become the old.

3. Mindset reinforcing tools

Consistently reinforcing your desired behavior and beliefs is crucial if they’re ever to become second nature to you. Repeating the thoughts you want to have and using tools that allow for subliminal messages of your choice to appear on your computer screen, for example, will allow you to work on making the necessary changes to your subconscious mind (the power of which should not be underestimated).

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4. Rest and sleep

In his studies of neuroplasticity, Norman Doidge observed the “Monday effect.” He noticed that the plasticity mechanisms being used by the participants on Mondays versus Fridays were markedly different. While the changes on Friday had more to do with strengthening neuron pathways, the changes on Monday had more do with the formation of new ones that took longer to form, but were more permanent.

Put simply, having a well-rested brain won’t necessarily help you learn things quicker, but it will help you make more permanent changes! Getting enough sleep, meditating and not being too hard on yourself can make a huge difference.

When it comes to neuroplasticity, learning how to keep going is key. Find the right techniques for you, keep at them and you’re eventually going to see results — science is on your side!

Featured photo credit: http://getrefe.tumblr.com/ via 66.media.tumblr.com

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Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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