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Last Updated on January 30, 2018

Boost Your Speed of Thought With This Technique

Boost Your Speed of Thought With This Technique

Are you looking for a way to increase your speed of thought? If so, you should start using metaphors and analogies. They are powerful tools that drive and steer the way we think and act.[1]

The use of metaphors and analogies assist us in connecting the dots. Jane Hirshfield describes them as a way to feel and know something differently. She says that they are a way to talk about one thing by describing something else.[2] Essentially, they give words a way to go far beyond their meaning.

Let’s take a look at how metaphors and analogies create the handles to open doors to new understanding.

Cognitive Jigs: Simile, Metaphor, and Analogy

In Systems Thinking Made Simple: New Hope for Solving Wicked Problems, Derek and Laura Cabrera describe cognitive jigs as common underlying structures of systemic thought which can be used over and over again to create meaning and understanding.

Cognitive jigs save us cognitive effort and increase our speed of thought.

Let’s take a brief look at the three types of cognitive jigs: simile, metaphor, and analogy.

Simile

The Cabrera’s explain the difference between three specific cognitive jigs in a series of videos found at the Cabrera Research Lab.

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So, what is a simile? I built a diagram to further my understanding of a simile (using the videos via the Cabrera Research Lab). Let’s take a look.

    Metaphor

    The “conduit metaphor” explained by Michael Reddy is a great example of how a metaphorical concept can hide an aspect of our experience.[3]

    Reddy explains how our language about language is structured by this complex metaphor. Let’s take a look at the parts of the “conduit metaphor” then the metaphor itself.

    • Ideas (or meanings) are objects.
    • Linguistic expressions are containers.
    • Communication is sending.

    Reddy explains this metaphor in more detail,

    “The speaker puts ideas (objects) into words (containers) and sends them (along a conduit) to a hearer who takes the idea/objects out of the word/containers.”

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      Analogy

      The Cabrera’s discussion of analogies as cognitive jigs provide us a remarkable way to view what they call – analogy-technology. They explain that,

      “The genius behind the invention of analogies was that they gave us a mental model of a common way we understand things by comparison to a known thing.”

      Furthermore, they provide a simplistic (yet extremely helpful) view of the structure of an analogy: A is to B as/like C is to D.

        Let’s take a look at a few examples of innovative metaphors and analogies.

        Brain Internet Metaphor

        A great resource for using, sharing, and understanding analogies and metaphors was developed as a Wikiversity Learning Project by the Global Education for Sustainable Development found at GlobalESD.org.

        They offer a list of example analogies and metaphors. Let’s take a look at one: Brain Internet Metaphor. As a society, we typically look to the latest technological advancement to compare the brain to. It’s popular to compare the brain to a computer; however, comparing it to the Internet seems to be more appropriate.[4]

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        In this metaphor, we are referring to the Internet and not the World Wide Web. The Web is merely an application used on the Internet. The Internet, like the brain, is a network of interconnected links.[5]

        In essence, we can learn more about the brain by comparing it to the vast number of interconnected links within the Internet.

        Biomimicry

          In her book Biomimicry, Janine Benyus defines Biomimicry as imitating or taking inspiration from nature’s forms and processes to solve problems for humans. Biomimicry is a phenomenal field, one that has the potential to completely reshape our entire reality.

          The team at GlobalESD.org identifies the following: Biomimicry is adapting the designs of nature to solve the design challenges facing humans. Furthermore, they discuss how we can think of it as a way to develop and refine analogies between nature and society.

          Benyus demonstrates this by way of analogy. She argues that we should run our businesses like a redwood forest. She says that a mature forest is a fully self-sustaining producer of diversity and abundance. Instead, we seem to run our businesses similar to invasive weeds.

          Center of Gravity

          Famous military strategist Carl von Clausewitz introduced a physics analogy into warfare in his magnum opus On War. He wrote,

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          “Just as (in physics) the center of gravity is always found where the mass is most concentrated, and just as every blow directed against the body’s center of gravity yields the greatest effect, and – moreover – the strongest blow is the one achieved by the center of gravity, the same is true in war.”

          The center of gravity in physics is the point where the forces of gravity converge within an object – the spot for which an objects weight is balanced in all directions.[6] For the most part, military strategists have taken this analogy literally. Right or wrong, it does offer some merit.

          I recently came across an article on this topic from the Naval War College Review. In the article, Lieutenant Colonel Antulio J. Echevarria provides a deep look into the center of gravity analogy. He presented what was, to me, an extremely interesting discussion on where the center of gravity of a boomerang is located. Regarding a boomerang, the center of gravity does not lie on the actual object, but in the V-shaped space between a person’s arms.

          My question is, if taken literally, is this a more appropriate example of a center of gravity in warfare? Meaning, could the center of gravity be unseen and not visible (i.e. ideology or culture)? This question demonstrates the profound impact an analogy can have on just about anything.

          Finally, in her TEDEd video The Art of the Metaphor, Jane Hirshfield describes how metaphors give words a way to go beyond their own meaning. She ends her video with a deep and profound metaphor,

          “Metaphors are handles on the door of what we can know, and what we can imagine. Each door leads to some new house, and some new world that only that one handle can open. What’s amazing is this: by making a handle, you can make a world.”

          Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

          Reference

          [1]Analogies for Sustainable Development: Wikiversity
          [2]Jane Hirshfield: The art of the metaphor
          [3]George Lakoff and Mark Johnson: Metaphors we live by
          [4]Baronchelli, Ferrer-i-Cancho, Pastor-Satorras, Chater, and Chrisiansen: Networks in Cognitive Science
          [5]Chris Woodford: The Internet and the Brain
          [6]Echevarria: Clausewitz’s Center of Gravity. It’s not what we thought

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          Dr. Jamie Schwandt

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          1 The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career 2 How to Be a Successful Businessman (The Complete Guide) 3 How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work 4 Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress 5 How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

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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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