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Assuming Positive Intent: The Ultimate Productivity Driver

Assuming Positive Intent:  The Ultimate Productivity Driver

Photography by Lilith Delilah

    From the interviews I have done with people on getting the most out of life, it’s clear that assuming positive intent is an important contributor to quality of life.

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    Most people appreciate the dividends such a mindset produces in the realm of relationships.  How relationships can flourish when you don’t assume intentions that may or may not be there.  And how their partner can become an easier person to be around as a result of such a shift.  Less appreciated in the GTD world however is the productivity aspect of this “assume positive intent” perspective.

    Most of us are guilty of letting our minds get distracted, our energy sapped, or our harmony compromised by thinking about what others woulda, coulda, shoulda.  How we got wronged by someone else.  How a friend could have been more respectful.  How a family member could have been less selfish.

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    However, once we evolve to understanding the folly of this mindset, we feel freer and we become more productive professionally due to the minimization of unhelpful, distracting thoughts.

    The leap happens when we realize two things:  1) the self serving benefit from giving others the benefit of the doubt, and 2) the logic inherent in the assumption that others either have many things going on in their lives paving the way for misunderstandings.

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    (Needless to say, this mindset does not mean that we ought to not confront people that are creating havoc in our world.  There are times when we need to call someone out for inflicting harm in our personal lives or the lives of others.)

    Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of Pepsi, says it best in an interview with Fortune magazine earlier last year:

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    My father was an absolutely wonderful human being. From ecent emailhim I learned to always assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response. You don’t get defensive. You don’t scream. You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying, ‘Maybe they are saying something to me that I’m not hearing.’ So ‘assume positive intent’ has been a huge piece of advice for me.

    In business, sometimes in the heat of the moment, people say things. You can either misconstrue what they’re saying and assume they are trying to put you down, or you can say, ‘Wait a minute. Let me really get behind what they are saying to understand whether they’re reacting because they’re hurt, upset, confused, or they don’t understand what it is I’ve asked them to do.’ If you react from a negative perspective – because you didn’t like the way they reacted – then it just becomes two negatives fighting each other. But when you assume positive intent, I think often what happens is the other person says, ‘Hey, wait a minute, maybe I’m wrong in reacting the way I do because this person is really making an effort.

    “Assume positive intent” is definitely a top quality of life best practice among the people I have interviewed for my book. The reasons are obvious. It will make you feel better, your relationships will thrive and it’s an approach more greatly aligned with reality.  But less understood is how such a shift in mindset brings your professional game to a different level.

    Not only does such a shift make you more likable to your colleagues, but it also unleashes your talents further through a more focused, less distracted mind.

    More by this author

    Quality of Life Perspectives: Conversation with Jacqueline Novogratz about Openness to Others Assuming Positive Intent: The Ultimate Productivity Driver

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    How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

    How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

    Keeping yourself awake at work can be a real challenge when you’re bored, exhausted or sleep-deprived.

    But before you reach for that can of Red Bull, bottle of Mountain Dew, or pot of coffee, try these healthy remedies to stimulate your 5 different senses and help you stay awake at work:

    Sight – Visual Stimulation

    The first thing you do when you wake up is opening your eyes, so your visual stimulation is very important to keeping your energy level high.

    1. Maximize your exposure to light.

    Your body’s internal rhythm is regulated by the amount of light you receive. The greater your exposure, the more alert you will feel.

    Open the shades and let in the sunlight. Step outside or look out the window. Turn on all the artificial lights in your office or around your work space.

    2. Exercise your eyes (or give them a break).

    Roll your eyes up and down, side to side and diagonally. Rotate them clockwise and then counterclockwise. Squeeze them shut and then open them wide. Do this several times.

    Reading and sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods can lead to eye fatigue.

    Take regular breaks with deliberate blinking and looking out into the distance.

    3. Take note of your environment.

    Learn to enjoy people-watching. Observe their activities, speech, body language and interactions with others. Notice the details of building, trees and other objects around you, including their color, shape and size.

    By doing this, you’re not only relaxing your eye muscles but also calming your mind.

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    Hearing – Auditory Stimulation

    What you hear or listen to have direct effect on your brain. This is why we feel so annoyed and sometimes angry when we hear construction noise when we’re working.

    4. Engage in conversation.

    Talk to a friend or colleague. Trade funny stories. Discuss your business venture, a creative idea, the latest political scandal, or any other topic that interests you.

    Practice mindful listening to what you and the other person are saying. Tune into the tone, volume and content of the conversation.

    Learn how to practice better listening from this guide:

    Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

    5. Listen to upbeat music.

    Try hip hop, rock or jazz to keep you alert. Instrumental, non-distracting music works best.

    Sing, whistle, and hum along if you can. Plug in the earphones if you must.

    Smell – Olfactory Stimulation

    If you’re feeling sleepy and suddenly smell the coffee, you’ll probably feel more energetic. This is why smell is an influential stimulation.

    6. Work your nose.

    Aroma therapists recommend essential oils of peppermint (to boost energy), rosemary (to build awareness), eucalyptus (to increase oxygen), cedarwood  (to activate your mind), and cinnamon (to improve your reaction time).

    If you don’t have essential oils on hand, you can use lotions or burning candles that provide the same scents.

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    Citrus like lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges are also natural olfactory stimulants. Get a whiff of these citrus scents to stay awake.

    Taste – Gustatory Stimulation

    If you want an energetic day at work, you can’t let your tongue feeling plain and flavorless.

    7. Have a good breakfast.

    Start off with the most important meal of the day.

    Think fresh, light and healthy: bran cereals, wholegrain breads, fruits, and yogurt.

    Nix the heavy stuff like sausages, greasy eggs or pancakes.

    Need some breakfasts inspirations? Check out these ideas:

    20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

    8. Drink lots of water.

    Keep a glass or bottle of H2O near you and sip from it throughout the day. Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and sleepy.

    So make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. Not sure how much to drink? This can help you:

    How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day (and How Much Is Too Much for You)

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    Think that you’ve been drinking too little water? Try these friendly reminders:

    3 Best Apps To Help You Drink Much More Water

    9. Eat energy-boosting snacks.

    Nuts and fruits (like bananas, apples and strawberries) are sure bets. Pairings with staying power include baby carrots with a low-fat cream cheese dip; celery sticks with peanut butter; red peppers with hummus; and plain yogurt with granola.

    Avoid carb-filled, sugary snacks that make you crash and leave you feeling tired.

    Here you can find some healthy snack ideas:

    25 Healthy Snack Recipes To Make Your Workday More Productive

    Touch – Tactile Stimulation

    Last but not least, your sense of touch will make you physically feel more energetic and less stressful.

    10. Splash cold water on your face.

    Do this in the morning, during bathroom breaks and in the afternoon. Being exposed to cold water pushes your body to adjust and regulate its internal temperature, which in turn keeps you alert.

    This works the same as you take a cold shower to increase mood and alertness. Take a look at this article to learn more about it:

    5 Surprising Benefits of Cold Showers

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    11. Use acupressure.

    Apply pressure to, massage, or tap on the stimulation points of your body. These include the top of your head, the back of your neck, the back of your hand (between the thumb and index finger), just below the knee and your earlobes.

    Watch this video to learn about the acupressure points you can try:

    12. Get moving.

    Move away from your chair and stand, walk, run or climb the stairs. Feel the earth under your feet. Stretch and twist. Do jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups and back bends.

    And if you need to move more discreetly, wiggle your feet, bounce your knee up and down, scrunch your toes, or cross your legs.

    You can also try some simple stretches and exercises at your desk:

    Unlike addictive caffeine fixes, these remedies activate your senses, engage your attention, amp up your energy and prevent morning grogginess and afternoon slumps without the side effects or health risks.

    Pick a few ways from this list of suggestions and practice them consistently. And when you do this consistently, you’ll soon see the positive results — a more energetic and productive you at work.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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