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Productivity Hints from Booker T. Washington

Productivity Hints from Booker T. Washington



    When life gets hard, when things don’t go my way, when a project doesn’t quite work out the way I planned, or when I want to sleep but can’t—like right now—I think of thinkers and leaders from the past and I remind myself that things could be much, much worse. 

    Friedrich Hayek had to flee when the London School of Economics was moved to Cambridge during World War II (his friend and intellectual rival John Maynard Keynes apparently helped him find accommodations). 

    Ludwig von Mises was chased out of Europe by the Nazis. 

    The Apostle Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, imprisoned, and all sorts of horrible things. 

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    Millions of people have lived as slaves.

    One of those people was Booker T. Washington, who would have been 155 this month.

    Washington’s Up From Slavery is one of most inspiring books I’ve ever read ($0 version here).  It tells Washington’s story of going from slavery, poverty, and illiteracy to a position of intellectual and moral leadership in the United States and the world.

    It includes an interesting chapter entitled “The Secret of Success in Public Speaking.”  In it, Washington details the habits that made him a successful educator, public speaker, fundraiser, and leader.  Principles of “effective leadership and action”—which is one of the key clauses in my institution’s Vision statement—are evident throughout.  Here are a few highlights from a very rich chapter in a very rich book:

    1.  Do what you believe in, and believe in what you’re doing. 

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    Here’s Washington: “I believe that one always does himself and his audience an injustice when he speaks merely for the sake of speaking.  I do not believe that one should speak unless, deep down in his heart, he feels convinced that he has a message to deliver.” 

    Have you ever been in an audience where it was clear that the speaker wasn’t passionate about his subject matter?  Bored speakers create bored audiences; if the speaker doesn’t care about what he or she is saying, why should the audience?  Also, your time and energy are very scarce.   Devote them only to tasks that deserve them.

    2.  “The number of people who stand ready to consume one’s time, to no purpose, is almost countless.” 

    In a series of entertaining examples Washington discusses some of his dealings with people who want to consume his time and attention with schemes for saving the world by closing all the national banks, for example, or by adopting a particular process for cultivation of a particular type of corn. 

    I’m sure we all have story upon story about how we have wasted others’ time or had our own time wasted.  That such a thing would occur should not be surprising.  Over time, however, we learn how to install the right filters that increase the signal-to-noise ratio in the information we receive.

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    3.  Success involves inspiration, perspiration, and delegation. 

    Here’s Washington again:  “I am often asked how it is possible for me to superintend the work at Tuskegee and at the same time be so much away from the school.  In partial answer to this I would say that I think I have learned, in some degree at least, to disregard the old maxim which says, ‘Do not get others to do that which you can do yourself.’  My motto, on the other hand, is ‘Do not do that which others can do as well.’” 

    In short, Washington anticipated one of Timothy Ferriss’s most important principles by about 100 years.  Washington writes that, at the time, “the organization is so thorough that the daily work of the school is not dependent upon the presence of any one individual.” 

    In the language of modern-day business books, by surrounding himself with trusted, talented people, and by integrating them into effective workflow processes, Booker T. Washington was able to leverage the talents of those around him and create value for himself, his organization, and his organization’s stakeholders.

    4.  Staying organized and on top of things. 

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    His is a routine that might work for some people but not for others; the fact of the matter, though, is that he did what needed to be done.  Washington also found dignity in his work.  In this respect, it’s worth quoting him at length:

    “As far as I can, I make it a rule to plan for each day’s work—not merely to go through with the same routine of daily duties, but to get rid of the routine work as early in the day as possible, and then to enter upon some new or advance work.  I make it a rule to clear my desk every day, before leaving my office, of all correspondence and memoranda, so that on the morrow I can begin a new day of work.  I make it a rule never to let my work drive me, but to so master it, and keep it in such complete control, and to keep so far ahead of it, that I will be the master instead of the servant.  There is a physical and mental and spiritual enjoyment that comes from a consciousness of being the absolute master of one’s work, in all its details, that is very satisfactory and inspiring.   My experience teaches me that, if one learns to follow this plan, he gets a freshness of body and vigour of mind out of work that goes a long way toward keeping him strong and healthy.  I believe that when one can grow to the point where he loves his work, this gives him a kind of strength that is most valuable.”

    Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery is an inspiring tour de force from an American hero.  Among other things, it shows how someone who started with nothing—not even a right to his own person—was able to change the world. He still has much to teach us, and his lessons on productivity remain relevant even today.

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    Last Updated on October 12, 2018

    11 Tactics on Increasing Brain Power, Memory, and Motivation

    11 Tactics on Increasing Brain Power, Memory, and Motivation

    How do you motivate yourself? We all want to maximize our time and do more of the things we love to do but sometimes we get stuck in the ‘getting ready’ process.

    We want to live every day with a clear intention to get closer to achieving our goals and living a happy, successful life. We want to get better every day but we never actually jump off.

    The most powerful form of motivation comes from self-motivation. You can light your own fire.

    It is not enough simply to wait for inspiration to start you moving forward. It doesn’t have to be something that happens to you, it can be something that you create.

    All progress and motivation starts with taking action. One action will lead to another. Action will create better outcomes and new experiences for you.

    When my coaching clients are suffering from distraction, I simply get them to start taking action. To get fired up. To do something specific.

    This may be getting up earlier, or committing to doing exercise daily. Even if it’s doing something for just 5 minutes, it’s often that little push that it enough to get them going.

    If you focus on a small number of things to create the change you want, it can have a dramatic effect on your business and life.

    Here are 11 things you can do right now to take that jump and in the process of increasing brain power, memory and motivation.

    1. Simplify Your Life

    By creatively planning your life, it allows you to simplify. Delegating and eliminating activities that don’t motivate or excite you ensures you maximise your time and focuses your energy on achieving your goals.

    It’s really hard to stay motivated when your mind is confused and cluttered with all of the projects and tasks you need to do. But if you can simplify, if you can carve away the unnecessary, your life will become more focused. And more focus leads to more motivation.

    What areas of your life could you simplify?

    One way you could do it is to combine tasks. Think about two things you want to do and see how you could combine them into one activity.

    The author Marilyn Vos Savant takes this one stage further in her book Brain Building in Just 12 Weeks. She recommends that we make a list of every small task that has to be done, say, over a day or a week-end and then do them all one after another.

    Essentially, you are fusing lots of smaller tasks together into one task and completing them all together. So rather than doing one task on one day and another task on another day, it becomes a focused blitz to get lots of little things completed all together.

    This frees us more time and gives you a sense of accomplishment, that increases motivation.

    2. Focus on How Far You’ve Come

    One of the things that stops us being motivated and causes procrastination is that we measure our success not from how far we’ve come, but how far away we are from our dreams and ideals.

    If we can change our thinking and become more conscious of how our brain is working, we can set ourselves up for success.

    We’re often at our happiest when we use our brains to problem solve, visualize, achieve and measure our progress.

    If you talk in specifics rather than generalities, there is an opportunity to feel happier and more energized.

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    One way to do this is to start training your brain to measure specifics, which grounds your feelings in reality and can boost motivation.

    Rather than focusing on your ideal, think about what you’ve achieved from a specific starting point.

    If your goal is to lose 14lbs in the next 6 months and you’ve lost 3 lbs in the first 3 months you have two choices. You could focus on the fact that you’re still 11lbs away from your goal or you could focus on the fact that you have lost 3lbs since you’ve started.

    The second option will allow you to celebrate success and build motivation and refocus your mind to lost more weight whilst the first option may focus your mind on how far away you are from your goals.

    Let your brain set your own goals and have your own experiences.

    3. Set Measurable Goals

    This follows on nicely from the previous point. When I work with coaching clients we always set specific, measurable 90 Day Goals.

    This is great for motivation and training the brain to focus only on things that are specific and measurable.

    When we are making real progress towards our goals, it makes us a lot happier. We are motivated and inspired.

    We all sense where we are in the present moment. The past has gone and the future is well, the future.

    In this present moment, we feel like we’re making progress, moving forward in the right direction or we’re not. We can’t stop time. We can only make better use of our time.

    If you’re not happy with the progress you’re making, you may start comparing with others which can make you feel a lot worse and stop motivation in their tracks.

    So, think about what goals you want to achieve for the next 90 Days. Ask yourself what is the meaning/purpose behind each of the goals.

    Write the goals down. Put specific measurements against each goal and visualise what achieving the goals will mean to you in terms of your own personal progress.

    4. Shift Your Motivation from Getting to Giving

    Some people only focus on what they can get out of life and relationships. It’s all about me, me, me.

    “When you change the way you look at things; the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

    However, if you come from a position of serving and helping, and being more consciously awake to the world around you, your mindset can shift from merely receiving to giving.

    And when you create this shift, coming from a space of giving, your brain starts coming up with more and more creative ways to spread more and more abundance.

    It’s far more satisfying to focus on giving. If you really focus on this, it can become a true purpose and focus for you.

    Rather than focusing on simple transactions, you focus on deepening relationships and doing things that will genuinely make people happy.

    If you focus on giving and gratitude and surround yourself with people of a similar mindset your motivational energy will always be high.

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    There are also additional benefits. When givers come together the results can be so much bigger than on an individual level as everything has the capacity to be multiplied.

    When your motivation is to give your brain will think of more and more creative ways to do that. Random thoughts will pop into your head and you’ll find more creative ways to improve other people in both your business and personal life.

    5. Create and Repeat a New Habit

    Sometimes, the smallest shifts create the biggest results. When you start a new habit, whether that’s going to the gym, creating videos or improving your speaking the key is consistency and repetition.

    By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you create incremental improvements.

    If you want to start a new morning routine, the key is repetition. If you want to start meditating, the key is to stay with it. If you’re gearing up to run a 5k, the key is to run every day and build that strength and stamina.

    If you have a vision of yourself as someone who doesn’t complete projects, then you think of yourself as that person. But if you tell yourself every day you’re a world class ‘project completer,’ you’ll begin to think and act like that person.

    If you’re procrastinating on a big project, just start small and do something to move it forward, even if only five minutes. The next day work on that project again.

    The key is deciding what you want to improve and then working on that thing every day. A 1% improvement every day can produce big results in the end.

    Bonus tip: Here’re 18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick!

    6. Direct Your Subconscious Mind Before Sleep

    Many successful people never go to sleep without a request to their subconscious mind.

    “Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious” – Thomas Edison

    Your brain is a fantastic problem solving tool. If there are decisions you are struggling with or a project you’re looking for answers on, just spend a few minutes before you go to sleep visualizing the challenges, ideas, questions and experiences.

    You can follow a similar process with your goals. Visualize your goals every night and visualize what the achievement of those goals will look like.

    Your subconscious mind will then go to work, creating different connections and ideas. When you wake up, write down everything that comes to mind and then put things into action.

    You’ll be surprised how amazing your subconscious mind is: Why Sleeping on a Difficult Problem Helps You Get the Answer

    7. Focus on Your Environment

    The people who you spend time with will change your life in one way or another. Surround yourself with people and things that support you in your business and life.

    Cynics can pull you down with them but supportive people will motivate you to becoming even more happy and successful.

    Throughout every day, we have choices regarding what we spend our time on and who we are going to spend our time with.

    You can be with people who stifle and bring your energy down, or be with people who inspire your creativity and celebrate your success.

    Spend more time with people who make you feel more alive and happier and see where that takes you.

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    8. Express More Gratitude

    When you come from a place of expressing gratitude both to what you have and the people around you, the change can be immense.

    If you express gratitude for what you have, you are less envious and fixated on what other people have.

    When you express gratitude to the important people in your life, it changes how you perceive them and how they feel about you.

    Gratitude increases your energy and your feelings of abundance. With gratitude, everything is appreciated.

    Gratitude also makes you a lot more creative and deepens your motivation. Handwritten notes, more expressive feelings, instantaneous notes or calls to the people that matter most become commonplace.

    The thing about gratitude, though, is that it requires an active pursuit in all areas of your business and life. It’s not about what that person has done for you. It’s about how you feel about them, and their value to you.

    Here’s a quick exercise:

    Think about the people that are most important to you.

    Next, write down 5 things you are grateful for, or appreciate, about that person.

    You could tell them the 5 things or just keep it to yourself and sense how you are with that person the next time you meet.

    Another important focus for gratitude is yourself. What are you grateful for today?

    Taking the time to look inwardly and appreciate what you have built momentum and motivation and makes you a lot happier.

    If you want to learn more ways to practice gratitude, check out these 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

    9. Increase Your Energy

    Energy is a huge motivator. If we are fired up or excited about someone or something, we are usually very motivated.

    Think about the last time you achieved something important. I’m guessing your energy and motivation was high?

    If you’ve beaten your best time on the track, or lost the weight you wanted, or won a big piece of business, your energy will be sky high and you will want to dive back in again to improve your previous performance.

    When we are excited and motivated about the things we are doing, we bring high levels of energy.

    If you could spend more time doing the things that excite and motivate you, what would that mean for your business and life?

    High levels of energy produce continual growth and give you higher levels of confidence.

    Try this:

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    Pick three things that give you high levels of excitement and motivation. Commit to spending at least one more hour on each of the things every month.

    See what you can achieve. If it brings in the results you want, aim to spend more time on those 3 things and remove 3 things you want to spend less time on.

    10. Visualize Your Ideal Future

    If your motivation is lacking, try focusing on the purpose behind what you are doing or on how it plays into the larger goal of what you want to accomplish.

    One great way to increase your brain power and motivation is to start thinking bigger and then challenge yourself to think bigger and bigger about your vision of your ideal future.

    Where would you like to be in 3 years or 5 years’ time? What is your bigger purpose in your business and life? What would have to happen to make you happy with your progress?

    Identifying and then focusing on your bigger vision gives you the feeling of working on something greater and being part of something bigger than yourself. It gives deeper meaning and purpose to your daily life.

    If you are putting long hours into something or making a lot of sacrifices to achieve something it will help put things into perspective and ensure your motivation stays strong.

    Can’t figure out your purpose yet? No problem, here’s How to Find the Purpose of Life and Start Living a Fulfilling Life

    11. Take More Actions

    If you’ve been resisting taking on a big project for a while, be that at home or at work, everything else in your life can begin to suffer.

    Sometimes, you just have to face your resistance and fear and do what you’ve been avoiding. That one thing, could make a real difference to your life.

    We all have lots to do and sometimes it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the tasks at hand.

    The key is to prioritize so we make the best use of our time and make an internal commitment to just get started.

    One of my clients was very close to finishing a new online course but there were some things she was avoiding and procrastinating over. It was very easy for her to fill her time with social media updates, shiny new things and check out the things her competitors were doing to avoid taking action. She knew she was neglecting something really important to her personal goals and putting off things that mattered to her.

    I got her to focus just half an hour at the beginning each day for a week on this project. That amount of time grew as her excitement and motivation increased.

    She felt more excited and motivated by just getting started again and doing the work. This newfound energy also impacted other aspects of her life.

    She felt more in control and knew she would succeed. Just by taking one small step and getting started.

    Conclusion

    Here are some things for you to consider as you reflect upon this article:

    • What’s motivating you right now?
    • Are you as inspired as you want to be?
    • Are you open to new experiences?
    • Are you continually learning new and better ways to live?
    • Are you putting those into practice?
    • Do you want to be more motivated and inspired?

    Hopefully this article has provided some insights and you can use some of these tactics to help you live every day with a clear intention to get closer to achieving your goals.

    Featured photo credit: Pete Bellis via unsplash.com

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