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The Leader as Kipuka (Create your Kipuka, Part II)

The Leader as Kipuka (Create your Kipuka, Part II)

Last Thursday, we talked about creating a haven of creativity and rejuvenation for ourselves, called Kipuka in Hawai‘i. I had ended my article asking you to consider how people can be like the Kipuka, those verdant oases of life in scorched lava fields which hold the promise of what will flourish and grow once more.

The common name they may go by in our normal awareness? Leaders. Held within them is the promise of a future the rest of us may not sense yet. They lead in that they start to move toward it before the rest of us do, and they are so certain and self-assured, so positive and full of energy, that they pull us along with them. We follow very willingly, feeling comfortable in their confidence.

What we do sense, is that within their Kipuka a spot will be made for us to take root, find nourishment in fertile ground, and grow too. We are sure they will add some richness to our lives.

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These leaders are not always larger than life. They are not always older, better traveled, or more experienced than we are. In fact, they could even be our children. They are leaders who may not have a title of leadership, but they act like leaders, and so in our picture frame of our present world, that’s who they are. That’s who we want them to be.

“Leadership is about getting things done with others and through others, and as such, aspiring to leadership is not a goal or quality reserved for those with title, position, or power. Conversely, when you have been one to demonstrate your leadership, people take notice you have it, and those promotions of title, position, and power will find you.”
—Managing with Aloha, on Alaka‘i, the Hawaiian value of Leadership

So if title can’t clue you in to recognize leadership when you see it, what does? The vegetation on the Kipuka stands out so remarkably when it is surrounded by nothing but hardened black lava. The best leadership is not as obvious in our everyday consciousness. How can you get better at putting yourself in the company of the leaders worth following, the ones who will mean something great in your life? What does “great leading” look like to you?

If you feel you have an answer, or a story to share, do share it with us here.

Why? So we can learn from the great leaders of our world, and try to be like them.

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You see I believe that a) leadership matters, and b) that leading is something we can all do. As I wrote in Managing with Aloha, titles and positions of power are irrelevant. As a coach, I want to help people lead when they feel the calling to do so. As a member of the human race, I want more of us to lead effectively when we believe we can, and when we should. I long for us to be more impatient, lead more often and in more small ways, so we can banish apathy and complacency.

It seems to me that we tend to think of leadership as way bigger than it really is in real-life, normal practice. I like the thought that we can each be the best in some way and with some thing, when we choose to excel at those things we can do, and do exceptionally well, versus striving to be the best with what might be out of our league.

I don’t think that’s a condescending thought at all; it’s liberating. What it means to me is that we can all stop waiting for a looming presence of leadership to come save us, excite us, or otherwise rock our world. We can do it ourselves in whatever small ways we can, just like the Kipuka, seemingly alone and small in the vast destruction of rivers of lava. Because of the Kipuka life does not end. Because of us, possibility never ends.

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Everything is impossible unless the first person does it. Will you be that person?

Article References:
Create your Kipuka
“Great Leading” means what, exactly?

Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is also the founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership.

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Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boosts Productivity 10X More with Focus

Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boosts Productivity 10X More with Focus

There’s a dark side to the conveniences of the Digital Age. With smartphones that function like handheld computers, it has become increasingly difficult to leave our work behind. Sometimes it seems like we’re expected to be accessible 24/7.

How often are you ever focused on just one thing? Most of us try to meet these demands by multi-tasking.

Many of us have bought into the myth that we can achieve more through multi-tasking. In this article, I’ll show you how you can accomplish more work in less time. Spoiler alert: multi-tasking is not the answer.

Why is multitasking a myth?

The term “multi-tasking” was originally used to describe how microprocessors in computers work. Machines multitask, but people cannot.

Despite our inability to simultaneously perform two tasks at once, many people believe they are excellent multi-taskers.

You can probably imagine plenty of times when you do several things at once. Maybe you talk on the phone while you’re cooking or respond to emails during your commute.

Consider the amount of attention that each of these tasks requires. Chances are, at least one of the two tasks in question is simple enough to be carried out on autopilot.

We’re okay at simultaneously performing simple tasks, but what if you were trying to perform two complex tasks? Can you really work on your presentation and watch a movie at the same time? It can be fun to try to watch TV while you work, but you may be unintentionally making your work more difficult and time-consuming.

Your brain on multi-tasking

Your brain wasn’t designed to multi-tasking. To compensate, it will switch from task to task. Your focus turns to whatever task seems more urgent. The other task falls into the background until you realize you’ve been neglecting it.

When you’re bouncing back and forth like this, an area of the brain known as Broadmann’s Area 10 activates. Located in your fronto-polar prefrontal cortex at the very front of the brain, this area controls your ability to shift focus. People who think they are excellent multitaskers are really just putting Broadmann’s Area 10 to work.

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But I can juggle multiple tasks!

You are capable of taking in information with your eyes while doing other things efficiently. Scientifically speaking, making use of your vision is the only thing you can truly do while doing something else.

For everything else, you’re serial tasking. This constant refocusing can be exhausting, and it prevents us from giving our work the deep attention it deserves.

Think about how much longer it takes to do something when you have to keep reminding yourself to focus.

Why multitasking is failing you

Multitasking does more bad than good to your productivity, here’re 4 reasons why you should stop multitasking:

Multitasking wastes your time.

You lose time when you interrupt yourself. People lose an average of 2.1 hours per day getting themselves back on track when they switch between tasks.

In fact, some studies suggest that doing multiple things at once decreases your productivity by as much as 40%. That’s a significant loss in efficiency. You wouldn’t want your surgeon to be 40% less productive while you’re on the operating table, would you?

It makes you dumber.

A distracted brain performs a full 10 IQ points lower than a focused brain. You’ll also be more forgetful, slower at completing tasks, and more likely to make mistakes.

You’ll have to work harder to fix your mistakes. If you miss an important detail, you could risk injury or fail to complete the task properly.

This is an emotional response.

There’s so much data suggesting that multitasking is ineffective but people insist that they can multitask.

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Feeling productive fulfills an emotional need. We want to feel like we’re accomplishing something. Why accomplish just one item on the to-do list when you can check off two or three?

It’ll wear you out.

When you’re jumping from task to task, it can feel invigorating for a little while. Over time, this needs to fill every second with more and more work leads to burn out.

We’re simply not built to multitask, so when we try, the effect can be exhausting. This destroys your productivity and your motivation.

How to stop multitasking and work productively

Flitting back and forth between tasks feels second-nature after a while. This is in part because Broadmann’s Area 10 becomes better at serial tasking through time.

In addition to changing how the brain works, this serial tasking behavior can quickly turn into a habit.

Just like any bad habit, you’ll need to recognize that you need to make a change first. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to adjust to a lifestyle of productive mono-tasking:

1. Consciously change gears

Instead of trying to work on two distinct tasks at once, consider setting up a system to remind you when to change focus. This technique worked for Jerry Linenger, an American astronaut onboard the space station, Mir.

As an astronaut, he had many things to take care of every day. He set alarms for himself on a few watches. When a particular watch sounded, he knew it was time to switch tasks. This enabled him to be 100% in tune with what he was doing at any given moment.

This strategy is effective because the alarm served as his reminder for what was to come next. Linenger’s intuition about setting reminders falls in line with research conducted by Paul Burgess of University College, London on multitasking.

2. Manage multiple tasks without multitasking

Raj Dash of Performancing.com has an effective strategy for balancing multiple projects without multitasking. He suggests taking 15 minutes to acquaint yourself with a new project before moving on to other work. Revisit the project later and do about thirty minutes on research and brainstorming.

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Allow a few days to pass before knocking out the project in question. While you were actively work on other projects, your brain continues to problem solve-in the background.

This method works because it gives us the opportunity to work on several projects without allowing them to compete for your attention.

3. Set aside distractions

Your smartphone, your inbox and the open tabs on your computer are all open invitations for distraction. Give yourself time each day when you silence your notifications, close your inbox and remove unnecessary tabs from your desktop.

If you want to focus, you can’t give anything else an opportunity to invade your mental space.

Emails can be particularly invasive because they often have an unnecessary sense of urgency associated with them. Some work cultures stress the importance of prompt responses to these messages, but we can’t treat every situation like an emergency.

Designate certain times in your day for checking and responding to emails to avoid compulsive checking.

4. Take care of yourself

We often blame electronics for pulling us from our work, but sometimes our physical body forces us into a state of serial tasking. If you’re hungry while you’re trying to work, your attention will flip between your hunger and your work until you take care of your physical needs.

Try to take all your bio-breaks before you sit down for an uninterrupted stint of work.

In addition, you’ll also want to be sure you’re attending to your health in a broader sense. Getting enough exercise, practicing mindfulness and incorporating regular breaks into your day will keep you from being tempted by distractions.

5. Take a break

People are more likely to head to YouTube or check their social media when they need a break. Instead of trying to work and watch a mindless video at the same time, give yourself times when you’re allowed to enjoy your distracting activity of choice.

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Limit how much time you’ll spend on this break so that your guilt-free distraction time doesn’t turn into hours of wasted time.

6. Make technology your ally

Scientists are beginning to discover the detrimental effects of chronic serial tasking on our brains. Some companies are developing programs to curb this desire to multitask.

Apps like Forest turn staying focused into a game. Extensions like RescueTime help you track your online habits so that you can be more aware of how you spend your time.

The key to productivity: Focus

Multitasking is not the key to productivity. It’s far better to schedule time to focus on each task than it is to try to do everything at once.

Make use of the methods outlined above and prepare to be more effective and less exhausted in the process.

If you want to learn more about how to focus, don’t miss my other article:

How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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