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The One Mind Shift To Rule Them All: Everything is a Deliverable

The One Mind Shift To Rule Them All: Everything is a Deliverable

One my first weeks on the job as a consultant, I was on a conference call with my boss and a client and spontaneously recommended a program that would add a significant amount of work for my company. Since we billed clients at a flat rate, it seemed I had just added a bunch of work that we wouldn’t be getting paid for.

“Nonsense,” said the director I was working under. All I did was add a deliverable, which was a good thing. It helped justify our fee.

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Years later, that lesson in consulting has infiltrated my entire approach to work and productivity. Treating all your work as a series of deliverables will shift the way you think about getting things done. Instead of task lists, you will have lists of deliverables. Instead of priorities, you will have your top one or two deliverables. At the end of every meeting, instead of action items, you will have generated a list of deliverables.

The power of thinking in deliverables

Why is thinking in terms of deliverables so powerful? Because it forces you to spend your time working toward concrete goals and in the service of getting stuff done. This holds true whether you’re a consultant or an employee.

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As a PR consultant or an employee in charge of media relations, for example, you may be tempted to spend time reading the news, monitoring twitter, or searching for new media targets. This is a good way to let four hours pass without actually getting anything done. What would you say to your client to justify the time you spent doing that? The answer is to think in terms of a deliverable: compile list of ten top media targets or engage five key industry influencers on Twitter. Thinking in these terms not only ensures you have something to show for time spent at your desk, but it justifies in writing the money your client is spending on you.

As an employee, being sure to always work off a list of deliverables will help justify your pay check, besides giving you ample fodder for reporting. You’ll never walk into another department meeting or employee review and struggle to explain what you’ve been doing with your time. More than anything, getting into the habit of thinking in terms of deliverables will focus your mind on tasks rather than on busywork.

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Turning busywork into important work

And yet, even busywork like replying to email can morph itself into concrete a deliverable if you become practiced at it. By one estimate, your average office worker spends 650 hours a year on email. That’s more than 16 work weeks worth of email checking. Of course it’s become common practice to admonish workers that constantly checking email will sabotage your productivity, but what if instead of checking email, you gave yourself a deliverable: send feedback and edits back to designer. All of a sudden you’ve turned what is probably a little bit of back and forth email into a concrete deliverable, something you can report on and check off as accomplished.

To put this mind shift into action, start a spreadsheet. If you’re a consultant, put all your clients on one page, and underneath each one brainstorm the deliverables you need to get done for the week. If you’re an employee, the process is the same, but perhaps instead of dividing deliverables by client, you’ll want to divide them by area of responsibility. Add a column for due-dates if your deliverables are time sensitive. As the week progresses, you will likely add to-dos to the list, such as action items captured after a meeting. Put checks next to the deliverables as you complete them. At the end of the week, you should be able to scan through the spreadsheet and get a good sense of what you got done. Things left undone get carried over to the next week.

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And always remember: if it’s not something you can write down as a deliverable and feel comfortable including on a monthly report to your client or boss, then maybe it’s probably not as important as you think.

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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