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The Only 2 Tricks You Need for Maximum Productivity

The Only 2 Tricks You Need for Maximum Productivity

    For the past 10 years I’ve been a student of productivity. In high school I managed to make the honor roll while running a small business. In college I became a master of acing tests without actually learning the material (the trick is to figure out what the professor will ask and then memorize the necessary information). When I started my second business in the heart of the recession I knew that I had to be a productivity ninja if I wanted a fighting chance.

    I tried everything. I experimented with virtually every legal stimulant, used computer programs to prevent distractions, tried to check my email only once a day, followed GTD to a T… the list goes on.

    Through it all, I learned that there are only two tricks you need to achieve maximum productivity.

    But first it’s important to understand that if you’re not feeling great you’re not going to be able to hit maximum productivity. Take good care of yourself. It’s the foundation for everything.

    With that in mind, here are the only two tricks you’ll ever need to reach maximum productivity:

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    Plot your day

    Most of us go to work and start working. Our time is spent either reacting to work as it comes in (emails, calls, assignments from the boss, etc) or working on things that are due soon.

    Working this way is very haphazard. It forces your focus to flicker, and it doesn’t guarantee that you’re dedicating time to the really important things, especially the important stuff that isn’t due soon.

    Instead of diving right in, the first thing I do when I get to my desk is I open up a word document, look at my to-dos and emails, and then figure out how to fit everything in.  I literally write out my schedule for the day. My schedule for today looks like this:

    10:00 – 10:10: Plotting the day

    10:10 – 11:10: Blogging (edit and post Necessary Suffering, write LifeHack article on productivity)

    11:10 – 12:10: Work on new white paper

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    12:10 – 12:30: Email

    12:30 – 1:00: Grocery (spinach, garbanzos, canned tomato, onion)

    1:00 – 1:45: Lunch with Will from Ingenuity Prep

    1:45 – 2:00 Prep for call about guest lecture at Georgetown

    2:00 – 3:45 Call with Jay about guest lecture

    3:45 – 4:00 Prep for call about upcoming speech at BSU

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    3:00 – 4:00 Call with team at BSU

    4:00 – 5:00 CRM

    5:00 – 6:00 Email

    Writing a schedule for the day keeps you focused and productive, and it ensures that all the important things are getting your attention. Spend ten minutes in the morning plotting your day and then stick to it.

    Carve out time each week to reflect and calibrate.

    If you really want to be productive throughout the day, one of the most important things to understand is how your daily work fits into the bigger picture of your work and life.

    Most of us are so busy that we don’t bother reflecting. That’s a mistake. Nothing is more important than reflecting on your work and your life – how else would you know that you’re on the right track?

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    Find a few hours each week to reflect. I use Fridays from 3-5. No real work gets done at this time anyways.

    The questions I ask myself:

    • What went well this week? How can I carry that into next week?
    • What went poorly this week? How can I prevent that next week?
    • Did this week fit into my bigger vision? If not, how can I change that next week?
    • What are the 3-5 most critical things for me to be working on next week?

    All that is left for you to do is make sure you are improving a little bit each week and that your work ties into your bigger vision. An easy way to do this is to schedule time each day for the tasks that you have predetermined to be the most important.

    We all want to achieve maximum productivity and efficiency. Doing so requires blending our day-to-day with the big picture and using our time thoughtfully. Starting your day by plotting how you’ll use your time, and spending an hour or two each week calibrating and reflecting, will enable you to hit maximum productivity.

    (Photo credit: Stitched panoramas via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on June 27, 2019

    How to Use Observational Learning for Your Best Improvement

    How to Use Observational Learning for Your Best Improvement

    Someone walks over, introduces themselves and raises their hand out in front of you. How do you know what you’re supposed to do next?

    If this were the first time you saw this behavior, you wouldn’t have a clue.

    If you were from an Eastern culture, you might go to bow toward this person. But you know what to do because since childhood, you’ve observed many adults shaking hands.

    Observational learning is a learning theory in psychology that describes how we learn by watching and imitating others.

    In this article, we will look into what observational learning really is and how it helps you learn and grow.

    What Is Observational Learning?

    Children learn many of their behaviors and expressions through observation. We pick up things as fundamental as walking, playing, gestures, facial expressions, and body postures via observational learning.

    In the 1970s, psychologist Albert Bandura outlined a four-stage process of how observational learning occurs:[1]

    1. Attention: Notice something in the environment.
    2. Retention: Recall what was noticed (memory).
    3. Reproduction: Copy or mimic what you noticed.
    4. Motivation: Get reinforcement from the environment for completing the behavior (or punishment for not).

    Pretty simple, right?

    Neuroscience provides further evidence. Mirror neurons fire when one animal acts and another animal observes as if the neurons in one brain are mirroring the patterns of another brain.

    The result?

    You make a funny face at a baby. And the baby makes the same funny right back at you.

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    What Influences Observational Learning

    Observational learning doesn’t always occur, so it’s essential to understanding the conditions in place when it does.

    So when are we more like to imitate others? It happens when:

    • You doubt yourself and your abilities.
    • You are confused or in an unfamiliar environment.
    • You’re in a position of authority, like a boss, leader, or celebrity.
    • Someone is similar to you in some way: interest, age, or social class.
    • You see someone getting rewards for their behavior.

    For example, let’s say four people go out to an upscale restaurant. One person frequents this type of restaurant while it’s the first time for the other three individuals.

    The person who is comfortable in this environment knows what to do: when and where to place the napkin, how the place setting works, and how to communicate with the wait staff. Because he knows what to do, in this situation, he’s the authority.

    The rest of his company are in an unfamiliar environment. And when we don’t know how to behave, we tend to look around and observe the behavior of others.

    Somehow, we know who to observe by picking up subtle cues. So without having to think about it, the rest of the party subconsciously looks around and begin to discern who the “expert” is and what he’s doing. And this sort of process frequently happens throughout our development and the rest of our lives.

    Performing Your Best with Observational Learning

    Observational learning usually occurs subconsciously in social situations. That is, our basic need to belong, or “fit in,” drives us to adapt our behavior to the actions of others.

    But the real power of observational learning comes from making this process active and conscious.

    What does this mean?

    Once you understand how observational learning works, you can choose to apply it in ways that support your personal and professional development.

    Modeling

    Modeling

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    is another term for observational learning. Let’s say you want to become an expert presenter. No problem. Find a few presenters that you believe are highly skilled and watch what they do.

    Pay attention to everything:

    • How do they hold themselves?
    • When do they pause?
    • How do they emphasize specific points?
    • Do they use slides? Imagery? Sounds?
    • What gestures do they make as they communicate?

    Modeling the success of others is perhaps the fastest way to elevate your game and make rapid progress in your development.

    Shadowing

    In the workplace, observational learning is often called shadowing.

    By shadowing an experienced employee for a period, you’ll naturally learn how to perform the tasks this person does each day. This process works effectively in sales environments too.

    Apprenticeship

    If you study the masters of any field, you quickly learn that they had great teachers or masters from whom they learned.

    In Mastery, author Robert Greene points out that those who reach the level of mastery in any field submit to a rigorous apprenticeship to absorb the secret knowledge of those with many years of experience.

    Similarly, in The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle highlights that anyone who cultivates talent has a master coach who knows how to break things down and teach things in a way that accelerates learning.

    So if there’s any area of your life that you’re seeking mastery in, with who can you form an apprenticeship?

    Here in this article, you can learn more about apprenticeship at work: What Is an Apprenticeship and What Value Can It Bring to Your Career?

    Hijacking Your Behavior

    Our brains, in many ways, are like sponges. We absorb what we observe.

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    While this observational learning can be a powerful tool for our personal growth and development, it can also be a destructive force.

    How?

    Consider all of the bad behavior we witnessed when we were kids (and still today):

    The list goes on. And yes, we observed and absorbed these behavioral patterns too from our parents, teachers, family members, and friends.

    We also adopt behavior we observe on television and in the media. Studies show, for example, that teens who watched a lot of sexual content were more likely to start having sex soon after.[2]

    Does this mean that watching violent movies will make you act violently? Not necessarily, but these images are imprinted in our unconscious and often later express themselves under the right conditions.

    Here’s the bottom line:

    Be very conscious of the media you consume and with who you spend your time. Our minds are like computer hardware and what we observe is like the software. So choose positive and life-supporting software if you want your brain to mimic it!

    5 Ways to Use Observational Learning to Your Advantage

    Here are five tips to make observational learning work for you:

    1. Be Highly Selective on What, Who and When You Observe

    Remember, observational learning is taking place whether we want it to or not. To harness this powerful force, consciously select who you are observing and in what context.

    For example, if you know someone who’s highly productive in their work, ask to shadow them as they work.

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    But this individual may be an entirely different person when they aren’t working. So be mindful of what behavioral patterns you’re absorbing.

    2. Pay Attention to the Details

    Those who achieve mastery in any area of their lives do so by mastering the fundamentals and then continually improving on more subtle levels. To the inexperienced eye, it’s often difficult to notice what they do differently.

    In the case of negotiations, for example, a skilled negotiator knows how and when to disarm the other player. Sometimes these skills express themselves instinctively, so you may pick up on details in behavior the individual doesn’t even know they are doing.

    3. Maintain a Playful Attitude

    Many of us are conditioned to believe that seriousness is a valuable quality for learning. Psychologist Abraham Maslow, however, found that self-actualizing individuals,[3] or individuals with positive mental health, tend to have a more innocent, playful attitude when they are learning and developing.

    Research also shows that we learn up to ten times faster in the areas that interesting to us.[4] So stay curious, open, and ready to learn.

    4. Rehearse What You Observe in Your Mind

    Studies show that rehearsing specific patterns of movement in our mind’s eye can help our brains encode desired actions and behaviors.[5] Many peak-performance athletes and musicians use this form of creative visualization training.

    Visualization practices are extraordinarily powerful when you do it right before bedtime so your subconscious mind can process in the images while you sleep.

    5. Don’t Just Observe, Do

    To make observational learning stick, you must also do whatever it is you’re observing . Many companies combine shadowing experienced employees with hands-on training to accelerate the learning and development of new employees.

    The Bottom Line

    In the personal development space, observational learning is often called modeling the success of others .

    Perhaps as you’re reading this, you’re already getting ideas of who you can start modeling.

    Here are three questions to help you get started right now:

    1. What skills and behaviors to you want to learn?
    2. Who already possesses these skills and behaviors?
    3. How can you start modeling these individuals right away?

    Now, make it so!

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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