thinking tips
Taking Words Seriously Can Help You Get Things Done

Taking Words Seriously Can Help You Get Things Done

"I need more time." That is what a client told me was the solution to his grueling work schedule. We say such things without thinking about it, but it's worth pausing for a moment to focus on the thought. How could the solution possibly be more time? There is no such...

Stuck in a Pattern? Break Out with an Experiment

Stuck in a Pattern? Break Out with an Experiment

It's easy to fall into a counterproductive pattern. Perhaps you often check email before settling down to work--and then reading the email wipes out your morning work time. Or three days in a row you put off an important call until the afternoon--then forget to make...

The Work of Worry

The Work of Worry

If worries never break your concentration, congratulations. Most of us get stuck occasionally in a worry loop. For example, you might be trying to work out some budget numbers, when you start worrying about whether they will be acceptable to your boss. Each number...

Find Yourself Digressing? Take a Quick Timeout

Find Yourself Digressing? Take a Quick Timeout

It happens to the best of us. You sit down to work on your top project, but soon you find yourself thinking about how to respond to a contentious email. Or after a solid hour's work, you step out for a quick break and get waylaid by a co-worker who "just needs five...

Coping with Interruptions

Coping with Interruptions

By some estimates, people lose 2 hours of work a day due to interruptions. The time is wasted in two ways: First, when you are interrupted, you often lose your place. You have to go back and redo some of the work to restore your working context. Second, the topic of...

How a Decision Log Can Help You Move from Scattered to Focused

How a Decision Log Can Help You Move from Scattered to Focused

Don't be embarrassed if you occasionally feel scattered. It's a normal transition state. For example, after you've finished a major project, you may feel somewhat scattered until you've figured out the next big thing to focus on. But don't let yourself remain feeling...

How Triage Can Help You Prioritize Under Pressure

How Triage Can Help You Prioritize Under Pressure

In the chaos of battle, military doctors use a system of triage to determine whom to treat. They divide the wounded into three categories: those who will survive without treatment, those who will likely die despite treatment, and those for whom treatment will make the...

Distinguishing Feeling Overloaded from Feeling Overwhelmed

Distinguishing Feeling Overloaded from Feeling Overwhelmed

When your thinking process feels stopped by too much on your mind, take a moment to distinguish whether your are overloaded or overwhelmed (or both at once). "Overloaded" is a cognitive state. It occurs when you are juggling too many ideas in your mind, perhaps...

Jump-Start Your Thinking

Jump-Start Your Thinking

Questions are the motor of thinking. A question puts your subconscious databanks into motion—it's a request to the subconscious to provide information. Although I teach techniques to generate questions to move thinking along, sometimes it's helpful to use pre-packaged...

How Identifying Three Good Things Each Day Makes Your Life Better

How Identifying Three Good Things Each Day Makes Your Life Better

Here's a daily practice I learned from Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness. Once each day, write down three good things that happened in the last 24 hours. You can write them before going to bed or first thing in the morning. You can...

Aiding Willpower

Aiding Willpower

Willpower is crucial to achieving your goals. From putting forth an extra effort to meet a deadline, to curbing your spending to save for the future, willpower is the force that turns your good intentions into reality, I think willpower draws on a kind of reservoir of...

Setting Standing Orders

Setting Standing Orders

I'm a believer in using checklists and notes as memory aids. But sometimes you need to be able to rely on your own memory. This is particularly true for things you want to remember every time, like: Remember the car keys. Pronounce that word PREF-ur-u-buul, not...

Wishing for Motivation

Wishing for Motivation

Wishful thinking doesn't solve problems. But it can transform your motivation when you are not "in the mood" to do the next task on your agenda. I stumbled upon this fact while on a long trip. At a certain point, I thought I should dig into four annual reports I had...

Don’t Let Pressure Sabotage Your Thinking

Don’t Let Pressure Sabotage Your Thinking

Pressure can sabotage your thinking. By pressure, I mean an issue weighing on your mind as you try to concentrate on something else. Perhaps it's an imminent deadline or a desperate desire to do a fantastic job. Maybe it's a highly-charged emotional situation you...

How Latent Knowledge Can Help You Sift Out What Matters

How Latent Knowledge Can Help You Sift Out What Matters

For those of us who juggle several projects at work, a frequent question is, "which should I work on right now, in this chunk of time?" Sometimes the answer is obvious. Sometimes there's a crisis, and the best you can do is triage the work.1 And occasionally there's a...

Getting Started Using a Bit of Pretend

A bit of imagination can be surprisingly helpful with difficult thinking. I learned this by applying advice from Alan Lakein on how to get started on a difficult task: "Imagine this: You've been relieved of all responsibility for getting a difficult A-1 [important...

Unclear on Your Priorities? Do a Thought Experiment

Unclear on Your Priorities? Do a Thought Experiment

But they're all important! When everything seems like it's off-the-charts important to do today, a thought experiment can help you figure out your actual top priority. Here's how to do it:  Look at your short list of tasks to do, and pick one. Now imagine this was the...

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