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Your Massive Guide to Thinking Better for both Geeks and Normal People

24 Jun 16
Aaron Wallace
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In my favorite coffee shop in the city, I over hear a lot of conversations.  It’s not that I’m being noisy, it’s that there are only three chairs in the place.  You can hear thoughts with that kind of proximity.

After a recent espresso, I may or may not have listened in on a conversation that a young woman was seemingly having with herself.  Frustration with work titled her troubles, and I thought it might be a really cool post for all of our readers.  As No-Limit People you know you don’t have to put up with circumstances like this girl did, but check it out first, and then lets take a look at how she could have handled things if she understood just a bit more about how the mind works.

 

 

I can’t keep taking this abuse for 20k a month, I’m outta here! Let me check LinkedIn to see what jobs are out there. Sales manager oh, that seems nice. Yikes!  They want someone with 5 years experience! Ughh, my CV is garbage; I’ve wasted so much time at this place.  Lets click a different one.  

Ughh. Another job in procurement? God no! I hate this job enough already.  Oh wow, 25k a month, that’s not bad! It looks like the same thing that I’m doing now, and I can make another 5k?  I bet I could handle it, this job isn’t so bad, it’s just my boss is the devil.  A different job, means a different boss.  Hell for that much money I’d put up with anything!

 

Let me spruce up that CV.  Why do I have so many? Which one did I finish last? Maybe this one.  Oh wow, I didn’t notice those bullets weren’t aligned properly. Let me fix that.  Damn it, now everything else is out ofline. Working resumes with Microsoft Word is impossible.  Let me search some CV templates.

 

Ugly.

            Nope.

                            No.

 

Eh, maybe this one will due.  My name should be bold. Should the dates be aligned left or right? Much better.  This CV is really going to stand out!

 

And the dive further into details continues…Really, the first thing you do is whip out your CV and start stylizing? News Flash! If you do your job hunt right, the type face on your CV is the last thing they care about!  I bet her next step is to write some generic cover letters and post them in 10 or 20 black holes–I mean job boards.

Because she didn’t take the time to get strategic about thinking, this poor woman may end up taking another job that she hates, instead of actually getting what she wants. But I know you can think smarter.

How could we think about this sort of a problem, if we knew a teeny tiny bit about neurology?  The following couple of frameworks can make your life a whole lot easier.

Cut Off Distractions

 

Let’s turn to jumpstarting productivity.  I’ve found a very underrated productivity app that I’ll suggest here, and luckily it’s even in the Chinese app stores.  Open the store and search “Power Button.”  Figuring out how to use this power button is pretty simple, typically it’s built right into the hardware of your machine and you just hold it for a few seconds.  Then just like magic, 80% of your distractions have vanished and you can be productive!

 

The Power Button is certainly a luxury that we will want to continue enjoying before iPhone 12s: Sentient Siri is released, I don’t think that the ReallySmartphones of the future will enjoy being turned off so much.

Jokes aside, studies have shown, that staying continuously connected via our mobile devices can lower your IQ as much as loosing a night of sleep.  Turning off your phone or WIFI can help keep your stress down, because that ping, buzz, and beep are actually registered as threat sounds in your brain.  It’s like hearing a growling predator in the bushes; and when there’s a lion 100 meters away, do you think your bodies resources are more primd for thinking or running? So tell your clingy girlfriend you learned it here, “Alerts make you stupid.”

When those things are off, it’s much harder to distract yourself!  Normally, if you get a message, you have three options

  1. Check it
  2. Ignore it
  3. Ignore it until you give in and check it

 

 

Remember the five primary tasks of the cognitive mind are understanding, recalling,  and memorizing information, deciding between options, and inhibiting action.  Trying to NOT look at your phone, check your email, look at the clock all drain much more energy than you imagine, and even worse when NOT DOING you can’t focus on DOING.

And don’t forget as well inhibiting drains your mental energy AND telling yourself ”no” is more difficult the longer you wait AND each time that you resist your temptations it becomes even more difficult to reject the next urge. Is that convincing enough yet? Turn off the phone!

No, finish reading this, THEN turn off the phone, or at least put it on Airplane mode.  And if you don’t trust yourself to remain unplugged, head over to freedom.to and download the app for a modest fee after your free trial.  It will restrict your access to certain sites for a set period of time that you determine.  It’s like having personal control over the Great Firewall of China.  If you aren’t in a factory making widgets for Foxconn then you need to dedicate time to dive deep into work, otherwise kiss your hope for mastery goodbye.

Additional Pro Tip: If you can give yourself 5 minutes of silence before you began any deep work, you’ll be doing yourself a great service.  Especially if it’s a mindfull five minutes, you’ll reset your brain.  It’s like deleting cookies or closing tabs in your web browser so you can pick up speed again.

Chunking & Abstract Thinking

You’re brain is both super powerful, and super clumsy at the same time.  It’s a strange paradox indeed.  The amount of data that you take in and process at any given moment is astounding, yet try to remember a string of numbers or names without weaving a story or some other memory trick, and you’ll fall flat on your face.  Chunking is a tactic that can help greatly. As an example, is it easier to memorize these seven numbers,

7-4-9-3-1-9-6 or these eight numbers 36-52-18-95

My bet is the second wins the prize.  When working with higher order concepts, you can use a similar idea.

You could chunk the job search process into steps

  1.     What do I want?
  2.     Where should I look?
  3.     How do I get it?

Notice the distinction between “What do I want?” and “Take some time to figure out what job I actually want to be doing.”  Wherever possible it’s best to simplify concepts, as abstract ideas pump our creative juices.  Asking “what do I want?” is likely going to engage the emotive and intuitive processes, and associative machinery typically attributed to the right brain.

Once you’ve done your chunking, and engaged the whole brain, you might choose some way to externalize these ideas.  We are using our memory to hold these pieces in our conscious attention, which is stealing from our ability to prioritize and think of creative solutions.  This can be as simple as writing them down, or having cups, or pens, or whatever, represent the ideas spatially.  My artsy readers might even choose to make doodles of the concept, or draw up mindmaps.  The author approves of all of the above methods.

Though this sounds simple enough, you might consider thinking twice before skipping over it. Remember that Jewish scientist with the funky hair?  You know, the one from the patent office?  A fun fact about Einstein, did you know that he didn’t know is his own phone number?  He would tell people, “Why would I cloud my mind with information that I can find in a phone book?”  It sounds like Einstein knew about this technique before the neuroscientists picked it up, follow suit!

Prioritization

Before you do anything, prioritize!  It’s one of the most demanding tasks that our mind will engage in, so you want to have as much of your mental energy about you as possible.  If your outcome is quality of work, then scheduling the most difficult tasks first is going to help you out the most.

There’s a debate going on between the self-help geeks of the world.  How should we prioritize?  Should I do the big hairy stuff first?  Or should I rack up a bunch of quick wins? Maybe doing easier things first will help with motivation?

In my opinion there’s no real debate here, it makes much more sense to me to do the tough stuff first.  Tiny tasks help create for you an overinflated sense of accomplishment.  And the trouble with feeling accomplished, is that we tend to slow down or stop all together, because subconsciously it feels like the work is already done.

You feel proud, so you get up from your desk to flirt with the receptionist again.  Shame on you.

Had you devoted three hours to your research in the morning like Aaron told you, the receptionist would have left for lunch by the time you finished.  Which means you get to stay happily married.  You’re welcome.

As an example, today I got up, pulled out my list of things to do, said to myself, “well all of that certainly isn’t going to get done,” then I picked four things that I would be happy with completing.  I chose to block out time for writing first, as creative work can be a big drain.  After this I’ll check in with a couple of our clients, and suprise them with a bonus I’ve been secretly working on for them, and then I’ll do some basic scheduling for the next couple of weeks.

 

Returning to the CV, you might start by focusing on, “What do I want?” asking yourself what it would take to get clear on that.  If you’ve had consistent problems answering this question in the past, before you get stuck again not knowing where you want to go in life, you could make a note to talk to a mentor or schedule a session with a great coach to help you get clarity here.

Then comes, “Where should I look?” Before punching in any URL, you first, write down all the different places you might find some useful leads.  That list might include, LinkedIn and echinacities, though it may also include a few names of people that could point you in the direction of some opportunities that haven’t even been advertised yet.  Top performers know that the best jobs get filled before they are even announced. These are my favorite people to coach, and I love helping others to think and act like these top performers.  Yet I digress…

In the end, just imagine all of the points we could get trapped in sorting through all of the tiny details.  We can easily loose track of the big picture.  Details are important, and going broad first will help make sure that your most ingenious ideas are getting center stage.

I’ll invite you to consider, the next major project that you have coming up.  If you were to take half an hour to disconnect from the world to chunk and prioritize like you’ve just read, how would you go about doing it?  With your thinking clearer, how much more do you think you could get done?

A question for you…

Who do you know who has said they are overloaded?  I bet they would appreciate any upper hand that they could get, so show that you care, and share!

~Stay Excellent

Aaron & China NLP

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