Note from Phil: What follows is a very helpful guest post from Valeh Nazemoff, about breaking bad habits, something I struggle with.
When you’re getting dressed for the day, have you been unpleasantly surprised to find that your pants are no longer easy to zip? Or, have you failed to recognize your round face in selfies? You’re not alone! Not long ago, I experienced the same thing. What was going on? I knew I was getting in some exercise – not enough, but some.
Did I need to get more exercise? Sure, but was there more to it than that?
I had to pause and figure out the root cause.
My first realization? My grandmother’s Persian cooking was a delicious problem. I wasn’t eating in moderation and kept going back and forth for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th helpings. Trust me, if you tried my grandmother’s cooking, you’d understand!
What does this have to with business, you ask? Everything! The process for getting to the bottom of a problematic issue is the same no matter what kind of problem it is. We must take a step back in order to take two steps forward.
Let’s say that you’ve identified a decrease in productivity at work, but are not sure what to do about it. At day’s end, sit alone with no distractions, technology or otherwise. Spend five minutes in quiet thought. Reflect back on your day.
Make a list –
What were your goals for the day?
What did you accomplish?
What distracted you?
What parts of your day helped you accomplish your goals? What parts did not?
By doing this, you get a clearer picture of whether your time is spent accomplishing the things that are important to you. Perform this activity for a week and look for patterns in your observations. Two types of themes will emerge – good and bad /productive and counterproductive.
This exercise has so many applications for today’s executive and thought leaders.
Make a simple two column list, with one column being labeled “counterproductive” (these are the “bad” patterns). Activities may include overscheduling of meetings, distractions, etc. The second column should list “productive” patterns. These represent a common thread of “wins” throughout the day, such as meetings that went well, key insights that were learned, or performance metrics that were met.
To obtain a fresh view, focus on those “good” patterns. Yes, an alternate option is to take bad patterns and try to change them. But, you’ll find that trying to replicate positive experiences throughout the day will provide more motivation.
So, after going through that exercise, I realized that my true goal was to simply spend time with my grandparents. By eating a small meal before going to their house, I was able to cut down on my portion size and rein things in. In doing this, I was able to stay focused on quality visits with them and also able to lose a few pounds. Thanks to going through this cycle, I identified what was truly motivating to me and what was counterproductive. I may not have seen this otherwise.
No matter where you are in your life, it’s always possible to break those bad habits, one list at a time!
About the author: Valeh Nazemoff is an international bestselling author of “The Four Intelligences of the Business Mind: How to Rewire Your Brain and Your Business for Success” and the senior vice president and co-owner of Acolyst, a high-level data and business performance management consulting firm working with all levels of government management and Fortune 5000 companies. She has been featured in New York’s Times Square and in many prestigious media publications such as Thomson Reuters, Wiley, InformationWeek, IDG, Huffington Post, and Inc Magazine. An accomplished strategic advisor, team builder, speaker, author and teacher, she is passionate about improving people’s lives through strategic planning, teamwork, and technology. Using the approach of blending research and practice from neuroscience, psychology, organizational behavior, and analytics, Valeh enjoys problem solving, and loves taking the puzzle pieces of a distressed organization then helping to create order from chaos.