This is a lengthy text with a zillion useful tips so I won't attempt to summarise them all here. Instead, what follows, is my highlights, the tools and techniques that I have found to be most useful and I hope will be most impactful for you.
The journey starts with a quick recap of 3 important theories that underpin all the subsequent content in the book. These are:
1. Our 2 system brains - We have our deliberate & controlled system (The Human if you are a Steve Peters fan or the Slow system if you've read Daniel Kahneman) and the automatic & instinctive system (The chimp for Steve Peters and the Fast system for Daniel Kahenman). We obviously want to use our deliberate, logical, human system where possible.
2. The Discover-Defend axis - We are constantly looking for threats in the environment to defend ourselves against or rewards to discover. Being in defensive mode switches off our deliberate system and switches over to automatic and instinctive chimp mode. Not helpful for having a good day!
3. The Mind-Body loop. Our physical state and our mental state are deeply entwined and this loop operates in both directions. For example if we are in a bad mood our posture will reflect that, if we change our posture we can change our mood.
"We miss a big opportunity if we simply let the day happen to us"
How many of us can truly say that we start each day with intent, having set our priorities and established what we need to achieve that day? Chances are not many of us. And we wonder why we don't have consistent great days...
Caroline advises starting each day by covering the 4 A's:
- Aim: What matters most/what is my real priority
- Attitude: Where are my thoughts? Are these helpful for the aim?
- Assumptions: What negative assumptions do I have? Can I challenge these?
- Attention: Where do i want to direct my focus?
If we start the day having identified and reinforced these areas then we are able to set out on the front foot with a clear idea of what we need to achieve and how we are going to go about it.
The biggest win in this area is singletasking, or deep work as I often refer to it as. We are all habitual multitaskers, operating with the false belief that doing more than one thing at once is the only way to get ahead. The reality is that, whilst we may feel busy and therefore important, we are actually ruining our performance and wasting time. Research shows that multitaskers go 30% slower than singletaskers and make 2-4x more mistakes. What's more the more confident you are in your multitasking abilities the worse you are likely performing.
The antidote to this is obviously therefore single tasking. Doing one thing at once and doing it well. Not only do we get performance benefits working this way but we also remove task switching costs - lost time as we lose attention switching between things - which can account for a couple of hours of lost productivity a day. To help with your singletasking you can:
- Turn off email and other notifications to prevent interruptions or distractions.
- Use the pomodoro technique (25mins 'on' task followed by 5mins 'off' repeated) to stay fresh.
- Batch similar tasks together to reduce switching costs.
- Zone your day so you will be performing best when working on the most complex or creative tasks.
- Set timers to challenge your attention span and challenge colleagues
- Manage up the chain to explain to others why you are changing your way of working and encourage them to try it.
My favourite section of this chapter is to do with something called fundamental attribution error. That is that we attribute weakness in others to their character rather than circumstances. This often leads to frustration and break down in working relationships. If we instead assume 'good person, bad circumstances' then it will protect those relationships and allow you to work better together. A good friend once told me that 'everyone is reasonable when you understand their reasons'. I've found this advice hugely helpful, I now choose to see the best in others which helps me get through the day with less angst.
If you have to pitch ideas, coach or train others then there are some excellent pieces of advice here to help the content 'stick' with whoever you are delivering it to:
- Get through their filters by making the idea more novel, adopt an unusual vantage point. By doing so you will get them into their discover mode by providing a reward for their mind.
- Think of how you can present the idea so that the audience will want to tell others about it afterwards (sidenote-I often find from my work that it is the weird analogies that people are most likely to action and share)
- Combine people and positive emotion - show how your idea effects real people and get the audience to put themselves in their shoes.
- Don't assume they know what you know. Check understanding
One final tip for getting people to help you out... Research shows that people are much more likely to help you out if you provide a context for your request. Tell them why your request matters and it'll likely get done.
Some top tips for staying in discover mode and preventing the chimp kicking in:
- Label the emotions you are experiencing. This creates immediate detachment.
- Imagine you are your future self giving advice to your current self. Again, excellent detachment technique.
- Reconnect with your 'why'. Why is this important? Knowing that will help you get through it.
- Reframe nerves as excitement, ask 'how fascinating, what can I learn here'.
- Change your state, use posture and breathing techniques to reverse the mind-body loop.
- Revisit your 'crucibles' - When have you faced difficulty in the past. How did you get through that?
Some quick energy boosting tips:
- Practice gratitude. List 3 good things in your life right now.
- Do something kind for someone else.
- Find something interesting about the task you're doing.
- Make time for human connection. Speak to real people!
- Find quick wins
- Connect with your purpose. What is the big picture?
- Use your strengths. What are your best features, how can you use them here?
- Finish tasks on a high. Finish with quality.
- Structure your day to mix up your drainers vs fillers tasks.
There's a huge amount of useful stuff here. My advice is to pick a couple that you think will be helpful for you and play with them. Don't be tempted to try and change everything at once. My personal work on is to start each day with that intent. Don't let a day happen by accident. I've already noticed positive strides from this. Let me know how you get on and what your favourite techniques are.