A Weekly Date With Money

On Friday, September 7th, we will be hosting our first Deep Dive, which will focus on financial goals: Whether it's saving more money, saving for a specific purpose, paying off debt, earning more, or earning the same amount but for different work/different hours. This session is great for all financial goals. If you're coming to the workshop the exercise below is a good way to prepare for it.  If you're not able to make it on September 7th, this exercise is a great way to get started on your financial goals on your own.  

 https://prettyprintsandpaper.com/2017/02/12/budget-finances-bullet-journal/

https://prettyprintsandpaper.com/2017/02/12/budget-finances-bullet-journal/

Financial Habit Exercise: Get Romantic with Money

Step 1: Create a Money Tracker
It takes about 5-15 minutes to create an expense or finance tracker on paper.  If you're aesthetically-driven (i.e you're motivated by beautiful things/ good design) be sure to come in to the shop to pick up a copy of Dot Journaling -- our favorite guide on creating your own analog trackers, including financial tracking layouts.  If you just want a nice clean practical tracker, make a table in your notebook with five columns: Date, Expense, Revenue, Amount, and Budgeted (a Yes or No column -- did you budget for this or was it something you didn't expect to spend money on?).  Paloma, our owner, has a full excel sheet because her date with money includes expenses for the shop, so this step also doubles as her weekly book-keeping.  Here's a template she created for her business expenses. It's what she turns in to her accountant as well at the end of the year for tax purposes. You don't need anything this complex when you start out. Keep it easy so you start the weekly practice, later you can add bells and whistles. 

Step 2: Update Weekly
Decide what day and time, EVERY WEEK, you will update your tracker and add your expenses to it from the previous week. It takes 15 to 30 minutes a week (at most) to do this step.  Pro Level: Make a section of your notebook where you'll then spend another 5 minutes making a quick note about how money is feeling that week. No wrong answers, just write how it's feeling to think about/ process/ update your money that week.  Paloma's day is Monday mornings, from 8:30 to 9:30am.  She gives herself a whole hour, at a cafe, so that her money date doesn't feel rushed or stressful. It's a way to get centered and calibrate with what's happening with her money.  

Step 3: Protect your time
Remove all barriers before and after this money date that might interfere or distract you.  If you have kids for example, you might need to brainstorm with your partner or childcare-support system who can pick up the kids a whole 30 minutes before your money date begins so that even if everyone is running late, IT DOES NOT COME BETWEEN YOU and your hott money date. 

Step 4: Repeat:  Do Steps 1 and 2 every week for eight weeks. It might take time to get the hang of it. You'll find little tweaks along the way that make the date more helpful, more aligned with your week and work. 

 Photo by  Cathryn Lavery  on  Unsplash

THE GOAL OF THIS EXERCISE
A financial advisor would tell you that keeping a weekly practice of expense tracking is just good financial hygiene. A goal psychologist would add that a weekly financial check-in, when you also write down how you're feeling about money, is a way to minimize fear, anxiety, and general freakouts about money.  We’ve coached a lot of people on their financial goals and can state with certainty that a weekly date with your money leads to feelings of calmness, control, and self-efficacy. A weekly money date is also critical for reaching big financial goals. 

THE HURDLE: What's hard for many of us is weirdly not time (because there's always time for the things that matter). The real challenge is that the limbic part of our brain deeply wants to avoid looking at our money, because that part of our brain is in charge of fear, worry and anxiety. Or more precisely, it is in charge of helping us avoid these feelings and for many of us, the limbic brain presumes that looking at our money will inevitably lead to worry, anxiety and freakouts.  The weekly element of this exercise is thus crucial -- weekly money dates slowly help our limbic system see that our bank account is not a scary, dark pit of snakes we should avoid looking into it -- it's just a bunch of transactions that we can analyze, think about, have feelings about, and slowly mull over how to wrangle.  Every week, you'll tackle looking into it a little bit at a time. Until it's no big whoop at all. 

PALOMA'S STORY:  "I'm particularly excited about this Financial Goals Deep Dive because I reeeeeeaaaaally understand how gnarly it can feel to look at your money every week.  I used to come up with 100 excuses why I didn't 'have time' to do this. But then I'd spend 30 minutes dissecting Instagram feeds every day.  How is Instagram more important than MY MONEY?!?!? So why did I procrastinate? I was suppressing the feelings -- I was actually terrified that doing this would just be a weekly reminder that I am the worst business owner. That I have no money sense. That I'm leading us to financial ruin -- so by not having a weekly money date, I was choosing to not submit myself to those feelings every week.  The goods news --  I've been on a weekly money date habit for 5 weeks now and I can assure everyone: the feelings I have are the opposite of what I was terrified about. I feel just like my clients felt when I led them to start this habit: In control, calm, in charge of my life.  It's made focusing on my big financial goals 100% easier. I can't say enough good things about weekly dates with your money."

 Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

DON'T GO IT ALONE
Another feeling our limbic brain wants to avoid at all costs is shame.  Shame is the worst.  So we've designed a space to talk about money and financial goals that is safe and free of judgement, no matter how gnarly or in the red your checking account is: Our upcoming Financial Goals Deep Dive is a new kind of session at 11:11 where you can show up, state your financial goal, your financial "present" -- and get 100% loving support from others on how to match the two up. Support that is totally free of judgement and shame. Fuck shame.  

What is a Deep Dive? Deep Dives are 90 minutes of protected time with an expert coach to strategize and get support on your goals and your specific hurdles, all in a small eight-person group session. Each participant will receive 10 minutes of focused coaching on their goal. Your coach for this Financial Goals session is Paloma Medina, who will use her expertise in goal science and experience coaching top performers to help you unpack and get to the root of the hurdle and provide tailored advice and feedback. The magic of Deep Dives is not just access to a coach (normally a $200+/hour investment) but also the rare opportunity to witness and learn by watching other goal-getters be coached. We hear again and again from participants how much this is one of the most beneficial components of Deep Dives.

There's just 8 spots available for this session -- sign up here to join the Deep Dive. We're excited to see you there. Check our calendar for more upcoming events. 

Catch Location Calibration

 Photo by Rob Bye on Unsplash

Photo by Rob Bye on Unsplash

As promised, this is a continuation of our latest Ask Paloma post where we talked to Mimi about what to do when you have too many to-do lists. We left off with the promise of going deeper on catch locations.  What are catch locations? Most people store important information (including email addresses, meeting information, appointments, ideas, lists, etc) in places like apps on their phone, notebooks, calendar apps, Gmail, sticky notes, planners, and even napkins. Each of these are catch locations because it's where key info is "caught". 

Why does thinking about catch locations matter? Because a major source of stress can come from having too many of them or being too inconsistent about which you use. If you're feeling overwhelmed by all the different kinds of tasks, information, and apps in your life, this blog post might be an important first step. We'll walk you through a Catch Location Calibration

Step 1:  Inventory
We're going to first do a quick inventory of all the types of information you wrangle in your life. For this step, you'll want to print this worksheet. Once printed, take 10-20 minutes of focus time to list out, column by column, all the kinds of information that matter most for you to keep track of. It's ok if it's a messy list at this step, we promise we'll organize it later. 

Examples of things to list in the columns (see the image for a real example by column :)

  • Doctor appointments
  • Phone calls to make
  • Inspiring quotes
  • Research notes
  • Grocery lists
  • Client email addresses
  • Work to-dos
  • Home to-dos
  • Upcoming networking events

If you want help at this step,  we invite you to grab one of 10 spots at our upcoming Analog Vs. Digital workshop. We'll be covering this, the following steps, and much more -- all with step-by-step support. 

Step 2: Assign Catch Locations
Now think about what catch locations you might use (or already use) for each of the columns. Here are a few examples of catch locations for each column: 

  • Time Information: Digital calendars, wall calendars, or paper planners. 
  • To-dos: The reminder app on your phone, or a to-do notepad, or stickies. 
  • Contacts: most people rely on their email provider's built-in software like Gmail Contacts
  • Notes and Ideas: A paper notebook, sticky notes, desk blotters or software like Evernote. 

IMPORTANT: You can only list 1 or 2 catch locations per column. If you list more, you'll only be overwhelming your brain later. Trust us. One is ideal, two is ok. Three is cognitive trouble. See the image for Paloma's example of her catch locations.  

Step 3: Test It
This step you do for the next two weeks. You'll want to, as much as possible, consistently "catch" your daily notes and information in their assigned catch locations. This may require you to get creative. For example, next time someone gives Paloma their business card (ie their contact info), she can't just stick it in her back pocket and forget about it ("back pocket" is not a catch location she wrote down).  If she truly wants to hold on to that info, she will pause, get her phone out, and photograph the business card so she can email it to herself (Gmail is one of her catch locations). The goal is to be as consistent as possible, but if any weird situations come up, just make a note in the worksheet (in the Observations row). It's okay if a few things slip through the cracks, but if you see something important (like client meeting notes) that is hard to be consistent about, you'll want to consider a better, easier catch location for that column that will work better for you.

An example of this: Paloma thought she'd use Gmail Contacts for client contact info, but her personal assistant didn't have access to her Gmail account, so this was a major glitch.  After the two week test period, Paloma decided to start storing her client contact info in a google excel sheet which she could grant her assistant access to. All other contacts however would still use Gmail Contacts, because that worked fine. 

If you get stuck and want more step-by-step support -- you know what to do:  Join us for our ANALOG VS DIGITAL: CHOOSING THE RIGHT PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS  workshop so Paloma can help with those tough ones. 

Ask Paloma -- Productivity Tools For Too Many To-Do Lists

rawpixel-594848-unsplash.jpg

Welcome to our new series Ask Paloma, where Paloma answers a question submitted by a customer. It's like a transcript of a mini coaching session so we can all nerd out and learn together. This particular question was asked by 11:11 Supplies Store Manager, Mimi Solum, and covers some of the tools we'll cover at our upcoming workshop BRAIN-FRIENDLY PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS (held on June 23rd, 2018). Sign up here to attend this workshop. 

THE QUESTION
Mimi brought her most common frustration to the table: "I am a list addict. I have lists everywhere, in my planner, multiple notebooks, my phone, on scraps of paper in the car and in my kitchen, and some of the lists are the same thoughts in multiple places. Is there a way to wrangle all these lists? I enjoy the act of making lists, but once they are written down I tend to feel overwhelmed and unable to conquer the actual tasks." 

To begin to answer Mimi's question let's talk about a few things. 

  • Bluma Zeigarnik, a Russian psychologist found that the act of writing things down, while maybe making the brain feel calmer (as if we accomplished something) somewhat backfires because it also makes us more likely to forget about it.  This is problematic because if we wrote it down somewhere we'll lose or have a hard time locating, then the brain is in a double quandary -- it neither can remember the thing (because it wrote it down) and it can't remember where it wrote down the thing, which leads to those overwhelmed, stressed out feelings.  

    Now, the solution isn't to stop writing things down so your brain will be more likely to remember them. Alas, in our current modern world we juggle too many pieces of information for our brain to remember - it really wasn't built for the amount of things we try to cram into it. So hence the invention of written notes, agendas, address books and to-do pads.  

    The real solution is to slowly build new habits so we write things down in easy-to-find, brain-friendly places. 

  • Mimi says, "That makes sense why I love writing things down (it's like a release for my brain) and  why then I don't remember where I wrote it." 

Catch and Transfer Solution, in Four Steps:  

Step 1: Identify your Catch locations: For a few days (and up to a week) simply take note of all the places where you store pieces of information to later reference. Mimi already identified five: Planner, multiple notebooks, reminders app on her phone, scraps of paper in her car and a dry erase board in her kitchen. We're going to refer to this as Catch Locations (you're catching phone numbers, ideas, facts, tasks, events, etc). 

Step 2: Identify your Easy vs Lost Catch Locations:  Mimi needs to next identify two things -- where her Easy Catch Locations are, and where her Lost Locations are.  Easy Locations are places that your brain already uses a lot and that are pretty easy to find later.  Mimi said for her, it's her planner and Siri -- she uses them regularly and can rely on them to be easy to scan and find things in.  She says that a Lost Location (places where it's unlikely she'll be able to find them later) is when she's falling asleep and wants to capture something, she'll write it down on anything near her bed. Definitely a Lost Location.

Step 3: Train your brain to CATCH in your Easy Locations more often. We now need to make it easy to catch notes in fewer places, so that Mimi will always know where to look, so her brain will feel calm knowing there's an organized system in place. Nothing will get lost. That will mean however changing tiny things in her routine so it's hard to use Lost Locations and easy to use an Easy Location. Mimi brainstormed this and decided she would start leaving her planner by her bed every night, and get a little pocket light so she wouldn't even have to turn on the light or reach for her phone. Paloma recommends doing this brainstorm for all of your common Lost Locations (come to the workshop for hands-on help on doing this for yourself). 

Step 4: Transfer daily. The last step is to block time on your calendar at the end of each day (usually 15 minutes is enough) to review your one or two Easy Catch Locations and transfer any key notes, invites, contact info, etc onto a final location. For some people, that means moving things to their cloud calendar, or to-do app, or their family's wall calendar. Consider the Transfer step the calibration, reflection and quality assurance step, all in one 15 minute little window. The Transfer step is critical because it's usually when your brain will actually feel calmer, when it will start trusting that there really is a system, and that it can let go of those stressful feelings that came from disorganization. This trust and calm however will take time because your brain will need a few cycles of Catch and Train to really get the hang of both things.  

If however, you're having a hard time with any of these steps -- we invite you to join for our Productivity Tools workshop so Paloma can support you more one-on-one. 

stil-564521-unsplash.jpg

One last handy tip: You might find it helpful to differentiate between types of Catch Locations and types of notes to Catch. Especially because researchers have found that your phone isn't a Catch Locations, it's many. Really, each app you use is considered a different Catch Location. If this sounds helpful, come back on June 12th to read our next blog post on this very topic to get extra extra organized. 


    PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS - June 23rd 10:00am-11:30am
    If you have a hard time finding the right capture devices, apps, stickies, etc, this workshop is for you. If you already have the tools you use, but you find they are not helping you manage your time, this workshop is for you.

    Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

    Photo by STIL on Unsplash

     

     

    A Brain-Friendly Alternative to New Year's Resolutions

    qresolutions.png

    Looking for an alternative to the ambitious New Year's Resolution? Try quarterly resolutions (Q Resolutions), for a psychology-based method to slay those aspirations. 

    THE GIST
    Rather than come up with a big whopper of a New Year's resolution, (which honestly freaks me out) you can break up the year into chunks by making quarterly resolutions (Q Resolutions) that build on each other. Let's illustrate this with an example -- let's say you want to exercise regularly in 2018 (one of my personal goals for 2018) -- here's how I'd transform this into Q Resolutions: 

    • Q1 Resolution (Jan - March)
      Sign up for 1 super fun weekly exercise class
      Miss no more than 3 sessions total (for all 3 months) 
       
    • Q2 Resolution (April - June)
      Sign up for 2 total exercise classes per week
      Miss no more than 6 sessions total
       
    • Q3 Resolution (July - Sept)
      Up the ante -- sign up for 3 classes per week
      Miss no more than 9 sessions total
       
    • Q4 Resolution (Oct - Dec)
      Stick to 3 classes per week
      Miss no more than 6 sessions total for all three months
    BWresolutions.png

    Alternately: No need to draft out all four quarters!  I personally only make a game plan for Q1 and Q2 at the new year. Why? Because my brain reserves long commitments for really special things (my partner and my business) so I keep my resolutions the same. I'll be using only the Q1 and Q2 resolutions above. Come July, I'll revisit and iterate as needed. My point - make this the length that energizes your brain. 

    The Psychology 
    The brain releases dopamine when it feels a sense of progress, including when it anticipates progress.  Setting up quarterly resolutions creates a clear "progress map" for the brain -- just looking at this list is likely releasing dopamine in your brain.  And as many of you already know from our past postsdopamine = motivation.

    Secondly, it allows you to start small (i.e. realistically) and yet still reach an amazing goal in 6 or 12 months. By starting small, you're decreasing the likelihood that you'll procrastinate (see our post on the psychology of procrastination) since the likelihood of success is high. Case in point: I can totally find one class that works into my schedule -- but finding 3 would be a challenge right now, and my brain would come up with excuses ("I'll wait until after the store opening"/ "I'll wait until after all my travels are done"/ "I'll wait until they invent an 8th day in the week"/ etc).  

    Pro-Level
    Look ahead and prepare for the obstacles: One obstacle I faced last time I tried to do exercise classes was that, once I missed a few classes, I let the whole thing fall apart, because I felt dumb or like I "fell off the wagon". And as I look ahead into my Q1 2018 schedule this time, I can see that already there is a bit of travel that overlaps with some of the class times I'm looking at. So this time, I'm building in an "allowance" of how many classes are ok to miss and still stay on goal. It's both a buffer for the craziness of life, AND a subgoal I can lean into -- knowing I can only miss 3 motivates me to be strategic about how I schedule things moving forward. Most importantly, if I do miss my subgoal (let's say I end up missing 4 classes) I don't give up altogether -- I have Q2 where I can get back on track. Check our our Habit Tracker post to learn more on preparing for hurdles. 

    When you're ready to try Q Resolutions:
    Write your game plan in your journal, on a calendar, or you can print copies of our Goal Tracker template (it's free!) and use one Tracker per quarter. Bam. Bam. Done. 

    Feeling stuck or out of ideas about how to create incremental Q Resolutions for your yearly goal? Email us and we'll be happy to offer tailored help.  

    HAPPY 11/11 Y'ALL: Eleven tools to celebrate with!

    We're pretty excited about celebrating our first 11/11 with you all! To celebrate, Paloma made her first ever internet video (her first everrrrrr!!!!) where in 6 minutes she shares:

    1. The answer to the question she gets asked the most: "What's your favorite tool?"
    2. Via eleven answers
    3. Via a giveaway so you can try these amazing little tools out for yourself.  

    After watching the video, comment on our instagram post with which 3 tools you'd love to try out -- we only have 5 of each to give away so post soon! 

    Caveat: You must be able to pick up your gift bag (full of tools) at one of our December 3rd or Dec 18th pop-ups (more details coming soon!) in Portland, Oregon. Why in person? Because we want to meet you and high-five IRL of course (or high five your rad friend that offers to pick them up for you)! 

    Why Portland? It's our way of saying "THANK YOU PDX! You are home. We love you. You've taken such good care of us, here's a little tiny way of sending the love right back!".

    Questions or thoughts? Add them to comments below. 


    Have the best 11/11 -- and don't forget to make a wish :) 

    ps -- Here's some info on the psychology of generosity Paloma refers to, and the one on the research-backed benefits of gratitude

    HABIT TRACKER

    As promised...this month's freebie: The Habit Tracker! 

    You can download it here, and get started on a new habit journey today. Read below for more info on the science behind the tracker, plus some tips and examples on how to set yourself up for habit success. 

    Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 3.48.03 PM.png

     

    TIP #1: ONE AT A TIME

    Our first tip is to start with one habit at a time. The science: Habits are really just neural freeways our brain has built over time, they help our brain be efficient -- so dismantling a habit and starting from scratch makes our brain feel like we're forcing it to take the slow-ass side streets (because it hasn't built neural "freeways" yet for this new habit). This technically means our brains are not as cognitively-efficient during the "new habit making" period, which of course is worth it, but explains why our brains resist our efforts to change (because brains looooove being efficient). When you try to change two habits at a time, you're doubling the cognitive load but using the same resources -- it's still only one brain after all. Our recommendation: Researchers have found that doing one habit for 3 weeks, then a second habit the following 3 weeks raises your chances of success to 80%, rather than trying to do two habits at a time for six weeks (35% success rate). Side note: Experts believe that it takes 3-4 weeks to change an ingrained habit, simply because repetition is critical. So if you don’t give yourself enough time (let’s say you do it for just one week) your brain will easily revert to its old neural pathways and you’ll be back to square one. So stick with it. 

     

    TIP #2: VISUALLY TRACK IT

    Track your habit in a way that works for you: If you have an incremental exercising habit, use the little boxes to enter the # of reps or miles. Similarly, in the photo example she's tracking how many ounces of water she drinks a day. If you're tracking something more qualitative, like how well you regulated your emotions each day, you can write down scores: 1 = You didn't feel in control of your emotions at all that day and 5 = You felt very in control of your emotions. If you miss a day, don't give the whole thing up. Just start again where you left off, and go for a longer stretch next time (ex: if you seem to exercise at most three days in a row, go for four days in a row next time). Compete with yourself. You'll always win. 

    TIP #3: KNOW THE WHY

    Think about all the benefits of creating this new habit. Why is this important? This step is not fluff -- purpose is incredibly important to the brain's motivation wiring. Bonus level: Don't just think about how you'll benefit, but how others (family, friends, your industry, the world) will benefit too. Studies have found that one of the strongest motivators for success is feeling a connection to how our efforts benefits others. So really get to the heart of how you or others will be positively impacted. Pro-Level: Regularly revisit this; Visualize or re-write the "why" when motivation gets low or obstacles get high.

     

    TIP #4: PREP FOR THE HURDLES

    Research in performance psychology reveals that it’s not only important to feel optimistic and have confidence in yourself when changing habits, it's also important to prepare for challenges beforehand so you're ready for them. Take this time to think about 1-3 hurdles you might face and then map out solutions -- this increases your brain's ability to feel confident today, while making you more resilient to obstacles in the future. Win. Win. 

    THE THREE TYPES OF HURDLES

    EMOTIONAL HURDLES

    Despite how rational we all think we are, it's negative emotions that kill habits more than anything else. Emotions include: fear we'll fail, fear we'll look stupid or others will ostracize us, fear we're not smart enough, stress, etc. Consider what emotions will come up as you take on this new habit and then find solutions that honor and help with the feelings (rather than ignore the emotions). Example: A client felt ugly and out of place at her gym, so she had a hard time sticking with a gym habit. Solution: She tried a few small group gym classes until she found one where she felt a kinship to others in the class: They had similar health goals as she did, and they were incredibly warm and welcoming at her first class.  

    SKILLS-BASED HURDLES

    Maybe your new habit includes a steep learning curve. For example, say you want to cook dinner at home instead of going out, but your cooking skills max out at cold cereal. Make a list of resources that will slowly help you build your new skill set: Include people you can turn to for expertise (you could ask Joe to come over and teach you his amazing stew recipe, you'll grab the groceries and fancy wine), websites (follow just two blogs, try one recipe a week), or classes (start with a soup class). Microtask this skill development -- no need to feel overwhelmed. Easy does it. 

    EXTERNAL HURDLES

    External hurdles include: Your family/ clients/ coworkers/ the bus route you take/ etc. Because you don't have control over other people and external systems, this is where most people give up: "I've tried getting up early to exercise, but there's always something my kids need that becomes more important"  or "I wish I could take a lunch, but my schedule is nonstop meetings that I can't say no to". The solutions are not necessarily obvious but they are always there. Always. Humans have found solutions to much more complicated problems, so believe that you can too. You will need three things: A little creativity, a little boldness to ask for things you may have not ever asked for before, and a little more creativity just for good measure. Creativity might include things like trading your spouse one day a week so you can sneak away at 7am to the coffee shop while they handle the kids solo, or something like blocking your calendar for lunch and adding light humor to the calendar block, like: "BLOCKED: So Susan eats and doesn't faint". If you are stuck about how to tackle your external hurdles, here's some questions that could help unearth solutions: 

    • Who are some people that could help, but that you’re afraid to ask?                                                                     --What's the worst case scenario if you ask them? 
    • Where in your schedule can you carve out 20 min so you can make progress? 
      --Check this example out for how to make 20 min a day work for you.
    • What are some fun ways to ask others to help you with this new habit?
    • What's the next tiiiiiniest request you could make that would help you move in the right direction? 
    • Who is someone else facing a similar external hurdle and how do they circumvent it?

    BONUS TIP: CHECK YOUR SURROUNDINGS

    Studies show that our surroundings play a huge part in whether or not we’re successful in changing habits. Example: Let’s say you want to stop checking your email first thing in the morning, because it's become a stressful way to start your day. Check your surroundings for clues about what makes email checking so easy right now: Is your phone charging next to your bed? How easy is it to check your email before you do anything else in the morning? Solution: Charge your phone overnight in another room, or far enough away from your bed that you can't roll over and check it first thing, or put your gym clothes on top of your phone the night before. All these tiny things will make it harder to do the wrong thing (open your email) and easier to do the right thing (go running instead). 

    ONE LAST THING:

    Don't worry about "falling off the wagon" or whatever other silly metaphor people use for these things. Habits are not wagons that you fall off of or have to cling to, lest they throw you off in some wild stampede. Habits are freeways and you are an engineer -- you've built them before, you'll build them again, though it may take a few sketches, redraws, remeasuring, and contractor negotiations -- it's all part of the gig. Get to planning, get to sketching, enjoy your habit engineering. And remember: We're here for you if you need ideas or solutions. 

    Your turn: Download the Habit Tracker and let us know how it works for you. 

    QUICK-TIP FRIDAY: HALFALOGUE

    Want to be a productivity hero? 

    Do this one small thing to increase productivity and calm for those around you: Don't take calls around them!

    IMG_0502.JPG

    Halfalogue is when you can only hear half a conversation, such as when you're at a coffee shop and someone is talking on the phone next to you. Researchers have found that being around halfalogue impacts our memory and reduces our cognitive performance. In one study, participants did three times worse on an attention game when they had to listen to someone talking on the phone. Interestingly, this wasn't the case when there were other people talking in person to each other, or when one person was reading a monologue next to them.

    This inability to focus when we're exposed to halfalogue leads to cognitive frustration -- our brain is trying to focus on a task, but can't, which is what makes it so annoying, thus increasing the release of cortisol (stress chemical) in a person.  

    So be a buddy -- opt to step outside of the coffee shop, or head to the hallway or a phonebooth (for companies that have these), or schedule calls strategically to reduce how much you're exposing others to halfalogue. It's not always possible, but you'll be a productivity hero to folks around you when you do. 

    Read more: tinyurl.com/lesshalfalogue

    GOAL TRACKING

    In September we're bringing two freebies your way: The Goal Tracker and the Habit Tracker. Download the Goal Tracker here, and check back October 2nd to download your very own copy of the Habit Tracker. These will be available for free all September and October to celebrate fall (our favorite season to start new habits and strategize goals). Download, print, and read below to learn about the science behind them, plus some tips to help use them for maximum success.  

    #1: What's your goal?

    This one is easy -- write down your goal as specifically as you can. It can be anything: Do you want to learn a new skill? Save up for a car? Get that passion project going? Heck, even just clean out your fridge or get 15 minutes of exercise? Whatever it is, big or small, write it down. Research shows that writing down goals increases our odds of success. Plus, it's critical for completing the next steps. 

    #2:  Why?

    For this section, think about all the benefits of achieving this goal. Bonus: Don't just think about how you'll benefit, but how others (family, friends, your industry, the world) will benefit too. Studies have found that one of the strongest motivators for success is feeling a connection to how our work benefits others. So dig in, and really get to the heart of who will be impacted positively if you reach this goal and how. Check out our examples below to see a variety of why statements. Pro-Level: Regularly revisit this -- Visualize or re-write the "why" when motivation gets low or obstacles get high.  

    #3 Micro-task it

    Pick 5 things you can do to create forward movement. These should be small things you can check off each week. Read more about microtasking here. The quick science: Every time you get a micro task done and check it off your list, your brain will receive dopamine and a regular dose of dopamine is what creates the feeling of momentum, and experiencing momentum is in itself more motivating. Pro-Level: Make sure to include an “achieve by date” for each task. In our coaching practice, we've found that having clients write a date does two things for the brain: It ensures we keep things realistic (check those dates against your paper or digital schedule) and they increase the chance that a sense of urgency will set-in (urgency = motivation).  

    #4 Celebration

    Decide how you’re going to celebrate when you check off all 5 of those microtasks. By creating a pattern of finishing tasks and then celebrating, you’ll be training your brain to understand that you can totally keep up this level of achievement. You’ll develop a sense that achieving a big goal can actually be done in a balanced way (rather than seeing big goals as stressful and intimidating). This cycle of task and celebration will train your brain to understand that this is doable, enjoyable, and totally not elusive.

    Pro-Level: Wrap gratitude in with your celebration (for example, treating yourself and a friend who helped you stick to your goal to a nice dinner). Gratitude has been shown to have a longer positive affect than just splurging on yourself. 

    Caveat: Avoid using your celebration to compensate for something you think you sacrificed along the way. For example, if your goal was to stick to a healthy calorie count, don't celebrate by going out for ice cream. Not because ice cream is bad, but because it sends mixed signals to your brain ("calorie counting is hard and means I can't have ice cream, but ice cream is the best reward!". Totally go out for ice cream or get that donut as part a balanced life, but when it comes to celebrating -- try doing something that proves your life is awesome on the daily (watch your favorite movie, block your calendar for alone time, get a spa service, cook your favorite meal, etc).

    #5 Repeat

    High-five yourself and repeat. Usually within a week to a month you’ll be finished with your Goal Tracker. If you’ve achieved your goal by then, congrats! If not, start a new Goal Tracker with more tasks, and make sure to include your *why* so that you'll reconnect with it again. 

    Getting stuck or finding ways to tweak the Tracker to make it even better? Let us know! 

    FOCUS TIP #1: GO ANALOG

    When you want to strategize, brainstorm, or just think through a tricky problem, you'll  want to create an “environment of focus” --  going analog allows you to do that easier, faster.

    THE SCIENCE
    Research has found that brainstorming or problem-solving using analog writing utensil (pens, markers, pencils) results in more productive thinking than typing or digital tools.  In addition, using a phone or laptop means you're likely hearing or seeing alerts and notifications, all things that interrupt brain flow, which results in lower overall brain performance.   To get the most of your brain when you're doing creative or complex problem solving, try these three easy steps: 

    STEP 1
    Reduce distractions in your environment: Put your phone on airplane mode and move away from your computer. Even better, choose a space or room where neither of these machines are present. Simply being near our "second brains" has been shown (in early studies) to hamper our cognitive abilities. In other studies, individuals that had a "focus corner" (a place they routinely used for creative or problem-solving work) showed their brains had an easier time diving into said work as soon as they entered that space.  If you're able to, identify your own "focus corner", whether it be in your home, your favorite coffee shop, or a quiet nook in your office.    

    STEP 2
    Choose your tools: Use a pen, pencil, or marker that you love using (picking it up should feel like a little reward all on its own). Next, use a notebook, journal, dry-erase wall, or paper pad. Bonus level: Choose a notebook or other "capture device" that your brain trusts, ie you'll be able to refer to it later and are unlikely to lose it.  A paper napkin will do in a pinch, but notebooks are best for collecting and storing troves of notes and ideas. Having a hard time choosing a notebook? Come to our Pop Up on August 27th and get help choosing the perfect notebook for your brain and preferences.

    STEP 3
    Brainstorm or journal for a minimum of 15 to 25 uninterrupted minutes to get the most of your mental power. Any more time than that can result in diminishing cognitive returns, and any less time may not be enough to really build creative or problem-solving momentum. 

    What are your favorite brainstorm hacks? How do you create focus in a distraction-filled world? 

    FIGHT PROCRASTINATION with MICROTASKING

    WHAT IS UP WITH PROCRASTINATION?

    Well, from a habit perspective, we find that humans tend to procrastinate on tasks that fall into one of three categories: (1) Tasks they find boring or unpleasant, (2) Tasks they find overwhelming or (3) Tasks that they (unconsciously or otherwise) are concerned they'll fail at.

    In a future post, we'll go over methods to tackle the first and third category, but first, let's discuss a myth that gets in the way of addressing all three categories. 

    WILLPOWER: A pesky myth about procrastination is that it's simply an issue of willpower. Some people are better are forcing themselves to do certain tasks, and that's why they procrastinate less. However, upon closer inspection, we find that, while willpower is cool, it's not the key to addressing procrastination. What is? Rethinking how we setup tasks.  

    This is where microtasking comes in: It's a tiny skill, but it can transform your relationship with even the most procrastination-prone tasks on your list. Here's how to do it: 

    STEP ONE
    Take a task or project you've been procrastinating on (say, writing your thesis paper) and break it down into microtasks: Small to-dos that only take 5 min to 20 min to complete. So for that thesis paper, you could break it down into 20 minute chunks of writing. Or maybe you want to reorganize your digital files: Microtasks could include 20 minutes of deleting files, 20 minutes of archiving files, 10 minutes of finding photo files and making a new folder for those, etc.   

    STEP TWO
    Transfer each microtask onto a sticky note (this is our preferred method of microtasking, we'll cover other ways in future posts). One microtask per sticky. Our favorite sticky notes for microtasking are small and color coded. Feeling uninspired by your sticky note options? Come by our pop up on Sunday Aug 27th to browse a ton of varieties. 

    STEP THREE
    Transfer the stickies over to your journal, or office wall/desk/wherever you're most likely to see them. In our example, the aqua stickies each represent one page of the thesis draft and the yellow stickies represent a new running habit we're trying to build (each sticky is one mile).

    STEP FOUR: As you complete each task, pull the sticky and high-five yourself. You just delivered a solid dose of dopamine to your brain (the motivation chemical. :)

    WHY IT WORKS
    Your brain gets a dose of dopamine every time it feels it has accomplished something. Big tasks give a dose of dopamine, small tasks give a dose of dopamine. So when your brain considers a task that will take houuuurrrrsssss to complete, and/or is unpleasant, and/or may possibly result in failure, it wants to de-prioritize that task ("Write a whole thesis?!?!? Oof!") because there are so many other, easier ways to get dopamine (check your email, watch another youtube video, etc). So what we call procrastination is really just our brains trying to be efficient about how they get their dopamine.   

    Microtasks are perceived by our brains as easier sources of dopamine ("One page? I can do that!") thus increasing our motivation towards that task. Why the stickies then? That puts the finishing touch: The stickies allow you to create a visual for your progress. Each sticky that comes down shows your brain how much you've accomplished, and being able to visualize our progress has been shown to further motivate the brain, making the next microtask even easier to tackle. Props to LeeAnn from LifeLabs Learning for teaching me this cool sticky trick!

    CAVEAT
    Microtasking works for a variety of motivation and productivity challenges, but it takes a little practice to get good at converting large challenges into a series of microtasks. If you're ready for more individualized coaching on how to apply microtasking to your life, sign up for one of the four 1on1 coaching sessions (part of upcoming August pop-up!).