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Insider's Link to Productivity Newsletter January 2012
In this edition of Insider’s Link to Productivity, we will explore the relation between the McGhee methodology of Clearing the Mind and the concept of using the age-old practice of yoga in generating space for developing ideas, creativity and eliminating stress. McGhee Consultant Shani Magosky explains the notable value that many high-level executives find in the peace and focus that clearing the mind and channeling energy creates, and how making time for peaceful introspection and creativity can help one thrive and harness new energy.
We will also review our previous year, highlighting some of the milestones and major happenings here at McGhee Productivity Solutions. As our organization grows, so does the reach of our work and the results our clients receive from our partnership, and we will reflect on how our team grew, including some of the feedback we’ve received from our clients.
Finally, our monthly Productivity Tip focuses on how to return from holiday vacation with energy and focus on being productive. We offer several tips and insights on organizing your Information Management System to handle the overwhelm that sometimes accompanies the return from holiday vacation. These tools will help create a calm, controlled beginning to your 2012.
Yoga for the Executive Mind
By Shani Magosky, McGhee Productivity Solutions Consultant
One of my all-time favorite quotes was spoken by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., "Your mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." That sounds inspiring, but the reality in this day and age is that rarely if ever do we have the luxury of uninterrupted time to just sit and contemplate new ideas! Rather, most of us exist in a constant state of information overload. Stimuli rush at us constantly from all directions: emails, phone calls, text messages, meetings, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…and even the thoughts swirling around in our own brains!
Much has been written on this topic lately. I’d like to focus on one simple concept to help businesspeople eliminate the clutter in their minds in order to give their undivided attention to the more important and/or strategic matters at hand. It’s called “Clearing the Mind.”
What happens when we use our minds to remember things? We lose sleep, we forget, we get stressed and anxious, we drop the ball, we miss meetings, we pretend to listen (and in the astute words of one of my clients, “we keep remembering that we forgot!”). The mind is simply not an effective place to keep track of anything. As thoughts and action items occur to us in our conscious mind, they typically float back up into our subconscious if we don’t attend to them. And guess what? They will always upload back to our conscious mind at the most inconvenient moments, such as bed time or, even worse, 3am.
So the more often you can reduce the clutter in your conscious mind, the more your subconscious will leave you alone. Clearing the Mind is a proactive exercise to minimize distractions produced by your thoughts. It’s simple to do: just take a few moments on a regular basis to transfer all of the uncaptured commitments and to-do lists roaming around your head into the Task Pad feature in Outlook (or if you’re not yet familiar with the McGhee system for productivity, then purge onto a master list in another sensible format). Once you’ve committed them to Outlook, your mind can let go, freeing it up to focus on higher priority projects or strategic thought.
The idea of clearing the mind is not new. In fact, the very first pearl of wisdom in the Yoga-Sutras, written by the sage Pantanjali about 1800 years ago, is “Yoga Chitta Vrtti Nirodhah” (pronounced Chit-Ta Vrit-Tee Nir-Ro-Dha). This ancient adage essentially translates to "Yoga is a method to quiet the fluctuations of the mind."
But don’t think you need to sit under a tree meditating along the banks of the Ganges River in India, twist yourself into a pretzel, or rush out to buy the latest Lululemon yoga gear in order to tame your own mind fluctuations. To me, if I can free my mind of the dozens of other things going through it and give my sole focus to only one complex problem or issue while sitting in my Herman Miller office chair beneath the florescent lights of my workplace, then that is a huge yogic victory with lots of benefits. Some of my best ideas and solutions to previously confounding problems have occurred to me while practicing yoga.
But far more successful business people than I find yoga to be highly effective. For example, Founder and Co-Chief Investment Officer of Newport Beach, CA-based Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO), Bill Gross says, “Some of my best ideas literally come from standing on my head doing yoga. After about 15 minutes of yoga, all of a sudden some significant light bulbs seem to turn on.”1 PIMCO is one of the largest money managers in the world, with $1.35 trillion in assets under management, so I’d contend that Mr. Gross has had a few good ideas!
Some companies have taken the benefits of yoga so seriously that they even have dedicated yoga space within the office. For example, Katrina Markoff, Owner/Founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat in Chicago, IL says, “We have created a corporate culture which strives to find a balance of mind, body and spirit within the workplace.” The yoga/meditation room in their corporate headquarters is a refuge where employees can escape to re-energize or simply be alone in creative thought. No pun intended, but clearly this must be a recipe for success, as Markoff has earned numerous awards, including being named Bon Appétit Food Artisan of the Year in 2004, 2008 Woman Entrepreneur of the Year by American Express Open Forum, and the top innovator in chocolate by Food and Wine Magazine in 2008.
This practice of clearing the mind, really just a variation on relaxation, is not just some quirky new age philosophy; it is actually grounded in physiology. The autonomic nervous system of the human body is divided into the sympathetic system, which is often identified with the fight-or-flight response, and the parasympathetic, which triggers rest and relaxation. The sense of relaxed control achieved through yoga or the McGhee best practice of Clearing the Mind turns off the fight-or-flight system, and the relaxation response kicks in. Your body registers this with a slower heartbeat, decreased respiration and blood pressure, and return of normal blood flow to that vital organ of thought, your brain.
When I engage executives in a mind clearing exercise at the beginning of a coaching or training session, I encourage them to capture anything that is on their mind, both business and personal, so they can concentrate and focus. You certainly can’t prevent personal thoughts from invading your psyche during the workday, so you may as well capture them along with the never-ending litany of commitments related to work. This will allow you to be more present, not only when alone with your own thoughts, but also during interactions with others.
Any credible school of thought on effective leadership embraces the notion that the ability to truly lead and inspire others begins with working on yourself. So if you’re still mulling over some New Year’s resolutions and want one that encompasses the executive you and the personal side of you, then consider giving Mind Clearing a try!
For more information or coaching support, contact us at email@example.com.
1 - Fortune, March 15, 2006
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McGhee Productivity Solutions had much to celebrate in 2011, which was a tremendous growth year for our organization. Through collaboration with our clients and developing our consulting team by adding some key individuals, we are poised for an amazing 2012, delivering transformational productivity consulting throughout North America and beyond.
In early 2011, McGhee introduced three key executive consultants who have helped drive and deliver our consulting work throughout the United States and Canada. Mark Musselman, Danny Bader and Philip Martin joined the McGhee team, bringing with them a wealth of knowledge and experience spanning from corporate retail operations to executive consulting and strategic planning work. Their contribution is already being acknowledged by clients who they work closely with.
Our clients are feeling the positive effects of the work we are doing as well. We have included a small sample below of some of the feedback we've received from our clients based on the work we had done with them in 2011.
"We have managed to improve our organizational climate metrics and, in my case, my leadership index has shown incredible improvements, which are very important metrics at Microsoft, showing substantial and consistent increases in all areas.”
Juan Alberto Gonzalez - General Manager, Microsoft México.
"My team and I are totally engaged in this process. It has helped us all become more proficient in all areas. It has allowed us more selling time."
Ralph Latagliata - Associate Director Field Sales, HJ Heinz
"The commitments I make to myself should be just as important as the commitments I make to others A real 'ah ha!' moment!"
Liz Wojcik - Partner Development Coordinator, Boston Consulting Group
We will be working diligently in 2012 to continue delivering our exceptional productivity training and consulting work, while offering new services and products. We invite you to visit us online regularly to learn more about our services, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have.
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Back to Work: Returning from Vacation Organized and Energized!
Many of you will have just returned to work after holiday vacation upon reading this, and perhaps you are feeling uneasy about transitioning back into work mode. No matter how brief or extended our vacations may have been, making the transition from life-mode back to work mode can seem overwhelming as the thoughts of our lingering to-do's start to resurface. So, as we trade holiday cookies and eggnog for laptops and briefcases and head back to work, it's important to keep in mind that there is a mental strategy and action plan we can take to prepare us for our return. It begins by not letting the anticipation of our piling up to-do's drag us down.
Mental steps we recommend taking before returning to work:
Action plan for getting caught up:
Back at the office, you may feel the urge to start dredging through all the e-mail, sticky notes, voice mails, and tasks that have piled up in your absence. It's important, however, to resist the urge to just start "doing" things, which will only prolong the amount of time it will take to get caught up. Instead, use the Workflow Model as a decision-making tool for getting organized. You'll be amazed at how many of your to-do's will disappear when you answer the question, "Does this relate to my Meaningful Objectives?"
The remaining items can then be processed using the 4D's for Decision Making Model, at which that time, you will strategically decide which items to do, delete, delegate, or defer.
When working through the tactical to-do's of returning to work from vacation or time away, use your IMS to track and organize your tasks. Record critical due dates on your calendar or set reminders in your Outlook TaskPad. Then, plan and prioritize the tasks that you need to complete each week.
Remember the importance of re-familiarizing yourself with your Meaningful Objectives as you begin to work through the post-vacation list of things to complete while maintaining your IMS and organizing your day-to-day activities. Establish the most important things to do, always relating them back to your Meaningful Objectives, and remember to slow down and take time to think through each task. Doing this will provide a sense of calm and control over the items you need to complete. Enjoy a great and productive start to 2012!
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