As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I woke up and went to bed with with a crushing number of emails, meetings, conference calls, interviews, and things that all needed to get done—now!
I worked all day only to come home at night and spend several more hours trying to get out from under the workload. My grueling schedule had nothing to do with poor organizational skills; instead, it reflected the way I thought about the tasks before me.
I needed to become a mentally tough leader to overcome the psychological obstacles that prevented me from getting more organized with my time.
Taking control of your emotions, thoughts, and behavior takes mental toughness because you need to be very intentional about how you overcome the mental obstacles that slow you down.
Leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners have a lot to get done—and only 24 hours in the day in which to do it!
Here are 4 ways you can be mentally tough and get organized:
1. MENTALLY TOUGH LEADERS ADMIT PROCRASTINATION TRAITS
We tend to shrink from specific tasks for several reasons but there is nothing you can do about it until you become aware of why you are procrastinating. Ask yourself, “Why do I keep not wanting to do this?”
Perhaps for one of these reasons:
- Overcoming the learning curve is daunting if it’s a new project
- Fear of making a poor decision
- Expectations of perfection
- Boredom for the task has set in—this one will sink you. If you’re bored with your task, it’s time to be honest about how you can change either your attitude or your assignment.
BOTTOM LINE: Stop blaming distractions and drill down to uncover the real emotional obstacle that is slowing you down.
2. MENTALLY TOUGH LEADERS STOP FOCUSING ON TOO MUCH PROGRESS
Leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners need to spend an inordinate amount of time mulling over strategy and future steps. This type of thinking is open-ended and involves uncertainty—this is your most important work.
But, many times we get bogged down in relatively unimportant work—stuff that needs to get done but doesn’t move the needle toward where you are headed.
Once you realize that 1) you engage in both types of work, and 2) both are necessary, it’s easier to grasp why some types of work trigger bigger returns than others. When you do, it changes the way you think about how to organize your day.
The important work is what will take you to the next level of performance; the unimportant work will keep you right where you are.
Both have their place in our daily routine. Unimportant work leaves us satisfied—we’ve accomplished something and crossed an item off our to-do list. Important work, however, makes us happier.
We are happier when we’re focused and immersed in something that provides with value and meaning. According to Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling On Happiness, a wandering mind is not a happy mind.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi contends that the concept of flow happens when we are engaged in important work that is very satisfying and our attention is focused on something that is good and concrete. We enter a state where we’re giving full and rapt attention to something that we’re good at and is important to us.
BOTTOM LINE: Schedule time for your important work in each day of your week.
3. MENTALLY TOUGH LEADERS NIP MONKEY MIND IN THE BUD
Mentally tough leaders do not ignore noise and distractions—that is impossible! But they can control their restless and unsettled “monkey mind” by quieting it as soon as they recognize it.
This is a basic premise of mental toughness: If we are aware of what we are thinking, we can chose our behavior.
Meditation takes a mentally tough mind because it is constantly saying “no” to intrusive thoughts and emotions.
BOTTOM LINE: Identify and eliminate those behaviors and thoughts that mess up your schedule. Conduct a review of how your monkey mind sabotaged your day. The error is not messing up; the error is not fixing it so that you don’t mess up next time.
4. MENTALLY TOUGH LEADERS AVOID PEOPLE WHO KIDNAP THEIR TIME
I learned to say “no” to people who had nothing better to do than sit around and talk. As Warren Buffett said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.”
I came to work every day focused on what was important for me to accomplish that day.
Dan Ariely aptly points out that saying “no” feels bad and hard because humans are social creatures. Most of us want to be nice and a team player.
BOTTOM LINE: Guard your time carefully by spending it with people who can help you become the person you want to be. It may feel good to say “yes,” but you need to focus on what is important to you.
How do you organize your day so you can be your most productive?
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