Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Engaging the monkeys in a conference room

Carole Luft opens Leading Words

On Saturday, we held an unusual conference. Although it began much as every conference begins (with a welcome from a podium), there had been an unusual amount of hugging as people found their seats. Scattered around the tables were monkeys–monkey cutouts, monkey stickers, monkeys sitting in the fancy chair at the front. Everywhere were reminders of what the Buddhists call Monkey Mind. And our goal for the day was to get the monkeys to focus, engage, and show their most loving, cooperative, and ingenious selves.

What do you think of when you think about monkeys? Do you imagine playing, shrieking, mischief or cuddles? Do you think of mindless activity or of a sudden, focused interest in a puzzle to be solved? All of these are typical of monkeys. All of these are typical of the monkeys in your mind–the troop of ideas, emotions, biases, memories, and hopes that are in perpetual motion as you try to focus, to think, to make decisions.

What would you do to control a troop of monkeys? Do you imagine that threats would be effective? Probably not.  Instead of force, you would want to engage the monkeys, to make them want to play nicely together. I have never been alone in a room full of monkeys. But I have been in a room full of dozens of small children. And I watched them gather, and still, and focus and cooperate because I had something they wanted. I had a story.

The next time you stand at a podium, ask yourself: what will engage the monkeys in the minds here? If you feed only the logical monkeys, what will the other monkeys do? You've seen experiments where only some of the monkeys get fed. That never leads to focus: it is more likely to lead to chaos. It's important to feed all the monkeys: the ones that feast on numbers and logic and the ones that feast on social connection, on purpose and on play.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Is time management really energy management?

Do you have enough energy for what you want to do?

So many people are busy managing their time, and yet they can do nothing to change the number of hours in a day or days in a week. The calendar programs and expert tips all talk as though 5 minutes were always 5 minutes. And yet, you have experienced 5 minutes as an eternity and 5 minutes as a heart beat. In NLP, we would say that your state determines how much time 5 minutes contains.

When people complain they don't have enough time, I wonder if they are really saying that they don't have enough energy. It's a much different question and harder to solve with an app. It would mean that instead of auditing how productively you spend your time, you would need to understand your personal economics of energy.

What if every activity consumes energy but some activity also produces energy? You know this is true. It always takes energy to get started. But sometimes you are so engaged in something that you become more energized as you go along. Your energy may temporarily require a rest, but overall that activity may linger in the background and keep you motivated for days. You can think of things you love to do that have this effect on you: when you do them, you are energized by your activity.

When you were very busy doing things that produce energy, you would have the focus and motivation to move through many events or interactions in a single day. Each moment might open up into flow and allow you to accomplish more thinking in less clock time. You might find that you were able to hold the bigger picture well enough to think in patterns instead of pieces. Others would be amazed at how fast or deep you were able to go.

If your calendar seems too full, maybe it's not your time management at fault. We all know people who are very busy with very little on their schedule, and other people who always have time to connect although the don't have time to list all their activity in a calendar or an app. If your day feels overwhelming, perhaps it's not the number of activities that is the problem. Perhaps you haven't scheduled enough activity that generates energy.