One Apple A Day #421 – It starts with a choice

In my experience, any sustainable change in our life takes at least four stages:

  1. Becoming aware of what you want to change
  2. Choose to change
  3. Act on the choice
  4. Make it stick

They are all vital and, with different labels, you can find these steps in self-development journeys.

But this morning I woke up realising how often the second stage is overlooked.

To want a change is not enough to make it happen.

You need to make a choice. A deliberate choice.

You need to transform a desire into a clear intention and then into an objective.

This is particularly true when we talk about innovation. Innovation is a deliberate human change to something existing to create something new that has an impact.

It’s not enough to need or want to innovate.  You need to choose to innovate. To set the intention on which you can act.

So, if you want to be an innovator the first step is to choose to be one.

It’s not easy, I know.

I wrote this post to remind myself that it’s not enough to want to change.

I need to make a choice.

Now. Here.

One Apple A Day #420 – Where do you put your attention?

“Energy flows where attention goes”.

As we know, our attention is incredibly limited.

“A neuroscientist named Manfred Zimmermann estimates that our capacity for perceiving information is about 11 million bits per second. […] He also estimates that your conscious attention has a capacity of about 40 bits per second. […] That’s a tiny, tiny fraction of what you can perceive: 40 bits out of a potential 11 million. That’s 10,999,960 bits of information that you sense but don’t notice, every second” from Liminal Thinking.

The choice of where you put your attention is crucial. It will define what image of reality you will create and on which you will act. Yet, how often is the choice yours?

There is a war going on for your limited attention. Every brand and every company are battling to be at the centre of that tiny fraction of world that you can perceive. This is why it is more important than ever that you learn to deliberately control where you want to put your attention.

I do it through my morning rituals. Before the world knocks at my door, I spend some time to anchor my day and choose where my attention will be. I’ll do it through meditation and journaling.

You may find different ways, each one is unique, but it’s important to take the time to choose where to put our attention.

One Apple A Day #418 – From WHY to WHO

What if your ultimate purpose is to fully realise and express who you are?

The quest for purpose or “why” is becoming more and more relevant for both individual and organisations. I witnessed groups dedicating long brainstorming to define their purpose, their cause. I have friends who felt lost because they don’t have a higher cause or a reason to which they can dedicate their lives.

We are constantly reminded about great leaders with a compelling vision and a clear purpose that fits in a t-shirt or an Instagram post.
You probably feel that you too should have a higher cause and are investing time and resources to find your “why”.

I hear you. I’ve been there.

The quest for purpose is a tricky one. It can quickly transform into feel-good research. Without even noticing, you shift from “what is my purpose?” to “what is a purpose that would make me feel one of the good ones?”.

Nothing wrong in being one of the good ones but if your purpose is not aligned with who you are, it won’t bring in your life the bliss you’re looking for.

So, what if you decide that your purpose is just to fully become who you are meant to be? The quest then becomes “who am I?”. A personal one. One that is not about feeling good but being real.

And in this quest for your “Who”, you may also find your “why”.

One Apple A Day #416 – Purpose, Connection

There is something no one can give me or teach me.
My purpose.
Yes, there a lot of beautiful visions out there I could embrace.
There are charismatic people I could follow.

But my purpose is something unique.
Something I need to feel before I know it.
It’s not easy, not for me at least.

My rational mind wants to find a logic in my purpose, a connection to reality so I can transform it into actions.
And my emotional mind seeks gratification and a sense of belonging in that same purpose. So, I keep exploring connections with other people purposes.

All this effort can get in the way.
It can clog my life with doing.
Seeking connections with reality and others, I weaken the relationship with myself.

So, I have to pause and take a deep breath.
Only when I am in connection with myself, I can feel my purpose.

Self-awareness is my best productivity tool

I grew up in the North-East of Italy, one of the most productive areas of the country. When I was a student, I remember that the adults around me were all working a lot and hard. My father worked 10 hours a day, five days a week, plus Saturday morning. Everyone used to measure the health of a factory with the number of extra hours that the workers were able to do in a week. Then the crisis hit Italy. I remember people talking about the companies having issues saying “it’s bad, they had to stop working on Saturday”.

That working culture is an example of the “Religion of Hustle” that Mark Manson excellently describes in this post. I found the same working culture when I started working in the digital industry. Both startups and agencies were, and still are, celebrating the hustle. Yes, everyone talks about work/life balance, but then the employees that sacrifice the weekend for a project are praised. It’s the competition baby. Do you want results? You need to work hard. More and better than your competitors. And it may work, sometimes. But most of the time, it generates stress, exhausted people that have to take a sabbatical year to recover, and average results.

The problem is that work is not a linear function; productivity does not increase linearly adding more work. As Manson explains, most of the works produce diminishing or even negative returns over time. If you push hard, for a long time, you will reach a point when your brain tires out. After that the incremental gain is marginal, you will start making bad choices that can even have adverse effects on the final results.

In his book “The 4-Hour Body”, Timothy Ferris explains the concept of the Minimum Effective Dose. The MED is the smallest dose of something that will produce the desired outcome. Anything beyond the MED is wasteful. The MED to boil water is 100º at standard air pressure. Higher temperatures will not make it more boiled. They will just consume more resources.
For you to be productive, it’s important to know which is the desired outcome of your work and what is your MED of work needed to produce it. As every productivity expert says; you need to work better, not more.

And you are lucky. There are plenty of books, website, classes and tools that propose strategies to increase your productivity. They teach you how to work better rather than more. So, it is easy. You just have to pick a strategy, learn it, apply it, and you will get the results.
My experience is that it’s not so simple. I’ve seen teams go through a painful process to adopt new tools and strategies without any measurable results. As part of my growing journey, I tried a few tools myself. Some worked, others not at all.
Why is that? All these strategies are proven to work. They have plenty of testimonials from people and companies that have achieved remarkable results. If it works for them, it should work for me. Or not?

“Because see, this may surprise you, but not all work is created equal.” — Mark Manson

Not all work is created equal. And I would add, not all workers are created equals.
Picking a strategy or a tool is not enough to get the results you want. Every work has its specifics. What is effective to manage the creation of furniture may not work if you’re trying to write a book. Even when jobs are similar, the workers are most likely different. Circumstances can be comparable, but we are all unique. You have only one way to choose the right tools and strategies; to know yourself better.

Before anything else, the first tool you need is self-awareness. You must understand your limits, your weaknesses and your strengths. You must find the leverages to increase your productivity. Once you increase your self-awareness, you will be able to make the right choices to improve your productivity.

“Awareness precedes choice and choice precedes results.” — Robin Sharma.

Inspired by the words of my friend Sujith of Being At Full Potential, I understood that I was looking at productivity from the wrong angle. I was focusing on the things I was doing while forgetting to nurture who I am. My uniqueness.

When the BEING comes alive, the DOING thrives.

In the last months, I put aside most of the tools and the strategies I used to manage my time and productivity, and I turned into listening mode. I pay more attention to my emotions, when I’m productive and when I’m not. Every morning I download my thoughts on a journal. Writing is my way of listening to myself. I keep a “good time activity log” — inspired by Designing your life — to track the moments of the day in which I’m engaged. And the more I know myself, the more I can tap into my strengths, and I can use my energy and time efficiently.

Self-awareness is my best productivity tool. What about yours?

 

Photo by Calum MacAulay on Unsplash

Article originally published on medium on May 29, 2017