A Call to Action

A Call to Action

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. We want to address the global issue of unhealthy attachment to distraction we are experiencing, how it’s affecting the human race, and how it’s also significantly impacting the workplace.

2. All of us have created this problem, whether passively or actively, and it’s up to all of us to fix it.

3. Using the tips and tools presented in this program, you can make a difference by changing the way you live and work - even if it’s for 15 minutes each day.

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“If you love what you do and are willing to do what it takes, it’s within your reach.” - Steve Wozniak

We are moving from an industrial-based economy to a technology-based economy, and as a result, there is massive disruption that’s only going to get more intense. We are only twenty years into the internet. We are just getting started.

As a result, being married to the traditional ways of doing things is no longer feasible. We need to map out a way of working that is going to enable us to do things differently in the future and to enable workers and companies of the future to respond to the fact that many tasks are going to be automated. We need to enable people to be creative and more agile with their thinking. The only way to do that is by adopting the types of strategies we are proposing in this program.

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Although we are speaking about a new way of working, it’s really about setting the stage for the future and putting people in a position where they can respond instead of reacting. This is a critical foundation for us to consider before we move forward.

We didn’t even notice when it became okay for people to talk and text through meetings. There was no one day when it suddenly became acceptable to email employees during dinner. It just crept in. But we allowed it to creep in, and now we must deal with it.

If we do nothing, we continue to contribute to the biggest health threats to the human race today. Obesity and poor mental health statistics are staggering and continue to climb. The number of people who are sleep deprived is constantly on the rise. It is time to reclaim our health, both physically and mentally.

Start by creating an evolution in your own personal life, then apply what you’ve learned and experienced to your workplace. Educate your work colleagues, friends, and family, and encourage them to make a change in their life as well. Even if you start with just finding fifteen more minutes in a day, you are moving in the right direction. You will begin to reclaim control over your life and stop distractions from stealing your time.

Thank you for being a part of the Program!

Dr. Greg Wells

Week 12: Pursuing Dreams

Week 12: Pursuing Dreams

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KEY POINTS:

1. The last step of the 12-week program is to reap the rewards of the changes you all have implemented.

2. One of the rewards will be that employees have more time to pursue interests outside of work.

3. Encourage employees to spend time doing activities they love, and to go after what will improve their lives.

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The last step is all about consolidating gains, celebrating progress, assessing how far you’ve come, and pursuing new dreams. This is the time to revisit the initial assessment you conducted during the deconstruction phase. Ask the same questions and measure your gains. Make this process fun by planning a lunch around it, handing out awards for significant improvements, or incorporating some fun challenges and contests.

Once they see how much “extra” time they now have, employees should be encouraged to be deliberate about doing something with it. If they have gone through the program well, they should end up with three hours a day they didn’t have before. Humans are very good at replacing things. Unless they fill the time with something else, it’s likely they will simply go back to working again.

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Challenge people to find things to do that will move them forward in life. Ask them, “Can you take a course? Do you want to spend more time with your family? Will you start working out more? Maybe it’s time to begin massage therapy. Maybe you want to be out in nature.” Encourage them to do things they enjoy tremendously that also better their lives. This “life engineering” helps us figure out how we can do things differently and spend our time doing the things we absolutely love to do.

When people go after their dreams, they are energized, focused, and passionate about their work. Organizations that make it a priority to understand what people want out of their work and life create a culture that buzzes with excitement and possibility.

While company leaders can help, it can also be beneficial to have a designated accountability partner. If you work together with a colleague or coworker to implement these changes together, and you talk about it and hold each other accountable for actually doing it, the results can be amazing. Encourage employees to find someone else in the organization to check in with regularly and discuss their experiences with the changes.

Another option is creating teams. Typically, around six to eight people is the perfect team size. These people will work together to implement the principles systematically and consistently. They all do the same thing at the same time progressively throughout the program, and in doing so, the likelihood of it being successful long term is exponentially greater.

PREVIOUS LIFE MASTERY POSTS

Welcome to Life Mastery!

Week 1: Start with Why

Week 2: Deconstruction

Week 3: Separate Work and Home

Week 4: Eat Smarter

Week 5: Use Circadian Rhythms to Eliminate Distractions

Week 6: Email Batching

Week 7: The Work-Rest Principle

Week 8: Single Tasking

Week 9: Priority Management

Week 10: Mind & Body Connection - Body

Week 11: Mind & Body Connection - Mind

Week 11: Mind & Body Connection - Mind

Week 11: Mind & Body Connection - Mind

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Meditation is one of the most powerful tools to help improve attentional control, problem solving, concentration, and creativity.

2. There are also many health benefits to mindfulness, including lower levels of stress and lower blood pressure.

3. This week, encourage employees to take up a meditation practice, if they’re not already doing so. There are many apps and tools that can help them get started such as Headspace, Calm, the Muse headband, or the Breathe app on Apple Watch.

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Mindfulness can be just as important as physical activity. Even five minutes a day spent controlling your attention and allowing your mind to relax has incredible benefits. It can lower stress, anxiety, depression, and incidence of chronic disease; it can also increase focus and concentration. It is one of the most powerful things humans can do to improve mental health and performance.

Many of the leaders who are revolutionizing the business world right now practice some form of meditation. There are many resources available for those looking to introduce meditation into their daily lives. I recommend Headspace.com, Calm.com (both also available as smartphone apps), the Muse headband, or the Breathe app on Apple Watch.

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Meditation has direct benefits on both the structure and function of the brain. Just as you would lift weights to build and strengthen your muscles, you can use meditation to build and strengthen your brain. This will allow you to control and sharpen your mind, ultimately making you more creative.

Mindfulness can also be used to help deal with stress and find confidence in the most intense situations. Just taking deeper breaths for about 60 seconds is a very effective way of regulating stress because it activates the parasympathetic response in the body, which signals to the emotional centres of the brain that it’s time to calm down.

By introducing this concept to employees, you can again expect them to decrease their workday by another thirty minutes. By practicing mindfulness, their ability to control their attention for the rest of the day improves dramatically. They are distracted less and able to focus more deeply. A little bit of training results in an exponential return in terms of productivity.


Week 10: Mind & Body Connection - Body

Week 10: Mind & Body Connection - Body

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. To make sure your brain is working at its best, you need to make sure you’re taking care of your body - and that includes being physically active.

2. This week, encourage employees to carve time into their day to exercise - even if it’s a 15-minute walk or light stretching to get their blood flowing.

3. Exercise increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, improving mental performance. It might seem like you’re taking too much time away from the task but in fact you’ll perform better and get healthier at the same time.

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“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking” - Friedrich Nietzsche

This week is about educating employees on the link between the body and the mind and how we can supercharge the brain by moving our bodies. The only way to get your brain functioning at its absolute best is by making sure you’re physically active.

You don’t need to go to the gym for an hour every day—although if you do, that’s great. Walking for just five minutes improves brain function. Taking the stairs or stretching does as well. We just need to sprinkle physical activity throughout the day, and if you can do that, you’re going to experience many positive benefits.

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Treat this week as a call to action to get people to understand if they add physical activity to their days, the time investment will come back to them exponentially in returns.

Encourage them to book it in their calendars and make it as important as their most important business meeting, because it is. If someone wants to schedule something with you at the same time, don’t allow it, just as you would not cancel an important meeting. And employers, don’t make employees feel guilty for taking the time to take a walk or get in a quick workout during the day. You should be encouraging such behaviour, not making people think they’ll be punished for doing it.

You might believe that sitting at your desk for hours on end gets loads of work done. We certainly live in a culture that values putting in long days at the office. This often means putting in long days on our butts. But we are learning that our productivity declines as our butt-sitting increases. Those long hours at the desk have diminishing returns. The brain functions better when the body moves.


Week 9: Priority Management

Week 9: Priority Management

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. In today's society, we think we need to work harder, put in more hours, and get less sleep to be successful. However, this is leading to us to become sick, die from lifestyle-related diseases, and be unhappy. 

2. Remember that more isn’t better - better is better.

3. The key is shifting from time management to priority management. Time management is living by your calendar. Priority management is getting the most important things you need to do every day done.

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Achieving your dreams means knowing the difference between “important” and “urgent,” because that allows you to set the right priorities and allocate your time and resources well.

Here’s the difference:

  • Important activities have an outcome that leads to us achieving our goals, whether these are professional or personal.

  • Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are usually associated with achieving someone else's goals. They are often the ones we concentrate on and they demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate.

The key is to switch (and help your employees switch) from doing time management to priority management.  

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One way you can better manage your priorities is to list all of your roles and responsibilities and rank them from most to least important. Then make sure that on a daily basis, you are allocating specific time during the time of day when your energy levels are highest to work on your highest priority tasks in a completely undistracted manner. If you can do this consistently over a period, you will make tremendous progress toward achieving your dreams.

Also, be prepared to defend your dedicated on-task time. Do not be afraid to communicate your commitment to your priorities to the people around you and keep these decisions in mind as you go about your daily life. Encourage your employees to do the same thing.

To do this, you might have to break away from the belief that you have to respond to every email, voice mail, text message, and so forth, on the same day you receive it. Some messages can go unanswered; others should be blocked entirely. If you are spending too much time fielding unsolicited messages, block, unsubscribe, or delete—do whatever you have to do to keep such distractions from stealing your time.

Corporations are infamous for bogging down in a range of urgent or seemingly important issues that aren’t actually adding value. By helping your teams shift from time management (living by the calendar) to priority management (doing the most important things well), you can create a wave of focus and wellness.


Week 8: Single Tasking

Week 8: Single Tasking

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. If we focus we can do more in less time, which makes better use of our energy.

2. Single-tasking is picking the most important task to work on first and performing that task as exclusively as possible until it is either complete or we are out of whatever time we allotted for the job.

3. Management can help employees by offering specific tips on how to single task.

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In Work Mastery, we touched on how inefficient multitasking is and how you can implement single tasking into your work time. Week 8 is the time to teach your employees how to do this.

Ask people to build the opportunity to single-task on the most important things they need to get done. Once they do, they will see amazing efficiencies emerge and be able to do splendid work with less effort.

You can encourage them to set timers so they are not always looking at the clock. If they work on multiple screens, suggest they cut back to one, provided it doesn’t interfere with their responsibilities.

Management must present single-tasking as something simple for people to do. They can start by identifying one hour of every single day when they can work with no distractions. If that is successful, ask them to find a second hour block. In time, the practice will become routine.

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Some tips for single-tasking include:

  • Organizing your tasks before you start the day

  • Setting aside specific times to focus solely on the high-priority activities

  • Batching emails and phone calls

  • Working off one screen

  • Turning off notifications

  • Meditating for a few minutes before starting focused time of work

  • Putting measures in place to stave off any anticipated interruptions

  • Scheduling walks or other rewards throughout the day

There are some deeply held beliefs about the value of doing many things at once. By helping your teams understand the energy and efficiency loss associated with managing several things at the same time, you can help them dramatically improve their efficiency and well-being.


Week 7: The Work-Rest Principle

Week 7: The Work-Rest Principle

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. The Work-Rest Principle is a structured approach to living and working that embeds sufficient recovery into your schedule.

2. Encourage employees to chunk their day into blocks of time that they are working at 100%, followed by a period of complete rest.

3. This will allow everyone to improve the quality of their work, even if they’re actually taking more breaks throughout the day.

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The work-rest principle is a practice whereby you alternate periods of focused intense work with periods of deliberate rest, recovery, and regeneration. An example would be Tony Schwartz’s 90-Minute Solution from The Energy Project, in which people work in ninety-minute increments followed by thirty-minute breaks. Or Robin Sharma advocates sixty-minute work blocks followed by a ten-minute break. You can create whatever timetable works best for you, but we recommend a maximum work interval should be ninety minutes or less with minimum rest period of ten minutes.

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The important thing is to incorporate regular breaks into your workday. This is likely a new concept for many people who, for most of their careers, have been cramming in as much work to as many hours as they can, day in and day out. Allowing for periods of rest within your day will move you toward a different way of working, the aforementioned Power Work. This can mean working for sixty minutes with fifteen off, working for ninety minutes with thirty off, or whatever works for you.

The key is to find a cadence that allows you to up your game, improve the quality of your work, and improve your physical and mental health. And when you take breaks, really take a break—go for a walk, get away from the office, step away from work completely.

The goal is to create a situation where employees know that they’ve got a stretch of time when they can really focus, be as undistracted as possible, be hyper-productive, but then take a break to recover and regenerate. Now, instead of operating constantly at 80 percent, people can work at 100 percent and then commit 100 percent to their thirty-minute recovery and regeneration period. The result is improved performance and better health, as breaks are key to eliminating symptoms of chronic stress and anxiety.

It is often the norm in a corporate setting for downtime to be viewed as slacking off or a lack of a work ethic. You can help to change that by assisting everyone in understanding the role that deliberate downtime plays in amplifying the productivity of work.


Week 6: Email Batching

Week 6: Email Batching

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Email is one of the biggest culprits of distraction in the workplace.

2. Week 6 should be devoted to teaching employees email batching - allocating specific times to check emails each day.

3. By implementing email batching, you will create a culture whereby employees are focused on one task, and are no longer distracted or anxious due to the amount of emails they have to deal with.

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As was discussed in Work Mastery, the frequency with which we check email is the biggest interruption we all face at work. We feel like we must keep checking email so we stay on top of it. To deal with that, encourage employees to try email batching, which is doing emails at very specific times during the day. Instead of responding to things constantly all day long, employees can do it at very specific times. This practice allows employees to enter into a flow state and do their best work.

When encouraging employees to batch email, you must educate them on how it works. For example, if an employee starts their workday at 9:00 a.m. and they determine they need three stops during the day to do emails, maybe they work from 9:00 a.m. to 9:50 a.m. on task. Then, from 9:50 a.m. until 10:10 a.m., they spend twenty minutes cleaning up your emails. When they’re done, they will not check email again until 1:30 p.m.

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Now employees understand they’re not expected to be constantly looking for emails. They can look at their email flow during the day and ask, “How often do I need to check them? How long on average does it take me to respond to them?” Then employees can build those times into their day so they are no longer dealing with them nonstop.

By giving everyone the green light to batch their emails by setting aside particular times when they manage correspondence, you help them establish a structure that will reduce anxiety and distractions that steal focus and limit effectiveness.

People think not checking emails constantly takes great discipline, but this is not the case. It just requires some systematic processes to be put in place.


Week 5: Use Circadian Rhythms to Eliminate Distractions

Week 5: Use Circadian Rhythms to Eliminate Distractions

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. We naturally have a circadian rhythm, an internal biological clock that regulates sleep, eating patterns, mood, hormone regulation, and everything your body does during the day.

2. Because of this internal clock, there are times when we feel more awake, have a spike in energy, or are able to concentrate better. Alternatively, there are times when we feel more sleepy or lethargic. 

3. Help employees take advantage of their circadian rhythm to optimize health and performance, and build their ultimate day.

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Humans all have circadian rhythms. We’re naturally responsive to a light-dark cycle that occurs with the sun and the moon. Every human has certain times during the day when they are going to be more alert and able to concentrate better. The peak performance window for a lot of people is typically about three to four hours during the day, and that varies for each person.

Ask people to think about when during the day they naturally and easily do their best work, and encourage them to work those hours. Remember, for some, that might mean working outside the normal nine-to-five. Some people excel in the mornings; some people are more nocturnal. As long as it does not interfere with the day-to-day function and productivity of the company, employees should be able to work when they work best.

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Working at your ideal time while devoid of distraction sets the stage for entering flow, that time and space when we have plenty of energy, we’re focused, we’re excited, we’re engaged, work is easy, and time becomes irrelevant.

Once people know when they will work, they must commit to staying on task. They should turn off:

  • All computer notifications

  • Email

  • Social media alerts

  • Phone ringers

They can close their doors, if possible, or put a sign up that says, “Deep focused. Please help me concentrate.” They can do whatever it takes to completely shut out distractions so they can focus on single tasks during their devoted work time.

Leading your team through a process of understanding their own circadian rhythm is a simple and powerful basis for helping them work more efficiently. When they understand the times that they are most productive, they can then implement systems to protect that time and optimize the value of time at work and in their personal lives. This will elevate the overall value of everything the organization does.


Week 4: Eat Smarter

Week 4: Eat Smarter

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Employers must be able to give their employees the tools, tactics, and strategies they need to focus better and have more energy.

2. Working to shift the food culture of your organization will create a context that will improve the health and wellness of your employees, and enable them to be more effective and successful.

3. Simple changes include offering healthy snacks, and educating employees about the issues of simple carbohydrates and the benefits of healthy proteins and fats.

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By week 4, you should be encouraging people to deliberately begin to create new habits and routines around healthy eating. There are a few simple things the company can do:

  • The company can start providing healthy snacks and drinks and eliminating unhealthy options. It’s time to get rid of the high-calorie, low-nutrient offerings such as pop, juice, and vending machine junk. It’s time to start investing in herbal tea and healthy snacks.

  • Consider catering healthy lunches or identifying places nearby where people can go to get a healthy lunch. Look to decrease the amount of simple carbohydrates such as rice, bread, and pasta, and move people toward vegetables, fruits, and healthy protein sources.

  • We also want to get people considering using healthy fats during the day such as avocado, olive oil, coconut, and wild fish. These foods elevate omega-3 fatty acid levels and make an enormous difference in brain power over time. This is, after all, about giving people more energy. These foods will help people avoid the afternoon crash, they will be able to sustain their energy all day.

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Nutrition can be very confusing and controversial, but if you break it down, it’s pretty simple. Easy changes such as avoiding processed foods and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables can make a world of difference. Look to decrease your intake of sugar and highly processed carbs. Add proteins in the morning to help you concentrate and healthy fats to improve brain function. Keep everything as simple as possible by following a few rules, and you can dramatically improve your health and work performance.


Week 3: Separate Work and Home

Week 3: Separate Work and Home

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. It’s important to make a clear distinction between work and home - especially for employees who work from home.

2. Simple tricks can be implemented such as setting designated work hours, blocking emails outside of work hours, and enforcing device-free time.

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This week is about creating boundaries between work and home life. Employees should understand when they are at work, they are expected to be fully at work. When they are at home, they are fully at home.

If employees are working from home, there should be a defined time they work before engaging with their families. As more employers offer work-from-home options for employees, the clear distinction between work time and downtime is even more important.

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Email policies, such as those outlined in Work Mastery, should be in place. Pick appropriate “work hours” and make sure employees do not receive or respond to emails outside of those times. Have employees set up autoresponders, or even better, have the IT department set the servers so they don’t send or receive emails during those hours. Senders can get a bounce back explaining the policy and offering a link where they can reach someone if the matter is urgent.

There should also be “device-free” times throughout the day. Expect a little bit of initial panic at this. They will say, “What if my children or my spouse or the teachers need to get hold of me?” But to soothe any concerns, provide a number, perhaps one assigned to a secretary or assistant, that friends and family can call in the event of an emergency. Feeling like you always have to check your phone contributes to feelings of exhaustion and burnout, and we’re teaching our children that this level of connectivity and anxiety is acceptable.

By introducing these simple rules to follow, employees will be fully engaged in work at work, and can enjoy their time with friends and family when they’re at home.


Week 2: Deconstruction

Week 2: Deconstruction

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. If you don’t get a clear metric outlined at the beginning of the project, you cannot track your progress to determine whether improvements are being made.

2. Therefore, Week 2 should be Deconstruction. Do a complete audit of the workplace and how everything is currently running.

3. Any way you can measure what people are doing before and after beginning the program will help you see how performance can increase in an environment with fewer distractions.

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At this point, it’s time to deconstruct what you’re currently doing and build a better plan. By deconstruction we mean taking a step back and examining what you’re currently doing. Here are examples of questions you can ask:

  • How is everyone spending their time?

  • How much is everyone working?

  • What are the current hours that everybody’s currently putting in?

  • What’s the current effectiveness?

  • How productive is the group?

  • What are the stress levels of the group?

  • What’s the health of the group?

  • What’s the performance of the group?

  • What business metrics can you track to determine if the change is effective?

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As previously mentioned, it can help to have employees track email time before and after changes are implemented so they can see the dramatic difference more focused work time can make. It can also help to look at how many files the accounting staff can tend to each day before and after.

Also measure sick days. Look at how many days employees missed for the last three years before the program was implemented and compare the data with how many days are missed for six months after. In all likelihood, you will see a significant reduction in sick days and benefit costs.

Deconstruct as much as possible within the organization to determine where you are starting. This will later help you measure the effectiveness of the program.


Week 1: Start with Why

Week 1: Start with Why

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. The first step is educating the employees about what the program is and is not.

2. Take time to figure out the why - why are we doing this? Why is this important? Why are we trying to achieve these things?

3. Once everyone has a shared clear vision, they will be more likely to get on board and stick with the program.

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“Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.” - Jim Rohn

The first step you must take before even starting the program is making sure everybody is on board with it. Have the representatives who are running the program present it to management first, and make sure they understand exactly what the program and its goals are. Educate the board so all members know what’s happening. Get all higher-ups prepared for the change so there is company-wide understanding of what’s coming.

They must understand we’re not trying to squeeze more blood out of the stone. We’re saying the stone’s not working well. Employees are getting sick, burned out, overweight, and stressed because of the way they are living and working outside and inside the workplace. By introducing this new way of working, we can change all of that and create more productive, efficient employees.

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The single most important thing to start with is a shared, clear vision of the future. There is great value in identifying motivations behind actions and helping everyone to see the bigger picture. When you take time to figure out the why, you are better equipped to overcome any challenges to the new way of doing things that might arise in your life or workplace. Tell employees why you are doing this. If you’re clear about why you are going to do this, everyone will feel more motivated to get on board.

I'd like you to look back on the dream and goal setting that we did at the beginning of the program.

Then I'd like you to dive into your work a bit deeper. Take a look at your dreams and goals and then ask yourself why? Why do you want to achieve those things? Then ask again. Go deeper. Get to the root of why you want what you want.

For example, when I was in high school I wanted to make the Olympics in swimming. But at the deepest level I loved to be in the water. Annalise Carr swam across Lake Ontario at 13 years of age, and at the deepest level that was to raise money for a cancer camp.

If you can find the deep reasons why you do things you will be absolutely unstoppable.

You can use the Start with Why section of The Dream Setting Workbook. Or you can fill out the form below to send me your notes. 

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Consider your dreams and goals for a moment. Really bring them to life in your mind. Then ask yourself “WHY?” 5 times in a row. That helps you to get deep quickly on what your real motivations are.

Previous Life Mastery Posts

Welcome to Life Mastery!

Welcome to Life Mastery!

Welcome to Life Mastery!

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Work is important - but it’s not everything. You need to learn how to have a healthy work-life balance.

2. Life mastery is when you’ve learned how to be productive at work, manage stress, eat well, be active, and experience joy in your life outside of work.

3. This module will take you through the 12 steps that will help you achieve this life mastery.

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“There is no passion to be found in playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” - Nelson Mandela

Welcome to Life Mastery!

Work. Live. Play. These three words are used frequently in the field of real estate, when the Realtor is showing how a home can allow a person or family to do all three in an environment where they are happy and thriving. They also have a direct tie to what we are trying to do by creating a new workplace environment.

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Yes, we want to work. We want to work very productively, but we also want to live. Really living means you’re not stressed all the time. You are healthy. You are eating well. Play is what we do with our breaks from work. A countless number of studies show stress is one of the leading causes of almost all illness. We need a world where we do more than just work and die.

In Personal Mastery and Work Mastery, you developed fundamental habits that have set the stage for you to live your best self at work and at home.

In Life Mastery, we’re going to bring all of this information together in a step-by-step protocol. We’ve designed a twelve-week plan for leaders to follow when putting the program into place in their own companies.

The changes proposed are meant to be introduced and implemented gradually in stages. We’re introducing the habits one week at a time, however you can go at the pace that makes sense for your company. Remember it’s all about making small, consistent changes 1% at a time.

Keys for the Workplace

Keys for the Workplace

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Here are four keys that are essential for success in the workplace.

2. Key 1: Avoid unnecessary meetings. Meeting for the sake of meeting is not a good use of time. Make your meetings efficient by only meeting when necessary, putting away phones, and getting right on task.

3. Key 2: Device-free work time. Putting phones in a basket or out of sight is an easy way to stay focused during meetings or group work.

4. Key 3: Communication. Communication is key when trying to implement change in the workspace.

5. Key 4: Walk the walk. If there is to be a cultural shift in the workspace, leaders need to lead by example.

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Here are four keys to make your workplace ultra-efficient, and improve everyone’s productivity, health, wellbeing, and happiness.

Key 1: Avoid unnecessary meetings

Meetings that bring people together to create things or to solve problems are wonderful, but everyone dislikes meeting for the sake of meeting. Meetings should be very specific. They should have a detailed agenda, a start, and a finish. They should include only people who absolutely must be there. And there’s no reason meetings must last the standard thirty or sixty minutes. Make them five or ten minutes if that’s all the time you really need. If you are in a meeting that’s been scheduled for thirty minutes and it ends early, don’t force everyone to stay and waste that time. Instead, use it to do something healthy, such as taking a walk.

Finally, push more meetings to the phone rather than forcing everyone to gather in person. I find it moves things along faster and cuts out much of the wasted time. If you are meeting in person, however, phones should be off. The less potential for distraction, the less potential for wasted time.

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Key 2: Device-free work time

You can begin to show your team how effective they can be without distractions simply by banning phones from meetings or group work scenarios. You can have people put their phones in a basket or they can leave them with a receptionist or assistant who can keep an eye on them in case of emergency. It adds structure to your meetings to acknowledge you are going to be more productive if you’re not on our phones.

Key 3: Communication

Talk to employees often about the benefits of these changes so they understand fully how they will improve many aspects of their lives both at and outside of work. Send out weekly emails about the benefits of focus and concentration, or hold lunch-and-learn sessions. Find your own creative way to communicate to the team.

The most successful companies are thinking about the overall health of the employee. They are not trying to wring every last ounce of energy out of everybody but enabling employees to think, be creative, problem solve, be agile, come up with solutions to difficult problems, or just get the job done so they can leave and recover, regenerate, have a life, and be part of the organization for many years to come.

Key 4: Walk the walk

For any organizational change to take, the leadership needs to model it. From healthy living to effective use of time, to email batching and efficient communication, employees will shift their approach based on what they see the bosses doing—even more than what the bosses say they should be doing. Everyone wants to succeed and prove they are capable. Help them do so by modelling the focus and efficiency that will create a culture of success, wellness, and productivity.

Today’s Habit: Single Tasking

We’re going to continue with the same habit as last week - single tasking.

Remember it’s all about focusing on your most important task and only your most important task. Once you accomplish that task, you can move on to your second most important task.

Next week we’ll be starting the final module - life mastery!

Start, Stop, Continue

NOW THAT YOU’VE COMPLETED THE MODULE, IS THERE A HABIT OR ROUTINE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO START? IS THERE A HABIT OR ROUTINE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO STOP? IS THERE A HABIT THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTINUE?

YOU CAN WRITE THESE DOWN ON YOUR OWN OR YOU CAN FILL OUT THIS FORM TO SEND US YOUR NOTES. THIS WILL HELPS US TO GIVE YOU SOME TIPS AND FEEDBACK ON HOW YOU’RE DOING.


The Myth of Multitasking

The Myth of Multitasking

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Multitasking is common practice in today's world, however it goes against how our brains work. 

2. If we try to multitask, we end up shifting the blood flow between different parts of the brain, never giving the brain what it needs to get a single job done properly.

3. Make it a daily routine to carve out an hour each day to focus completely on your most important work.

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Imagine you are sitting on a bench engrossed in a book. I sit down beside you and interrupt you. We chat for a few minutes. When I leave, do you go back to the exact line where you left off? Not likely. You’ll go back two, three, or four paragraphs to reorient yourself and remind your brain where you are.

The same thing happens when you are on task and become distracted. Recent research shows it can take up to 23 minutes to get back into whatever you were doing.

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Anytime you are engaged in an activity, the brain becomes activated and neurons begin to fire. They create electricity, which moves through them and triggers the release of chemicals. This brain activation requires a great deal of energy. Although the brain makes up only 2 percent of the body’s weight, it uses 20 percent of the body’s energy.

We deliver that energy through blood flow, which gives us the oxygen and glucose the brain uses to concentrate, problem solve, and be creative. When we are doing a task, certain parts of the brain and specific neurons are activated. Blood flow goes to that location to supply it with oxygen and nutrients so it can work.

If we task-switch and jump back and forth between activities, different parts of the brain are activated. As a result, blood flow has to move from one location to another, and that takes time. You activate one part of the brain and deliver nutrients to it, and then you shut that part down and open up another. Therefore, multitasking is actually a highly inefficient process for the brain and can lead to a great deal of wasted time in the workplace.

Try and carve out time to do single tasking every day - especially during Power Work. During this time only focus on the most important task. Once that task is done, move on to the next most important task.

Today’s New Habit: Single Tasking

At this point, you should have strategies for how to eliminate your biggest distractors, and you should be turning off all notifications during your Power Work time. However, even if we turn off all of our notifications, we can still get side tracked by trying to do too many things at once. So the next habit is to learn how to single task.

Over the next two weeks, try to single task during Power Work. Choose your most important task and do only that task until you have completed it. Once you have completed that task, you can move on to your second most important task.

We’ll check in to see how your’e doing next week.


Create the Space

Create the Space

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. The old standard environment, which consisted of little more than a desk, a chair, and a phone, is just not helping people do their best work anymore.

2. In the last decade, there have been great advances in how companies use workspaces to inspire excellent work.

3. Make simple changes to improve productivity and set you up for success such as modular furniture, quiet spaces, and improved natural lighting.

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There are several ways you can alter the physical environment to change the way you work. You might not be able to change the state of your building, but you can make small changes to certain workspaces or rooms that make a big difference. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to completely change or replace your existing environment—you can work with what you have to create a space more conducive to improved focus. Here are some easy ways to improve your workspace:

1) Standing or walking desks. These are great if you are working on a project that doesn’t require you to be isolated. Employees can use those for phone calls or emails. Another option is bar stools at high tables. You can just lean on them and have a conversation.

2) Change of scenery. When possible and appropriate, try to get away from the desk. Hold walking meetings to enjoy a few minutes of fresh air outside. Even moving a meeting off site to a local coffee shop can get the blood flowing in a way sitting around a desk never can.

3) Meditation rooms. Some progressive companies offer meditation rooms with comfortable chairs and background music. Employees can come in to close their eyes and take a break in a very quiet place to work on mindfulness or meditation. If no such space exists, employees can create their own by putting on headphones, positioning their chairs so they are facing away from door, or finding a place in the building—maybe in a warehouse or meeting room—where they can go to disconnect.

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4) Power fuel. Make sure the vending machines in your break spaces offer some healthy options. The typical standard garbage you get in and around office buildings can literally make you sick. Think about what options you can provide so people get the nutrition they need for optimal performance. If possible, provide free healthy snacks to give employees incentives to make better food choices.

5) Natural light. Lighting also can play an important role in workspaces. Natural light is far better for people than fluorescent lighting. Simply introducing plants into an office environment improves physical and mental health.

6) Create your home office. I also encourage you to create a home office space that replicates some of these elements. With the growing opportunity for more and more people to work from home, it’s crucial to have an environment that inspires you to do amazing work. If you are a person who frequently works remotely, it can help to also have a road warrior kit you can take on the road. Equip yourself with high-quality headphones, perhaps a journal or other meditation device—anything you need to create an environment where you can focus fully on your tasks.

We need to make sure that whatever we are trying to accomplish, the environment reflects that. For example, if you must be on a phone call, then go into an office or a boardroom and close the door so you’re not disrupting everybody else around you. If you have to do some collaborative work, then get into a space where you can throw things up on the wall and be engaged with the people around you. It’s all about engineering your environment and using the power of ergonomics to make sure you can get your very best work done in the easiest possible way.

Today’s Habit: Do Not Disturb

How did last week’s “Do Not Disturb” habit go? Did you find it difficult? Maybe you got a sense of relief that you didn’t receive notifications for a brief period.

We’re going to continue with the same habit this week. During Power Work, turn off all notifications by silencing your phone, turning off desktop notifications, and closing all windows that aren’t necessary for your work.

Keep up the good work!


Email Policies

Email Policies

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. The average office worker checks their email thirty times per hour. This is one of the leading causes of distraction and inefficiency in the workplace.

2. Consider implementing email batching, tracking email time, avoiding email outside of work, making emails concise, and using the phone as strategies to combat the email-checking epidemic.

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Email is one of the worst culprits for distraction in the workplace. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average number of times an office worker checks their email inbox is thirty times per hour. However, there are many practices you can put in place to curb email distraction. Here are a few tips you can try:

1) Batch your emails. To avoid the never-ending onslaught, you can batch your emails. Batching, a concept developed by Tim Ferriss, is setting aside a specific time to check emails and not allowing them to distract you otherwise. For example, you might set aside the last fifteen minutes of every hour to check emails. You might designate certain hours of the day when you check them. You turn off notifications and do not allow them to pull your attention away from the task at hand. There are many software programs that allow you to block email during certain times.

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2) Track your email time. If you’re not sure how much of your time email is stealing, track it. Start a journal to record how much time you actually spend on emails a day. Then take that time and break it into focused sections. Instead of spending two minutes here and thirty minutes there, set aside a specific ten or fifteen minutes at regular stages of the day to tackle them. Treat these sessions like sprints you do throughout the day.

3) No email outside of work. Try to disengage from email outside of business hours. You can set up an automated reply message explaining that messages received after 6:00 p.m. or before 6:00 a.m. Monday to Friday and during the weekends will be responded to on the next business day.

4) Get to the point. Instead of wasting people’s time, make your emails concise and to the point. Another communication option is Slack, a tool that allows you to create channels that include only the relevant people. When you do communicate using that venue, you don’t use a subject button. You don’t need to comb through a contacts list. Everyone will see whatever you post. It’s almost like texting - short, quick, and very effective. Slack also has a “do not disturb” option, blocking and saving messages outside of work hours.

5) Consider using the phone. In this digital age, we tend to see talking on the phone as an outdated practice, but there are times when it can be far more efficient than email, particularly if the topic requires a lot of back and forth. If you have an issue that would be better handled on the phone, schedule time to call the people to talk them through it. It will save everyone time in the long run.

Today’s New Habit: Do Not Disturb

During the past two weeks, you made a list of all of the possible distractions and a plan for how you can eliminate them during work time. The next step towards eliminating distractions is stopping the barrage of messages we constantly receive.

This week, try and eliminate distractions by implementing a “Do Not Disturb” protocol. During Power Work, silence your phone (or even better put it in another room), close any windows on your computer that aren’t essential to your work, and disable desktop notifications.

If you’re anxious about not being available to respond to people right away, remember that after Power Work you can turn on notifications again. Good luck!


The Cost of Distraction

The Cost of Distraction

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Distraction in the workplace (both digital and other forms of distraction) are costing companies billions of dollars in lost opportunity and productivity, not to mention taking a toll on employees health and wellbeing.

2. By limiting work-related emails and communication to work hours, employees can be more engaged and focused when they are actually at work.

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Distractions are everywhere, especially in work environments where employees are doing the bulk of their jobs seated in front of computer screens. Just think about what you see when you walk around your own place of business. You see people reading nonwork-related articles online or scanning social media. You see them checking personal email accounts or visiting sites for their favourite stores to check out the deals of the day. You’ll see them working as well, but these distractions are often too much for them to resist when they have constant internet access.

Common sources of digital distraction include:

  • checking texts

  • checking emails

  • online shopping

  • social media

  • reading blogs

  • checking news sites

  • planning vacations online

  • paying bills online

Technology is not the only thing to blame. Other factors employees commonly waste time on are:

  • socializing with colleagues

  • unnecessary meetings

  • personal phone conversations

  • micromanagement

  • visiting the kitchen, water cooler, or break room

Here are some more interesting numbers to consider:

  • Three minutes—How frequently the average office worker is interrupted or distracted, according to the University of California, Irvine.

  • Twenty-three minutes—How long it takes to return to a task after being interrupted, according to the University of California, Irvine.

  • Eight—Average number of windows open on a worker’s computer at the same time, according to The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory by Torkel Klingberg.

  • Thirty—Average number of times per hour an office worker checks their email inbox, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

For many companies, all this wasted time results in significant financial losses. According to research published by Basex, a knowledge economy research firm, information overload cost the US economy at least $997 billion per year in reduced productivity and innovation as of 2010.

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To be fair, this age of constantly being connected is not just an employee issue. Employers need to accept responsibility for their role in creating and perpetuating the problem. Imagine being out to dinner with the family for a birthday celebration on a Saturday night and getting an email from the boss about a problem you’ll need to address first thing Monday. Most likely, your mood, if not the whole evening, is now ruined. The truth is, managers have no right contacting an employee in the evening or on the weekend, unless it is an emergency, which—let’s be honest—it never is.

The reason so many companies are suffering is not a guessing game; it’s a simple math equation. They are losing money both from an operational standpoint as well as from the drain on employee benefits all this distraction causes. Stressed-out employees are often unhealthier employees. They use more sick days and experience frequent burnout, all of which impacts the bottom line. More importantly, it impacts their overall well-being.

When business leaders understand how distraction affects the workforce, they can make changes to improve everything from overall employee satisfaction to the company’s bottom line. For example, one simple idea is to implement an automatic notification policy on your servers that does not allow emails to be sent or received before 6:00 a.m., after 6:00 p.m., or on the weekend.

Employers and employees working together to monitor the overall effectiveness of everything from meetings to email communications or individual work can enable a widespread improvement in overall effectiveness and a simultaneous improvement in joy and wellness.

Today’s Habit: Eliminate Distractions

Have you determined what your biggest distractors are? This week, make a plan as to how you will eliminate these distractions during work time.

If email is a big distractor, turn off email notifications while you’re trying to get an important task done or during Power Work. If your biggest distractor is socializing with colleagues, close your office door or put on headphones to avoid the temptation. Make a strategy on how you can eliminate the distraction beside each distractor on your list.


Previous Work Mastery Posts:

Welcome to Work Mastery!

Welcome to Work Mastery!

Welcome to Work Mastery!

The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Busyness in the workplace is the expectation that employees put in at least eight hours of work each day - even if those eight hours are distracted and unproductive.

2. Work Mastery is learning how to use focus to become more productive and efficient in your workday, allowing you to become more present in your life outside of work.

3. In the coming module, you will learn how to work smarter, not harder or longer.

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“The performer who focuses the best wins the most.” - Chad Rempel

Welcome to Work Mastery!

There is the long-standing belief that a productive workday must last, at the very least, eight hours. The concept of the eight-hour workday started with the Industrial Revolution. Ford Motor Company advanced the idea in 1914, when the company scaled back its forty-eight-hour work week to curb accidents.

Because we’ve been doing this for so long, eight hours has become the minimally acceptable measure of work. If you hold a salaried management position and work forty hours a week, you are meeting the bare minimum expectations. The unspoken expectation is you should be the first one in the office every morning and the last one to leave every night. Otherwise, you’re seen as a slacker.

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I am a fan of hard work, and there are certainly times in our careers when extra demands require extra time, but it is not sustainable long term if we have any hope of living a balanced life. Many leaders of the newest and fastest-growing companies are far more focused on working smarter, not harder or longer. Balance and lifestyle have become important hallmarks of these companies.

This is where the focus effect comes into play.

When you eliminate distraction from your day, there is no need to be chained to a desk for endless hours. We have seen many examples of successful companies that have implemented five-, six-, and seven-hour workdays, with flexible hours and have shown far more daily productivity than the traditional eight-hour workday. Heck, some companies would be happy to go from ten- to twelve-hour workdays down to eight.

Distractions must be set aside during on-task time. When you are working, you are working. When you are not working, you are recovering and regenerating so you can do your best work again the next day.

When you give your tasks your undivided attention, you are able to produce higher quality work in less time. There is no logic to sitting at a desk for a designated amount of time if the work you are completing is not the best representation of your abilities.

So that’s the goal of this module - to give you the information and tools you need to work better, not harder. When you apply those skills in the workplace, you can begin to make changes that will improve every aspect of your life.

Today’s New Habit: Eliminate Distractions

The first habit I’d like you to work on in Work Mastery is to eliminate distractions.

Spend some time making a list of all the things that distract you during a typical workday such as email, social media, socializing, or surfing websites. You might get distracted by one, two, or all of these things.

Once you know what your biggest distractors are, you can come up with a plan as to how you will eliminate these distractions during work time.

We’ll check in next week to see how you’re doing on your list.