Categories
Blogs

Peak Mind Pro: Mindfulness at Work

If there was a magic pill that made you sharper, more effective, more creative, and more socially skilled while simultaneously improving the quality of your decisions and reducing the number of mistakes you made – with side effects of lower stress and more happiness – would you take it?

Absolutely! 

And you’d probably give it to everyone on your team or in your organization as well.

While this magic pill doesn’t exist yet, mindfulness does all of those things. 

Mindfulness is your competitive edge

Many people these days have heard of mindfulness and how beneficial it can be, but they’ve dismissed it due, in large part, to misunderstanding what it actually is.

Set aside any preconceived notions of sitting cross-legged on a pillow with your eyes closed and mind going blank. Instead, think of mindfulness as heightened focus and awareness. This combo is your competitive edge. 

In action, mindfulness at work means being fully aware of what is happening, both inside of you and around you, and being able to direct and sustain your focused attention where you need it.

 

Awareness

How much time do you spend on autopilot or lost in your head? If you’re anything like the average person, it’s at least 47% of the time. That means that you are not fully present and focused on what you are doing roughly half of the time. That also means that you’re likely missing out on lots of vital information. Imagine how much more effective you could be if you raised that number even a little bit.

Focus

Being able to direct and control your attention – focusing on what is important while filtering out distractions – allows you to perform at a higher level while exerting less energy. Multitasking is a myth. When we divide our attention, we are actually shifting back and forth from one task to the other, albeit sometimes very quickly. That shifting eats up our limited resource of attention and actually requires more energy and effort resulting in more mental fatigue and stress and less quality work. 

The Solution

Mindfulness – being aware and focused – is a core element of psychological strength. As with all core elements, it is a skill that can be developed if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to do so. 

Tips to Try

While setting aside time most days for a formal mindful meditation practice (e.g., with an app like 10% Happier, Calm, or Headspace) can be tremendously beneficial, this just isn’t feasible for many people for a number of reasons. At Peak Mind, we are fans of finding effective ways to build mindfulness into the cracks of a busy, modern lifestyle. Try these tips out for a couple of weeks and see what a difference it can make.

1. Help you and your team have more effective meetings by starting with a little mindfulness. Ask everyone to set aside their phone, tablet, or laptop and spend the first 2 minutes of the meeting in silence thinking about the goals for the meeting. This will allow everyone to show up both physically and mentally, to become aware and focused on the task at hand. You will likely notice that meetings become more efficient.

2. Encourage employees (and model this behavior by doing it yourself) to carve out dedicated work times in which they focus solely on one important task or project. This means making these time blocks as distraction-free as possible by turning off notifications.

3. Build in mini-mindfulness breaks. Set a timer to go off hourly (or at least periodically). When the timer goes off, notice what you are doing and where your mind is. Were you focused on what you’re doing? Try to follow one full breath. This means resting your attention on your breath and trying to stay with it from the start of the inhale, to the pause at the top, and all the way through the exhale. Then, ask yourself, what do I want to focus on right now? 

If you are interested in learning more ways to help you and your team develop this vital skill, email us at info@peakmindpsychology.com

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn
Categories
Videos

Why Your Organization Needs Peak Mind

Peak Mind provides unique trainings and resources that all employees need. Different than traditional leadership programs and EAPs, Peak Mind harnesses the power of psychology to help your employees and team become psychologically strong and resilient in all facets of life. 

Hear from social-cognitive psychologist and Peak Mind co-founder Dr. April Seifert about what makes Peak Mind unique. She explains why focusing on building psychological strength is so important for organizations and how employees can benefit from learning these powerful tools.  

Traditional leadership programs teach important skills, but their effectiveness will be truncated if those skills are not built upon a strong psychological foundation. Peak Mind provides that foundation.  

Categories
Videos

The Reason Why People Don’t Want to Return to the Office

COVID caused major disruptions in everyone’s lives. As we adjust to living in a post-pandemic world, many employees are resisting the idea of returning to the office. It’s not the office itself that’s the problem. It’s what it represents.

COVID abruptly and dramatically altered our worlds. As we learned to work from home, among other changes, we also began to re-evaluate our lifestyles. While the pandemic certainly brought about many unbelievably difficult challenges, it also caused us to reflect on our lifestyles, which were stressful and unfulfilling for many. It showed us that we do not necessarily have to live and work the way we were before. 

And that insight was freeing to a lot of people. 

As we adjust to life and work in a post-pandemic world, that means returning to the office for many workers. Employers have been surprised at the resistance that many employees feel about returning to in-person work. Dr. April Seifert, Peak Mind co-founder and social cognitive psychologist, explains why so many people are resistant to the idea of going back to the office full-time.  

Categories
Blogs

Peak Mind Pro: Finding Flow at Work

By now, you’ve probably heard abysmal statistics about employee engagement (only 1/3 of employees are fully engaged in work) and presenteeism (physically present at work but mentally checked out), which brings with it staggering costs in real dollars. Fortunately, we can turn to psychology for solutions. A robust body of research on something called flow is particularly relevant for helping employees find engagement and satisfaction at work, in turn, boosting productivity and bottom lines. 

Flow is a state of mind in optimal experience, a perfect melding of being your best and doing your best. Some people refer to it as “being in the zone” while others might call it peak performance or flow theory. Research shows that being able to frequently and intentionally put yourself into a state of flow is important for wellbeing and life satisfaction, and the workplace, despite grumbles about not wanting to be there, provides ample flow opportunities. 

What is flow? 

Flow is a mental state characterized by intense concentration and enjoyment. When we’re in a state of flow, or in the zone, we lose our sense of time and self. Time simultaneously speeds up and slows down, and we lose track of it. 

We are so fully immersed in the activity at hand that we stop being self-conscious, stop being distracted by worries and doubts, and that pesky mental to-do list. Interestingly, when we’re in a state of flow, our productivity goes way up. 

Positive changes occur in our brain, and we’re just generally better off all around. In fact, we gain more confidence in our abilities and ourselves after being in flow. 

Flow activities share a few common characteristics.

  •  They are intrinsically rewarding. 
  • They have clear and meaningful goals.
  • Feedback is immediate. We know right away whether we’re on track or not.
  • We feel a sense of control.
  • We have intense concentration and no distractions.
  • We are completely present. 
  • The activity is challenging, and we believe we have the skill to meet the challenge. 

This last piece is especially important when it comes to identifying activities likely to achieve a state of flow. When the challenge exceeds our skills, we may feel anxious. In contrast, if our skills exceed the challenge, we feel bored. The goal is to meet in the middle, where the level of skill matches the challenge, thus creating a flow experience and increasing intrinsic motivation. 

Tips to Try

Finding ways to increase flow at work is important for employee wellbeing as well as for the health of your organization. Focusing on their skill set and your needs positively impacts you both. Just as chess players know their move three steps ahead, we as leaders must gauge this as well. This month, we’re offering tips for both individual workers as well as for leaders.

For Individual Employees

1. Minimize distractions. Flow requires your entire focus, so limit anything that pulls your attention away.

2. Similarly, get off autopilot. We spend a lot of time on autopilot, barely paying attention to what we’re doing, particularly with tasks we do repeatedly. Instead, make an intentional effort to fully concentrate on what you’re doing.

3. Connect with your why. Regardless of the task at hand, even the monotonous ones you do daily, can you set a goal that challenges yourself? Can you find a way to make the task meaningful and important?

For Leaders

Curate an environment that encourages flow states.

1. Offer opportunities for agency and control. Allow team members to make decisions about how, when, and/or where they do their work. Find ways to give your employees choice and control whenever possible. 

2. Set clear goals tied to meaningful causes. When employees understand not only what is expected of them but why it is important, they are more likely to engage. 

3. Provide clear and immediate feedback. Offer praise and recognition.

4. Challenge your employees but provide adequate support. Remember, flow requires a balance of challenge and skill. 

5. Promote competence by providing opportunities for growth. Are there ways team members can mentor others? Develop their skills further? 

Additional Resources

Our quarterly workshop series is designed to provide powerful and interesting information and skills to help you and your team(s) build psychological strength. Delivered virtually, live, or on-demand, these workshops are an excellent way to help support your team’s wellbeing and resilience. If you’re interested in learning more, we would love to talk with you about how partnering with Peak Mind can help. 


Peak Mind is partnering with the Heart Mind Institute to host the Best Year of Your Life online summit. This 10-day virtual event is jam-packed with sessions from some of the most influential psychologists, teachers, and visionaries, and it’s FREE!

Join a world-class lineup and get a jump start on your year. 

Share the free registration link with your colleagues, friends, and family. They’ll thank you for it!

“It is how we choose what we do, and how we approach it, that will determine whether the sum of our days adds up to a formless blur or to something resembling a work of art.”
mihály csíkszentmihályi
Categories
Blogs

Are you feeling stuck at work?

There have been a couple times over the course of my career when I’ve found myself feeling stuck and miserable. After all these years, I don’t remember exactly what it was about that first job that wasn’t quite working for me. I remember that it sounded perfect on paper, that I was beyond excited to land the position, that the organization underwent MAJOR leadership restructuring shortly after I started, and that I was bitter and negative by the end.

A couple colleagues and I would often sneak away for “naughty lunches” (what we called ditching our brought-from-home meals in favor of getting off site to go to a restaurant), and I complained. A lot. Which isn’t really like me. On top of feeling stuck, I felt frustrated and stifled, unsupported by leadership. I had a hard time finding things in my day to look forward to. I didn’t realize until after I was out of that situation just what a toll it was taking on my mindset. I did what people do when people feel stuck. 

Fortunately, I was untethered at that time in my life and had another opportunity. All I needed to do was get the courage to make a leap…to a new position in a new city. And I’m grateful I did.

While I had a lot of psychology knowledge back then (I had just finished earning my PhD), I really didn’t know jack. I didn’t really understand thriving. I’d never heard of life design. I just knew my situation wasn’t working, and completely overhauling my life seemed like the only option. I certainly don’t regret it now, but I also know that leaving everything isn’t always a viable solution. I had to focus my career goals, but moreso my own personal branding. 

Don’t Burn It Down

If you found yourself saying “SAME!” as I described my stuck experience, keep reading. If your job (inside or outside of the home) feels like it’s weighing you down, filling you with dread, and curtailing your growth rather than fostering it, you have options.

Think of your job as your house. If it’s not working for you anymore, or if you truly hate your house, it might be tempting to burn it down, but don’t. That’ll create a bigger mess for everyone involved. Instead, you always have the option to leave. Of course, there are a ton of legitimate reasons why that may not actually be an option for you, that can make feeling stuck even worse. You’re not, though. It’s not always about professional development, though, personal must come first!  You can lean on psychology and life design to help you out. Instead of burning it down or leaving it all behind, try reframing and remodeling instead.

Reframing

The stories our minds tell us are powerful. They color our view of the world, often without us even realizing it. And they become self-sustaining, self-fueling (ever heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy?). If your mind’s story about your job is that “It’s too much” or “I’m under appreciated” or “Leadership doesn’t care about me” or “My clients/customers/patients/coworkers are _______ (fill in the blank with something negative),” what must it be like to live that every day? Instead of feeling stuck, you may feel inspired.

But what if that isn’t reality?

Or, more aptly, what if that is just one version of reality but others exist? Here’s what I mean that. What letter is this?

Did you say M or W? It depends on which way you tilt your head, which angle you look at it from 

What if there isn’t a definitive right? I can’t tell you that it’s absolutely an M or a W. It just depends.

Our stories about work are an awful lot like that. Pay attention to what your mind has to say about your work, especially the stories that seem to pull you down. Is there a way to tilt your perspective and see it from a fresh angle? One that might not hinder you quite as much.

“It’s too much” might become “There’s a lot, but it’s worth it because…”

“I’m under appreciated” might become “My boss isn’t great about handing out praise, so I’ll focus on the end user – my students/clients/customers/etc. I know they value my work.”

“Leadership doesn’t care about me” might become “Leadership sucks, but my coworkers are so supportive.

Notice with all of these, the reframe tries to up the “worth it” factor. When you feel stuck, finding a new why, a new reason for doing what you do, for engaging in what you’re doing rather than dialing it in, can help you.

Remodeling

Remodeling is another strategy for changing your work experience. This means looking at your day-to-day, your role responsibilities, the friction points that are a struggle, and the bright spots that seem to go smoothly. You could make some cosmetic changes by trying to do more of the things you like or experimenting with ways to adjust tasks to make them more enjoyable (e.g., finding ways to increase interaction if that fills your tank or finding ways to block off uninterrupted time to dedicate to important projects while protecting your focus and mental energy).

Sometimes a fresh coat of paint isn’t enough, so you may need to remodel in a deeper way by making structural changes (think knocking down a wall). This translates to talking with your boss about how you might redesign your current role and responsibilities. There may be ways for you to delegate tasks that bog you down, utilize your strengths in a new way, take on new responsibilities, or learn new skills. How might you rewrite your job description in a way that works for both you and your company so you can avoid feeling stuck? Don’t be afraid to suggest a limited trial run. Testing out changes on a short-term basis may be more palatable to everyone.

What’s next?

Given that an average person will spend 80 – 100 THOUSAND hours working over their lifetime, it seems beyond important to me to take steps to ensure that those hours are engaging and meaningful. These strategies are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to curating your work experience. If you want to learn even more about why work can feel draining and what you can do to create a better experience WITHOUT changing anything about your actual job, join us Tuesday for our next live Quarterly Psych Strength workshop. We’ll be talking about completely different things, like role engulfment and the hedonic treadmill (aren’t you intrigued?), and designing ways to ensure your work needs are being met. It’ll be an impactful session! Don’t worry, though, if you can’t make it to the live workshop. Your ticket gets you 30 day access to the Peak Mind Platform where you’ll find the replay, the digital workbook, and some other bonus resources.

“How you spend your days is how you spend your life. You’re never stuck.”
– Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
Categories
Blogs

Peak Mind Pro: Navigate Stress without Being Stressed Out

Back-to-school is always a stressful time for working parents. This year, however, makes previous ones look like a breeze. Set against the back drop of an ongoing pandemic, seemingly constant transitions in the workplace, and heavy world events, it’s important for employees to navigate stress more than ever.

In fact, a recent Gallop survey paints this picture vividly with data. Nearly half of employees experience a lot of worry daily and over half have a lot of daily stress. Rates of both are higher compared to last year, and the rates are highest for employees in the U.S. and Canada. 

This is troubling news because chronic stress is associated with all sorts of negative effects on your physical and mental health, like increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and even death. 

Chronic stress impacts employee work performance, too. There’s not an off switch to flip to leave the stress load at home. Instead, poorly managed stress shows up at work in the form of presenteeism, disengagement (80% of employees are disengaged at work these days. 80%!), poor concentration, low efficiency, low creativity, difficulty prioritizing, and difficulty problem-solving and decision-making. 

Bottom line: Chronic, poorly controlled stress affects your organization’s bottom line.  

We don’t have to tell you about the damaging effects of stress. We have talked about that countless times on Peak Mind. Instead, we are here to give you tools – outside of the standard deep breathing and paying attention – to help you reduce stress and stressful situation. 

Stress, which is our body and brain’s reaction to any demand for our time, attention, and energy, is unavoidable. Fortunately, human beings are actually designed to handle a very high stress load…for a short period of time. The problems arise when the stress never ends, which is pretty much the case in our modern world. It’s important that we take steps at work and in our personal lives to create environments and routines that protect us against stress. Even basics like getting adequate sleep, hydrating and eating, moving as well as resting throughout the day, and periods without technology can make a drastic difference.  

There is a silver lining here. While stress is unavoidable, it isn’t all bad. When managed well, stress can actually be good for you. Stress can focus attention and provide the energy and motivation necessary to do well on a task. Under the right circumstances, stress can have a positive impact on your heart, making it more resilient. It can make you, as a person, more resilient as well. The challenge is turning bad stress (distress) into good stress (eustress).

Two of the biggest factors that help transform stress are: 

  1.  Believing that your efforts are worth it. 
  2.  Believing that you are capable of handling the task demands. 

 How can you help your team or organization tap into those mindset? 

Tools to Try

High stress can lead to overwhelm and difficulty prioritizing tasks and directing energy. That’s because high stress and anxiety bring with it a sense of urgency, making everything feel like it must be done right this second. The Priority Matrix is a helpful tool to sort tasks and develop a game plan. Use this tool on your own or with your team.

  • Urgent tasks have an impending deadline or are time sensitive. 
  • Important tasks matter. They provide value and make a significant impact toward meaningful goals.  

 

Psychological Strength

At Peak Mind, we’re dedicated to helping individuals and organizations thrive. We do this by teaching skills to build psychological strength, which encompasses solid stress management skills along with resiliency and mental toughness. 

Are you interested in learning what psychological strength is, how it operates in day-to-day life, and how you (and your team) can start to build it? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter below. 

Additional Resources

Our podcast vault contains a wealth of information to help in nearly every situation, including managing stress. These two episodes may be of particular interest to you.

Episode 267: How to Support Yourself Through Transitions

Episode 212: What to Do When You’re Stretched Too Thin

Ready to help your team build psychological strength?

Ready to support your team to help them manage stress and perform at their peak? Check out our ASCEND program! 

“It’s not stress that kills us. It’s our reaction to it.”
 – Hans Selye
Categories
Podcasts

How to Protect Yourself from Burn-Out

Powered by RedCircle

Today’s show is dedicated to the person on the edge of burnout. The person who is juggling work, family, household, friends, and other responsibilities. 

You are an asset in your life. You are THE asset in your life, and as an asset, you must be protected. 

When you serve such an important role in so many different areas of your life, you need to make sure you’re able to show up with as much energy as possible. And, this means taking care of yourself, especially with stress and burnout.

Coupled with Coronavirus, world health experts identified burnout syndrome among those who developed a flawed work/life balance. Mixing work environments with personal life (family members interacting throughout the day), many were feeling overwhelmed, showing signs of burnout with physical and emotional effects; the worst cases could even be viewed as a medical condition. While physical symptoms of burnout were rare, job burnout was not, and the chronic stress that accompanied it. Without social support, workers experiencing burnout had compromised mental health.

Today, we’re speaking with Jamie Shapiro, Executive Leadership Coach, and Master Nutritionist. Jamie is the founder of Connected EC, and she has been coaching and developing high-performing teams since 1998. Her interest in the intersection of wellness and leadership grew out of her own experiences as an executive at large-scale IT companies. She managed large teams, faced enormous pressure, and was often on the road. 

We dive into such a great conversation in this episode. We talk about: 

  • Approaching leadership from a whole-body perspective 
  • The 4 holistic areas that true self-care should hit (pssst! It’s not just mental and emotional!) 
  • The battle between our short-term self who wants instant gratification and our long-term self who wants to grow. 
  • The importance of a clear vision for the future & the cognitive mechanism that fuels our ability to reach them. 
  • The gut–brain connection 
  • And finally, quick tips for pouring into ourselves so we can show up as the asset we are in our lives 

Jamie is the author of the book “Brilliant: Be the Leader Who Shines Brightly Without Burning Out.”