How Top Performing Teams Get In The Zone

Have you ever experienced a dream-like state where high quality work flows effortlessly and without hesitation? The kind you’d describe with words like flow state or deep work. More specifically, it’s when your mind balances relaxation with concentration. Here are 3 practices top performing teams use to “get in the zone”:

Find A Shared Purpose

Every task becomes significantly easier - and a lot more fun - when it has a meaningful purpose. Defining the team’s purpose allows team members to be in sync and see how they can best contribute for success. One way you can define this purpose is to understand how the task serves any bigger picture goals. This allows you to keep your team grounded and focused if there’s ever any debate about how to move forward in the project.

Tip: Try to find a strong visual or statement that encapsulates the team’s mission.

Simplify The Process

As human beings we have a habit of over complicating things. Our awesome, high-powered brains are so analytical that they sometimes experience analysis paralysis. This is when your purpose statement comes in handy. Having a clear intention allows you to decide which tasks will move you closer to the bigger picture goal and which ones will not. This will provide you context to assess each problem, so you can deal with it appropriately.

Remove Physical Distractions

There are a proven ways to improve people’s focus at work. The first is to remove any physical distractions. When it’s time to sit down and work, close social media, turn off phone notifications, close your email, and only keep tabs open related to the task at hand. Top performing teams do this because they know It takes an entire 20 minutes to completely refocus after a distraction.

Getting in the zone is no myth exclusive to athletes and superheros. It’s a wonderful, empowering state that anyone has access to. If you’re looking to take your team’s focus to the next level, try applying these 3 strategies.

How Emotions Inspire Our Perspectives of the World

Our emotions affect how we perceive the world around us. How someone feels emotionally will influence the meaning we pull from different sensations, as well as past experiences and knowledge. This provides the power to reshape our perspectives by understanding the emotions within us.

To see how people are working to understand their emotions, we reached out to:

  • Dre, Customer Experience Ninja

  • Dadry, Creative Freelancer

  • Corri, Filmmaker

Here’s what they had to say about understanding your emotions. It all begins with emotional balance.

Understanding Emotional Balance

When we asked, what does being “emotionally balanced” mean to you, a common thread is to allow yourself to feel your emotions as they come and go, while “dealing with them in real time”. Dre highlights the importance of not letting yourself “become overly consumed with what may come and not judge yourself for feeling how you do.”

For Corri it means, “making a choice to take time for yourself and not allowing the fast pace of life to control your inner peace. Try creating a routine to keep this balance intact, such as making the bed, stretching, and taking a few moments to meditate. Find moments in the day to be grateful for your path and the world around you” - even the parts of life you can’t control.

Search For Perspective

The next question we asked is: How do you regulate your emotions when you’re feeling down or life feels out-of-control?

Taking a step back can help you put things into perspective. Dadry suggests, “slowing down and taking in the world around you. Cleaning is one way to physically fix the chaos around you. It’s about finding something new and calming to take your mind off the stress of it all.”

After taking a moment to breath deeply, Corri says, “I consider the consequences of my reactions. Do I spiral out of control or remain calm and think logically about the situation? I usually choose the latter. If I feel extremely emotionally charged and feel the need to express myself I try to do so as honestly and calmly as possible.”

Accept Your Emotions

Our final question is: What advice do you have for people who have trouble controlling their emotions, both in their own minds and when expressing emotions to others?

Dre suggests, “My advice to people who have trouble controlling their emotions would be to accept what comes. Don't avoid or try to suppress anything that might come up because it will come back to the surface eventually. Take a moment to positively respond to what you are going through instead of reacting immediately. Many times we react without thinking and it tends to not be the best plan of action.”

Dadry encourages you to “find a way to filter the mess. Music, art, exercise; any activity that is expressive - even something as simple as talking it out. Usually a stressful situation is one where there isn’t a firm sight of clarity. Talking to someone who is on the outside looking in might be exactly what you need.”

Corri often asks, “Who are your emotions affecting? When we become irrational we are not lucid. So you can not clearly convey your emotions and express your truest desires. In one’s own mind I would think about what is creating any distress? What’s the source? Can you control it or is it out of your control? You cannot allow things that are out of your control to disturb your peace. Take a few moments to breath and think about how much power you want to allow others or a situation to have over you. What outcome will expressing your emotions have?”

Why Balance is the Key Ingredient to High Performance

Strong leadership is an act of balance. To ensure projects are successful, a team relies on guidance that is both emotionally and logically sound. When the going gets tough, it can be easy to lean to one side. A logic-driven leader might overlook a person's needs for the sake of task completion. While an emotionally-guided leader could focus too much on accommodating everyone that tasks start to slip through the cracks. That’s why truly effective, high performing teams require a balanced approach to leadership.

The Balanced Leadership Approach

Imagine good leadership as a seesaw. On one side, there’s logic where goals are clearly defined, timelines are established, and tasks are allocated among other decisions. On the emotional side, the leader is deeply in tune with the team members to support their growth and development. Just like a seesaw, a successful leaders will need to move back and forth between emotion and logic to arrive at sound decisions.

For example, if you’re the kind of person who turns to logic during difficult times, you might find it easier to take decisions away from the team and make the tough calls yourself. As a leader you feel responsible for the projects success, right? Not necessarily. By calling all the shots you’re desensitizing yourself from other people, which can hinder team morale quickly.

Leverage Your Team’s Skills

There’s a very good chance you’re surrounded by skilled, motivated people with tons of potential, so leverage it! Giving someone from your team the chance to make their own decisions prevents micro-managing, improves self confidence, and gives them an opportunity to grow and improve. It also fosters a sense of trust within the office that makes work better for everyone, including the leader. By finding a synchronicity between feeling and thinking, you’re creating a culture in which business and the people who run it can thrive.


It’s important to know when to lean to one side or the other, and shift accordingly. A team that is supported emotionally is more likely to stay on task and maintain focus because they want to do a better job for the company. Just remember to keep a good work culture in place. You also need to set clear, reasonable deadlines, and work expectations to keep your team on track.

Find The Rhythm


We keep going back and forth, but that’s really all it is. You’ll know when you’ve got the rhythm down. Leadership is a delicate balance of managing the tasks to be completed, as well as relationships with the people who complete them. Sometimes you need to put more emphasis on logic, and sometimes more on emotion. With the two forces working together, amazing feats can be accomplished.

Taste Each Bite: The Benefits of Slow Eating

In recent years, food has become less about community and artsmanship, and more about convenience. However, slowing down the fast pace of modern life is essential to wellbeing - especially when it comes to meals. Many studies have shown that eating slowly is tremendously beneficial for the body and mind. Although it can be instinctual to scarf down a quick bite between meetings or after work, taking the time to chew slowly and take breaks between bites can improve the entire eating experience.

The Health Benefits: Improves Digestion

Eating has everything to do with the mind-body connection. As you chew, your brain is sending signals to multiple parts of your body to prepare for digestion. When you eat slowly, you’re giving your body more time to realize what’s happening. In fact, it takes twenty minutes on average for your mind to signal to your body that you are full. Chewing quickly can override this mind-to-body dialogue because it all happens too fast. Often this leads to stomach cramps, bloating, poor digestion, or even acid reflux. Chewing slowly, on the other hand, allows your mind and body to be in sync. Together your mind and body can work more effectively by giving your mouth and stomach time to get the message.

The Experiential Benefits: Appreciate The Food

Food is good, so good. In fact it might be one of life’s greatest joys, so why not make the most of it? Rather than rushing through that piece of pizza, burger, granola bar or fresh apple, slowing down to savor it helps you get more than calories out of your food. When chewing slowly, you may notice flavors, smells, and textures you might have missed before. Eating slowly doesn’t just stop you from being hungry, it makes for a much richer experience.

The Social Benefits: Enjoy Your Company


Some of the healthiest nations in the world don’t actually eat what we might consider “healthy” food. Countries like France, Italy, and Greece eat a diet based primarily in breads and cheeses, and have some of the healthiest people in the world. What’s the difference? There are two main reasons. For one, these European countries eat socially. You’d be hard pressed to find someone eating alone. In eating socially, people also naturally slow down - this is the second reason. If you have trouble eating slowly, try eating with another person. The conversations you have make it easier to take breaks between bites, and think about the whole experience of eating, not just the food itself.

How to Protect Your Mind From Social Media Envy

Social media is positive in a lot of ways. It makes us laugh, fills free time, and can help us keep in touch with friends and family. Unfortunately, social media may also skew the idea of what a happy life looks like. In fact, Instagram and Facebook have been ranked as the top two worst social media sites for mental health. To stay positive as you surf social media, try some of these tips to strengthen your inner happiness.

The Highlight Reel

Scrolling through the newsfeed, we see one friend traveling the world, and another who just got married. We see someone who just landed an awesome job, and another person posing on the beach looking amazing. The best thing to do is feel happy for the success of your friends, but it’s not always that simple. If you’ve had a bad day or are feeling particularly vulnerable, seeing other people’s highlight reels can make you feel envious. However, that’s all they are - highlight reels. This is just what’s being shown to the public and doesn’t always represent the full story. It’s important to keep this perspective in mind when you’re browsing social media.

Unfollow Triggering People

Typically, there are a handful of people who make glamorous posts more often, or may have something that you want. Facebook makes unfollowing really easy. All you have to do is go to their profile and click “unfollow”. It’s completely anonymous so the person will not be notified. Plus they remain on your friends list. When you unfollow someone on Instagram, the person won’t get a notification either. If seeing someone’s posts are getting you down, don’t be afraid to do what’s best for your wellbeing.

Take A Break

If you’re still feeling envious after unfollowing triggering people, it could be time to take a break from social media. To take a break from instagram, it’s as simple as deleting the app off your phone. If you’ve saved your password or linked the app to another account like Google or Facebook, logging back in when you’re ready is easy. To take a break from Facebook, you can try changing your password to something more difficult to remember. Save that password somewhere, and don’t use it until you feel you’re ready to go back on the site.

Oh, the peace and quiet. Wait, is that an urge to scroll? For some of us, opening a social media app becomes second nature and can be a hard habit to kick. According to social psychologists, setting a benchmark of 21 days to remain scroll-free is the necessary amount of time to break a habit. The first week off an app is usually the hardest, but it becomes a lot easier after that. All the time you free up is great for removing jealousy triggers from your life, while also providing time to reflect.

Is Social Media Worth It?

What does social media provide for us? It’s a bit of a catch 22. You get amazing inspirational stories, and the latest news tailored to your interests. You get to see your baby cousin growing up and cute animal pictures. Mixed in with all that good stuff is a lot of content based in narcissism and envy, so what’s a person to do?


This time away from social media presents the perfect opportunity to gain some perspective. What do you want these sites to provide for you? By making that choice clear in your mind and acting accordingly, you are building a web experience that serves your happiness - not your dissatisfaction.

Using Past Lessons to Inform Big Life Choices

Making choices in life isn’t always easy. For some of us, the simple task of choosing a restaurant for dinner can be stressful. When it comes to even bigger life decisions like moving or taking on a new job, choices become increasingly complex. How do you simplify a decision when there are so many variables at play? Thanks to past life experience, you can tap into knowledge you’ve already acquired to make a clear, calm, and informed decision.

Mistakes Are Okay

The first (and arguably most important) thing to realize is that mistakes are okay. Really, they are. When making a big life choice, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the details of a situation. Overthinking a decision often leads us to worry about making the wrong one. When we make a mistake, it can be embarrassing and painful, but it’s this very discomfort that makes the experience so memorable.

When considering a big life decision, you might find your mind referring back to a time when you made the wrong choice. We’re here to tell you that it’s okay. We’re all human and we all make mistakes - a lot of them. That’s how we grow.

Tapping Into Your Experiences

If you find yourself thinking about a time when things went wrong, try reframing it in a way that is useful to you. What is it about the memory that reminds you of your current decision? Write down all the parts of the experience that feel relevant to the present. The list could be as long or as short as you want.

When you’re finished, break down each point. For example, if you’re moving, the list could include a point “I don’t want to go through the stress of moving again, last time we were so unorganized,” Inside the mind, it can be easy to condemn yourself to being a “disorganized person”. Instead, try thinking back to the specifics of that belief to understand where it’s coming from. Ask questions like:

  • What made it disorganized?

  • Based on that experience, what can you do to be more organized this time?

Mistakes Aren’t Final

A mistake is only a mistake when you don’t learn from it. Making the wrong decision doesn’t mean you’re going to do it again. Don’t let self-limiting beliefs tell you otherwise. By going through an uncomfortable experience, you’ve had the opportunity to feel it and learn the ups and downs. The next time you foresee something similar, you can be compassionate with yourself to make a better choice this time around.

Why Plants Are Good For Your Mind

It’s been proven time and time again that being in nature makes you happier. The fresh air, a cool breeze, sunlight on your face, and an array of greenery rejuvenates and calms the mind. Unfortunately, most of us can’t be outside all the time. Instead, you can bring the benefits of nature indoors with the help of some houseplants.

Houseplants are some of the most underrated additions you can have around the house. Keeping a few plants in your living space can be very beneficial to your mental wellbeing. Here are three ways houseplants are good for your mind.

The Color Green

Did you know the human eye can see more shades of green than any other color? There are many theories to explain this, but the most well-accepted is due to evolution. Our ancestors lived in green spaces and needed to determine subtle differences in green colors. They did this in order to evaluate their environment and decide which plants were safe to eat, as well as which ones were not. This connection to the color green still holds true today. Physiologically, seeing the color green reduces stress levels by signaling to our brain that we are in a natural, healthy environment. This calming effect also makes it easier to think more clearly.

Improves Air Quality

Houseplants have a remarkable ability to clean toxins from indoor air. A few years back, NASA released a study that determined which houseplants are best at improving indoor air quality. They looked at five main indoor air pollutants including formaldehyde, as well as other neurotoxic chemicals like trichloroethylene and ammonia. Each plant was then tested accordingly. Some of the top air-cleaners included peace lilies, english ivy, chrysanthemums, and snake plants. These plants literally suck the toxins from the air into their leaves and roots. A reduction of common neurotoxic chemicals in the indoor air improves mood, increases energy levels, and improves memory and cognition.

Something To Care For

All science aside, there is something very emotionally satisfying about caring for plants. It’s no wonder that the process of purchasing, learning about, and caring for houseplants is a popular hobby. If you’re new to plants, try starting off with something easy to take care of like a spider plant or umbrella plant. Do a bit of research on how much light they need and how often to water as you watch your plant grow. Tending to a plant is a low-stakes activity that reaps great rewards. Yes your air be cleaner and your house will look more lively, but you’ll also have a nice activity during your down time. Not to mention the tremendous joy you’ll experience when the first new leaf sprouts up.

Bringing the outdoors inside is a great way to promote a happier, healthier living space.

 

 

 

How Mindfulness Attributed to Human Evolution

According to Darwinism, humans evolved from apes. Even after years of research, there is still no way to pinpoint the exact moment apes evolved into humans. Instead, it is likely that a series of micro-factors like environment, diet, and genetic mutation led to the development of our species. What was it that set us on a trajectory away from apes? Our minds.

Human beings don’t have the largest brains on Earth. In fact, we don’t even have the largest brain-to-body ratio. What makes the human brain so special is its highly evolved prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is responsible for problem solving, language, personality expression, and of course, self awareness. This highly developed ability to orient and consider oneself in relation to the past, current, and future world is arguably what makes us the most human. Because we have such well-developed frontal lobes, we have the capacity to be aware of our thoughts.

Many scientists believe that the prefrontal cortex began to evolve due to a gene mutation that gave us weaker jaws. At first, this may sound like a bad thing, but it’s really one of the best things that could have happened to us as a species. As we became more self aware with this bigger brain, humans began to realize that by cooking food, we could get way more nutritional value from the calories we consumed (not to mention it tasted way better!) Since the brain is an energy eating machine, cooking food to more condensed, less fibrous meals allowed us to get way more nutrition than apes. As this fueled our brains to grow, more complex modes of thought evolved.  

Though we didn’t know it all those years ago, thinking introspectively about ourselves was actually allowing our brains to grow even larger. For example, this could have started with simple caveman thinking. “I am strong caveman, and can defend my family. I am stronger with tree branch when defending my family.” To an ancient Egyptian like Cleopatra thinking “I will marry Julius Caesar not because I love him, but because it is the right strategic move to protect Egypt from Rome.[1]” Overtime, we have become better and better at considering ourselves, our position, and how to strategically accomplish our goals. Cleopatra is a great example of the modern human being’s ability to override the emotional parts of our brains with logical thinking.

Science has shown us that by focusing our awareness on different things, our brain physically changes. This is what scientists today call neuroplasticity. Cleopatra, along with countless other people have chosen year after year to move their attention away from the fear/emotional response occurring in the amygdala, and to the frontal lobe. By doing this, we have strengthened the parts of our brains that are more logical and self aware, while shrinking the more primitive areas of the brain.

What’s really cool is that regular mindfulness practice and meditation actually reduces the size of the amygdala (the fear center of the brain), and strengthens the connections within the prefrontal lobe. This trains your brain to think more calmly, clearly, and logically. By strengthening these neural pathways, we are literally changing our genes. Next time you’re meditating, you can feel good about building a better brain for today and tomorrow.

How Managing Others Helps You Become Emotionally Aware

Emotional intelligence is one of the fastest growing job skills, according to the World Economic Forum. This skill has two sides. On one hand, it’s the the capacity to notice, control, and express your own emotions. On the other, it’s the ability to understand and respond appropriately to the emotions of others. The interesting thing is you can actually improve your emotional awareness by managing others.

Understanding Other Perspectives

When you’re managing a team of people, it’s important to understand and explore the perspectives that others bring to the table, even when you don’t agree. A lot of judgement comes from a place of misunderstanding, so instead of rejecting another person’s viewpoint, try putting yourself in their shoes. By challenging yourself to understand someone else's perspective, you are opening your mind to possibilities you may not have previously seen. It can also help you understand where your own beliefs and thoughts emerge from, which is key to self-awareness.

Expressing Genuine Interest

Expressing genuine interest in the lives of your team members has many benefits. You can ask how their weekend was, get to know their family life, or ask how their kids are. You could even get their thoughts on a certain idea or news story. By making a conscious effort to understand what someone else believes, thinks, or feels, you are developing your own capacity to understand emotion.

Part of leading others involves dealing with difficult times. These challenging times are inevitable - they are a part of life. Having to deal with these situations helps you become more emotionally aware. It challenges you to put your ego aside and have the tough conversation that needs to be had. Think about a time when you swept something under the rug instead of confronting the issue. As you become more emotionally aware, you begin to realize the difficult conversation often alleviates a lot of tension and misunderstanding. This in turn helps you to become even more emotionally aware.

Emotional awareness isn’t necessarily a skill people are born with, however, it’s a skill you can learn. A regular mindfulness practice will help you become aware of your emotions and connect with your team.

3 Signs It’s Time To Take A Break From Social Media

Who better to ask about social media breaks than a couple of Instagram influencers? Meet Brendan (@BrendanLowry) and Nicole (@NicoleLoher).

Brendan runs a creative agency based in Philadelphia. He helps brands tell their stories on social media with influencer marketing. Nicole is the Global Digital Editor at Christian Louboutin, Adjunct Professor at New York University, and a triathlete.

Here’s what the two influencers have to say about knowing when it’s time to take a break from social media:

Know When the Negatives Outweigh the Positives

Brendan’s first experience with pausing social media occurred shortly after Trump was elected. With all the negativity being spread online, he thought maybe it would be “best to just turn things off for a little while.” During those few weeks, Brendan says his mood improved dramatically.

“Whether it’s feeling jealous of others’ accomplishments, over-analyzing the content that I’m planning on posting and worrying about what people will think, or building stories around why certain people did or didn’t like my content, it’s happening constantly.” But, he says when he’s in a good place mentally, Brenden is able to put things into perspective and take a break.

When we talked to Nicole, she gave us a tip on how to make the social media experience more positive. “Post with the intention to lift people higher and expect others to do the same.” This way, you can contribute to a healthier social media experience for yourself and for others. Overall, it’s a great way to stay positive on social media.

Seek Deeper Connection

On a trip to Sri Lanka to meet her fiancé’s family, Nicole decided to turn her phone off completely for the first time. She recalls how “incredibly freeing [it felt] to not care what anyone else was doing on the Internet. My fiancé, his family, and I were able to connect on another level.” Now Nicole makes a point to disconnect from social media every weekend.

Recognize When Scrolling Becomes A Habit

Brendan takes matters into his own hands to keep scrolling from becoming a habit. “I don’t have Facebook or Twitter installed on my phone to avoid using it constantly, but I was still logged into the browser and I would find myself mindlessly refreshing/scrolling. These apps are designed to make it super easy to stay logged in and very hard to log out. So I logged out, deleted my browsing, search, and password history, and then deleted and redownloaded chrome.”

Those habits were hard to kick, but he’d put the right barriers in place. “For the first few days, I’d go to the browser and type in Twitter.com or Facebook.com without even remembering I was on a break.” Since he was no longer logged in, it was more difficult to access the platform, which reminded him to stay on a break.

Even social media influencers need to limit their time on social media. Going offline can be a challenge, but it’s one worth taking to feel happier, healthier, and more connected to the people around you. If you’re feeling anything less than inspired by what you see online, unfollow people or simply signout. When social media starts to feel like a negative distraction in life, try taking a break. You might be amazed by how much better you feel, and how much power you have over your social media experience.

30 Minutes Outdoors To Clear Your Mind

Do you ever get brain fog? You know, that fuzzy-headed feeling where it’s hard to remember where you left your keys? When you’re feeling foggy, it can be hard to focus and make logical decisions. The good news is you can clear your mind by spending as little as 30 minutes outdoors. Why do you think it’s called “the great outdoors?” When you go outside, your body and mind undergo a physiological shift that provides a whole host of mind-clearing benefits.

Soak Up Some Sun

Going outside exposes you to the sun. If you were to take a 30 minute walk, or even sit outside in the sun, you may notice your mood improve. There’s a reason you feel so good. It turns out, the sun encourages your brain to release a healthy dose of your body’s natural happy chemical - serotonin. Higher levels of serotonin improves your brain's ability to think clearly. This hormone is also responsible for that relaxed feeling of love you get on a warm and sunny day. Even if it’s a cloudy day, many of the sun's rays still find a way down to your skin. As your body absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet light, it converts those rays into vitamin D. In just 30 minutes, your skin produces enough vitamin D to last you the whole day.

Embrace The Outdoor Experience

When you’re outside, you are seeing, smelling, hearing, and feeling a whole bunch of stimuli that are instinctually relaxing to human beings. Think about it - the human world, the one we built with skyscrapers, computers, subways and buses has only been around for about 0.0001% of the time human beings have inhabited the Earth. In evolutionary terms, that’s not a very long time to adapt to a new environment. The outdoors, on the other hand, has been around since the beginning of time. The experience you have outdoors is the one that’s built into your very DNA. Being outside is also one of those no-strings-attached activities. It’s free, simple, and doesn’t ask anything from you. This leads to a reduction in blood pressure, lowered cortisol levels, and reduced anxiety.

Surround Yourself With Green And Blue

Being outside is such a simple activity, and almost everyone has access to the outdoors in some way. Even if you live in the city center, a small park is usually just a few blocks away. It’s important to enjoy the nature of our planet. You could go somewhere with lots of greenery or a waterfront. Or maybe you prefer to reflect while staring at the clouds and sky. The important lesson here is that you take some time to relax your mind and appreciate the little things life has to offer. Next time you need to clear that brain fog, try using an ancient antidote and spend some time outside.

3 Tips for a Mindful Workspace

Did you know you can optimize your workspace for productivity and wellbeing? Whether it’s your home office, cubicle, or just a space to get things done, there’s something nourishing about a workspace you actually enjoy working in.

We’ve compiled a list of 3 easy (and enjoyable) ways to set up a mindful workspace.

1. Keep It Clean

Did you know the cleanliness of your chair, computer, and desk clean is essential to mindfulness practice? While you work, your mind is exerting energy by focusing on the task at hand. However, when you have a dirty workspace, your mind expands a portion of this finite energy each time you notice any smudges on your screen, crumbs on your desk, or dust on your shelves. By keeping the area clean, it actually reduces distraction.

Quick tip: Keeping a box of eco-friendly disinfecting wipes at your desk makes it easy to keep your workspace clean.

2. Declutter Your Space

A decluttered space equals a decluttered mind. Go through your items to recycle any receipts, papers, empty pens, or dried out highlighters. If you come across things you no longer use, donate or throw them away. Once you’re left with only the necessities, organize those items according to their purpose. Opening a drawer and finding exactly what you were looking for will save you time, energy, and frustration. You can experience this joy by taking the time to get organized.

3. Decorate Your Space

A visually pleasing desk can make work more enjoyable. This is a great opportunity to express yourself. Choose objects and pictures that make you happy, but keep it simple. Too much visual clutter can actually make it more difficult to focus. If you are working on your own business or working towards a goal, you can set up visual cues. A photo or momento that represents your intention or goal is a great reminder to stay focused.

A workspace is there for you to actualize your intentions and goals, which is a very positive thing! By keeping your work environment clean and organized, you are building a space where you can feel safe and comfortable. When the mind and body are calm, you can perform with ease.

 

How to Prevent Burnout By Taking Time To Recharge

Burnout happens as a result of an overworked mind. Like a body or even a machine, keeping your mind running all the time eventually leads to exhaustion. You tend to reach this point of exhaustion even quicker you’re working at a high intensity. Is it possible to get things done while still giving yourself time to recharge? To reduce stress and increase the sustainability of your performance, it’s helpful to remember the creativity cycle.

What Is The Creativity Cycle?

When working out to build muscle, it’s important to train with rest and recovery phases. When your computer or phone isn’t working right, the first thing to do it try rebooting it, right? Well, the same goes for your mind. The creativity cycle depicts the duality of the action and recovery phases of work. Action typically occurs in the office, while recovery takes place during your leisure time.

The “Action” Phase

The “action” phase is a time of energetic production in the office. This is when all the creative ideas that have been written, sketched, noted, and daydreamed are being put into action. Depending on your industry, this might involve writing up a proposal, creating a mockup on PhotoShop, planning thoughtful items for a meeting, or the collaboration in the meeting itself. During this time, things get done. There is obvious and measurable output where you have the chance to bring your full self into the situation with focus. This comes with a caveat. Staying locked in the “action” phase means heading towards burnout.

The “Recovery” Phase

The “recovery” phase is for, you guessed it - rest. Rest is often understated in a society that rewards high-quantity work. However, giving yourself a break from work is essential to burnout-free, long-lasting productivity. What needs to be done during the “action” phase of the creativity cycle is quite straightforward. In the “recovery” phase it can be a bit harder to pinpoint what to do. Focus on unwinding in your downtime with activities like:

  • Taking a hot bath

  • Going for a walk

  • Hiking

  • Reading

  • Painting

  • Watching your favorite show

  • Spending time with friends and family.

During this recovery period, your working mind gets stronger. When you get back into the “action” phase, you are re-energized and ready to think critically while creating.

Action and recovery are a constant give and take. Too much recovery and nothing will get done, too much action and the stress will lead to burnout. Sustainability comes from a balance between the two phases where you feel healthy and happy to work. That’s why it’s so important to give your mind a break from work when you step out of the office. Give yourself time to focus on recharging with activities you enjoy.

Make Your Team Feel Appreciated With 3 Tiny Gestures

Using your skills and experience to help guide a group towards a common goal is what every mindful boss wants. Rallying meetings, organizing task lists, and keeping your team on track are all parts of being a great leader.

Did you know that making your team feel appreciated is just as important?

When working on a project, everyone on the team brings their own unique skill set to the table. Here are 3 tiny, yet fun gestures you can do to make each team member feel appreciated:

Grab Some Coffee

Ah, the nectar of the gods. A coffee machine or shop can be found at almost every workplace, and we all know how good that first sip feels. What’s even better than getting a coffee? When someone else grabs one for you. If you’re heading down to get a cup for yourself, try thinking about someone who might be tired, has been working really hard, or is a well-known coffee fanatic. Getting a team member a coffee can really make their day, and is a humble act that makes them feel cared for.

Talk About More Than Just Work

When it’s lunchtime, break time or there’s some down time, try striking up a conversation with someone you work with. If you’ve been with that team for a while, chances are you know the interests of a few people. If not, taking the time chat about non-work related interests can really humanize the work environment. Maybe they have an Avengers frame at their desk, or a picture of their fluffy dog. Maybe there is a great podcast that just came out, or a recent news story you could ask their opinion on. Whatever it may be, a quick chat between work periods helps people feel appreciated and interesting.

Send Them A Birthday Card

So many people underplay their birthdays. They come to work, don’t say a thing, and work just as if it were any other day. Giving someone a card on their birthday is a small gesture that really means a lot. If you’re better at writing your thoughts than saying them aloud, a card is also a great chance to write down a note of appreciation. A lot of workplaces keep birthdays on file, so you can always check there for the right date.

A team that feels appreciated does good work and is so much happier while doing so. Even the smallest gesture can have a huge impact on workplace morale and productivity - plus you’ll feel great too.

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

Why Peak Performance Requires a Strong Mind Body Connection

There are two types of exercise critical to reaching your peak performance in life: mental and physical. Physical exercise is organized, premeditated, focused physical movement that is intended to achieve a set of fitness goals. Common physical exercises include running, weight lifting, swimming, and yoga. With repetition, you get better over time.

Mental exercise is a bit more complicated. Your brain is active 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The brain is a super-powered processing machines constantly analyzing your external environment, while commanding your bodily functions. Your brain also regulates emotions, stores memories, and processes information both consciously and subconsciously. Just like physical activity, there is a distinction between brain activity and mental exercise.

Mental exercises are challenging. They require more cognitive power and eat up more energy. They are also the activities that make you smarter. Some examples include learning a new instrument, studying for a test, strategizing a new business model, and even reading for long periods of time.

Mutually Exclusive or Complementary?

What you may have noticed is that these examples of physical and mental exercise are not mutually exclusive. To play piano, you need to think about which notes to play and move your fingers and feet accordingly. To swim a proper breaststroke, you have to apply a learned technique to move efficiently and get better.

It is important to understand the difference between mental and physical exercise to understand an even more powerful type of exercise - the mind body connection.

The Mind Body Connection

Going as far back as ancient Greece, people believed that the mind and body were deeply intertwined. Medicine and sports were predicated on the idea that our bodies and minds depend on each other for peak performance. This notion was almost lost at the beginning of the seventeenth century, but has come back to popularity. Scientists in modern times have found again and again that the body and mind are a synchronized unit. For example, what separates Olympic athletes from recreational athletes is not their superior bodies; it’s actually their ability to make decisions on the fly, and command their muscles accordingly. Vice versa.

Here’s another example. Think back to the last time you were very hungry and trying to work. Not easy right? A body that’s properly fed, hydrated, and has stable glucose levels feeds a sharper, more focused, and calmer mind.

Though we do not yet fully understand the connectivity between the mind and body, it is a growing topic in a variety of fields from meditation to physiology to fitness. Peak performers, doctors and scientists all want to know how this relationship works. One thing is for sure. If you want to reach your peak performance in life, it’s critical to find a happy balance between mental and physical exercise.


 

How to Stay Centered in Stressful Situations

Stress management is a lifelong practice. Whether it’s exercising, eating healthy, or learning to meditate, dealing with stress through a healthy lifestyle works wonders. What about those acute stressful moments though? It could be a fight with a spouse, a difficult conversation at work, backing up into another car, or any number of any “in-the-moment” stressful situations. Along with everyday stress management practices, here is a simple 3 step process you can use next time stress comes on suddenly.

Step 1: Take A Breath

You’ll hear this tip often when it comes to stress management advice, and that’s because it’s a good one. Breathing increases oxygen to the brain, while simultaneously reducing cortisol and raising serotonin levels. The simple act of breathing nourishes your mind, which helps put your brain into a chemically clearer state. Taking even a few deep breaths also gives your mind a moment to catch up with what is happening in your external environment. Acutely stressful situations can come on fast, so allow yourself to process what’s happening.

Step 2: Notice Your Body

When we get stressed, a few things tend to happen with our bodies as we enter into a “fight or flight” mode. At this time, you might find your heart racing, or your palms sweating. You might even feel a little shaky. That is because your body is producing adrenaline, which is normal and worth noticing.

As you feel your body, keep breathing deeply as you try to bring yourself back to a calmer state. Remind yourself with each breath that you are safe, strong, and capable. This is especially useful if you are in a verbal confrontation. Often times, stressful conversations move into hyperspeed, and both people involved don’t get a chance to take a step back. The few seconds you take to breathe and calm your body down also gives the other person a moment to consider the situation.


Step 3: Respond

By providing your body with relief, you have the opportunity to let that quieter, wiser voice in your head become audible again. During stressful situations, the primal fight or flight voice tends to yell from a place of fear, drowning out sense and reason. What is actually happening is that the amygdala (the ancient, fear-center of your brain) is taking over for the prefrontal cortex (the more developed, rational part of your brain). Although that part of your brain is trying to warn you to survive, it is not wise enough to know that you are safe. You are safe, and you are wise.

As your brains chemistry shifts back to normal, chances are you’ll hear a clear and calm response to the situation come up in your head. You’ll know when you hear it because it too will have a calming effect. Something like “I love my wife, and we will work through this, let me tell her that,” or “Okay, I need to write down this car’s license plate.” Start with that first rational action and go from there.

By responding in accordance to that wiser part of yourself, your body will continue to calm down. Try practicing this simple three step process next time unexepected stress pops up in your life.

Stay Balanced Between Your Emotional Highs and Lows

In today’s culture there is a certain expectation for happiness. Why shouldn’t there be? It’s what we should all strive for, right? We see smiling faces in advertisements, successful people on social media, happy TV shows, and movie stars. The media is full of seemingly perfect lives. So much so, that we can begin to question ourselves when we are feeling anything less than perfectly happy. The reality is life is filled with ups and downs, and everyone experiences them. In order to fully understand and appreciate the positives in life, they must be contrasted with negative experiences.

mountains.gif

Imagine a black and white photograph of a mountain range. The sky is dotted with rows of puffy white clouds, the mountains are jagged, dark, and mighty, the grass is soft and glittery in the light, and the lake shines bright. Now imagine turning down the contrast on this image. As the lights merge with the darks, the sharpness and definition is lost. Lower the contrast even more, and you end up with a grey and boring picture. Even if you were to then turn up the brightness, the image would still look flat.

The same goes for life. The diversity created by the darks and lights of life is what make it interesting. Negative experiences give context for good ones, while making life richer and more interesting.

Emotional low points are difficult, but developing a mindful awareness of that discomfort will lead to much greater emotional highs. To get through difficult times, try taking a step back. Rather than fighting the feelings or trying to numb them, try accepting them as they are. Anger, sadness, and stress are just emotions. These will come and go just like the weather. Sit with the feeling and try to understand where its coming from.

Negative emotions exist to notify us when something needs to be fixed. By accepting them, you putting yourself in a wiser place where calm, rational action can begin. The next step is to cultivate the courage to address those problems.

When you take action in response to negativity rather than dwelling in it, you are taking control of your life. Seeing the dark allows you to work towards joy, love, gratitude, and abundance with clarity and direction. So next time you’re not feeling at your best, try to remember that it’s temporary. Be kind to yourself and listen to your needs in those low times, so that when happiness returns, you can embrace it in equal or greater measure.

What Comes First - The Coffee or Meditation?

For many of us, the morning can be an optimal time to meditate. It can also be great for a comforting cup of joe. Either way, coffee and meditation are two habits that can shape a balanced morning routine.

Is there a balance between morning coffee and meditation?

Feeling Out A New Morning Routine

There’s no one right answer when it comes to finding an optimal morning routine. For some, coffee aids in creating a clear mind, but for others it’s just too much when trying to meditate. Here’s how you can find out what works best for you:

Start by drinking a cup of coffee first thing. Then settle down to meditate. As you move through your practice, pay attention to how you’re feeling. Do you feel alert and focused? Or jittery and restless? If you are feeling alert and focused, then coffee before meditation is for you. A calm, clear, and focused mind is the goal.

If your heart starts to race, your toes keep wiggling, or you even start sweating - you may need to rethink coffee. If you experience this sort of restlessness while meditating, you may be sensitive to caffeine. You might just be drinking too much coffee. In this case, a smaller cup could be the solution. Try again the next day and if it still doesn’t feel right, try meditating before drinking coffee. Whether it’s coffee, meditation or both, having a positive morning routine is great way to set the tone for your day.

Will I Fall Asleep If I Meditate Before Coffee?

In the morning, everyone gets a natural boost of “wake-up” hormones. As your body prepares to wake up the mind, it slowly releases cortisol. This process gives you a boost of energy and appetite. These hormones are enough to get some people through a morning meditation session without any caffeine. While for others, a cup of coffee goes a long way to helping you concentrate.

Meditation is all about listening. As you practice, listen to your body. The meditative experience varies from person to person - as does caffeine tolerance. After you drink a coffee, settle into meditation and you’ll soon find what works best for you. The power is to find a balanced morning routine to start your day with clarity and focus.

The Sensible To-Do List: Where Productivity Meets Compassion

When managing a busy life, the common solution is a to-do list. While writing your thoughts on paper helps make your to-do list actionable, the key is to be kind to yourself as you write.

You Are More Important Than Your Task List

When it comes to productivity, there is one thing you can keep in mind: you have the power to manage your life. We’ve compiled some ways to tackle your to-do list with self-love. This process will make you more productive and happier in the process. Sustainable productivity starts with compassion, and here’s how you can do it everyday:

1. Prioritize Your Tasks

After you’ve listed out all the tasks, center yourself by closing your eyes and taking a three deep breaths. Then write the due dates beside each task. During this process, try to be as calm and rational as possible. Remind yourself: Choosing realistic deadlines means you’ll produce better work that you’re proud of.  Once the deadlines are set, chose the top 3 tasks that need to be done and rank them in order. Now tackle them one at a time, starting with the most important.

2. Accept The Work

The one often overlooked yet essential part of productivity is remembering why you want to complete these tasks in the first place. Ask yourself:

  • What do these items mean to me?
  • Why do I care so much about them?

  • How do they fit into the bigger picture?

If any item on the list doesn’t answer these questions - cross the task off.

3. Dive In

If all of the overwhelming thoughts and feelings won’t let up, just start. You’ll feel more productive after working just 20 minutes! Don’t worry about perfection or speed. Instead, be present with what you are working on and focus on the task fully.

Once you get the first task done, it provides momentum for the next one. Celebrate the small wins to give yourself confidence that you can do it.

4. Take Time To Relax

It may sound crazy, but taking time to relax is critical for sustainable productivity. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done - The Art of Stress Free Productivity, sums it up perfectly. He says, “your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax.” A clear mind is most effective at making good decisions.

5. Thank Yourself

Sometimes we remember to thank everyone except ourselves. It takes bravery, courage, and persistence to do the work now that supports your future self. Take the time to acknowledge and internalize that effort. Say to yourself: I am doing a great job! Don’t let your mind tell you otherwise.

How to Build Mental Toughness for Everyday Life

Despite what people may think, being mentally tough isn’t about hiding your emotions. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Often, those with the greatest mental toughness are also the most open people you will ever meet. They have the courage remain honest about their thoughts and feelings in a variety of situations.

Why isn’t everyone open about how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking? Simple - being open means being vulnerable. It’s natural to protect ourselves from being vulnerable to judgement and criticism. No one wants to feel uncomfortable, but accepting discomfort is actually very good for your peace of mind.

Practice Being Vulnerable

Believe it or not, one of the best places to practice being vulnerable is in the workplace. If you’re having communication issues at work, try out this thought experiment:

You’re talking through a problem with a coworker, and you can tell they’re holding something back. Perhaps they’re shrugging or saying “maybe” a lot. Now imagine they said exactly what they’re thinking. In that moment, they have made themselves vulnerable to rejection. Would you shut them down immediately? Probably not. The immediate human reaction to vulnerability isn’t rejection, it’s compassion.

Why is Mental Toughness So Important?

Many companies are intentionally designing their workspaces to support vulnerability. When people are free to express their thoughts and feelings without judgement, it opens a whole new world of possibilities. Working in this type of environment makes communication so much easier. This is critical for idea development and creativity. By allowing ourselves to work through more complex opinions, feelings, and ideas, we strengthen our ability to problem solve.

Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is a great place to start. When you have freedom to be vulnerable, you allow ideas to flourish, foster better, more open communication, and build long-lasting mental toughness.