How 3 Questions Made Me Productive

In a dinner last month a dear friend told me, “Mala, our mind is a dangerous neighborhood, don’t go in alone. Always bring a buddy.”

Do you ever have mornings where you really need a buddy? Where your internal dialogue is so loud that it seems to carry over your spin instructor, your inbox, and your colleague’s frustration about adjusting to her new boss? You’re fully aware of what you want to accomplish for the next 8 hours, but this reality takes a back seat to your minds journey into things that are out of your control or not going the way you planned.

Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence, coins these mornings“amygdala hijack” — moments when our emotional response is immediate, overwhelming and out of measure with what is actually happening. Due to past experiences and because our emotional brain processes information milliseconds before our rational brain, our amygdala gets hijacked and reads our current experience as a much more significant emotional threat than it may actually be.

My instinct in these hijack moments is to admit defeat by sitting in my bed and scrolling through my Instagram feed, which inevitably fuels the fire as my mind compares others perfection to my current situation. Fortunately I’ve found the art of FOCUS to save me from my instinct drain. Here are three clearing questions I answer each morning in my journal to both get into my productivity zone:

WHAT IS IN YOUR SPACE?

This is the perfect place to dump my internal dialogue…all of it. My thoughts don’t have to make sense or even read coherently, the power is getting everything out.

“I’m anxious about my brand presentation today, I traveled all this way and have no idea why she is making time to listen to me. ”

WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO LET GO OF?

Once everything is out on the table, I can actually make a choice. What’s serving me? What’s derailing me? Now I get to choose what I do and don’t want to carry around all day.

“I don’t have anything valuable to say to this woman who’s written award winning articles on the subject.”

WHAT WILL YOU CREATE INSTEAD?

Once I’ve lightened my load, there is room for me to create.

“I will seize this opportunity the way I’ve seized others, this is a perfect time to practice my craft and develop a relationship.”

Focus has been my productivity buddy this year. Not to say I haven’t gone into my mind alone — I work for myself and trust me, I’ve discovered some crazy neighborhoods. But while I have hours of practice to go, I’ve produced more than what I knew possible thanks to my heightened awareness of my amygdala hijack moments and the experience of focusing my way out.

“One of my big productivity secrets is being fully present. I have learned that your full on attention for any activity you choose to experience comes from intensity and truth. It’s about living a present life, moment to moment — not worrying about what’s going to happen at 3 o’clock or 7 o’clock. In other words, focus.” — Oprah Winfrey
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