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“Get everything out of your head”

We ask people to do this in our coaching and seminars. We call it the Mind Sweep. We have them write down everything that has their attention; everything that represents an “open loop” where their current reality doesn’t match their desired reality.

Most of our clients are busy people, and they will have lots of open loops: “Strategic plan.” “Draft presentation for review.” “Discuss performance feedback with boss”.

But we’ve asked them to write down everything on their minds, so we also see other types of things: “Help my son get his English grades up.” “Call plumber re. damp patch on ceiling.” “Summer holidays.”

The work we do isn’t just about work at work. “Work” for us is represented by anything that isn’t the way you want it, either professional or personal.

When they do the Mind Sweep we see people regularly come up with more personal open loops than they expected. The seminar I did last Friday for a publishing firm was typical: After the exercise I asked how many people were surprised by the number of personal things they had on their Mind Sweep, and about 75% of the hands in the room went up.

Why do people have so many personal things on their minds? In my experience it’s because they are better set up to handle things at the office, because that’s where “work” happens, and productivity is expected. Personal things are allowed to take a back seat.

But here’s the rub: If the personal open loops aren’t handled appropriately, they are just as likely to generate stress, relationship problems, and mental distraction, both at home and at the office.

The problem is exacerbated by the current economic reality. One of my clients, the head of HR for a firm here in London, told me last week that while staffing levels are down on last year, work levels definitely aren’t. We’re hearing similar thing from many of our clients these days.

With even more to do at the office, the pressure on home life is becoming even more intense. There are just as many open loops at home, and they’re probably getting less attention.

So if your goal is to enable your people to deal with increased demands at work, with a clear head and without distraction, support them in developing a “whole life” approach to managing their open loops that helps them get their personal life under better control.

This doesn’t mean they’ll spend a lot of time at the office doing personal things. It does mean that when open loops present themselves in their personal lives, that they’ll have the confidence that they can handle them appropriately. And at work they’ll be able to focus better, undistracted by the open loops at home.

That’s what I call a “win-win.”

© 2014 Next Action Associates
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