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570: How to Use Stories to Persuade, and Connect with Others with Shane Snow

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Shane Snow discusses how to make your message more compelling through storytelling.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why storytelling isn’t just for writers
  2. The four elements of the most captivating stories
  3. The surprisingly best way to improve at storytelling

About Shane

Shane Snow is an award-winning journalist, explorer, and entrepreneur, and the author. He speaks globally about innovation and teamwork, has performed comedy on Broadway, and been in the running for the Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism.

 Snow has helped expose gun traffickers, explored abandoned buildings around the world, eaten only ice cream for weeks in the name of science, and taught hundreds of thousands of people to work better through his books, including the #1 business bestseller Dream Teams.

Snow’s writing has appeared in GQ, Fast Company, Wired, The New Yorker, and more. He is also a board member of the media technology company Contently, and the journalism nonprofit The Hatch Institute.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Shane Snow Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Shane, thanks for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Shane Snow
I’m really happy to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to talk to you. One of your areas of deep expertise is storytelling. And I want to put you on the spot right up front, and say could you open us up by sharing one of the most compelling short stories you’ve ever heard and then tell us why it’s compelling?

Shane Snow
Oh, wow, one of the most compelling short stories I’ve ever heard. How about I tell the short version of one of the most compelling stories I’ve ever read?

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Shane Snow
So, Gene Weingarten is a Washington Post reporter who’s won the Pulitzer Prize twice and one of my favorite writers, and his best story, in my opinion, is the story of The Great Zucchini who is the premiere children’s entertainer in Washington, D.C. If you’re having a birthday party and your kid is under 11, then you invite The Great Zucchini to come and do his clown performance and his magic and tricks. And what the story of The Great Zucchini is that he was the most in-demand, most popular children’s entertainer in all of D.C. If you were a senator, your kid had to have him, and you would fight with the parents at the prep schools to get The Great Zucchini on your kid’s birthday.

And the story though is that The Great Zucchini was so great with kids not because his props were good or his act was particularly good, he was actually really sloppy and his stuff was all old, but he was so great with kids because it turns out that he had an incredibly messed up childhood and could relate to kids in a very deep way.

And what happened is this reporter followed The Great Zucchini around and discovered that in his apartment there is no bed, there’s just like a blanket on the floor, and there is a closet full of envelopes and bills and collectors’ notices and nothing else. And that on the weekends, The Great Zucchini goes to Atlantic City and gambles and blows all of his money and comes home hungover and depressed ready to go and entertain children.

And so, the story actually, which started out as, “Well, how is this guy so great? What are the makings of a great children’s entertainer that you want in birthday parties and that could entertain kids?” turned into a story of how a tragic childhood had created this person who kids love so much but who actually was deeply, deeply hurt and wounded and was having a terrible time himself.

And what the story points to is how, one, we never know what’s going on behind the scenes of someone who appears to be very successful, who we might be jealous of, other clowns hates this guy, by the way, because he was so popular and kids love him, but no one had any idea that this guy slept with a blanket on the floor and blow all his money on gambling and had like terrible anxiety. They just thought that he was really good at what he does and super successful.

And I think the other sort of lesson of this story is what happened afterwards, which is the story came out and The Great Zucchini, I forget his actual name, but he was so worried that the story would come out and it would ruin his career, that people wouldn’t want their kids having contact with him because he was a mess, and actually people kind of showed up for him after this story, and their hearts went out to him, and people helped him get his finances in order. Like, people volunteered to help this guy out basically when he thought that the opposite would happen that people would keep their kids away from him.

So, it speaks to, I think, humanity, how learning his story, and I’m telling this story on purpose because it’s meta, learning the story of this guy, flaws and all, actually caused people to care more about him. So often we worry that when people learn who we really are and our real stories that they won’t care about us because we’re flawed, but it turns out that the opposite is usually true with humans.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, we now have to go read it.

Shane Snow
It’s fantastic.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I mean, I’ve got so many follow-ups but we’re not talking about The Great Zucchini, we’re talking about storytelling. But, yeah, you’re right, it’s a great lesson right there in terms of we’re worried about sharing or revealing those things but it can really be warmly received. People can relate to you all the more in terms of, “Yes, I, too, have some stuff that’s messed up. You are like me,” and that’s vulnerable, relatable, and good stuff.

Well, let’s maybe talk a little bit about the why in terms of storytelling, I mean, it’s cool and fun for undercover and investigative journalists and Hollywood types. Can you make the case for why storytelling is a viable skill for your everyday professional?

Shane Snow
Absolutely. There’s a reason why stories work on us, why we get pulled in, and it’s actually built into our brains. The human brain is wired for a story and there’s a couple of reasons. Whether you’re taking the evolutionary biology approach, and saying, “Well, humans evolved to need certain skills that are useful,” or if you’re just looking at the phenomenon that we are pulled in by stories, either way you can come to two conclusions very quickly when you look at how human respond to stories.

One is that stories make us remember information better. So, historically, if you wanted to pass down knowledge to your tribe or to your family, you often did so using stories around the campfire. So, if I give you a statistic and show you a bunch of charts, you’ll remember them a lot worse, retain that information a lot worse than if I tell you a story that illustrates the statistics.

One great study that comes to mind is about research split-testing ads for charities. You can show some people an ad for charity and talk about all of the kids that get leukemia and how few of them survive and how horrible it is, or you can show them a story of a parent talking about their child that has leukemia. And in that kind of a split-test, always the story will get more donations and more percentage of people will donate. The story makes you care in addition to making you remember. So, those are kind of the two functions of storytelling that are built into just how our brains react.

Pete Mockaitis
We had Gret Glyer of DonorSee on the show who kind of does just that in terms of donation to impoverished areas, and you could see as a donor, DonorSee, what impact you’re making. And that was a lesson he learned early on is that the stories did a whole lot more than the statistics. And I think the Bill Gates documentary on Netflix, he says, “Hey, if you talk about like a thousand people dying of something, we should be a thousand times sad, but somehow we just don’t work that way.”

I don’t know if you happen to know the results of these split-tests, but can you give us a sense of order of magnitude to the stories outperform like, “Yeah, 5%, 10% better, they’re getting some statistical significance,” or they’re just like walloping the statistics?

Shane Snow
Yeah, off the top of my head for a particular study, I couldn’t say but it’s like double, like on that order.

Pete Mockaitis
In that ballpark of double. All right. That’s good enough for me.

Shane Snow
Yeah. And so, it gets at the question you’re asking is, “How can stories help us regular people if we’re not making movies or writing articles for newspapers?” And it’s those two things. If you want people to remember what you want them to remember, what you want them to know, you have something to say you want to be memorable, and if you want people to care about what you have to say, then storytelling is an incredibly powerful way to make both of those things happen.

So, if you’re a salesperson, you want people to care about your product, you want them to remember you and the things that it can do for you, if you are trying to build a relationship with someone, personally or professionally, stories, sharing stories, and specifically, stories with certain elements, which I’d love to talk about, will make them remember you and make them want to do business with you or want to form a relationship with you more than any other thing.

You go on a date with someone that you want to impress, talking about how much money you have or spending money on them is going to be less effective in making them want to be close to you than if you share stories about your life and things you care about.

Pete Mockaitis
And how much money you spent on your jet.

Shane Snow
If the story ends with, “And then I bought a jet, and if you want to go on it,” maybe there’s some adventure to that that’s intriguing. But what we do on dates when we get to know people is share stories. What we do around the dinner table when we’re bonding with our families is share the stories of what happened to us, or the stories that we’re watching. We bond around stories that aren’t even about us, and this brings humans together and makes them care about each other.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that sounds like a lot of good things that I’d like going on both in life and in career. So, yeah, let’s dig into some of those components. What makes a story effective in these ways? I guess you could say we might call a story effective in the sense of it keeps you engaged and interested, so, I mean, that’s part of the game. I’m sure that’s probably part of what you’re going to tell us. But, I guess, I mean effective in the sense of it yields those benefits, it is memorable, it does draw people to be closer to you and form a bond and a respect for you. So, lay it on, what are the key principles?

Shane Snow
Yup. So, we can now actually watch people’s brains when they watch a TV commercial, or listen to an audio book, or have an interaction with their spouse, and we can measure certain effects that indicate whether memory encoding is going on, and whether they are immersed in the experience. Immersion in sort of the crude neuroscience term is like that thing that happens when you’re watching a James Bond movie and suddenly someone coughs, and you realize you’re watching a movie, you have forgotten where you are, you’ve forgotten that you’re sitting on a couch and you have people next to you because you’re so pulled into the movie or the story.

And so, we can actually measure how much of that immersion you have, we can measure the emotional effect that you’re having, and we can actually measure a couple of things, how deep of an emotional experience you’re having, not necessarily, we can’t do a brain scan or monitor your vital signs and tell that you’re sad versus happy necessarily but we can tell that you’re deeply emotionally affected in some direction. And then there are other cues that we can look at to see if you’re affected in a negative or positive way. So, are you crying because you’re happy or are you crying because you’re upset?

And when we look at these signals, while people watch movies, or listen to stories, or talk to each other, tell each other stories, there are some very clear things that achieve memory encoding and basically caring. Oxytocin is the neural chemical that people always talk about with storytelling. It’s the neurochemical that indicates that you care about something. It’s involved in emotion, and social bonding, and including people and excluding people. So, if you can detect that there’s more oxytocin being synthesized in someone’s brain, you can detect that they care when they’re having an empathetic experience one way or another.

So, the things that lead to these are actually pretty basic and they can go pretty deep but there’s four of them that I usually talk about as the biggest ones. Relatability. So, if you can relate to a character or a situation, then your brain perks up. You will encode, or at least start to encode into memory, and start to care. So, if there’s a story about something that you have never heard of and there’s nothing to hook onto, then it’s hard to relate to, then it’s hard to care and it’s hard to remember. But the flipside of that is novelty, that our brains are wired to pay extra attention to new things that could be useful or could be harmful.

So, it’s like the prehistoric version of this would be an object is moving towards you very quickly. Is it a threat or is it something that I can kill and eat? And so, our brains are programmed to pay attention to new things. And so, if something is a story that’s relatable, has characters that you might care about so you can relate to them, or remind you of people you know, or whatever it is, situations that are familiar, and there’s something new about it, then we really get hooked and we start to pay attention, our brains can start to encode memories.

Then you add in what I call fluency, which is basically making it easy to understand what’s going on. The easier something is to understand, the more you’ll encode it and…

Pete Mockaitis
There’s not like a lot of jargon, or quantum physics, or derivative trading financial stuff. Not those.

Shane Snow
Exactly, yeah. After I show the fourth one, I’ll actually tell you about a study that I conducted with one of my writing partners that illustrates these in action right now as it has to do with TV commercials. But the fourth element is I think the most important one for getting people to really care, and that’s tension. So, it’s establishing that there’s a big gap between what you want and what you have, or what is and what could be.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m sorry, I knew you were going to say tension, and I thought that you were going to like stringing me out a little bit to build to that.

Shane Snow
I forgot about it.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m with you again, thank you.

Shane Snow
Yeah. So, one of the best ways to set up tension is to establish characters want something and it’s going to be really hard to get it, or it seems impossible, or death is on the line. So, with the story of The Great Zucchini, it’s one of my favorites in part because it has all of those things and it’s easier for me to remember because it’s a great story, but it’s like, “Yeah, everyone has been a kid, everyone knows children’s parties, magicians and clowns,” like there’s something that you can kind of like hook on to and be intrigued by, but the novelty and the tension is that this guy is a mess, and, “Should kids be around him? And what’s going to happen to him? And his life is falling apart.” That tension makes you intrigued enough to want to keep going on with the story and find out what it is, even if the ending is not even that exciting. You stick it out to the end because at that point you do care.

So, the study that I recently ran with my co-author for the book The Storytelling Edge and one of my longtime collaborators, we ran a study a few months ago where we looked at campaign ads for Democratic primary contenders. So, whoever it is that’s going up against Donald Trump, what are the ads that they’re showing people and how effective is the storytelling?

And what we found, and this was at the time when everyone had written off Joe Biden that he’s definitely not going to win anymore, everyone had written him off, and we found that despite what people said in the surveys, the pre-survey before you watched these commercials and we interspersed the commercials between like bad television, like CSI, and in between you have these commercial breaks with these political ads, and we asked people, “What do you think of Joe Biden? What do you think of Elizabeth Warren? What do you think of Bernie Sanders? Who are you going to vote for? How left- or right-leaning are you?” all these things.

Even though so many people…Joe Biden did not win the poll essentially in this pre-survey. He overwhelmingly won the good feelings study from a neuroscience level. During his commercial, which was basically…and his approach is pretty consistent, he’s like, “You know, when I was growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania things were hard, but good people, they came together and they helped each other out. My whole life, I’ve been fighting for people. And the time that I ran for Senate and I achieved my dream to help people, but then my wife and son got killed in a car accident. Coming back from that was so hard but I realized that people were up against this sort of thing every day, and I have the opportunity since I’ve been in politics and I know how it works to help with people who have these kinds of problems. So, anyway, I’m on your side, and I’m Uncle Joe Biden. Vote for me.” Like, that’s basically his pitch in this commercial that we did, and that is largely how he presents himself.

And it’s like that story, even if you say you’re not planning on voting for him, that story has all of those elements. It’s like it’s got the relatability right away, like, “I grew up a normal person. There’s real-life problems that we’re all dealing with. Also, here are some things about me that are novel and you never knew necessarily. And things are hard but we’re going to get through it.” And the warmth there, people overwhelmingly just feel positive feelings. And even the people who said they don’t prefer him, their brains are saying that they believe him and care about what he’s saying.

Whereas, Bernie Sanders, among the Democrats who are part of this survey, he was the lead person in the survey beforehand, his ads didn’t have that fluency. First of all, he didn’t narrate his own ads, which I think was a downside already. It wasn’t as relatable and personal. But his ads were like all these clips of the narrator is saying things like, “The working class is getting a bad rap, and the people with all the money and the drug companies that are taking outsized share, and blah, blah, blah. And Bernie is a fighter, and he’s here to help reverse this bad situation,” or whatever it is.

But it’s showing clips of like welders, and taxi drivers, and nurses, and B-roll, and then it has interspersed some of his stories of him getting arrested in the ‘60s in protest for Civil Rights and stuff, which is actually supercool part of his story, but it’s just like this montage of these clips. And you watch people’s brains and it’s like they don’t get it, they’re like, “What am I seeing?” and they’re trying to piece it together and so they don’t remember it, and they don’t feel good. They actually feel kind of negative.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like those some fragrance ads back in the day, they’re just like, “What?” which is all of these things, like, “Something, something, by Calvin Klein.” Like, “What? Okay, I’ll smell good if I use it maybe. What are you saying to me?”

Shane Snow
Yeah. And so, it’s like a wasted opportunity. You’re spending all this money on advertising and people aren’t remembering you because they’re confused. Meanwhile, your competitor who’s not saying anything other than like, “Oh, shucks, I’m a great guy and I really care,” people are coming away from that and being like, “Hell, yeah, this guy cares,” even if what they’re saying in the poll doesn’t match that. And this speaks to with some similar studies with Clinton versus Trump in 2016. It showed that a lot of people, when they watched their ads, they would get very emotionally involved in Trump’s ads and they would kind of tune out in Clinton’s ads, and that makes a big difference. The story, regardless of what you think, how you feel tends to have an outsized impact on the decisions you make.

Research shows that we often decide things, we justify how we feel with logic rather than the other way around. We use logic to then determine how we feel. It’s actually usually the other way around, which is why stories are so powerful because they make us feel. to wrap up the monologue, the ultimate thing that causes people to remember and care is instilling emotion because you remember emotion, and emotion causes you to care one way or another.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so those are the elements that make all the difference. So, then in practice, let’s say I’m trying to make a point, advocate for a view, like, “We should do this, or we should not do this,” inside an organization. And so, I guess, data is going to be a part of it but, from your view, it seems like we’re going to need more than numbers and bar charts to make a compelling memorable emotional case. How would you recommend that we proceed in crafting and delivering a great story?

Shane Snow
Yeah. So, I will say that, ultimately, in problem solving, you want logic to stand on its own. You don’t want actually for your feelings really, to get in the way of making good decisions, so I wouldn’t advocate using storytelling to persuade people and get people to care about something that they shouldn’t do. However, it is really effective at getting attention for something that you believe is right or that should happen.

So, let’s say, to use kind of what you opened up. You have data that shows that a decision should be made, or that a certain thing needs to be raised, but like with the charity studies, you tell people a thousand people are dying and people don’t really register it or it doesn’t motivate them. So, you, finding a story that has those elements that people will hook onto, that has something new and surprising, that’s easy to get through and that has tension built in, and wrapping the data into that story is a great way to get people to remember and care and pay attention to spread whatever it is that you have to say.

So, you’re at work, you’re trying to make the case for something, people aren’t paying attention, it could be because you’re not using a story. When I write in my books, I deliberately use this structure where I will open up a chapter about something important with a story that I leave on a cliffhanger, and then I will get into the research, the data, the science, whatever it is, the medicine, because I know that people will want to know what the end of the story is. So, they slog through and I try to make it more entertaining than just to slog, but they get through the important part and then I wrap up the story, that cliffhanger, with lessons that that data explained.

So, in that way, you’re getting everything but the story is really going to help you remember it, and the story itself is going to help you care enough to get through it. So, I think that is a strategy, generally, whether we’re talking about making sales or making a case for something, I think is generally the framework that I like to use. And you could be obnoxious about this, like everything shouldn’t start with this intense story that ends on a cliffhanger or whatever, but something that’s important that you really do want to sink in, I think that’s an incredible framework.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And, boy, so much of this is clicking into place for me. I’m thinking about, well, one, Bob Cialdini, if you were peeping my shelf, Influence: Science and Practice and Pre-Suasion are some of my favorite all-time books, and that’s one of his things, is, I guess, the tension, you bring up a question that remains unresolved, like, “How could this be?” or, “What’s going to happen? How does it unfold?” And I guess you can use that anytime, like, “Hey, a customer was furious about this situation. They say dah, dah, dah, dah, dah.” And then you just switch over to, “We’ve gotten 35,000 calls along…” and so you’re going through this, and they’re like, “Well, yeah, but what about the customer?” And then you say, “Hey, ultimately, we’re able to give him what he needed but it took way more effort than it should have, and here’s how it could be easier.”

And, now, what I’m thinking about, the data versus story, I remember, boy, so right now, as we’re recording, coronavirus is a hot topic and, hopefully, in the months and years to follow, as people listen to this, they’d be like, “Oh, I remember that and it’s long gone.” But I remember I encounter a lot of statistics, news, and it’s like, “Okay, that’s happening.” And it’s like, “But, you know, is it really worse than the flu? Is it not worse than the flu?”

And then when I saw like a Facebook post from a friend of mine who said, “Hey, I’ve been doing some shifts as a nurse in the ICU, and I tell you what, when you see a few teens who had no health problems ever fight for their lives on the ventilator,” then it really puts some perspectives, “This is no joke. Stay home even if you’re an extrovert like me.” And I was very persuaded by that and that image because it was relatable, it’s like, “Oh, I’m a younger-ish person without preexisting health problems.” It was relatable because I know this person but it was new in terms of, “Oh, here’s this person who is engaged in this thing, I think, I heard a lot about, but here’s her take in experiencing it up close and personal.” More relatability, it was in the Chicago area, and then tension, “Uh-oh, I hope they make it.” And fluency, it was, well, very digestible bite-sized, it’s just like a Facebook post, maybe five sentences.

So, yeah, what a contrast right there in terms of looking at the tables of how many new infections and hospital admissions and deaths that had been versus, “Here’s someone I know who’s dealing with it head on.”

Shane Snow
Well, you bring up something that I think is an important subtlety is that many a compelling dataset has been just utterly dismissed by a good anecdote. And this is something that is not necessarily good, right? It happens all the time in business. Now, we did the research and it says that most of our customers are unhappy with this, and then the head of customer success is like, “Well, our biggest customer loves it, so your research sucks. Moving on.” So, there’s danger in that. However, within that is something that’s really powerful which is that if we’ve made up our minds about something, a story is much more powerful at helping us to reconsider the way that we think than just being barraged with statistics.

So, it can be used as a tool that can foil us so we need to be wary of that. However, it’s good for us to reassess what we’ve made up our minds up about. So, if we’re like, “Yeah, yeah, I’m young. Coronavirus isn’t going to get me. I’ve read the statistics. I had a lot of texts with friends.” Well, I’ve been that guy. “I mean, like, hey, we’re in our 30s, we’re going to be fine,” until I found out that people in my life might have autoimmune conditions, and they’re not going to be fine. And, suddenly, that individual story makes me rethink, “Well, how dangerous is this?”

And so, I think that’s healthy and it’s important just the change agent that it can be. Often, what we’re trying to do in business and life is get people to change, or get them to change their minds, change their behaviors, and it’s a lot harder to do that if you’re going to argue over stats and studies and this and that, than if you use a story to get people to open the door to changing their minds. And then, once again, we can weave in those studies. But we don’t often consider evidence because we’ve already made up our minds. Stories can help us to be in a place where we will consider new evidence.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s handy. Well, you gave us one particular approach in terms of set up a cliffhanger and then return to it. You’ve also got this CCO pattern. Can you share what is that and how do we do that in our careers?

Shane Snow
So, CCO is kind of the mnemonic for how to systematically tell consistent stories to build a brand, or a reputation, or a movement, or a case for something. And the CCO stands for create, connect, and optimize. So, really, the process of sort of the business of storytelling, when we’re talking about companies or just the business of me using stories to convince you or connect with you, is really you create the story then you get it to people, and then you see how it lands and make tweaks. So, the first time that you tell the story about whatever. Like, I’ve never, in an interview, tell the story of The Great Zucchini even though it’s one of my favorite stories.

Pete Mockaitis
I feel awesome as an interviewer just for what that’s for.

Shane Snow
A lot of people have read it. It’s not even my story. A lot of people have read it but it’s a good example but, probably, the next time I tell someone that story, I’ll probably tell it a little bit differently based on how it went this time, especially if I listened to the episode and I really analyzed how it went and your reactions, and I get feedback from you. But if you’re trying to use storytelling for marketing, say, then you create content, you put it out on Facebook or whatever your channels are, you connect to people, you email to people, you tell people about it, you see how it’s received and then you optimize it.

So, you change the headlines, you focus in on the parts that people really grab onto. This is where analytics really helps. But you figure out what it is that really is working and not working so you can emphasize those things the next time around, whether changing the story and putting it out there again, or just the next story that you’re telling, you can say, “Well, people really do seem to relate to this thing so I’m going to do more of that,” or, “This channel, this place is just really bad. People are not paying attention here so I’m going to try a new avenue for where to get my stories.” And we call this the flywheel because you go through this process over and over again. You create a story, you connect it with people, and then you optimize, do better next time.

And I will say, another subtlety, is this is not about embellishing and lying. This is not what I’m saying. Unless you’re a fiction writer, in which case, awesome, do that. But it’s about figuring out for your audience and for your goal what is the approach and the subset and the emphasis and the channel that is really going to make your story have the best chance of success.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. Well, so then let’s talk about the connect bit there. I guess it sounds like much of it is just, “Hey, just get that in front of some people,” whether they’re in the seat in an auditorium or they are clicking it on their screens. I guess I’d like to get your take on how can we really know what folks want and will connect to? I guess you mentioned analytics so, sure, there’s that. We can look at the clickthrough rate, and the actions, and the cost per acquired customer, etc. And then I guess I’d love your take in terms of whether it’s sort of real-time observation, what should I be looking for from a human space? Or, maybe in advance research in terms of favorite questions to include in interviews or surveys, is how do you really know what’s likely to, you know, connect and resonate with folks?

Shane Snow
Yeah, I guess you can say that there are three ways to plan out your content or your story. You can look at past signals, so that’s where analytics, people always share stories about pumpkins around Halloween time, whatever. You look at the data and just do that, and this is where a lot of this stuff that I talk about with the neuroscience, it’s like, “Data shows that people really connect to emotional stories and you got to get them in the first few seconds with something that they can relate to and all of that.” That can give you guidelines or it can be really specific.

The second thing is you can predict what people might really connect to, and you can make educated guesses, and that can rely on data or pattern recognition, watching people, whatever it is. And then the third is, I think, the important one that a lot of people leave out, which is you can experiment. So, you never know what’s going to become the new best practice because everyone’s doing the best practice, everyone’s doing the thing that everyone is doing so you don’t know what’s going to be the thing that next goes viral or catches cold. You can maybe predict but often that thing, that next big thing, is a surprise, so I think you should reserve some amount of your effort for experimentation.

I like to use the example of comedy. So, for my first book, I spent a week with The Second City in Chicago, the comedy school. Yeah, a lot of great comedians, Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey and really great famous comedians have come from there, their training program. And I spent some time with them, and they do this really interesting club or thing, which is when they’re doing a review, which is like those shows where there’s lots of skits and it’s kind of like well-rehearsed and well-practiced. What they’ll often do is they’ll slip in test material into the reviews.

So, they have the show that they know everyone is going to laugh at, and they know that these things are going to hit, these jokes, these sketches, and then they’re going to put in these two things that they’re just going to see what happens. And if no one laughs, then they’ve collected data that that’s not going to work. If people laugh, then they keep iterating on it. And it’s kind of a version of that create, connect, optimize. The connect part is that people are already there in the theater. I guess that’s why it came to mind because you brought up auditorium. But they’re experimenting not based on what’s worked in the past but based on things that they are throwing out there that might be a killer thing that no one thought about.

So, I think that, with a content strategy, is really important. Don’t just do repeats of what’s worked in the past, and don’t just try to predict, but actually throw some random stuff, some experiments out there, and maybe this is a version of the predicting thing, like you’re using your intuition which is just your pattern recognition to try some things that might work. Sure. Either way I think that that’s really important. And so, you see that the best media companies often do a version of this. They do a lot of looking at people’s behavior and what resonates with them. They use that to kind of predict what will happen next. But then they also experiment with things some percentage of the time.

The analogy in the business world is 3M or Google. They let their engineers spend 20% of their time working on random stuff, whatever they want, in the off chance that one of those things will turn into Gmail, which is where Gmail came from, someone screwing around in their random 20% experimentation time. So, I think that that part is really important.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Shane, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Shane Snow
I would say the most powerful thing you can do, before you even want to get into the nitty-gritty of training in better storytelling is think about stories that you love. And I think movies and TV shows and books are a great place to do this. Think about stories that you love and watch them or read them again, and take notes, and actually break down how the story goes.

I’ve done this a lot as a writer, taking movies that I love, and just like taking notes, which is a really nerdy way to watch a movie, but take notes on how the story goes. Like, what are the scenes? Where is the tension being set up? Just being thoughtful about analyzing stories that you like will help you to build up the muscles of exercising those elements of stories in whatever context you’re doing. If you break down 10 action movies that you love, that can definitely meaningfully impact the way that you tell stories just to get to know people or as a salesperson or whatever, so I would recommend that.

Training stuff is great and I’d love people to check out my site, but actually be a nerd and break down stories that you love and see what the patterns are there. And chances are, those are the kinds of stories that will be more comfortable for you to emulate or use pieces of yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Cool. Well, now, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Shane Snow
So, lately, my new favorite quote has been “When you know better, you do better.” This is an Oprah and Maya Angelou one. But I think it’s really true, when you know better, you do better. It’s the best excuse for continually learning and for that thing that I mentioned earlier, being willing to reassess what you think and reassess your conclusions because if you know better, then you’re going to do better even if it’s a little bit painful to realize that you’ve been wrong about something.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Shane Snow
Most recent favorite study is about kids and trust. So, I’ve been doing a lot of writing around teamwork and innovation, and trust is a really big factor in those things. And I think it also plays into stories can help us to build trust if the stories are empathetic and help you get to know people. But there’s a really interesting study about kids and trust. Basically, researchers put a bunch of kids in a room, and then made it clear that something was wrong, that something was going wrong, and then they would have an adult, authority figure, come in, and tell the kids that everything was fine, and everything was going to be fine. And what they found was that the kids’ stress levels spiked more at the part when they were told things were going to be fine. And they were more stressed out upon realizing that an authority figure and an adult was lying to them or sugarcoating to them than they were about the bad thing.

And I like this study because it does speak to human nature, that kids are perceptive. Adults are perceptive too. I think in, many ways, we should be way more perceptive but we are way worse off when someone tries to sugarcoat the truth, or shade the truth, or push away the bad news, than we are with the bad news. And so, I think I like this study because it gives a little bit more of a reason to be honest and to not try to make things easy on people because, actually, sometimes making things easy on people is actually going to make things harder on them. It creates more stress and it erodes your trust. So, I like that study of late.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Shane Snow
The book I’ve recommended the most to people the last couple of years is called A Book About Love by Jonah Lehrer. It’s about the neuroscience and psychology of love, not just romantic love but friendship and love of self-compassion. And it’s also kind of a redemption story, a story about learning to forgive yourself after you’ve done something wrong. One of the most insightful life-changing books that I’ve read in a long time, I bought it for like 30 people at this point, so A Book About Love.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. And how about a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Shane Snow
The tool I use the most is Evernote. I like it for the flexibility of being able to clip stuff from the internet. I like it for helping me to get over FOMO when I might be distracted by an article. It’s similar to Pocket where you have an article up, and you can save it for later rather than having to read it now, so Evernote has a clip where you can do that. Because if I’m working, I’m trying to focus on something, and someone sends me something interesting, or I come across a side tangent, I worry that if I don’t read it now I’m going to miss it, or I’m just going, by having it, get sucked in. But saving it for later, clipping it down, eases that anxiety or that FOMO or curiosity because I know I’ll get to it later, and I can stay focused and not get distracted. So, that’s one that’s really been useful.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite habit?

Shane Snow
Well, I like to think of, actually, a ritual that I have for my writing. A way for me to get into my own personal flow or zone when I want to write is I have…I’ll show you. The listeners won’t be able to see it. But I have this little coyote figurine that a friend of mine gave.

And what I do is when I’m getting ready to buckle down and write, which is often hard to do, you procrastinate, you do all those things, and you feel blocked, I have a specific routine that I go through, and it culminates with me putting the little coyote on my laptop. And when the coyote is there, then I’m in writing mode. There’s actually some science to this, that superstitious routines and rituals, they’re not magic but they do work because they can help your brain calm down and get into sort of a place of focus. So, when baseball players do like all the crazy moves before they get up to bat, that’s actually helping them to calm down and get into a place where they can focus on their performance. So, I do that with my little ritual with my coffee and my baby coyote figurine.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And is there a particular nugget you share that you’re known for, it’s quoted back to you often?

Shane Snow
Probably the most common quote I see tweeted or people react to is, I think it’s cheesy just because I think a lot of quotes are cheesy, but I think it’s absolutely true, is that “Genius is less about the size of your mind than about how open it is.” So, history shows that really, really smart people are often outperformed or out-clevered by open-minded and flexible people who are willing to do things not just really smart in one direction but are willing to consider lots of options.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Shane Snow
Just my website ShaneSnow.com. It has everything: articles, books, training courses, and my social media.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Shane Snow
So, relevant to right now, but I think people listen to this after the quarantine is over, there’s a tool that I made. It’s a free tool, it’s called the workstyle quiz. The challenge would be either use this tool or spend a few minutes doing this, which is figure out your unique way of working, and share that with the people you collaborate with most. So, my workstyle quiz asks a bunch of questions that seem small and insignificant but they add up, that when people are more aware of how you work best, including yourself, then people will work better with you.

So, things like, “Do you do your clearest thinking in the morning, in the middle of the day, at night? When and how are you best able to get into a flow when you probably don’t want to be distracted? What’s the best way to get a hold of you in an emergency? What’s the best way to get a hold of you with something that can wait a little bit but is important?” Spelling those out, taking a little quiz, or thinking through those things to spell those out for the people you collaborate with makes a huge difference so that people will contact you, communicate with you in ways that help you to work better because they know it’ll help them to work better.

And, also, if you do make an effort to accommodate people’s different work situations and styles, then that builds trust which will then, hopefully, be reflected on you and help you get your work done too.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Shane, this has been a treat. Thank you and good luck in all the stories you’re telling.

Shane Snow
I appreciate it. Thank you.

569: Thriving in the Stress and Uncertainty of a Crisis with Dr. Joshua Klapow

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Dr. Joshua Klapow discusses how to keep your health and wellbeing strong during times of crisis.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why you shouldn’t feel guilty about being upset 
  2. How to quickly reboot your fatigued brain
  3. The four pillars of excellent physical and mental health 

About Joshua

Joshua C. Klapow is a licensed clinical psychologist and a performance coach. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor of Public Health at The University of Alabama at Birmingham and the author of Living SMART: Lifestyle Change Made Simple. Dr. Klapow works extensively with individuals and organizations in the area of performance optimization. His work focuses on leveraging behavioral science strategies to help both individuals and organizations achieve strategic goals. From athletes to executives, from start-ups to multinational companies, Dr. Klapow works with clients nationwide to help bring the power of behavioral science to human performance. Dr. Klapow was named by Yahoo Finance as a Top 20 Entrepreneur to Watch in 2020 and featured in Thrive Global for his approach to performance coaching. He is married with two children in college. He resides in Birmingham, Alabama. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Joshua Klapow Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Josh, thanks for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Joshua Klapow
It’s my pleasure, Pete. Good to be with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I understand that you are a doctor and you have the nickname Dr. Disaster. How did this name come about? And can you tell us a story about when you got to make a cool impact in the midst of a difficult time for people?

Joshua Klapow
Okay, yes. First of all, it’s not a marketing ploy or I’ve had…

Pete Mockaitis
Your PR people said, “It’s going to be hot.”

Joshua Klapow
Yeah, that’s right. No, no, no. So, I got this name back during Hurricane Katrina actually. So, I’m a clinical psychologist by training, and one of my areas of interests is disaster mental health, but I’ve also worked most of my academic career in a school of public health, and so a lot of what I was doing there was crisis communication, how to help people, groups of people, during times of disaster or times of crisis, let’s say that.

Well, as we started getting Hurricane Katrina come through, there was interest from the local media and then from the broader national media because I’m down here in the southeast on how do people cope, how do people deal with terrible things that happen. And so, I did a lot of stuff locally and nationally in the media on Hurricane Katrina and coping with death, and rebuilding, etc. Well, as you might imagine, we had more hurricanes. There was Gustav and then there were tornadoes, and pretty much every time, and my kids were young at the time, anytime something bad happened, you’d see me on local TV, or hear me on the local radio.

And one of the media folks at the university where I work with, he just, one day, he said this, he’s like, “Damn! You’re like Dr. Disaster. Everytime something bad happens, there you are.” And, yeah, I said, “God, that’s depressing. That’s terrible. I don’t want to be known as…” He said, “No, no, no. I like it.” And then my kids were very young at the time, “Dad is Dr. Disaster.”

And ever since then, you know, the line is, people say, “We see you on TV sometimes.” I say, “Yeah, pretty much if something bad happens, there’s a decent shot that you’ll see me or hear me somewhere because that is one of the things that I do is help people through crises.” So, yes, I am Dr. Disaster. I wear it as a badge of honor in that I help people. I don’t like the connotation of what it means because it’s almost like, ‘Oh, God, here comes Josh. Something bad is going to happen.’” And I have to remind them, “No, something bad has happened. Here comes Josh to help.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, then can you tell us, you’ve seen and helped a lot of people in a lot of disasters. How does this current COVID pandemic crisis situation, how is it similar to other disasters? And how is it unique?

Joshua Klapow
It’s unique in many ways. So, let’s talk about how it’s similar. I use the phrase, “Crisis is in the eye of the beholder.” And what I mean by that is we talk about disasters and crises, and we talk about them almost as if there is a formal definition. And if you think about it, a disaster or a crisis could be a global pandemic. It could be also the breakup of a marriage, or the loss of a job, or your dog dies. Crisis is all relative.

And so, one of the things that is very similar is that we are in a state of crisis from the sense of there’s lots of change, there’s lots of uncertainty, and there are lots of unpleasant things either that have happened, or happening, or likely to happen. And if you think about that, that holds everything from a tornado that’s come through, to a sick pet, to a relationship on the rocks, to a global pandemic. And the reason that that holds true is what remains constant is we’re humans. And the human factor remains constant, how we react to threat, uncertainty, discomfort, discomfort globally, everything from emotional discomfort to physical discomfort. All of those are sort of stress responses that happen to us no matter how big, or how many different people are affected, or if it’s just happening to us.

I think what is so different about this one is, if I really can think about it, it’s two things. One, the global nature of it. What I mean by that is so many people are affected unlike a tornado, or a hurricane, or an earthquake, where even if it’s huge, we can say, “It happened in this city, this town, this country.” That’s number one. So, so many people are in the same situation.

The second thing is while for some people there’s very acute levels of crisis, “My loved one is sick. My loved one…” God forbid it, “…is dying.” For many people, the crisis is both a restriction and a freedom, the unknown, “Will I get sick?” and then underlying that, there are sort of two more pieces of the crisis which is, one, financial for many people, and then, two, a complete change, prolonged change, of how we’re living our lives. This is not the storm that blew through and we’ll rebuild. This, even, and I dare say this, this is a little provocative, even after 9/11. The event happened. It was horrible. There were longer-term effects but it didn’t come on as slowly, rise as slowly, peak and stay for as many people. And that is something, frankly, all of us alive right now, with the exception of a few people who lived through the 1917 Flu Pandemic, none of us have experienced ever.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that sets some context. Thank you. So, you say that this anxiety, this experience, it really does impact just kind of the way we think and operate and feel each day. Like, what are some of the telltale signs, like, “Oh, this is actually normal that I’m thinking, feeling, experiencing this, given that we’re in the midst of a crisis situation”?

Joshua Klapow
A lot of people can recognize when they’re under profound stress. They’ll say, “I feel stressed. I feel nervous. I feel anxious. I have a headache. I have a backache. My stomach aches. My stomach hurts. My temper is short,” those kinds of things. But the term that I like to use, Pete, that I think many people feel but they don’t equate it with stress or levels of stress, because for a lot of people it’s not super high levels of stress. It’s just kind of, what I call, it’s not low. It’s moderate. It’s there but we’re able to sort of function. The tornado hasn’t just come right through, it’s, “I still get up every day and I’m doing things.” But people feel discombobulated. That’s my favorite word to use.

Pete Mockaitis
Moderate stress. Discombobulation.

Joshua Klapow
Discombobulation. We like to use down in the South, we like to call it feeling out of sorts. We’re out of sorts. It’s not quite right, “I feel slightly agitated, slightly irritable, out of sync. I may not be sleeping as well but I am sleeping. I feel tired. I feel out of rhythm.” Sometimes a feeling, almost a little bit of jetlag, not a ton of jetlag. I see a lot of people feel like, and I think we’ve all heard this, “What day is it again? Where am I?” It’s that.

And that’s where the discombobulation comes because while there’s peaks and valleys, you know, if you lose a job, then that’s high stress that you can say, “Oh, my God, I know exactly what’s going on.” But let’s say you’ve already lost the job, and maybe you’re managing your books and you’re managing your finances, and it’s kind of okay. It’s not good but it’s okay. Or, let’s say you have a job. What people are feeling is, “I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t know how to manage this.” And, particularly in those areas where we’re much more restricted in our movement, this feeling, for a lot of people for the first time in their lives, “I can’t do what I want to do,” which is very…it’s unique for Americans, right? It’s very unique.

And this came out in the early stages. You’ve heard of the whole hoarding of the toilet paper, right? Why are people hoarding toilet paper? “Well, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to go to the grocery store.” There was no place in this country, in the U.S. anyway, that shut down all grocery stores. They limited it. They limited how much you could buy. They limited, in some cases, how many people could go in. But that’s a stressor for our culture. Not being able to go where we want to go whenever we want to go and get whatever we want to get, and it creates this sense of…it’s a very primitive sense of survival. It puts us kind of into that fight or flight, and we’re not even highly quarantined, right?

For a lot us, it’s just, “Stay at home.” It’s not, “You will be arrested if you go out.” And that is very unique to what we’re experiencing right now.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’d love to, because I think you’re really speaking to something here, and I keep going back and forth on this in terms of there are times in which I’d like, “Hey, well, this isn’t really so bad. I mean, this is the home I like. This is the family I like, my wife and kids. These are people I like, so it ain’t so bad. So, why are you worked up?” And then I think back, “Hey, what about in, I don’t know, war times? Like, the soldiers or those under strict rationing?” I was like, “Have I become soft? Have we all become soft?” Then, I don’t know, it’s sort of like I’m upset with myself for being peeved. It’s like meta upset, and I don’t know, like, “Are we weak? And is that bad?” What do you feel about this, Josh?

Joshua Klapow
I get blasted on this, although with my clients, I think it’s an important one. When I’m talking with my clients, a lot of times this is what comes up. It’s feeling guilty because we feel like we’re under siege. Now, I will say this, if you’ve lost your job and you have no income, and that’s happening at all levels of the socioeconomic spectrum, if you lost your job, “What do I do?” Then you may have a reason to be quite upset, right?

But see, this is the thing. If you’re upset because you can’t go to the grocery store, or you can’t leave, or you have to spend time at home, then you have the right to be upset. Being upset is emotion. It’s an emotion. We have the right to feel what we want to feel. It is what we do with it that has the impact. It has the impact on ourselves and it has the impact on the people around us.

So, for example, if you’re feeling, “God, this really sucks. I’m here at home, I can’t go socialize the way I want to, I can’t go to the restaurants I want. And, yes, I know I shouldn’t feel bad but I do feel bad,” and you kind of get yourself a little bit irritable. And then, as a result, you take that out on your wife and your kids, and you’re mean, and you’re cranky, or maybe you’re in a leadership position, and you’re irritable because of this, and you’re yelling on the conference calls for everybody to work harder. Now, your justified emotion is having a very unjustified impact on everybody else.

This is where managing what you’re feeling is far more critical than whether you’re feeling it or not. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yeah. It’s a great clear distinction, you know, bright red line there. So, then, yeah, how do we do this? How do we manage how we’re feeling? How do we cultivate this mental health amidst the stuff that’s going on up in here?

Joshua Klapow
It ain’t easy, I can tell you that. And I think one thing, people have to carefully open their eyes to where the sources of stress may be coming from. We can all talk about the restriction part, “I’m restricted in money. I’m fearful potentially for my health. Am I going to get sick? Is a loved one going to get sick?” There are sort of the obvious ones. But I’ll tell you, Pete, those are big sources of stress. But where these things start getting exponential is the inner section of work, life, family life relationships.

So, as you said, there are a lot of us now who are either home with family in a way that none of us have ever been home that way before. Or the opposite, we’re isolated. Maybe we’re not with family and we can’t be. We’re by ourselves. Those pieces, particularly the family dynamics, where I’ve seen more relationship issues, and you’ve seen the statistics, high rates of people, particularly in China, but in other areas, filing for divorce or etc.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I have not yet seen those. So, I thank Josh, bringing fresh info, tell us about that.

Joshua Klapow
Let me tell you, it makes sense. When you’re stuck at home with your partner, whether or not you have kids, and you have to be with them every day, the floodlight is on your relationship. And every crack in that relationship, normal healthy cracks, are going to show. And if you don’t deal with them, and I’m not talking about necessarily going to therapy, but if you don’t deal with the pet peeves and the things that normally you’d be able to skirt by because you’re not spending as much time, it gets bigger and bigger and bigger.

Throw in there, for some parents, homeschooling. Throw in there for someone like me, two college kids who are now back at home, who are not happy about it, they love their mom and dad, but they want to be at school, and you get family stress that absolutely rolls on top of all of the other stressors. And what happens? People get tired, stress starts wearing them down, it starts bleeding over into conference calls that they may be taking for work. The work stress starts bleeding over to family, and we got a big stress ball that nobody can point to one thing. And that’s what catches people off guard.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. All right. So, I think you’ve very nicely articulated what’s going on here, what we’re dealing with. So, what do we do about it?

Joshua Klapow
Yeah. If you’ve ever been a parent, and you remember when you had a young child, and I’m talking the infant child, the child who was screaming and you’re feeding them every three hours, or even a toddler, one of the things I distinctly remember from not being a parent to being a parent, I used to judge the quality of my time in weeks or months, “This was a great week. It’s a great week. This was a great month.” And I quickly remember, as a parent, that didn’t work, particularly with a young child. It’s like, “Oh, my God, this day sucked. Like, this day was really bad.”

And what I started to realize was I need to think about the quality of my time in smaller increments, “This was a really good hour. This was a good minute. This was a good 10 minutes.” Now, I’m not advocating that, because of COVID-19, we only live and savor the quality of every minute. But what I do mean is you may have a really bad day because of work, because of finances, because of family, but then you may have an awesome day, because, you know what, you got to be on three conference calls and spend some time with your spouse in a way that you never got to. Or maybe you got to do a video conference, and we’re seeing this, reuniting with college friends.

My point is we have got to shift. What we have to do is we have to stop trying to live our life right now as if tomorrow it’s going to go back to the way that it was. That’s what we typically do in crises. What we typically do is we go, “Okay, if I can just ride this sucker out, if I can just ride this out, it’ll be a few days, a few weeks, I’m going to be okay. It’s all going to get back to normal.” I’m not a doomsdayer here. I don’t know how long this is going to be, but I can guarantee you that by next week, even with everything open, or next month, everything is going to be back to normal. And even if it is, that’s probably not the most healthy way to think about it.

What we have to do is look at what’s given to us right here, right now, “What do I have? What do I not have? What am I certain about? What am I not certain about? And how do I maximize that? How do I maximize the fact…? I’m just using things that everybody is doing…  that I can wear shorts all day long now.” And that’s not saying, Pete, to just look on the rosy side of things. What it’s saying is in order to get a grip, you must find the nuggets of goodness in your life because there is a lot of uncertainty and chaos going on.

And if you can cling to those nuggets, what that allows you to do is it allows you to move forward. It allows you to be less stressed, less distressed, sleep better, eat better, etc. And it allows each day to have a little bit of goodness in it, which, frankly, to be honest with you, as humans, that’s about all we need besides food, water, and shelter, in order to make it to the next day.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, we’re noticing these things, and we’re embracing them, and looking at sort of smaller, shorter time increments. Do you have any other pro tips on how we can go about sort of noticing and appreciating and, I suppose, letting these things pass us right by?

Joshua Klapow
You must recognize that, and I know this is a little broad-brushing because everybody’s situation is slightly different. Your brain is going to go offline frequently during this kind of situation. And let me explain what I mean by that. When you’re home and you’re trying to work in particular, but let’s say you’re home and you didn’t work. You took care of the kids, or even if you have always worked from home, you got all kinds of different things going on right now. There may be people that were at home that weren’t at home before.

You may have never participated on so many video conference calls. You may not have had the dog interrupting you every five seconds. Your brain is going to be distracted in a way that it never has before. One more piece to put in, all the newsfeeds, right? I mean, in my lifetime, I never remember a daily briefing where updates were actually new information. I mean, if you think about it.

Okay, so what that does is our brain can’t attend to the task at hand, and you’re going to feel tired, you’re going to feel inefficient. And so, what I’m encouraging all of my clients to do, and the people that I interact with, about every 45 minutes or so, you may notice yourself feeling fatigue. It’s time to take a break. Not an hour break but what I call the bathroom break. If you’re hydrating properly, you go into the bathroom, you should be going to the bathroom about every hour or up to 90 minutes. And, literally, sometimes I have to remind my clients to put in their schedule to drink water so that they hydrate during the day, because I got people that I work with that will go nine hours on conference calls and never stop.

You have to pace yourself. That means taking a minute to, literally, remind yourself, “Where am I? What am I doing? What is the task at hand?” to take your eyes off the screen and look outside, and it’s not an hour of meditation. It’s a minute to get your brain back, focused to the task at hand. Most of us don’t have to do that that frequently throughout our day. Now, I don’t know that everyone has to. I can tell you it doesn’t hurt. And what I can also tell you is you feel so much more focused because your brain comes back online. It’s a critical stress management tool that most people don’t use and they have to right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think that’s dead-on because I’ve just been and many, many times I am, I don’t know, on news, or social media, or something, it’s just like, “What is even happening right now?”

Joshua Klapow
Yes. Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And it’s like I have to regroup. And part of it, I think, is so helpful is, like, when I have days in which I actually write down the key things of the day, then that’s really helpful to remember, “Oh, yes, this is what I meant to do today, and I’ve kind of forgotten about that and got suck into news or whatever.”

Joshua Klapow
And that’s a great example of you might say to yourself, “God, normally I never forget these things. I don’t have to write them down.” Right now, your brain is more likely to go offline. And I’ll tell you where it has a larger impact. It’s not just for you, it’s for the people that you interact with. So, if you think about it, and this is what I was saying, it can cause relationship problems. It’s like, “Hey, I just told you to make a grocery list.”

Joshua Klapow
Can you imagine how it impacts your home life, your relationship life? And, particularly for work, if you’re working from home, how you interact with colleagues, how you interact with your boss. We have to be much more mindful of what our emotions are doing right now. And I love what you said, although it’s not pleasant. You have to sit back and go, “What? What is going on?” That’s a very normal response. The difference is you have to do that while you’re working, while you’re parenting, while you’re being a husband or a wife or a spouse or a partner. That is going to make you tired at the end of the day.

And that understanding, that and then taking action on that, making sure you’re hydrated, making sure you’re well-nourished, making sure you’re writing yourself reminders, making sure that you call a timeout, and say, “You know what, I don’t have the bandwidth, guys. I don’t have the bandwidth to do all these today.” That kind of communication is critical.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I love these particular bits of sort of in the moment recognizing and good communication with folks. What are some of the habits or recurring practices you recommend that make a world of difference in kind of boosting our overall mental health and resilience, and then, specifically, just providing a large boost of rejuvenation? Like, I guess, where do I get the most bang for my buck when it comes to self-care, Josh? That’s what I want to know.

Joshua Klapow
So, there’s a couple of things and they are things that we all know but that most of us, even those of us who may have done this before, and this is also unique to this particular situation.

So, the number one thing you’ll hear is make sure you’re getting exercise. And everybody is, “Aah, I know the exercise. I know about the exercise.” Let me tell you why exercise is super important. Number one, for a lot of people who’ve exercised regularly in the past, their gyms are closed, right? And so, you’ve got a lot of people who are used to having that metabolic boost in the morning or in the afternoon who aren’t exercising. That throws off your entire metabolic system if you’re an exerciser.

If you’re not an exerciser, the mental fatigue wears on your body. Being strong physically, and I’m not saying start a crazy exercise program, but just getting the blood flowing actually is super important for your immune system, it’s super important to regulate your sleep system. So, that exercise, everybody knows about, even if it’s just for a walk, Pete, is probably one of the best things that you can do. I wish I had another way to say it. You got to get out there and exercise. And if you tell me, “I can’t,” I can show you five gazillion YouTube videos on different ways to exercise. People are finding the most creative ways to exercise that fit their physical needs, their mental health. So, that’s number one. You’ve got to move the body, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And when it comes to moving the body, I’d love to get your sense. It sounds like you’re emphasizing more so cardiovascular as opposed to strength-resistance training, or anything. Yeah, lay it on us.

Joshua Klapow
Not necessarily. A lot of this depends, A, on your health status, B, on your previous exercise history. So, do not go start running marathons if you never have before. What you’re looking for is physical activity. You want your body moving, you want your muscles stretching, you want your heart rate elevated. Does it have to be an all-out run or trying to do a thousand pushups? No. If you did that before, more power to you, and keep doing it.

I’ll tell you, myself personally, and this has been a big change for me, I was very much into the weightlifting. I went to the gym. I never did anything from home. My gym closed. I went immediately online to go buy weights. You can’t buy weights online. Or if you can buy them, they’re like a thousand dollars now. And so, I was like, “I’m not going to do that.”

I’ve been dabbling in yoga, just dabbling. I’m now doing yoga six days a week. I would’ve never done that before. I’m experimenting. So, one of the things I would also encourage your listeners is if there’s a kind of exercise that you’ve always wondered about, now is your excuse to try something different. So, I think that’s absolutely important. It’s not a particular kind but I don’t want you sitting in a chair for seven hours a day. It’s bad for you. Bad for you.

The other thing that is really important, if at all possible, and I’ll get to the nutrition part in a second, I’ll do that quickly, is get your Vitamin D. Get some daylight. If you’re inside and the weather provides and allows, step outside. The norms have changed, Pete. The norms have changed. It’s okay to hear birds in most companies now in the background chirping while you’re on a conference call. It’s very important that we don’t sit in one room for eight to ten hours a day.

Get outside, get the fresh air even if that’s every hour taking a two-minute break. You need that natural sunlight both for your metabolic purposes, also to regulate your sleep. And if you don’t believe me, try and experiment. Stay in your room, wherever room you’re in, this is assuming you’re not quarantined in a room. Stay in your room for six hours versus get outside every hour for two to three minutes, you’ll feel much better.

The other piece that people neglect is proper hydration and nutrition while they’re at home. We need to drink water. We need to eat good food. If we don’t drink and we don’t pee, and we eat crappy food, we’re going to feel bad. I’m not telling you that you have to become a vegan. I’m not telling you that you have to get completely clean on your health or on your food. But the better you can do, the better you’re going to feel. I can’t tell you how many people right now are saying, “God, I’m snacking. I’m snacking.” Why are you snacking? Because you’re sitting there and you can see the snack cabinet in your own house.

So, these are the kinds of changes. A lot of my clients will say, “I already know that stuff. I already know that.” And my number one comeback is this, “Great. Are you doing it?” “No.” “How do you feel right now?” “Like crap.” “Tell you what, eat a little bit better, make sure you drink a lot of water throughout the day, get your behind outside. Move. And then maybe the last one, too, is…” and this is one that is new, something that I haven’t seen as much. A lot of dysregulated sleep cycles. People are kind of going to bed at strange times because they don’t have as much of a routine. And when your sleep cycle gets off, it messes everything else up. Try to remain as regimented as you can on a sleep cycle. I don’t care if you don’t have to get up the next day till 9:00. Don’t stay up till 2:00 o’clock in the morning just because. The more consistent your sleep, the better you’re going to feel.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. That’s a really nice lineup. Now, when it comes to hydration, how much is enough?

Joshua Klapow
Yeah. So, again, I’m not a medical doctor. I’m a psychologist. But this is the classic, and I have one client who…I was surprised to hear this. This was somebody, she’s an executive, mostly working from home who, literally, would prevent herself from drinking because she was on back-to-back conference calls, and she didn’t want to be late to the conference call. I’m not kidding.

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve been there before. I’ve had those days, yeah.

Joshua Klapow
Well, but that was every day. And it doesn’t take a medical doctor for me to say, “What are you doing? Like, that’s terrible. Don’t do that. You should be going to the bathroom…” again, we all have different health states, etc. Two to three to four times a day to pee and it should be clear relatively, right? And I tell you what, you asked for bang for the buck? Here’s the other reason why I want you to drink water or non-alcoholic beverages. If you’re peeing every 90 minutes to two hours, guess what you can do when you go into the bathroom? You can take that 90-minute to two-hour break to also reset your brain, to take the deep breaths, to come back to a good place. I call it the recalibration bio-break.

And that’s what I said. I said, “Look, if you want to multitask, multitask. Go do your business in the bathroom, and then take one extra minute in that bathroom to reset, to remind yourself, “What day is it? Where am I? What am I going to do?” It’s these little tweaks like this that allow you to carry on, allow you to power forward. What most of us try to do that is wrong is we try to have the good work ethic, “I’m just going to take one more call. I’m just going to do one more recording. I’ll skip this lunch. I’ll skip this water. I’ll power through, and if I do that, then I’ll get to the other side.” Psychologically, physiologically, and behaviorally, that could not be farther from the truth in non-global pandemic times. It is twice as bad in global pandemic times.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s powerful. Well, so, not to get too personal with you, Josh, but I’d love to zoom in to that one minute in the bathroom. So, you’ve just urinated, wow, it’s the first time I’ve said this on the show. All right.

Joshua Klapow
I’m a psychologist. You can say anything you want here.

Pete Mockaitis
You just urinated. What happens in the following minute that can be a great reset in the bathroom?

Joshua Klapow
So, as I’d like to say, you take care of your business. And in this day and age, and you can do this on either side. Either before you wash your hands or after you wash your hands, either way is okay because this is going to involve your brain, and you don’t have to touch your face to do this. What I really encourage people to do is close their eyes or not, but to take some deep diaphragmatic breaths. And we all know this, and I’ll show you the example I give you. But this is essentially the (inhales then exhales). Do that three to four times.

Now, I get a lot of grief as a psychologist because, particularly when I do this in any media, they go, “Oh, my God, this is the psychologist and now he’s telling me to deep breathe.” The reason I’m telling you that is, as your stress levels rise, your breath shortens. And one of the ways that we know that you cannot only relax your physiology, your muscles, relax your muscles, heart rate, blood pressure, but if you relax is to slow your breathing down.

And the classic example I give people is when you see a little child, or even an adult who’s kind of panicky, right, you see a little kid, “Huh, huh, huh.” What do we tell people to do besides calm down, which you should never tell people to do? “Take a breath.” We always tell people, “It’s okay. just take a breath. Take a few deep breaths.”

So, if we tell people to do that when they’re panicking, why wouldn’t we do that after we go to the bathroom and we’re a little offline? So, take three deep breaths, have a nice happy thought, and then. Wash your hands and get back out in the warzone. And it’s critical. I have physicians do this before they ever get back in, whether it’s the E.R. or an O.R., I have them do it all the time. I have athletes do it at every timeout.

It’s critical, Pete, that we do it right now because distractions alone will take us offline and we need to be online.

The other reason that it’s important, if you’re not going to do it for you, it changes the way you interact with your spouse or your significant other. It changes the way you interact with your kids, who, many a kids are very discombobulated right now. It also changes the way that you’re going to interact on conference calls, with your coworkers, your boss, and your direct reports. If you’re in a bad place, it’s going to show even if you’re not “freaking out.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really resonating. All right. So, that’s it then. There’s the washing of hands, there’s the deep diaphragmatic breaths, there’s the happy thought, then that’s your minute, hey?

Joshua Klapow
It is, yes. Now, here’s what I don’t want you to expect, “One minute is going to last me nine hours.” So, here’s the good and the bad of it. The bad is It’s not going to last all day long one set of diaphragmatic breathing and your happy thought. But here’s a nice thing. It takes a minute to reset.

Again, I’ll share another thing that I do. Before I ever go on air, before I ever take a client call, before I ever switch from one conference call to the next, I make sure I got at least a minute. I’m a high-energy guy. I get going a lot. I reset. And most of us, Pete, don’t do that because we think that that couldn’t have an impact. It’s not a magic pill but it’s what our bodies and our minds need to stay on track in addition to all the other things that we talked about.

And I mentioned it in passing but it is equally important. Own up to your limits right now. Stop. Do not wear yourself out as a badge of honor because it does nobody any good. Work hard but if you’re driving yourself into the ground because you think that’s great, what I’m going to tell you is that by the time you’ve driven yourself just short of being into the ground, you’re no good for anybody. You didn’t do good work at the end. I always talk about, “Come to your limit, don’t go past your limit.” Come to your limit and then back off. You have to right now.

There is this expectation, “I must be a super parent, super spouse. I got to show my boss that I’m doing everything, and I got to be great and have fun and exercise and all that kind of stuff.” I wish I had a better word. It’s crap. We’re human. We’re not machines. And, particularly right now, nobody is firing on all cylinders. Anybody who tells you they’re totally dialed in, totally focused, not worried about anything, is either not human, or they’re lying, or in denial, or in a lot of denial.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, thanks for laying it out there. Now, can you share some of your favorite things. Let’s start with a favorite quote.

Joshua Klapow
It’s from Pema Chodron, who’s a very famous author, Buddhist monk, New Yorker, an ex-nurse actually before she became a monk. And the quote is, “Feel the feelings and drop the story.” I love this because it’s kind of what I was saying as we first started talking.

You’re going to feel in your day all kinds of things. What makes them have an impact is the label, the interpretation, or the story that we associate with those emotions.

Right now, we have to feel the feelings and not have so much interpretation of them tied to them because there’s going to be so many feelings coming and going.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

Joshua Klapow
So, I like that one. It’s a good one to live. It’s a good one to live by right now.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Joshua Klapow
Okay, this is going to go very opposite what I just said. It doesn’t contradict it. What made me become a psychologist was the work of B.F. Skinner.

The reason that I loved this was that it shows me, not just that we work only for reward, but that our behavior is predictable, is lawful, is on average. There is rhyme and reason to why we do what we do.

And what that tells me is that if something is not going right, or if something is going right, we can figure it out. We can figure out how to make you feel better, how to make you do something different.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Joshua Klapow
I’ve got two quickly. I’m a sports fanatic. And a wonderful book by one of the most coveted international women’s soccer players, Abby Wambach, Wolfpack. It’s a short read.

Related to that book, not from the writing, is Brene Brown’s Rising Strong. She’s written so many great books. Daring Greatly is one that most people know. Rising Strong, for me, resonated because it was, look, if you’re going to live in this life, you’re going to get your butt kicked. You’re going to get your butt kicked if you’re going to live, and you’re going to fall down.

And you’ve got to figure out, not just how to be tough, because being tough is not about it. It’s about, you use the word self-care, how to get yourself back up on your feet physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually so that you can be strong in the world, which is different than just being tough and guarded and defensive. And Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong really teaches readers how to do that. So, between the two, between having your pack and learning how to rise strong, and then with that quote from Pema Chodron, it’s a good way to live.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Joshua Klapow
I’m a less-is-more guy. My family is they’re Slack and Asana and they got this organizer and that organizer. And my tool is my calendar. It’s an electronic calendar.
The reason that I use just my calendar is if you look at my calendar, you will see my appointments, you will see my professional things on there, you will also see things, my kids love to kid me about this, you will see, “Work out at 5:00 a.m.” I know that I work out at 5:00. I don’t need a reminder to work out. It’s on there every day. My lunch is blocked out from 11:45 to 1:00. Now, do I eat lunch all the time there at that time? No. But it’s on there. My rest breaks are broken out and they’re stated on there. My winddown period, it says, “Wind down for bed with good intentions.” My bedtime is on there.

Now, your listeners may go, “Oh, my God, what’s wrong with this guy?” This is my way of removing excess from my brain. It is structure in my day that I can disregard. I have the freedom to disregard anything there.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, yeah, and I think it’s also reassuring in which you can say, “Oh, this is the time of the day in which I’m going to check those things. I need not check them now. There is a designated time in which that’s going to occur,” so you feel all the more free and resilient to just put those aside for the moment.

Joshua Klapow
Yes, I love the way you described that.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Okay. And how about a favorite habit?

Joshua Klapow
Yeah. If it’s just one it is to exercise. The biggest bang for the buck mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually is moving your body because it has all the physical health benefits that we don’t need to go into, that everybody knows about.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And is there a particular nugget you share that you’re known for, people quote it back to you frequently?

Joshua Klapow
You’ve heard the term “don’t work harder, work smarter” and that’s the one that work all the time.

The idea that, “I must work more in order to be successful” versus “As I get better at what I do, whether it’s work, parenting, relationship, it actually gets easier, and I may not have to work as hard.” And that is a beautiful, wonderful, acceptable thing that you get to have by being good at something.

So, my point is it doesn’t have to get harder, whatever it is. It can get easier. You could work less and get the same thing done. The one related to that, and it’s just aside, is this idea of “I have to.”

What I tell people this. You don’t have to. There are only a couple things in this world that you have to do. You have to eat. You have to breathe. You have to drink water. Anything else you don’t have to.

If you make it a choice, then what it allows you to do is bring the power of you to that choice. And that is really important because there are so many things that we do, most of them are our choice even if we tell ourselves that we have to.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Joshua Klapow
Social media, Twitter and Instagram. You can follow me at @drjoshk. If you’d like to see my webpage, it’s JoshKlapow.com. And my email, my very public email is askdrjoshk@gmail.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Joshua Klapow
We’re told all the time to think outside the box if you want to be great at what you do. If you want to be great at what you do before you ever think outside the box, take inventory of what you have inside the box. What do you already know how to do? What are you good at? What are you passionate about? And I’m talking about reading, writing, gardening, art.

Don’t spend all of your time trying to be awesome at your job by thinking so far out of who you are that you forget the gifts that you bring to the table automatically. It’s okay to think broadly but don’t lose the gifts or the skills that you have nurtured and matured when you’re trying to be awesome because those are your foundation that will allow you to be awesome.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Josh, thanks so much for sharing these good words. It’s been a treat. I wish you all the best for yourself and your clients, and the disasters are manageable and workable in your lives.
Joshua Klapow
Thank you, Pete. I appreciate the opportunity to share this with you and with your listeners. And to everybody, exercise every day and please wash your hands.

568: Minimizing Tasks While Maximizing Results with Laura Stack

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Laura Stack says: "The more you take care of yourself, the greater your energy level will be to focus on other people and your work."

Productivity expert Laura Stack shares best–and worst–practices for prioritizing your tasks.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The six steps to optimizing your workflow
  2. The five productivity personality archetypes
  3. How to work from home effectively

About Laura

Laura Stack is a noted expert in employee and team productivity, she’s also best known by her moniker, “The Productivity Pro.” She is also an award-winning keynote speaker and a bestselling author of eight books. She is the President and CEO of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a boutique consulting firm helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. 

Laura has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and Forbes magazine. She is a high-content Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), who educates, entertains, and motivates professionals to deliver bottom-line results. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you Sponsors!

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Laura Stack Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Laura, thanks for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Laura Stack
Thanks, Pete. Happy to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to chat with you. You are known as The Productivity Pro, and we love talking to productivity pros.

Laura Stack
Okay. Good.

Pete Mockaitis
So, you’re going to fit right in here. And I want to kick it off by hearing, what is, maybe, your nerdiest productivity practice? Is there anything that’s sort of a guilty pleasure for you in the realm of productivity, whether it’s apps or…?

Laura Stack
Oh, my. You’re going to make me start by telling all my secrets. Well, let’s see. I grew up in a military family. My family is a retired colonel, so I was raised on the Air Force Academy with the old adage of, “The colonel jumps,” and you say, “How high?” And so, he came in for inspection when we did our chores and so my favorite productivity guilty pleasure is I make my bed every day. Yes, I do.

With everything, pillows, European Shams, big pillows, throw pillows. I just think it sets you up for success for the day. It feels good. It helps you feel like things are in order and you’ve already accomplished a goal before your day even begins. So, I would suggest everybody make your bed. That’s what I learned from the colonel.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m intrigued that you called it a guilty pleasure. In a way, it seems like it’s the most opposite of guilty because I think if I didn’t do it…

Laura Stack
Most people don’t. Most people don’t make their bed. They just leave it like it is or they will likely toss things up. I have it neat, orderly pulled, pinned corners. I mean, I make sure that, and it’s maybe a little OCD but just not having anything on the bed when you approach your evening rituals and routines to go to bed, and undoing the bed, it’s oddly comforting just in the sense that it makes you kind of wind down and gives your brain a signal that it is now time to relax. So, there’s just something in the routine of beginning and the end of the day that helps you start and end your day well.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s totally true. And it’s a nice reminder, I think, at the end of the day, it’s like, “Hey, well, I accomplished that and it’s a very welcoming sight to go on in there.”

Laura Stack
Exactly, yeah. And not just rumpled sheets that you just got out of. You just feel like it’s just one continuous getting into bed, getting out of bed. Ah, I like rituals with beginning and end. It just feels good.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so we’re going to dig into some of your productivity wisdom, and I want to get a touch of your hot takes on how that fits into this coronavirus, working-from-home type context. But maybe before we get into the tools, and the tactics, and the strategies, the nitty-gritty, could you maybe frame it up for us, how do you define productivity and why does being more productive matter?

Laura Stack
Well, for me, productivity is all about value-creation, so I don’t look at it as, “How many things did you get checked off your list during the day? How many hours did you sit there? How much running around and how busy you were?” But the value that you created in the time that you spent, so it literally is a ratio, if it could be measured, which is easier to do in manufacturing because you can count widgets, sales, you can have quotas. It’s a little bit harder when you’re looking at office jobs, leadership roles, HR, so we’d like to look at the impact, or the result, or the value, or the profitability, or however your job is measured.

So, I like to think of it as achieving maximum results in minimum time. So, whatever that ratio would be, would be the most effective. So, if you have 10 things to do, I know, wouldn’t that be great? If you had that 10 things to do and you did nine of them, but left the one that was the most important, or would have the most impact on your business or your job or your team, that would not be a productive day even though you got nine of the 10 things done. I’d much prefer you get three things done if one of them includes one of those high-value activities.

Pete Mockaitis
And what’s kind of fun about that flexible definition of productivity and creating value and achieving the goal is, I guess, there are times, maybe it’s a vacation or just sort of season of life in which the value you’re going for is refreshment and rejuvenation and rest.

Laura Stack
That’s right. That’s why it depends how you measure it because there are times where the most productive thing you can do is take care of yourself, or relax, or be with…spend time with a child, or go on vacation. And so, those times of “goofing off” certainly are not at all very valuable. So, productivity can be measured in every aspect of our lives. You could even be productive at the gym. I mean, it’s easy to waste an hour at the gym, just lull around, wander, hardly work, don’t sweat, talk to your friends, a couple half-hearted leg lifts. I mean, I can kill an hour at the gym but it certainly wasn’t a very productive use of my time.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. Well, so you got a number of books, and the title I love the most is “What To Do When There’s Too Much To Do.” Boy, I can relate to that.

Laura Stack
Yes, very popular. Everyone loves that title. My first book was titled “Leave the Office Earlier” so that is probably the only title that ever beat “What To Do When There’s Too Much To Do.” It makes people say, “Yup, that’s me. I need that book.” So, yeah, that’s a good one.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so the subtitle there is to, “Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 Minutes a Day.” Can you maybe walk through, yeah, how does one do exactly that?

Laura Stack
Well, I mean, there’s a lot that goes into that, and of course we won’t be able to go into every aspect in this time together. But, essentially, saving 90 minutes a day, what I want people to really focus on is, let’s say, I am working 65 hours a week. I mean, I am just exhausted, all this COVID stuff, I’m in my home office all the time, and I’m putting in extra hours. Whereas, other people right now are slow, almost some of them bored, I have heard, and trying to fill eight hours a day.

So, for some people, that definition means if you’re working a ton of hours, “How can I be more efficient? How can I systematize? How can I automate? How can I streamline, delegate, eliminate?” So, the goal there would be to, “If I can save an hour a day, maybe I can get it down to 60 hours a week, so that would be a great outcome, and so now I get out of the office a little bit earlier.” So, maybe that’s your goal, versus other people who are clocking their 40 hours, maybe they actually want to accomplish greater results than they’re doing now in the same amount of time.

So, for some people, it means actually reducing the number of hours they’re working, and for other people it could mean increasing the value that they produce in the time that they’re working. And so, every person will approach that question just a little bit differently. But, ultimately, that’s the whole goal of the concept of what to do when there’s too much to do. And I break it down into six different steps, and I’m not sure how much of that you want to go through in our time together just in terms of what I call the productivity workflow formula.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yes, I would love to spend a minute or two on each of these steps so we can get oriented and think about things the way you do.

Laura Stack
Okay. Great. Yeah, so I look at work coming in as a constant flow. So, if you can picture it as a circle with arrows, sadly, the workflow never stops, correct? So, it just continues to come in. So, first, we have to figure out, step one is, “What do we need to do?” You have to determine what to do. So, how do you get your arms around the world of all of your to-dos?

And for many people, that’s a challenge because they have some things written on a sticky note, they have some things that somebody texted them, and they’ve got their email, and they’ve got calls and voicemails, plus, now they have social media, and I’ve got an inbox here, and an inbox there. Many people feel very disjointed with many of their inputs living in several different places, and they don’t really have one system, one way that they can get their arms around everything so that they can even determine what to do. So, that’s the first step is getting that piece organized.

And then after that, you’ve got to figure out, “When am I going to do it?” And so, there is a prioritization, there’s a scheduling, there’s a “What can I realistically fit in? And what is going to get done and when?” So, that’s step two. And then step three is, “How do we actually focus?” Well, we know what to do, we’ve got a little block of time, and we sit down to work on it, and “krrrk” our attention is all over the place. So, I really believe that concentration is a long-lost art, especially when many of us are trying to work at home, it becomes even more challenging.

And then step four is we have to find the information that we need to do the work, and that’s where, if people have overflowing inboxes, poor filing methods, and they can’t put their hands on what they want when they want it, they get stuck on that step. And then the last piece of the loop, and there are six steps, but the fifth step in the loop is to close the loop. So, it’s actually getting work done, turning things in, being efficient, actually trying to maximize how efficiently they can do work. I’ve had people in my office actually watching me work, and so there are systems pieces that you can use to tighten up your efficiency.

And then the last step is managing your own capacity. So, if you got a really bad night, sleepless night because you didn’t make your bed maybe, no, I’m kidding, you’ve got a bad night’s sleep, you’re not going to feel like being energetic and productive. You’re going to want to put your head on the desk and take a nap.

And so, self-care becomes a critically important component of managing one’s productivity. So, that’s kind of the foundation on which everything is based. Without those proper self-care habits, you will not have the energy that you need to devote to your work, to your family, to your loved ones, etc. So, that, in a nutshell, Pete, is the productivity workflow formula.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. I dig it. Well, let’s dig, in particular, to steps two and three, the prioritization and then scheduling, and then the three, the focused concentration bit. So, when it comes to prioritization, I mean, I’m a big believer in the 80/20 Rule and, indeed, some things truly are 16 times as important as others. But how do you go about thinking, asking the questions, making the calls in terms of, “Ah, yes, this is, in fact, way more important than that”? How do you get there?

Laura Stack
Well, I think we all intuitively know what is more important than what. The problem that I see with the way that people prioritize is their tendency to select tasks incorrectly, and there’s a lack of awareness about what people choose to do next. It doesn’t really matter what system you use to prioritize. I mean, I use Microsoft Outlook Tasks because I like being able to drag a task up and down in the tasks list and re-prioritizing very quickly and just accomplishing things in order of importance.

It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to use Tasks. Some people use paper list with the top three sticky note. They put on a sticky note the top three things they need to do in a day. Other people use an app, Todoist. There are so many different methodologies that people use to track their priorities. What I like to look at, instead, is your typical pattern in how you’re going about, creatively procrastinating about not doing those priorities.

So, there are five main kind of priority personality archetypes that I see. The first type of person picks things based upon what they feel like working on. So, you know that there’s this really important thing that you need to do, but people who have this personality tend to pick things based on what’s fun, or easy, or quick because they like that shot of dopamine they get when they check something off a list, and it gives them this real sense of accomplishment, right? So, they’re busy, busy bees. These people just check stuff off because they love that, but they are purposely leaving the thing that is the most important, and they leave the office each day, going, “Ugh, I did it again. I still didn’t get to that really important project.” And, of course, they could but it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The next type of person does things based on how they appear. So, in accounting, we call this FIFO, right, first-in first-out. So, this type of person is a reactive person. They react to things as they come in. They get a text, they answer it. They get an email, they answer it. They get a call, they answer it, right? So, they are pretty much letting other people control their schedules, which other people are really good at doing, and they’re not proactive instead.

The third type of person prioritizes based on who’s yelling loudest. This type of person does not have good boundaries. They don’t have good verbal skills around letting people know what the expectations are, what they can do, what they can’t, what they will do, what they won’t. And they allow that old adage “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” and people have their number, and they know they are too nice, and so they end up doing things that are not the most important priority.

The fourth type of person tends to do things as they think of them. So, this type of person kind of talks to themselves constantly. And as they think of things, “Ooh, I need to call Pete about that call next week. Ooh, I’m going to get on and talk to Pete.” And they just make the call. So, as they think of things, they just do it regardless of whether or not it’s the most important thing, and it tends to be because they’re afraid they’re going to forget if they don’t do it, even though they know it’s not necessarily a high priority right then.

And then the last person does things by the order of the sticky note. And so, this type of person has a very random approach. It could look like they have ADHD when you look at them. They have, like, 17 browser tabs open, and seven half-started emails, and four Excel spreadsheets, and two Word documents, and it’s just like, “What are you working on?” And they’re like, “I don’t know,” they just got stuff everywhere. They’ve got papers lined up in a certain order, “Ooh, here’s that business card. I should call this guy.” It’s just all over. So, just a different, disorganized type of approach.

So, those, Pete, are the five patterns of people that I see, and they’re kind of quasi-prioritization methods. So, we really need to think about our patterns, have awareness around them to be able to say, “I’m doing it. I’m doing it. Oh, my gosh, I’m doing it.” Catch yourself doing it, stop yourself from doing that, and really work on what I call triage. It’s just like in a hospital when a patient shows up. They don’t necessarily get treated first in the ER, right? I mean, you could sit there for four hours because other people come in with issues that are more urgent and more critical than yours. And it doesn’t matter if you say, “Well, I was here first,” right? It doesn’t matter, “This patient has a higher need so there’s more value if we treat this patient.”

So, if you think of your office like an emergency room and prioritize, it sounds bad, based on which patient would die first, that’s really the way to look at things. Because if you don’t do this step today, right, this step three days from now is going to be behind, and so we really have to look at what’s going to cause suffering in our lives and work on it that way. As humans, we like to do, emotionally, what we like. And that, by and large, is a really bad way to prioritize, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Laura, this is so excellent in that, you know, most people, myself included when I tackle this issue, it’s sort of like, “Okay. Well, here are the paradigms by which you might assess important tasks that are worthy of high priority. So, maybe it’s the result that you’re after divided by the effort required, like the hours, and maybe it’s profit per hour, or maybe it’s like the one thing question.”

Laura Stack
Yeah, it could be, and it depends on your job, yeah, how that could be measured.

Pete Mockaitis
But in practice, when the rubber meets the road, day in, day out, you know, you might know that, but if you don’t know that, I guess, that’s the first step. Have those conversations with your boss and take a moment, take a breath, do some thinking about what really, really, really matters. But then, in your day-to-day reality, you got to watch out and play defense in terms of these tendencies none of which are conducive to doing what actually matters.

Laura Stack
Yeah. And that assumes, of course, that you have had a conversation with your manager because, if not, you are guessing at best, and you’re going to choose things based on emotion, which is generally not a good way to make decisions. So, assuming you’ve had those conversations, you have to understand, I call it PROI, personal return on investment, “What is my personal return on my investment of time in doing this activity for my results, my value as an employee?”

So, if your company is pumping all these resources into you, you have to look at, “Is what I’m doing, right now, the highest and best use of my time that has the greatest personal return on my investment of time right now?” I mean, when the rubber hits the road, everybody has all these fancy systems, and they’re all trying to 1, 2, 3, A, B, C. It’s like, oh, my gosh, just really looking at if you had to just put everything aside. And a lot of people are experiencing this. Projects that were pet projects, all of a sudden, there is no time for that, and we are focused on critical work. And when it all gets stripped away, that’s the stuff that we need to really be doing.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. Well, could you share, then…so that’s the prioritization bit in terms of not falling for five suboptimal approaches that we often fall for in terms of prioritizing and scheduling. Well, how do we maintain that focused concentration piece?

Laura Stack
Well, I look at…it depends on the environment, it depends on what your goal is. And if you are a person who needs, in my case, I like silence to focus, whereas my 18-year old son has music going when he’s working on homework. And I personally can’t understand how someone can listen to music because it makes me, in my head, sing along and do the lyrics and all that. But he really just gets in the zone, and he’s able to hone in on his work when he’s got that outside music going.

And so, part of focus is kind of looking at you personally, what are the things that are distracting to you, because you may not find the music distracting? So, I look at kind of four different categories, having each person analyze this for themselves. I use the acronym TYPE for types of distractions that prevent us from focusing.

One is technology, the T. So, having your cell phone, not just on vibrate where “boop boop” it goes off on the desk, and you have this obsessive-compulsive desire to check it. We have this insatiable curiosity. We have to know, “Ooh, what is it?” But if you’ve got your email notifications going off, your phone going off, apps, notifications, different beeps and buzzes and whistles, it’s not a wonder we can’t focus and get an article written for a half hour, or whatever it is that we’re trying to do.

So, we have to create kind of a bubble around ourselves. Forward the phone, turn the phone on stun, you know. It needs to be off not just on buzz or vibrate. I have all my notifications turned off in my email. If you go into your options, the default in Outlook, for example, is that every time you get one email, you get four alerts. It plays a sound, puts an envelope in the system tray, you get an alert, a pop-up alert, and it has the cursor spin. Really? We need four alerts for one email?

So, if you go in and turn those off, at first it kind of freaks most people out because, well, they can actually focus for more than six minutes if they keep their inbox minimized, and they’re not checking them as they’re coming in. But then, better yet, you can set a rule that says, “Hey, every time I get an email from this person,” maybe it’s your manager, or someone in your team, or an important client, “then I want you to play a sound.” So, you begin to use technology to help you determine what’s important and not be distracted by the rest.

The Y is yourself. You’re distracted. Are you doing it to yourself? So, people who follow trails on the internet, or, “Ooh, I wonder what this is?” and click there, and now they’re looking at this, and, “Oh, here’s a video. Let me watch this,” right? We, sometimes, are our own worst enemies because we just go down a huge trail of distraction. And so, keeping yourself focused, if you have to put your dog away because you’re going to play with your dog. You’ve got to close the browser while you’re doing this because you’re going to be tempted to click on Facebook. I mean, whatever it is for you, you have to use a lot of self-discipline in that area.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let me hear a bit more about that. So, self-discipline, you know, kind of put it away, close it. What are some other approaches to prevent yourself from running wild?

Laura Stack
Yeah. My dad, the colonel, he used to say, “Discipline is doing what you know you need to do even if you don’t feel like it.” And so, figuring out how to train yourself to do the task that you dread because those are the ones you naturally are going to procrastinate on. And we can find all kinds of things suddenly to do, “Oh, I need to go throw on a little lingerie,” when we’re faced with a task that we don’t feel like working on, but that we know we need to focus on.

And so, it could be doing a leading task, it could say, “Okay, I’m just going to start this for five minutes. And if I don’t feel like doing it in five minutes, I’m going to make a cup of tea and I’m going to come back and try it again for another five minutes.” So, sometimes some people just need to get a little momentum to get that self-motivation and get off that hump. Maybe it’s a little reward. Some people’s discipline gets better if they know there’s kind of a light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of calling your best friend, you’d say to yourself, “Once I complete this task and focus on X, then I will call my best friend,” or whatever is rewarding to you. It might be a quick walk around the block, “Maybe I’ll eat this piece of dark chocolate,” whatever it is that will help you be more disciplined.

So, discipline still is being able to do something after the feeling of excitement when you first created the task has passed. Now, it’s like, “Okay, that was fun being creative. Now, I actually need to get the work done.” So, those are a few important things in discipline.

Pete Mockaitis
And I think it’s great if you could just get real honest with yourself in terms of, “What’s happening is I don’t want to do this thing and, thusly, I’m tempted to do these other things. Hey, it just seems to be…” As oppose to…because I think it’s so… I’ve done it. It’s so possible to deceive yourself, like, “That laundry really needs to get done now, Laura.”

Laura Stack
Especially at home. We can find all kinds of things to do. And having structure and treating your workday as if you’re in the office, I think, is really important for discipline. I have worked from home for 28 years, and I never show up in my “office” in my robe and slippers. It just doesn’t make me feel sharp. I’m not on top of my game. It makes me feel lazy. And so, it just depends on the person. Whereas, other people go, “Gosh, Laura, that’s not me at all. When I work from home, and I stay in my robe all day, you should see me go.”

So, you do have to kind of understand your personality, your style, your nature, and work with that too, sometimes it’s not discipline. It could be energy level. Maybe you’re not a morning person, so people think, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m lazy. I lack motivation. I just can’t get going.” Well, maybe it’s because you’re not a morning person, and you are trying to do the wrong task at the wrong time. That’s not a matter of discipline at all. It’s a matter of energy management. Maybe you’re better at 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon. Or some people get a rush of energy at 7:00 p.m. So, maybe adjusting your schedule to work around some of those constraints will help you a little more.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, let’s see. So, there’s TYPE, and we get the technology, we got the yourself. And how about the PE?

Laura Stack
And P is people. I mean, you could be so much more productive if it weren’t for all these people, right?

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Laura Stack
So, I have kids, like many of us do, and they knew from a very young age, they’re grown now, our youngest is 18. But they knew from a very young age, if mom had, I call them cube guards, like they use in the airport when they’re cleaning a restroom, those tapes that they pull across, I had one of those installed in my hallway to my office. So, if the tape was pulled, even when they were five and six years old, my boys knew, “Don’t come into mom’s office because she’s on a call or she’s concentrating.” We always told them, “Someone better be bleeding if you come through the cube guard, through the tape.”

So, you have to really talk with the people in your family so that they understand, “Hey, this is work.  I’m working. Like, I’m not at home.” Yes, we have more flexibility, I think. And, certainly, if we have young children who are being homeschooled and things like that, we have very different constraints that we’re dealing with. But, by and large, we have to set limits with people in our lives. My mother always just guilty of…she’s retired, right? So, it’s 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon, “I’ll just call Laura.” So, it took some time to not hurt her feelings but explained, “Listen, I want to talk with you,” and, “Can we talk in the evenings because I’m working? This is not a good use of my time.”

I, personally, don’t want to be back in my office working at night. Now, maybe other people like it that way. They like being able to blur the boundaries, and they would rather have some personal time with a loved one in the middle of the day, and then do some work at night. Is it right, wrong, good, bad? No. It’s just different, and so you have to look at the people. And when we’re back in traditional offices, a lot of that have to do with coworkers who just drop in, “Hey, got a minute?” And so, letting them know, “Hey, can I call you at 2:00? Or, can you send me a meeting request? Can you get me on my calendar so I can give that some thought?” Being able to kind of push back in a way that says yes to the person but no to the interruption so that we can stay focused on those things that are critically important.

And then the last one is the environment.

Pete Mockaitis
Tell us about the environment.

Laura Stack
Well, I work in a home office, and so I have a dog, so if I am working, and a postal, UPS comes to the door and rings the bell, my dog is going to set off barking, and I’ve got to go get the dog, take care of the package. Boom! I just had an interruption. So, we have a sign underneath our ring doorbell, strangely, that says, “Do not ring please.”

And so, when they don’t ring the bell, my dog doesn’t bark, and I’m not interrupting my flow, my concentration. I can go get that package whenever. In other words, we allow things in the environment to dictate our schedules, and we react to things as they happen. So, we have to just notice in our environments, just look around, listen, smell, see, figure out those things that are really drawing your attention, and see if you can proactively put some things in place to keep that from happening again.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think that’s excellent. And I think packages are ideal there in terms of, “Do we need a knock at the door or a ring at the doorbell? Or, can we just make that instruction clear to drop it, leave it, it’s okay, UPS My Choice, whatever.”

Laura Stack
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Inform them, “Well, this is what’s up.”

Laura Stack
Yeah, I can get five packages a day, literally. So, if I’m, one at a time, going to the door to stop my dog from having a meltdown and get a package five times versus when my day is over, one time, I’m going to get five packages. That is a far better use of my time, and it allows me to keep my focus. So, you have to look at every time your attention got pulled in another direction, “What was it? What was that cause?”

I have beautiful Bay windows in my office. I don’t even face that way, Pete. I face the wall, and the windows are actually to my back because people walk by, I’m daydreaming, beautiful sunny weather here in Denver, and I get distracted. My mom says I have OSS. She calls that “Ooh, shiny” syndrome. So, I have to really set myself up so that all of those external stimulus aren’t grabbing my brain.

Pete Mockaitis
Well-said. Well, Laura, we’re covering a lot of good stuff, having a lot of fun. Maybe we’ll just rapid fire, can you give us, perhaps, your top one or two best practices and worst practices for folks finding themselves in a work-from-home situation for the first time?

Laura Stack
Yeah, I think structure is really key. If you have never worked from home, some people aren’t prepared for it. It can be lonely. It can be mentally boring because you don’t have all the same activity, and you find yourself, “Huh. Wow, I didn’t have that commute so I have some extra time here.” So, I would, first of all, resist the urge to cram more in, right? In other words, if you left the house at 7:00 to start work at 8:00, still start work at 8:00. Don’t let that time creep kind of make your day from eight hours into 10 hours. That’s very easy to do in a home office.

So, I would then say set some boundaries because it’s very easy to let your work life blur into your personal life, because now you’re in an office that might be your bedroom, or the dining room, or the kitchen. And so, we have to try to put a little bit of structure in so that we can know when we’re working so that we can stay focused and when we’re not. And when we’re not working, we don’t want to be, “Oh, I’ll just do a couple more emails,” and, boom, here we are back at work again. So, as much as possible, I would try to keep some routine and some structure.

I’m looking forward to beauty salons being open again, for example, so I can go get my nails done and my hair. But, you know, I never do those things during the day. I treat my office like it’s any other workplace even though I’m at home, and I go do those things when I’m off work, on my lunch hour, or on the weekends just like anybody else would do. So, I think trying to create a little bit of routine around that is helpful.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Laura Stack
Well, one of my favorites is Drucker, Peter Drucker, who wrote “The Effective Executive,” which, if you have not read it yet, it is just an evergreen book. I’ve read it probably 30 times when I was working on my MBA many, many years ago. But he said, “There’s nothing so useless as doing with great efficiency that which should not be done at all.”

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you.

Laura Stack
That’s one of my favorites.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Laura Stack
Well, I am always looking at “How can we create greater value?” And I think that by looking at “What is more valuable?” but flipside to that, to me, is getting into groups with your team and with your boss, and asking the opposite question, which is kind of a qualitative study that anybody can do in the workplace to say, “What are the things that we’re doing around here that don’t add value, that waste our time?” And you got to have a little bit of thick skin if you decide you want to do this type of research internally because people are going to tell you, they’ll let you know. And looking at, “What are some processes that we put into place maybe three years ago that aren’t necessary? What is a document that we create that nobody even looks at?”

I have a newsletter that I used to do monthly, and it took me a day to write the newsletter. It was a 2500-word article, I did links, I did polls, I did research. I mean, it was a really great newsletter. And one year, I got the flu here in Denver and couldn’t do the newsletter, and told my team, “I’m sorry, we’re just not going to be able to do it this month. And I know you’re going to hear it from people. Everybody is going to complain that we haven’t done the newsletter.” I got three people who even noticed that it didn’t come out.

And in asking people, they said, “You know what, it just is so long. It takes so much time for me to go through it, and you’re a productivity company.” I’m like, “Oh, right. So, maybe we just need a paragraph.” So, I switched from one day a month to 20 minutes a week. Engagement shot up. Readership shot up. So, don’t keep doing the things the way that you have been doing them. If you’re doing it the same way two years later, it probably needs to be revamped. So, those are my favorite kind of studies to do and lead with – workplace teams because they yield usually some pretty dramatic results.

Pete Mockaitis
And beyond “The Effective Executive,” any other favorite books you’d highlight?

Laura Stack
Well, I would recommend reading non-business books. I like to read classics. I have a collection of books from the Easton Press, which I spent…well, there’s a hundred of them, and you buy them one a month, and so it took me a very long time to complete the collection. But they’re all leather bound, and it was what they wrote it on, the top 100 books. So, “Gulliver’s Travel,” and Charles Dickens, and “Pride and Prejudice.” And so, I think it’s really important for us to kind of expand outside of the typical business book that we really read. And read other things that aren’t in your field that really expands your creativity and field of thinking.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Laura Stack
Well, I told you I love Microsoft Outlook, so that is my favorite tool to organize tasks. But I have a really nifty text-replacement utility that I like that’s called ShortKeys. So, basically, you code pieces of texts that you type all the time. Like, ST prints out my street name in any application, on the web, in a Word document. So, I actually type very quickly because a lot of the words that I use all the time I use as ShortKeys, so it really helps you fly and never retype the same thing twice.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate, and folks quote back to you often?

Laura Stack
Oh, I always use creating maximum results in minimum time, that’s productivity. What is your personal return on your investment of time in doing certain activities? There are certain philosophies that I have, I guess, around that productivity workflow formula that a lot of people use.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Laura Stack
Well, they’re welcome to connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn, wherever, but my website is TheProductivityPro.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Laura Stack
Well, I would just remind everyone to really watch their own energy level. If you’re not eating well, sleeping well, exercising, taking care of yourself, a lot of people think that when they’re busy and they don’t have time, that that is one of the things that gets cut. And I think that’s exactly the wrong approach because the better you feel and the more you take care of yourself, the greater your energy level will be to focus on other people and your works.

So, really resist that tendency to just be a bump on a log. Sometimes the last thing we feel like doing when we come home from work is some exercise, but, gosh, a quick few walks around the block will give you so much more energy that you need going into that evening to go into your second shift of home life and getting some of those things done.

Pete Mockaitis
Laura, thanks so much. This has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck in all your productive adventures.

Laura Stack
Thank you so much for having me, Pete. I appreciate the offer.

567: Achieve More While Criticizing Yourself Less: The Power of Self-Compassion with Kristin Neff

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Kristin Neff says: "The drive to achieve doesn't come from the self-criticism... it comes from the fact that we want to do our best."

Professor and author Kristin Neff shares how self-compassion yields bigger results with less unpleasant self-talk… and how it can help manage anxiety during a crisis.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why self-compassion is a better motivator than criticism 
  2. How to turn your compassion for others inward 
  3. The value of tone and touch in self-compassion 

About Kristin

Kristin Neff is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research, creating a scale to measure the construct over fifteen years ago. She is author of the book Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. In conjunction with her colleague Dr. Chris Germer, she has developed an empirically supported training program called Mindful Self-Compassion, which is taught by thousands of teachers worldwide. 

Kristin received her doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley, studying moral development. She is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. 

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Kristin Neff Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Kristin, thanks for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Kristin Neff
Oh, thanks, Pete. Glad to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, we’ve got a lot of fun stuff to dig into. But one unique thing we learned about you in research is that you were featured in a documentary called “The Horse Boy.” What is this story all about?

Kristin Neff
Yeah. So, it was a crazy adventure my family took with my son. So, my son is autistic, and when he was very young, my ex-husband, his father, he had done a lot of work, Human Rights work, with various indigenous people. And so, we met some people like the bushmen from the Kalahari, and we noticed that my son kind of seemed to get better when he was around shamans, and they kind of worked on him, and he really seem to have an improvement in symptoms, and then my son also learned to talk on horseback, on the back of a horse.

“Okay, where in the world combines horses with shamanism?” And, of course, the answer was Mongolia because if that’s where the horse comes from and shamanism is in that region, so he got this crazy idea, “Why don’t we go to Mongolia and ride through, out of Mongolia, visiting shamans on horseback and see what it does for our son?”

And so, he talked me into it, and it was an amazing adventure. He actually did have a lot of improvements. Now, I don’t know why, maybe it’s just the family adventure and really new contacts that led to the improvements, but the whole idea was, “Can autism be an adventure as opposed to a death sentence?” And it really was an adventure.

And I have to say, you know, my son now, he’s 18, it’s just me and him now with us closed down in the pandemic, he’s the most amazing kid. He never complains. He’s so sweet. He’s so positive. He says things like, “Well, who knows, it may get better tomorrow.” He cleans up after me in the kitchen. He’s just such a wonderful soul. And part of me wonders, “Is that because when he was growing up, we never made his autism a pathology? We always just considered it a gift.” And, yeah, he’s truly amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s good to hear.

Kristin Neff
That’s my other life.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, so, that’s really cool, and thanks for sharing that. And a good perspective, I think, here, when your other life is as an expert on self-compassion. You sort of own that phrase or hyphenated word combo. So, what does that mean exactly and how is that helpful?

Kristin Neff
So, self-compassion is really just using the experience we have all the time of compassion for others, especially people we care about, doing a little U-turn, so we give ourselves compassion. So, it’s just treating yourself with kindness, support, care, concern, just like you would naturally do for others.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that sounds like a good thing to do. Tell us, what is that in contrast to? If people were not self-compassionate, what are we?

Kristin Neff
Yeah. So, a lot of people are confused about self-compassion. They think it’s self-pity, or that it’s the same as self-esteem, or that it’s self-indulgent. It’s really none of those things, and there’s actually research to show that. It’s just simply a way of relating to yourself with kindness, care, and support. Now, most people actually, we show in my research, tend to be pretty self-critical, right? Most people, if you ask them, “Who are you more compassionate to, others or yourself?” a vast majority are more compassionate to others than themselves. So, really, self-compassion is a way of correcting that imbalance.

Instead of shaming ourselves because we aren’t perfect, or just feeling so isolated because our life isn’t going the way we want it to as if life is supposed to go exactly the way we want it to, we just kind of embrace our imperfection, we realize this is part of the shared human experience, and we support ourselves through.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, can you give us some maybe real-world examples in terms of when we’re speaking to ourselves in a self-critical way versus a self-compassionate way? Well, we’ll start with that, and I’ve got much more to dig into there.

Kristin Neff
Yeah. So, motivation is a really good context to see the difference between self-criticism and self-compassion because most people very naturally think that self-criticism is an effective motivator. And the thing is it kind of is, it’s kind of like a steam engine that burns coal. It’ll get you up the hill but it spits out a lot of smoke, right? So, self-criticism, although it can motivate us, it has unintended effects like we develop performance anxiety, “Because if I don’t do as well as I’d like to, I’m going to beat myself up.” We often develop fear of failure which can lead to things like procrastination, right? Oftentimes, when we fail, we just give up because we can’t handle risking, our sense of self again by trying.

So, self-compassion, on the other hand, it’s also very strong leaning to motivation, and more effective motivation than self-criticism. So, we try not because we’re unacceptable as we are, it’s simply because we care about ourselves. We want to achieve our best. And so, with that sense of unconditional safety, in other words, the bottom line is if you fail, you’re still going to be okay, “I will still love myself but I will try again because I care and I want to do better.”

And so, people are less likely to procrastinate, they’re less likely to develop anxiety, they actually perform better for that reason, and they don’t give up as easily, they have more grit. So, again, there’s a ton of research on this showing that it’s a better motivator than self-criticism.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, now, those are some nice benefits. So, more motivation, less procrastination, more grit, I think you said less anxiety, or maybe I just inferred that.

Kristin Neff
Yes. No, absolutely less anxiety, less depression.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you share, I love recent research and some data and some numbers, what is perhaps one of the most striking in terms of, “Ooh, those are really impressive results and numbers there” kind of study or research do you think folks who want to be awesome at their jobs would be impressed to hear about?

Kristin Neff
Yeah. Well, so here’s something pretty remarkable. Some people think that self-compassion is weak. Self-compassion, when the going gets tough, is remarkable source of resilience. So, I’ll just give you an example of the study looking at combat veterans who had come back from Iraq or Afghanistan. And so, they measured their self-compassion levels, these veterans, and they followed the veterans up for nine months. And they found that self-compassion, those soldiers with higher self-compassion, were much less likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

But here’s the kicker. Self-compassion level was even a stronger predictor of how much action they had seen. So, in other words, in terms of how traumatized you are, more important than like how much action you saw, how much gore or violence you experienced, more important than that in terms of how traumatized you are, it’s, “How did you relate to yourself in the midst of that trauma. Were you an ally? Did you have your own back? Did you support yourself? Were you kind? Or do you tear yourself down?”

For instance, if you have shame, a lot of veterans, combat soldiers, have a lot of feelings of shame, like maybe what they’re doing is wrong, and they tear themselves down and they criticize themselves, and there’s a huge problem with attempted suicide among the veterans, but not those who have self-compassion. If you teach vets to have self-compassion, they’re much less likely to try to commit suicide. So, those are the types of really strong findings we get, really showing how strong it makes you. It makes you very strong.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s excellent. So, then with motivation, can you share one of those studies?

Kristin Neff
Yeah, I can. Okay. So, there’s a great study by a woman named, two of them, at UC Berkeley, my alma mater in California. And so, what they did is they had a group of undergraduates in their study, and they gave them a very hard vocabulary test that everyone failed. And so, they split these subjects, these undergraduates into three groups.

One group they told, they helped to be self-compassionate, “No, don’t beat yourself up about it. Everyone fails. It’s okay. We’re only human, right? So, just be kind to yourself.” Another group they didn’t say anything, they were just the neutral control. But the third group they said, “Hey, don’t worry about it. You must be smart. You got into Berkeley for goodness’ sakes,” so self-esteem boost condition.

And then the next step of the study was they gave the students a second test, and they said, “Okay. Well, here’s a second test. You can study as long as you want for this second vocabulary test.” And what they found was that the students who were told to be self-compassionate, they studied more, they studied longer, and they actually performed better on the test.

So, this kind of shows you, we talk so much about self-esteem, about self-confidence, it’s actually much more important just to be kind and supportive to yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
So, let’s zoom right into that example in terms of, okay, here I am, I took the test and it didn’t go awesomely. And I’ve got an opportunity to take another, and I am following self-compassion approaches. What would I say and/or do to myself?

Kristin Neff
Well, so first of all, what self-compassion does is it makes it okay to fail. And, more than that, it helps us recognize that we learn from failure, right? So, self-compassion allows us to have what they call learning goals as oppose to performance goals, “I want to do well so I can learn and grow,” as oppose to, “Because I need other people to like me.” Because when you have self-compassion, you don’t need other people to like you. Your sense of self-worth is a contingent another people approving of you, or you’re getting the grade you want, or the job performance evaluations you want, right?

And so, people might think, “Well, if I don’t care about my job performance evaluations, then why should I even keep trying?” The thing is you do still care about getting positive evaluations but your self-worth isn’t contingent on it. So, if you get a poor evaluation, or you fail a test, the idea is you can say to yourself, “Oh, first of all, hey, that hurt.” Kind of validating the fact that it hurts, “That hurt. But it’s okay. Everyone fails and everyone is imperfect. What can I learn from this situation? How can I grow from this?”

And then that orientation towards learning and growth because you want to do better, not because you have to be better to be a good enough person, but just because you want to do better because you care. That’s actually the engine that drives you to do better, and it’s more sustainable and it’s more effective.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent. Well, so now, I don’t want to make this all about the coronavirus, but it’s top of mind for a lot of folks.

Kristin Neff
Sure, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And I think that’s kind of part of the context of why we thought your stuff would be just right for us right now. So, it was funny, just today as I was prepping, I read this Onion headline which just cracks me up, the parody newspaper there. It says, “Man Not Sure Why He Thought Most Psychologically Taxing Situation Of His Life Would Be The Thing To Make Him Productive.”

Kristin Neff
Right, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And then toward the end, it says, “I thought I’ll have all this energy and space to focus on my creative side, but I guess living with ever-present, crushing uncertainty and the knowledge that people all around me are dying wasn’t the stimulus I needed after all.”

And so, we had another guest, Liz Fosslien who shared a lovely graphic on LinkedIn about productivity, like, “Hey, how productive am I normally? How productive am I during an unprecedented global pandemic?” the bar chart is way shorter, it could fit. And so, I think that this is a common experience, I’m feeling it and others are as well, that, “Huh, here I have, in some ways, fewer obligations upon me,” this varies wildly person to person, but some people like, you know when plans get cancelled, you’re like, “Oh, hey, I guess I’m freed up well and away.” A lot of things have been cancelled, yet even those of us who are healthy and not attending to someone in a tough spot, physically, medically…

Kristin Neff
Or parents watching their kids.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yeah, can find ourselves with a malaise, a reduction of energy, productivity, etc., and can be hard on themselves as a result, like, “Come on, man. Where’s the juice? Where’s all the stuff you were crushing before? It’s uncrushed.” Can you comment on how do we deal with this in a self-compassionate way and what results might flow from that?

Kristin Neff
Yeah. So, it’s really important, I’ve actually, again, several programs helping people use self-compassion to deal with the anxiety about the pandemic. So, self-compassion actually has three main components. The first is mindfulness. In other words, we have to be willing to check in with ourselves, “How am I feeling?” I think what’s happening for a lot of people is they’re making sure they have enough groceries, they’re kind of getting through each day, they’re making sure they’re wearing their masks.

They’re really focused on keeping themselves safe but they haven’t paused to say, “Hey, this is really hard. I’m really fearful. Maybe I’m grieving, or I feel really stressed, or I feel lonely,” whatever it is you’re feeling. We kind of don’t do that U-turn to say, “Wow, I’m having a really hard time right now.” And you actually need to be mindful first in order to give yourself compassion.

And then, maybe toward their friends, they’re being supportive, or maybe to your elderly parents you’re being supportive, but often we forget to be supportive with ourselves. If ever there was a time when we need emotional support, where we need kindness, it’s right now. So, again, and that may be in the form of warm language with ourselves, a warm tone of voice, kind of reminding ourselves that we have our own backs, we can depend on ourselves, that we’re here. And that’s especially important because most of us feel really isolated, right?

One of the real benefits of self-compassion, again, is it connects to other people, it connects to humanity. So, the difference between self-pity and self-compassion, self-pity is, “Woe is me,” self-compassion is, “Yeah, life is hard for everyone. Everyone is imperfect. Everyone struggles,” right? It’s a much more balanced state of mind.

And so, sometimes we’re feeling lonely because we’re all alone in our house perhaps, but then it’s very easy nowadays to remember, “Hey, it’s not just me. There’s actually about 2 billion other people, or maybe 3 billion at this point, who are also struggling with the same situation.” So, even though physically we may be alone, emotionally, as long as we remember this, “Not just me,” we can actually feel more connected.

And so, just going through these three little steps: be mindful of your pain, being kind to yourself because it’s hard, and just remembering that you aren’t alone, this is bigger than you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. That is great. And I love it when you sort of talk of the internal mental self-talk stuff. Are there any really just like go-to, I don’t know, mantras, scripts, phrases that you love or you found to be work with love in terms of like breaking the pattern of, “You’re so stupid. Why did you do that? Aargh!” to quickly kind of regain control and put it on a better path?

Kristin Neff
Yes. So, everyone uses different language, and really the easiest way to find the language that works for you is to think, “What if I had a really loved close friend who was going through the exact same situation I’m going through?” And, actually, in this case, you probably do. “How would I talk to them?” So, me, I tend to be a little more, I don’t know, mushy, I guess you would call it, so I call myself sweetheart and darling, and my tone of voice is almost like a mother. I also have an autistic child so I’m very used to using that warm motherly tone.

But, for many people, that tone would make them gag, right? Some people maybe, “Hey, buck up. It’s going to be okay.” But there’s a difference between “Buck up. It’s going to be okay,” which is like, “You should be better,” and, “Hey, buck up. It’s going to be okay.” You know what it means?

Pete Mockaitis
So, the tone of voice of the voice inside your head matters.

Kristin Neff
It matters a lot.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Kristin Neff
And not only tone of voice but touch. So, the first two years of life we don’t have language, right? We can’t really communicate with our parents, so the two main ways we communicate with parents, that they communicate care to us is touch and tone of voice. And so, what we know is that warm tone of voice and soothing or supportive touch actually activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which means it calms us down, it makes us feel supported, it makes us feel safe.

So, you can put your hands on your heart, or on your stomach, or on your face as long as you wash your hands, or hug, or something like that, some sort of physical gesture that makes you feel safe and supported. And even if it seems a little odd at first and, I’ll admit it, it does seem odd at first, your body doesn’t really know the difference, right? So, it’s not that your body doesn’t know the difference between self and others, but your body reacts the same way when you give yourself supportive touch as when you give it to others, right?

And then, again, if you use a warm tone, that’s another way that your body just kind of naturally says, “Oh, okay. Relax, it’s safe.” So, really, just say, “What would I say to a dear friend?” and try that out, and that’s probably your best bet for language.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, and it’s funny, there are some different kinds of touch. I don’t know, in some of these interviews, I often go to humor, like The Onion. Now I’m thinking about a Key & Peele sketch where there’s a football player is really into patting people’s butts, but that might be it for you if you have that…

Kristin Neff
Maybe.

Pete Mockaitis
…career, or I’ve got one of those little headscratcher thingies, you know, these wires.

Kristin Neff
All right, yeah. That could be.

Pete Mockaitis
I think those feel awesome in terms of like, “Hmm.”

Kristin Neff
Headscratchers, or kind of fist bump on the chest, or something like that. Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Okay. Well, so I want to make sure we also hit the notion of, you know, for the gunners, the achievers who are all about having high standards, high expectations, demanding excellence. How do these things square and work together?

Kristin Neff
Yeah, so the research shows that self-compassionate people, their standards are just as high as everyone else’s because high standards comes from wanting to reach your full potential, wanting to be happy, wanting to do your best. The huge difference is what happens when you don’t meet your standards? Because we’re human beings, sometimes we reach our standards, sometimes we don’t.

And so, if you’re very self-critical when you fall short of your standards, you might be like, “That’s not acceptable. You have to do better or else.” The threat is kind of like, “Or else I won’t love you, or else I’ll say mean things to you, or else I’ll hate you.” We say these to ourselves. And, again, that actually undermines our ability to do our best because it creates a sense of anxiety, right?

So, in other words, the drive to achieve doesn’t come from the self-criticism. The drive to achieve comes from the fact that we want to do our best. And so, when we stumble, which, by the way, I’m sure you’ve had a ton of people on the show saying, “Of course, we learn from our failures. That’s the best way we learn.” So, when we’re kind and supportive to ourselves, we remember that. And when we fail, we pick ourselves up and try again.

Now, having said this, sometimes the right response is to give up. Sometimes we’re barking up the wrong tree. Sometimes it’s good to change careers, for instance, if it’s just not really working out for you. That’s a matter of wisdom. You don’t want to be stupid with this, and say, “I’ve got to achieve every single goal I set out for myself.” We need wisdom to say, “Hey, that’s an achievable goal.” Or maybe another goal would be better for you. And so, with wisdom and kindness and encouragement it works.

So, I’ll give you an example. My son, he was actually homeschooled for most of his life, and I finally put him into public school, and his testing was kind of like treasure hunts. It wasn’t standard testing. So, the first test he had, World Geography test, he came home, he got an F. I mean, just like flat F. And so, I couldn’t try to motivate him with the way we often motivate ourselves, which is, “You stupid loser. You’ll never amount to anything.”

If you think about this, what would the effect of that be on him? It’s not like making him say, “Yes, I can do it.” Of course not. That’s going to make him feel shame and want to give up. And the same thing with ourselves. Often, really harsh language makes us feel shamed, and shame is not exactly a “get up and go” mind state.

So, what I did was, first of all, I gave him a hug, “Hey, it’s okay. Everyone fails. It’s just part of the learning process.” But did I leave it there? Of course not. I care about my son. I don’t want him to fail in his class. So, I called all his teachers, and I figured out what was going on. We realized there were some study methods that weren’t working for him so we changed his study methods. We also changed the way he took his tests and now he’s doing great.

And so, that’s what compassion gives you. It’s like bottom line, “It’s okay to fail. I still love myself. It’s unconditional. And, yet, because I care, I want to do my best so I’m going to use my wisdom to figure out how to do my best.” It’s not like, “I have to do my best or else.” It’s, “I really want you to do your best. How could I help?” And that supportive attitude is actually much more effective.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent. And so, I think I’m picking up what you’re putting down there, and I think the tone is really interesting in terms of to just really…even though the voice inside your head is not audible, it has a tone.

Kristin Neff
Like, the self-critic does, doesn’t it? Some people say, “Oh, it seems so strange to talk to myself,” but it doesn’t seem strange when you beat yourself up, does it? It’s just that we’re used to that voice so we don’t even notice it, what’s going on in our head all the time. So, we’re just learning to have a second voice.

And, by the way, the self-critic does not want to get rid of that. Often, our self-critical thoughts point out places where we’re going wrong. It’s just ways that we’re trying to actually help ourselves to do better. It’s just not effective. So, we can say to our inner critic, “Oh, thank you for trying to help me. Got it. I hear you. And, now, how am I going to go about achieving that goal in a way that’s actually a little more conducive to success?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Kristin, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention regarding self-compassion and related subjects for those wanting to be awesome at their jobs?

Kristin Neff
Right. So, just, for instance, one of the things we know is that self-compassion enhances creativity. So, if you want to be awesome at your job, it’s important that you’re creative. But if you beat yourself up all the time, what we know is that negative mind state actually gets in the way of being creative and thinking out of the box. But, again, when the bottom line is, “I’m safe. I care about myself. And if I were to fail, it’s okay,” that sense of safety gives you more freedom to think out of the box and think creatively. So, it’s really useful in all sorts of ways, on the job, off the job. Really, any time you might experience challenge.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Lovely. Well, now, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Kristin Neff
Okay. Well, there’s a quote from Helen Keller that I love, and she says, “When one door of happiness closes, another usually opens. But we usually spend so long staring at the closed door, we don’t even see the one that has been opened for us.”

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

Kristin Neff
And so, self-compassion, that’s when we’re optimistic because we don’t just stare at the closed door, we kind of feel safe and then we can look around and say, “Oh, well, what other opportunities are here for me?”

Pete Mockaitis
And I think that’s excellent in the coronavirus context because, it’s true, some doors are closed and it sucks.

Kristin Neff
Exactly. It does suck.

Pete Mockaitis
And, yet, some other doors have opened. And so, you got to make sure you’re being fully aware and honest and making some prudent calls about where you’re pointing that attention, so thank you.

Kristin Neff
That’s right. On the other hand, it’s important also to give yourself compassion for the fact that it does suck. We don’t have to be chipper and positive. We can just take some time and say, “This is just really, really hard. This sucks. Oh.” And then that will actually help us get through it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Kristin Neff
So, a favorite study, experiment, or a bit of research. So, here’s one, very simple in terms of the fact that you really can change your self-compassion level. So, one study had people write a self-compassionate letter to themselves, which is just basically using mindfulness and kindness, and reminding themselves of their humanity. A letter for seven days straight. And they found that just that simple act of writing yourself a compassionate letter decreased depression for three months and increased happiness for six months. So, it had really long-term effects, a very simple practice like this.

So, this is something you can fold into your everyday life. You don’t actually have to write a letter. Just remembering these three components, just remembering mindfulness, common humanity, and kindness can make a huge difference in your life.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Kristin Neff
A favorite book. Well, I’m going to pick a book called “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach. She’s one of my favorite teachers. She’s actually a Buddhist meditation teacher. It’s just a beautiful book talking about, yeah, what happens, the transformation that happens when we just radically accept ourselves.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Kristin Neff
SPSS.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, great.

Kristin Neff
Which is a statistical program.

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve used it before. Oh, man, memories. Select cases. All right.

Kristin Neff
That’s right, yeah. So, you can calculate your P values. And P value doesn’t mean your enemy is like probability values, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
I was always terrified if I clicked one setting a little bit off it would ruin everything.

Kristin Neff
Yeah, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite habit, something you do that helps you be awesome at your job?

Kristin Neff
Well, I do yoga. I do Ashtanga yoga. So, I do that three times a week. And I find when I do that, it just really helps my energy out in more productive way and keeps me flexible. And so, I think that helps me, even though I sit in my chair all day for my job, I think it helps that I get out of the chair at least three times a week to do some Ashtanga yoga.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, we had a previous guest say Ashtanga yoga was amazing for making bodily pain disappear. Has that been your experience?

Kristin Neff
Well, it’s funny. I mean, I’m 53 and my body is in pretty good shape, and I don’t have a lot of chronic pain so I don’t know if that’s just good genes or what. But it’s worked out for me. It also makes you strong which is nice.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

Kristin Neff
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get repeated back to you frequently?

Kristin Neff
Yeah. So, one of the nuggets I like to share, actually, along with my colleague Chris Germer, we developed something called The Mindful Self-Compassion Program. But the nugget is the goal of practice, whatever practice, meditation practice or just life practice, the goal of practice is simply to become a compassionate mess. If you make sure that’s your goal, that you don’t have to not be a mess, your goal is just to be a compassionate mess. Well, that’s an achievable goal, right? And so, if you start framing things that way, you realize, “Okay. Well, maybe my goal should be more about compassion than about getting everything perfect or right.”

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Kristin Neff
Well, just Google self-compassion. Like I say, I got in early so if you Google self-compassion, you can spell it any way you want to, you’ll find my website. And I have research on there, hundreds of articles. You can test your own self-compassion level with my scale I developed. You can practice exercises, there’s videos, so it’s really a one-stop shopping resource for self-compassion, and it’s all free.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Kristin Neff
Yes. So, really, I think it is around motivation. So, the next time you have a big work task, a big work challenge, just really pause and say, “How can I encourage and support myself to get this done?” especially if your habitual way of encouraging yourself is using the whip approach. See if you can change from the whip to support. Try it out and just see what happens.

Pete Mockaitis
That is lovely. And could you give us just a couple examples? Like, how can I support and challenge myself? Part of me, what I’m thinking, is I will decide a celebration after this is done, or I will break this task into a dozen tiny tasks so they feel more manageable, and I’m just like, “Okay, I can pull up that email. I can identify the three deliverables, and so forth.” So, anyway, those are my examples. What else do you see works?

Kristin Neff
Yeah. So, a lot of strategies are kind of more concrete strategies which are really great and really important in terms of actually how to do your work more effectively. But don’t underestimate your emotional state of mind and how that affects your ability to do your best, right? So, if you’re really tense, and you’re kind of like, “Oh, I’ve got to get this right.” That tension, that anxiety is actually going to undermine your ability to do your best.

But if your attitude is, “Hey, I got your back. I know you can do it. But, you know, if you make a mistake, that’s okay. That’s how you’re going to learn.” And that’s really the kind of self-compassionate mind state, “How can I learn from my mistakes?” And then if you try that, it actually will help you be less anxious, and you’ll actually be less likely to make mistakes. But if you do, you’ll be more likely to pick yourself up and try again. So, it’s really more how you relate to what you’re doing as opposed to what you’re doing.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Kristin, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck in all your adventures and much kindness to yourself.

Kristin Neff
Ah, thank you, Pete. Be well and be safe.