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Jo Taylor: Using psychology in everyday change-making

Jo Taylor: Using psychology in everyday change-making

Leading change without burning out

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If you are trying to change the world in a hurry, allocating time to focus on your wellbeing can speed up what you are doing. Jo Taylor looks at the psychology in this area, and outlines techniques you can use during your working day to help you work smart.

Starting a movement and changing the world can be stressful, so looking after yourself is important.

Dedicating time for genuinely focusing on wellbeing can help you perform better at work. With that in mind, I have created this introduction to psychological techniques to help you in your working day.

Mindfulness

A common definition of mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”. Generally, mindfulness revolves around increasing awareness and insight into emotions and behaviours. But, practising mindfulness has been linked to an increase in the ability to focus and the reduction of stress. The beauty of mindfulness for change makers, is you can use it wherever, and whenever, you want.

Something to mention before we get stuck in, is that there are many ways to learn mindfulness practice – from using an app, doing yoga or paying for a course.

However, in this article I’m focusing on what you can do quickly and easily, so here are two techniques you can do alone.

Technique 1: Body Scan

Description

Checking to see how your body is doing, then relaxing it, bit by bit.

Time needed

Most practitioners will spend between ten to 20 minutes doing this. But, I have found it effective when done over five minutes. I am not saying you should squeeze it into five minutes, just that it is possible.

Preparation

A quiet space, away from your work is preferable. Sometimes turning your chair away from your desk can be enough.

Sample sequence

  1. Get comfortable, close your eyes.
  2. Feel the position of your body, check how your posture and muscles feel.
  3. Start at the bottom of your feet, and work up the legs, torso, back, neck and head.
  4. Move through each body section slowly, sense the level of tension and sensation as they are when you focus on them.
  5. When you reach your head release any tension in your face, mouth and scalp. 
  6. Feel the breath move through your body, as it enters your body and leaves it.
  7. When you feel ready, return to your day.

Colourful illustration of scanned female body

Technique 2: Focusing on your breath

Description

Breath is a central part of yoga and martial arts but how you breathe can also affect your emotions and ability to pay attention. 

Time needed

Between 30 seconds and five minutes, but some people do this for hours!

Preparation

Closing your eyes can help, but you can also focus on an object in the room.

Sample sequence

My favourite technique was one my mum taught me when I was nine.

Count your breaths up to ten. In and out counts as one breath. When you notice a thought enter your mind, acknowledge it, and then return to counting your breath. When you get to ten, start again. Repeat.

Positive psychology

Positive psychology,  a term coined by Martin Seligman, focuses on increasing happiness and reducing bad feeling. It is orientated towards improving the quality of a person’s life.

Its principles can be very useful to an entrepreneur in terms of:

  • improving productivity through the removal of stress and negative feeling
  • and through recognising successes and tracking progress.

Technique 3: Gratitude journal

Seriously, all you need is a note book and to write down things you are grateful for. You could do this in two to five minutes a day.

On a personal level I have found a gratitude journal has helped me keep perspective on my life. Sometimes I feel like things are not going that well and after a few minutes I realise lots of good things are happening.

Positive words and actions over the shape of a brain

Technique 4: Done list

So much happens in one day as a change maker. Sometimes, despite working 12 hours straight, you can look at your to-do list and it is unchanged. However, what your to-do list might not be reflecting is all of the essential, positive and needed activities you have completed. So, try writing them down at the end of a day.

Solution focused approaches

As the name suggests, instead of focusing on the problem, solution focused approaches (SFAs) get people to consider how they can change their life. One technique which is used a lot is rating scales. This can be quite an art, but I have distilled some useful questions for you in the technique below.

Technique 5: Rating scales

  1. Brainstorm some areas which you are not happy with in your work or business.
  2. Choose the most important issue.
  3. Draw a line. One end is 0 (worst) the other is 10 (perfect).
  4. Rank where the issue is now.
  5. How do you know the issue is that number? What is preventing it being worse?
  6. What will you have to do to improve the issue, and make it move up the scale?
  7. How will you know when it has reached a higher point on the scale? What has changed?
  8. Are there any barriers to you completing the things you need to do? If not, get started!

As I said above, this is very much an introduction to mindfulness. If you want to know more, or have any questions, find me on Twitter at @jgetaylor.