"There are no second acts in American lives." ( F. Scott Fitzgerald )
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The Second Act - take the 7 steps

By Tessa Ivascu | Section(s): GET... , , , , , , , | Add Your comment

Each of the 7 main sections you see in the above navigation menu will take you to the next. They are like stairs going up from ground (failure) to top level : where you will make space to grow and stage your own Second Act, instead of following the script someone else chose for you.

Here’s some good news. Maximum despair is a prerequisite to personal development. This is what psychiatrist Carl Jung believed. This is what I experienced. The Second Act is your chance to leave your footprint. The opportunity to take center stage.

Use your failure as a spotlight : it will point out what is wrong with your life. It will make you realize that you have been so busy climbing uphill during your First Act - building a career, raising a family, dealing with immediate concerns - that you have lost yourself, dumped your dreams and flattened your creativity in the process.

Failure has many faces and there are many ways to deal with it. You need to make your own way through "this sea of troubles". I invite you to explore the 7 main sections of The Second Act. I hope my articles will help you improve your navigational skills : not only to survive the storm but to sail in pursuit of your dreams.

THE SEVEN  STEPS
STEP #1 GET STARTED !

Your first step is simple : accept the fact that your life must change. And take control of the change : it is all about deciding… to decide. Deal with fear and rage, get rid of excuses and of your inner critic. And start decluttering :

  • your mind,
  • your life,
  • your space.
Remember : where there is space, growth occurs.

Understand your values, clarify your beliefs, find out what is really important to you and ask yourself : what can I do TODAY to change my mindset so that TOMORROW I can change my life ? Whatever it is, make it your first goal. DO IT. Build momentum brick by brick.

KEY WORDS : self-motivation.

STEP #2 GET COMFORT !

Getting started calls for huge efforts. You need fuel. Maybe you have no one to comfort you, encourage you to get up, congratulate you for trying to write your own Second Act. You have to learn how to comfort yourself. Practice mindfulness, relaxation, productive daydreaming… And start enjoying your company :

  • forgive yourself,
  • get aware of your needs
  • focus actively on your well-being.
Remember : above all, allow yourself to dream.

Not about a « perfect » life : about an authentic life. Use the power of your imagination to see the bigger picture, connect with those high qualities you have (you do have them) which make you unique – and lovable. What your authentic life would be like ? Visualize it. Visualize the road leading to it. It may be shorter than you think…

KEY WORDS : mental well-being.

STEP #3 GET SHINE

Learning how to comfort yourself helps you restore your integrity and rebuild your self-esteem from within. Improving your appearance will further boost your self image.

It is not easy to « shine » when you feel hopeless and helpless. But keeping clean and tidy plays a vital part in the conquest of the two things you lack most when you face a major life change :
  • self-confidence,
  • mental well-being.
Remember : Personal grooming will make your mind feel in control.

It will provide the inner peace you need to start being productive again.

KEY WORDS : physical well-being.

STEP #4 GET IN TOUCH

Now that you are ready to shine again, it’s time to get in touch with people. When you experience a major setback you are torn between two impulses : a) you want to stay alone and not talk to anyone ; b) you want to talk with anyone but you feel that no one wants to talk to you.

Well, you are not totally wrong. Some people, even some of your “good” friends, hate bad news; others fear to be contaminated by “failure”; others will pity you while obviously feeling glad they are not in your shoes, etc... You better stay away from them. But, as you will soon discover, other people will prove to be trustworthy and ready to advise you without second thoughts.

Remember : tough times are a good test, revealing who your true friends really are.

So : a) don’t stay alone, but : b) don’t talk to just anyone :
  • don’t beg for friendship,
  • learn to say « no »,
  • stay away from toxic people,
  • open up to new people.
Discuss your choices and share your goals ONLY with non-complainers and true supporters, who can show you how to bring out your best, who are as « goal minded » and as serious about self growth as you are.

KEY WORD : network.

STEP #5 GET FOCUS

Following the first 4 steps will make you feel resourceful again. By accomplishing some simple, short-terms goals, you have converted fear and inertia into assertiveness. Now it is time to get clear about what you really want, find a direction for your life change, set a long-term goal and focus on it. Focus will help you :
  • put your Second Act together,
  • channel your energy,
  • fight bad habits,
  • finish what you start.
Remember : learning to focus enables you to choose your priorities.

You will make the difference between important and urgent, between movement and real action, between your values+skills and the values+skills others (society, family, friends) decided you should have to be successful.

KEY-WORD : direction

STEP #6 GET CREATIVE

Creativity is not a gift possessed only by artists. According to cognitive psychologist Robert J. Sternberg, it is « the process of producing something that is both original and worthwhile ».

Maybe you don’t realize it yet, but you already are more productive, therefore more creative than you think. Now that you decided to fulfill your dream and make your Second Act an act of success, you need to break this major goal into smaller, actionable, segments and take action.

Remember : you don’t have to go by the book. Be inventive :

  • create a daily routine,
  • find your own system of getting things done,
  • look for a variety of scenarios when approaching situations,
  • adapt the methods taught by productivity experts to your needs.
Improve your creative thinking – and therefore your productivity – by identifying your abilities and the processes you use most often to express them. Challenge yourself to further develop these skills. Write down your goals, your steps, learn to manage your time, to set deadlines and to predict+eliminate distractions.

KEY WORD : productivity.

STEP #7 GET ON TRACK

You are now facing the biggest challenge : getting on track and staying there. Of course, you don’t need to become obsessed with accomplishing your goal. But you need to remain aware of it every single day :
  • visualize your goal (on your desk, your calendar, etc.),
  • visualize yourself succeeding,
  • list people you could choose to be accountable,
  • list the good things that will happen when you reach your goal,
  • review your goal at least once a week.

Remember : the journey to your goal is not a straight line.

You will fall off track quite often. But you will also learn to change your frustration into a powerful force that gets you back on track. So every time you will mess up, acknowledge your mistake and use your creativity to find ways to avoid it in the future. Don't let doubts and mistakes lead to disregard for your goal. Use them to reassess your goal and inspire yourself.

KEY WORD : purpose.

Start climbing the stairs to top level ! And if you need somebody by your side to encourage, motivate and hopefully advise you : I am here.

Go Behind the Scenes.

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Visualize your success by dressing the part - Introduction

By Tessa Ivascu | Section(s): GET... , | Add Your comment

Self-growth coaches advise you to "dress for success" in order to make it happen. Usually, this means dressing up to the standards of the dream job or activity supposed to buy you an one-way ticket to Success-City. But dressing for the trip to Success is not the same thing as dressing like a resident of Success : one who has nothing to prove ; who doesn’t need to wear a successful uniform to be labeled as successful ; who doesn’t bother to have the most suitable, fashionable, show-off wardrobe around.

Why ?

Because instead, the resident of Success-City has "it" : ELEGANCE.

I worked for years as contributor, project manager or editor in chief of women’s magazines filled with content on fashion. One thing I know is that "it" is something you don’t achieve by visualizing yourself as the standard achiever. But by visualizing yourself (your unique self) AT YOUR BEST. And isn’t becoming your best self the true measure of success ?

The "fake it till you make it" mantra can be very efficient when your life is stuck. You are in a career slump ; or you have to deal with a difficult family situation ; you feel disheartened, exhausted, anxious… But you don’t give up : you want to make your Second Act an act of success. Dressing the part is a powerful tool when you want to achieve a goal leading to a major life change.

But dressing what part ? I stumbled upon numerous self-growth articles saying : if you want to make it in the corporate world, dress like executives do ; if you want your boss’s job, dress like your boss ; If you are trying to be a dancer in a theatre company... dress the part. I even read that if your dream job entails wearing protective clothes, you should start wearing them now !
NAPOLEON BONAPARTE BY INGRES

By wearing the typical uniform of your dream job you will attract that job, they say...
Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

Right ! You are told by these experts of the "law of attraction" theory that your brain (or part of it) doesn’t know the difference between reality and fiction, between manifestation and intention. So by putting on the typical uniform of your dream job you will attract that job. Ok. Now imagine yourself morning after morning, wearing your tutu or your splash suit, ready for a Swan Lake rehearsal or for an intense workday in your cell biology laboratory. I bet your brain (or the other part of it) will reply : "Who do you think you’re fooling" ?

No, don’t try to fool your brain with this kind of masquerade. While it is important to visualize yourself in your dream job, you don’t need to dress the part when you spend your days working (or looking for work) at home. Of course, the concept "thoughts become things" is not totally absurd ; desire and autosuggestion do have an energetic pull. But not an infallible pull.

When it comes to successful clothing, the only infallible approach is elegance. This is what you need to learn, much more than the ability to choose the wardrobe, color combinations and accessories commonly perceived as status symbols. Elegance is NOT about wearing expensive "costumes". It is about finding your charisma (that personality trait which sets you apart and draws people’s attention and admiration), then expressing it through timeless harmony among clothes, accessories, hair-style.

Think of all the famous people labelled as "charismatic". What do they have in common ? An unique "silhouette". What is an unique "silhouette" ? It is the expression of an unique personality.

Subscribe to The Second Act by Email and stay updated on the release date of my FREE REPORT. Be the first to download it and learn more about the keys to visualizing your success by dressing the part… with elegance.

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5 guidelines for a successful goal buddy system

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Now that you’ve chosen a compatible goal buddy, you will want to get together on a regular basis to review each other’s progress. But, before deciding on the procedure to follow during your meetings, you need to ensure that your partnership will be mutually beneficial. Here are 5 guidelines for creating a successful goal-buddy system.

1.
Use the accountability system only
if you need support to achieve a goal. If you ask your buddy to keep you accountable for a goal you can very well achieve alone, you are wasting his time (and yours).

2.
Trade written material
(specific goal descriptions, business plans, recaps, task schedules, etc.) related to your goals and action steps. And give your buddy every piece of information he or she needs to know in terms of accountability : the reasons why you wanted to achieve this specific goal in the first place, the deadlines, a list of potential problems…

3.
Set up your partnership for a limited time
. For instance, I started to work with a goal buddy on September 15, 2009. We have similar goals : writing a book of about 80-120 pages. We also have the same deadline : the end of December, 2009.

Now, three months are quite a long time for an accountability partnership. But my goal buddy and I know each other well, we have already worked together and have discussed projects or career moves in the past. If you have never worked with a goal buddy (or with this particular buddy) before, my advice is to set a shorter time-limit in order to avoid a drop in motivation on both sides.
GOAL BUDDY SYSTEM
4.
Set numeric goals
for every meeting. It is the only way both you and your partner will know you are making progress. For example, last week I told my goal buddy : « I will finish chapter 3 before our next meeting ».

A numeric goal can consist of :

  • Repeating the same action daily for a number of days. For example, writing 1000 words daily for 5 days. Or decluttering your home for 30 minutes daily for 7 days.
  • Repeating an action a certain number of times. For example, getting in touch with 4 people who could provide good advice or connections for your job search before the next meeting with your goal buddy.
  • Doing several actions within a time limit. For instance, 3 actions during the next 10 days : 1. decluttering your wardrobe ; 2. writing the introduction to your new e-book ; 3. making a list of people you should get in touch with to revive your professional network.

5.
Work out a schedule
consistent with your needs and lifestyle. As I explained in 3 golden rules when choosing your goal buddy, you don’t have to meet in person with your accountability partner. You can very well check each other’s progress by phone.

The frequency of the calls depends on the type of goals you have set (which is a good reason why you should choose a partner with similar goals), your respective responsibilities and time zones.

When you select the days and times for your calls, keep in mind that you should talk with your goal buddy often enough, but not too often. Your partnership is supposed to boost your motivation and help you focus, not to become a burden.

You should also agree on :

  • taking turns with your partner : each of you should make half of the calls ;
  • a time limit for the calls ;
  • a procedure if you need extra-support between meetings (e-mails, online chats…) ;
  • a specific checklist (the questions you will always ask each other during the meetings).
Finally, decide if you will include some sort of « penalty » for missing a meeting. I never do it but I know some goal buddies agree on small « punishments », like buying coffee or a beer next time you will meet in person.

While you should take your partnership seriously, don’t forget that the aim of a goal buddy system is to make goal achievement a lighthearted experience.


Go to Part III :
Discover the ready-to-use "Goal Progress Review" with your goal buddy.

Return to Part I :

The 3 golden rules when choosing your goal buddy.


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choosing a reliable goal buddy.

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3 golden rules when choosing your goal buddy

By Tessa Ivascu | Section(s): GET... , | Add Your comment

Congratulations ! You are back on track and confident in the happy ending of your Second Act. Unproductive exhaustion, lack of inspiration, fear of commitment… they’re all yesterday’s papers. You have set new, inspiring goals for yourself and formed a plan of action for achieving them.
You know that sticking to your plan is the key to success. You also know how difficult it is to fight doubt, excuses and procrastination : since you set your goal in private, nobody is going to blame, dismiss, encourage, congratulate you if you fail or succeed. To increase the chances of following through with your action steps, you need an accountability partner – a goal buddy.


First, a brief definition :

A goal buddy is a person who helps you stay committed to your goal by keeping you accountable. He will check your progress, provide positive reinforcement, play devil’s advocate or reprimand you when necessary.

A goal buddy doesn’t have to be a close friend or a member of your family. He can be a colleague or former co-worker, or somebody you only meet online. The important thing is to find a person who not only agrees to be your goal buddy, but who has set his own goal and wants you to be his goal buddy.

Both you and your buddy need to take your partnership seriously and get together on a regular basis to check each other’s progress, set deadlines, review accomplishments – and celebrate them.

Easier said than done. When you go public with your goal and ask your friends to hold you accountable, most of them will say «Great, I will !» and never give it another thought… unless you remind them of their promise. Now, this is NOT what a goal buddy is supposed to do.

When you start looking for an accountability partner, the fist step is to make a short list of people who may fit the definition. The following «do-not» rules will help you brainstorm your list and filter potential goal buddies BEFORE sharing your intentions.

GOAL BUDDY
1. DO NOT discuss your goals with just anyone.

Going public with your goal can be a disappointing experience (trust me, I know what I’m talking about), and you don’t need that right now, when your self confidence is still unsteady.

All your close friends and relatives most certainly love you and wish you the best. But some of them don’t strive to reach higher. Some live in the past (« I could have done this or that…»). Some live only in the future (« As soon as this or that happens, I will… »). Some others have problems finishing tasks and sticking to plans… Because of their own shortcomings, their subconscious mind cannot accept to visualize you as a successful person. Even if they don’t mean any harm, these people will try to drag you down and sabotage your efforts.

The keeper. Share your goals ONLY with people who have good results when faced with important choices, who can show you how to bring out your best, who are as «goal minded» and as serious about self growth as you are.

2. DO NOT announce your goal and action plan as accomplishments.

Going public with your goals gives you a «premature sense of completeness». Research has found that whenever an intention is acknowledged by others, your brain sees it already as a «social reality», even if the goal is far from achieved. Therefore, you are less motivated to follow through your action plan.

The keeper. Always announce your goals as challenges. Keep in mind that goal setting is not the solution to a problem, only the hypothesis. You still need to carry out the experiment before drawing the conclusion.

3. DO NOT consider that your goal buddy’s only raison d’être is to hold you accountable.

You must play the same role in his or her plan of action. Remember : you are partners, you swap services, you share your goals. This means you also share moments of frustration, steam loss, self sabotage. So make sure both of you are equal to the task.

The keeper. Don’t forget to be your goal buddy’s goal buddy. Having an accountability partner is like getting two birds with one stone. The first and obvious benefit of this partnership is the extra strength it will give you to accomplish your goal.

But there is also a second, greater benefit : working with a goal-buddy will boost your self-esteem, by proving yourself a reliable team-player, able to provide support to someone else during bad times and to celebrate with him during good times.

Having a goal buddy not only helps you become successful, it makes you feel you deserve to be successful.

Go to Part II :
discover the guidelines to a successful goal buddy system.

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choosing a reliable goal buddy.

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Clear up your wardrobe and your life - Part II : Identify the intruders

By Tessa Ivascu | Section(s): GET... , | Add Your comment

Want to downsize your wardrobe and upsize your life ? As already mentioned in Part I, a closet full of « stuff » can be a fair reflection of inner turmoil. If you decided to take action, start by identifying the root causes of your wardrobe clutter and / or your emotional clutter. In both cases, your primary goal is to determine what is important to you. Give yourself access to it. Make space. Remember : where there is space, growth occurs.

Once you made space, you will be able to develop a knowledge of how to play up your assets and play down your flaws. Only then you can start building a strategy for a complete make-over.

Here’s a simple checklist you can apply to sort out « the wheat from the chaff » and get rid of the intruders in your closet and in your life.

Intruder #1.

in your closet
The fashion mistake. You considered it a « must have » because of the brand or because it looked « fantastic » on somebody else. Even if it’s not «really you», you force yourself to wear it anyway. Whenever you blame yourself for not daring to throw it away, you find the perfect excuse : it was sooo expensive ! Or : it was suuuch a bargain !

in your life
The false identity. The relationship, activity or lifestyle that forces you to play a part that is not consistent with your values and abilities, but is seen as a status symbol by somebody else or by a group you wanted to belong to.
The actions that earned you to be labelled as …(fill the blank) cost you so many efforts that you don’t dare to change the wrong label for the genuine «you». But when you are stuck and need to empower yourself to break free of your rut, this false identity is just dead load.

Intruder #2.

in your closet
The go-to. It is the opposite of the « fashion mistake ». This item is « so you » that you find yourself buying over and over again, only to discover you have already a pile in your closet (makes me think of four pairs of trousers, all brown with thin beige stripes, I presently have in my closet).

in your life
Automatic responses. They work as long as life is «fixed» (routines, relationships), so you don’t even notice how much they keep you from growing. But when facing an important change, hanging on to automatic response patterns definitely alters your ability to take up the challenge.

Sort out the wheat from the chaff.

Intruder #3.

in your closet
The shabby old favorite. This item may be comfortable and practical, but makes you look a hundred years old.

in your life
Fear of change.
It’s your «comfort zone» : a risk-free relationship, daily routine, way of thinking or life-style that protects you from the «unknown», but deprives you of the energy, boldness and shine you need the day you have to deal with the «unknown».

Intruder #4.

in your closet
The misfit.
The questionable item that someone else bought for you or advised you to buy. You wear it half-heartedly, to please the buyer or the fashion advisor. After all, these people meant well. The road to hell is paved with good intentions too.

in your life
The right path.
It may be the goal or the «right» way of living that someone else (family, society, a mentor, etc…) chose for you and you put up with it, not noticing that it weighs down your intrinsic motivation when you try to move forward in your life.
Or maybe you underestimate your potential and consciously dull your shine for other people, devoting yourself to fulfilling their goal. Of course, you can adopt somebody else’s goal and make it your own. How do you know it is really your own ? If you answer «yes» to the question : «Is it under my control ?»

Intruder #5.

in your closet
The outdated «must have». Clothes that made you look your best…in a previous episode. Today, they no longer suit your body shape, your complexion, your life style. They are too small / big / gaudy faded / plain / sophisticated to ever see the light of day.

in your life
Living in the past.
Ideals, resolutions, lists of «things to do before I am 40/50/80», values, expectations that you have grown out of. You put them in the back of your mind but somehow, they always come in your way when you need to make an important choice or to focus on your present life and future plans.

If you want to use this « intruder typology » to identify causes of emotional clutter, a good idea is to make a separate list for each type of intruder. For instance, you can name the first one «the false identity», then list areas of your life (jobs, relationships, habits, ideas, items…) where your personality is wrongly labelled. Make another list with examples of your «automatic responses», and so on.

Don’t mistake a familiar item (one which makes you feel you belong and which brings temporary comfort) with an important item (one which you love and which permanently strengthens your self-image).

But :

Don’t be too drastic either : when you clear up you wardrobe, keep in mind that clothing is supposed to be a means of expression, not an uniform. Your self-image needs to be expressed and conveyed to the next generation in more than one way. This applies to all areas of your life. Make space to grow not to grow weak.

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Clear up your wardrobe and learn how to clear up your life - Part I

By Tessa Ivascu | Section(s): GET... | Add Your comment

Wouldn’t it be great if you could clear up your life as fast as you purge your wardrobe when you put your mind to it ? Of course, personal change is no quick-fix and you cannot throw away bad habits, out of date « New Year resolutions » and toxic people in a few easy steps. But the choices you make prior to uncluttering your dresser can be an inspiration for the checklist questions you need to ask yourself if you want to update your mindset – and refashion your life.
WALL OF CLOTHES ©Derick Melander

An "S" shaped wall of stacked second-hand clothing, by American artist Derick Melander. The 2,908 individual garments weigh a total of 1,859 pounds.
©Derick Melander, 2009

You don’t have to become a feng shui expert (or addict) to find out that clutter can adversely affect your mental well-being, your energy, the overall quality of your life. In the same manner, your emotional clutter adversely affects your physical space. A cluttery house is a fair reflection of your inner turmoil. If your life is at a standstill, if you feel paralyzed by inertia and overwhelmed with problems you have left unaddressed, odds are your drawers and shelves groan under the weight of "stuff".

There is no better mirror for both emotional and physical clutter than your wardrobe. Maybe you know the French saying : « Dis-moi comment tu t’habilles, je te dirai qui tu es » (Tell me how you're dressed, I'll tell you who you are). You can easily change it into : "Tell me how you sort out your clothes, I’ll tell you how you sort out your life".

How many times have you looked in your wardrobe crammed full of clothes and sighed : "I have nothing to wear" (yes, men find themselves in this predicament too, only they keep it to themselves) ? How many times you looked at your life only to think : "I have nowhere to go ?"

Downsize your wardrobe = upsize your life

Both your wardrobe and the overall quality of your life obey to Pareto’s "80/20 rule" : we wear about 20 per cent of our wardrobe about 80 per cent of the time ; similarly, about 20 per cent of our activities provide about 80 per cent of benefits, rewards and satisfactions. Now this is more of an assumption than a rule, so forget the statistics. The idea is that most of our outputs come from a small amount of our inputs.

Back to the wardrobe situation, does this mean we simply need to identify the clothes we wear most of the time and throw the rest ? Not so fast. The tricky thing with clothes is that the outfits we wear most often are not necessarily those which suit us best and make us shine. Only we don’t notice it anymore… The same happens with our life. For instance, some activities or decisions provide a short-term or apparent benefit but have hidden costs and make us unhappy in the long run. Only, for some reason, we fail to notice the cause-effect relationship.

This is why, when you decide to refashion your wardrobe, you need to proceed wisely. Don’t rush. Before throwing 80 per cent of your outfits in bin bags, run each item through this five-point checklist to determine if it is a must-have… or a must-go. And why. By identifying the root causes of your present predicament you will learn how to avoid it in the future. This same checklist will help you to identify the unseen causes of your emotional clutter.

In both cases, don’t expect immediate results : uncluttering is just the first step towards downsizing your wardrobe and upsizing your life.

Go to Part II : Clear up your wardrobe and your life : identify the intruders.

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6 steps to productive daydreaming – Part III - Progressive relaxation

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As mentioned in Part I and Part II of this Productive Daydreaming Series, progressive relaxation is a simple technique of stress management you can perform without the help of a trainer. When included in a planned daydreaming session, it helps you to rid your body of tension and it prepares your mind to travel to the imaginary setting of your daydream.

Tense and relax : a two-step cycle
This universally known relaxation method* consists in deliberately a) tensing then b) relaxing muscle groups (see pull quote) in a prescribed sequence. Choose the sequence that best suits you (see examples below) and proceed as follow :

Muscle Groups :
Group I:
Hands and forearms
Group II:
Forehead and face, neck and throat
Group III:
Chest, shoulders, back and stomach
Group IV:
Thighs, hips, calves and feet

1. Lean back in a comfortable chair, as described in Part II, Step 1. Take off your shoes, loosen your clothes and place your hands on your lap.

2. Inhale and tense up the muscles.

3. Hold it for about 8 seconds.

4. Let go as you simultaneously exhale

5. Focus on the difference between tension and relaxation.


PROGRESSIVE RELAXATION
Two popular sequences
In one of the most popular sequences you tense-relax muscle in this order :

  • Start with your hands
  • Move up to your arms, shoulders, neck, head
  • Move down your torso and legs
  • Finish with your feet.
If you are familiar with progressive relaxation sequences, please share your favorite one in the Comments. My favorite sequence goes like this :

  • Start with your feet
    (tense then release your : right foot > right lower leg and foot > entire right leg > left foot > left lower leg and foot > entire left leg)
  • Move to your hands
    (tense then release your : right hand > right forearm and hand > entire right arm > left hand > left forearm and hand > entire left arm)
  • Move to your abdomen
  • Move up to your chest, shoulders and neck
    (neck : tense the right side by looking to the left > release while looking forward > tense the left side by looking to the right > release > bring your chin towards your chest > bring your neck up).
  • Finish with your face
    (clench your jaws + tighten your lips + furrow your eye brows > release).
In the beginning, you will probably not be able to tense just one muscle while allowing all the other muscles of your body to relax. But with practice, you will learn to discern the fine muscles. This is why it is very important to focus on the difference between tension and relaxation.
As I mentioned before, you don’t need a personal trainer in order to practice progressive relaxation. But you should start by consulting with your physician if you have a history of back problems or muscle spasms.

Keep in mind that progressive relaxation not only prepares the ground for purposeful daydreaming. You can practice it on a daily basis or whenever you need to reduce stress, anxiety, blood pressure. If you suffer from insomnia, you should include it in your sleep hygiene.

* Developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson in the 1920s.

Conclusion
I deeply enjoyed writing this 3-part series about productive daydreaming. I hope you enjoyed reading it and that this method will help you to improve your productivity and reach your goals. I remember that at the end of one daydream I heard myself saying (in English) : "I hate working, I love doing". I have known it all along but it was the first time I really expressed it so flatly and unequivocally.

It really encouraged me to complete my goal : writing for people who are in the "second act" of their life, who decided to grow out of failure, express their dream and, finally, succeed in living their dream.

Yo can go back to :
Part I - Productive Daydreaming : Introduction.
Part II – Productive Daydreaming : Take the 6 Steps.

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6 steps to productive daydreaming – Part II Take the 6 steps

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You can turn daydreaming into a good habit and purposefully use it to boost creativity, grasp the « bigger picture » and therefore reinforce your productivity. As I mentioned in the Introduction to this 3-part series, you don’t have to look for sophisticated and expensive « secret recipes » in order to practice productive daydreaming. Just use your imagination, follow the 6 steps below for a start and, in time, you will be able to build your own patterns.

1. Lean back in a comfortable chair in a dim-lighted room. You can listen to soft music but I personally prefer « natural sounds ». I guess it’s because I live on the 8th floor in a building surrounded by a garden, with birds singing in the trees and children playing on the ground. But if you are surrounded by unwanted noises, you should definitely use music to eliminate their effect on your mind.
You also need to have a pen and a pad, or a recorder, nearby, in order to get into the habit of writing down your daydreams (I will explain how in Step 6). But if you think you cannot relax or daydream easily, don’t bother to write down anything the first time.

2. Start a breathing exercise or, better, a progressive relaxation exercise, like the one explained in Part III of the Productive Daydreaming Series. This step will help you relax and, afterwards, enter a semi-trance state. Focus on your exercise and enjoy its effect on your body.

3. Once you start feeling relaxed, imagine yourself in a peaceful setting that can serve as metaphor for real-life situations. I often imagine myself in a setting similar to the one in the picture below :
PRODUCTIVE DAYDREAMING PART II
4. Once you are « there », imagine feeling pleasant sensations and focus on making them real. For instance, when I find myself in the setting above, I focus on the sensation of my bare feet in contact with the jetee, while enjoying the feeling of the breeze on my skin and the sound of the waves in my ears.

5. Now that you are perfectly relaxed, it is time to bring in the « what if » scenarios daydreams are made of. Imagine an activity or an experience in the setting of your choice and let your mind wander. Make your « what if » question as open as possible. For example :
What if :

  • … I built a house here ?
  • … I met somebody* here ?
  • … somebody* asked me who I am?
  • … somebody* told me what to do ?
  • … I threw a party in this place ?
  • … I saved somebody's life ?
  • … I wrote my Nobel prize speech ?
  • … I made a leap in time : this will be my life a year from now ?
(*) Somebody = friend, family, famous person, complete stranger...

6. The first 5 steps were easy, now comes the difficult part : when you step back from your daydream, you must write down or record it before it pops out of your mind. As I said before, don’t try to do this the first time you daydream on purpose. And when you do, don’t try to write or dictate more than you really need to remember. Sometimes, a single word is enough. The important thing is to understand your notes when you read them later.
Another way to do this is to answer the questions of a simple questionnaire after every daydream. These 4 open questions are all you need to grasp the meaning of your daydream :
  • What happened?
  • What were my feelings?
  • What were my thoughts?
  • What were my actions?
You will need to write down several daydreams before detecting those leading to an useful idea or to a new and creative connection. Also remember not to expect too much from it. Don’t turn a good habit into a bad one. Chronic daydreaming is definitely counterproductive.

You can go to :
Part I – Productive Daydreaming : Introduction.
Part III – Productive Daydreaming : Discover Progressive Relaxation.

Share with us :
- If you have a similar – or completely different – method of progressive daydreaming, share it in the Comments.

- If you find a picture similar to one of the settings of your daydreams, mail it to The Second Act (see Contact at the top of this page). I would love to publish a collective post showing your favorite locations for productive daydreaming.

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6 steps to productive daydreaming – Part I Introduction

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GET CREATIVEYou are faced with a challenging problem, or you try to get back your productivity habit after a loss of motivation and energy. But your repeated efforts to solve the problem or to complete the task at hand have no effect. When you are stuck, productive daydreaming helps you to get things moving again – and to get them done - by allowing your brain to make new associations and connections. This 3-part series explains how to plan and practice productive daydreaming in 6 easy steps.

PRODUCTIVE DAYDREAMING PART 1
Introduction (Part I)
You're in the middle of your "second act" : you overcame a major setback in your life and, after a period of productivity exhaustion, you are in transition. You wish you could create a major change : you already set a realistic goal to improve your situation, developed a plan and a timetable, you have confidence in your energy and in your abilities to accomplish it. But... somehow you fall off track repeatedly when you try to get back to work. Instead of striving to finish your tasks, you find yourself daydreaming.

Don’t rush to put the blame on your inability to get things done. When we put too much effort into a specific task without making good progress, our mind naturally wanders away. Not because it is tired of working. On the contrary, research has now shown that while we are daydreaming, our mind is actually hard at work, sorting through problems and attempting to grasp the «bigger picture».

Moreover, daydreams can be harnessed to reinforce your productivity. If you purposefully plan and practice it, daydreaming is an invaluable tool for creativity, enabling you to make new connections, think of new perspectives, concentrate on higher goals, visualize different outcomes… Many artists, athletes, scientists use productive daydreaming to develop new ideas, focus on the steps leading to a goal and visualize success.

There are numerous sophisticated (and expensive !) methods or «secret recipes» meant to teach you how to make productive daydreaming a «key to success». I think that practicing productive daydreaming is just a good habit you can develop by trusting your imagination and by learning how to associate it with simple relaxation techniques. It is also a matter of common sense : only you can make the difference between a productive daydream and an entertaining daydream. Not an easy thing to do, all the more because some productive daydreams can be very... entertaining.

Part II – Productive Daydreaming : Take the 6 Steps.
Part III – Productive Daydreaming : Discover Progressive Relaxation.

Share with us :
Your own expertise, experience or opinion on productive daydreaming in the Comments.

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Let your mistakes be part of your style

By Tessa Ivascu | Section(s): GET... , | Add Your comment 1 comments

THE SECOND ACT BYWORDS SECTIONMistakes are essential to self growth : they can increase your creativity and propel you forward. While you should avoid repeating mistakes, don’t be a perfectionist. Trying to avoid mistakes by all means freezes your imagination, cripples your will and dissolves your impulse to take risks and create opportunities. Here's what a famous non-conformist artist said about it :
FRED ASTAIRE
The quote :

The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style.
Fred Astaire

My comment :
Don't wait to « be at the top » to learn that some "mistakes" are "happy accidents". You can't find your own creative flow without experimenting, without figuring and doing things in ways that others haven’t before.

My experience :
This quote reminds me of a teacher my daughter had in kindergarten. My daughter was 5 years old and loved to paint. Her paintings were inventive, bold, exuberant – what else ? Well, they were not « clean » enough for her teacher.
A paint stain or an unexpected choice of color were enough for this teacher to declare a painting « flawed » and to blame my daughter for her « errors ».

Fortunately, an important Juan Miró exhibition was running at the time here in Paris. I took my 5 year old daughter to see Miró’s paintings and I told her : « Look at all these stains, these doodles, these odd colors ! All these are errors. Every masterpiece contains at least one error. A painting becomes a work of art through a series of accidents. Only bad paintings are clean and flawless ».
JUAN MIRO UNTITLED Needless to say, my daughter hardly listened to my bookish message. But, Miró’s powers of persuasion being what they are, she never forgot his visual lesson on personal style. Five years later, she happily explores the art of painting, confident that an accident can have a good outcome.

What is your comment or experience in connection with this quote ?

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A mindfulness exercise : read this Marcel Proust excerpt

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In my article How Proust found mindfulness - and how you can find it too, I invited you you to take a stroll down the path that led the celebrated French novelist to the discovery of mindfulness, while observing a hawthorn hedge during a walk in the countryside. It is my belief that Proust’s masterpiece In Search of Lost Time actually means «in search of mindfulness». It is also my belief that one of the best (and the easiest) mindfulness exercises consists in… reading an excerpt form the Search, particularly the « hawthorn hedge » excerpt.

Read this excerpt the way Maryanne Wolf, a professor of child development at Tufts University, advises us to read Proust in her book Proust and the Squid : The Story and Science of the Reading Brain : «as fast as you can without losing Proust’s meaning».

Also, I would add, without « thinking » :

  • Don’t try to analize his style, don’t try to guess how and when he will end his sentences.
  • Don’t ask yourself « what’s the point ».
  • Most of all, don’t ask yourself how you got « there » : in that secret realm where the long-gone memories, thrilling sensations, mysterious revelations of your childhood were waiting for you.

It’s Proust’s miracle. It’s mindfulness : just « be there ».


Marcel Proust commemorative French stamp.

The Hawthorn Hedge

(On a sunny afternoon, Marcel, who was a young boy at the time, found himself in front of a hawthorn hedge, during a walk with his father and his grandfather to Tansonville, near his family home at Combray).

I found the whole path throbbing with the fragrance of hawthorn-blossom. The hedge resembled a series of chapels, whose walls were no longer visible under the mountains of flowers that were heaped upon their altars; while underneath, the sun cast a square of light upon the ground, as though it had shone in upon them through a window; the scent that swept out over me from them was as rich, and as circumscribed in its range, as though I had been standing before the Lady-altar, and the flowers, themselves adorned also, held out each its little bunch of glittering stamens with an air of inattention, fine, radiating ‘nerves’ in the flamboyant style of architecture, like those which, in church, framed the stair to the rood-loft or closed the perpendicular tracery of the windows, but here spread out into pools of fleshy white, like strawberry-beds in spring. How simple and rustic, in comparison with these, would seem the dog-roses which, in a few weeks’ time, would be climbing the same hillside path in the heat of the sun, dressed in the smooth silk of their blushing pink bodices, which would be undone and scattered by the first breath of wind.

But it was in vain that I lingered before the hawthorns, to breathe in, to marshal before my mind (which knew not what to make of it), to lose in order to rediscover their invisible and unchanging odour, to absorb myself in the rhythm which disposed their flowers here and there with the light-heartedness of youth, and at intervals as unexpected as certain intervals of music; they offered me an indefinite continuation of the same charm, in an inexhaustible profusion, but without letting me delve into it any more deeply, like those melodies which one can play over a hundred times in succession without coming any nearer to their secret. I turned away from them for a moment so as to be able to return to them with renewed strength. My eyes followed up the slope which, outside the hedge, rose steeply to the fields, a poppy that had strayed and been lost by its fellows, or a few cornflowers that had fallen lazily behind, and decorated the ground here and there with their flowers like the border of a tapestry, in which may be seen at intervals hints of the rustic theme which appears triumphant in the panel itself; infrequent still, spaced apart as the scattered houses which warn us that we are approaching a village, they betokened to me the vast expanse of waving corn beneath the fleecy clouds, and the sight of a single poppy hoisting upon its slender rigging and holding against the breeze its scarlet ensign, over the buoy of rich black earth from which it sprang, made my heart beat as does a wayfarer’s when he perceives, upon some low-lying ground, an old and broken boat which is being caulked and made seaworthy, and cries out, although he has not yet caught sight of it, “The Sea!”


Hawthorn flower.

And then I returned to my hawthorns, and stood before them as one stands before those masterpieces of painting which, one imagines, one will be better able to ‘take in’ when one has looked away, for a moment, at something else; but in vain did I shape my fingers into a frame, so as to have nothing but the hawthorns before my eyes; the sentiment which they aroused in me remained obscure and vague, struggling and failing to free itself, to float across and become one with the flowers. They themselves offered me no enlightenment, and I could not call upon any other flowers to satisfy this mysterious longing. And then, inspiring me with that rapture which we feel on seeing a work by our favourite painter quite different from any of those that we already know, or, better still, when some one has taken us and set us down in front of a picture of which we have hitherto seen no more than a pencilled sketch, or when a piece of music which we have heard played over on the piano bursts out again in our ears with all the splendour and fullness of an orchestra, my grandfather called me to him, and, pointing to the hedge of Tansonville, said: “You are fond of hawthorns; just look at this pink one; isn’t it pretty?”

And it was indeed a hawthorn, but one whose flowers were pink, and lovelier even than the white. It, too, was in holiday attire, for one of those days which are the only true holidays, the holy days of religion, because they are not appointed by any capricious accident, as secular holidays are appointed, upon days which are not specially ordained for such observances, which have nothing about them that is essentially festal—but it was attired even more richly than the rest, for the flowers which clung to its branches, one above another, so thickly as to leave no part of the tree undecorated, like the tassels wreathed about the crook of a rococo shepherdess, were every one of them ‘in colour,’ and consequently of a superior quality, by the aesthetic standards of Combray, to the ‘plain,’ if one was to judge by the scale of prices at the ‘stores’ in the Square, or at Camus’s, where the most expensive biscuits were those whose sugar was pink. And for my own part I set a higher value on cream cheese when it was pink, when I had been allowed to tinge it with crushed strawberries. And these flowers had chosen precisely the colour of some edible and delicious thing, or of some exquisite addition to one’s costume for a great festival, which colours, inasmuch as they make plain the reason for their superiority, are those whose beauty is most evident to the eyes of children, and for that reason must always seem more vivid and more natural than any other tints, even after the child’s mind has realised that they offer no gratification to the appetite, and have not been selected by the dressmaker. And, indeed, I had felt at once, as I had felt before the white blossom, but now still more marvelling, that it was in no artificial manner, by no device of human construction, that the festal intention of these flowers was revealed, but that it was Nature herself who had spontaneously expressed it (with the simplicity of a woman from a village shop, labouring at the decoration of a street altar for some procession) by burying the bush in these little rosettes, almost too ravishing in colour, this rustic ‘pompadour.’

PROUST MANUSCRIPT Detail of a Marcel Proust manuscript.

Marcel Proust (1871 — 1922), Swann’s Way, In Search of Lost Time, translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff (1889-1930).

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How Marcel Proust found mindfulness - and how you can find it too

By Tessa Ivascu | Section(s): GET... , , | Add Your comment 1 comments

GET COMFORTIn my article Curb multitasking by practicing mindfulness I wrote that, in short, mindfulness means « being there ». By bringing your awareness to focus on what your mind experiences at the present moment, you can : accurately perceive what is really happening – both outside and inside yourself ; appreciate the present experience without the need to judge it ; understand situations just as they are, create peak experiences in living and take effective action.

Now, I invite you to take a stroll down the path that led French writer Marcel Proust to the discovery of mindfulness. Not because I am a devoted Proust reader (I am) but because I feel the excerpt I’ll submit to your attention could be useful to those trying to practice mindfulness. I’ll go as far as to say that In Search of Lost Time actually means « in search of mindfulness ».
But even if Proust’s character in the novel reached mindfulness at times and was able to describe his quest in an unique way, it came in «flashes» : he never got any control over it, hence he could never plan or practice it. Nevertheless, I think his work is an inspiration for all those who want to understand the mental process leading to « being there ».

The purpose of our journey in time
Proust’s readers (if you are not one of them I encourage you to give it a try) know that one major theme of the Search is the need to go beyond the fleeting satisfactions or the unclear joys we get from our experiences. According to Proust, the purpose of our journey in time should be to reach the core of our impressions, hence to unveil the realities and truths hidden in even the most plain objects or life forms.
My readings about mindfulness practices (not the traditional, Buddhist ones, but the «secular» ones) made me irresistibly think of one of the most famous passages of the Search : when young Marcel, «the Narrator», discovers and observes «the hawthorn hedge» near the village of Combray. I consider it an outstanding example of how one engages in the exploration of both his/her thoughts and outer realities while focusing on a present experience, and of how the mind struggles to «be there» and «free itself».

Going from A to B... along the hawthorn hedge
As I mentioned before, getting «there» means going from A (Identify experience as mental content) to B (Observe life freely - without getting caught in the automatic identification with the «voices» and «scripts» your mind forges when «thinking»).
This includes : Noticing that the mind is continuously making commentary or judgement ; Admitting that this «babble» is not concrete reality or absolute truth, but just a discursive habit, an automatic «script» ; Distinguishing your thoughts from automatic babble and habitual reactions ; Releasing attachment to these habits.

HAWTHORN FLOWERS

Hawthorn flowers

Marcel, who was a young boy at the time, went from A to B without knowing it (still, he knew there had to be an answer for his «mysterious longing»). This happened one sunny afternoon in the countryside, during a walk with his father and his grandfather to Tansonville, near his family home at Combray.

(he observes his mind's automatic scripts)

When he «found the whole path throbbing with the fragrance of hawthorn-blossom», his mind got instantly filled with chatter : comparisons, judgements, connections to past experiences and so on. «The hedge resembled a series of chapels» ; «the scent that swept out over me from them was as rich, and as circumscribed in its range, as though I had been standing before the Lady-altar» ; the flowers held out «radiating ‘nerves’ in the flamboyant style of architecture, like those which, in church, framed the stair to the rood-loft or closed the perpendicular tracery of the windows»…

(he admits that his automatic scripts prevent him from fully experiencing the present moment)

After a while, «the Narrator» becomes deeply frustrated with this chatter : «But it was in vain that I lingered before the hawthorns, to breathe in, to marshal before my mind (which knew not what to make of it) their invisible and unchanging odor».
He feels that these «scripts» offer him «an indefinite continuation of the same charm», «but without letting me delve into it any more deeply, like those melodies which one can play over a hundred times in succession without coming any nearer to their secret».

(he tries to distingush his thoughts from automatic scripts)

He therefore awkwardly tries to release attachment to his discursive habit in order to observe freely the mental content provided by the hawthorns :
«I turned away from them for a moment so as to be able to return to them with renewed strength» ; «then I returned to my hawthorns, and stood before them as one stands before those masterpieces of painting which, one imagines, one will be better able to ‘take in’ when one has looked away, for a moment, at something else; but in vain did I shape my fingers into a frame, so as to have nothing but the hawthorns before my eyes; the sentiment which they aroused in me remained obscure and vague, struggling and failing to free itself, to float across and become one with the flowers.»

(he releases attachment to automatic scripts)

Suddenly, Marcel receives unexpected help from his grandfather, who shows him the way to mindfulness by simply telling him : “You are fond of hawthorns; just look at this pink one; isn’t it pretty?”
These no-nonsense words («just look») propel the boy’s mind to a superior level of awareness. Bringing his mind to focus on the pink flower, he feels «that rapture which we feel on seeing a work by our favorite painter quite different from any of those that we already know, or, better still, when someone has taken us and set us down in front of a picture of which we have hitherto seen no more than a pencilled sketch...».

Now he simply looks at the pink hawthorn the way children look at biscuits covered with pink sugar, «whose beauty is most evident to the eyes of children, and for that reason must always seem more vivid and more natural than any other tints, even after the child’s mind has realized that they offer no gratification to the appetite.»
Comparisons with "Lady-altars", "flamboyant styles of architecture", churches, stairs and windows, now they're all gone ! Marcel reaches the core of the present experience. Better yet, he finally understands the lesson that the hawthorn had meant to teach him by being there, in front of his mind :
«And, indeed, I had felt at once […] that it was in no artificial manner, by no device of human construction, that the festal intention of these flowers was revealed, but that it was Nature herself who had spontaneously expressed it.»

... Or take a shortcut
Now, do me a favor. In the same way that Marcel Proust learned to «just look», please try to «just read » the full excerpt from his Search here. Read it the way Maryanne Wolf, a professor of child development at Tufts University, advises us to read Proust in her new book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain : «as fast as you can without losing Proust’s meaning».
Guess what ? In reading how Marcel Proust struggled to live mindfully you will find one of the best (and the easiest) mindfulness practices. Why ? Don’t let your mind bother to find out. Just «be there».

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How multitasking messes with your brain

By Tessa Ivascu | Section(s): GET... , , | Add Your comment

Don’t believe multitasking means doing several things at the same time, helping you to be more productive. It means constant switching and pivoting between tasks. It actually leads you to concentrate on the act of concentration at the expense of whatever it is that you’re supposed to be concentrating on. When the stakes get higher, multitasking can stress you out.

I was a multitasking addict. For the last 12 years, I worked as editor in chief of several magazines. If you are not capable of multitasking, you cannot survive in this job more than 6 months. Or so I thought. I was not only capable of multitasking, I loved it. I added more and more tasks to the pile.
Edit an article a free-lance journalist had sent me by mail while talking on the phone with the advertising department about the next cover, while discussing changes in the magazine’s layout with the art director : what a ball ! People looked up to me : « What an extraordinary capacity you have, Tessa, to concentrate on so many different things at the same time ! »
After several years of multitasking orgy, my brain began to misfire. I had attention gaps, it took me more and more time to concentrate on the most important or the most urgent task awaiting me. In fact I knew no longer what was the most urgent task, my priorities were all messed up. Above all, everything I did bored me and each task became a drag.

The attempt to operate like computers. There's not much research on the addictive nature of multitasking. But there is plenty of research on the hidden costs of multitasking. Actually, every time you multitask, you're not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly. You use your « mental CEO » : those « executive control » processes found to be associated with the brain's prefrontal cortex and other key neural regions such as the parietal cortex.
Researchers say that executive control involves two distinct, complementary stages : goal shifting ("I want to do this now instead of that") and rule activation ("I'm turning off the rules for that and turning on the rules for this"). Both stages help people unconsciously switch between tasks.
Rule activation itself takes significant amounts of time, several tenths of a second - which can add up when people switch back and forth repeatedly between tasks.
As Walter Kirn puts it in his article, The Autumn of the Multitaskers, published in The Atlantic Magazine, multitasking is

the attempt by human beings to operate like computers, often done with the assistance of computers.
The brain deludes itself. But what happens to a computer when mutitasking ? In an operating system, each task consumes system storage and other resources. As more tasks are started, the system may slow down or begin to run out of shared storage. The same happens to the human brain. Dr. John J.Medina, a developmental molecular biologist, explains : « The brain is a sequential processor, unable to pay attention to two things at the same time. Businesses and schools praise multitasking, but research clearly shows that it reduces productivity and increases mistakes. »
So, why do we still tend to believe multitasking is efficient ? « We frequently overestimate our ability to handle multiple tasks. « People can't multitask very well, and when people say they can, they're deluding themselves », says neuroscientist Earl Miller, a Picower professor of neuroscience at MIT. And « the brain is very good at deluding itself. ».

Hits against your performance. You may think you can make a phone call while reading your e-mails, but actually « you cannot focus on one while doing the other. That's because of what's called interference between the two tasks », Miller explains. « They both involve communicating via speech or the written word, and so there's a lot of conflict between the two of them. »
Even simple tasks can overwhelm the brain when we try to do several at once. For tasks that are at all complicated, no matter how good you have become at multitasking, you're still going to suffer hits against your performance. But there’s worse. Discover how multitasking adversely affects your ability to learn and absorb information, your ability to drive, and why it causes premature aging.

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How multitasking affects driving, learning, aging

By Tessa Ivascu | Section(s): GET... , , | Add Your comment

GET FOCUSEvery time you multitask, you're not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly. You use your « mental CEO ». Therefore, multitasking can adversely affect how you learn and absorb information, put your life at risk when driving, even cause premature aging.

Researchers say that our brain’s executive control involves two distinct, complementary stages : goal shifting ("I want to do this now instead of that") and rule activation ("I'm turning off the rules for that and turning on the rules for this"). Both stages help people unconsciously switch between tasks.
No matter how good you have become at multitasking, you're still going to suffer hits against your performance. But there’s worse. Discover how multitasking adversely affects your ability to learn and absorb information, your ability to drive, and why it causes premature aging.

n Driver inattention
Driver inattention is involved in about 80 percent of crashes, according to a 2006 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"If you test people while they're texting or talking on the phone, they will actually miss a lot of things that are in their visual periphery", says Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
DRIVER INATTENTIONA mere half second of time lost to task switching can mean the difference between life and death for a driver using a cell phone, because while the car is not totally under control, it can travel far enough to crash into obstacles the driver might have otherwise avoided.
"If you're driving while cell-phoning, then your performance is going to be as poor as if you were legally drunk", says David Meyer, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan.

n Not enough power left for learning
Multitasking causes a kind of brownout in the brain. David Meyer says all the lights go dim because there just isn't enough power to go around. So, the brain starts shutting things down — things like neural connections to important information. In a computer's operating system, each task consumes system storage and other resources. As more tasks are started, the system may slow down or begin to run out of shared storage.
To restore those connections, we will have to repeat much of the thought process that created them in the first place. The technical name for creating, or recreating, neural pathways is "spreading activation". It involves building connections step by step.
When we're interrupted, re-establishing those connections can take seconds or hours.

n Premature aging
Research studies show that doing more than one thing at a time is a major cause of premature aging. John Lorinc, in his article Driven to Distraction, writes that, "we must acknowledge the self-inflicted memory lapses triggered by information overload, chronic interruptions, and relentless electronic multi-tasking".
Multitasking boosts the level of stress-related hormones (cortisol, adrenaline) and wears down our systems through biochemical friction, prematurely aging us.
Here are some warning signs :

  • short-term memory problems
  • gaps in attentiveness
  • reduced ability to concentrate
  • reduced ability to focus and analyze
In the long term, these signs may become a major neurological problem : atrophy of the systems.
Fortunately, there are many methods and tips that can help you moderate multitasking, by learning how to switch between the right tasks at the right time. Remember :
To do two things at once is to do neither.
Publilius Syrus, Roman slave,
first century B.C.

Read more :
How Multitasking Puts You Behind Schedule

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How multitasking puts you behind schedule

By Tessa Ivascu | Section(s): GET... , | Add Your comment

GET CREATIVEBusinesses and schools praise multitasking as a time-saving technique. Well, they’re wrong. Research clearly shows that multitasking not only creates gaps in your attentiveness and increases mistakes, it also prevents you from getting things done on schedule. In other words it reduces productivity. It’s basic math.

Multitasking messes with the brain in more than one way. But there is another aspect: the inability to meet deadlines. Multitasking may seem more efficient on the surface, but actually takes more time in the end.
Imagine three tasks A, B and C, that would require 10 minutes each (or 10 hours or 10 days). If they are executed consecutively, the first is complete at H+10, the second at H+20, the third at H +30.
Now imagine that you spend 5 minutes alternately on each task. The result speaks for itself :

MULTITASKING PUTS YOU BEHIND SCHEDULE

You will not save time in completing task C, you will have a 5 minutes (or hours or days) delay in completing task B, and a 10 minutes delay in completing task A.
If you take into account the time required for the individual reconcentration between two tasks, multitasking leads you to a much larger delay.

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