08 May Searching for sound advice: what we’ve been reading during lockdown
Whether you’re constantly juggling family and work to survive the lockdown, or finding that business is quieter than usual and you actually have more time on your hands, it’s important to take some time out just for you. At Organised You, we’ve been using this “time out” to explore the ways in which we can develop, both personally and professionally. Here are three books we’ve found interesting and useful, and can also be applied to business.
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
Known for his quick-witted and light-hearted satire, psychologist Shawn Achor has given several talks on the differences between happiness and success. Indeed, his bestseller, The Happiness Advantage, is an interesting take on prioritising happiness over perceived ‘success’, and how this, in turn, can lead to us actually becoming more successful.
In his fast-paced, entertaining narrative, Achor highlights the common misconception that “if you work hard, you will become successful, and once you become successful, then you’ll be happy”. Conversely, says Achor, when we are happy, our brains become more “engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient and productive”, all of which are far more likely to make us more successful in life.
The aim of the book is to inspire us to use positive psychology to distract ourselves from any negative feelings we may have at the moment (uncertainty, guilt, etc) and use these positive vibes to get us through challenging times in our personal lives and in our business. For example, if you feel uncertain about the future of your business because of Covid-19, focus on one thing that you are certain you’re doing well right now, and shout about it today (in a social post, or perhaps a subtle mention in a client email or on the telephone). Alternatively, if you feel guilt, that perhaps you’re not putting all the steps in place for when your business prepares to emerge the other side – due to lack of time or motivation – then take the pressure off. Instead, focus on one thing you can do more of now, while business may be quieter, such as jotting down ideas for blog content, or developing new ideas for a product or service.
Deep Work by Cal Newport
If like me, you struggle to concentrate for large blocks of time, not least due to constant interruptions, then this book is for you. Apart from his academic writing, Associate Professor of Computer Science Cal Newport has written a number of motivational personal development books over the years. Voted Amazon’s Best Business Book of January 2016, Deep Work is all about applying rules to your approach to work that allow you to be more focused, and therefore more productive. Sadly, with all the technology that surrounds us, many of us have lost the ability to engage in sustained periods of ‘deep work’ as we spend our days in a “frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there’s a better way”. This book really makes you think about all the things we do subconsciously on a daily basis that we can easily cut out to focus more on our work.
One of Newport’s tips is to recognise the difference between ‘shallow work’ (checking email, responding to your team’s IM notifications, or updating a progress report) and ‘deep work’ (e.g. billable client work). As one review puts it, shallow work describes “the tasks that feel SO NICE to get out of the way, but at the end of the day, mean little. You essentially shuffled some papers instead of laying bricks to build a house”.
I’ve been structuring my days differently since I read Deep Work, and it is already proving productive. It will be interesting to see if it still works post lockdown – watch this space!
The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters
Last but not least – if you read one motivational book during lockdown – please make it this one! Described as “the mind management programme to help you achieve success, confidence and happiness”, The Chimp Paradox does a great job of explaining human emotions, how to recognise and manage them better, and ultimately, become happier! The interesting thing about this book is that it doesn’t just focus on our own emotions and behaviour, but also those of other people. It then goes on to explore the interaction between us and other people. The book concludes by highlighting how different environments (as well as the state of our health and wellbeing) can have a positive or negative impact on our emotions and behaviour, and interactions with each other.
The key takeaway for me is the idea that we each have a chimp and a human in our head, and that they want very distinct things with different motivations. The important thing is not to let the chimp take control, and not to hate it, but instead to manage and nurture it, and find solutions to appease it, so it can live in harmony with the human as much as possible. The next step is to remember the vast majority of people we meet are completely ruled by their inner chimp, so it’s important to step back and consider the reason they may have said something or acted in a certain way, before we hastily react in a way we may regret.
For me, the thought processes I’ve begun to adopt after reading this book have made me view things differently, but also act differently towards other people, from day one.
So if you need a little inspiration right now, make sure you allocate some “time out” just for you. Pick up a book and immerse yourself, and you may also pick up some tips and tricks to benefit your business along the way.