It’s Monday again and it’s time to start the week with good energy!
Monday Productive is a weekly interview format, featuring peak-performers from my network, who share 5 ideas on how to boost your productivity and stay at the top of your game.
My guest today is Brianna Quintero. Brianna is an international public speaking coach and communication lecturer specializing in persuasion, intercultural communication, and speech writing. She has 7+ years of experience training working professionals, government officials, entrepreneurs, and students, including competitive collegiate speakers. Her goal is to help others develop authentic, intentional, and effective messages using scientifically proven strategies and engaging activities.
1. Brianna, the world is going through a global challenge today, unseen for our generation. And that creates a lot of stress, fear and anxiety. How can one find their center in such times and shift their focus to a more positive and productive direction? Please share 3 practical ideas.
1️⃣ Have a moment to yourself before you start your day.
Before you check the news, draft responses in your head for emails, or browse through the social media notifications, allow yourself to set the tone for the day. Packing your brain with news, social media messages, spam emails, and missed calls can make you tired and slow down your day before it really begins. Give yourself time to wake up and strategize. This can be some morning stretches or your favorite cup of tea or coffee. You then start your day with intention and clarity. My favorite is a gentle yoga session to a soundtrack of ambient RnB.
2️⃣ Ration your daily intake of the news.
It’s important to stay informed, especially with all of the sudden changes and rules and regulations that affect our everyday lives. However, information overload is a real thing- we are being bombarded by news and information that can exhaust our brains and cause anxiety and stress. Some news stories contain flashy headlines and little information, meant to draw your attention and elicit emotional responses instead of providing new insights. Have a set list of trusted sources of information that you check each day for a set amount of time and then allow yourself to step away and conquer the rest of your day.
3️⃣ (Re)write your own life story.
Is your head still spinning? Journaling is a practice that many people find therapeutic. In fact, you can regain a sense of control and direction by reframing your life experiences on paper. The technique of re-writing your own life story has been shown by psychologists as an effective way of breaking bad habits and boosting self-esteem. This can help clear your head and move obstacles that are in the way of your productivity. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious, it’s important to acknowledge those thoughts, give them a place to rest, and move on with your day.
2. They say “Tough Times – Require Tough Leaders”. What do you think? What skills and mindsets are needed to lead effectively in a time of crisis?
First I want to point out that there is a difference between a leader and a boss or manager. I define leaders as anyone who displays leadership qualities, despite their status or role in a given group. This can be a CEO or an intern. In fact, in times of crisis, high level managers can be occupied with big picture problems, and may not have the time or ability to start new initiatives or creative solutions to small problems. In that case, it’s important to allow for all members of an organization to have open communication. As mentioned before, feelings of powerlessness arise during times of crisis, so allowing an intern to start a fundraising opportunity for medical workers or propose an activity to boost morale, such as virtual “bring your pet to work day” can make a difference. So in this case, flexibility and open communication channels for community building are beneficial during times of uncertainty.
3. We spend a lot of time home these days. How do we stay connected and engaged with our favourite people? Have you seen or tried any fun and interesting ideas and activities?
When lecturing about the importance of communication to my classes, I often start by explaining that relational communication is a survival instinct; that our ability to connect with others- form and maintain bonds with others- is part of being human, no matter your culture, gender or race. I think the best thing to combat stress and anxiety is putting ourselves in a positive mental state by making sure we are continuing to maintain our relational bonds. A friend of mine recently suggested we replace the term “social distancing” with “physical distancing”, and he is absolutely correct; just because we are not communicating in person does not mean we cannot maintain social bonds.
Many people see face to face interactions as the best way to communicate. After all, face to face interactions offer important benefits- affectionate touch, such as hugs which have been proven to be beneficial for our physical and emotional health. However, many people don’t realize that communication research has shown online relationships can have many of the same benefits as face to face relationships. I have found that incorporating some of my in person tasks- such as dance, fitness classes, wine tasting– with my online friends helps me have deeper online conversations, accountability, and maintain a more regular social calendar.
One such initiative my friends and I started was a virtual book club. We rotate each picking a book of the month, have a set number of chapters, think of interesting discussion questions, and on Sundays we will check in and discuss the questions and thoughts about the book.
At times, it seems as if there is a fine line between responding to work email and typing out responses with friends on social media. We are moving from one window to another, and adding to our to do lists. You can separate these tasks by changing the medium- try writing an old fashioned letter. Responding to friends can be a break from your screen, and a chance to express your creativity.
Also, writing letters about people you care about has been shown to increase your body’s ability to combat stress. A study by Floyd, Mikkelson, & Tafoya (2007) showed that research participants who wrote letters to people they loved accelerated their cortisol recovery, helping them to combat symptoms of stress.
5. Are we sometimes too quick to judge and label things like: “This is bad”, “This is terrible”. What’s your favourite pattern breaking question?
This is a great question. One of the things that helps us be less judgmental is to be conscious of the way we communicate, especially when we come across things that are foreign or unknown. In cross cultural communication we tend to forget our cultural bias, confusing the familiar with “good” and different with “bad”. We can do this by adopting a more scientific mindset and utilizing the DIE approach. DIE stands for description, interpretation, and evaluation. Next time we make a statement we can ask ourselves- am I describing what I see or hear objectively? Am I making my own interpretation? Or am I making a subjective evaluation? The more conscious we are about our communication behaviors, the more we can see things for what they are instead of what we think they should or should not be.
5. Forgiveness, Gratitude and Empathy: 3 powerful weapons in Crisis times. How do we practically use their power to build ourselves and others up?
A global crisis can cause a series of negative emotions, anxiety and stress. This can exacerbate daily problems and inconveniences. Therefore it is a time to practice patience and learn about how we can be compassionate citizens in the face of uncertainty and fear.
First, forgiveness is a powerful tool in keeping communication channels open. Whether an online troll or disgruntled employee, complaints and criticism can be an opportunity to discuss real issues or fears that can lead an individual toward negativity. Instead of taking offense, you can open up and be the support or attentive ear this person may need, and may be calling out for.
Gratitude. As mentioned previously, powerlessness is often a feeling that comes up during a crisis, especially one on a global scale. Taking a moment to be present and enjoy the small things in life can help us from feeling anxious. We can do this by creating a list of things that “recharge” us, or replenish our energy and boost our mood. These differ for every person, but having a list you can turn to can help you recharge and reset. When you are at your best, you are better able to help those in need with your full attention and abilities.
Finally, an empathic person is someone who is not only attentive and supportive of others needs, but willing to step outside of themselves to try to understand others’ emotions. During a crisis, people have different experiences depending on their financial, physical, mental, or emotional states. Therefore we have to be more conscious of any hardships and practice patience before we form judgments. A big part of empathy is listening and understanding what type of support the other person needs. Understanding the difference between non-evaluative feedback and evaluative feedback when listening is a very helpful strategy in communicating with people who are experiencing hardships. Additionally, asking them how you can be of help or service can be reassuring, and allow you to find ways to contribute to others in need.
[BONUS] Name one to three books that helped you to become a better leader?
Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh
reminds me to slow down, be present, and enjoy the experience of being alive.
If you have any questions to Brianna, please leave your comment below!
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Thank you for reading. And #HappyMonday!
Stoyan Yankov is a productivity coach and a professional speaker, who’s helped teams to grow and increase their performance in over 20 countries; through his trainings, workshops and coaching programs.
Stoyan co-developed the #perform methodology together with Cristobal Alonso (CEO, Startup Wise Guys), applied in hundreds of startup teams across Europe. Together they are finishing the book: PERFORM – The Unsexy Truth of (Startup) Success, including cases and examples from the best startup founders in #NewEurope.