You should have read the first part of this article (Read it here) where I wrote about the thoughts that kill productivity. In this part, my attempt is to give practical ways to overcome those thoughts.
Changing what you think about is the first step to boosting your productivity. I can guess that this is not the first time you are hearing “think positively” and you may have tried but faltered as you can hardly overcome thoughts with thoughts especially when they are deeply entrenched. It is presumptuous of me to tell you that you should start thinking positively, and bingo! You are productive.
A good question is how do I start thinking positively? As our aim here is not just to get you thinking positively, but to make you more productive at work, it is important that we start from an understanding of how our thoughts do affect the results we get. Please see the diagram below for a clear illustration.
Just like the way our thoughts affect our productivity is a process, changing the way you think is a practice and has an approach if you are going to derive any benefit from it. It is like uprooting a deep rooted big tree and planting another one to take a firm root. It is a process and it takes time too.
The time it takes depends on the individual, how deeply rooted the negative thoughts are, and the willingness to change.
Here is my suggestion on how you can change your thought patterns from negative to positive. This approach is well tested and it is the foundation of cognitive behavioural therapy.
Step 1: Recognise the automatic thoughts flitting through your consciousness at the times you feel worst, unproductive, sad, fearful. For example, “I am not good enough”
Step 2: Dispute the automatic thoughts by marshalling contrary evidence. Remember and acknowledge other thoughts, based on your experience, that contradict your automatic thoughts. E.g, Remember instances when you helped someone achieve a goal. Focus on this thought to contradict your automatic thought of “I am not good enough”. It will be an exercise in futility to try to say “I am good enough” when there is a deep seated belief that you are not. What you have to do is to find instances that prove that you are good enough and dwell on them that trying to think “I am good enough”
Step 3: Learn to make different explanations (this is known as reattributions) and use them to dispute automatic thoughts. For example, you might learn to say “I am at my best when I prepare well and make less impact when I don’t”, May be I am a process oriented person”.
This is a much less permanent and pervasive explanation for thinking that you are generally not good enough. With this practice, you shift your focus from condemning yourself as not good enough to thinking that when I plan well, I do well, the best in me comes out.
Step 4: Learn to distract yourself from negative thoughts. Ruminating on negative thoughts makes it worse. It’s like hammering a nail into a wood. Learn to control what you think and when you think it. One way I try to do this is to say a confession. One of the confessions I have is that “I can do all things through Jesus Christ that strengthens me”. This works for me because of my faith, you could find what works best for you.
Step 5: Learn to recognise and question the negative thought sowing assumptions governing so much of what you do. I did say that thoughts are function of our experience in life, we make assumptions based on our experience and these assumptions sow seeds of thought into us. Let me give an example. A guy was made redundant at his place of work because of economic challenges. He begins to assume others who were not made redundant are better than him. Then he starts to think he is not good enough. His thought that he is not good enough is coming from the assumption that his colleagues are better. He now does not reckon with his past achievements just because of that assumption.
Such assumptions need to be challenged because they are not usually true.
What we are trying to achieve with the steps above is to tap into the power of our subconscious mind. We can do this through the use of several techniques such as;
– Gratitude and appreciation
As you practice these steps, you realise that you are working on all the aspects responsible for your result (experience, character, attitude and behaviour). You need to be conscious of the changes you are experiencing and celebrate them as they come. It takes a deliberate effort however to see any change.