Becoming aware of what you are thinking can make you more productive and motivated. Let me explain how.
Most of you will be familiar with the idea of big picture VS detail. We use it all the time at work.
The big picture person will ask “How is the project going?” The answer that they want is “it’s about 70% finished; on track to be completed on time next Thursday”.
The actual detail of the situation may be: There are currently problems with deliveries and we don’t know when the widgets are going to arrive. If they are not here today it may impact the time we start the next phase and we are playing catch up. Marketing and sales are arguing about who takes ownership of the customer complaints that are coming in. Big picture person (usually the boss) doesn’t need to know that, they are paying you to sort out these details.
In NLP we call this chunking. Chunk up to the big picture, chunk down into the details. Whether or not we put a label on it we are all chunking up and down naturally during the day.
All well and good but how is this useful?
In a nutshell – self awareness. The more we understand about ourselves and how we operate the more effective we are. In the same way if we are aware we are becoming a bit stressed it’s easy to do something about it. If we wait until we get very stressed it’s much harder.
One way that many people cause themselves difficulties is using what I call the “Mind body separation pattern” That’s a very NLP jargon filled way of saying that we don’t live in the moment. There is huge interest at the moment in mindfulness – and for good reason. The mind body separation pattern is my way of partially explaining mindfulness using NLP which puts it into terms that I can understand and hopefully make use of. Perhaps you can too.
One more thing I should mention is that not only can we chunk up and down, we can chunk sideways too.
In the above diagram if we begin at Honda, we can chunk up to car, then again transport. We can also chunk down to Engine or sideways to Toyota or Ford.
So now let’s apply that to our lives.
If our values tell us that we like to have a tidy house we may create the following hierarchy in our mind.
It’s not complete of course but you get the idea.
So one Saturday morning it all becomes too much and you decide to tidy the house. This it the big picture or top level chunk. So you chunk down into one of the rooms, perhaps the lounge, and begin by putting away the magazines.
You may find it easy to do and actually a little cathartic knowing that you are tidying or achieving something. That’s great, you’re living in the moment or acting in the same chunk that you are thinking in. Everything is in balance.
The problem occurs when we are acting in one chunk and thinking in another which many people seem to do out of habit. As you tidy the magazines if you chunk up high enough to “Tidy house”
you may feel that what you are doing is a waste of time – it’s not really having any impact – leading to a feeling of helplessness. Or you may be thinking up one level and sideways one chunk. “There is so much to do in the garage, how am I going to get it all done in the 30 minutes that I have?” causing you to rush which in turn brings on a feeling of being stressed or perhaps confusion. Whatever your specific thought pattern if you are not thinking and acting in the same chunk be aware that it can lead to unresourceful feelings. There are exceptions of course, we can all multi-task to one level or another, but if you are a person who could benefit from becoming more efficient sometimes this idea is worth exploring.
There are some useful questions that we can ask ourselves which in the short term which will help us to focus. Even more importantly, in the long term, we are teaching ourselves to think in a more structured and intelligent way.
Some useful questions are:
- Am I looking at the big picture or the detail?
- Is what I’m doing a big picture or detail activity?
- Is the activity that I’m doing the same one that I am thinking about?
- Is this the best and highest use of my time?
If the answer to either of the last two is “no” perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate what you are doing.
As human beings we create patterns it helps us make sense of the world and means that we don’t have to keep evaluating the same thing over and over again. Sometimes that is useful. It can be equally useful to take a look at our automatic behaviour and automatic thinking patterns and just see if they can be tweaked.
The good news is that you don’t have to do this for ever. If you were to spend a week or so being aware of where your mind is in relation to your activity you will create a new habit quickly.
What are you thinking of right now as you are reading this?