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5 days of S-mas: Shine

Shine

The 5S step we’ll be discussing today is “Shine.”  Compared to “Sort” and “Straighten”, this step is relatively simple, but very important!  In manufacturing, this step ensures that work spaces are clean, well-lit, and generally pleasant to be in.  For our purposes some of the cleaning took place in previous steps, so today we’ll explore ways to minimize distractions, give yourself a rosy outlook, and generally make your mind a place you want to be.

Use these 3 steps to “Shine” up your mind!

1)Eliminate distractions

Distractions can be hard to manage, especially in an increasingly technological world.  Luckily, the same technology that makes it easy to stare at your phone for hours on end can *also* be used to help tear yourself away from it and get some work done.  Personally, I’m a fan of ClearFocus to get myself rolling and binaural beats to drown out the buzzing in my mind.  However there’s tons of productivity systems, website blockers, and music (or background noise) to choose from for these purposes.

The best approach is to test a few and see what works best for you.  Don’t be afraid to switch things up if one works for a bit, but then starts to be less effective.  The point isn’t to find one perfect app or system, but to get yourself used to focusing on your work when needed.

2)Reduce judgement

Judgement seems more rampant than ever these days.  While everyone’s lives being displayed via social media certainly make it easier, having an opinion about other people’s business has existed long before, and may even be used to strengthen social bonds.  However, distancing yourself from such negative discussions will massively improve your mental well being.  Not only does it free you from icky feelings like disdain and self-righteousness, but it also prevents you from seeing someone in a skewed light (which could likely undo any social bonds that were supposed to be strengthened!)

Stopping yourself from judging others starts with being able to not judge yourself.  Giving yourself permission to live your life to the fullest will pave the way for accepting the right for others to do the same.  After all, while our common ground might bring us together, it’s our differences that make the world such a wonderful, vibrant place.  Live and let live, as the saying goes 🙂

3)Add joy

Yesterday we discussed bringing your most positive thoughts to the front of your mind, and trying to actively take note of the good things around you.  While noticing these things is the first step, bringing in activities and relationships that bring more light into your life is where you really start to see results!

Try something new, whether it’s taking an art class you’ve been considering for ages, or reaching out to a coworker you’d like to get to know better.  Anything that gives a little spark to your day (or week!) is a step in the right direction.

 

That’s it for “Shine”!  Your challenge today is to write down (or comment below) 3 things you’ll be doing to minimize distractions, reduce judgement, or add joy!  Tomorrow in “Standardize” we’ll be exploring ways to automate minor decisions and streamline your thinking.  Until then!

 

Best,

-Marley

 

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5 days of S-mas: Straighten

Straighten

The 5S attribute we’ll be discussing today is “Straighten.”  Yesterday we discussed how to sort through your thoughts and perceptions to identify which ones are helping you, and which ones are holding you back.  Today we’ll be exploring how to best put that sorting effort to use.

An alternative translation for “Straighten” in 5S is “Set-In-Place”, because this step is all about finding places for tools and other necessary items so that they can be easily accessed, and returned to keep the machine shop or factory clean, safe, and efficient.  The old adage “a place for everything and everything in it’s place” is basically what we’re talking about here.  For mental engineering, this step is all about keeping your most helpful, productive thoughts at the front of your mind, and banishing anything that is a constant distraction, upsetting, or otherwise just not useful.

Sorting through these thoughts and feelings was, in many ways, the hardest part, but luckily dealing with them is relatively simple.  In fact, you effectively can “Straighten” your mental life in 3 simple steps:

1)Acknowledge what you’re feeling

After identifying “Useful”, “Sometimes Useful” and “Not Useful” perspectives and mindsets, you may realize that some of these thoughts and emotions are negative and need to go.  This is good!  Allowing yourself to realize that is huge, and the next step is simply to give yourself permission to feel freely.  What this means is, don’t try to tell yourself to just “not feel a certain way”, but give yourself a bit of time to just feel whatever way you do without reprimanding yourself.

For example, you may have realized that your perception of yourself as “not outgoing enough” is holding you back from forming meaningful relationships.  Instead of getting upset at yourself for being that way, or upset about the fact that you need to change, just acknowledge what you’re feeling.  Frustration at your natural tendencies, fear about moving outside your comfort zone, or just irritation at such a seemingly minor trait having such a huge impact would all be natural reactions.  Let them happen, then move on to the next step.

2)Write it down

Writing things down seems to almost magically remove things from our mind.  Interestingly enough, this can help for both positive and negative mindsets.  I can contest to the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal as well as a rage journal, and while you don’t need a bound book, you will need to write down all your positive mindsets, as well as all of your negative ones.

For the positives, I’d suggest something that saves what you write down.  Whether your prefer hardback, typed, or app-based, you want something you can revisit easily.  Positives can include anything from affirmations, self-praise, motivational quotes, favorite memories, or anything that makes you feel happy and energized when you think about it.  Record these in your format of choice, and if possible make this practice a daily habit.

For the negatives, loose leaf scratch paper is the top choice, but anything that you can get rid of will work.  In addition to any mindsets that upset you or you feel you need to change, write down your reactions to these thoughts and perspectives  You really want to get these out of your head, so you stop ruminating on them.  Putting them on scratch paper is the perfect way to do that.

These differences in how you record your positives vs. negatives are essential because of how they’re dealt with in the final step.

3)Place appropriately

For the negatives that you wrote down this step is easy: just throw them away!  The action of physically tossing out these thoughts, feelings, mindsets, and reactions that are holding you back will make you feel a thousand times lighter 🙂

For the positives, this is a bit more work, but the payoff is worth it.  Place the positive things you’ve recorded somewhere you’ll see them every day.  This could mean placing your journal on the coffee table, setting a reminder on your phone to scroll through your typed record at a certain time of day, or using the app settings to keep up your positivity habit.

 

That’s it!  By writing down your negatives and throwing them away, you’re dealing with them in a healthy manner.  Additionally, you’re training yourself to remove mental clutter from your life.  By writing down the positives and placing them where you’ll see them often, you’re bringing these good thoughts to the front of your mind.  Everything seems to be in it’s place, so we’re through with “Straighten” and ready to progress to tomorrow’s topic of “Shine”.

Feel free to write down a positive thought you’ll be keeping at the front of your mind in the comments below!  Until tomorrow 🙂

 

Best,

-Marley

 

 

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5 Days of S-mas: Sort

Sort

Welcome to the first day of S-mas everyone!  Throughout this week we’ll be examining how to apply 5S methodology to your mental life, to become more efficient, happy, and peaceful no matter what you’re faced with.  Just in time for the craziness of the holidays too 🙂  Today’s “S” is “Sort”, so let’s get started!

The “Sort” step in a factory setting would usually involve taking inventory, grouping things by type, and getting rid of unnecessary or broken items.  For our purposes, this means inspecting your subconscious thoughts and feelings to identify which ones are helping you move forward and which ones are holding you back.  Getting rid of toxic thoughts, behaviors, and people (and preventing the accumulation of new ones!) is the ultimate goal.

It can be helpful to group your perceptions and assumptions into 3 categories, and deal with them accordingly.  For simplicity’s sake, I’ve chosen to group by usefulness:

1)Useful

Useful thoughts, relationships, and “Invisible Scripts” are the ones that help you move forward, improve, or just make you feel good in general.  These can be things like goals, affirmations, and friendships that make you feel alive and energized!  While it can be hard to pin down what you *really* want in life, recognizing the things that make you unconditionally happy is a great place to start.

Identifying these thoughts is all that’s necessary at this point, but tomorrow in “Straighten” we’ll explore ways to keep these thoughts at the front of your mind throughout your normal routine, and keep them from getting pushed back during tough times.

2)Sometimes Useful

Ideas and interactions that are sometimes useful are either ones that are necessary but don’t really energize you, or ones that take a considerable amount of effort to get your desired results.  Oftentimes, these are thoughts and relationships that occur throughout daily life and work, such as thinking about errands you need to run today, or interacting with your coworkers.

Identifying sometimes useful mentalities might be the most difficult, because they’re often sourced from things that can either frustrate us or aid us.  When considering a thought that doesn’t particularly energize you, but you don’t feel is particularly harmful, the key is generally to ask yourself if it’s consistently holding you back.  If yes, it likely falls in the next category, if not it can be considered at least sometimes useful.

During “Standardize” we’ll be exploring ways to either re-frame items in this category to make them useful, or automate them so they cause as little stress as possible!

3)Not Useful

While toxic relationships, judgemental thoughts, and negative self-talk are all distinctly part of this category, more subtle mental clutter is also considered not useful.  In general, anything that makes you feel sad, frustrated, angry, or upset needs to go.  This can include anything from general negativity to relationships where the other person is actively tearing you down.  These aren’t hard to identify, but they can be hard to get rid of.  Oftentimes we’ll rationalize that an invisible script we hold isn’t *that* bad, and that annoying “friend” that just drains your soul isn’t *completely* the worst.

Don’t do this to yourself!  If you recognize that something or someone is holding you back, acknowledge it.  In manufacturing, this is called “red-tagging”.  Note that this thought or relationship is problematic, mark them as such, and move towards getting them out of your brain ASAP!  If you really just *can’t* break free at the moment, still red-tag appropriately to deal with it later.  You deserve freedom and happiness, especially in your own mind.

 

Alright, that’s all for “Sort”!  Your challenge today is to write down (or comment below) 3 Invisible Scripts, random thoughts, or relationships in each category, and try to get rid of at least 1 that’s not useful!  We’ll be dealing with the rest tomorrow in “Straighten”.  Hope to hear from you then!

 

Best,

-Marley

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Expectation Setting Redefined

Every day we’re faced with situations where things don’t go according to plans.  Maybe you have to deal with a difficult customer at work, or you get your new shoes covered in mud on the way to lunch, or your friends don’t text you back about your plans to meet up this weekend.  As annoying as it is when things don’t play out perfectly, a large part of the reason we get SO FRUSTRATED by these incidents is our own unrealistic expectations.

Look, we all have an idea of how things are “supposed” to go throughout our day.  We’re supposed to wake up to birds chirping gently in the sun outside our window, and stroll into the kitchen where our loving partner has prepared breakfast, then leisurely proceed to work where we’re immediately promoted to our dream job (with an ample raise and vacation time, of course!)

Ok, maybe you don’t expect that, or even anything close.  But you might expect your customers to be understanding when *they feel* like they’re paying you too much for a job that’s taking too long (especially if you’re in food service, and they’re hangry.)  You might expect to be able to show off your new shoes at lunch today, when you know you’re going to head to that burrito place with the *always* muddy parking lot.  You might even expect your friends to actually commit to a time and place to meet up so you can plan accordingly, when they’re just wanting to wing it the day of.

We all have expectations like this, and it’s not entirely our fault.  People naturally prefer when things work out for them.  However, it’s easier to notice the things that go *wrong* and take the good parts for granted.  Additionally, it’s human nature to think that the most suitable situations for us is the best for everyone around us, but that’s just not the case.  Both these biases can be managed by first acknowledging that they exist, and then managing your expectations accordingly.

***This is not to say that you should always be expecting the worst!*** However, a general rule is that more variables (locations, people, weather, etc.) at play, the more mindful you have to be about what you can and can’t control, and set your expectations accordingly.

A quick guide for how to mindfully set expectations:

1)About Yourself

You should definitely hold yourself to high standards, and be ambitious in your goals!  However, you shouldn’t expect yourself to be able to always have perfect days.  When you’re feeling less than on point, remember to be compassionate with yourself.  You’ll get back on top soon enough.

To reduce unrealistic expectations of yourself, focus on the process rather than end results.  Feel proud of yourself for moving towards a goal, even with something as minor as two minutes of journalling every morning, or doing a short workout before bed.

This shifts your focus away from expecting a certain outcome (like a constantly positive outlook or a perfect body) and admonishing yourself for not being where you want, and refocuses towards the small improvements that it takes to achieve these goals.

Focus on consistently completing small steps forward and you’ll be reaching greater heights than you ever thought possible!

2)About Relationships

Even if it’s only dealing with one other person, relationships (whether romantic, friendly, work-based, or familial) are quite possibly the area of our lives where expectations get us into the most trouble.  We simply expect most people (especially people close to us) to be “thoughtful” by understanding what we need and acting accordingly.  THIS IS INSANE, but nearly everyone is guilty of this thinking!

We expect our significant other to know how much we want to go to that concert and feel the same.  We expect our friends to want to meet up this weekend and participate in the planning accordingly.  We expect our boss to notice how much work we put into our presentation and acknowledge it appropriately.  We expect our family to not be crazy (event though we should really know better by now.)

In general, we expect people to know what we’re thinking, agree, and act accordingly.  Again: this is insane.  People can’t know what we’re thinking unless we tell them, they may or may not agree, and even if they do, there’s a good chance they don’t care enough to take action unless it will benefit them directly!  However, this leads us to the key for reducing unrealistic expectations in relationships: communication.

Stating your thoughts is the only way for others to understand them.  Similarly, listening is the only way to understand someone else.  By clearly discussing what you actually want (and don’t want), and understanding what others want (and don’t want), you remove the assumptions that created your expectations in the first place.

While communicating directly can be difficult in a lot of situations (it’s easier to tell your friends you need them to decide if they’re going to be free this weekend than it is to discuss your work efforts and results with your boss), it’s absolutely necessary to ground your expectations of others (and their expectations of you!) in reality rather than assumption.

3)About Situations

While expectations of yourself and expectations in relationship hold tons of variables, you have a certain amount of control over most of them.  Situations are different in that they generally include yourself (obviously), other people (with whom you either have or are looking to establish a relationship), and any number of other variables that you either have little or no control over.  This could include anything from the weather, traffic, various resources being unavailable, and random interactions with people around you.

Despite situations involving the largest amount of variables (most of which are uncontrollable), we tend to have the highest expectations about situations because we generally expect that things will go our way.  This is why we get SO MAD when it rains the day we planned to go hiking with some new friends from work, or get trapped in gameday traffic the evening we were supposed to meet for a double date at the movies, or flub our order when speaking to the waitress during a lunch interview.

While good preparation and communication can take care of most issues (dressing for the weather, calling your friends to tell them where you are, rehearsing your order beforehand if possible), a two strategies to massively reducing unrealistic expectations about situations are: 1. to be willing to be flexible and 2. to actively notice the good parts.

Being flexible could include suggesting an indoor activity instead of the hike, or agreeing to try for it some other time.  Actively noticing the good parts could include being grateful for your relationship and the companionship while enduring the traffic (after notifying the other party, of course!), or being proud of yourself for landing the interview in the first place.

 

In general, when things don’t go according to plan, the best thing you can do is to manage your expectations.  Whether it’s relationships, situations, or just your expectations of yourself, small improvements, communication, and noticing the good all around you can make all the difference.

Don’t forget: 5 Days of S-mas starts Monday!  Like “Mindcrusch” on Facebook for daily updates, and get excited to explore each component of this amazing mental engineering system over the course of the week 🙂

 

Best,

 

-Marley

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Gratitude: Grease for Your Happiness Gears

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving everyone!

In the spirit of the holiday, I wanted to talk a bit about gratitude.  Appreciating and expressing your thanks for the good things in life can do wonders for your wellbeing and relationships and costs zero money (and only a tiny amount time!) Yet it’s so easy to push off or relegate to special occasions only.

Being thankful only on Thanksgiving is certainly not the worst thing, but it would be like greasing the chain of your bike only once per year; better than nothing, but still not great.  The more frequently you clean and grease your bike chain, the smoother your ride will be.  It’s the same with gratitude: the more you use it, the more it improves your outlook, which can then improve your job, relationships, and everything around you!

Even though it can seem like “one more thing to do”, there are absolutely ways to practice gratitude that don’t include writing thousands of thank-you notes or having hour-long conversations with your friends and loved ones.  In fact, the simpler the act of expressing gratitude, the more likely you are to include it in your daily routine.

So what are some quick everyday ways to inject some gratitude into your life?  Consider one of these suggestions:

1)Send a quick “thank you text” to a friend or loved one

No matter how small the gesture, you can probably thank someone for something.  It can even be as simple as “Thanks for grabbing coffee with me the other day, we should meet up again sometime!” or “Thanks for putting the dishes away last night <3”.  For super bonus feel-good points, text your mom!  I always have plenty to thank Mama Crusch for, and making her feel good always gives a boost to my day as well.

Afraid you’ll get stuck in a lengthy text convo?  Preface it with, “Headed into work(class/a meeting, etc.), but just wanted to say…” and you’ll be free to reply at your leisure.

2)Thank a coworker or classmate for their latest contribution

Group projects are usually the worst, as the high-pressure combo of hard deadlines and conflicting schedules can derail even the most talented of teams.  But you can improve your mood about a difficult multi-person project by catching one of your group members in the hall to tell them you appreciated their work.  No only will they be motivated to work harder, but you’ll feel more upbeat and more energized throughout the workday as well.

Don’t feel like their performance merits praise?  Avoid passive-aggressiveness by praising their effort rather than their results, or simply send out a “thank you” email to the group as a whole thanking everyone for their hard work (or their hard work so far if you’re mid-project, and feel free to include some words of motivation for the sprint to the finish!)

3)Write down a quick list of good things in life

Take a few minutes to write down a few things that you’re thankful for at the moment.  You can write them in a journal, type it in Evernote, or even shoot out a quick tweet or two with the mandatory #blessed included.  Taking time (even just a minute or two!) to appreciate the good things in your life can lift your spirits like nothing else.

 

So now that you have some suggestions for action, go out there and get grateful!  Once you start seeing the benefits it adds to your life and the lives of those around you, you won’t want to stop.

 

Best,

-Marley

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5S For Your Mind: How to Improve Your Thinking

If you woke up tomorrow really wanting to improve your life, how would you do it?

You’d probably do something like start working out, or call a friend to meet for lunch, or sign up for a training at work.  Getting some exercising would improve your health, spending time with friends and family would increase happiness, and working on your career would help you make more money.  It’s always good to try to optimize for these variables individually, but there’s only so many hours in the day!

Instead, what if you could do something that could improve all of them at once?  For example, what if you could spend less time feeling stressed or anxious so you could really maximize your time spent connecting with a friend or truly focus on learning a new skill for work?  It’s possible, through simply improving your thinking.  But what does that mean, and how can you do it?

If you’ve worked with or studied manufacturing processes, you’re probably familiar with 5S.  If you’ve never heard of it (or just need a refresher because you were dozing in class #guilty), 5S is an organization method that helps make manufacturing more efficient.  It’s famously used in Toyota’s factories to allow them to make a car in as little as 6 hours!

In the context of mental engineering, your thoughts and beliefs are like manufacturing processes.  For the sake of brevity, we’ll call them “internal processes”, though not to be confused with the business or geology uses of the phrase. While the processes in Toyota’s factory create cars, your internal processes create your perceptions about and interactions with the rest of the world.  By creating more efficiency within your mind, you can improve these perceptions and interactions, and allow yourself more freedom to focus, learn, connect, and generally enjoy life.

Ok, sounds great right? But how do you go about improving your internal processes?  Though applying 5S to internal processes isn’t as straightforward as applying them to manufacturing processes, it can still be done.  All that’s required is setting aside some time for metacognition (thinking about thinking), and applying the tactics as outlined below!

The 5S Process

1)Sort: Make work easier by eliminating obstacles

In manufacturing, this step generally entails getting rid of any unnecessary parts and evaluating necessary items with regard to cost and other factors.  For mental engineering, this means examining your Invisible Scripts (subconscious beliefs) and relationships and eliminating ones that are harmful or simply doesn’t serve you.

2)Straighten: Arrange all necessary items so they can be easily accessed

In a bike shop, this step would include creating a shadow board to hang tools on so you know exactly where everything is.  For our purposes, this means pulling your most beneficial thoughts and beliefs to the front of your mind, and making a point to repeat them frequently.  These thoughts and beliefs could be anything from self praise (“I’m so great at my job!”) to affirmations (“I can do anything I set my mind to”) or even simple pieces of gratitude (“I’m thankful to have such awesome friends!”).

3)Shine: Keep workplace clean and pleasing to work in

In a bio or chem lab, you generally have to follow strict procedures for cleanliness, both to improve work efficiency and to reduce risk of contamination (for both experimental and safety reasons).  When considering how to “shine” your internal processes, you want to try to reduce or eliminate unnecessary decisions and distractions so that you can focus on more important matters.

4)Standardize: Use best practices for all processes and keep things in their rightful place

When working with CNC machines, this step is most important for ensuring that the tools (different machine attachments) are being utilized properly, and are returned to their correct location for efficiency and safekeeping when done.  To improve internal processes, this step would focus on establishing best practices for how your receive and process information, as well as making sure to bring your positive thoughts to their “rightful place” at the top of your mind.  Best practices for receiving information could include a low information diet or avoiding idle gossip, while you can start processing information more quickly with speed reading and improved memory techniques.

5)Sustain: Perform regular audits

In a machine shop, this would mean doing in-house and OSHA inspections to ensure the shop is safe, clean, and efficient.  It also includes repeating the other 4S’s as necessary to ensure ideal functioning.  For mental engineering, this means checking in with yourself, and repeating the other processes as necessary.  Ultimately you’re looking for continuous improvement, which will aid you in all aspects of life.

 

I went a little long for my first post, but I hope you found it useful!  If you’re interested in learning more about 5S and mental engineering, sign up for the newsletter and I’ll send you the latest updates every Monday!

Best,

-Marley

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