List It or Lose It (Part 1 of 2)

  • By Shawn Sommerkamp
  • 31 Mar, 2017

How many of these statements apply to you in the last two weeks?

  • I have felt overwhelmed at the sheer volume of my work
  • I missed (or nearly missed) an important deadline
  • I completely forgot to fill in the blank
  • Many potentially important emails sit in my Inbox, unread
  • I cancelled a meeting, last minute, to free up time on my calendar
  • I work several 12-hour days each week
  • I work at least six hours most weekends

I won’t say, “If you selected at least three from the list above then you are scientifically considered a mess.” You’re not a mess. I will say, however, that if one or more of these comments apply, then you will benefit (no, greatly benefit) from the practice of list making. Yes…the age-old practice of a to-do list.

It’s hard to fight an enemy we don’t see.

So, who is the enemy when we don’t get things done? We are! I’m talking about a psychological phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik Effect.

Bluma Zeigarnik was a Soviet psychologist who conducted a now-landmark experiment in 1927.   She tested the ability of participants to remember tasks. The outcomes revealed something curious about how our brains are wired to mark things off a list.

We are said to be experiencing the Zeigarnik Effect when we experience intrusive thoughts about something that we once pursued but left incomplete. And we all do this. I mean, every one of us experiences a nagging feeling, an intrusive thought, when we aren’t getting everything done that we want to get done.

Do you ever get ready to leave the house and have a sense that you are forgetting something?

That sense is the Zeigarnik Effect. Have you ever gone to the grocery store without first making a list and try to walk the isles hoping to scan the shelves effectively so that you don’t forget an item? That low-level worry you might forget something is also the Zeigarnik Effect.

We have an automatic signal floating around inside our brains when something is only partially finished, even though we now focus on a new, critical task. These thoughts trigger a dissonance until we complete the unfinished work. At some point, we may even experience stress when higher level tasks are incomplete. Yet this can happen just below our awareness, in our subconscious.

This is where a To Do List is invaluable to our own success.

By getting the unfinished work out of our brain and onto a paper (or electronic tool in our phone or laptop or tablet), we are removing the disharmony, the static, the intrusive thought.

Making lists is sometimes so effortless, like a grocery list, that it’s almost inconceivable we don’t use this same technique for our career action items. Those who do use lists have a big advantage over others.

Not the list-making type? That’s okay. In the next segment I will share creative ways to make it a career changing habit.

Shawn Sommerkamp is a motivational speaker and Executive Coach with 20+ years of Fortune 100 leadership experience.  He founded Motivationeer™ to coach Christian professionals how to use their career to glorify God and support local church growth.

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By Shawn Sommerkamp 10 Jan, 2018

Shawn Sommerkamp, speaking to the Charleston Church of Christ at the New Year's Eve church service Dec 31, 2017.

By Shawn Sommerkamp 10 Jan, 2018

Targeted goal-setting is powerful and effective. It helps us keep clarity of outcome. Breaking big desires down into smaller, achievable goals makes success achievable. The biggest challenges are overcome as we make a series of small goals that, collectively, lead to big outcomes. 

And yet, just setting a bunch of goals can often be discouraging when we don’t reach them. Ever wonder why we often fall short? It’s because the goals weren’t smart! I’m not talking about whether the goals are stupid or intelligent either. I’m talking about a simple way of thinking about an activity designed to help us achieve results. It’s called S.M.A.R.T. and it stands for the following:

By David Mitchell 09 Jan, 2018

It’s early January. 

The Holidays are over. 

It can feel like we go from the ‘The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year’ to the most challenging time of the year. 

A more appropriate lyric, now that it is time to make resolutions & get back to work, could be one of the following… 

‘It’s The Most: 

  - Stressful
  - Sad
  - Crazy busy
  - Cash poor
  - Lonely
  - Weight Gaining
  - Overrated

 …Time Of The Year.’`

It’s not that you are ‘Bah Humbug’…

You want to enjoy it, but it can feel more like “I just want to get through it.”

Although your MIND knows that God’s will for you (according to 1 Th 5:16-18) is to:

“Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances…”  

...your HEART can lag behind & this simple command can seem overwhelming.

Sometimes you can put your finger on what’s dragging you down & other times it’s more elusive ~ not really sure what’s keeping things from being ‘Wonderful’.

By Shawn Sommerkamp 20 Nov, 2017

1 Thessalonians 5:18   Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus

Give thanks, no matter what is happening in your life.  This is easy…right? 

A national polling firm named Penn, Schoen, & Berland conducted a survey, mid-2012, evaluating American attitude toward thankfulness. They conducted more than 2,000 interviews across the US general population. I’m only going to share a few pieces of the overall report:    

  • 90% of people said they would describe themselves as people who are generally grateful for their family and friends
  • However, only 52% of women and 44% of men express any thankfulness regularly
  • 60% say when they do express thankfulness, they do it to make themselves feel good

Where is the one place people are least likely to express gratitude? WORK 

  • 74% of the 2000 respondents never or rarely show gratitude at work (for anything)
  • 70% want their boss to be thankful for them (even though they don’t express thanks)
  • 81% would work harder if they were thanked by their boss or company 

Based on this survey, that hardest circumstance to give thanks exists in and around the workplace. Isn’t that amazing? The place we spend the most waking hours (about 2,200 hours per year, about 110,000 hours in working lifespan) we aren’t thankful for.  Wow! 

The truth is our career is not just a way to make a living - it’s a way to transform the world. It’s the place God placed us so that we could make the biggest difference in our service to him.

By Dave Mitchell 17 Nov, 2017

Do you remember when these 3D-Hidden Object posters came out? They were quite the RAVE…

They were not what they appeared to be at first glance… If you wanted to understand what the poster was really about, you had to stop what you were doing, get real close to it – focus on it, and back away very slowly… and then – like magic – 3D images would appear / seemingly emerge right off of the paper (3D effect). The embedded 3D images were disguised and hidden to the untrained/unfocused eyes.

Some people (me included sometimes) would get frustrated if we could not see the 3D images fast enough – some were easier than others… and missed the ‘magic’ of the poster.

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