Positive thinking is the practice of focusing on the good in every situation. It means focusing more on the positive side of an event than the negative.
This does not mean ignoring the bad things. It means that you accept the bad but then start working on making the most out of whatever has happened.
Positive thinking allows you to approach life’s challenges with positivity and optimism.
When bad things happen you focus on the positive and keep going rather than focusing on the bad. For many people, this is the definition of resilience.
Learning to be more positive is a big step towards learning to be more resilient.
Your thoughts make your actions and your actions define your success.
Developing a positive mindset will make you far more resilient and happy.
You cannot change the world outside, but you can change how you react to it.
Changing how you react to the world will change how you feel about yourself and so has a real impact on your well-being.
The benefits of positive thinking go far beyond just feeling good in the moment.
It offers a whole host of benefits, a key one being stress management and building resilience. These benefits have been extensively researched.
The physical benefits include:
The mental benefits include:
Positive thinking allows you to approach difficulties more productively and to take action.
The ability to keep moving and focus on the positive offers two clear benefits:
There is some evidence that positive thinking can change your brain.
Positive thoughts will reduce your cortisol levels and increase your serotonin levels.
These in turn can change which genes are expressed in your brain.
This isn’t well researched so we wouldn’t blame you if you take this with a grain of salt.
However, it is widely accepted that London cab drivers physically change the structure of their brain during their training when they learn their way around London’s roads. So perhaps it wouldn’t be surprising if consistently thinking positively also changed your brain.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” (William Shakespeare)
Positive thinking is a skill that can be learned and developed.
The following are fours signs that you are probably a positive thinker.
Positive thinkers lift themselves with positive self-talk.
They turn negative statements into actionable, motivational, and uplifting statements.
Positive thinkers are sometimes going to have negative self-talk, but they are aware of it and refocus themselves.
Studies have shown that happiness and positivity is contagious.
Positive people have a way of making others feel happy too. They bring out the best in other people.
If you find you are surrounded by positive people you are probably a positive thinker.
Positive thinkers don’t ignore the negative, they live in the real world. Positive thinkers realize the negative but then react positively and proactively. They don’t dwell on negative thoughts.
If you find that you don’t tend to dwell on the negative, and move towards positive thoughts then you are probably a positive thinker.
Positive thinkers recognize both the positive side and the negative but choose to focus their time and energy on the side that’s going to move things forward.
They respond to negativity with positivity and hope.
Is the glass half full or empty?
Both. It depends on how you look at it.
If you focus more on the empty part of the glass, it will bring stress and demotivation. However, looking at the full side and working to make the empty part of the glass full will bring results, reduce stress, and eliminates negativity. It is a great example of the power of positive thinking.
Look at failures and negative events as an opportunity to grow.
Stuck in traffic, it’s the best time to listen to an audiobook.
Missed a bus to the next street, take a walk.
When Thomas Edison’s factory was burning down. He didn’t bemoan the disaster.
He famously sent messages to his relatives encouraging them to come and see the fire as they’d never see anything like it again!
Countless celebrities believe their success results from positive thinking.
Jim Carrey, a huge Hollywood star, and imagined his success long before he was successful. He has always had great faith in himself.
Jennifer Lopez’s day is not finished without 15 minutes of affirmations and positive thinking.
She believes positive thinking helps her build resilience against stress.
3- Denzel Washington
In order to change your life, you must change your thoughts. (Denzel Washington)
Denzel Washington uses affirmations and positive thinking to build a positive mindset which made him successful.
From poverty to the world’s wealthiest women, Oprah Winfrey believes her success results from a positive mindset.
She believes her success was not possible without affirmations and positive thinking.
Positive thinking is a mindset that can be developed.
Here are 8 great ways to banish negative self-talk, think positive, and start enjoying the power of positive thinking.
Affirmations are positive sentences that you listen to or say yourself repetitively.
The idea is that affirmations help to reprogram your mind. So, in this case, you can use them to help you to think more positively.
Researchers have shown that spending just a few minutes thinking about your best qualities before a high-pressure meeting can calm your nerves, increase your confidence, and improve your chances of a successful outcome.
Starting your day by repeating and focusing on positive phrases will help you to get into and keep a positive outlook.
It will also mean that when inevitable setbacks come, you’ll react fact less and so be mentally tougher.
Find humor in everyday events. Smile more, especially during hard times.
Smiling and laughter reduce stress and bring positive energy, emotions, and thoughts.
In a study, people who smiled (even fake-smiled) while doing a stressful task felt more positive during and after the task than those who were at neutral expression.
Laughter has been shown to provide a wealth of health benefits and to make you feel more optimistic.
Spend time with people who make you laugh.
Success consists of going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm. (Winston Churchill)
Failures are part of life. If you don’t fail, you don’t learn. If you don’t learn, you never grow.
Remember failures bring opportunities.
Accept mistakes and turn your failure into a lesson. Make the most of it by thinking about it and writing down all the lessons that you can take from the failure.
Then remind yourself that failure also brings other opportunities and move forward.
Studies show that positive self-talk increases confidence and reduces stress.
Replace negative words with positive ones. Use words that make you feel happy, strong, confident, and motivated.
If negative thoughts enter your mind, catch yourself and respond with positive affirmations.
Whatever you think and focus on, you become. (Law Of Attraction)
Identify your strengths and focus on them.
People who focus on their strengths are happier, healthy, confident, and motivated. They feel less stressed, have more positive energy, and experiences faster growth.
“Surround yourself with those who only lift you higher. (Oprah Winfrey)
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So choose your friends carefully.
Your friends create your surrounding. Positive people make your mood, inspire you, and help you to make better decisions.
Getting 30 minutes of physical activity each day can help in positive thinking.
All exercise helps whether it’s walking, biking, or going to the gym.
Regular exercise makes you happier, relaxed, less stressed, and increases positive energy. Follow a
healthy diet to feed your mind and body.
Focus on the good things, no matter how small they are.
A study found that people who kept gratitude journals felt more thankful, positive, and optimistic about their future. They also slept better.
Noticing and appreciating the positives in our lives is a great way to increase positive thinking and build resilience against stress.
Start to practice gratitude by taking 5 minutes to think of 3 things to be thankful for no mater how small or insignificant.
Positive thinking does not mean ignoring the negative. It means approaching the negative situations with hope and productivity.
Positive thinking is a learned skill. This means that anyone can learn it and everyone can improve theirs.
If you think positively then it helps in all aspects of everyday life. It improves your mental health and reduces your negative thoughts. It is one of the coping skills that all truly resilient people have.
Image credit: Pexels
To find out more about how people are managing their time in 2021 we have conducted some new, original research.
We polled 500 employees across a wide variety of industries to understand:
For more details of our sample size and methodology, see the bottom of this article.
This is part of a series of polls we have carried out. The other ones include:
Let’s take a look at what we found in more detail.
1: 18% OF PEOPLE HAVE A DEDICATED TIME MANAGEMENT SYSTEM.
82% OF PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE A DEDICATED TIME MANAGEMENT SYSTEM.
2: 33% OF PEOPLE USE A TO DO LIST TO MANAGE THEIR TIME AND TASKS.
3: 24% OF PEOPLE USE THEIR EMAIL INBOX AS THEIR TIME AND TASK MANAGEMENT SYSTEM.
4: 12% OF PEOPLE SCHEDULE ALL OF THEIR TASKS IN THEIR DIARY IN ADVANCE.
5: 25% OF PEOPLE “JUST DEAL WITH WHATEVER SEEMS MOST IMPORTANT AT THE TIME”
1: 20% OF PEOPLE FEEL THAT THEIR WORK IS UNDER CONTROL EVERY DAY
2: 66% (2/3rds) OF PEOPLE FEEL THAT THEIR WORK IS UNDER CONTROL MOST OF THE TIME (AT LEAST 3 DAYS PER WEEK
3: OVER 20% (21%) FEEL THAT THEIR WORK IS EITHER NEVER UNDER CONTROL OR ONLY UNDER CONTROL 1 DAY PER WEEK.
4: MORE 10% OF PEOPLE (1 in 8) FEEL THAT THEIR WORK IS NEVER UNDER CONTROL
MORE THAN 1 IN 4 (28%) OF PEOPLE USING THIS FEEL THEIR WORK IS UNDER CONTROL NEVER OR ONLY ONE DAY PER WEEK.
2: THE EISENHOWER MATRIX IS THE MOST SUCCESSFUL (“BEST”) STRATEGY.
50% OF PEOPLE WITH THIS ANSWER FEEL THEIR WORK IS UNDER CONTROL EVERY DAY.
50% OF PEOPLE WITH THIS ANSWER FEEL THAT THEIR WORK IS UNDER CONTROL 4 DAYS OF THE WEEK.
3: THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE IS THE SECOND MOST SUCCESSFUL TIME MANAGEMENT STRATEGY.
60% OF PEOPLE USING THIS TECHNIQUE FEEL THAT THEIR WORK IS UNDER CONTROL 4 OR 5 DAYS PER WEEK.
An Eisenhower matrix worksheet can be found at the bottom of our time management course page.
New line managers on our line management training course often comment that they find that their workload can be overwhelming initially. We recommend that they use an Eisenhower matrix to map out exactly what tasks they have to manage and which ones are the most urgent and important.
1: 1 IN 5 PEOPLE CARRY OUT A TIME AUDIT REGULARLY (AT LEAST ONCE PER MONTH) TO SEE HOW THEY ARE SPENDING THEIR TIME.
2: ALMOST 1 IN 3 (31%) OF PEOPLE CARRY ONE OUT OCCASIONALLY.
3: ALMOST HALF (49%) OF PEOPLE HAVE NEVER CARRIED OUT A TIME AUDIT TO UNDERSTAND HOW THEY SPEND THEIR TIME.
For details on how to carry out a time audit please see our article: how to carry out a time audit.
Obviously, before you can think about improving your time management you need to understand where your time is currently going.
The average working person has never even looked at how they spend their time – a recipe for poor time management.
Although this used to be an irritating process time tracking apps now make this a far simpler exercise – see this article on time tracking apps if you’re unsure which one to use.
The average full-time worker spends up to 12.5% of their average workday on low impact activities and unnecessary meetings where no meaningful communication takes place.
A simple place to start with time management if implementing a time management system feels overwhelming is to focus on cutting out the activities that are a waste of time.
Saving only one hour per week on average amounts to a 2.5% increase in your productive time (assuming eight hours in a working day). If that time is then focused on your most important tasks because you have implemented some good time management strategies it will make an even larger difference.
Managing email is one of the keys to personal productivity.
The amount of time wasted through repetitive email checking is huge.
As with cutting out wasted time another very simple way to better time management skills is to reduce how often you check your email.
Our sister company Acuity Training, runs a number of time management training courses focused on this problem.
The research for these statistics was carried out using Pollfish. 500 people were surveyed.
It polled a representative sample of working people. It was evenly split between males (46%) and females (54%).
The research was evenly split between age groups, with 20% of the replies being received from people in each of the following age categories.
This is going to be the first of a series of four blogs which will look at some of the reasons that we often struggle to manage our time well.
This series will cover:
These are 4 of the biggest traps that people fall into so in each of these articles we’ll take a look at the issue and then a few tried and tested tools to help you stay in control.
Put simply the Urgency Effect is our habit of mistaking the urgent for the important.
We all know that we should focus on important tasks with larger payoffs. However, when presented with a choice between:
we consistently choose urgent tasks first despite them being low-value and complete important tasks later.
The Urgency Effect has been studied in a number of studies. See this article for a good overview.
One very good experiment involved offering students two different tasks of equal difficulty but with different time frames and rewards. This was carefully set up to see if they would favour urgent tasks with short completion windows instead of tasks with larger outcomes which are further away.
They were asked to create reviews for five different products. They were given one minute for each one.
However, they were then split into two groups which were offered a choice of different rewards and time scales to choose between.
Group 1 was asked to choose between:
Group 2 (the control) was asked to choose between:
Clearly, in both scenarios option 2 offers a 66.6% higher return for each unit of work (a review) and so should be the preferred option.
In Group 2 they reliably (87%) went for the second option which offers the higher payoff. In group 1 where urgency was introduced into the decision, 69% went for the better option.
So although it seems obvious the introduction of an expiration influenced students’ decisions materially. Something that marketers have known for years!
The Urgency Effect (sometimes known as The Mere Urgency Effect) works because people tend to focus on time rather than the payoff.
Payoffs are far in the future and uncertain usually, and especially for the most important tasks. Completion dates, however, are straightforward to calculate. Over time our brain tends to focus on deadlines as a shortcut. This is often exacerbated by loss aversion because we will ‘lose’ the lower value opportunity if we don’t take it.
We’re not completely irrational however, further research has shown that if people are explicitly reminded to look at the return on their activity they change their mind to the higher returning activity.
We need to train ourselves to move away from goal completion, often with immediate and certain payoffs, to work on important tasks with larger outcomes.
The short answer to this is ‘Yes’.
Further research showed that the tendency to focus on time rather than payoff was more pronounced in people who were stressed and ‘time poor’. Which makes sense if you are pushed for time then that tends to be your focus and so means that you will focus more attention on deadlines and time generally.
The bitter irony is that if you are stretched for time that is exactly the time that you need to ignore unimportant tasks and work on important tasks. But then perhaps it is their habit of leaving tasks that are difficult and further away to focus on tasks with short completion dates that has caused the issue in the first place?
There are a number of reliable ways to beat The Urgency Effect.
Let’s look at three of the most popular. Depending on how you look at them, they are all very similar as at heart they are different ways of moving your focus from allocating your time according to a task’s urgency to a task’s value and importance.
The Eisenhower Matrix / One Thing / Essentialism
All of these practices involve working out and focusing on your highest value activities first by ranking tasks for urgency and importance.
They have slightly different ways of looking at things but boil down to this same idea at heart.
For a copy of the Eisenhower matrix and more detail on how to use it see our time management course page – link above.
Tricking Yourself With Deadlines
If deadlines drive your focus then use this to your advantage.
Give important but not urgent tasks short completion windows to force yourself to focus on them.
This isn’t always achievable but in a perfect world the more important the task the nearer the deadline.
Method One: Allocate set limited amounts of time for low-value tasks. For example, I will only open my email for 40 minutes three times per day – first thing, lunchtime and the end of the day. This frees up the rest of the day.
Method Two: For the first X minutes of the day ( 120 minutes is often chosen) I will work on my most important task first and then work on other things. I won’t open my email or respond to my phone or any other distractions.
If you don’t know how you spend your time, you can’t know if you’re spending it well or poorly.
Time is our most precious resource. Audit how you spend yours and you’ll know where it goes.
Once you know where your time goes you’re in a position to manage your time, as we discuss during our time management course.
From there the action plan is simple:
1. No value activities: STOP
2. Low-value activities: DELEGATE / REDUCE / AUTOMATE
3. High-value activities: INCREASE
Life changes and priorities change so this isn’t a once and done process.
We would recommend doing and reviewing your time data regularly until you get a good grip on your time. Once you feel that you have yours under control move to a quarterly cycle.
Although the process sounds labour intensive it’s really not once you get used to it.
I’ll explain below in the notes, but the process of auditing your time is likely to actually improve your management of it substantially, even before you get the results.
This is a three-step process:
1. Gathering The Data
Choose what you think is a relatively typical week to audit.
Get a new pad of paper and a pen and after you finish each task write down what it was, when you started and when you finished.
For tasks that fall into an obvious category, for example replying to email, you don’t need to note each email, just the time that you spend working on that activity (replying to emails).
If one or a number of your emails are particularly time-consuming you should note them separately as that time doesn’t really fall into the category of ’email’.
That’s it. Keep doing this for a week and you have your data.
Some people try to do this using an app or spreadsheet, as opposed to pen and paper, but generally, forget to keep notes as the spreadsheet is minimised. Having the pen and paper (which should be separate from your normal notepad, if you use one) on your desk reminds you each time you look away from your screen.
2. Analysing The Data
This is simple.
Create a spreadsheet with your tasks down the left and the days of your audit across the top.
Insert your data, sum it by category, transform the totals into percentages and you’re done. See below an example for a fictional junior salesperson.
3. Reviewing The Data
Remember to live in the real work when reviewing your data. Spending anything above 75% on your high-value tasks is doing extremely well.
Admin is part of life.
Our salesperson is spending 44% of their time on their core selling tasks, which is poor.
The issue is that they are spending 12% of their time on tasks that add no value and 44% on low-value tasks.
The 12% on ‘No Value’ tasks isn’t great but not too bad. Realistically getting this below 10% is very good.
The big issue is the amount of time spent on low-value tasks. It is as much time as the time spent on high-value tasks.
Living in the real world getting this below 20% is exceptionally good, and below 25% is still very good. 44%, however, tells them that they need to look at this carefully to see how they can streamline tasks.
– What happened on Thursday when 75% of their day was consumed by these activities? Did they need to spend almost 50% of the day working on emails?
– Is there some way to minimise the time spent on ‘Other Admin’?
– Was there a way for them to have left the budget meeting sooner? For further tips on ensuring that the meetings that you attend run promptly and effectively see this article on improving meetings.
Obviously, the possible solutions are endless but until you see how you spend your time clearly in black and white you don’t know where you need to focus.
This is all in context. In this example, I’ve put the ‘Marketing Meeting’ in the no value category as it wasn’t a meeting that they needed to attend or could particularly contribute to.
Contrast that with the budget meeting which they did have to attend as part of their role in the sales team. They didn’t lead or contribute substantially as a junior member so it is an orange task.
The category a task goes into has to be looked at in the context of the individual’s role. The marketing meeting would be a high-value activity for members of the marketing team.
Similarly ‘Monthly Expenses’ and ‘Travel Planning‘ are in the no value category as this is something that the team has an assistant to deal with and book for them.
2. Why You’ll Be More Efficient During the Audit
If you’re honest when recording your time the time when you ‘lose focus’ is going to drastically diminish.
We’ve all needed to look something up on the web for work and thought oh I’ll just check Facebook while I’m here, to find ourselves looking at something completely different 15 minutes later.
The act of having to record your time will make you conscious of how you spend it. You’re not going to want to admit that the ‘checking supplier details on the web’ task that should have taken 5 minutes either:
– Actually took 25 minutes
– Took 5 minutes but then add another line saying “9.28 – 9.48 – Facebook”
Being forced to be mindful of how you spend your day will more than make up for the time that you spend recording how you spend your time.
You will also probably find that your energy levels rise as well. Knowing that you are focusing on and progressing your key targets is a great form of motivation.