The Magic Power of Humor

Humor

Learn three strategies to help you connect with your audience and spark laughter.

By Nick Jack Pappas

Laughter is magical. For a speaker, it has the power to impart confidence. Nothing feels better than receiving a roar of approval from an audience after delivering your punchline. It can provide a boost of energy and propel you into the heart of your speech.

For a listener, laughter has the power to ease tension. Speeches that tackle serious and important subjects can be difficult to process. Lightening the mood helps the audience relax and pay more attention to your next point.

If you want to spark laughter, these three types of humor can unite you and the audience: (1) Relatable humor relies on a reference the audience understands. It allows them to relax and feel like they’re listening to a friend; (2) Self-deprecating humor is an option if you’re willing to make fun of yourself—it shows you are human and contributes to your likeability; Finally, (3) humor that leaves you vulnerable can help you bond with an audience, because if you speak from the heart and help the crowd laugh about serious topics, your message will be clearer in their minds.

Using these three humor strategies helps ensure the best chance of connecting with the audience.

Be Relatable

A shared experience bonds the speaker and audience. Listeners feel like you have a hidden insight into their everyday lives, and that’s delightful. You may not feel like you have relatable experiences to draw from, but you do. Audiences love to hear about embarrassing things your children have done, because their children have done the same things. Everyone has a crazy story about a commute to work, so talk freely about belting out songs in traffic jams or being crammed like sardines on a subway train.

“Being vulnerable in your comedy is powerful because it not only spurs the audience to laugh, it allows them to laugh in a sometimes difficult world.”

Boost the impact of humorous, relatable stories by acting out funny conversations you’ve had. Change your voice to portray other people. Use your body and take up the stage; be bold! The more engaged you are in the stories, the more engaged your audience will be. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld is a master at using observational humor, focusing on the funny aspects of everyday life. Witness his observation about children: “A 2-year-old is kind of like having a blender, but you don’t have a top for it.” Parents the world over can relate to that.

If you can make the audience laugh by pointing out common experiences and feelings, they’ll want to hear what else you have to say.

Be Self-Deprecating

People sitting in audience laughing

Comedians have made entire careers out of self-deprecating humor, which is the ability and willingness to make fun of yourself. If you’re short, have fun taking time to move down the microphone stand. If you’re bald, ask the audience if they’re distracted by the glare coming off your head. Being able to laugh at yourself is courageous.
American comedian and actor Rodney Dangerfield was known for his self- deprecating one-liners and his “I don’t get no respect” catchphrase. Joan Rivers fired off zingers about her own marriage. Irish/British stand-up comedian Jimmy Carr makes fun of his distinct laugh, and American comedian Jim Gaffigan jokes about his weight and unhealthy eating habits. (He speaks lovingly of bacon, french fries and chocolate cake.) Audiences love speakers who don’t take themselves too seriously.

An important disclaimer: Don’t make fun of your expertise. If you’re giving a presentation about marketing, don’t tell a joke about being a bad marketer. Find something universal but more trivial. Example: “Are you someone who stays a little too long at the hotel buffet? I’ve known some great marketers who can’t say no to those waffle machines.”
Be Vulnerable

Here, we’re delving into the highest level of humor: revealing things about yourself in a funny way. The biggest mistake I’ve seen speakers make onstage is trying to seem like Superman. They make fun of the audience, but they’re bulletproof to any comedic barbs. Being vulnerable in your comedy is powerful because it not only spurs the audience to laugh, it allows them to laugh in a sometimes difficult world.

The best way to unite yourself with an audience is sharing your challenges in life. The simple act of being vulnerable will make the audience feel like you trust them. In return, they’ll trust you.

One of the best examples of a comedian showing vulnerability to powerful effect was a 2012 set performed by Tig Notaro, an American stand-up comic, writer and actress. In it, she revealed to the audience that she had cancer. Notaro used her signature dry, deadpan humor to actually talk about the idea of dying, and her audience loved her for it. She used sarcasm to give a voice to the often ambiguous nature of God. “Rest assured, God never gives you more than you can handle,” she said, wryly, “I just picture God going, ‘You know what? I think she can handle a little more.’” What seemed like a taboo subject instantly connected her to the crowd.

We’re all in this together. Give yourself to the audience and they’ll give back to you.
Always Punch Up

Humor, by its very nature, is meant to go after a target. You’re “making fun” and often, you’re making fun of a group of people. Sure, universal humor can take on big topics, like business, religion or politics, but all of those mean targeting people as well.

“Audiences love to hear about embarrassing things your children have done, because their children have done the same things.”

“Punching up” means using elements of humor when talking about someone who is in a higher level of power than you or your listeners. Does this mean you can’t tackle serious issues like income inequality, racism or mental illness in your speeches? No, but it does mean you should pay close attention to who the target is. For example, it can be funny to skewer the obscenely wealthy, but it’s in bad taste to target a specific individual who is rich. Use hyperbole whenever you can, which is writing a punchline that moves the conversation to an impossible level. Exaggerate. “The hot sauce was so spicy I thought I would need a fire extinguisher for my mouth.” 
Find Unexpected Connections

Maybe the most difficult way to engage the audience is finding a way to get them to relate to each other. Political and social viewpoints can feel polarizing, making some speakers reticent to draw on controversial subjects when adding humor to their speeches. Yet the best way to unite the audience is with humor that resonates.

Sometimes it feels that we have to worry about offending everyone these days. For example, cross-cultural humor sometimes doesn’t translate, and gender-based humor can raise the ire of some. The most important thing you can do is find people you can trust and ask their opinion if you’re worried your material might offend. Testing your speech works across all spectrums. Surround yourself with friends of other races, cultures and beliefs. The more diverse your inner circle becomes, the less likely you’ll be to offend a wide audience. Diversity not only informs your comedy, it helps you better understand the world around you.
We all want the same things. We want to feel loved, we want to feel safe and we want to feel understood. If you can use different forms of humor that show your audience that you care for and understand them, you can get laughs from anyone, regardless of their background.

The Power of Taking Risks

Raise the stakes for yourself and get out of your comfort zone.

By Megan Preston Meyer, CC, CL

 

risks

Remember your Ice Breaker? I sure remember mine. My throat was dry and my face was burning; I felt like I’d been stranded in the desert for a week. The sheet of notes I was holding amplified the shaking in my hands until it looked like I was waving a white flag. I felt like I was taking a huge risk by standing there, speaking in front of everyone while my body clearly wanted me to surrender.

Fast-forward two years: I had given countless more speeches, served as club president and vice president education, and could speak in front of my club without batting an eye or breaking a sweat. I had this public speaking thing down.

Or so I thought.

The Spring Speech Contest was coming up, and I decided to compete. My speech was great, and I felt confident. The view from my cozy little perch in the center of my comfort zone was rosy. The club and area contests were a breeze—I took first place in both. There was no telling how far I’d go.

But then, when my name and speech title (and then speech title and name) were announced at the division contest, my shaking legs could barely carry me to the front of the room. My voice lacked the force and energy needed to convey my message, and my jokes fell flat.

Looking out on that sea of faces I didn’t recognize, speaking in a situation where the stakes were high, I felt like I was giving my Ice Breaker all over again. The comfort zone I had built up by speaking to my own club didn’t extend nearly as far as I thought it would—and I didn’t realize I was breaching its borders until it was too late.

That’s the danger of comfort zones; once they’ve grown a little bit, you lose track of their limits. It’s not like there’s a road sign (Caution: Comfort Zone Ends in 1,000 Meters, Be Prepared to Stop). If you’re not looking out for the edge, you’ll hurtle right over it, Thelma-and-Louise style, and then you will notice.

“Keep patrolling the perimeter of your comfort zone, taking short scouting trips to the outside.”

I’d recommend a more controlled approach to keeping track of your comfort zone, especially if you’ve already mastered the initial anxiety of public speaking. Make it a habit to toe the line, stepping outside, bit by bit, on a regular basis. You can admire your expanded comfort zone, be proud of its vastness—just don’t get too cozy.
Increase the Risk

Part of the reason that comfort zones are so, well, comfortable is that you perceive your risk of catastrophic failure to be low. However, we need a bit of anxiety to perform optimally. A quick way to get outside of your comfort zone, then, is to add more risk, either by increasing the chance of failure (i.e., making it harder) or increasing the cost of failure (i.e., raising the stakes). Here are a handful of tips to help.
1. Change Up Your Audience

It’s the public in “public speaking” that most people fear; we’re afraid of what the audience will think of us. But if you speak to the same group of people every time—your fellow club members—you can build up a tolerance quickly.

Find a different audience by arranging an exchange with another club in your area or division. Use the Find a Club tool to locate another club nearby. Sometimes all it takes is a different set of faces staring back at you to bring back those butterflies.
2. BYOE: Bring Your Own Expert

If no one can question your expertise, no one can drag you out of your comfort zone. Say you’re using your club speech slot to practice a presentation for work, laying out the cost-benefit analysis on the make-or-buy decision for a new inventory management platform. It’s easy to feel confident when you’re the only person in the room who has any idea what you’re talking about.

Or maybe you are one of the most senior members of the club, and the junior members are reluctant—or unable—to give you useful feedback about your presentation style because they simply don’t have the experience that you have.

If you don’t have any experts in your club, bring your own. Invite your colleagues—or your boss. Or invite an even more seasoned Toastmaster or speaker whom you admire. You need people who can judge you critically so you can grow and improve.
3. Go Multilingual

Do you speak a second language? Toastmasters clubs operate in many different languages and have members who are native speakers of even more.

Find a club or an evaluator who speaks your non-native tongue—or even your native language, if you’re used to speaking in a different one—and then give your next speech in Spanish or try presenting in Polish. The added complexity of operating in a different language than you’re used to will push you right out of your comfort zone.

“Use the structure and support that Toastmasters provides to take bigger and bolder risks; remember, it’s a safety net, not a hammock.”

4. Change Up Your Preparation Style

If you are the type who carefully plans out and practices your speech several times, make a conscious decision to wing it. Conversely, if you typically play it more fast and loose, commit to outlining, practicing and preparing—and have your evaluator hold you accountable for doing so. If you typically don’t use visual aids, add some slides; if you typically do use visual aids, go blind. Figure out your usual crutches, and then kick them out from underneath yourself.
5. Face the Consequences

The beautiful thing about the Toastmasters model is that it allows us to practice, learn and improve in a supportive, low-risk environment. But practice is a means to an end, not an end in itself; it’s preparation for the main event.

So find the main event. Maybe it’s a speech contest, a TEDx Talk or a keynote speech. Maybe it’s a new path in Pathways or a presentation at the next all-company or town hall meeting; or maybe it’s a workshop at a conference in your industry. Whatever it is, make sure it’s an event where performance matters and where failure has consequences. After all, this is what you’ve been practicing for.
Once you’ve overcome the initial anxiety of public speaking, don’t let yourself get too comfortable. Use the structure and support that Toastmasters provides to take bigger and bolder risks; remember, it’s a safety net, not a hammock. Keep patrolling the perimeter of your comfort zone, taking short scouting trips to the outside. Find ways to make public speaking harder or to raise the stakes, so that you—and your comfort zone—continue to grow.

The Path to Presentation Mastery

Educational projects help you become an accomplished speaker.

By Jennifer L Blanck, DTM

pathways logo

 

To become an accomplished public speaker, you must connect with your audience. The Presentation Mastery path, part of Toastmasters’ Pathways education program, provides the techniques to do just that. It helps you write a persuasive speech, tell an engaging story, handle difficult audience members and generally become a better speaker.

Presentation Mastery is one of 11 paths in Pathways. Like all paths, it features five levels of progressive complexity, with a mix of required and elective projects. The early projects include foundational ones common to all paths, such as “Evaluation and Feedback” and “Introduction to Toastmasters Mentoring.” You broaden your speaking skills in Level 3, with a project about persuasive speaking, and electives that cover a variety of topics including storytelling and social speeches (such as toasts, award-acceptance speeches and eulogies).

In Levels 4 and 5 projects, you apply your skills to real-world situations—for example, presenting a full-length keynote-style speech and choosing electives where you handle a question-and-answer session or moderate a panel discussion.

Roger Fung, DTM, says completing Presentation Mastery helped him professionally. A member of the Online Presenters club and three community clubs in Dallas, Texas, U.S., he is a freelance trainer and marketing consultant. Fung is also a stand-in preacher who used to be a full-time pastor. He says he used to spend 80–90 percent of his time focused on content when preparing his sermons.

“After completing the Presentation Mastery path, I now spend more time on how I’m going to connect with the audience,” Fung says. “Now I think about content about 60 percent of the time. For the other 40 percent, I focus on who I’m talking to, how I will reach them and what possible questions or interruptions I will face—whether out loud or in the audience members’ minds.”
Raising the Ceiling

Fung joined Toastmasters in 2017 to build his skills and help him become a professional speaker. “I was relying on my natural talent whenever I spoke, but I didn’t have any structure,” he says. “I hit a ceiling with my abilities.”

“Now I can recognize the different types of interruptions and have tools for what I can do to bring people back to my presentation.”

—Roger Fung, DTM

He selected the Pathways Presentation Mastery path to take his skills to the next level. Fung was particularly excited about the Level 4 project “Managing a Difficult Audience.” It teaches speakers how to calmly manage audience disruptions and defuse uncomfortable situations. “I’ve been in corporate settings when discussions became heated, and people—because of their rank or passion—have interrupted,” he says.

In this project, members are tasked by the Toastmaster or vice president education to serve in four specific disruptive roles throughout a speech. The roles include “The Interrupter” (constantly breaking in when someone else is talking), “The Chatterer” (the person who keeps making side comments to his neighbor) and “The Arguer” (the know-it-all type who insists he’s always right). Although speakers know the different types of interruptions possible, they don’t know who will be doing what or when it’s coming. For example, one member kept constantly asking Fung questions.

Toastmasters isn’t an environment where people typically interrupt, so Fung had never practiced dealing with disruptions. “Even though it was a role play, it was quite different from just reading or watching a video about it,” he says. It was a challenging exercise but one that helped him, Fung adds. “Until I actually delivered that speech, it was all just theory. Now I can recognize the different types of interruptions and have tools for what I can do to bring people back to my presentation.”

Strategies recommended to keep the Interrupter at bay include:

  • Early in the session, tell participants you will address all their questions and comments at the end.
  • Give a specific task to the disruptive audience member, such as recording other participants’ responses from a brainstorming activity.

Becoming a Professional Speaker

M. Zain Ul Abidin, ACG, ALB, joined WrocLove Speakers in Wroclaw, Poland, in 2016 to improve his public speaking and become a professional speaker. He selected Presentation Mastery because of its focus.

He particularly appreciates the Level 5 “Prepare to Speak Professionally” project. “I thought it would be similar to the Professional Speaker manual in the Advanced Communication series and tell me what a keynote speech is,” he says. “But when I started reading, I was surprised. It goes beyond that … and gives you great tips.”

The project stresses the importance of highlighting your area of expertise, whether it’s academic or professional, and crafting a message around your life experiences. It also helps you learn about audience demographics and how to market yourself as a professional-level speaker, including creating a website and networking with other speakers and potential clients.

The project helped Zain focus on longer speeches and taking a presentation to a bigger audience. “It’s exactly what I was looking for,” he says. Zain turned one speech into a workshop he presented at his division conference.
Building a Brand

The Level 4 “Write a Compelling Blog” elective (available in all paths) has also helped Zain advance toward his longtime goal of writing a blog. The project required eight posts over four weeks. He learned how to express himself through writing. “Speeches and blog posts are similar in that you have to have a message and a structure, and hold people’s attention,” he says. “But you can’t express yourself as clearly in writing as when you’re speaking.”

The more he wrote, the more he learned and improved. He plans to keep working on the blog. “Blogging is actually part of being a professional speaker,” he says. “It helps build your brand.”

Lisa Wright, DTM, from Confidence Builders Toastmasters in Riverside, California, also found an elective helpful for her business. Wright joined Toastmasters in 2015 to be a better speaker. “I’ve been a dietician for 20 years and, with so much knowledge in my head, I tripped over my thoughts when people asked me a question,” she says. “I needed to think more logically, slow down and package my ideas better.”

She picked Presentation Mastery to help her interview and promote new business initiatives. The Level 4 “Building a Social Media Presence” elective motivated her to focus on her online brand and explore different aspects of social media. “The project gave me incentive to reach out of my comfort zone to connect with more people,” says Wright. “It led to different conversations about gardening and community connections.”

She had already launched her own Meetup group for gardeners and was able to expand it from 80 to almost 400 members because of the project. “So many doors have opened as a result of me applying the projects to growing my business,” she says.
Making an Impact

Even the foundational projects have been redesigned to help highly experienced speakers. Adolph Kaestner, DTM, from The Sages club in Johannesburg, South Africa, joined Toastmasters in 1983 and has given 11 Ice Breaker speeches. The path’s Ice Breaker gave him something different.

“As a professional speaker, I believe it’s important to continually hone one’s skills,” says Kaestner. “So I gave myself a personal challenge with this path: I would not do speeches. Every single project would be done as a presentation with some type of presentation tool.”

He changed his usual approach to Ice Breakers by incorporating graphics. “To do it as a presentation was a challenge,” he says. “But I found that the addition of visuals made a stronger impact on the audience.” Now when he gives talks at an organization, he includes pictures.

Once Kaestner finishes the path, he plans to complete all the electives. “There’s so much to offer in there,” he says. “I don’t want to miss out.”

“This is a really good path if you want to be a pro,” adds Zain. “It takes you on a journey and gives you everything you need to know.”

Presentation Mastery by the Levels

Pathways Presentation Mastery

The mix of required projects across the five levels of Presentation Masteryhelps you become an accomplished speaker and improves your connection with audience members.
LEVEL 1:

  • Ice Breaker
  • Evaluation and Feedback
  • Researching and Presenting

LEVEL 2:

  • Understanding Your ­Communication Style
  • Effective Body Language
  • Introduction to Toastmasters Mentoring

LEVEL 3:

  • Persuasive Speaking
  • Connect With Storytelling
  • Deliver Social Speeches

LEVEL 4:

  • Managing a Difficult Audience
  • Question-and-Answer Session

LEVEL 5:

  • Prepare to Speak Professionally
  • Moderate a Panel Discussion
  • Reflect on Your Path

Reframe Your Life in 5 Seconds

Steps

It’s now or never: Stop procrastinating and leap into action with these productivity hacks.

By Dave Zielinsk

A devastating turn of life events inspired Mel Robbins to create a motivational concept that has helped millions of people stop procrastinating, leap into action and achieve goals that once seemed unattainable.

Robbins, one of the world’s most popular motivational speakers, a best-selling author and a CNN commentator based in Boston, Massachusetts, was dealt a serious blow when the once-thriving restaurant business she and her husband had spent years building failed. For weeks, the then-41-year-old Robbins struggled to get out of bed in the morning, having lain awake each night consumed with worry about a potential bankruptcy. She felt immobilized by uncertainty about her family’s future.

Robbins knew what she had to do to pull out of the tailspin but couldn’t get herself to do it. The smallest things felt impossible. Exasperated by her own inaction, she hit upon an idea that would later blossom into a best-selling book and motivational concept: the 5-second rule. The essence of the rule is this: If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within five seconds or your brain will kill the idea.

Spurred by a TV commercial she watched one night that showed a rocket launching, Robbins arose in her Boston bedroom the next morning and instead of yet again hitting the snooze button, she counted down five seconds and propelled herself from bed. She did it again and again over the coming days, discovering there was a brief window of time before her mind killed her positive thoughts.

Robbins used this simple-but-powerful concept to eventually pull out of her funk, create a successful new business, address her anxiety, get in shape and become a better mom to her children. Two years later, in 2011, she gave one of the most-viewed TEDx Talks of all time, “How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over,” which served as a launching pad for her popular speaking and consulting business.

Don’t Wait for Motivation to Strike

The desire to be more productive is ubiquitous in today’s world. People are always looking for tricks and tips to avoid procrastination and maximize what they can accomplish each day. The 5-second rule doesn’t make things easy, Robbins stresses, but it does make them happen. Robbins says people buy into a lie that they must feel ready to change or take action, whether that be a fundamental life change like she faced, or a smaller goal like pursuing a new education designation in Toastmasters. She says if you don’t start doing the things that feel difficult or uncomfortable—if you simply wait around for motivation to strike—you’ll wake up a year from now in the same place.

“Using the 5-second rule can jumpstart your brain into action.”

—Mel Robbins

“People have a tendency to believe that improving their productivity or efficiency has to include some big sweeping changes in their lives, but that’s not true,” Robbins said in an interview with the Toastmaster. “The 5-second rule is one example of how the simplest tool can make a big impact on your life.”

Robbins says neuroscientists have found that people have about a five-second gap between a stimulus and the way they typically respond to it. “It’s within this gap that you have the power to change your life,” she says. “When you decide to do something, count back 5-4-3-2-1, and immediately take action. The more you do that, the more your brain gets wired for action and the less you’ll fall victim to your mental resistance.”

Mel RobbinsMel Robbins

The act of counting focuses you on the goal or commitment and distracts you from worries, thoughts and excuses in your mind, she says. Robbins has heard from many managers who’ve trained their sales teams to use the 5-second rule when making calls, from executives who’ve successfully used the rule to grow their businesses—often because they’re taking steps they had put off for years—from others who have used the rule to get over their fear of making presentations.

Productivity Hacks From Members

Many Toastmasters have developed their own versions of the 5-second rule, employing their own productivity “hacks” or methods for combating procrastination and accomplishing more of their goals while still maintaining work-life balance.

Mark Brown, who won the 1995 Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking, says making calendar entries has boosted his productivity. “I make appointments in my calendar to take care of important work tasks because if I don’t, I know I’ll be distracted by emails, phone calls or texts,” Brown says. “Setting aside and committing to a window of time to accomplish specific tasks is a deliberate and purposeful way to increase daily productivity.”

Brown, a member of Macon Toastmasters in Macon, Georgia, and a professional speaker, uses a concept called the “focus funnel,” created by his friend and business associate Rory Vaden in his book, Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time, to help busy people use their time more effectively. Those successful at “multiplying” their time often follow this five-step process, Brown says:

Eliminate. Ask yourself: Is this task worth doing?

Automate. If so, can it be automated to save time? For example, consider using the Hootsuite app when making posts to social media sites.

“You can make one post to Hootsuite and it will automatically disseminate that post across all platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” says Brown

Delegate. Is someone else better equipped to handle it? Can you train others to do it?

If a task can’t be eliminated, automated or delegated, you must do it yourself, Brown says. The question then becomes whether it should be done now, or later.

“When you make a decision to do something, count back 5-4-3-2-1, and immediately take action.”

—Mel Robbins


If it must be done now: Concentrate.
 Eliminate distractions like social media, email, text or phone calls—forward calls to voicemail or turn off phone apps and notifications—and focus on the task at hand.

If it can be done later: Procrastinate on purpose. It sounds counterintuitive, but Brown says there are times when procrastinating is a useful strategy. If a task doesn’t need to be done in the moment—if there is no obvious urgency—it can be moved back to the top of the focus funnel for further consideration.

Examples of procrastinating on purpose might be delaying responding to emails and setting a time later in the day to answer them in batches. Or putting a freeze on hiring new employees after an unexpected change in corporate leadership, Brown says.

Follow the Rules

Back to the 5-second rule. Robbins says it works because it can “jumpstart your brain into action.” Say you’re sitting in a meeting and have what you think is a great idea or piece of feedback. Yet instead of offering it to the group, you hesitate. Robbins says delaying for just that moment sends a stress signal to your brain. Rather than hesitating, consider counting down five seconds, trusting your impulse and offering the idea, she says.

It’s also not unusual to procrastinate before writing or rehearsing a speech, says Robbins, or before making a decision like starting the Pathways learning experience.

“We’re more likely to procrastinate when we’re feeling stress, because those moments that we put off what has to be done hit our brains with small amounts of dopamine that feel good,” Robbins says. “But that feeling is temporary and the more we put off what has to get done, the more stress we feel.”

Robbins suggests that Toastmasters first develop habits to manage their stress, such as exercise, putting away their phones or tablets for specified periods each day, taking short walks in nature and choosing a diet that fuels the body.

The 5-second rule also can be used for things like grabbing a healthful snack, holding your tongue instead of saying something derisive to colleagues or loved ones, finally sending that email to a potential client or anything related to your goals.

The Power of Setting Technology Limits

It’s easy to think that the phones and tablets we tether to our bodies each day are indispensable engines of productivity and efficiency. But the opposite is true when we find ourselves mindlessly surfing social media or checking email deep into the night. Robbins and other experts say setting limits on technology use can increase energy, sharpen our focus and boost our daily work output.

“One of the most powerful changes I’ve made in my life is leaving my phone in my closet at night to recharge,” Robbins says. “No more keeping the phone by the bed so I can scroll through social media or answer work emails before bed or first thing in the morning. I sleep so much better now and feel energized in the morning.”

The ‘Einstein Window’ and ‘Harmless’ Procrastination

Bachir Bastien is a Toastmaster in Hsinchu City, Taiwan, who speaks and writes frequently on the topics of time management and productivity. He is also a contributor to a website that aims to empower and inspire people around the world.

Bastien’s top ideas for improving daily productivity and performance include:

  • Know your “Einstein Window.” This is the time of the day when your mental ability peaks and you’re most productive. Save your most important tasks for these windows, Bastien says. “Study your patterns and then allocate your most challenging work accordingly so you can get the most productivity from the least amount of time,” he says.
  • Practice “harmless” procrastination. Backing away from work for a bit can improve your focus, creativity and productivity later in the day, Bastien says. “This might be a walk outside of your office, 10 minutes of mindfulness or just checking in with another person, he says. “I think of this as harmless or goal-oriented procrastination because it allows you to recharge for the challenges ahead and helps you feel empowered.”
  • Use accountability measures. Within the NTHU Toastmasters club in Taiwan that he founded, Bastien created “learning groups” based on specific interests of club members. “Officers work with members to set goals for achieving education designations and other objectives, and serve as their accountability partners,” Bastien says. “These small groups ensure that members who tend to stay quiet in the larger group have their needs and goals addressed.”

All of us face challenges to accomplish goals both big and small. Using the 5-second rule, being more mindful about how we spend our time and knowing our own “Einstein Windows” can help us accomplish more of those goals without sacrificing a sense of well-being in the process.

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