Morning Espressos are 5-minute insights and lessons to help you build the skills researched by some of the top minds in the world. Charles Duhigg recommends that you spend time creating your own narrative and visualizing your day.
"One of the things that we know is that the key to building mental models, to being able to sort of sharpen your focus, is to be able to tell yourself a story about what’s occurring as it occurs.
One of my favorite examples of this is a series of studies that were done with people like for instance firefighters. They found that the best firefighters are the ones who walk into a burning building. As soon as they walk in, they start telling themselves a story about what they expect to see. And so as a result, when they walk into a room that’s on fire, they tell themselves, okay, I’m walking into this room. I expect to see in that corner flames. There’s a staircase over there. I expect to see that there will be a bunch of flames on that staircase because staircases burn quickly. And then when they walk in and they looked in that room and what they don’t see is they don’t see a bunch of flames on that staircase, it sets off alarm bells in their mind, and it tells them, look, there’s something wrong with that staircase. Don’t go walk on that staircase because it doesn’t look like what you expected it to look like.
Similarly, we know that people who are most productive at work, who tend to almost have this ESP about what they should be paying attention to and what they can safely ignore, they tend to be people who tell themselves stories about what they expect to have happen during meetings or what they expect to happen in the morning versus the afternoon. This is a really important lesson which is that our brain tends to make sense of the world by finding some narrative that it can grasp onto.
The best way for us to try and determine what’s going to happen next or what I expect to happen this afternoon or what I should focus on tomorrow morning is by telling ourselves a story about it because when we tell ourselves stories, our brain has this ability to take that story and to expand upon it, to use it as a template for determining this is what’s important and this is what’s not important. Once we do that, we’ve sharpened our focus to a degree that we have the ability to decide almost within milliseconds that, oh, when someone comes in and they interrupt me during my meeting, I can safely say, no. Let’s put this off until tomorrow because I don’t have time to talk about it. But when the phone rings and it’s someone I’ve been trying to get ahold of, I should pick up that call because that fits into the story about what I’ve been telling myself about what I expect to get done today."