Category Archives: Personal strategies

Speed up to slow down

by Petra Lehner

Shailia and Pat asked me to contribute a blog post about “when to slow down and when to speed up”. Here are some of my ideas on the topic.

Today, we face  a lot of situations where one simple ability is not enough to successfully fulfill the job we have been asked to do. More and more, we are required to become multi-taskers and quick-workers. Information-overflow, workload pressure and increasingly technical and/or complex matters are commonplace these days.

The dark side of the game is that doing more and more things will cause stress, illness and emotional breakdown (best known as burn-out).

Now, as we all are coaches, no matter if we are employees, mothers, fathers, leaders, students… let’s quickly change our perspective and look to the: „what can we do“ side. And it is a sunny side!

It is easy to become a multi-tasker/quick-worker in your daily life just by training your brain to stay focused. This will lead to channeled energy and concentrated work. And the key is this:

Slow down and you will accomplish more.

While holding seminars on speed-reading, mental training and excellent learning (which is all about excellent communication with yourself!), I found out that the brain loves to learn and work quite long if it is allowed to take enough little breaks in -between.

Also important: before you start with whatever you need to do, declare what you are going to do!

Most of the time, people begin doing their work only to be interrupted by the cellphone ringing or the mailbox beeping. In an instant, concentration is gone. Instead of reconnecting after the interruption, many people start to do some new work while the first point of the schedule is still open in the unconscious mind. So there is a piling-up of activities never finished and the poor brain does not know where to focus.

Your brain loves to think fast, complex and in a big variety of colourful chaos mixed-up with structure. Yet it can only process information from one channel at a time.

Brain research has found that learning or reading while doing sports at a pulse-rate of 90 to 100 beats per minute is a real turbo-boost and happens absolutely fast and long-lasting. Try it out! If you have a home trainer or a treadmill  grab a book, watch a film or listen to a learning course. Whatever you choose, you will discover, that you have focused attention and remember almost everything after the end of the session.

Sometimes it is too much. Did you know this? You need to write an article, carry out research for a new customer, call some clients, do household chores etc. It is essential that you take a healthy rest.

If you find yourself not sleeping well, this proven, very effective and powerful tool may help: make daily notes.

Get a notebook or some lined paper and write down whatever comes to your mind for 20 minutes. Recall, reflect or just let the paper be the counterpart for your inner voice. Do not censor yourself. Just keep on writing for 20 minutes. After a couple of days you will discover a massive change. Your focus will have become clearer and stronger.

And then: take a break. Take a mind-break, a brain-break. If small but constant breaks are like a routine for you, you will have created your own mental island on which to recover at any time.

Start with a 5-minutes-break. Do nothing else but breathing. Make at least three of these 5-minute-breaks every day and schedule them!!!

If you are interested in speeding up your reading-rate, here is a little Christmas present for the readers of this blog:  Lesegeschwindigkeit erhöhen (PDF in German).

For today, take a break and enjoy the following:

Thank you for your focused attention 😉

Petra Lehner


About Petra Lehner

Petra is a coach, trainer and book author living in Salzburg, Austria. Her areas of specialty are speed-reading, excellent learning, mental training and coaching as well as mental alignment and communication for peak performance. She works with private individuals and business clients and hold seminars on these subjects regularly.




Further information:

MetaMind homepage:

Petra’s MetaMind Blog:

Petra Lehner on Twitter:


Breakdown at the playground

Little Jack didn’t need a push. Impetus. Dizzy on the up-rush, he ran in.

First see, first play. To the jungle gym. Up the middle grid, to the tip top. Hinged knee swings like open doors. Hair flying round. Smiles seem like frowns. World upside down.

To the wobbly thing. Horse on a spring. Looked like fun, but it’s boring. So what.

To the wide slide. Singed finger pads on the climb up. The sun has done its part to make the latter hot. Caution to the wind, down the metal tube. Burned backside. Not so bad, but maybe not again.

To the sand box and the cutesy pie. Pink hair ribbon and a yellow bucket. Baking dirt cakes for pretend friends. Not quite so sweet. Unkeen to share with a real mate. Whack shovel smack. Run, get out of here.

What a great day, on the playground!


Jack standing, by the wayside. Same playground on another day. So many options, potential for mistakes. Better think it through to the end of play.

There’s the jungle gym. Could be fun. Upside-down. But then again. There’s the blood rush in the head. Could lose control or perspective. Why fall off, even bust a crown.

There’s the springy horse. Wobble to amuse. Or a humdrum mare with lackluster flair. Why waste time.

There’s the grand slide. Maybe glide down. Clearly the wrong size. Why get stuck, and be mortified.

There’s that fine girl, sitting right there.  Could cooperate. Maybe build a castle, with a moat and gate. Surely not her taste. Why make things awkward, completely lose face.

Life’s no playground.


So, what happened to little Jack, his impulsiveness and his joy for life?

He grew up. And along the way he learned to adopt a behavior pattern that many of us are familiar with:

  • feeling an inner impulse only to suppress it in the next millisecond
  • seeing all the way to the imaginary bad ending we fear will come instead being short-sighted and focused on the joy of beginning something new
  • paralyzing ourselves with the idea that we once we start something we aren’t permitted to stop and drop it to do something else if it isn’t what we expected
  • over-thinking our time on this playground that is life instead of playing joyfully

I like to call it “breakdown at the playground.”

Little Jack’s five tips for more fun on the playground:

  1. Follow your impulse to play.
    RUN onto the playground. DO NOT STAND there looking at all the options  from the sidelines.
  2. Do something fun.
    START DOING the thing that attracts you most right now. DON’T THINK it to death. Just follow your strongest inner impulse and do it.
  3. See what happens.
    Let yourself BE SURPRISED. You may find it’s everything or nothing like you expected. You may love it or hate it. But one thing’s for sure: it’s FOR REAL and not just your speculation about how it might be.
  4. Continue or try something else.
    If you like it, great. CONTINUE doing it until the impulse driving you subsides. If you don’t like it, MOVE ON to the next thing that seems most appealing in the next moment.
  5. Repeat
    KEEP COMING BACK to the playground. GET BETTER at trusting your inner impulses each time you play and reap the rewards.

And no matter what, remember not to take yourself too seriously. Life can be your playground, if you let it 😉

Until we meet again,


[Today’s blog post is dedicated to Martha, who loves this metaphor.]

Now accepting help

Lately, it’s been pretty calm on the blog front here at “work in progress”. We’ve been busy with other things.

Pat BoldPat is half-way through the third trimester of pregnancy number two. With just six weeks to go, she is on the record as “nesting”: onesies and baby booties being at the top of her personal agenda. She is also busy “transforming” within the framework of her contextual coaching education.

I, on the other hand, am knee-deep in all that is my master thesis. Typically, I am “in control” and “on top” of these matters. Always prepared, ever organized, invariably ahead. But these days, in terms of my thesis, my state can only be described as flat-footed, pell-mell and twice-overdue.

In theory, I know how to get out of this state. Having a formal coaching education, there are a multitude of tools and methods at my disposal to use and abuse at will – from belief change and anchor processes to positive inner dialogs and resource trances (just to name a few).

But alas, I remain in “stuck-state” and all attempts at self-coaching myself into a pleasant and productive frame-of-mind seem to fail.

In reference to this phenomena (which happens more often than we would like to admit), Pat and I have established a term which we jokingly use: uncoached. We say things like: “I know this shouldn’t bother me, but I am so uncoached right now and just don’t care.”


When I am feeling wedged-in, overwhelmed and otherwise uncoached, I remind myself of these HUMAN TRUTHS:

  • Sometimes we are big and sometimes we are small.
  • Despite all our knowledge and good intentions, we will not always do what we know or intend.
  • It is pertinent to individual survival and just plain smart to accept help at the right times.



Accepting Help

Illustration published with permission of Daniel Jennewein:

And so, instead of beating myself up, I decided to acknowledge that I’m feeling small, forget what I think I know and simply ask for a help. Here’s what I got in return:

  • Daniela sat with me at her house in Vienna for three hours and shared all the things she had learned while writing her own thesis last year. Afterwards, she sent further guidelines and useful information via e-mail.
  • Petra expertly intervened with a simple but direct Facebook message that almost immediately helped me to move from “I hate doing this” to “I’m in control and can make this a great experience”. She also asked some important questions that I hadn’t asked myself and offered to skype to discuss possible completion strategies.
  • Niclas brought me some books on statistical analysis and made time for an idea sparring-match on Friday.
  • My husband Heiko read my dissertation abstract and then helped me find more relevant research which led me to somewhat of a breakthrough.

Am I now loving this master thesis with every molecule in my being?

No. Or should I say, not yet. But I am feeling much better than last week. No longer in stuck-state, I am moving forward. Baby booty steps, grant it. But moving forward none-the-less.

Until we meet again,


[Todays blog post is dedicated to all of my fellow graduate students who are working on their thesis along with me. I love you guys!]


Motivators and reminders (to download): Accepting Help

Shailia’s 10 point travel strategy

Packed and ready to go

Packed and ready to go

These days, I spend a lot of time in airplanes, taxis and hotels. Tomorrow, I’ll be on an early flight to Vienna. Before I go, I thought I’d jot down my routine strategy for preparing, packing and dressing for mid-length trips. Maybe you’ll find something useful 🙂

D-day = Departure day / P-day = Packing day (D-day minus one)

  1. Start washing clothes one week in advance – a little each day, aiming for an empty clothes basket by P-day. This way, favorite items of clothing are clean and ready to wear.
  2. P-day: Charge up electronics (iPod!) and throw charging cables in suitcase directly after.
  3. P-day: Place Passport and driver’s license in plain sight before packing anything else. Also, take all excess cards out of wallet, only leaving an  insurance, a debit and a credit card.
  4. P-day: Check weather report for destination. Pack accordingly. Always pack a small umbrella and a couple of layers just in case. And never leave home without running shoes!
  5. P-day: Pack extra underwear. You never know 😉
  6. P-day: Check-in and book a taxi online. Choose a window seat between rows 7 and 9 – less noticeable turbulence! Taxi rates are cheaper online than at the arrival gate.
  7. D-day: Pack bathroom items (shampoo, toothbrush etc.) last – directly after using them, from hand to beauty-case so that nothing gets left behind.
  8. D-day: No such thing as having too many clothes along. BUT, watch out for the weight limits (20 kilograms inner-European) and weigh suitcase before running out the door.
  9. D-day: Dress comfortably. Avoid metal detector hassles by not wearing a belt (or under-wire bra). Also, choose shoes/jewelry not likely to set off the alarm. Don’t forget jacket or sweater for the plane ride. It can get cold!
  10. Go on a diet of no Internet and no cell phone. Get offline and into real life as much as possible. Live life fully in the moment. Notice wonderful places and people around you instead of staring into a display.


That being said…

I won’t be checking e-mails, facebooking, twittering or blogging for the next 10 to 12 days. My good friend Pat Medros will be guest blogging while I am gone. In German!

Enjoy, be well and God speed until we meet again,