When the plan is no longer the plan

At the beginning of the year I set myself some mini-goals for my own health and development.  I had realised that 2015 had passed in a blink of an eye and whilst I had paid attention to my business, I hadn’t paid attention to me.  So I sat down and had a think about what I could do to increase my health and happiness.  I wrote these down and published them (above) for all to see – as I believe that setting out your intentions, creates accountability and makes people more likely to achieve their goals.

So why am I now here telling you that I haven’t followed the plan?  After all I’m a Coach and I help others to achieve their goals – why haven’t I achieved mine?  Well actually there’s a very good reason for this.  I see it in my clients regularly – and my own example is prime!

Sometimes the plan we set for ourselves evolve; sometimes, what we first thought we wanted, doesn’t turn out to be at all; sometimes the timing is all wrong; and we’re human – and sometimes we change our mind.  This doesn’t mean failure – and let me tell you why…

The plan I set at the beginning of the year, has actually let me understand a lot more about myself.  Putting myself as a focus for a change has allowed me to really understand what I want and what I don’t want.  When I decided to complete a triathlon it was because I wanted to get fit again and I had completed one before – so it was something I knew I could do.   I started my training plan and realised that actually I really love cycling; I also enjoy running – but swimming is something I dread. So I changed the goal – to pick cycling and running events (and possibly a duathlon if I find one) that challenge me.  I’m still fulfilling my overall objective to get fitter – but I’m not making myself stick to the original plan of completing a triathlon.  As a result I am really enjoying my workouts and getting stronger and fitter – and a few weeks ago completed a 60 mile cycle which I never imagined was possible a few months ago (and by the way, that’s a lot further than what was needed on the triathlon!).

I also planned to go to the cinema for myself – really to get me out of the house and do something for me.  Well again, lots of reflection and ‘me time’ has allowed me to understand that whilst I don’t mind going to the cinema, it’s not top of my list.  I have instead been out to dinner with friends and just booked my first ever trip to the ballet – something I am sure I will love.

The rest of the plan  I am pleased to say I have done and as a result I am feeling much more happy, healthy and fulfilled.  But it’s important to understand that plans do not have to be fixed.  In business especially, plans change all the time – we need to adapt to our customer needs; keep competitive with the rest of the market and keep ourselves happy so consequently, we need to adapt.

A good client of mine was recently debating this very thing: she was thinking of making quite a drastic change to her product line.  Her new products would be more profitable, had received good feedback but had alienated a few of her loyal customers of old, and this worried her.  She has since gone on to make this big change to her business and re-launched with her new products.  She now has a client base who she feels is more aligned to her ideal client, she is increasing her sales and profit, but naturally lost a few customers along the way.  Overall though, this has been great for business.

Another client was wondering why her plans for finding new premises weren’t producing anything.  There seemed nothing wrong with the plan – indeed I knew that if she followed it, she would achieve it.  So I knew there was something else: when we discussed it further it transpired that she was nervous about finding new premises as it meant making a huge commitment with her business partner; someone who she felt wasn’t pulling her weight in the business.  It led us to re-evaluate the plan and ensured that the business partner issue was dealt with before a commitment was made to the original plan of finding premises.

As a Coach of course I advocate goal setting, SMART action planning and getting the plan done but if I focused on this alone there would be lots of people achieving things that they then realised they didn’t want.  Paying attention to the plan, how it makes you feel and being adaptable along the way to get what you really want does mean that the plan is not always the end plan – and that’s completely ok.

 

 

 

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A different pace…

This week in the UK is half term, with children being off school for a week.  This to me, has always represented a juggling act (even more than my usual working weeks): getting work done, finding childcare (usually begging grandparents), and spending quality time with the boys.  This juggling act used to make me feel utterly exhausted by the end of the week and I’d go back to work feeling like I really needed a holiday.

Now life is different.  I am lucky enough to work for myself and decide what hours I work and because of this I deliberately do not book coaching or training during the school holidays.  But as a self-confessed workaholic, I have always found it difficult to find the right balance.  I have always favoured life on the chaotic-side, meaning that unless I am a little closer to burnout than most would find comfortable, I feel that I am not doing enough.  Consequently, in the run up to holidays I usually develop a long list of tasks that I will get done on my days at home; as well as planning day trips and quality time with the kids.

This half-term started no differently: the list included cleaning cupboards that are so over-filled, I can no longer tell what’s in them; developing content for my website; updating social media profiles; sorting out my tax; and of course, spending days playing with my children and making sure I got quality parent / child time.

But along the way, something changed.  As usual my boys wanted to play cricket & football at every opportunity – but instead of bargaining with them so that I could get my long list achieved and spend time with them; I stopped myself in my tracks and just went along with it.  As a result my days have been more relaxed & more fun; and I have felt that I have really spent quality time with my boys (rather than the token slot of time I usually allocate).  Living life at a different pace has been rewarding – and whilst the to-do list is still full, the list can wait until tomorrow – my children however, are growing up too fast to let them wait.

 

Practice Makes Confident

Ok, confession time – I wouldn’t describe myself as a naturally confident person.  In fact, I spent most of my childhood, teens and early twenties being terrified at the prospect of having to present in front of a group (no matter how small).  If I had to do a presentation, I would lie awake the night before, imagining everything going wrong – and when I had to present, my knees would physically shake.

However, I was also ambitious and I knew that if I was to progress in my career, I had to overcome my FEAR.  At that time in my life I had never heard of NLP, let alone studied it, so I had to rely on my own determination to get me past that feeling of being terrified to confident.  So what did I do?  I put myself out there.  Instead of hiding from situations which made me feel uncomfortable, I actually looked for them.  My theory was that practice makes perfect confident (well, ish).  But over time, that is what happened – I stopped dreading those presentations, and just got on and did them.  Eventually, I even began to enjoy presenting because the instant feedback is quite gratifying.  And of course now, I coach and train people for a living so presentations are second nature to me – who would have believed it all those years ago?

Would I now describe myself as a confident person? No, definitely not – but I completely hold the belief that my (lack of) confidence should never hold me back.  At the end of the day, with some practice (and positive thinking – thank you, NLP!) I can achieve whatever I set my mind to.

You cannot separate the task & individual

In coaching I meet people all the time who want to make improvements to their lives.  They might come to me because they want a promotion at work, want to make more profit in their business or because they are struggling with workload or their work in general.

In fact, there could be and often are, lots of reasons why someone decides that coaching might be for them. But there is usually a common element to how coaching goes.  There is usually a problem the person wants to solve, we take time to discuss this and the client comes up with possible solutions – but it doesn’t end there: in fact, it’s usually at this point, that other issues emerge.  These issues have nothing to do with the person not being able to see what they need to do, or even having the ability to do what they need to do – it is usually that the person doesn’t feel that they can do it.

An example of this is a client who knows that in order to grow her business she needs to make at least 10 cold calls to potential clients per week – but does she do this? No.

In this case, the reason why the client can’t move forward is due to lack of confidence, but it can equally be past trauma, things going on at home, or concern that achieving their goal might give them a negative consequence (think of people who don’t want to achieve their income goals because they’re concerned that others will think differently of them; or it doesn’t sit comfortably with their beliefs – but negative unintended consequences could be anything).

This means that coaching is not as simple as helping a client find solutions for them to meet their goal.  I have to work with, and consider the person as a whole: working with beliefs, personal objections and confidence in order to truly make a breakthrough.  And that is why you cannot separate the task from the individual.

And employers – if you have a member of staff that is not performing, don’t just jump to the conclusion that it is a capability issue, consider your valued employee as a whole person!

Why I Love My Pendulum

Well first off, it’s pretty isn’t it?  It’s crystal, it creates beautiful rainbow patterns in the lights and I secretly admit, that’s partly why I was first attracted to having a pendulum.

However, I first came across using pendulums when I trained to become a hypnotherapist six years ago.  I did the course initially because I thought that hypnotic language could support my coaching clients (that’s a whole other topic though) but was perhaps a little cynical about hypnotherapy per se.  But during the course I was completed converted; and learned so much about mind and body connection.  This was especially apparent when using a pendulum: what I learned was that when we have different thoughts this creates reactions in our body which we are totally unaware of.  For example, if when holding a pendulum completely still, we think the word, ‘No’ then the pendulum will react (from physiological sensations) and will move in a certain direction; if we then think, ‘yes’ then the pendulum will move differently.

So what does this mean?  Well firstly, it’s a reminder to be careful about what you think of – because thoughts really do have a physiological link.  Secondly, it means that when we are really stuck for ideas we can use a pendulum to find the answer.  For me, I know that ‘No’ is symbolised by my pendulum moving from left to right, back and forth; and that ‘yes’ is symbolised by the pendulum moving in circles.  So I can ask myself a question and see what response I get (allowing my unconscious mind to generate the answer for me) – note: do not think an answer if you want your unconscious mind / subconscious to find an answer for you!

So why would you want your unconscious mind to help?  Well, actually our minds are often so full of chatter (both helpful and unhelpful); which means decision making can be quite difficult.  This occurs because when we need to make a decision, the subconscious (or unconscious mind) will make a decision – even before we are aware of it (usually several seconds).  As it transfers to the conscious mind all sorts of other information interfere, such as our beliefs etc, which means we can effectively change our minds along the way, without even realising it.  So if we want a true response without the interference of mind chatter (those little voices which say you can’t do something / you’re not good enough etc) or other beliefs, then we need a way of directly reaching our subconscious – the pendulum.

Also, I often lose my keys – and I know my subconscious knows where I put them, but has filed that memory away a bit too well!

So for me the pendulum provides me with a great reminder of the mind-body connection and to think positive thoughts; it helps me make difficult decisions when I am sure that my mind really does know the answer; and of course, it’s beautiful and I love beautiful things in my life!  Oh – and where are those keys?…

 

 

Learning to look after myself

As a Coach who spends time helping others, I used to feel that I needed to be in control of my emotions at all times and never allow myself to feel down.  Of course, in reality no-one  can control their emotions to that extent. I do have days where I feel out of sorts and sometimes pretty emotional.  It’s part of who I am: I am human (we all experience emotions) and I am an empath – I absorb others emotions as well as dealing with my own, so it’s completely normal for me.

What I have learned however, is that as a Coach I do not have to detach myself from my emotions – rather, I need to be very much aware of them.  I need to be in the right mindset to completely connect with my clients and hold their space so that they can think through their issues.  Therefore, if I’m struggling to deal with my own shit, I am not in the right space to deal with theirs.

So I have to be aware of my emotions and I have to acknowledge them – and early. So when I begin to feel out of sorts (as I have done today, incidentally), I have a plan to deal with it and get my feelings re-centred. What I have learned is that for me to help others, I really need to look after myself first.

So when I’m feeling crappy – what do I do?

  1. Simplify – there’s nothing worse than being overloaded when you’re feeling like crap.  So I look at my workload and remove anything that’s non-essential or that could be left for another day.  Yes, I know I usually recommend getting stuff done and  not procrastinating, but on these days it’s important to keep commitments to a minimum to allow myself to recharge.
  2. I exercise – I appreciate it’s not always what I want to do when I feel like shit, but it’s so good for me.  So I walk, run, cycle – or whatever I can that’s also outside so that I get fresh air and blow the cobwebs away.  The extra endorphins are good for me too.
  3. I relax (obviously can’t do 2 and 3 at the same time!).  But I love to read – and so when  I’m done with exercising, I love to curl up on the sofa with a book and have a few hours of self-indulgent, escapism.  And for me, a naff chick lit is just the remedy (those business books are not for days like these).
  4. Flower remedies – I love the Bach remedies! I always find a remedy that works for me, but they do work best over time so don’t expect an instant fix!
  5. Angel cards – I love these too!  I love the fact that whenever I ask my Angels a question, I get a relevant response. These cards remind me that I have Angels looking after me and that I am part of a bigger, infinite, unexplained universe of which human life is just a small part.
  6. Hypnotherapy.  Well, I am a trained hypnotherapist so it would be silly not to use it.  Using hypnotherapy to remind my unconscious mind that I am happy and healthy is always a good thing – and the rest will manifest itself.
  7. Anchors – I have anchors (or reminders) for confidence, happiness and calm and so using these are really important.  I just invoke my anchor (this could be holding two fingers together or holding a crystal or pebble – anything that can act as a reminder) – and allow the feeling to come to me. Easy!
  8. Affirmations – I am happy, I am worthwhile, I make a difference. Telling myself those things really help when I’m feeling crappy and doubt myself.  It happens to us all – so finding affirmations can be repeated so that our mind believes it, is a great step to move forward and out of negative feelings.

So it has been a learning adventure for me – but I have found things that really help and it’s important to have these in my toolkit to use when I need to (I’d love to say I practise these daily, but in reality I don’t have time). Knowing that I may succumb to negative feelings on occasions, but that I can use these tools to get back to feeling ok, is so reassuring.

So what can you do to get yourself feeling better?

 

 

 

Change your thinking and change your life!

I truly believe the power of the mind is a wonderful thing.  Our minds really can take us to success –or it can hold us back, just by what it is telling us.  And what I mean here is, our own internal dialogue (or mind monkeys, as I also like to call them).

For years (through school, university and the first part of my career), I wasn’t confident at all.  I really wanted to be the person who gave their opinion freely, who spoke out at meetings and got credit for the ideas which were going on in my mind.  However, my inner dialogue was completely holding me back.  When I was in meetings, my mind monkeys would be saying, “You can’t say that, they won’t take you seriously”, or “That’s just stating the obvious”.

So I would sit and listen to everyone else come up with ideas.  And sometimes someone else would come up with my idea – and guess, what?  The congratulations would pour in for that person, and I would be left feeling frustrated.

So I knew that I had to change my thinking – because there was nothing wrong with my views or solutions to problems; what was wrong was that I didn’t have the confidence to voice them.  What’s worse is that I knew that this was holding back my career and my future earnings potential.

So I learnt to overcome those mind monkeys – when my inner dialogue said something negative, I challenged it and replaced it with positive thoughts, to drive me forward.  I started making contributions in meetings – and I got recognition, I got respect and I got promoted – a lot!

So are you holding yourself back?  Are you avoiding situations because of your inner dialogue?  If so, change your thinking.  Think of positive thoughts that you can say to yourself – and when those negative thoughts creep in, replace them with your positive thoughts.

Also, just take a couple minutes each day to repeat those positive thoughts to yourself – because the more you say those things, the more your mind will believe it – and if your mind believes it, your actions and success will follow!

How I stay motivated when working from home

I consider myself very fortunate to work from home.  I love the fact that my daily commute is just 30 seconds from bed to desk, and that I can take the children to school, get the washing done and occasionally go for a run whilst still putting in a days work.

But of course, this is partly why ‘working from home’ gets a bad name.  When people hear that I work from home, they really think that I spend my days watching Homes Under the Hammer and Jeremy Kyle.  And that is of course the reason why many employers still feel unhappy about letting staff have working from home days as they believe that productivity will suffer.  However, in my experience working from home can be extremely beneficial – by staying motivated and being able to put in a full days work (and of course, that doesn’t have to be 9-5pm), it means I have greater work-life balance – particularly given that I am not wasting precious hours of my day travelling.  So here are my top tips for staying motivated and getting the best out of your days when working from home.

Get Dressed

As tempting as it is to spend all day in your pyjamas, just because you can – it really doesn’t help with getting work done and it all goes back to that saying we learned at school, “Dress smart, think smart”.  When we make the effort to shower and get dressed in the morning, then we feel better about ourselves and are in a better frame of mind to get work done.

Set A Routine

Being clear about when you are working and when you are not adds structure and routine to your day.  This really helps you to identify exactly when you should be working and when you can have down time.  If you blur these lines, then it is so easy to take time off when you should be getting your important tasks done.  Of course, the benefit of working from home means that this routine need not be a 9-5.  You can set a routine that works with your home life.  For me I like to spend half an hour before breakfast planning my day.  I then ensure the children are ready for school and ensure the washing is done before sitting down and doing a good 3-4 hours work.  I then take a planned break where I go for a walk or take some exercise and then complete another chunk of work in the afternoon (length depending on what time I have to pick the children up).  If it was a short day I also add an extra hour of work when they go to bed.  For me that works as I manage to get a significant amount of work done, get some household chores done, spend quality time with the children and have some ‘me’ time.  It’s a challenging routine – but it’s a routine that enables me to get things done and have more balance in my life.

Plan Your Day

Planning your day is critical as otherwise you will find yourself fleeting from one thing to another and not getting anything achieved.  If you have a clear plan of what you need to do, broken down into tasks then it is easy to undertake each task in turn and tick off that list.  However, do bear in mind how much time it will actually take to deliver each task – most people underestimate how much time tasks take.  Also build in extra contingency time to ensure that you have time for those task which take longer than you think but also so you can deal with those unexpected things that come along (and often they do!).

Break Down Those Tasks Into Manageable Chunks

We’ve all seen task on our list that makes our heart sink because we just don’t know where to start!  So if you have something big on your list – break it down into much, much smaller tasks.  That way you can spend as little as 15minutes on something that will still contribute to your goal – and if you have enough of those 15minutes you will get there!

Do The Worst Job First

Yes, you heard right.  How many times does that dreaded phone-call slip to the bottom of the list and somehow never manage to get done?  And how many times during the day have you thought about that task with that horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach?  Well that all wastes time.  If you get it done first thing, you can relax and enjoy the rest of the day by doing the tasks you love.

Add A Sense Of Urgency

For some this may be the urgency to get a sell to ensure the mortgage can be paid but when you can a list of tasks that are working towards a big goal it is sometimes difficult to get a sense of urgency about those individual things.   My trick is to set an alarm clock, giving myself 15minutes to get a task done.  That sense of competition gives me the focus that I need to achieve and it’s amazing just how much I can get done in a morning.

Remove Distractions

It’s so easy to get distracted – particularly if you are completed a mundane task.  So make sure any likely distractions are removed.  Keep your workspace clear and when you are focusing on a task in hand, switch off email and don’t give into the temptation to open up your internet browser.  From experience I can tell you that Facebook, twitter, BBC News online and google rarely help you to get your job done!

Reward Yourself

Having a reward lined up is a great motivator to achieve.  Personally I have a daily reward – if I get all my planned tasks completed in a morning then I’ll go for a run (not a reward to everyone, granted).  I also have bigger rewards – such as going out to dinner for when I get a much bigger goal completed.  So launching my new website was a big goal for me and when times were getting tough, knowing I could enjoy a night out when it was all finished gave me something to look forward to and got me through those times.

Take Breaks

Sometimes people feel that if they are seen outside on a work from home day, they will be seen as skiving.  Actually going outside and getting some fresh air at some point will help you.  Take a break, get some fresh air and when you get back to your workload you will actually be more focused.

 

 

 

Multi-Tasking: good use of time, or a waste of time?

Ok, so what are you doing right now apart from reading this article?  Having a cup of coffee?  Skimming your emails to check for anything important?  Thinking about how you are going to tackle a customer or employee issue?  Wondering what to cook for dinner this evening?

The chances are you are doing more than one thing right now so is this good use of your time or is this actually ineffective use of your time?

Whilst many of us were brought up to believe that multi-tasking was a good thing and something that women are much better at than men; growing research is actually telling us that multi-tasking on the whole is not a good thing. In fact, multi-tasking can reduce productivity by up to 40% according to some researchers.

People tend to multi-task in two ways: either by completing more than one task at one time (for example, having a telephone conversation whilst sending an email) or by switching between lots of different tasks.  However, studies which have looked at people both switching between tasks and completing a number of tasks in quick succession, have demonstrated that more time is lost by doing so (Rogers and Monsell).  This decrease in productivity is lost further when completing complex tasks (Rubenstein, Evans and Meyer).

So if you are a multi-tasker and want to increase your productivity take one task at a time and focus on them until they are complete.  Also analyse what interrupts your working day most e.g., emails or staff asking to see you; and develop ways that ensure that these can be incorporated into the day without distracting you from the task on hand.

7 Tips for being super productive!

Top Tip 1: Vision

In order for you to be efficient with your time, you need to know what your vision is. What do you want from your business in 1 year, 3 years or 5 years?  What does success look like to you?  Then create a vision board so that every day you know exactly what you are striving towards.

Top Tip 2: Bite Sized Chunks

Now that you have your vision, you need to make it manageable.  Make a ‘To-Do’ list of what needs to be done to get where you are going – and then make those tasks smaller.  If you approach the day with a task to ‘develop the website’ it will make your brain scream.  If you break that task down into small components such a ‘register domain name’, ‘decide on type of software’ (and with a timeline attached) it will not only feel more manageable but is much more likely to get done.

Top Tip 3: Stop Multi-Tasking

There I’ve said it, “Stop multi-tasking!” Trying to do 3 tasks at once means getting 3 tasks done badly!  Equally if you are switching between tasks you lose productivity as your brain has to re-focus on the new task in hand.  Stick to one task only and until it’s complete!

Top Tip 4: Work in Short Intervals

There is nothing like a deadline to focus the mind, so a great technique for getting work done is by setting your own mini deadlines.  My favourite is setting my alarm for every 30 minutes and giving myself a task to do for every interval for example, writing an article or developing a proposal for a client (think ‘manageable bite-sized chunks’).  It’s surprising what can be achieved this way.  If the task is likely to take more than 30 minutes I will often be so involved in the task the first time the alarm goes off, that I set it again – and guess what?  One whole hour of focused attention on the task in hand!  Additionally, take short breaks or switch tasks every 1 – 1 ½ hours.  Your brain will need this to re-energise – so either take a quick walk or find something completely different to do (personally I like to schedule my phonecalls after writing a business case as this requires a different skill set and refreshes me).

Top Tip 5: Eliminate Distractions

We cannot work in a productive way if we are continually distracted.  What is the biggest distraction in the workplace?  Emails!  We are in the middle of a task and ‘ping’ up pops an email and then we find ourselves opening it up and dealing with what is now in front of us, abandoning the task which was important 5 minutes ago.  Find ways of eliminating your distractions in a way which works for you.  I find that for emails, it helps to have points in the day where I open and prioritise them: once in the morning, after lunch and late afternoon.  This means I am always on top of my communications but I am not allowing them to get in the way of my tasks.

Top Tip 6: Use the Phone

We seem to have an over-reliance on using email for communication and then when we are looking for a prompt reply we find ourselves staring at the screen waiting for the reply email to pop up, and getting frustrated.  Actually this is one of the times, it’s better to pick up the phone as you will either get an instant reply, or an indication of when our query can be dealt with.  Equally, if you think your query will take more than one email to get sorted (how many times do you find yourself having an email conversation with someone), then it’s actually more productive to pick up the phone.

Top Tip 7: Work Smarter – Not Harder

Ok, we’ve all heard this phrase, but how many of us actually work as SMART as we can?  When you’re presented with your list of tasks, think to yourself:  What can I delegate?  What can I outsource?  If there is someone else who can do the job better or quicker than you then these are very real options.  There is no point in juggling your main job along with the finances, the marketing and the admin, it will just lead to some of the tasks being completed badly and to you working extremely long hours and for not much money.  If you outsource the admin that takes you 4 hours a day, the likelihood is that an experienced administrator can complete the task in a lot less time, leaving you time to focus on your real job!