May the Force be with you

obi-wan

Did you know, when George Lucas first wrote the script for the movie series Star Wars; that its most famous line, ‘May the force be with you’ was not written as we have come to know it? Apparently, the earliest versions of the script read ‘May the force of others be with you’.

I find that change in wording quite fascinating.

Naturally, Hollywood likes to promote its individual hero’s, hence I suspect the reasoning for the wording change. However the reality is that even the best Hollywood hero or superstar, would not and could not achieve success without the support, advice and opportunities provided by others. When you think about it, is there anyone that you can name who has succeeded completely on their own? I am sure you have read or watched many an interview where the subject in question was being asked about their success or achievements and they have said something along the lines of ‘I couldn’t have done it without…’

Many people are raised to compete or to be the best in their field which can often spur on remarkable, seemingly individual, achievements. Think of an Olympic swimmer who wins the gold medal, and then think about that individual’s family members and loved ones who may have sacrificed sleep and family holidays or even moved cities or (in some cases) States in order to get that person to the training pool every morning at 5 am and to engage the best coaches.

No matter how capable you may be, you simply do not have all the answers. Even ‘geniuses’ do not innovate, discover or problem solve on their own. Interesting side note; Thomas Edison was a prolific inventor with over 1900 patents. Yet, historians have struggled to determine if he ever actually invented anything himself. It seems that most of the inventions credited to Edison were created in collaboration with the team of inventors who worked with him.

In the workplace and our careers, we need other people to inspire us and coax out our creativity. The key is surrounding ourselves with people who bring out the best in us and not the stress in us.

You may have heard Jim Rohn’s famous statement, that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Now, I suspect five isn’t actually a magic number, just like some may say ‘it takes 21 days to form a habit’, or that ’10,000 hours of practice/application makes you an expert’. I would suggest that the numbers are arbitrary, rather it is a matter of consistency, and regularly applying yourself to something. In this case, consistently surrounding yourself with people who support you, lift you up, encourage you and in particular, challenge you to think differently.

Think about the people in your life that you spend most of your time with.  Now consider the impact they have on you. Is it positive? Do they challenge and develop you, and if so, to what extent? The height of your potential is predicted by the people who surround you. This doesn’t mean that these people are always positive. There are times when we really need to hear constructive criticism. It can be a brilliant opportunity to learn and to grow.

Now consider yourself and how your behaviour and actions impact those around you. As Aristotle famously stated; The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Are you as positive and inspiring as you could be? Are you lifting others up? Remember, in order to have others bring out the best in you, you need to be able to bring out the best in them too.

Should you say No?

How does it make you feel? How does it feel when someone asks you to do something, and you want or need to say no?

I know that for myself it felt really uncomfortable, until quite recently. Then I read a book by Rory Vaden, called Procrastinate on Purpose and it opened my eyes and changed my perspective. Two concepts specifically resonated with me. Saying ‘no’ and The Tyranny of the Urgent.

Saying ‘No’

If you are like many people (like me for example), you might really dislike saying no to people. Others may come to you with needs or requests for assistance and you want to be helpful and supportive, so you find yourself saying yes. You say ‘Yes’ even when you know (deep down) that you really do not have the capacity to do both what they are asking, as well as what it is that you need to do for yourself.

Interestingly, we might think we don’t like saying no, but in reality, we are saying no all the time. As Rory explains; anytime you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. You simply cannot say ‘yes’ to something without implicitly saying ‘no’. By way of example, by taking the time to read this blog, you are saying no to something else you could be doing at this moment.  Other examples are, when you say yes to:

  • Doing other people’s work
  • Attending unnecessary meetings
  • A perception of immediate service (like responding to that ‘urgent’ email that arrives in your inbox at 4.59pm)
  • Reading subscription emails
  • Over-volunteering
  • Engaging in email conversations (email wasn’t designed as a chat service!)
  • Watching a Netflix binge (a startling statistic – the average person will spend nine years of their life watching television)

You just said no to:

  • Getting home on time
  • More time with your kids
  • Being ‘present’ with your spouse or friends
  • Engaging in activities or hobbies that are meaningful to you (such as exercise, cooking, reading)
  • Taking a break to rest and recharge
  • Getting a good night’s sleep

The Tyranny of the Urgent

Stephen Covey was a brilliant man, there is no doubting that. And many people use his Urgent and Important matrix as a time management tool. The issue with this (as Rory explains) is that this matrix was developed by Covey in 1989* (or even earlier by US President Eisenhower in the 1950’s), in worlds quite different to today. These matrices were developed before emails, before mobile phones, before text messages, instant messages and 24/7 availability…and unfortunately, today, ‘everything’ is urgent (or at least that is how our brains are responding to every little alert that occurs on our various devices).

This was a big insight for me – how other people’s ‘urgent’ has been impacting me, how I have been responding (or reacting) to other people’s ‘urgent’ requests, to the detriment of my own time and the things that are important to me.

I will give you one small example. One of my roles is marking student assessments for various qualifications. As a general rule, students have six weeks (42 days) to complete and submit their assignments. I then have three weeks (21 days) to mark their submission and provide the student with their results. At any one time, I could have a dozen or more students submitting and awaiting their results.

Often, a student will submit their assessment, on the 42nd day, and then email me at the same time and ask me if I can mark it immediately, today or ASAP! There is a sense of urgency in these email requests, which are often punctuated with a good amount of exclamation marks!!! The requests usually seem quite reasonable; the student wants to ‘know their result’, ‘let their manager know they passed’, or, ‘book a holiday once they know their result’ etc… Wanting to help and be supportive, I would respond to these ‘urgent’ requests by putting other things to the side and completing what had been requested. (Interestingly, I am yet to hear back from any of these students with so much as a thank you!)

After recognising that in these situations (and many others) that I am responding to the Tyranny of the Urgent, I have changed my response. Just recently, I received an email from a student (and in this case, their submission was actually late. It was overdue by several days). They advised me that they had just submitted their assessment and asked if I could ‘mark it straight away!’ It was about 4.30pm on a Friday and I had other things planned. So, I said no. I explained that I was marking other student assessments and that I had put aside some time the following week to do further marking and they should expect their result toward the end of that week.

It was a relief to say no, and I spent a truly lovely weekend with my daughter without feeling the guilt that often comes with feeling that you are ‘letting others down’. The reality is, that if I had said yes to that student, I would have been saying no to my daughter.

Now, when ‘urgent’ requests are coming in, I am viewing them with a different perspective. Are they really urgent? Or is it someone else’s perceived urgency?

Now, I am not suggesting that we all get super comfortable with saying no to everything (I doubt I could ever get super comfortable with it myself), or that we ignore other people’s ‘urgent’ requests. But maybe take a step back for a moment and ask ourselves; ‘If I say yes to this right now, what will I be saying no to?’

And on the flip-side, maybe we could be considerate of other people’s time and reconsider the ‘urgent’ request we are sending other people (I know I have been guilty of it). We could ask ourselves ‘is this request really urgent?’ or am I also contributing to The Tyranny of the Urgent?

*Scary fact, for those of us that remember 1989 as adults, that was 30 years ago!

Less is More…

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.’ Greg McKeown – Author of Essentialism

Leading up to Christmas, I thought about it being a good time to refocus on why I started exploring Minimalism. My initial goal was to have an uncluttered home, however I have found greater benefits through having an uncluttered life and a lot less distractions. Having fewer distractions naturally gives me more time to focus on the areas of my life that I truly want to focus on.

Minimalism is not about owning nothing. It is about being purposeful about your possessions. What do you really need and love? And then, basically removing the excess.

The reason I am talking with you about minimalism is not to say that you need to own less stuff (though, trust me, it does actually make things easier). It is to suggest that minimalism frees up our lives and our time so that we can achieve more. What I am suggesting is to adopt a minimalist mindset.

When I started to minimalise, I cleared on average at least two full garbage bags of unnecessary clutter each week from my home over a three-month period. And you know what? So far, I haven’t missed any of it! Life is simpler and there is a lot less housework! Which naturally means, more time. More time for the things I want to do and love to do. The purposeful choices I started to make about what we have in our home, transferred into making much more purposeful choices about how and where I spend my money, time and energy.

Did you realise that you are potentially exposed to over 5,000 advertisements a day? Yes, 5,000! Between digital and social media, print (magazines/newspapers) and billboards or signs. That’s 5,000 times a day you consciously or unconsciously get a message to buy something. Do you want some really scary stats? Maybe not, but here they are anyway…..

In 2012, Australians spent: $8 billion (yes that is billion) on beauty, $9.5 billion on gadgets and $5.1 billion on fashion. Wow! For those of us living in Australia, you might have seen the series, The War on Waste on the ABC television network. I don’t know about you, but I found the series equally fascinating and horrifying in terms of how much unnecessary waste we all mindlessly create.

Affluenza is a term that you may have heard in recent times. It is used to describe the need to strive for ever-increasing material wealth. It describes that unfulfilling feeling we get when trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. In a world that these days seems to quantify success by a persons’ fame, wealth and status, it can be described as a socially transmitted condition with the symptoms being an almost uncontrollable quest to own and have more material objects. Just think about the queues outside the Apple stores every time a new iPhone is released. The reality is that the pleasure of a new purchase quickly fades following the rush of adrenaline from the acquisition. I mean, just how life-changing do you think the purchase of the latest iPhone really was for those early adopters? Much really? I doubt it. Whatever it was that you ‘just had to have’, the pleasure fades quickly, so how convenient is it that then each year there is a newer model of car or phone or TV that you can purchase and each season a new trend in fashion that you can fall in love with and just ‘have to have’? This short-term pleasure fades even more quickly when you have the realisation that this purchase does not link with, or even has moved you further away from, your goals.

Every single day we are offered innumerable opportunities and choices as to how to spend our money, our energy and our time. They key here is recognising that we do have a choice and do not have to buy, participate in or contribute to everything. With a minimalist mindset, you can learn to say ‘no’ to the things that do not align with your vision of success. Now, I am not suggesting you become so absorbed with your own goals that you say ‘no’ to everything else. What I am suggesting is that you become more aware of the activities and actions that are cluttering up your mind and try a bit of a spring clean. You will feel so much better for it.

‘Maybe the life you have always wanted is buried under everything you own!’. Joshua Becker – Author of The More of Less

I’m a Perfectionist…

Actually, not me. I am far from being a perfectionist. I do feel a little sad though, when I meet people in my coaching engagements and workshops who tell me that they are perfectionists. Perfectionism after all, is simply a strategy of procrastination. And it’s a strategy that can work ‘too well’ allowing people to put off doing and achieving the things they should.

Before I continue with this article, I would like to clarify: the type of perfectionism / procrastination I am referring to here is not the procrastination of ‘starting quickly and continuing slowly’ as described by Adam Grant in his TED Talk The surprising habits of original thinkers. There is great value in this concept of starting work on something and then taking a break (procrastinating a little) before continuing. I have learned the value of slowing down and have found my best ideas come to me when I have a problem or a concept to work on and then let it sit in the back of my mind for a day or two. The type of procrastinating I am referring to here is when you know you have something that you need to do or should do and continue to delay getting started, like Tim Urban describes in his TED Talk, Inside the mind of a master procrastinator.

So, why do people procrastinate?

There can be many reasons. Sometimes it is because people want things to be ‘just right’; the right time, the right environment, the right person. Well, guess what? If you keep waiting for the right time, the right situation or the right person, it or they will never arrive. Never. Ever. You will always find some reason to put off what needs to be done. The stars are not going to align perfectly, signalling that now is the right time to do whatever it is you need to do. And think of all the potentially great opportunities and adventures you may be missing out on!

Let me give you an example. I have a friend who was engaged by a small business owner to market their products and services. This was an existing business that had done well for a while, and now they were struggling. There was one particular product that this business owner wanted my friend to market, as it had the potential to provide a great return on her investment. My friend dutifully began her marketing campaign and literally within days, enquires and sales for this particular product completely skyrocketed. The business owner then called my friend in a panic. She wasn’t sure that she wanted her to market this product anymore. My friend was perplexed? ‘But this is what you asked me to market. This is what you have engaged me to do.’ It turned out the reason the business owner was concerned was because she didn’t think her product was ‘perfect’ yet.

Oh my! It is incredibly unlikely that any product or service you ever produce is going to be perfect! Look, deep down you really do know that nothing will be perfect, don’t you? Sure, aim for excellent or fantastic or awesome, but the only way you are even going to achieve that is by getting out there and selling your products and services, starting to climb that mountain or writing that book/memo/report. It won’t be perfect. In fact, the only way you can get to excellent or awesome is to get started, do what needs doing and learn from the mistakes, feedback and suggestions you get along the way. My blogs and articles are not perfect and I don’t expect them to be perfect, but if I felt I couldn’t write and publish them until they were perfect; well, you already know the answer. They would never be finished and they would never be published.

If you do find yourself procrastinating, the first thing to do is to identify why you are doing so. There are generally three reasons for procrastination:

  • You are concerned that the finished product won’t be to a high enough standard (yours or someone else’s standard)
  • You don’t know how or where to start
  • It is just too boring or unpleasant and you would simply rather do something else

Awareness enables choice. One we are aware of our own behaviours and thought processes we can then choose to do something about them. If you recognise that you do tend to procrastinate, reflect on the reason why and then consider strategies to overcome this reason.

If you are interested in learning more, strategies for overcoming procrastination will be covered in my Working Smarter workshops, which will be available in 2019.

Jeff Bezos doesn’t play Candy Crush

Ok, so I admit, that is a fairly audacious statement to make. In reality, I don’t actually know if Jeff Bezos plays Candy Crush or not. (Jeff, if you are reading this, feel free to reach out and let me know one way or the other 😊 )

But think about it… consider people like Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg, Simon Sinek, Barrack Obama or ‘insert your own favourite Thought, Business or World Leader or Successful Entrepreneur here…’. Do you really imagine that they are spending their downtime playing Candy Crush or filling their evenings bingeing on Netflix? I suspect they are using their downtime a great deal more intelligently.

Most of us would love to be more productive, creative and innovative, and yet in our downtime we aren’t giving our brain the time, space and opportunity that it needs in order to be productive, solve problems and to innovate.

So ask yourself, how do the world’s busiest, creative and most successful people use their time, particularly their downtime, in a way that enables them to perform at their best? (I suspect that even Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t spend his evenings scrolling through his Facebook feed…)

Here are three suggestions:

Firstly, move more. Our bodies didn’t evolve to spend 8 hours (or more) sitting down, and, when you think about it, our lives were a great deal more manual and physical until about 100 years ago. It is only a blip in the history of our evolution that we have spent so much time sitting. Movement is the best exercise for your brain. Exercise reduces the risk of dementia, acts as an anti-depressant and regulates our mood (think how good you feel after you have been for a walk or a run). Going for a walk outdoors (without your phone, music device etc…) gets you away from the screens and into nature. You will do your best thinking then. I know some of my best ideas have come to me when out for a walk.

Secondly, create more uninterrupted quiet time in your life. We live in a noisy world and all too often have our phones within arms reach and our brains on high alert waiting for the next ping or buzz to let us know we have a new message or email. I see some people grab their phone when this happens as though their lives depend on it! Being on high alert all the time creates stress and too much cortisol (a stress hormone) which causes the hippocampus (the part of the brain associated with learning and memory) to shrink. Try having phone free evening or weekend. You will be surprised at how often you go to reach for your phone at first. Spend the time instead reading or gardening or doing those odd jobs around the house that you never seem to find the time to do. Take the kids to the park and leave your phone at home (shock, horror!). But what if there is an emergency you ask? Just think for a moment about the last month or year, exactly how many emergencies did you have to deal with on your night off or your day off? And if you did find yourself dealing with countless emergencies in your own time, then that is a whole other conversation that we need to have. Let your brain have the break it needs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself with a solution to an issue that has been bothering you.

Thirdly, spend time connecting socially with others. Humans have a fundamental need for connection (yes, even us introverts need connection at times). Apart from being the number one predictor of longevity, social connection reduces the effects of stress and engages a range of cognitive functions such as thinking, feeling, reasoning and intuition. And when you are connecting with others; be present, be mindful and really be there. One thing I have read about Jeff Bezos is that he is surprisingly present and rarely distracted by his phone. In Jeff’s words ‘when I have dinner with my friends or family, I like to be doing whatever I am doing. I don’t like to multi-task’. So, I figure if one of the world’s busiest, creative and most successful entrepreneurs can leave his phone alone while enjoying time with his family and friends, then it isn’t too much of a stretch for us to do the same.

So, give your brain a break and switch off so that you can switch on all the learning and creativity centres of your brain. Who knows what you might be able to achieve?

Double your Life!

Would you love to have more time? Would you like to double your life?

Sounds pretty good to me.

Do you remember when you were a young child, say somewhere between the ages of six and eleven, when a year seemed to last forever? The school holidays, and in particular, the summer holidays seemed to last for a year? Now as an adult, the years seem to fly by, and every year seems to go by even faster than the last!

Well, I have a theory about this.

Children are naturally mindful. They are not thinking about what happened yesterday, they are not worrying about what they are going to do tomorrow or next week. They are living completely in the present. Enjoying their day and fully absorbed in whatever it is they are doing right in that moment. As adults, even when we are ‘taking time out’ we are still thinking about other things. The disagreement we had with someone the day before, or thinking about what we have to do either later that day or when we return to work. The truth is, we are rarely ever truly ‘present’.

Research by Harvard Business School has found that people are ‘lost in thought’ about 47% of their waking hours. According to their research, ‘people spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy.’

Our thinking is often consumed by the past and the future. From a mindfulness perspective, embracing the present is about learning to engage in the moment and be completely absorbed in what you’re doing. Our brain can drive us crazy with its myriad of thoughts, and one of the tricks to reducing our levels of stress is to recognise that we don’t have to respond to every single one. We can choose what we want to focus on.

Mindfulness is a Buddhist concept founded thousands of years ago. A modern explanation is as follows: ‘Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.’ This is how it has been described by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

In more recent times, the western scientific community has become supportive of mindfulness and its relationship with our overall sense of wellbeing. Mindfulness is the ability to observe your thoughts and emotions without necessarily becoming them. This links back beautifully to emotional intelligence and the skill of self-awareness. Mindfulness (just like self-awareness) helps you to observe your emotions without judgement and assume an open, curious and problem-solving approach to managing them. By slowing down and living more thoughtfully and gently we have a greater sense of calm and wellbeing.

Mindfulness is not just about meditation and breathing or relaxation. It is also not about ‘emptying your mind’. Some people mistakenly think that mindfulness or meditation is about not thinking about anything. That is not the case and Andy Puddicombe explains this well in his TED Talk, 10 Mindful Minutes, when he says, ‘It’s more about stepping back, sort of seeing the thought clearly, witnessing it coming and going, emotions coming and going without judgement, but with a relaxed, focused mind’.  Being mindful means being able to truly focus on the task at hand and be present. It means letting the thoughts that wander into your mind simply pass by, observing them as distractions and not becoming caught up with them. This helps you give your attention and full focus to the job at hand and be more productive. Incorporating mindfulness into everyday life and activity will allow you to develop a healthy perspective of the way you view the world generally. This enhances our sense of happiness, mental health and levels of resilience.

While I cannot lay claim to being an expert in mindfulness, I do practice five minutes of mindful and regulated breathing each morning before I start work. Practicing regulated breathing helps improve our ability to manage stress. Slow breathing allows us to increase the variability of our heart rate to decrease stress, improve focus and build resilience. Our breathing rate affects our heart rate patterns, which affects how our brain deals with stress. And all these processes are highly interconnected. While it’s difficult to directly control your heart rate, or your brain function, you can control your breathing rate. By regularly slowing your breathing down, you can improve your heart rate variability, which will allow your brain to more effectively deal with the stressful situations you encounter. Even when I worked as an employee in an office, I would start my morning by spending time in an available meeting room, undertaking mindful breathing before going to my desk and starting my working day. After those five minutes, I always feel amazing. I feel alert, re-charged and ready to take on whatever it is I am doing that day. My head feels clear and my energy levels are great.

Often in my training programs or coaching sessions, when I suggest to people that they take five minutes out of their working day to practice a bit of mindful meditation they will tell me that they don’t have the time. You don’t have five minutes? Well actually, you do. If you have time to make a coffee, you have time for a little mindfulness meditation.

Honestly, when you make time, you create time. Don’t believe me? Try it and let me know how you get on.

What’s wrong?

What is wrong?

I don’t mean, ‘what is wrong with you?’

I mean, what is ‘wrongness’? What makes something wrong?

Think about that for a moment and describe what is ‘wrong’ without coming up with an example. See if you can articulate what makes something; a behaviour, an action, a point of view etc, wrong?

I am sure that there are some truly awful things in this world that I would whole heartedly agree with you are wrong. In this context I am asking you to consider things such as your everyday interactions with other people. Think of a work example such as; a decision made within your organisation that you feel was wrong, a conflict you are experiencing, or a colleague’s actions or behaviour that you don’t agree with. If you can’t think of a work example, think about different views and beliefs on topics such as; religion or social norms, how to treat others, vaccinating, climate change, how to raise children or euthanasia.

Think about the last time you were ‘wrong’ about something. How did you feel when you realized you were wrong? Did you feel; embarrassed, annoyed, enlightened?  Whatever you felt, you felt that after you realised you were wrong.

Not before.

Before you realised you were wrong, you were probably fairly confident that you were right.

There is a brilliant TED Talk by Kathryn Shultz, ‘On being wrong.’ She articulates so beautifully what it feels like to be wrong and the mental processes that we go through when we believe that we are right and someone else is wrong. I highly recommend it.

People will often tell me that they don’t like conflict. (I suspect most people do not particularly enjoy conflict!). Because of this, they avoid having conversations with other people about things that should be addressed. They do this because they believe that having the conversation will cause conflict. I think the potential for conflict is only there when we believe that we are right, and the other person is wrong. I believe that if more people went into conversations about issues they would like addressed, with a genuinely open and curious mind, and with a view that there could actually be another perspective here, that most conflicts would be avoided.

In my workshops when we are covering the topic of difficult conversations or conflict, I take my participants through an exercise which really demonstrates to them (many of them for the first time) that there is another perspective that they haven’t considered.

For those of you reading this article, I would like to ask you to consider two things next time you feel so absolutely sure that you are right about something.

The first is the fundamental attribution error. This is the tendency people have to overemphasis personal characteristics and ignore situational factors when judging other people’s behaviours and actions. Because of the fundamental attribution error, we are more likely to believe that others do wrong things because they are bad people. However, when we think about our behaviour or actions we focus on situational factors.

For example, if someone cuts us off while driving, or jumps the queue at the local bakery, our first thought might be “What a jerk!” instead of considering the possibility that the driver is rushing someone to the hospital or airport, or that maybe they were distracted and honestly thought they were next in line. On the flip side, when we cut someone off in traffic or jump the queue, we tend to convince ourselves that we had to do so.  We focus on situational factors, like being late to a meeting, and therefore justify our behaviour or actions.

The second consideration is to simply ask yourself the next time you are completely convinced that you are right;

‘Could I be wrong?’

Just pause in the moment and ask yourself

‘Is it possible that there may be another perspective here?’

Trust me….

In my business, I work with teams on a regular basis, to help them enhance their cohesion, performance and productivity. Usually when I meet with a team for the first time I will ask them, what they consider to be the number one dysfunction of either their team or teams in general. Every time I ask this question, I can pretty much guarantee what their response will be. In almost every scenario the reply I receive is, communication. By this they mean, a lack of communication or poor communication. This is interesting, because a lack of communication or poor communication is actually an outcome of the number one dysfunction in teams, which is a lack of trust.

Think about it for a moment. If you and I are work colleagues and we don’t trust each other, then we are unlikely to share information and ideas, collaborate and help each other out, or discuss our fears or concerns. If I don’t trust you and you question my ideas, then I am more likely to see this as you questioning my capability or competency rather than assume you have a genuine reason for your query. Trust generates confidence. A lack of trust generates suspicion. Gandhi explained, ‘the moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted.’

A lack of trust causes more than just a lack of communication. It also costs money. When you think about it, a lack of trust often creates more rules, regulations, processes, administration and monitoring. By way of example, a lack of trust around the intentions of people at airports, now means we have much longer queues and a great deal more screening, with a much larger number of people being employed to manage these processes. Naturally you may suggest that this lack of trust is warranted in the airport context, and I agree, I would prefer to travel safely when flying. But think about this in the context of your own work environment. Are you spending more time filling out the paperwork than delivering the baby?  (naturally apply this analogy as appropriate within your own setting).

So, how do you know if you and your colleagues have trust? Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric said, ‘You know it when you feel it.’

Think about the people that you trust. Consider how you interact with those people and how much you share with them. Now think of someone that you do not trust and reflect on how you interact with that person and what you do and do not share. Is there a difference? Of course there is. The question then becomes, is that lack of trust warranted, and can I do something about it? Particularly in the work environment, mistrust tends to come from misunderstanding.

One last question that I invite you to consider is.…Who trusts you?

Actually, you do have time….

Do you need more time? Do you want more time to do the things you really want to be doing?

Well, some tough love here: please stop telling yourself and others that you are so busy. The reality is, if you don’t have time to do something, it simply isn’t a high enough priority for you. The reality is that ‘I don’t have time’ means, ‘It’s not a priority for me.’

I remember reading somewhere that in the 1950’s a person’s status was indicated by the amount of leisure time they had. The more free time, the higher their perceived status. These days, it seems like it is the other way around. People tell themselves and others how busy they are. It is like a badge of honour. Telling themselves and others how important and needed they are. Is that really the case? When people tell me how busy they are, I don’t feel impressed, I genuinely feel quite sad because I know that more often than not, they are creating this ‘busyness’ for themselves.

Some people tell me that every minute of their working day is taken up with meetings, meaning that they only get to do their actual ‘work’ at night or on weekends. Really? Is every minute of every work day taken up with meetings that you must attend and therefore taking you away from being able to get things done? If so, then maybe you should reassess your employment, or have a good talk with your manager. And how critical is it that you actually do attend every single one of these meetings? If you answered ‘critical’, then ask yourself what would happen if you were sick one day? Or you had a major event in your life like getting married or a child of yours was getting married and you needed to travel for the event? Or how about an overseas trip that you had booked 12 months before? What would happen to those meetings then? Would the meetings be unable to go ahead? Would you never be able to get the information that you might have ‘needed’ from the meetings that you missed? Would the business/organisation be unable to cope without you?  Actually, somehow, they would go on (yes, that is sarcasm you just read 😊).

Look, I have been there myself, so I know exactly what it feels like and how convinced you can be that you are ‘so busy’. Fortunately for me, at the height of this busyness, when I felt so overwhelmed and could not see any way out of it, I read two excellent books (yes, somehow in the middle of all that ‘being busy’ I managed to find the time to read a book or two). One of those books in particular was literally life-changing in terms of managing my time. That particular book is Eat that Frog! by Brian Tracy. I read that book, and literally the next day started putting many of the strategies into place and immediately found that I had more time. Immediately.

To quote the back cover of my copy of Eat that Frog!:There just isn’t enough time for everything on our “To Do” list – and there never will be. Successful people don’t try to do everything. They learn to focus on the most important tasks and make sure they get done.’

The key message I took from Eat that Frog! is based on something that Mark Twain said, that went along the lines of ‘If the first thing you do each day is eat a live frog, then you can go through the rest of your day knowing that you have dealt with the worst thing you are going to have to do that day’.

So, good news and bad news here. The bad news, that frog is the biggest, ugliest, worst job that you have on your ‘To Do’ list. It is the one that you really do not want to do. It is the one that plays on your mind all day (and each night). It is the phone call you don’t want to make, the least favourite of your work tasks (for me it was always my monthly budget update) or the person that you have to have a conversation with (and you really don’t want to).

The good news. Deal with this frog first and you will be amazed by how much time you get back. Time that is not spent using up energy thinking about the frogs that you have to deal with.

I read Eat that Frog! one weekend, and by Monday morning I had turned my ‘To Do’ list on its head. Instead of being so busy doing all the little things that I didn’t have time for the big things, I now did all the big things first and found I had plenty of time for the little things. By the way, the other book I read shortly after this was Busy by Tony Crabbe. I would highly recommend it.

If you really do feel that you are too busy to be spending your time on the things you really want to be doing, just take a moment to question your mindset around how busy you are. Are you open to hearing and accepting that you can take control of your time, your career and your life?

How do you feel?

Let’s imagine for a moment that you and I are work colleagues. We happen to be in the break room at the same time making our morning cuppa and I smile at you and say ‘Good morning! How are you?’ What would your response most likely be? Chances are, no matter how you are feeling, your response would be along the lines of ‘good’ or ‘fine’. Why is it, that we almost always answer ‘good’, even when we are not? It is such an automated response and sadly it is pretty much the expected response. Think about the following questions:

  • When asked how you are, do you consciously consider, in that moment, how and what you are actually feeling?
  • In any given moment, can you intentionally recognise and then shift your feelings if needed?

If you confidently answered yes to both questions, then feel free to stop reading this blog post!

Ok, but seriously, even if you did answer yes to both those questions, I am sure you will still gain some benefit from reading on.

Read any book, article or blog on Emotional Intelligence (EI) and they will all refer to the need for good EI to ensure success in any part of your life. There is no doubt that enhancing your EI allows you to increase confidence, build more meaningful relationships and enhance your ability to respond to challenges both in your personal lives and careers.

The foundation skill of developing emotionally intelligent behaviour is self-awareness. Over the years, I have worked with hundreds of individuals and many work teams to help them enhance their emotional intelligence and self-awareness. I can’t tell you how many times I have sat across a table with a client who has confidently advised me that they are very self-aware.

In my experience, most people consider themselves self-aware and yet the reality can actually be quite different. According to Dr Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0: ‘Only 36 percent of the people we’ve tested are able to accurately identify their emotions as they happen. This means that two thirds of us are typically controlled by our emotions and are not yet skilled at spotting them and using them to our benefit.’

So, what exactly is self-awareness? It is the ability to recognise, in the moment;

  • What you are feeling
  • Why you are feeling it

and most importantly have the ability answer and respond appropriately to the question;

  • Is what I am feeling helping or hindering me right now?

Enhancing self-awareness is easily done, as long as you focus on it. A great place to start is by simply practicing self-reflection regularly. Once a week, sit down with pen and paper and write all the emotions you recall feeling in the last 24 hours. The most important aspect of this exercise is to not judge the emotions you experienced. Simply ask yourself, did that emotion help or hinder me at that time?

Try this practice for a few weeks and feel free to let me know what you learn from this exercise.