Tag Archives: woman

Super busy? No time to relax? Give yourself the gift of symbolic mindfulness today

Had a busy week? Are you feeling a little overwhelmed with all the things that you need to do before going back to work on Monday? Or even planning to work this week-end to catch up? When you stop and take a deep belly breath, do you feel tension or constriction? Maybe even anxiety, hypervigilance or nervousness?

Slowing down and doing less does not seem a viable option

Most of us find it a really challenge, if not impossible, to deeply enjoy our week-ends after a busy and potentially stressful week at work. Slowing down is something that a lot of women especially are finding not an easy thing to achieve….there is always too much to do, too many expectations and not enough time.

Yet, to be healthy and to be successful at home and at work, we need to allow our body, mind and spirit to rest and replenish.  Instead of doing more, we ideally need to do less. Given the amount of tasks that most women have to on their daily to do list this seems like a joke or an impossible thing to ask.

Meditation is a proven stress reliever, yet not the answer for everyone

Doing  a short 5-10 minute meditation or any kind of physical exercise with deep belly breathing every morning really helps to focus the day, and reenergise our hyperactive minds and emotions. Also meditating in the evenings increases the stress relief.

However, I am finding with a number of my clients, especially when they are not regular meditators, that it takes a long time, time they do not feel they have, to achieve any measure of calmness, relaxation and clarity.

If you fall into this group of people, you might like to give the following approach a go. I found this mindfulness practice works really well whilst it does not require taking blocks of time out of your day. It can also be used as a precursor to easing into a more regular meditation practice.

Using an element theme for the day (or the week-end)

I tend to work with the five elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal) in my Movement and Meditation practice. These elements are around almost anywhere and it is easy and effortless to notice their qualities, their properties and their presence in your life all throughout the day.

Pick an element or a symbol that has qualities that you wish to have more of in yourself and your life. Just by making sure you notice this element all throughout the day when you can, will help to boost the element’s qualities in you.

The power of symbols

Focussing on one element for a day or several days, is a beautiful practice that will help ground and focus your mind, both the conscious and unconscious mind.

Research, and my experience, have shown that the unconscious mind which operates our body, our habits and our emotions, responds better to symbols¹ and simple/short instructions than literal and complex language.

Given that most people who are stressed and overwhelmed, and who find it a challenge to switch off are also often dehydrated, my suggestion is to pick Water as your theme for the day. Water is a wonderful element with many facets and qualities, and we are made up of more than 80% of water ourselves.

Working with the element of WATER 

Water1

1. Take a notepad the evening before and write down the key qualities of your symbol e.g. for water they might be  flow, detox, clarity, stillness and force at the same time, flexibility, life, and a whole host of other qualities I will leave to your own creativity.

2. Read what you have written as soon as you get up in the morning

3. Then throughout the day … starting with your shower, your first cup of tea or even when you look out of the window and see the rain or the snow or dew on surfaces/plants ….notice WATER and its many qualities….

Here are some questions you can quickly run through your mind when you notice WATER

  • drinkingHow does this WATER feel? On your skin, on your tongue when you are drinking it, when you touch it?
  • What is its texture?
  • What does it look like? What is its colour?
  • What does it sound like?
  • What is its taste and smell?
  • Which  qualities  does this WATER have? What do these qualities feel like in you?

No need to put your observations into words, just notice and let that flow through you.

water 24.When you spot WATER in one of  its many forms … rain drops, tap or shower flow, snow or frozen, puddles, beverages, food, moisture in the air, in colours e.g. blue… take at least 3 deep belly breaths notice the qualities of this WATER.

You might want to put a hand on your naval area to feel the breath going into your belly.

5. At the end of the day, notice how you feel, what you have accomplished, and what has changed for you ….

Feel free to comment how this practice has worked for you.

Wishing you a joyful week-end, and relaxed next week!

¹ can be pictures, physical objects, simple words that stand for something, sounds, physical sensations (touch or feelings), tastes or smells

Totally committed, yet nothing much happens?

You are totally committed to achieving your goals (e.g. losing weight, getting fit, learning a new skill, starting that project at work), and for some reason you cannot get yourself to start. You are putting off your first step or you may have stalled somewhere on the way, and that next step seems never to start. You know you are motivated to achieve your goal, but feel demotivated by taking the first step. Something is stopping you and it is just not happening. And, with each passing day you feel more guilty and disappointed about not getting anywhere near your goal.

Do you recognise this scenario? If you do, then you are not alone. A lot of us suffer from this condition called ‘trying to eat the elephant in one go’.

It may be that your goal, and even your first step feels too big, takes too long, too hard, too much, just too…..

In that case, you maybe trying to eat the ‘elephant’ in one go rather than in small bites. Remember the achievement list from my last post? You can use that to unblock your next step towards your goal.

Forget the end goal and all the different steps you would have to take to get there. Instead, take a few deep breaths and answer the following question:

  • What is the one thing (related to your goal) however small it might be that you know you can achieve that you can do next?
  • And commit to do that thing at a specific time, today.

It might be taking a few extra steps on your way to getting fit or losing weight, investigating classes to learn your new skill, speaking to others at work about the project or writing the first paragraph of your project proposal.

Raymond Aaron, the creator of the MTO (minimum, target, outrageous) method, calls that the minimum. Check out his video here.

Instead of beating yourself up with a massive target, allow yourself to relax and achieve one thing at a time. Your may notice your motivation and energy rising exponentially with each small step you take, and before you know it you have created a new habit and achieved your goal.

Once you’ve started, you might find you do not wish to stop once you have completed your first step. Feel free to continue taking the next step and the next, or feel free to stop and take the next step the following day. Make sure to celebrate each step! Make it fun and enjoyable.

Using this method, I found my clients achieve best results when they focus on one goal at a time, ask themselves the question above every day, and then do their committed action that very day.

Enjoy achieving more each day 🙂

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To-do lists work, except when they don’t!

We have all been there. Every day we look at our to-do list and it is not getting smaller. Although we busy our to-do list gets longer and we feel more like a failure and overwhelmed by all the things that still need to done.

I have been there myself. I don’t know about you, but deleting things or crossing lines off a to-do list does not fill me with the same sense of satisfaction as e.g. acquiring a new pair of shoes. It might fill me with a sense of short-lived relief that an action is finally complete but no satisfaction. Looking at the list with still a humongous number of things to do filled me with dread and brought any motivation I had down to super low.

And a lot of my female friends and clients have had similar experiences. Maybe it is a women’s thing and it has to do with our gatherer ancestry?

Switching from crossing off to adding on

When I was in this situation recently and felt really demotivated looking at my overflowing list of things to do, I decided to turn the to-do list on its head.

Why not forget about what I needed to do and focus on what I had already achieved? Why not make an achievement list and add to it every time I achieved something, instead of crossing off things of the to-do list? And, I was going to look at my to-do list maximum once a week. I decided to give this approach a weeks’ trial.

Whenever I had achieved something, even if it was ‘small’ I noted it on my achievement list. By the end of the day, the list had grown amazingly and I felt amazing and very satisfied. Before the week was up I’d even started tasks that had been on my to-do list for more than 6 months – I am sure you can guess what those included – cleaning out the garage, de-cluttering my wardrobe were the two with the longest tenure.

All of a sudden I had more of spring in my step and I got more done than the weeks before. I felt great about myself and what I had achieved. This new achievement list also reminded me every day that

  • I was making progress towards my vision and big goals, even though it seemed slow
  • I was doing more than I was giving myself credit for, and
  • I am essentially a gatherer who enjoying accumulating successes and not deleting tasks

This new list also allowed me to check what achievements I might be able to ask other people to do for me in future and not forgetting about them till next time.

How did this affect my to-do list?

When I reviewed my to-do list at the end of the week, a good amount of activities could be ticked off as completed. Although I had been slightly worried that I might forget important tasks, that was not the case. And, I had completed tasks like the de-cluttering and the garage clean out that I had neglected for a long time because I had perceived those tasks as a burden to be reduced rather than an achievement to be added.

Would I throw out my to-do list?

No. I find it useful as an overall list that helps me plan what I need and want to do. However, I am adding my achievement list to my daily routine as it gives that extra boost of motivation and energy, and it allows me to take breaks without feeling guilty. For example, taking walk in the sunshine at lunchtime and getting fresh air, went on my achievement list!

So, if you have never tried an achievement list, consider trying it. You can make it really fun and interesting. You do a mind map, a drawing with different colours or even use the wheel of life or your goal categories to record your achievements.

I used a 2×2 matrix with the categories Business, Home, Friends & Family, Myself in my first week to make it easy. Since then I have also used the ‘wheel of ‘ giving me more categories. Both worked really well.

Make it your own 🙂

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How your judgements of others can limit you!

A blog article by Margie Warrell, a fellow life coach, on – What your judgements say about you? – got me thinking about my own judgements, my clients’ judgements, and how our judgements affected us, our experience and relationships with others.

In her article, Margie reminds us that our judgements close the door on possibilities; and, in my view, not just possibilities, they also stifle potential.

What are judgements?

In essence they are (often) unconscious decisions against a standard that we make about events, people and things. Beliefs are often built on judgements we have made in the past. Judgements usually result us labelling something or someone as good or bad, right or wrong, worthy or not worthy, better or worse, safe or unsafe etc.

Where do they come from?

Judgements are incredibly useful when time is of the essence and you have to make a decision about a life and death situation. We are well quipped for this from your Neanderthal days. Being able to label and recognise an approaching animal as dangerous/friendly, and based on that judgements being able to take appropriate action was a very valuable skill. Nowadays, judgements are useful in situations such as who to trust and not to trust, who to let into our house, whether something is valuable or not valuable. These kinds of judgements keep us safe and protect us.

And there are those other situations where we tend to pass judgement almost all the time, on others and ourselves, for no real reason. Who has not at times thought on meeting someone, maybe a friend or colleague, “she could lose a few pounds”, or “she must be better than me…”, or “She is only ….”. These kinds of judgements say more about us than the other person we are judging, and they can be limiting for us as well as the other person.

Why?

Because, as soon as we judge someone to be a something less or more than we believe they ought to be, we stop being interested or curious about that part of the relationship or the person. We may avoid the person or treat the person in way that might lead to a dissatisfying interaction or limit the potential of the interaction and the relationship.

In judging others we project our own beliefs, standards and criteria onto them. And these beliefs, standards and criteria are also what we judge ourselves against.

Let me give you a recent example: Sarah (name changed for confidentiality), one of my clients, told me about a new colleague, Lena, who came to work in ‘casual’ clothes and not the well coordinated suits with high-heeled shoes most woman wore in the office. Sarah was resentful that Lena was allowed to get away with dressing differently to everyone else. She felt she could not take her seriously and had decided to avoid her. When I probed, it turned out that Sarah was envious of how comfortable Lena seemed in her own skin, how easily she has been accepted and integrated into the team. Sarah felt that she herself would not be accepted if she showed up authentically. 

After our session Sarah decided to have a coffee with her colleague to get to know her. She was amazed that Lena was not only very experienced and very friendly, Lena also offered to help Sarah develop in one particular area that she needed for her promotion. Had Sarah stuck with her judgements, she would not have gotten to know this wonderful person, now a good friend, and she would have most likely not been promoted as quickly as she did.

Does Sarah dress differently now? No, she does like her heels and skirt suits, however she realised that there were elements of her work life where she was not being true to herself because she felt she would not be accepted as herself, and was able to make significant and successful.

What opportunities are your judgements shutting down for you?

If this resonated with you, consider noticing your judgements throughout the day. Pick a situation where you remember what the judgements were and use the following questions as a guide. Ideally write your answers in a journal.

  1. Where do you pass unconscious judgements about others? What do you feel when you do that? And what are those judgements? And, what were your actions based on those judgements?
  2. What do your judgements reveal about you? What do you believe about life, yourself and others? What are your hidden standards for yourself? How is that judgement impacting you? Is it limiting or enabling? And in what way?
  3. If you could suspend judgement, how would you act then? What questions might you ask the other person? How might those different actions have impacted the situation or the relationship?

This process also works well with a relationship or a recurring situation that is not working so well for you at the moment. When you meet that person again or the situation recurs, try out the different actions that you came up with in question 3 and notice what is changed.

Feel free to share your stories in comments box.

Enjoy busting your judgements.

The compelling world of ‘Feminine Power’

For this week’s blog, I asked my friend Nyali Muir, a successful Transformative Coach, specialising in the Feminine Power teachings,  to introduce you to Feminine Power coaching! I love the focus on women, and the supportive and practical approach.

Over to you, Nyali.


Let’s imagine for a moment that you’ve been ascribed the task of introducing someone – who’s never tasted it before – to the delectable world of Ice-cream!

Some things have to be experienced to be appreciated, such as the sensuous delights of eating chocolate and the endless fascination of a new born baby.

Well that was how I felt when first considering how I’d introduce Feminine Power to an audience who may never have heard of this delectable smorgasbord of Coaching-Life possibilities.  Consider the infinite variations of ice-cream the world over, where would you commence your task? 

Well, the juicy originators of Feminine Power Coaching are 2 extraordinary women, Claire Zammit (Transformative Educator) and Katherine Woodward-Thomas (Psychotherapist & best-selling author of “Calling In ‘The One’”).  Created by women, for women….and men! 

It is largely based on Transformative, or ‘Transformation of Identity’ Coaching – which identifies and addresses the underlying limiting beliefs-thoughts to our undesired patterns and inner obstacles.  Patterns which we all experience, standing between where we are and the greater potentials we sense for our lives, appearing as our ‘glass ceilings’. 

Based on Ontology – the Science of BeingFeminine Power Coaching focuses more on how we are being relative to One’s Self, Life and Others, than it does on what we are doing.  It gives credence to more of the typically feminine ways of being such as ‘Creativity’, ‘Intuition’, ‘Care’, Compassion’ and ‘Flow’ in partnership with the more masculine recognised ways of being such as ‘Structure’, ‘Direction’ and ‘Logic’, to bring Life, everywhere, back into balance.

The relationship between Coach and Client is an ‘Evolutionary Partnership’, which from the onset is based upon 3 premises.   To show their application these have been emboldened and included below in the article.

We have a ‘Daily Power Practise’ which is one of establishing a deep relationship; one of safety, love and maturity, between the conscious part of one’s self and the un-conscious parts of one’s self.  We bring to awareness that which has been hidden, yet which has been navigating and co-creating the experiences of our lives.

We see ourselves as source of our own experiences, co-creating with Life, being 100% responsible for evolving our part in things.

To illustrate a Feminine Power Coaching context within business, the following are true-life cases.  Names and identities have been changed.

Wendy works as a Global Project Manager for a household recognised I.T. company.  Whilst very competent in her role, she felt restricted by her fear of public speaking and came for coaching to shift any inner obstacles that were holding her back.  We had 1 session and immediately identified an old ‘I’m not clever’ belief – clearly untrue otherwise Wendy would never have held the position she did.  Yet this old programme had her stutter in meetings, not share her views with colleagues and generally speak quietly.  Within the session we took Wendy through a process that ultimately shifted her inner position from one of victimization (& misinterpretation from childhood) to one of Maturity, Truth and Power.  We also identified new skills and capacities for her to commit to and develop.  Immediately following this session Wendy was presented a first time invitation – which she rose to….to organise, orchestrate and deliver a conference for clients to attend from around the world, which she would never have done before.  Since it is it that our beliefs, words and actions are the tools with which we co-create our experiences, with Wendy’s True, Supportive beliefs in place and new behaviours being practised, opportunities and circumstances arose.  I’ll leave it to your imagination how well it went! 

Jade is a performing artist and model with no small amount of talent, skill and beauty.  Only, Jade wasn’t getting the work she desired to come in – no matter how hard she tried.  Working by phone, after a short while we identified an unconscious ‘I’m not safe being visible’ beneath all her endeavours.  In brief, we sought to re-establish what was really true about her old beliefs, using a specific Feminine Power Process, anchoring her into the Powerful, Wise Part within herself.  From here Jade was able to keep herself safe.  Safety no longer being a matter of ‘chance’ or ‘fate’, but rather her lived experience created through conscious and wise choices. 

Almost immediately she gained a modelling contract that saw her appear nationwide on billboards and the internet, she was invited to New York to sing and she also completed recording her first C.D., with ease and joy.  Because Jade had brought about an inner shift, her outer world changed.  Not long after this, she called in her soul-mate, became pregnant, they are blissfully happy and soon to be married.

Diana is the successful partner of a global company in a male dominated industry.  Surprisingly, she’d been timid, personally insecure, generally incapable of saying what she really thought and continually wore ‘masks’.  She was something of a walkover and was clearly disrespected by key staff members.  She wanted and needed to take her power back. Our coaching partnership gave Diana the safe container and learning environment she needed in which to create her breakthroughs. One of her biggest successes was being able to do something most folk dread – to give various staff members notice to leave.  Diana is now sourcing staff who are far better suited to the healthy and friendly office she’s committed to establishing.  Private conversations and clearly communicated boundaries have resulted in greater respect towards her. Diana set clear intentions and committed to them, thus setting the stage for new opportunities and possibilities to arise, enabling fulfilment on her original intentions. 

Feminine Power ‘Transformation of Identity’ Coaching is as delicious as a new ice-cream creation, with none of the calories and with all of the yummy benefits!

 “My North Star is for the Thriving and Flourishing of all Life; I’m 100% for You, 100% for Me, 100% for Life.  Whatever your blockages, together let’s transform them”.

Love and Inspiration

Nyali

Nyali Muir is a Certified “Calling In ‘The One’” Coach, Feminine Power Mastery Graduate,  Feminine Power Coach, Life Coach, Educator, Writer and Public Speaker with over 25 years of professional experience.  Sessions are held in person, groups, using phone, Skype or Conference Call.  One or more sessions may be required depending on the person/group, intention and circumstances. To contact Nyali, e-mail her on nyalifm@btinternet.com, check out her website: www.nyalimuir.com or call her on + (44) 1206 822205. 

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Are you true to yourself?

How often are you doing or saying something that does not feel quite right? As if you are saying someone else’s words or just doing something because others would expect of you? Or have you ever felt you are playing a role, or felt that you are a fraud?

If any of these examples ring true for you, then you were not being true to yourself.

Compromising our authenticity can lead to stress and unhappiness

Our society and culture still tends to expect women, in particular, to fit in, to compromise, to satisfy other people’s needs, be it their spouse, children, colleagues or parents. Trying to satisfy all those demands of people around them, women often compromise their true self, their authenticity, and often without consciously realising it.

When we are not being true to ourselves, we feel fragmented and lose confidence and trust in ourselves. It can lead to stress as our own needs remain unsatisfied. Women also find that in the long-term their health and fitness suffers, and they become increasingly unhappy and dissatisfied. In fact, in a recent Guardian article  ‘not being true to oneself’ was cited as the top regret by people close to death.

When we are true to ourselves we feel satisfied and happy. We are brimming with energy, confidence and motivation; in short we feel good about ourselves.

Being true ourselves …what does that mean?

There are a lot of authors who have written about authenticity and being ourselves. Personally, I like the three components of authenticity put forward by Goffee and Jones in their book: Why should anyone be led by you?. They fit well with the NLP and other self-development processes that helped me and my clients.

In my view there are three steps to being true to yourself:

Being self-aware and conscious of your own feelings and needs

When asked whether they are self-aware, most people nod and say: Yes, of course!. But, a good number of us are not as self-aware as we think we are. Especially we women are very good at ignoring our feelings and needs in favour of those of others. And, habitually putting others first, leaves us out of practice being in tune with what we feel and need, let alone giving it a voice.

If the above resonated with you or you know a friend or colleague who falls into the others’ first and my needs are not important category, here is an easy way to raise your awareness of what you feel and what you need to be yourself:

  • Ask yourself: “What am I feeling?” Name the feeling(s), and acknowledge them. Be gentle with yourself.
    If you do not find it easy to name your feelings, check out this classification of emotions
  • Then ask yourself: “What do I need? Name the need or needs, and whatever they are, acknowledge them.

My top tips are: 

  • refrain from judging and analysing your feelings and needs. What ever you feel and need it is right at that particular moment.
  • Once you have named and stated them, consider how you might be able to act on your feelings and needs[1]. Sometimes it is all about saying ‘no’ to things next time or stating what you want instead.
  • Also check out my article on What’s your self-care strategy? for further inspiration.

Being grounded and comfortable with who you are

This is all about knowing and being in tune with who you are and what you stand for. You know and are proud of where you have come from and who you are now. You are comfortable in yourself and as a woman. Not being grounded means that you constantly feel the ground is shifting beneath you, and you feel unsettled and ill at ease.

If you are not already grounded in yourself, take some time to find out about yourself. Go on a fun journey of discovery allowing time for yourself to get to know who this wonderful woman, that is you, is. Questions that can help you the story of YOU , are:

  • What is important to me? (ask yourself this question a number of times and for different areas of your life)
  • What do I stand for?
  • What is my story? And, how comfortable am I with that story? (where do you come from, you origins, how did you get to where you are now?)
  • What is my identity as a woman?

To make this journey even deeper and your story more meaningful to you, consider journalling or unconscious writing. Both work best after a meditative practice. If meditation is not for you, consider putting some lovely music on after a pampering session and take some deep breaths into your core, to centre yourself before asking yourself the questions above. And, just keep writing until your inspiration rests.

Knowing and fully embracing who we are, grounds us in ourselves, and helps us to be true to ourselves and lays the groundwork for being consistent in what we say and how we act.

Being consistent and standing up for your needs and who you are

Do you say what you do and do what you say?

This equally applies to our interactions with others and our relationship with ourselves.

When we say things we don’t mean, and do not follow-up what we say with actions, others start to mistrust us and lose confidence in our abilities. Guess what, the same applies to ourselves. When we say we will do something for ourselves, and not do it, we lose confidence and trust in ourselves. Putting ourselves last signals to us, that we are not important, even if we are trying to portray the opposite to the outside world.

The first steps to being consistent are self-awareness and being grounded. Once you acknowledge what you feel and need, what is important to you and what you stand for, you can take action.

Let’s take an example: if you feel slightly stressed that your colleague comes to again just before your need is to focus on your own deadlines (going home, to lunch or project deadlines), and what’s important to you is being friendly and supportive, you might consider stating your feelings to your colleague and suggesting someone else as their contact point this time. It is helpful to run through these kind of scenarios, especially if they are repetitive situations, beforehand, so you already know what you are going to do and say next time the situation where you want to be true to yourself happens.

Consider the following questions:

  • How do know you are being xxx or have xxx? Substitute xxx for the quality, value, need or characteristic that is important to you or you stand for. It can also be a quality or value you want to embody from now on.
  • What does it mean when you are being xxx or xxx?
  • What will you see, hear, feel or say, or do when you are being xxx or have xxx? (do this for any scenario where you were not true to yourself in the past and want to change how you are being)

Being clear about what it means be you, will help you to be consistent, and it will help to avoid some of those ‘wish I had not done that/said that’ episodes. 

I invite you to do this practice as often as you can. It does not take long, maybe a just a few minutes every day to centre yourself in your true self – our needs change, you change and you experience different situations daily, and different things are important at different times.

Allow yourself every day to be true to yourself – like everything else it just takes a little daily practice.

Enjoy being your true self.


[1] In an ecological way, which means in a way safe and has a positive and evolving impact on our lives.

Dealing with Overwhelm

Most women I know have experienced overwhelm at some point in their lives. For some of us it was the never-ending overload of information, an impossible number of tasks being added to our already overflowing to-do lists or those continuous and often conflicting demands for our time by work colleagues, family and friends.

No matter what the causes, the results are the same – that unpleasant stressful feeling of not being able to cope as well as we are used to.

Our brains can only take in limited amounts of information

Overwhelm seems to be an increasingly common phenomenon these days. We simply have too much to do or take in, for the amount of time and energy we have available. George Miller [1] discovered that human beings tend to be able to only hold between 5 and 9 chunks (pieces) of information in their heads at any given time. And for those of you who are interested, that is 126 bits of data. I am sure there are people who have trained themselves to cope with more, however for most of us it is safe to say that there is a limit of how much we can realistically take in at any given time.

Multi-tasking does not work

Another interesting fact is that research has shown that multi-tasking does not work [2]. We can, in fact, only productively focus on one thing at a time. Switching between different tasks is not only not productive, it also makes us feel stressed in the long run.

Why do I mention these two pieces of research? The reason is that a lot of women who experience overwhelm do the exact opposite of what these pieces of research suggest: they try to do even more in a shorter timeframe or at the same time, hoping in vain to be able to push through the overwhelm. Unfortunately those strategies don’t work, they just make an already bad situation worse and can lead to stress induced illnesses.

Overwhelm busting strategies that work!

There are a number of simple and powerful strategies that can help you effectively beat that vicious cycle of overwhelm.  At first these strategies, might seem counter intuitive and overly simple, however I invite you to give them a go as I know they work.

1.       Take a big step back

Figuratively speaking. And some of my clients took that literally, either went into another room, for a walk or just stepped back from their desk and had great results.

The key is to look at your situation from a neutral observer’s point of view, as if you are watching yourself on TV. What can help is if you think of yourself in the third person, asking yourself:

What is going on for {your name} right now? MAKE A LIST of all the things that going on, initially NOT judging if they are urgent, necessary or unimportant.

Once you have your list, and there is nothing else to add, start categorising on a new piece of paper. Divide the page into three columns, giving them the following headings

  • Urgent and important
  • Not urgent and important
  • Not urgent and unimportant

Be ruthless with your list. You may have to go through it a few times until you have a manageable number of items in the urgent/important category. That is the category to focus on as a priority.

2.       Offload what you can

As a next step, look at your categories and find groups of tasks that you can offload.

You might say, well, there is no one I can delegate to. Really? Have you challenged all that is on your plate, everything? Go through every point on your list and challenge yourself to find someone who could do this for you. Granted, you might not necessarily be able to delegate at work, however you might be able to delegate at home or the other way around.

Offloading goes further. Challenge yourself to find other ways to getting the results you need from the tasks on your list. I am always in awe, how creative women can be when they really put their mind to finding ways to permanently reducing their overwhelm.

Let me give you some examples from my clients, which might help you come up with your own strategies:

  • Check out Virtual Assistants – one of my clients hired one to categorise her e-mails for her, make appointments and deal with the easy yet time-consuming enquiries she received, freeing up a huge amount of her time and inbox
  • Another client discovered Recycling to avoid reinventing the wheel.  When she needed to write a document, she would first do an electronic search and ask colleagues for examples (the process taking 10 minutes in total) before starting to write. This approach reduced her writing time in half (and more importantly took most of the stress out of writing).

3.       Divide and conquer

Pick what you feel is the most important thing on your list, and set yourself a time in which you deal with just that one thing. Everything else is safely on your list, so you will not forget about it. Focus on that one thing for the allocated time. So called ‘time boxing’, setting a clear time frame, works well to focus the mind.

Let me give you an example how this could work: A lot of us are drowning in an overload of e-mails, some of which are important and some are not, and they tend to pile up. Set yourself, let’s say 30 minutes to deal with e-mails marked urgent and just do 30 minutes to work through as many as you can. Then look at your list again and pick the next urgent/important task, maybe writing a report, and set yourself  e.g. 1 hour to write the first chapter. And so on. Remember to take breaks in between.

Focussing on one thing at a time, helps to de-stress the brain, whilst time boxing the task, focusses our brain even more. You will be amazed how quickly you are getting things done.

Prevention is better than cure

Of course, we all know preventing a situation like overwhelm is a lot better than waiting for it to happen. Here are a couple of things you might like to consider putting place to prevent overwhelm from occurring or to deal with it faster should it catch you unawares:

  • Be clear on ‘what is important to you’  – take some time, and discover your priority list of ‘what is important to you’, or – in other words – values. When we are not aware of our values, we can find it difficult to make a meaningful decisions on what to prioritise.
  • Prime your team – identify who has your back when you need to off load activities or you need a helping hand. Team is not limited to direct reports, it could comprise family members, friends, colleagues, bosses, health or fitness professionals, coaches and many more. Make sure you know who could help with what, when the need arises, and be prepared to do the same for them.

The above are a small selection of overwhelm busting strategies, including engaging a coach or mentor to help you through a time of overwhelm.

I would love to hear from you what strategies have been and are successful for you.

                                          

[1] Wikipedia – The magical number 7

[2] Cognitive Science – Multitasking

                                        

Getting rid of unwanted habits

We all have habits [1] that we want to get rid of or change. The topic of unwanted habits something that usually comes up during December or January, when we look back over our year, and remember those discarded New Year’s resolutions that we abandoned during the first two quarters of this year.

What are habits?

So before we get into how do we rid ourselves of those unwanted habits, let’s have a look what habits really are and how they formed. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines a habit as “a behaviour pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance”. Big words, that just mean that we repeated a sequence of activities enough times to make them automatic and unconscious, i.e. now the habit just happens automatically (e.g. brushing teeth) and we often only realise that we ‘doing the habit’ when we are either half way through or experience the results of the habit.

Generally, habits help us to automate activities so we do not have to think about them. However, when these habits include drinking the 20th cup of coffee at work, unconsciously picking up and eating the 10th Mars bar at work or flopping onto the sofa after switching on the TV every night in a row instead of going to the gym, is when we want to think about breaking them and acquiring more useful and generative habits.

How are habits formed?

As with every habits at one point we did not have it and we had to learn it and make it automatic by doing the activities over and over and over again. The good news is, we can use the same strategy to change unwanted habits or acquire news ones.

They say that it takes 21 days to create a habit. Well, there are differing views on this. Some people say it takes 90 days for the body to get the habit into the muscle, other says it can be done in less than 21 days. My view is, if you just use repetition of an activity and willpower, unwanted habits take a lot longer to break than if you use some other key techniques in addition.

In this article I am covering three effective and easy to use techniques to break habits that you can use in parallel. These techniques work in conjunction with the repetition method mentioned earlier. If you feel you need a rapid and immediate habit [1] breaker I suggest you invest in a session with an NLP [2] Master Practitioner.

1. Satisfy the reasons behind the unwanted habit in a more useful way

Now how do we actually rid ourselves of those unwanted habits? Think of habit now, that you have and that you wish you didn’t have.

  • What does this habit give me?
  • What does it do for me?
  • What do I get out of it?

These are some really important questions to ask yourself. Habits are usually formed for a reason and generally with a good intention.  That is why force and willpower does usually not work. We will only become tense and more stressed because we are not satisfying the initial positive intention or reason for our unwanted habit. For example, the good intention of drinking lots of coffee during the day might be to ‘stay alert’, or the good intention for the switching on the TV and sitting on the couch after work might be ‘relaxation’.

So once you have discovered what the unwanted habit’s positive intention is, ask yourself:

  • What do I want instead, that will satisfy the positive intention and is more useful for me now and going forward?
  • How else could you achieve what the unwanted habit does for you?
  • What are three other ways to fulfill the purpose of the unwanted habit?

And really make sure, that whatever you choose instead, also fulfils what that unwanted habit did for you.

2. Catch the habit before it starts by finding its trigger!

Every habit has a trigger, something that sets it off. In order to change a habit useful to catch it before it starts. It is a bit like a washing machine cycle – once you pressed start, it is almost impossible to stop to put more washing in or choose a different programme as the machine has already filled with water.  We want to catch the habit before you even press the start button.

I invite you to walk through your habit step by step (and the best way is walk backwards) until you have found the trigger. Ask yourself the following:

  • How do I it is time to (do the habit)?
  • What sets me off? Is is something I see, is it something I hear or say to myself, a feeling, or a smell or something I taste. 
    A lot of habits are set off by visual triggers. For example going back to our TV example, it might set off by walking in the living room, setting down the key on the table and seeing the TV in front of you.

You might wish to take a few days to observe yourself, and see where you can interrupt your habit. Play around with it.

Once you know your trigger, you are in control  of the habit and can make a decision at the trigger point to do your habit or not. And, you can use a distraction to remind you to do something else instead. So for the TV example, instead of coming into the living room where you see the TV, you might want to go into the another room first or place the TV elsewhere.

3. Increase the speed of adopting the new habit by using visualisation – mental walkthroughs!

As we know habits are formed by repetitions. To adopt new habits quicker to repeat them as often as you can. That is not always practical physically. Visualisation or mental rehearsal is a great technique to use. Map out mentally in as much detail as you can, using images, sounds, feelings (smells and tastes if appropriate) to create your new habit from trigger to finish – like a mental movie, and then replay this in your mind as often as you like. Make your mental walkthrough fun. Play around with the movie and its attributes, for example make it brighter, more colourful, slower, quicker and find out how to make the most compelling for you.

The great thing is, that you can do this anywhere, at the bus stop, while waiting for the train or even in a break in the office. I would not recommend doing this while driving a car.

And then, practice, practice, practice every time when you notice your trigger, make that different decision!

My tip would be to focus on one habit at a time. Even though you might now be totally fired up to change all your unwanted habit, these processes work best when we focus on one habit at a time. And once you have changed one habit, you will find the next one will be even quicker and easier to change.

Enjoy and let me know how you get on!

[1] Habits in this context do not include addictive behaviours e.g. addiction to drugs, food or other substances. For these, please consult a medical professional.

[2] NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming

It’s all about balance!

Your body continuously strives for balance. Notice, when you are walking down the street or even when you’re standing, your body is using lots of tiny muscles and big muscles to make sure that you are in balance and don’t fall over, and hurt yourself.

The body and mind are one. As the body is continuously looking for balance, so is the mind. When we are in balance our life flows, i.e. we achieve what we want and we are happy. When our life is balanced we are free from the constant niggling thoughts that keep us awake at night that say something like: “I should really spend more time on xxx” or “I never get around to doing xxx”. Most of us have these thoughts which are indications that our life is not balanced.

Although most of us are aware that our lives may not be as balanced as we would like it, we often don’t know where to start making changes. Our to-do list is often so large that it seems difficult to identify what to do first or next.

Here is an easy way to help you prioritise which areas of your life to work on next.

Take your “life balance temperature” check

We have areas of our lives that we happy with and where we achieve what we want. And there are other areas of our lives that we don’t pay as much attention to or where we just don’t seem to get the success we want.

Take a clean sheet of paper, draw a circle on it and divide the circle into as many categories or slices as you need. Use your own words to name the areas of your life – you can of course use the areas in  the example below if that works for you.

Then take each area in turn, and ask yourself the question:

How satisfied are you on a scale of 0 to 10 (where 0 is not at all satisfied and 10 is very satisfied) with this area of your life, now?

Then draw a line (as shown in the example) between the two area-boundaries that reflects your level of satisfaction. If you like, you can also shade in the
area between 0 (the middle point of your circle) and the line you’ve drawn.

Once you’ve done this for all areas of your life, take a look at your wheel and notice:

  • how does your wheel look? Imagine you are using that you are using this wheel to on your car or bicycle. Would you be able to drive or cycle with that wheel?
  • which area (or maybe there are two) stands out? Which one is very different, either very low or very high, compared to the other areas?

Hardly anyone has a fully balanced wheel. Life constantly changes, and like our body that needs to rebalance every second of the day, we need to adjust our life balance continually. If our wheel is very much out of balance we need a lot more energy to keep it going and often tend to experience stress.

Therefore, it is good idea to do this wheel of life ‘temperature check’ on a regular basis. Most of my clients find that every three months works best for them.

Where do you want to be in each area?

Go back to your wheel of life and decide what level of satisfaction you would like to have in each area, right now. Use the same scale 0 to 10 (where 0 is not at all satisfied and 10 is totally satisfied). Use a different coloured pen to show your desired level. Of course, we all want to be 100% in every area, however, be realistic and decide what level of satisfaction would be happy or OK with in each area.

Have a look at your wheel now and notice: Where are you biggest gaps?

Once you have done that, look at your wheel again and write down those areas where you have identified the biggest gaps (in order – biggest gap first, followed by the second biggest gap) between your current level of satisfaction and desired level of satisfaction. Now you have a prioritised list, and most people find it useful to focus on the area where they have the biggest gap. However, some people find that 2 or 3 areas have the same gap. If that’s you, ask yourself: if you were able to do one thing to raise your level of satisfaction in one area only, which area would benefit the most? And where would you feel the biggest impact?

Taking action

Most people feel daunted by the gap they have identified in
the last step. An easy way to around that is to ‘eat the elephant in small
chunks’. Consider the following:

  • If you wished to raise your satisfaction in your focus area by 1 or even 0.5 (or even lower), what can you do?
  • What would you advise your best friend to do if they were in your position?
  • Which actions of your to-do list fall into your focus area?

If you run out of ideas, take an area of your life where your satisfaction is much higher than in your focus area:

  • What are you doing or have done there that keeps you at a high level of satisfaction?
  • What are the types of things/activities you do there that you could maybe adapt and transfer to your focus area to give it a boost?

Once you have a list of key actions, identify the one action that would make the biggest difference in your life right now and schedule time for it (if you are unable to do it straight away). Take action as soon as possible and once you have done the action, notice how much more satisfied you feel in that area of your life.

The wheel of life is a tool you can use on an ongoing basis, to re-balance your life and for goal setting. In invite you to go back to you over and over again and use it to identify your key activities to bring your life into balance and maintain this balance.

Enjoy.

Are you a “sponge” at work?

The idea for this article was given to me by friend when we met for lunch in New York two months ago. During our conversation we realised that lot of women we know are “sponges”, and that characteristic or quality is what is holding them back in their careers and wrecking their work-life balance.

So, what do I mean by “sponge”? A “sponge” is someone who is great at saying yes to almost every task or project that they are asked to do even if it means they have to sacrifice their own goals, plans or free time to be able to deliver on the yes. Not only are they great at saying yes, they find it almost impossible to say no. Because they are usually great delivering, other people (especially superiors) tend to continue asking them for more. Does this description resonate with you?

Have a go at the “sponge-test” below and find out where you fit on the “sponge-scale”:

For each question in the table below just write down the answer that most applies for you. Then add up all your answers to your total.

Now that you have your total, find out below how much of a “sponge” you are, and discover some key tips on how you can stop being a “sponge” and become more selective and focussed about saying yes to everything.

22-28 You are a super “sponge”
The word ‘no’ does not seem to exist in your vocabulary when it comes to doing things for other people. When someone asks you to do something for them or take on another task, you do not even take a step back to check whether you have time, it fits in with your goals and objectives or you know how to do the task. This has a major impact on your work and home life, as you are always running out of time, your task list gets longer and longer and you often sacrifice your free time to catch up. Your health and personal development suffers, and you are likely to feel stressed.

Three key tips for you to consider are to:

  • consolidate your to-do lists including all your own tasks and other people’s you said yes to. Decide for each of them, if you really, really need to do it, it’s still relevant or if someone else can do it (delegation), and then strike through whatever is not relevant and delegate whatever you do not absolutely have to do. Then plan in and schedule the remaining tasks into a diary, initially allowing at least double your estimated time for each task.
  • practice saying no until you feel comfortable doing it. Go back over the requests from the last month that you wished you had not so readily accepted. Play them through in your mind and say no instead of yes. Imagine future requests coming to you and practice saying no to those too.
  • be clear about your must do’s for your goals and your role at work. Write down your must do’s and put them somewhere you can see them during the day. When a request comes in, tell the requestor that you will consider it and get back to them with an answer within the hour (or next day, depending on the urgency of the request)! Then check against your objectives list, your schedule and your own motivation whether this task is right for you. When you say no to your requestor, offer suggestions on who else they could approach, so you are still helpful.

15-21 You are an aspiring super “sponge”
Although you have the ability to say no, more often than not you fall into the trap of saying yes, despite yourself. Often the things you say yes to are related to your job and might take you forward in your career, however you find yourself working long hours, sacrificing week-ends and free time and thus neglecting your health, friends and other personal development.

Key tips for you are to:

  • become totally clear about your current commitments and how much time you have or don’t have for anything extra coming in. The easiest way to do this, is to diarise every task and allocate a duration (do include contingency)
  • know what you want to achieve in your career and what you need to do to get there be it promotion/personal development etc. Make sure you diarise and schedule those activities!
  • learn to negotiate with the requestor, especially if the requestor is your boss. If you know what you want and you know your commitments, you can check against those when any request comes in. Like the super sponge, make sure to consider before you give a response to the requestor. Offer options, if you feel you have to say yes, e.g. I do not have time this week, however I have time for this next week. how would that work for you? or if this is urgent, I could move xx (also requested by them) to next week?

8-14 You are on your way
You are able to say no to things that do not fit in with what you want or what your job requires. however, sometimes you succumb and find that you are working longer than you wished, or have to sacrifice your gym session (or similar) to finish something at work you wished you had not said yes to.

The key tips for you is are to:

  • set clear boundaries with the task requestor, and be clear how much you can deliver in the time you actually have available.
  • negotiate delaying other tasks if this particular task is urgent, and
  • agree with your boss which of your non essential tasks you can delegate to other colleagues who would benefit from the experience.

0-7  Congratulations, you have it sussed!
You obviously know what you want and are able to say no to things that do not fit with your objectives and goals. The only danger you could run into is saying no too often. Remember, it is OK and good to help out others even if their request does not fit in with our goals, so don’t just say no for sake of it.

Today you have now taken the first vital step towards “de-sponging” your worklife, which is awareness! The tips above are not exhaustive and there are many more ways how you can reduce your “sponge” like qualities. So, do experiment and find out what works best for you!

Let me know how you get on!