Tag Archives: personal effectiveness

Stop Freaking Out, Checking Out and Burning out

So much to do, so little time to do it. Are you one of the people who need to stop freaking out long enough to stand out?

Photo by Atul Choudhary from Pexels

You’ve got a million and one things to do today. The house must be immaculately clean before bedtime, you haven’t made lunch for the kids, a three-hour morning meeting in the office looms and you simply can’t delegate a single task – because only you know exactly what needs doing and how it needs to be done.

In times like these it might be worth taking a step back, reflecting on your current state of mind and getting your boundaries in order before you freak out, check out or burn out.

We’ve all been there, or know and love someone who’s been there. It’s easy to feel trapped in a cycle of self-inflicted pressure and high expectations. But according to Alison Hill, a professional psychologist (or self-titled “head mechanic”) who has spent many years tweaking the minds of top performers in some of the world’s largest companies. It is possible to stop oscillating between these three states and embrace a fourth alternative: to stand out.

I recently interviewed Alison for the Inside Influence podcast and she offered some amazing tools to stay in that mode.

Know your boundaries

For Alison, knowing your boundaries means being really clear about what’s ok and what’s not ok for you personally. When you set your boundaries in any given situation; whether it’s in the workplace or in your personal life, you need to establish what’s your ‘flex’ and what’s your ‘non-negotiable’ line in the sand. When you take a moment to unpack where all of your energy is going and where your biggest frustrations and anxieties are coming from, setting your boundaries becomes easier.

For example, if you’re due in a meeting that you know you don’t have the capacity to be present at (physically or mentally), there are more options than simply going or not going.  As Alison suggests, you could attend some but not all of the meeting, give someone your notes to take along, join the meeting via Skype to avoid unnecessary travel, talk to someone on the phone to get the key points, or send a representative in your place.

Go guilt-free

So many of us want to live a big, bold life. We want to influence the world around us and do grand, amazing things. And yet, we often come to the realisation that this desire impacts our energy, time, health and well-being.

Alison came to a point where she was completely overwhelmed. Her ongoing worry was that if she were to drop just one ball, her whole world would come crashing down. When she finally allowed herself a day to rest and recuperate, there was so much noise reverberating in her head: “What are you doing? You can’t do this! This is valuable family time! How can you be so selfish that you take a day for yourself?”

Yet, she argues, it has to be ok to just let it all go. Hating yourself for being selfish will mean you don’t get anything out of this reset time. Spending time justifying your actions to yourself and alleviating guilt lays on too much pressure to be perfect; to be high-achieving even in a time that’s supposed to be relaxing.

Support freak outs

If you’ve managed to maintain your boundaries and reined in your lifestyle to reach a level of contentment, how do you then support those around you who are going through a period of freaking out, checking out and burning out?

When someone enters a meeting flustered or agitated, the natural response is to go into solution or fix-it mode. Your troubleshooting instinct is to immediately get to the bottom of what’s going on and determine how to fix it so they (and you) can move on.

Whilst this can be useful, Alison argues that the most important response is compassion. Think about what you can do right now for that person. It might be as simple as making them a cup of tea or listening while they get something off their chest. Or it might be something they can’t talk about at that moment, and need some time away from the office.

It’s also important to avoid taking on a colleague’s freak out as your own. Often we can find ourselves getting caught up in a story that may have nothing to do with us. Let that go, listen, support and focus on being a role model instead.

Live a stand-out life

The idea of living a stand-out life conjures up images of fame, celebrity and influence. But, for Alison, that’s not the point. This point is really focusing on building alignment between your intention and your purpose.

Having a clear sense of purpose can transform even everyday things – such as conversations with a colleague or time spent with your children. Ask yourself: why am I having this conversation, why am I spending time doing this activity? What is the intent, and does it match with my overall purpose? Then act accordingly.

Standing out comes from a combination of decisions. However most importantly, it involves focusing on the things that light you up. Then deciding to no longer waste precious energy on anything that involves you freaking out, checking out or burning out.

Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the soon to be launched weekly podcast Inside Influence. An exploration into what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes or http://juliemasters.com/inside-influence/.

Throwback Thursday – Eat the Frog…and 6 More Tips for Boosting Personal Effectiveness

How have you found your personal effectiveness in 2016? Why eating the frog might be able to help revolutionise your daily routine.

We all struggle sometime with our personal effectiveness. We start the week with grand plans for our time, but by Monday lunchtime, the plans are in disarray.

If you’re still struggling with your personal effectiveness (or want to boost it after the summer holidays!), we have the Throwback Thursday article for you, from our own Lisa Malone.

Start Right, End Right

You’ve survived your first day back in the office! You’ve cleared your inbox, written an alarmingly long To-Do list and even written your name and phone number (neatly) in a brand new Moleskin notebook. You’re practically smug with a sense of organisation and readiness.

Fast-forward one week: 213 unread emails, endless meetings, doing ‘real work’ after 5pm, and back to scribbling on loose-leaf.

Many years ago, I sat next to the Executive Assistant for the Chief Marketing Officer at a very large bank. To me, a person calm in the face of 1,352 unread emails, Ali was something of a mystery. Alarmingly organised, a spreadsheet navigator-extraordinaire, and always ready with colour-coded sticky notes, Ali’s idea of heaven was a Scandinavian Container Store.

Although I can’t pretend that proximity to Ali transformed me into a Type-A Goddess, she did share some great, practical tips for increasing personal effectiveness. I now bequeath these to all fellow Type Bs today.

Eat the Frog

Most of us have a limited amount of willpower that decreases steadily throughout the day. Anyone who has ever planned to go to the gym after work, only to never actually get there, will be able to attest!

For this reason, professional coaches like Brian Tracy recommend getting the hardest, most important task done first.

According to Tracy, your ‘frog’ should be the most difficult item on your to-do list; that ugly, distasteful, difficult job that you’re most likely to procrastinate about.

Rather than delaying, dreading and allowing your frog to sit there, staring at you while you do other less important things, eat it up first and feel energised for the rest of the day.

You probably already know what your frog is, but if you are in any doubt, look through your list of tasks and rate each one according to:

  1. Things you don’t want to do, and actually don’t need to do.
  2. Things you don’t want to do, but actually need to do.
  3. Things you want to do and actually need to do.
  4. Things you want to do, but actually don’t need to do.

Your frog will fall into Category 2. The best way to ensure it doesn’t fall victim to procrastination is to subordinate it to habit.

Eating your frog at the start of the day is just such a habit and will leave you free to do things you’ll actually enjoy.

Meeting 101: Spend less time in Meetings

Getting out and meeting stakeholders and suppliers is a critical part of any procurement professional’s job. But what about the myriad meetings that go round in circles, without any clear outcomes, sucking energy and time from your day?

In this world of instant messaging tools (we have a fondness for Slack at Procurious) that make file-sharing, getting answers quickly, and making introductions easier, it should be possible to cut back on a lot of those meetings.

Where only a meeting will suffice, here are some hints for improving their effectiveness:

  • Only accept meetings where the organiser has sent through a clear agenda. Even then, think about halving the allotted time to create a sense of urgency.
  • With 10 minutes of the meeting to go, review the objectives and clearly agree what action items have come out of the meeting and who will be responsible for completing these. Set a clear date for completion of next steps.
  • If appropriate, try scheduling a walking meeting. A change of scenery and the action of moving in the fresh air can help clear the head, stimulate creativity and can be particularly effective when having conversations that you don’t want to.

Don’t Skip Lunch

The 80s might be long gone, but Gordon Gekko’s “Lunch is for wimps!” philosophy still is alive and well in some firms.

While its possible to mistake ‘busy-ness’ for importance, evidence shows there are significant cognitive benefits of allowing our fatigued brains regular downtime.

So what’s the perfect work/rest ratio?

DeskTime App monitored employees’ computer use and found that the most productive 10 per cent of employees tend to work hard for 52 minutes, then take a break for 17. If this seems short, it is – our brains can in fact focus for up to 90 minutes, but then need roughly 20 minutes rest.

Strategic breaks equal more efficient work. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your 17 minutes should be spent online shopping – there are a multitude of more valuable (and less costly!) things you can do to refresh and reset:

  • Most gyms offer express classes at lunchtime. Consider taking a 45-minute yoga class to reset your brain and energise you for the afternoon.
  • Watch a 2-minute eLearning video or stretch your mind with a Big Ideas video or Ted Talk.
  • Prepare a list of easy 2-minute tasks. These are things that won’t stress your grey matter but need to get done, and you can tick off in your down time.
  • Embrace a creative pursuit. Stimulate your brain by doing small creative exercise daily. This might be a little sketch, writing a blog, or making a video. Share your habit daily on Twitter or Instagram – it builds accountability. Check out #yearofcreativehabits for inspiration!

Silence

Silence!!

The constant stream of chimes, pings, flashes and emails, Whatsapp and Facebook alerts is impossible to ignore – it’s designed to be that way!

Schedule at least 3 x 30 minute sessions into your day where you close Outlook, shut all your browser tabs and turn off your mobile phone.

It might sound scary at first, but it will help you power through those difficult tasks without interruption and at the end of the day, you’ll feel real satisfaction knowing what you’ve completed.

Harness the Power of Habit

We know that social media can eat up hours in the day. How often have you kicked off with a valid Google search, but end up aimlessly clicking through old school-friends’ baby photos, or reading click-bait articles like 21 Life-Changing Lessons From The Dalai Lama’s Twitter Account”. 

At Procurious, we talk about establishing a ‘social media daily habit’. This isn’t only to limit the time you spend online, but to ensure you spend it wisely.

We suggest you dedicate approximately 20 minutes every day to ticking off value-adding tasks:

  1. Build your network: Expand your global contact network by connecting with stakeholders or peers you’ve met at conferences. Or find colleagues who look after similar categories in other geographies or industries.
  2. Scan the news: Using Google Alerts or Twitter hashtags, find out if your company, your category, your suppliers, or even your competitors, have been in the headlines. Login to Procurious and check out what’s happening.
  3. Share the intelligence: If you find something interesting, chances are someone else will too. Share the URL on Twitter, Procurious and/or LinkedIn.
  4. Ask a question: Scan the Discussion Board on Procurious and share your knowledge. If you’ve got a burning question, post it and make the most of this global brains trust!
  5. Learn something: Brush up on your skills and challenge your thinking by watching a 5-minute eLearning video, or listening to a Podcast,

And Before You Go…

Rather than working frantically right up until the last minute of the day, slamming your laptop shut and dashing for the train, stop working 30 min before you need to leave.

Use your last half an hour to review your day’s plan, transferring items that are still relevant, and adding any new priorities that have emerged during the day.

Categorise these tasks according to the Eat the Frog principles so that your first task tomorrow is ready and waiting to go.

And, unless you’re fortunate enough to have a Personal Assistant, review your calendar and print out any documents that you may need to review ahead of meetings. Spending the first 30 minutes of your morning fighting with a printer is not the way to productivity!