Life is short. It’s time to stop procrastinating…

If you’ve ever wondered what your life would look like if it was represented by jelly beans (which admittedly, you probably haven’t), you’re about to find out.  Watch the video – it might just be the kick up the proverbial that you need to get started on whatever it is that you’re putting off.

So ask yourself, first of all, what matters most to you?  What important things are you avoiding or putting off?

Procrastination isn’t just about not having time to do something.   As you can see from this video, you can easily fill your time with all sorts of things – you can easily become ‘busy’.  But the question is, are you busy doing the right things?  The things that really matter?

Are you doing the things that make your jelly beans more satisifying?

If  not, then the next stage is to find out what you need to do.  Work out what action you need to take to move you onward.

And then, (and this is the all important bit), find out what’s been stopping you.  What has been holding you back from taking that action?  And what still IS holding you back?  When you start to recognise the sticking points that you have, you can start to unstick yourself.

Is it really that simple? Well, the short answer is Yes.  But simple isn’t the same as easy.

The problem is that you put off the getting unstuck bit.  Unsticking yourself can be really hard work, because it usually involves stepping outside of a comfort zone.  It’s a bit scary.  It involves uncertainty.  Sometimes it can feel more comfortable to stay where you are, even when you know that where you are isn’t where you really want to stay.  And that’s why you get so busy just being busy, instead of focusing on taking the actions that will move you forwards.  It’s easier to think, “I’ll deal with it tomorrow.”

But time is not unlimited.  Seeing it in jelly beans makes it seem pretty short, in fact… what can you do today to make the most of it?

©Liz Wootton, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Freedom Within a Framework – a Model for Rule Breakers and Routine Haters

Scheduling for schedule haters

Benjamin Franklin’s Schedule – try it, but try it your way

Hate rigidity?  Hate Schedules?  Try working like Benjamin Franklin.  Let me explain.

I’m not really into rigidity.  I hate scheduling that doesn’t allow me room to wriggle and adjust.  In fact, I know myself well enough to know that if I impose too tight a schedule on myself then I’ll just break it.  Almost deliberately.

Essentially I don’t really like to be told what to do.  Even when the person doing the telling is me.

To some, that might sound ridiculous.  But actually it’s a common problem among certain personality types.  Impose rules and regulations that are too tight, and they’ll just get broken.  Impose routines and schedules that are too rigid, and you’ll never stick to them.

The problem is that to make the most of our productivity, having some sort of structure is actually really important.  Even if you’re a bit of a free spirit. In fact, perhaps especially if you’re a bit of a free spirit.

The trick is to get the structure right.  That means giving yourself a framework, but allowing yourself room within that framework for manoevre.  Freedom within a framework.

For me, a really good example of this is Benjamin Franklin’s schedule.  When I first discovered it, my first reaction was probably something along the lines of, “Ugh, a strict schedule with a 5am start.  I hate it.”  And I had discovered it in the context of people trying to live according to it – ie starting their day at 5am and doing just what he did, which for me, holds no real attraction.

Don’t get me wrong, I have tried the 5am start.   And I get why people do it.  I got lots of work done.  But it made me utterly useless for family time in the evening, and that’s too important for me.  So it’s not something that stuck.

But when I looked more closely at this schedule, I realised that there was something that connected with me.  I realised that actually, if you take away the exact times that he did things, this is not a strict schedule at all.  This is a really sound framework, with plenty of room to allow freedom within it.

So here’s my take on where Benjamin Franklin had this absolutely right, and what you need to do to use this for yourself.

  •          Franklin took time each morning to work out what he would get on with that day.  He’d effectively write his to-do list.  This is a great way to start your day – just going through what needs to be done and prioritizing accordingly.  You don’t HAVE to rise at 5am to do this.  But ensuring that you are properly prepared for your day before launching into it is definitely a good idea.
  •          Apportioning time for certain types of activities (rather than specific ones) is a great idea.  I may not be a natural 5am riser, but I do know that my most productive time is between 8.30 and 10.30am.  So during that time, I know I want to be working on the important stuff.
  •          Franklin did a bit of work on his accounts every day. He actually has that specific activity scheduled in.  Whilst I will admit to hating rigidity, this sort of regular, consistent activity pays dividends (sometimes literally) – being on top of your accounts in your business is so important, and can actually lead to the success (or failure, if you don’t keep on top of them) of your business.  You don’t have to do it over lunch, but get into a habit of a quick 20 minute stint popping data in and keeping an eye on your cash flow.
  •          Franklin actually scheduled time for the really important stuff.  You know, eating and sleeping, that sort of important stuff.  Know how many hours you need to sleep, and make sure you have it!  It can be very tempting, when you are short of time, to cut down on sleep to fit everything in.  Try not to succumb to this temptation – sleep is essential to functioning properly, and you’ll work far more efficiently if you are properly rested.
  •          Asking yourself, “What good shall I do this day?”, and then reflecting on the good that you have done, is an incredibly positive approach to your day.  “Good” can be anything that moves you forward in a positive way.  It might be a case of celebrating achievements for yourself, or recognising ways you have helped others, but either way, it gives you the opportunity to celebrate the positive.
  •          Spending a few minutes “putting things in their order” will reward you enormously.  Having a nice, neat space to live in, as free from clutter as life will allow, will mean you feel calmer and more prepared to tackle the challenges ahead of you.  Getting into a habit (notice, I avoid the word ‘routine’!) of tidying up after yourself and clearing your space each day is going to set you up nicely for a relaxing evening, and a productive following day.
  •          And lastly, my FAVOURITE bit of this schedule is the fact that there is time put aside for “diversions”.  Music, conversation.  Relaxation, essentially.  Things that are not work related.  These are such an important part of life, but they’re so easy to overlook or decide they are low priority.  Make them as much part of your day as work.  Talk to your family.  Do something you love to do.  Relax and refresh  your mind.  Your future self will thank you for it.

Schedules and structures don’t have mean that you decide how every last minute is spent.  If you’re not suited to a strict routine, it’s a total waste of time working like that.  But setting out a rough framework will help you use your time more efficiently, as well as helping you recognise what is actually important to you.

Try it out, and let me know how you find it!

©Liz Wootton, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Self Awareness is Key to Business Success

Self awareness business billie jean kingIf you’re starting a business, or you have started one, or even if you’re fairly well established, you’ll know that business is more than just about having a great idea.  Suddenly you’re learning to do all sorts of things you’ve never done before.

Now, unless you’ve got some serious funding behind you, you’ve probably had to start on your own, or with only a very small team.  You don’t have an accounts team to keep your books up to date, or develop you a system to handle your accounts receivable.  You don’t have a marketing team to handle all your PR and advertising, or write copy for you.  There’s no admin team to keep your filing system right.  You don’t even have a cleaner to keep your office spick and span.

If you’ve come from a job where you basically get to work with your strengths most of the time, and don’t often have to work outside your preferences, this can be a bit of a wake-up call.  Suddenly your workload includes a whole bunch of things you’re not used to doing, and maybe not that good at.

You thought having this business was going to be fantastic, because you’d get to spend your time making this great product that you are passionate about, or delivering this great service that you know you’re good at providing.  Instead, you seem to be spending most of your time doing financial paperwork, or trying to navigate your way around sales and marketing, or developing a website, or on janitorial duties.  Essentially you feel like you spend all your time doing stuff you don’t love.

Or, perhaps you spend all your time doing the stuff you really like – creating the product, creating the program, coming up with ideas – but you spend no time on working out how to implement them, working out the financial aspect of it, marketing it, getting yourself organized.  And as a result, you have a whole bunch of product or service but no customers.  And no money.

Maybe this business lark isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

A large number of businesses ‘fail’ within their first year, apparently. The exact figure seems to vary.  But this report on statisticbrain.com  gives an interesting insight into the reasons why.  It’s not usually due to having a bad idea or product.  Nope.  They actually cite the #1 reason as incompetence.

Major Cause Percentage of Failures Specific Pitfalls
1 Incompetence

46 %

Emotional Pricing
Living too high for the business
Nonpayment of taxes
No knowledge of pricing
Lack of planning
No knowledge of financing
No experience in record-keeping
2 Unbalanced Experience or Lack of Managerial Experience

30 %

Poor credit granting practices
Expansion too rapid
Inadequate borrowing practices
3 Lack of Experiences in line of goods or services

11 %

Carry inadequate inventory
No knowledge of suppliers
Wasted advertising budget
5 Neglect, fraud, disaster

1 %

So let’s break this down a little further.  A number of the specific pitfalls listed here, and on the article, are, in fact, based in money, organizational issues, or personal effectiveness issues.  Problems with pricing, no knowledge of financing, wasted advertising budget, poor record keeping, lack of planning, non-payment of taxes, lack of clear focus….

When you think about it, all these things are pretty fundamental when it comes to business, so if business owners aren’t performing well in these areas, then it’s not that surprising their businesses don’t do that well.

What I am interested in, though, is WHY this happens.  Because I look at this list and think to myself, “These pitfalls are all avoidable.”  What is it about these business owners that meant they couldn’t avoid these pitfalls?

And the answer, I believe, is Self Awareness.

We may all, from time to time, talk about strengths and weaknesses.  For many people, though, it might only come up in the context of a job interview.   And their prepared answer will, naturally, focus on the strengths, and talk about weaknesses in a way that will still portray them in a positive light.  In a coaching context, though, addressing our weaknesses is a totally different kettle of fish.  In a coaching context, there’s no judgement of weaknesses.  You don’t jeopardize your chances at getting the job, or the health of a business relationship, by talking about them.  When you talk about them, you can actually start to do something about them – addressing weaknesses is a positive thing.

In a business context, this process can simply boil down to confronting the things we really don’t like to do – the tasks we don’t really want to be doing, or the tasks we find difficult.

When you admit to yourself which things you tend to avoid, whether they be keeping track of your incomings and outgoings, keeping great records, proper consideration of pricing, doing your taxes, planning, or whatever, you are taking the first step towards a more successful business.

You can spend hours and $$$ learning how to do sales or marketing.  But if you haven’t addressed the side of yourself that hates doing sales and marketing,or refuses to plan properly, you’re wasting your time and money, because you haven’t worked out how to get it done – it stays theoretical.

I believe that the best favours you can do yourself and your business are to:

  • confront the brutal facts about yourself – learn your tendencies, your strengths and your weaknesses (or areas for improvement), your preferences
  • become aware of the things you naturally tend to avoid doing because they involve working outside your preferences
  • develop simple strategies to help you work WITH YOUR OWN NATURE to be more effective and get the important things done, even if you don’t like doing them.
  • learn how to motivate yourself to do the things you do not love.

I’ve developed a free training program to help you with the motivation part.  It details a principle that is really simple to implement, but will have you thinking completely differently about the tasks you struggle to get motivated to do because you don’t like doing them.  Watch the video to find out more, and get registering!

So please join me for this free webinar, by registering now.

 

©Liz Wootton, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

The Deadly Cost of Doing Too Many Things at Once

Today I am inspired to share this story from Jill Konrath, whose blog on sales strategies I subscribe to. For those of you who read my blog regularly, or have worked with me, you will know that multi-tasking is something I strongly discourage.  On a regular basis.  My usual stance is that multi-tasking is counterproductive.  It actually reduces productivity, makes us less efficient, and so on.

But today, Jill shared this chilling and very personal story, which I urge you to read.  It is not a story about sales.  It is a sharp reminder of how our brains are simply not wired to manage more than one task at once.  It is an account of the sometimes deadly cost of multi-tasking.

I am impelled to share it, not just because I thoroughly applaud efforts to stop people using mobile phones while driving, but also because it highlights the dangers of trying to do too many things at once, whatever they may be, and the terrible stresses that ‘urgency’ can impose on us.

It highlights the importance of taking a moment to think about our actions.  Taking a step back to think of the real cost, the human cost, to ourselves and to those around us, of what we do.

©Liz Wootton, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Listen to Silence

sound of silenceSilence is often deemed to be intimidating.   A threat.  Awkward.  We desperately try to fill it with background noise, elevator music or small talk.  Many people hate sitting in a quiet room or working in a quiet office. I have worked with people who must have noise in the background.

The idea of not having noise around us, conversation, is strange to us.  It makes us uncomfortable.  We put the TV on even when we’re not really watching it, “just to have on in the background”.  Stores are filled with the sound of radio or music which customers don’t really listen to, but the sound just fills the air.

Our perception, our preconceived notion, is that “silence”  is silent.  That there is absolutely no noise at all.  Indeed, if that were the case, then we may well have cause to dislike it.  The World’s Quietest Room (the artificially constructed anechoic chamber at the Orfield Labs in Minneapolis), which is designed to absorb sound, is said to be a very unpleasant experience, which reportedly no one has managed to stay in alone for more than 45 minutes.  It is unnaturally quiet for our planet, of course, and has to be artificially produced.  The thing is, silence on this earth of ours isn’t true silence.   When you allow yourself to be immersed in “silence”, and you actually start actively to listen to it, you find that it is full of sound.  There is always something to hear when you really listen.  In the many hundreds of mindfulness and relaxation exercises I have taken part in, and delivered, in one quiet room or another, there is always an element of being aware of the sounds in the room, or the sounds outside.  Birds, wind, trees, or simply the sound of your own breath.

Me?  I like silence.  I often work in it.  I enjoy it.  I feel at peace.  I rarely put music on just to have in the background, and I never use the television that way.  For me, “silence” represents calm.  Listening to the sounds of silence is a way for me to quiet my mind, to focus, to relax.

But it is more than that.  Silence is a tool for learning how to listen.

Awareness, actively listening, to what is actually there, is a great skill.  Our clever brains often fill in gaps for us.  Instead of using our senses to gather all the data, we allow our brains to do that for us.  Which can be useful.  But can also mean that we begin with preconceptions of what is happening.  Our understanding can be clouded by information that our brains have filled in, without really gathering the data on what is actually there.  Our preconception of silence is that it is something unpleasant, something completely empty and devoid of sound at all.  So if we don’t remove that preconception, we don’t hear what is actually there.

If you can immerse yourself in silence, accept it, become unafraid of it, and stop trying to speak over it or fill it with meaningless noise, you can start to discover what listening really is.  It is only when you truly listen that you really know what is there. Your breath may not be visible, but you can hear it.  The breeze is hidden until it gives away its presence by rustling the leaves in the trees.   You can remove your preconceptions, and realise that our earth is constantly full of sound.  It is not silent.

Listening effectively to others can start with listening to silence.

Removing preconceptions is, I believe, the key to truly listening.  When you listen with no preconceived ideas of what the person is trying to say, you actually hear what they are saying.  You hear their pauses.  Their silence isn’t really silent at all.  Remove your own discomfort with silence, and you stop being tempted to fill the silence they leave.  You allow them to speak instead.  You give them space to hear their own voice, and often to discover their own answers.

This is a skill we can all learn.  One that improves everyone’s quality of life.  I believe that by removing the comfort blanket of background noise, and instead becoming comfortable with the sounds of silence, we accelerate our learning of this most valuable skill.

I created this post in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge Sound of Silence

©Liz Wootton, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

 

Stop Trying to Do So Much

Relaxation, overwhelmI have a short, but important message for you today.  You’re not superhuman.   And that’s OK.  You don’t have to do everything.

Parents rush home from work to  take their kids to one activity or another, then they grab food on the run and rush off to a fitness class themselves.  People do a full day of work, taking on request after request from colleagues or clients, then dash off to a social event, barely touching down at home.  Weekends get packed with jobs around the home, parties or barbecues or fundraisers.  We pack in as much as we can to our already busy lives.  And we often only stop when we go on vacation.

Our lives get full.  Really, really  full.  And most of the time we love doing all this stuff.

Most of the time.

Sometimes, it feels overwhelming.  Sometimes, it really is ok to take a step back and say, “Enough.  I cannot fit in any more.”

Saying no can be the hardest thing to do.  You worry you are letting someone down.  That if you don’t do it, no one else will.

But when overload is imminent, the best favour you can do yourself, and everyone else, is to take a moment.  Give yourself a break.  Stop trying to do too much.  Restore your equilibrium.

Breathe. :)

©Liz Wootton, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Be Your Own Valentine. Love Yourself.

Love YourselfMy husband and I have never really made a very big deal of Valentine’s Day.  Mainly because we both feel that love isn’t about a single day when you take time out to say ‘I love you’.  It’s about making that effort every day.  And on a very personal level, Valentine’s Day took on a whole new significance 11 years ago, because it was the day I went into labour with our son.  So it kind of stopped being just about romantic love, and started being about family.  So it’s not that we don’t recognise it at all, but we certainly don’t make a song and dance of it.

However, I’m really aware of how Valentine’s Day can leave a lot of people with really mixed (or even unpleasant) feelings.  If you’re not in a relationship, it maybe doesn’t feel great to have romantic relationships shoved down your throat by all the commercialism surrounding the day.  If you’ve ever tried to book a hotel or a restaurant on Valentine’s Day (let’s say because you want to take your son to do something nice for his birthday….) then you can guarantee that you’ll either find no availability, or you’ll pay a huge premium for the privilege!

So I want to take a whole new look at Valentine’s Day.

How often do you really take time to show yourself how much you love you?  In fact, is it something you ever give any thought to?

Whether you are in a relationship or not, whether you’d like to be in one or not, loving yourself is immensely important.  Now let’s be clear, I’m not talking about being selfish or vain here.  Loving yourself isn’t about always prioritizing yourself over everyone else.  It’s not about treating yourself to something at the expense of others.  It’s not about looking at your needs and no one else’s.  But it is about appreciating yourself, recognizing the good that you do, and ultimately making the decision to like yourself.  It’s about seeing yourself the way you see the people you love, being able to look at yourself objectively and favourably.

It’s  not always easy to do, of course.  When you have conditioned yourself to think negatively about yourself, it’s really hard to learn to think more positively.

The first step, though, can simply be to understand this:

  • Loving yourself is important.  If you don’t, then you won’t understand why other people love you.  You might even push them away.  You will undermine your own self esteem and confidence.   Loving and accepting yourself will mean you put yourself in a position to have healthy relationships with others, romantic or otherwise.
  • Loving yourself is something you can learn to do.  It is possible.  Some people work it out on their own, others need a little help.  But no matter where you are right now, believe that it is possible.

So today, be your own Valentine.   I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t also be someone else’s, of course, but if you’ve ever felt lacking in love for yourself, try this:

Get a sheet of paper, and write yourself a Valentine’s message, as if you were writing it for someone else.  Write down all the things you can think of, no  matter how small you think they might be,  that you like and appreciate about yourself.  They might be achievements, or aspects of your personality, or things you are proud of.  Aim for 10 things.  You can draw, make a collage, write a poem, a story, whatever you like.  Make it yours, make it all about you.

And if you find it hard, that’s ok.  Remember this is a tiny step in the right direction of loving yourself – just notice what feels difficult, and don’t judge yourself for it. <3

 

I’m really interested to hear your own experiences with learning to love yourself, or struggling with it.  I’d hopefully be using it to inform a new coaching program, and if you are happy to get in touch right now, I’ll be giving you (with no obligation) a special offer to use against the program.

So complete this form now and tell us your experiences!

 

©Liz Wootton, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.