Choosing Your Battles

stress management

I often talk about unavoidable stress.  Particularly when it comes to running your own business.  Because there’s plenty of stressful things involved in running a business that you simply can’t avoid.

But do you ever find yourself getting stressed out over little things that maybe you could choose to react differently to?  In other words, are you stressing out unnecessarily?

I love the Oatmeal.  But today this comic about loading the dishwasher perfectly really spoke to me.  Yes, it’s very funny, not least because I suspect it is something that happens in many a home.  But I think it’s deeper than it looks…

Check out the comic, and then, ask yourself honestly now, if you’ve ever stressed out over something not being done properly, or quite to your standards.  Dishwasher, laundry, the fact that your other half doesn’t correctly organise your clothes in colour order, or your staff put staples in horizontally rather than diagonally and it messes with your karma?

Most of us probably have things that we get a bit uptight about, and like to have done a particular way.  That, in itself, isn’t necessarily a problem.  But if you find yourself habitually turning into this…

 

dishwasher_lady - 4

 

…when it’s not done just exactly how you like it, then you are causing yourself way more stress in your life than is necessary.

Here’s what to do:

  • When you feel your hackles rising and your blood boiling over the way someone else is doing something that you like to do a particular way, just stop for a second. Take a deep breath.
  • Ask yourself whether this is really a battle you want to fight. How important is it that this task is done exactly your way?  And how important is it that this person do it, rather than you do it yourself?
  • Focus on the results. Are you getting too hung up on the process?  Is it really THAT important that all the glasses are put next to each other in the dishwasher, if they get clean anyway?
  • If you can, then let it go – focus on the benefits you get from not having it done your way (usually that someone else is taking care of it, giving you time to do something else). Accept that and be glad. Do as much deep breathing as you need while you work on accepting it.
  • If it is imperative that it is done your way (to achieve a particular result, for example), you have two options:
    • Do it yourself, and happily accept that this was your choice.
    • Teach the other person, constructively, to do it the way it needs to be done. If you lecture them, you’re unlikely to get anywhere.  They must learn by doing, and actually understand WHY this is important (ie that there is a tangible result).  If there is a mistake that must be put right, then they need to correct it themselves, rather than have it done for them.  Then let them take ownership of the task.  Accept
  • Remember that you have a choice about how you react – you don’t need to allow your blood to boil over this thing. If you want to redo something that has already been done adequately by someone else, that is YOUR CHOICE.

 

It is incredible the freedom and calm that can be gained by choosing your battles.  People often talk about it in terms of raising kids.  But it applies to so many other areas of life too.  Fighting is tiring.  It uses energy that could be diverted into something much more constructive.

 

©Liz Wootton, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Images courtesy of The Oatmeal http://www.theoatmeal.com

 

 

 

How Do Introverts Succeed in Business?

Tanja Gardner Conscious Introvert Success

Tanja Gardner

Think you know what it means to be introverted?  Well, if your idea of an introvert is a socially awkward, anxious person, who’s overly shy, if you think being introverted is a bad thing, or that it is simply a lack of extravert ‘skills’, then think again.  In fact, you might be an introvert and not even know it.

As an introvert myself, I was fascinated to meet Tanja Gardner of Conscious Introvert Success, who identifies herself as a deeply introverted (but not even slightly shy!) entrepreneur who started business life online as a copywriter. Somewhere along the line, she discovered she longed to help introverts like her to build their businesses while honouring their introversion. That’s why she started Conscious Introvert Success: a treasure-trove of introvert-friendly information and resources.  You can watch my fascinating interview with Tanja below (and make sure you sign up for her free webinar on email/newsletter marketing for introverts!).

One of our favourite tools here at Human Nature is the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).  It explores the difference between Extrovert and Introvert preferences in depth, and describes introversion like this:

“People who prefer introversion like to focus on their own inner world of ideas and experiences.  They direct their energy and attention inwards and receive energy from reflecting on their thoughts, memories and feelings.”

Introverts may exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Drawn to their inner world
  • Prefer to communicate in writing
  • Work out ideas by reflecting on them
  • Learn best by reflection, mental “practice”
  • Focus in depth on their interests
  • Private and contained
  • Take initiative when the situation or issue is very important to them

For me, identifying myself as an introvert, as part of my introduction to MBTI, was a hugely important part of understanding what makes me tick (and what makes me tired).  I stopped thinking of introversion as a negative and started seeing more of my strengths.  What is more, it helped me to look after myself properly as a business owner – I had a better understanding of how to recharge the ol’ batteries.

The world of business can be an interesting place for an introvert, though – it’s set up rather well for the more outwardly expressive extraverts, whose energy is recharged by surrounding themselves with people and talking.  But for an introvert, marketing and networking can present challenges, not least because they are an energy drain, and will more often then not have you working ‘out of preference’.

Watch my interview with Tanja to find out more about introversion, how she helps clients tackle the issue of marketing the right way for them, and get her top tips on marketing your business if you’re an introvert.

Here are the vital links you’ll want:

Getting clear on your strengths as an introvert

Lowering your personal energy cost of your newsletter marketing

Free email marketing webinar with Tanja Gardner – Sign Up Here

 

To find out more about MBTI, the introversion/extraversion dichotomy, or to find out what ‘type’ you are, talk to us here at Human Nature by hitting the contact tab, and booking a completely free Discovery Session.

 

Get beach ready. By tackling your Stress first

get fit for summer

Struggling with your get fit for summer plan?

This is the time of year that I start to think about what I might be wearing come the summer.  The weather has started to warm up here in Scotland, and while we’re a little way off bikini weather (in fact, let’s face it, bikinis in Scotland are so rare an occurrence they generally make the headlines even in July), we’re certainly starting to see people baring a little more flesh, and lots of people are looking forward to a week or two somewhere warm.

I’m not a weight loss coach.  Nor a fitness coach.  But I am a black belt in Karate, and if you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that on occasion I’ve written articles about diet.  So I do have an interest in this area.  Because even in my specialist areas of coaching, my philosophy is that I coach the whole person.  Addressing one area of your business or life, addressing one part of the person, is likely to have knock-on effects on other parts of you.

In fact, it’s even more stealthy than that.  You might come to me for some coaching knowing that you want to find a way to organize your day better – you have trouble getting everything done, or a tendency to procrastinate, and that’s affecting how you do your work or run your business.  So that’s what we tackle.  And you find yourself getting more things done.  Obviously that’s going to have a beneficial effect on  your work, on your business.  But here’s the extra bonus – you were also losing sleep because you were overwhelmed and weren’t getting through things as well as you should.  Now you’re more productive, you’re not feeling that way any more, and you’re getting more sleep.  Everything feels better when you’ve slept better.  You had perhaps intended to tackle that thing as a separate issue, but now you don’t have to.

Now let’s say that you’re trying to get that bikini body.  Or mankini.  I’m not judgemental.  All you need to do is eat better and exercise more, right?  Simple.  Or it should be.  Usually, that’s all we think of when we’re trying to lose weight or get fit.  Eat less, move more.

Actually, I don’t think it’s all that simple (if it were, we’d never be worrying about fitting in our swimwear, would we?)  Basically, our big old brains get in the way.

And here’s where stress is your No 1 Enemy if you’re trying to get that summer body.  When you’re stressed, you may have a tendency to crave high fat, high sugar foods.  And you can easily justify that glass of wine or three.  You’re working hard, you deserve it.  and BOY is it hard to resist that craving… you’ll begin the ‘diet’ tomorrow, when things feel a bit less tense.

Only tomorrow, they probably don’t feel less tense.  Your job, your business, is usually filled with stress that is intrinsic to the job.  It doesn’t just go away.   And as for exercise, well you’re too busy, there’s too much going on, you can’t justify the time it takes to go to the gym.  You finish up at work, later than you’d planned, after another stressful day.  You go home, pour a glass of wine, eat a slab of chocolate, and slump in front of the TV.  With good intentions for tomorrow.

I’m going to propose that you look at it the other way around.  Stop focusing on diet and exercise, and instead try focusing on dealing with your stress.  By addressing how you deal with stress, you will lay a good foundation that will help you to stop craving the ‘bad’ foods, and help you to justify the healthier activities.  The result: Better health all around – mental and physical.

And the extra extra bonus?  You don’t have to wait till you get on your vacation to start to relax.  You can START your vacation feeling much more relaxed.  Imagine that!

For free tips on dealing with stress, straight from my 5 Ps of Stress Resilience program, you can get instant access to this webinar - sign up completely free and find out 5 tips to help you tackle your stress head-on.  It’s aimed at business owners, but the tips are relevant for everyone.  Even better, it  contains access to a special offer that will give you personalised help with your stress.  Register now and get on the road to a stealth way to better health.

Or register for a FREE discovery session with me, absolutely free and with no obligation to buy anything, to find out more about the 5 Ps of Stress Resilience Program, and about how I can help YOU.

© Liz Wootton, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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.