I remember very clearly sitting in a cafe in Bristol just days before the UK went into our first Lockdown in March 2020. The group we were in were speculating what was going to happen and sharing how we might each use the enforced time at home wisely. Rachael in the picture above committed outloud that she would focus more on her art; she had always wanted to become an artist and this was an opportunity to capitalise on. Little did she know where that statement would lead her too. In just over 2 years she is now an established artist with her own website, attending Art fairs exhibiting her work and belongs to a supportive network of other artists in and around Bristol.
Watching Rachael step into her role and achieve what she has done in the last two turbulent years has been inspirational. She has walked through the G.A.M.E model outlined in my first book
E – Enjoying the process and continually Evaluating
Gets great results.
If you have a passion project, side hussle or something you really want to achieve there are some downloadable templates accessible on the books link above for you to use the same methodology as Rachael did.
Building high-performance habits into your routine and working environment can serve both you and your team professionally and personally. Different leaders need and want different things from their schedules, so this post will look at how you might incorporate reflective activities into your routine to ensure greater long-term productivity.
Looking from the outside in
Dedicating time to planning your business strategy will allow you to establish productive parameters going forward. This is what we call working ‘on the business’ rather than ‘in the business. An effective way to approach this, is to make a list of the activities that you might deem ‘in the business’ which will often be delivery of services, sales and marketing, administration, and direct managerial work.
Working ‘on the business,’ however, might involve thinking about where you are going next, to ensure you are headed in the right direction and have the best tools to get you there. Assessing the processes your business runs on and thinking about streamlining them will help here.
Bringing your team in to work ‘on the business’ is a fantastic way to pool ideas, although be sure to keep your vision at the front of your mind, and to ensure your long-term plan fits with your employees’ wants and needs. This might be done by building in a regular monthly 1-1 with the team, a wonderful way to encourage inter-team communication at the same time.
Working on you
Taking time to work on self-development tactics will also benefit your productivity. A personal habit that comes up a lot in my client sessions, for example, is building in certain routines. Incorporating exercise or meditation into your day will benefit you on a personal level and begin to flow into your working productivity. Having a repeated morning routine is also likely to bring clarity to your day. Taking regular breaks through the day is important to keep your mind focused on the task at hand. Using a habit tracker can be a useful tool to make sure you carry out these activities every day, and after a while they will have become instinctive and routine. Having an accountability buddy who is either trying to cultivate the same habit or another habit but also wants to be held accountable for embedding it – you can buddy up and keep each other accountable for your progress.
It is important to block time out in the diary for these reflective activities and the building of high-performance habits. It is extremely easy for tasks that are not short-term priority to be pushed behind those that produce immediately visible results. In the long-term, however, building strong routines based on habits that take a bigger picture approach, both to the business and to yourself, will be of great benefit. Establishing patterns is the most important thing here.
Joining one 20-minute yoga session or spending a lone hour thinking about your business strategy is not likely to make any difference. Practicing yoga every morning and blocking out a few hours per week to working ‘on the business,’ however, will ensure these positive activities are conducted. Of course, days are busy and adding anything more to the to-do list might seem overwhelming. But often, even small chunks of time dedicated to activities that are frequently repeated in a regular way, can make it easier for the rest of your time to fall into structured place.
A recent quote that resonated with me concerning habits was from a new book entitled High Performance – Lessons from the Best on Becoming Your Best – Jake Humphrey & Prof Damian Hughes https://amzn.to/35lgleq “Above all remember this simple motto: Never miss twice. Yes, on some days your habits might slip. But if high performers miss one day, they never miss a second.” Page 183. This quote was originally from Atomic Habits by James Clear https://amzn.to/3hw4Jr A another excellent book on this subject. Also check out The High-Performance Podcast https://bit.ly/3HBgYxo – listening to inspirational podcasts another habit to embed into your week.
Whether it’s a goal you have set yourself, a challenge the team has in front of them, a problem you need to solve, or you are trying to help someone else move forwards the ability to move forwards towards the desired state is something that is required. The less time we spend paralysed or procrastinating the better when it comes to continually achieving high performance both professionally and personally.
Another habit we can develop is to identify how far we are away from our desired result and use a timeline technique to ascertain how big the gap is. Let’s imagine your ideal outcome or the place where you would feel happy with a situation is 10/10. Ask the question where are you now? on the scale from 1-10 with 10 being the perfect result or outcome you are working towards e.g. if you scored yourself 5 then you are halfway along to being in the place you want to be or accomplishing the goal you have set yourself.
Then ask yourself the question – what have I done to get myself this far e.g. off level 0. What do I need to do more of to move myself up the scale? Normally we have made some progress, rarely are you starting for level zero.
The next baby step to take is to imagine where the next level up would be i.e. if you are currently rating yourself as a 5 on the scale what action would you need to take to get yourself to a 6. By taking this approach we are trying to break down a big challenge or goal into baby steps of action or bite sized chunks (chunking is a commonly used NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming methodology)
When you have identified what you need to do to take you to the next level upwards and more towards your destination then ask yourself whether you need anyone’s expertise or assistance to get there? Whether it’s simply being disciplined to set aside time to work on the action, whether there is any element of fear of failure or loosing face standing in your way. What is stopping you take that next action step and what do you need to remove that barrier.
This process then needs to be circled around again to achieve the next level up on the scale. Simply having this diagrammatically drawn in your daily notebook could help remind you of what action you need to take to take small baby step action steps to reach your ultimate destination.
What action could you take today or within a week to move you up one or two levels?
Linking back to a previous blog post on scary goals and being brave one area that frequently comes up in my career coaching work is when an individual is trying to decide whether to leave paid employment and enter into the world of self employment.
I remember when I made this move leaving a very well paid corporate job in 2000 I walked out of the office door for the very first time “unemployed “ thinking what I have just done is either very brave or very stupid. There wasn’t a plan on what I was actually going to do I just knew that the job I had been in was making me miserable and had been doing this for about eighteen months. I had got to the point where I dreaded going back to work after a holiday and I had always vowed if that happened to make some changes.
Within the first couple of weeks had I heard a few of bits advice from mentors who had a similar path and were a few years down the line at that point. The advice I gained in these early weeks I still pass onto others as I believe them to be very true in my experience
It takes 3-4 years to get used to being self employed and if you last this long without returning to a regular salaried job them you are likely to be successful and also become fairly unemployable as you get used to the freedom of being your own boss and the feast and famine nature of this path.
It’s all about who you know and who you surround yourself by. There will be many doubts in these early years and pragmatic encouragement from authentic inspirational people who want to help you succeed is a critical success factor.
I certainly underestimated the length of time it takes to
Refine what you want to specialise in
To work out the correct pricing model
To set up the operational infrastructure working out what you want to do yourself and what you want to pay others to do for you
Work out the elevator pitch when people ask the classic “ what do you do?”
Polish off an authentic sales and engagement process
Develop a support network to encourage you when the going gets tough but also challenge you when something needs to be discontinued and you don’t see it yourself.
What you get in return however after persisting through these initial years is immense personal growth along with a sense of achievement and freedom along with the by product of meeting some great new people on route.
Sandra works as a coach with both businesses and private clients. She is also author of the book Own It – regain control and live life on your terms available from Amazon click here http://bit.ly/1JhAkst
So how are you doing with all those good intentions, resolutions, goals or new habits that you decided to commit to at the beginning of the year?
If I look at myself then I would say I am doing better with some than others, there are certain actions that are proving more difficult to embed as habits than others. When I work with both business and private clients keeping the momentum going over a long period of time and working out how to embed certain behaviours or habits that the individual wants to work on is by far the hardest part of the change process.
So let’s take a work example to illustrate a couple of things that can help embed new ways of improving or creating new actions moving forwards:
A leader I have been working with for several months was struggling to commit her time to holding regular Team Meetings and hold monthly 1-1,s with her direct reports. She had had various attempts at putting the meetings in the diary and had also managed to keep the momentum going with a few meetings but it never lasted more than a couple of months. She began to think it didn’t matter as she sat quite close to the people they all chatted every day and they were having the occasional meeting. Deep down however she knew that the regular pattern she had originally set out to achieve hadn’t been embedded to become routine practice plus the fact that these two activities in my view (as her coach) were key to maintaining individuals motivation, aiding consistent communication and managing performance issues. It took a couple of events to refocus the leaders attention back to the important “why” did she want to work on improving this area in the first place. The two events were a high performing member of the team handed in her notice as she felt she wasn’t been challenged or developed enough in the role plus in the end of year appraisal feedback the Team commented that they often didn’t know what was going on in other areas of the business. When we discussed both of theses events at a coaching discussion it was clear that if the regular 1-1’s had been happening with everyone and team meetings were a given part of daily operations then these two events might not have occurred.
So this illustration shows there has to be a solid reason behind why you want to embed new behaviours or change the way you do things.
Ask yourself the question for anything you intended to do at the beginning of 2018 what was your “why” was it strong enough? Is it still there?
Also who are you accountable ? It really helps if you share what you would like to work on with someone else and ask them to be your accountability buddy until the new habit or action becomes embedded in your routine.
So, following on from my last post I had cause to review my own health and wellbeing at the end of 2017. During my enforced rest and relaxation period I couldn’t help but take stock and ask myself, in classic end of the year review mode, whether I need to make any additional changes to my own health and wellbeing practices this year.
I have never been unhealthy in my lifestyle, but I am a great believer that as we age we do have to continually tweak our habits further to keep as vibrant as possible both mentally and physically.
In recent years I have drastically reduced my reliance on sugary and processed food. I have replaced intense competitive exercise with equally physically challenging but kinder on the body and soul yoga. Each year I have challenged myself to “learn to like “certain nutritious foods that previously I had avoided e.g. eggs, yogurt and avocado as examples. Majority of time I eat sough dough bread and don’t enjoy normal bred now.
On the more cosmetic side I have broken my reliance on hair straighteners that were ruining my hair and acrylic nails that were ruining my nails (the nail addiction was only broken in 2017) which as well as being healthier choices have freed up an incredible amount of time.
So, what next in 2018, what other changes could I make?
I love my morning coffee, but I would benefit from reducing my daily caffeine intake via reducing the number of cups of tea and replace this with herbal teas from midday.
I have no desire to go vegetarian at all however I could ensure more of my meals are fish or poultry based with more vegetables and less carbohydrates.
I need to ensure when out on the road at business clients I don’t eat processed rubbish, this means planning and taking healthy food with me.
I am going to keep learning Spanish as intellectually this is good for me and very challenging.
My daily Ashtanga Yoga practice is a well-established habit however I have lost my way with my regular meditation habit which used to be good. 10 mins a day would be a fab discipline to get back into.
So you see there are always things that can be improved. No matter where you are starting from what few shifts can you make to take things up to a new level to aid your health and wellbeing in 2018?
Anyone who knows me or has read my book Own It will know that I always like to be working on a new challenge however sometimes I do wonder why I do this as it is not always easy.
I love the initial phase when a new idea bubbles up or just comes completely out of the blue in what I call a moment of clarity! It’s happened to me many a time e.g. Deciding to qualify as an accountant in the 1980’s, setting up the business in 2000, doing my first triathlon and then an Ironman! Well the challenge that came up from nowhere this April while on holiday in Lanzarote was I want to learn Spanish and be above average.
So, the familiar pattern starts, and I secured a Spanish teacher before the return flight landed at Bristol airport and I was telling everyone this was my new “non-work” project. I discovered a brilliant app Duolingo thanks to a client who recommended it and initially everything was great.
Now nearly eight months later reality has hit learning Spanish is hard and requires a lot of time and effort. I keep meeting an amazing amount of people who I didn’t realise can speak Spanish well some who did A levels or degrees in it. I have also met a lot more people who have embarked on a similar project, maybe with a different language, who have given up when they got to the stage I am currently at. It’s not as easy as I thought it was going to be. I am myself at that decision point, how much do I want this? Is my reason for doing this strong enough?
Well at the time of writing yes, I am still fully committed to learning this language even though it’s not going to be as easy as I originally thought. I am going to have to put more effort and time into this if I want to achieve my goal however you will notice I didn’t put a timeline on this challenge and this was for a reason I wanted it to be a fun, non-work-related pastime. I certainly know an awful lot more Spanish than I did in April of this year and I need to remember this. My understanding and recognition of words is much better however there is still a lot more work to be done in pronunciation and understanding what is been said by the natives rather than a slower paced Spanish lesson.
So, it’s a challenge you bet it is and it’s tougher than I thought but that is ok it just might take a bit longer than I originally thought and I have now got great respect for those people who can fluently speak a second language.
Sandra works as a coach or Businesses and Private Clients. She is also author of the book Own It regain control and live life on your terms available from Amazon http://amzn.to/2m3l8Vl
We have all been here whether it be a new job, a new relationship, a new hobby, a new goal or a new business venture, there is always the initial phase where it is exciting, it is refreshing, you are on fire, your levels of enthusiasm are super high nothing can get in your way you are super focused. This lasts for a variable amount of time depending on the person or the subject matter. For me personally over the years this initial new phase lasts approximately 6 months, maybe shorter if it’s something like a new eating regime, for me the pattern is 3 weeks for this type of thing. This shows the timeframe isn’t that important it’s the recognition that the novelty of your new thing is beginning to wear off and it’s starting to get tougher to keep enthusiastic and motivated.
What could be happening is that you aren’t getting the results you expected as quickly as you thought? I have witnessed this myself and with clients in the areas of starting a new business and in establishing new healthy lifestyle patterns. I think in the initial stages we tend to be over optimistic about how long things will take. In setting up a new business or freelance career for example I now talk with clients about the fact it could take 3-4 years to get established or at least get used to the unpredictability of self-employed income generation. When it comes to making changes to help your energy levels and wellbeing it is helpful if you see some instant results that encourage you to keep going but often the outcomes can be delayed until the habits become established and it becomes a way of life and one day you suddenly notice that you have more energy, or you aren’t craving a sugar fix every four hours. I know when I embarked on the “I quit sugar” process last year I expected to lose a ton of weight. That didn’t happen but 12 months down the line I am so glad I did it as I am no longer craving a food fix every four hours and I feel so much better with less sugar in my body with the side benefit I am weighing less than I was and managing to maintain this lower regular weight easier.
So how do you keep going through this testing phase? You need to develop your own personal toolkit and surround yourself with the right people to remind you as to why you started this in the first place. What was your reason? What was your why? How any people have you told what you are doing? Making a commitment to others who believe in what you are doing and want you to be successful is another technique in your tool kit to help you get through this testing phase and keep the momentum going.
For more tools and suggestions take a look at my book Own It regain control and live life on your terms available from Amazon via this link http://amzn.to/2m3l8Vl
Over the past few weeks in my private client coaching practice I have been inspired by the number of new clients who are wanting to make significant changes to their lives and how wide ranging the ages of these clients are. Looking back over just the last month I have met with clients ranging in age from 21 to 62 and they all have had similar goals. They are unhappy with where they are currently and want to take ownership,seeking help to either make the necessary changes that they have already identified they need to make; or in some cases they want to explore a number of options and decide which suits them best.
One of the roles a coach plays in this situation is supporting each person who wants to make changes as they embark on the journey and to reassure them that some of the options that are being considered are possible at their age. In my experience having watched people for many years make massive changes to both their personal and professional lives age is rarely an issue once the individual is committed to the process and is prepared to put in the hard work involved to achieve this. Occasionally when working with the younger age group my role as a coach is to work out together with the client some of the stepping stones that need to be put in place to achieve the desired goals or work out a realistic timescale that breaks big goals into bite sized chunks gathering relevant experience along the way.
The most important factor by far regardless of age and also desired goals is the enthusiasm, total commitment and dedication to get unstuck from the current position and do whatever it takes to move towards the future state. The speed people can achieve this is amazing once they have this total mind set to making things happen and surrounding themselves by people who also want to help them move forwards.
So if you are feeling stuck, you can get unstuck – where there is a will there is a way.
The forth step of the G.A.M.E model is challenging me personally at the moment and I know when people have given me feedback after having read the book this is the step that we all find difficult at some time in our lives.
When I did triathlon for eleven years I had two injuries that stopped my training and race schedule abruptly one to the back that made running painful and another to the shoulder that prevented swimming. Both injuries were frustrating and learning opportunities at the same time. At the time of typing I have my first serious injury (damage to a bone in my wrist) from Ashtanga Yoga… yes you can get injured doing yoga! When this happens the day to day momentum that existed in quite a routine way is stopped abruptly. Initially I hoped that it was a little niggle that would go away in time with a few slight adjustments to my daily practice however as the pain persisted it became evident I needed some expert advice and investigations. All the time while the pain in the body persists different mental patterns and physical coping mechanisms arise to keep momentum going and motivation intact. My daily morning practice is important to me as my “set up” space for each day and whereas before injury this was enjoyable this was starting to get less so and then questions go through the mind as should you be even attempting this. What is right and what is wrong for us all individually is entirely unique and one we have to take ownership for.
Then there are the inputs from people who surround us both inside and outside of the medical profession that sometimes helps and other times confuse. Again only one person can decide who best to take advice from and when also to stop taking advice and decide on a path, follow that path to the letter and stop googling symptoms as well, that is ourselves. I thought I had learnt from previous injuries on a correct process to follow but I did find myself repeating some of the old behaviours that I thought had long gone eg googling and self diagnosing. The other skill that is needed in this situation, again I am far from perfect on this, is accepting the situation you are in regardless of the daily frustration it causes physically and mentally. On a good day I am ok with this and look to see what I can do rather than what I cant do. On a bad day I can feel sorry for myself and find unhelpful thinking patterns occurring. It is at this time I need to firstly observe myself going down this path and find something to focus on that stops this downward spiral, this could either be connecting with one of my “rays of sunshine” or focusing on another one of my goals or aspects of my life that doesn’t demand my injured wrist eg learning Spanish or working with a new coaching client or reading a new book. I think my main learning this time round as I struggle with this step is focus on what I can do rather than what I cant along with how can I use this enforced adjustment period to focus on things that maybe I didn’t make time for before inside and outside of my Yoga practice. Making use of the “what makes you feel good” lists I encourage people to create at the end of chapter 6 in http://www.own-it-book.com is also helpful when this step becomes a challenge.