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.
We all know the feeling of being overwhelmed. The inbox is flooded with unread messages, the calendar is full, and the to-do list looks unmanageable. It is important to gain the ability to manage your time between short-, medium-, and long-term tasks and projects. By exploring how to spend time on the right things we begin to see the importance of setting a personal agenda to get your focus back on track.
This post will introduce two tools for developing time and project management skills that have proved very effective in my work with clients. The first is the Third Habit outlined in Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which details the importance of prioritising tasks.
In Habit 3, Covey encourages leaders to ‘Put First Things First’. Here he refers to the Four Quadrants of Time Management, by which all tasks are classified in terms of both urgency and importance. Tasks in Quadrant I might entail important deadlines and crises, those in Quadrant II tasks contributing to long-term development. Quadrant III refers to small and potentially distracting deadlines, whilst Quadrant IV’s distractions are frivolous and often pertain to procrastination.
The process of working with these quadrants entails first identifying the levels of urgency and importance in certain tasks, and in this way becoming more reflective on your working patterns. Covey advises us to spend more time in Quadrant II, with tasks and projects that are important but not urgent. These tasks are about planning, prevention, and improvement. By focusing attention on them we begin to prevent crisis situations from unfolding and maintain a healthy balance between productive work and understanding our limits.
To do this, Covey argues, we must reassess the time we spend on Quadrants III and IV, which should respectively be delegated to others and eliminated entirely.
Visualising the plan
To assess how much time, we spend in each Quadrant, however, we must first identify the levels of importance and urgency in our routine tasks/medium term projects/long-term goals. Here I introduce a second tool which comes from the fifth chapter of my book, The Evergreen Executive.
By creating a plan on the page, it becomes easier to see what your priorities are and where your time should be spent. It can also be used to communicate and assign ownership to other members of your team
We all work collaboratively in many ways, and it is important to recognise the impact that relational work has on our time management. Leaders often feel themselves getting pulled in different directions by many people. They are often juggling multiple projects and are relied on heavily by different teams. By refocusing attention towards your individual agenda, it becomes easier to identify important tasks and prioritise these. Time management works hand in hand with personal management, and by regaining agency you can achieve efficiency in your work practice.
So it has been a while since the last blog post and for a few reasons.
As many people do at the turn of the year I use it as a chance to take stock and review how the last year went and what the plans for the new year are. This year I decided to extend this period of reflection a bit longer so that I could take advantage of a planned trip to Northern Goa in India that I had had scheduled for a while. For me to take two whole weeks out of my schedule is unusual as I normally have a lot of shorter breaks throughout the year.
There was a specific reason for this trip and if you are interested in learning more take a listen to the podcast episode at Itunes link to podcast
So against my default programming I didn’t set any new year resolutions with the intention of using the space and downtime while away to decide what the focus of 2019 was going to be both professionally and personally. I think the trip to India was quite a landmark event as it had been a personal goal for nearly 5 years and the fact that it was actually going to happen was meaningful in itself. My normal reaction is “so what next” and I know I made the mistake once before in 2006 after completing the Ironman in that I immediately entered another one which in the end I had to pull out of due to injury – the real truth is it wasn’t meant to be I was just meant to do one event like that and originally that had been my intention I just got carried away with post race euphoria and the rest of my team mates rushing to fill in entry forms for the next event.
The two weeks away were soon over and still no obvious new goals were emerging just a few subtle tweaks to what I am already doing and the slow realisation that maybe that was all I needed to do just a bit of refining and refocusing. I fundamentally have the right things in place so there isn’t a need for major changes. There isn’t a obvious new big scary goal or shift I want to make at this time and that is ok what I have is a few areas of focus professionally and personally for the rest of the year , things that I am already doing but just take them to the next level starting with a slight tweak to the podcast in renaming it The Career Tree to expand the exploration of industries/jobs/ways of working to show what choices we all do have in the world of work. So watch this space as we refine what we do as we approach our twentieth year in business as Kudos. Now that is scary where has all that time has gone?
This is the first blog post I have written for a while as I wanted to take a break until I felt inspired to write another one!
The many clients I have been working with over that last few months have inspired this reflection on the area of career management and the many different challenges people face at any age and at any stage of their career.
These are some of the thoughts or questions people are having or asking themselves and indeed some I have asked myself over my career
Why am I not enjoying my job anymore?
I don’t get on with my boss very well is that a good reason to leave?
I have been in the same role/company for a few years should I stay or should I move?
I don’t feel appreciated anymore – am I valued?
I don’t get any feedback at all and other people seem to be getting more opportunities to progress than I am
I haven’t got a development plan or any real objectives
I need a change
What I really want to do is work for myself
I need to get back into the world of work after a career break where do I start?
When is a good time to retire and then what do I do?
I want to do something different but unsure if I should look for another job in the same company or look at different companies
Should I get more qualifications?
I am having a tough time at work at the moment but is this just temporary or should I start looking for something else?
If I eventually want to work for myself should I just be brave and make it happen or shall I set up a “side hussle” while I am still in work?
I like what I do but I am not inspired by the industry or the company I am working for
My work life balance is out of control can I improve my situation in my current role or do I need to change?
Just reading through the list above how many of these have gone through your mind over that last few years? Is there one particular one that resonates currently?
What I am going to do over the next few blog posts is look deeper into a few of the areas and from a coaches perspective illustrate the type of work and further questions you can ask yourself to determine the next steps or possible options you can consider taking to explore further the correct course of action for your personal career management.
Sandra works as an executive coach for businesses and also has a private coaching practice for career/life and business coaching. More information can be found at http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com. She is also author of Own It – regain control and live life on your terms available from Amazon Check book out here and a recently launched series of Own It Podcasts which gives inspiration and tips for professional and personal life Own It Podcasts
When 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris 4 hour work week book came out I wrongly concluded from the title that it was going to be about working in such a smart way you only had to ever work for four hours a week. I must admit before reading it I did think even for a mega organised person like myself getting my work week down to four hours and still being able to find my lifestyle as I chose did seem to be a big stretch goal.
When I eventually read the book however it wasn’t exactly how I had interpreted it from the title and Tim was suggesting a more creative approach to flexible working that had instant appeal. It was more about designing your work life so that you were able to take extended periods of time away from work so that in a whole year it averaged out at a four hour work week.
So I read Tim’s book a few years ago now however the concept he suggested must have resonated in the background. I also listened to a few podcasts and read about other people who had decided to take time away from their work and travel in order to re energise themselves especially if they had been in the work place for many years and had never had more than the annual leave off for holidays.
It suddenly dawned on me that I had never taken more than 2 weeks away from the workplace and indeed the last two week break I took was over twenty years ago. In recent years especially when initially starting the business the most holiday time I had taken was 10 days, opting normally for 3 breaks a year of about a week plus a couple of long weekends. It wasn’t until I sat back and reflected on this that I realised the short breaks that had become my norm. On the surface this wasn’t causing me a problem I enjoyed the pattern however starting with Tim’s book the seed of an idea began to sprout about taking a period of extended time away from the normal working week pattern.
As many of my friends began to embark on early retirement patterns and travel or take the gap years they didn’t do back in the day I began to consider a less extreme option and some what of a halfway house solution to test some of the concepts in Tim’s book. This idea formulated into a plan to work based abroad for 4-8 weeks a year initially. In my work as a coach I have helped many entrepreneurs create businesses working remotely from many countries it was about time I actually role modelled this myself and at the time of writing I am halfway through the first month totally based in Palma Mallorca and guess what it is working fine thanks largely to technology.
Sandra works as a coach for business and private clients. She is also the author of Own It regain control and live life on your terms available here Own It book link Amazon
As I was lucky enough to work for a very forward thinking multinational American based organisation in my early career I have always been a fan of flexible working. Even back in the 1980’s and 1990’s working for this company my performance was always measured on the results I achieved not the hours I spent in the office.
When I started a family, I was one of the first senior leaders to return to my role on a part time basis and another couple of my then colleagues were part of a pilot plan to prove a senior leadership role in the Marketing Function could be successfully be carried out on a job share basis (which they did prove!) Flexible working in many forms were supported and actively encouraged as a way of keeping high performers working for the organisation as their personal circumstances changed and recruiting replacements would have been time consuming and expensive.
Since leaving this organisation and having had the privilege of working with many more across a huge variety of industries also supporting SME’s and startups I still work with the ethos of encouraging leaders to do whatever they can to consider individual requests for flexible working/ part time contracts if a few things are carefully considered by both parties.
Firstly, the individual must have clearly defined role, specific areas of responsibility and a plan needs to be in place to cover the times when the individual is not available for work as per the agreed schedule. This is where job sharing can be of great benefit providing the necessary co-cover for each other. If job sharing isn’t an option, then there may be a developmental opportunity for another member of the same organisation to learn skills and provide cover. This ensures continuity of role especially important in client facing roles.
The second thing to consider is that the role needs to be manageable from both a business and a personal perspective using the flexible or reduced hours model. With increased technology this makes life a lot easier with remote access and cloud-based applications the norm now. There wasn’t this luxury back in those early years however we still made it work.
The mindset should however still be the same all these years on – if someone requests a flexible or reduced hour schedule and they have already proven they can do the job well it should simply be “what can we do to make this work from both a business case and a personal standpoint”
Sandra works as a coach for both businesses and private clients primarily based in Bristol UK however throughout the year also works in London and Palma Mallorca. More information can be found at www.sandrawebbercoaching.com.
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?
As part of most professional qualifications or to secure and maintain membership of a professional body we are required to source, attend and document Continuous Professional Development (CPD). I first encountered this requirement when I became a qualified management account many years ago and I now have a similar requirement with my International Coaching Federation (ICF) accreditation.
Depending on your personality you will either have put a plan in place to evidence all the CPD requirements by the required date well in advance or if you are more of a last minute person the reminder of this CPD renewal will suddenly arrive in your inbox and there will be a mild sense of panic resulting in this going on the mental to do list.
Every time such professional requirements appear on my horizon I have mixed emotions. The first initial one is “oh no how on earth am I going to find time to do this” quickly followed by a second thought of “this could be really onerous and boring” and a third one of “this is going to cost a lot of money”. As I am a naturally structured plan in advance person I haven’t got the additional pressure of having to find something last minute that I can complete or attend to get the right number of hours under my belt to submit.
As I approach this requirement now I am very lucky in the fact that a fellow coach had done a lot of research (during a spell of enforced illness) and researched the most cost effective, time efficient and interesting programmes available on the market. This has proved invaluable to me as all I had to do was look at the recommended course and verify I could commit the time, money and that it would be of value to both myself individually and my client base.
So, a few months ago I committed and enrolled on a Positive Psychology Coaching Programme run out of the USA. It is my first complete experience of a worldwide distance learning course which involves webinars, peer coaching via Skype or telephone and written work. This whole way of learning was the first benefit for me as my immediate reaction was that I prefer face to face work however to date this multimedia and distance approach is working just fine.
Regarding financial commitment yes, it is a lot however if I choose to be aligned to the most highly recognised Coaching federation this is non-negotiable, and the investment must be made. As always, the time slots required I have managed to integrate into my already busy diary, I have mad at least one new great connection to add to my network and the subject matter I am already using in my work.
So, for anyone reading this who is required to do similar CPD work, have you got this sorted yet? If not, it may be a good idea to plan out what you intend to do meet your specific professional requirements and commit. In addition find activities that met the requirements but are also of personal interest and benefit for personal and professional growth.
Sandra works as a professional coach for both business and private clients. More information can be found at www.sandrawebbercoaching.com or in her book Own It available from Amazon http://amzn.to/2m3l8Vl
Recently I have been working with a couple of people that have taken on new roles either from internal promotion or moving to a different company. We have been talking about how important it is to have a plan for the initial few months of the role. For many reasons adopting this methodology is helpful: to create a powerful professional first impression, it helps prioritise your time so that you learn as much as you can as quick as you can and you start building relationships with all the key stakeholders.
So what might this 90 day plan look like ? Take a look at a book entitled The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins for some more detailed material.
It should be a very personally created plan that is tailored to suit both you individually and the needs that success in the role require both short and long term.
As Steven Covey states in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People “ begin with the end in mind” even when planning for the first 90 day transition period. A few questions that might help you here are :
If you imagine the new role in two years time what do you want to have achieved?
What legacy do you want to leave?
How can you add value to the role?
What type of person do you want to be described as by your team/colleagues?
Describe you short/medium/long term vision for role
What do your stakeholders want from you
How can you take the role to the next level
The next element of the plan is to assess the current resources that are available to you both people and otherwise? How well do you understand the different personalities and motivations of the individuals that are critical to your success? If the answers are difficult in this section the first 90 days might include an action to build this knowledge and assess the resources available.
The final element is what actions are required to close the gap and what are the quick wins that can be accomplished in the first 90 day’s. In addition for the longer term action items, when they are broken down into chunks which are the chunks that can be realistically set down as goals to achieve in this 90 day period and which what chunks need to be assigned to the 180 day plus part of the strategic plan
The final step is to pull all the elements of the 90 day plan above into an easy to update one page top level summary that you can carry around with you as a working reminder and communication tool for the next 90 day’s,
As we are still at the start of the year it’s a good time to take some time out to review career health alongside any lifestyle or well being audit you may have already done.
In my work as a career and performance coach my discussions with clients often centre around how they can either
Get more enjoyment out of their work
Get better at their work
Minimise the amount of stress they are experiencing at work
Hand some difficult characters at work
Raise their profile at work
Progress to the next level in their company, industry etc
Be brave and make some drastic changes e.g. like number 1 above or setting up their own business
The people who I love to meet are those people who really love what they do in both life and work. As most people spend a large percentage of the week at work its important that if there is something not quite working right in this aspect of our life that you first identify it and then put in place some actions to make improvements
So, in this first month of the year ask yourself the following questions?
Looking back at 2017 how happy am I with my work out of 10 (1- not happy at all, hate it to 10 – happy and enjoy it a lot)
Which bits of your working life do you love? Make sure you keep doing this.
Which bits are you unhappy with – what action can you take?
Do you feel you are using your full potential at work? If not, which skills are you not using? How can you plan to utilise these more?
Did you undertake any training or development work for yourself in 2017? Have you got anything else planned for this year? Often leaders spend so much time developing their team they forget about themselves.
Do you have clear goals or areas of focus for 2018? If not identify at least one
How is your work/life balance and stress levels – any work needed here in 2018 – what small habits can you change.
Take an hour out this month and conduct a mini career health check on yourself, pick a couple of actions and then repeat the process half way through the year.