Learning from victories

November 11, 2022

If you do an LMI programme, you’ll see every single one has a tab (or a file if you have a digital version) labelled ‘Accomplishments’. Over the 13 years that I’ve been working with these programmes, this has consistently been the least-used part of the whole system.

Setting goals, planning days weeks and months, using communication tools, identifying areas for improvement and practicing coaching conversations have all been routinely embraced, but not this little section at the back of the manual.

It seems that reflecting on our successes doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Like anything that’s good for you, it’s something to be practiced. And doing this is certainly good for you, I think for two major reasons:

  • It’s great to enjoy, gain satisfaction and be motivated for the future by what we have achieved
  • Those accomplishments are great for informing us about what we should be doing more of.

A little more on that second reason.

When we routinely and systematically keep an accomplishments log, whether individually or as part of a team, it provides loads of great information that can help us plan for the future if we take the time to reflect.

What did I/we do (if anything) in order for that to come about? How can we do more of that? What similar actions might lead to similar positive results? The end result points us back to the origins of those outcomes.

We are taught from childhood, and rightly so, to learn from our mistakes. Maybe it’s just as important to learn from our victories as well.


Procrastination breakthrough

November 3, 2022

Have you got something really important to do that’s top of your list and requires your best effort and absolute focus?

Do you also find that a tonne of other things keep getting in the way and jumping the queue for your attention?

And do you, like me, recognise that this is at least partly because of your own tendency to procrastinate when it comes to getting started on things that are a bit more challenging than responding to the next email, or picking up some other incidental task?

This was exactly where I was yesterday. I had some writing to do for our monthly newsletter and absolutely had to get it done.

Knowing what to do – I’m coaching others on this stuff every day – and doing it are not the same thing!

I was working at home, so I finished up for the morning and had lunch with my wife. Over lunch I told her that I had been procrastinating on doing this work, and straight after lunch I would be tackling it. So now I’m accountable.

After lunch I sat at my computer and closed down every possible distraction – Outlook, WhatsApp, Teams. I put my phone to airplane mode. I chose an instrumental playlist that I find good to work to – there’s lots of evidence to suggest deep focus is easier when there’s some noise rather than absolute silence which tends to mean you become aware of every sound.

I opened the clock on my PC and selected ‘Focus Sessions’. There are options in 15-minute increments. I find 30 minutes works best for me.

I started the music and started the clock, keeping the countdown visible on my second screen while I got into the work.

The first 7 or 8 minutes were quite tough. Getting into it is the hardest part, which is why regular distractions are so damaging. We can find ourselves constantly throughout the day fighting to get into things rather than breaking through that initial barrier until the work becomes easier.

Yesterday afternoon was, because of the preparation, not one of these occasions. I got properly into it!

Suddenly the 30-minute timer was beeping. It didn’t seem possible that it had already been half an hour, but I was progressing well with the work by then. Sometimes it’s good to pause and have a quick break before getting on again, but sometimes when you’re in the flow, stick with it. I started another 30-minute timer straight away, and then another. 90 minutes of what felt like my maximum concentration and I’d done what had been hanging around in my mind and on my list for a few days, and quite enjoyed it.

Preparation. Focus. Discipline. Process.

Ah, one other key thing. I had already decided what I was going to do, something I was looking forward to, once I had finished. That helps a lot.

Everyone struggles with this kind of thing to varying degrees and it never hurts to review what you’re doing and work out your strategy for when you need to tackle something important.

Just one focus session like this every day can make an incredible difference.


Rediscovering #Mission168

October 11, 2022

It’s time to rediscover and reactivate the blog, and specifically the Mission168 hashtag which is embedded in my banner image.

#Mission168 is about making the most of every single week, each gathered cluster of 168 hours. Since I last wrote, I’ve come across Oliver Burkeman’s excellent book, “Four Thousand Weeks” which I have listened to on audiobook at least twice. I very much share his thoughts about productivity and fulfilment coming not from constantly seeking to do as much as we possibly can, but from ’embracing finitude’ and accepting we can’t do everything.

I absolutely love Burkeman’s phrase, “the joy of missing out” – i.e. I have consciously chosen to do what I am now doing and gladly embrace the fact that I am not doing everything else that I could possibly be doing instead!

All this has been brought to the front of mind by a few recent conversations with clients centred around the power of the weekly plan. In LMI we use a very simple form called ‘Time Picture’ or ‘My Ideal Week.’

It’s outrageously simple, prompting the user to complete a plan that outlines what they would like to include in their ideal week. Here’s the thing I love about this excercise. Nearly everyone I speak to feels busy and overstretched. Almost all have things they’d like to be doing – specific, important things around health, family, community, wellbeing and work – that they currently don’t have time for and yet, when you start to map these activities onto the 168 hour slots in the weekly plan, including plenty of time for sleep, eating, travel etc, they almost always fit, with plenty to spare.

If you’d like to have a go at completing your own Time Picture, get in touch and I’ll send you a copy.


Do what you always do, but different.

June 1, 2020

It’s the start of a new month, June 2020. We are in a period of history that none of us will ever forget. Remember February this year? How different does that seem now?

The times are changing again; the rules are flexing. Who knows what the world – your world – will look like in another four months!

So, as we start a new month, indecision and uncertainty can easily payalyse us.

Because there’s so much you don’t know, how can you possibly make plans? How can you take action when you don’t know whether they’ll be the ‘right’ actions given the changing circumstances?

All valid questions. So what should you do?

Answer: do the same as you always do, but different.

Go to your system – the one you use every month to review the previous and plan the next. The system that helps you set goals and establish priorities for the next four weeks. The system that helps you set up progress tracking towards your goals and recording your success with the habits you’re working on developing.  The system that you rely on to make sure you schedule time for your high payoff activities and reminds you of your ‘big picture’ (purpose, mission and values) so the vision of what you are living for is crystal clear.

Such a planning system is absolute gold. Most people had them in the 80s and 90s. Their large, leather-bound organisers with templates for setting goals, making plans, communicating well and remembering to spend time doing the most important things, day by day, week by week, month by month.

Then we went all technological. We moved on.

But we didn’t take our systems with us into the new media. We left them behind and with it a whole heap of healthy habits were lost.

If you’re reading this and you don’t have a brilliant system for planning June 2020, we need to do something about that. You see, when you have a system that you know inside-out, one that you’ve used time and time again, it’s much, much easier to adapt to changing times. Just follow the process but with different inputs. I can’t do X this month, but I can do Y. A and B may be uncertain, so I’ll focus extra effort on C because that’s within my control.

I’ll end simply with this: get a system. LMI have a brilliant one and I’m always happy to share that. You can design your own if you’re so inclined. Buy one – Best Self Planner is a great option – borrow one, phone a friend. By any means, get a system that works for you. Then you can do the same, month by month, every month, but different.


Catch both rabbits!

February 5, 2018

If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.

So says the ancient proverb… and there’s lot of wisdom in this. If you try to go in two directions at the same time, you’ll end up reaching neither.

Wouldn’t it be lovely then to only chase one rabbit? It would be heavenly to focus on just one thing but for most of us that seems like an unrealistic dream because we have so many different things running concurrently and we mustn’t drop the ball on any of them.

So what practical wisdom can we take from the age-old ‘Two Rabbits’ conundrum? Here’s just one thing that you may find helpful.

Manage transition between projects.

Think back to school. Maths lessons followed English followed History. Each lesson (at least the good ones) had a well-structured start and finish so you left in good shape to do whatever homework may be required and arrive back for the next lesson ready to continue. You were (again, in the good lessons!) able to give full focus to that one lesson for that one hour before moving on to the next.

Many challenges arise as we hop between projects and tasks holding many different things in our minds, not able to fully focus on any of them. Let’s take meetings as an example. People arrive at the meeting unprepared because they were doing something else, often unrelated, right up to the last moment they left to join the meeting, Then they leave the meeting and go straight to the next thing without processing what just happened. Instead they should be reviewing what just took place, scheduling any actions required on their part and swiftly following up with any further communication needed. When this doesn’t happen, next meeting we find agreed actions haven’t been done, or are part-done, little thought has been given to the implications of what was discussed last time and much inefficiency ensues!

Whether it’s a meeting with others or simply your own management of the various rabbits / balls / plates (pick your favourite metaphor!), it can really help to work on slowing down and focusing on good transitions. Doing this well can seriously boost your productivity and also reduce stress as things feel less hectic and out-of-control.

Give it a try and have a great week!


DIY Deadline Day

August 31, 2017

It’s Transfer Deadline Day in the football world, with the transfer window bolted shut at 11pm tonight. Any business that clubs don’t get done by that cast-iron cut-off point doesn’t happen….at least until the window opens again on 1st January.

Many I know, and I humbly confess to being one of them, will be refreshing the deadline day news apps on phones quite a few times between now and 11pm.

Watch

Whether you’re a fellow ‘refresher’ or have no interest at all, you can’t escape the fact that the deadline creates activity and lots gets done. The transfer window has been open all summer but it’s today that many of the deals get completed. It’s do or die, now or never, time to go and make it happen!

There’s something incredible about the deadline that generates action. We humans can’t seem to resist it’s power. Whether it’s ‘last day of early bird booking rate’, tax return submission day, job application cut-off, the big tender due date or the last day at work before holidays, the time when time is running out is so often when we are at our most productive.

Somehow our lack of self-discipline, poor self-motivation and well-honed procrastination skills all get put aside as the shadow of the pending deadline looms large!

My aim here is not to look at why this is, but rather to think about how we can use this naturally occurring phenomenon to our huge advantage.

What happens when we don’t have a big, externally-dictated deadline looming?

Here are three ways to harness some of the power of the deadline every single day:

1) Set a deadline for when you are going to finish working today

Make your plans, write your lists, set about your daily work but with a definite end-time which is 100% inflexible. I guarantee you’ll work more efficiently knowing that you can’t just keep going ‘for as long as it takes’.

2) Set the clock on a piece of work

When you have a large project or specific task that needs your focussed attention and you don’t know how long it will take, it can be really hard to get going with any sense of urgency. This is especially true if it’s one of those long-term projects that will generally improve the world but lacks any definite ‘we need it by then’ dates. Here’s where it can be really helpful to set yourself set blocks of time to make as much progress as possible. Choose a realistic period, an hour often works, to get your head down and concentrate only on that task. Set a timer and keep it visible in front of you and keep going until it beeps. Then schedule your next block of time to pick it up again.

3) Create an arbitrary deadline and make it public

Sometimes we will be more motivated by the potential for public shame than just the satisfaction of our own achievement! Where this is the case, set a date for a project, a launch, an event…anything really…and tell people. ‘Going public’ might be telling your family, your team, the whole office, your clients, all your social media followers or even the Stock Exchange. But do it and see the difference it makes!

The unavoidable truth is that deadlines work like a dream and, as is the case for many ‘refreshers’ today, can even make things a little bit more exciting!

 


Print it, frame it, hang it.

March 27, 2017

I know that you’re not likely to be surprised in any way, shape or form if I start by saying that I believe having clear goals is important.

So I won’t. You already know that!

When it comes to gaining that extra 1% though, there’s a key element to the Goal Planning System that I notice being regularly missed out and it’s costing dearly when it comes to reaching your goals: VISUALISATION.

FrameOnce you’ve done all the planning phase of setting the goal – defining it, identfying the benefits to be gained or losses to be avoided, possible obstacles and solutions etc, the tough bit is often keeping the goal sufficiently at the forefront of your mind so that you keep on doing the stuff that is required if it’s ever going to be reached.

This is where visualisation comes in. What picture can you use, maybe you have to create, which you can then frame and hang somewhere that will keep the goal continually in mind?

If the goal is important enough, it’s worth the extra time and effort to follow this powerful step. Put the picture somewhere you (and anyone else who is working towards the goal) will see it all the time.

You can be as creative as you like when it comes to the what and how of picturing your goal. If it’s not something you do at the moment, I promise it’s really worth having a go with.

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If you’re not familiar or currently using an effective Goal Planning System, get in touch and I’d be happy to talk you through it. It’s a fantastic, watertight system for the whole goals process – from setting the goal to establishing the tracking that will see you through to its accomplishment.


We Buy Any Hour

March 1, 2017

Have you seen the latest WeBuyAnyCar.com adverts? They are very interesting.

If not, here’s 30 seconds that will put you in the picture:

https://youtu.be/p10Oiwe7MdM?list=PLTci7XJwYZCkOuOqKbOdTaxPY61D5hCPM

There’s a whole series of these. In one, the lady on the sofa tells us that she happily sold her car with this company even though she could have got a better price selling privately, then adds:

“Yeah, they just let me say that in an ad for WeBuyAnyCar.com… cos they know quite a lot of us value our time more than a few extra quid.”

timecartoonlinkedinTime-pressure is consistently one of the greatest challenges most of the people are facing. In fact, it’s becoming a national epidemic and yet, despite the continual frustration of not having enough time to do everything we want to do, we can still invest significant amounts of our precious 168 hours each week doing things that really aren’t that important.

This is what WeBuyAnyCar.com have tapped into. What they are saying is, “Your time is the most valuable thing that you have. Spend it on important things, with important people, not in doing something you don’t like, you aren’t very good at and, at the end of the day, isn’t worth much anyway.”

One of the most helpful things I think you can do to help with this is to settle on a fixed figure, yes an actual amount – in pounds, of how much one hour of your time is worth.

How you come to this figure is not so important. You can divide your earnings by the hours you work. You can divide the amount you aspire to earn by the amount of hours you’d like to work. You may just come up with a number based on what someone would have to pay you to take you away from doing something very important and give them that time instead.

Let’s say you settle on £50/hour. Now write that figure down and carry it with you for a week. Put it in your wallet, your purse on in your pocket. Now consciously live with it and see how it affects what you do with your time, inside and outside of work.

Is an hour round the dinner table with my family or good friends worth it? Yes. How about an hour watching something rubbish on tele? Perhaps not.

This is what these adverts are tapping into. Is an extra 150 quid worth half of your weekend and all that hassle?

I’m not one who advocates living at high intensity all the time. The truth is that if we spend enough of our time concentrating on the most valuable activities in a focused and productive manner, the likelihood is we will have plenty left to relax and enjoy the things we value most.

If some more insight on this subject would be helpful, I ran a webinar called ‘Who Stole My Day?’ and it’s available here as an on-demand reply. It’s a better use of your time than watching adverts on YouTube!


Have you planned your victory party?

October 31, 2016

On the Foundations of Success workshop, I introduce four Success Foundations.

Number 1 is CLEAR DIRECTION or ‘having a crystal clear picture of what success looks like.’

This is a great starting point. Define goals clearly.

Are you aware though that you can significantly increase the compelling power of those goals to enthuse and energise people (including yourself) to give very best efforts, when you plan and communicate how you’ll celebrate when you get there?

My son’s Year 5 class knows if they’ve get a certain number of merit marks in a week, that means Friday afternoon Golden Hour!

Sports teams plan their open-top bus parades.

Marathon runners salivate over their planned post-race meal!

This can work with the big, hairy long-term goals and just as well with the small ones.

“When I finish writing this blog, I’ll reward myself by making a fresh pot of coffee.” [true story]

Try it this week. Define an aspect of success that’s achievable by the end of this week and be specific about how you’ll celebrate when it’s done.

Have a great week,
Nick

P.S. Interested in further leadership ideas & discussion?

I’m excited about my new Total Leader Facebook Group for developing ideas & discussion that will help leaders with the day-to-day joys & challenges of leading. It’s a closed, moderated group so won’t be full of spam and drivel and I’d like to invite you to be one of my specially invited founder members – join here.


Three unexpected ways to get more done in less time

October 14, 2016

You’ll no doubt be familiar with most of the common ways that are suggested to help you improve your productivity. Things like:

  • Don’t multitask; land one plane at a time
  • Switch off email alerts (If you’ve worked with me you’ll know I’m quite insistent about this)!
  • Start with planning your day / week / month rather than just launching into ‘doing’

These are all great and loads of my work is helping busy managers and leaders improve their productive use of time. It is still the biggest pressure that so many people face at work and it’s no small issue outside of work too.

I have also stumbled across some far less conventional ways of getting more done that are worthy of your consideration. You may find one or more of them helpful, and if not helpful, perhaps at least interesting! Waiting over. My three juicy nuggets of wisdom are:

Plan some messing about time!

Do something deliberately slowly.

Stop and chat for longer than usual.

Here’s why.

  • Plan some messing about time! If you have things you’re interested in but aren’t crucial to your work at hand, keep a list and schedule some down time (not loads) casually playing / learning / experimenting / reading etc…generally just satisfying that interest. Sometimes brilliant new ideas come from these times. It will also help focus you on the more serious work for the rest of the day

 

  • Do something deliberately slowly. Think of something important that has many options and requires your thought and creativity. Decide how long it should take. Then double it. Deliberately take it slowly. Explore every option. Discuss every possible outcome. Pretend that there’s no hurry at all. You might uncover some gold that otherwise would have remained lost forever.

 

  • Stop and chat for longer than usual. “Grab a quick coffee, quick chat…and straight back to it.” Most of the time that mantra may be spot on. However, the discerning amongst you will sometimes recognise the time that this one conversation could lead somewhere. It might just open a door, solve a problem or reveal an opportunity if given the chance.

Have a great day. Perhaps do a little less, a little slower….just this once!